Business

Water Bond Has Gravitational Force


The GUARDIAN has a basic understanding of gravity and understands water runs downhill (downstream). The largest bond in the history of local government in Idaho seeks authority to build a sewer treatment plant in the eastern part of Boise. It is the ONLY item on the November 2 ballot which can be voted upon by all citizens.

Regardless of how clean these folks think they can filter the sewage, it will end up in the Boise River—upstream from the area where thousands float in their inner tubes and rafts each summer and upstream from where Suez Water pumps drinking water from the river.

A NO vote on the sewer bond will force the council to either risk being unelected if they raise sewer fees 53%—as threatened– in the event the bond is rejected by voters OR to take notice of the “gravity of the issue” and refrain from seeking voter approval of an upstream sewer plant that could truly threaten clean water.

City councilors need to rethink the funding sources and scale back the proposal. A modest rate hike is in order to maintain the sewer system, but it should not be expanded in an effort to foster more growth and industrial use of our resources, including the Boise River.

Most households have received printed mailers urging a “yes” vote on the bond. It was paid for by a political action group calling itself “Yes for Clean and affordable Water.” Far from a grassroots citizen movement, this outfit is a who’s who of special interests destined to benefit from increased population and growth.

GUARDIAN volunteers did the research at the Idaho Secretary of State and identified the following list of players and what they paid to influence your vote.

o Blue Cross of Idaho — $10,000
o J.R. Simplot Company — $10,000
o Hayden Beverage Company — $5,000
o Republic Services (trash hauler) — $5,000
o Block 22, LLC (property management) — $5,000
o Roundhouse Group, Inc. (condo developer, formerly known as Los Angeles-based “LocalConstruct” — $5,000
o Micron — $10,000
o Patrick Bageant for Boise City Council — $1,000
o HDR, Inc. Employee Owners PAC (Omaha, Nebraska-based industrial planning and design company) — $5,000
o Conservation Voters for Idaho — $2,500
o Ball Ventures Ahlquist/BVA Development (Meridian, Idaho) — $5,000
o Old Boise LP (Boise developer) — $3,000

Comments & Discussion

23 comments for “Water Bond Has Gravitational Force”

  1. Bonnie Krupp
    Oct 25, 2021, 5:04 pm

    Couldn’t agree more with your appraisal of the situation.

    Not only is this run by a director that has no background in large bond issues or projects. His first is the $60 million project they are currently working on.

    Please it up.

  2. Thank you and your contributors for your recent posts on this — they have been quite enlightening!

  3. Halloween scare?
    “upstream sewer plant that could truly threaten clean water.”

    ^ Already exists. To say nothing of the people in Eagle, Star, Middleton, Caldwell, Parma and all the way to the ocean. Gravity!

    From Suez for Boise:
    “Today we operate 81 wells, 35 reservoirs, two treatment plants”

    “Approximately 70 percent of your water is supplied from 81 wells located throughout the Boise area.

    The remaining 30 percent of your water comes from two surface water treatment plants (Marden Water Treatment Plant and Columbia Water Treatment Plant) (MICRON area), which both treat water from the Boise River.”

    – So what about the future when it really does need to be expanded?
    Just kicking the can down river, eh?

  4. Actually it discharges way downstream. Almost to Eagle Road.

    EDITOR NOTE–The story is about the proposed THIRD plant to be located in the east side for future industrial treatment.

  5. Richard Llewellyn
    Oct 25, 2021, 6:07 pm

    I just read Councilmember Bageant’s comment describing the public process around the Water Renewal Utility Plan on your Sept 27 article:

    “Essentially nobody showed up but it isn’t fair or honest to say there was no opportunity for input…”

    While it is always reaffirming to hear that NW Boise remains in the ‘essentially nobody’ category, perhaps Bageant forgets that we showed up multiple times to attempt to educate him on the scientific realities of sewage treatment — necessary because the water industry consultants that the City had hired apparently read a few pages of Idaho statutes, dusted off a 10 year old study, paid for and written by the wastewater industry that, by using data with an order of magnitude difference in contamination levels compared to govt funded research of the same era, downplayed health threats of endocrine disruptors and other chemicals like PFAS that pass right through standard treatments. Keeping it simple, they then reused a bunch of recycled powerpoint slides giving ancient reviews of water reuse elsewhere — eg the Salinas Valley (never mind that this is ground zero for multiple lettuce recalls and plant disease outbreaks, both linked to water contamination, pushing the region to move toward much more expensive technologies) — and called it a day, collecting $44,000 for their hard work.

