A plan by Boise’s Public Works Dept. to reduce phosphorous in the Boise River sounds like a good environmental move on the face of it and one that could save some public money. It is far from proven science at this point, despite what the DAILY PAPER headlined in its Saturday edition as an “innovative plan.”
Purchase of Canyon County land may not have been a wise financial move because the Federal Environmental Protection Agency has not approved the proposal and it will do nothing to cut emissions from Boise’s poop plants. Our concerns are more financial than scientific. It is well intended perhaps, but probably premature.
The City bought the parcel from a retired Boise City employee at a cost of $440,000. Terms of the agreement allow him to have “perpetual exclusive” use of the land for waterfowl hunting and up to five years of grazing rights for a total of $50 unless the city ponies up another $60,000.
In a nutshell, the plan is to “naturally filter” agricultural runoff from Canyon County farmers (fertilizer) and thus reduce the total load in Brownleee Reservoir on the Snake River. However, that only works when there is green growth to take up the phosphorous and then the green must be disposed of–commonly through burning which pollutes the air, or allowing cattle grazing which presents its own piles of poop. Any way you look at it, what goes in one end comes out the other.
Scientists told the GUARDIAN it is a “shell game”–reducing pollutants at one point in exchange for discharges at another point. Ultimately the reduction must be done at the source of discharge and it is expensive to get that last 3% captured. Phosphates cause algae and plant growth which lower water oxygen concentrations which in turn kill fish.
While we are admittedly skeptical, this stop gap measure which is essentially a “cap and trade” COULD work. However, if it doesn’t prove viable, Boise is stuck with another piece of land that has no public purpose. The EPA at a much higher level than local officials, will ultimately determine if Boise’s purchase was a wise move or just another example of rushed real estate acquisitions.
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