City Government

Boise Purchases More Out of County Land


When it comes to phosphorous, a plethora of people and pots of poop puts plenty of pressure for proper procedure to prevent pollution and provide protection.

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.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. This is not just a “parcel” of land. It has to be pretty good size to do what they plan for the property. It takes time and a whole lot of filtering to accomplish what they are trying to get done here.

    Land treatment of sewage is not something new and has been around for a long, long time. It works is the short answer and does it without a lot of machinery and noise. They will have to figure out how to get the water to meander through the property to realize maximum removal and that will take a system of some sort and a caretaker to facilitate the valves and gates.

    The land may be in another county but the solution is a good one from a scientific approach. The city of Bakersfield, California did this more than 40 years ago to achieve the water quality imposed by the State of California back in the day.

  2. Although I am not smart enough to comment on the science here, it seems to be rather split. As far as the economic aspect of this “deal”, I am confused. We are to believe that the closest available piece of land for this experiment is over 40 miles west of the city, is owned by a former city employee, and we paid over $8,000.00 per acre??? Maybe poet Paul could do something with “ME THINKS THIS REEKS”! Somebody better have some good reasons for this move! Oh! Wait! We live in a city that doesn’t require the officials to have good reasons for their actions!

  3. I think this is a worthy experiment. The Boise River might be in the top three most polluted rivers in Idaho. By the time the water has reached the Snake it has been used 7-8 times. It is a cess pool during irrigation season. If the Guardian and most of bloggers here had their way, we would do nothing at all for our communities even if it did make sense, (according to the Guardian litmus test). Have a nice time fishing on the lower Boise River folks.
    I suppose most here believe that A1 and C2 don’t share the air we all breathe.

    $8,000/ acre is about the going price for that kind of land. (It has water!)

  4. Sounds like a new use on something that has been around for awhile. Wetlands Mitigation Banks allow developers and anyone disturbing property to offset the damage with buying into these “Banks”. No different than buying green energy even though you don’t receive it directly at your house. Offsetting footprints(carbon, energy, habit) is becoming the new way to make money while feeling good about it.

  5. The Boise Picayune
    Jan 12, 2010, 7:49 pm

    While this is a truly innovative plan and an example of the fine work engineers can do when the politicians don’t stick their fingers in the pie, there exist potentially disastrous consequences of building wetlands in what is know colloquially as “West Nile Alley”

    It’s being watched by other municipalities because of its promise of a “cheap” fix to a complicated problem

  6. A: Cyclops is right, it wreeketh of a payback. any one elses land would not wreek.
    B: Farmers are apparently still exempt from the clean water act. It makes me mad as hell that they discharge all the phosphorus and they have the land to treat the water before it leaves thier property! They want me to pay for thier abuse!

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