    Perhaps Bageant forgets that the 6 month schedule to educate City Council on the complexities of water recycling was truncated to 6 weeks in the summer of 2020, and even then, with several meetings cancelled.

    The most noteworthy comment of all during that period may have been Bageant’s statements that the extraordinarily toxic compounds like the ‘forever chemicals’ known as PFAS — chemicals that concentrate in water, soil, and human bodies, and are poisonous in the drops per Olympic swimming pool level — are not really the responsibility of the City to remove from sewage, because they don’t put them there. Interestingly, that is the same line the wastewater industry has been using to lobby politicians and local governments to prevent PFAS being held to science based standards as a class of chemicals, rather than one by one of the thousands known.

    Can you imagine if other waste facilities, such as landfills, claimed that containing the toxic components of the waste under their charge wasn’t their responsibility because they didn’t manufacture it?

    I think there is room for multiple opinions on the bond — but anyone claiming the city had adequately educated Council, or the public, before they adopted the Water Renewal Utility Plan that forms the basis for this bond has a dim view of what it takes to become knowledgeable.

  6. Greg Wonacott
    Oct 25, 2021, 7:08 pm

    Dave, You should stick to…well whatever you’re good at. Las Vegas drinks to water out of the Bellagio toilets. But then again science seems to be under a lot of pressure lately from the anti-vaccers.

    EDITOR NOTE–Does the mean that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?

  7. We received our two 8 1/2″ X 11″ multi colored flier to vote yes on the water bond. It puts fear into us that we won’t have clean water if we don’t vote yes. Isn’t there about $250 million difference between the yes and no vote? If the no vote wins does that mean WE won’t protect our water Quality? Or help meet sustainable goals, set forth by who? Our elected public servants?
    Maybe Boise is becoming less of a livable city in the world to be in?

    EDITOR NOTE–you are correct with the math. Bondholders will receive the $250 million interest. Council threatens to increase fees 53% if we vote NO and easy cash.

  8. Is it true that a SIMPLE majority is all that is needed, to pass this bond? If so, why? (I thought the law said a supermajority is needed to go into debt.)

    EDITOR NOTE–Simple majority is it. REVENUE bonds are repaid with fees from the users. No debt from property owners unless there is a GENERAL OBLIGATION bond where two thirds approve the debt for future elected bodies (county commishes and city councilors, school boards, etc.)

  9. The Editor Note for Erico49 post states this OP is about the proposed 3rd plant Water Renewal Facility, proposed by Gowen and Micron.

    So it has nothing to do with the 4th proposed WRF? Nothing about the rehab of the current facilities?

    A false and tainted Editorial is what I am reading. It is river water clear what the Guardian position is on this. Not at all unbias reporting.

    It is also a matter of fact- not ALL Boise residents will be voting on this matter. There is chunk of Boise not in the paying district. Maple Grove area. BoiseDev has that story. What happened to thorough reporting? Inaccurate and bias. Done.
    Next topic?

    EDITOR NOTE–You are correct about the portion of the bench that is not part of the Boise sewer system. Our reference was that we can vote for only a single councilor and only half of the districts are up for election.

  10. Are they real engineers or is it just a sign on their office?
    Oct 25, 2021, 9:05 pm

    Only government pretend engineers try to make liquids flow uphill. They repeatedly do stuff a child had figured out by age 5 in the sandbox. How much will the electric bill be to pump all that poop uphill to the east end of town? Maybe this huge electric consumption will give city hall the excuse they need to have the cherished electric brownouts just like liberal paradise California. Uphill sewage flowing backward will give new meaning to brownouts.

    EDITOR NOTE–We assume the proposed treatment plant for “industrial uses” will serve the east end and there would not be a need to pump from the west where there are already two facilities.

  11. Patrick Bageant
    Oct 26, 2021, 7:41 am

    Richard, I agree that was poor phrasing on my part and I apologize. I intended to convey that the public turnout at public hearings wasn’t massive along the lines of, say Murgoitio or the library, not that the people who did participate were nobodies. You and your neighbors were certainly very present and I should not have used a word that can be misinterpreted in that way.

    Those who may be curious about the process Richard is talking about should review this summary: https://www.cityofboise.org/media/10683/4_public-involvment-memo-final.pdf

  12. Richard Llewellyn
    Oct 26, 2021, 10:51 am

    Thank you Patrick, apology accepted, we’ll move on. Of course your larger point was that there was opportunity to comment, and our presence demonstrates that. But of course we had immediate concern due to the threat of that secretive 2014 contract to dispose of treated sewage effluent into the primary canal north of the Boise River. As they say, there is nothing like a hanging in the morning to focus one’s attention.
    Many residents of NW Boise, Eagle, and Star are grateful that Boise tore up that contract — and we appreciate Crispin Gravatt in his role of Chair of the Public Works Commission, getting that done — because with that sword hanging over our heads it was difficult to think of much else. But that focus did drive an in-depth reading up on the modern science and regulatory context regarding sewage and wastewater treatment, and my PhD in Biochemistry does make that possible.
    I will stand by my statements that Boise City Council was not adequately educated before casting their vote on the Water Utility Renewal Plan, and our reasoning is in the record — we did not like the Plan’s specific reliance on Idaho’s regulatory standards rather than modern, data-driven decision-making. In this context, we must remember Idaho is a state that brags about being the least regulated in the country. This is more troubling because in general the Plan was very general, and we can gather little about the specifics of proposed projects such as aquifer recharge with recycled water by reading it — we only know that by relying on Idaho standards, modern science addressing realities like PFAS need not be recognized.

    I have appreciated the national panel of water reuse experts that have advised the city a few months ago — unlike the couple of engineers from the wastewater industry that addressed City Council a year ago, this panel was more independent, and much more capable of addressing the complexities of recycling industrial wastewater in a modern context. This panel should have been consulted before the Water Renewal Utility Plan was voted on — I’ll presume it was another failure due to Covid.

    I have also been impressed by the diligence of Boise’s senior wastewater engineer — though I have disagreed with her in the past, I believe she is astute and capable of making good decisions if the city allows her to fully explore the situation.

    I hope we are both willing to believe that the health of the Boise River, and our clean water resources whether in that river or underground, are of foremost importance to both of us. I’ll assume that is your reason for actively backing the Water Bond. Our research on wastewater has made it very clear that the US in general is falling far behind, both in infrastructure and the regulatory framework, in how it deals with water. The last administration dealt some very damaging blows to water reuse credibility as it promoted the re-branding of polluted water, most notably from oil and gas, as ‘reused water.’

    We will need to pay more just to keep up with needed standards — the fallout of having the public once again having to bear the externalized costs of the failure to prevent pollution.

    In this context, Boise could punch above its weight class by engaging and requiring wastewater solutions that will push the industry toward confronting the challenges in wastewater renewal rather than just relying on outdated standards to peddle outdated technology. If municipalities push the industry, better technology will become more available and less expensive. We can be real leaders, not just trend followers.

    I am also, however, sympathetic to those voices that see this bond as yet another example of poor governance. It is unclear on what people are being asked to approve, other than a simplistic, binary choice of borrow and pay some or pay a whole bunch now. I am not convinced that the bond will not go largely to subsidize (again, the public bearing an externalized cost of development) growth.
    I actually want to believe that this bond is in best interest of the common resident of Boise. Having watched the landfill truck down tankers to pump landfill leachate into a manhole in NW Boise, and into our municipal sewer system that is not designed to handle that incredibly complex and toxic chemical soup, I certainly support separating wastewater from industrial and medical facilities that now are mixed with our sewage, into their own systems. But the city makes it so damned hard to have maintain that belief.
    Could you go more into depth about how the new industries we attract with a relatively inexpensive water source pay their own share of this new system?

    EDITOR NOTE–Glad to provide the forum to exchange views, but please try to limit the length of comments.

  13. I love clean water.

    It is quite a luxury.

    A third of the world population does NOT have access to clean drinking water.

  14. The public involvement group the City touts was heavily focused on the issue of how to address future water issues, not necessarily how to pay, and did not include the millions in recent Federal funds that are becoming available. The City has put minimal effort into informing the voters on the various ways to pay for this . . . 3 buckets of Federal funds, enacting water/sewer impact fees, using a Community Infrastructure District in the south, etc.

    And now we are receiving propaganda created and paid for by a PAC, hastily thrown together as the record shows the players listed in this article donated between October 5-25. The players funding the PAC have the most to gain in their bottom line if the citizen ratepayers shoulder the cost of growth for them. If you read the internal documents, approx. 19% of the total capital cost across the four project groups is for the cost of repair and replacement to the existing system. The other 81% is primarily to fund expansion of the current system and extension of this system to the south – to accommodate more growth – plus regulatory requirements. This should be a major red flag to the voters.

    $554 million in the Letter of Interest to the EPA–WIFIA Program for total capital costs:

    $103 – Repair and replacement of existing system
    $233 million – Lander Facility
    $61 million – West Facility
    $159 million – New Third Facility to accommodate Gateway Urban Renewal District

    P.S. I was also one of those “NW nobodies” who testified on this Utility Plan last fall.

  15. McLean is Worse than Bieter
    Oct 26, 2021, 9:04 pm

    I suppose the City is calling this a water bond to fool the rubes but in reality it’s a sewer bond. Why can’t they just call it by it’s proper name? So sick of politicians gas lighting.

    These are sewer treatment plants, not water renewal, whatever the heck that’s supposed to mean.

  16. Patrick Bageant
    Oct 27, 2021, 10:49 am

    Richard, we certainly do agree that the health of the Boise River, and our clean water resources, whether in that river or underground, are of foremost importance to both of us.

    The answer to the who-pays-for-growth question is pretty apparent from the graphs we’ve all seen. “No” means current ratepayers front the costs now and then future arrivals to our city enjoy low rates. “Yes” means we build now and future ratepayers (i.e., the growth you are concerned about) have to share in the burden of the expense. Connection fees for newcomers, including new businesses, also help shift the cost to where it belongs.

  17. Don’t limit Richard L’s comments: they are well-researched, well-presented and on point.

    As opposed to the City’s public relations ‘biomass’.

  18. This Political Action Group is SPAM.
    I get a new mailer from them asking to Vote Yes on Water Bond – EVERY DAY, and I am not even in the city limits.

  19. Native Boisean
    Oct 27, 2021, 5:33 pm

    I received the two glossy “water renewal” ads. Because there was no review of the downside, I thought I better research and came across the BG and these comments. Wow! this is way more complex than the glossies describe. Unfortunately most voters will not search to find this detail.

    As someone who grew up here, I decry the unmanaged growth that continues unabated. Why are more and more subdivisions approved? My cynical side says someone is receiving kickbacks. Most residents don’t want this aggressive growth. Can we not just pause the growth until we can catch our breath and do better planning to address the problems?

    I have no expertise in science– just a concerned citizen who sees the quality of her hometown being destroyed. However, I plan to get more involved. Ignoring this problem is no longer possible.

    I agree with WG– don’t limit Richards comments.

  20. The City’s sewage plan that is produced by “experts” has some warnings in it against injecting recycled water near the points where water is drawn from:
    “Water production wells—both private/domestic and public—are an important consideration when siting aquifer recharge facilities. Additional permitting requirements may be necessary because of the potential risk to nearby drinking water sources, particularly with treated effluent recharge facilities. If a water production well falls within a certain travel time distance from a recharge facility, then a monitoring plan needs to be developed and implemented for the subject water production well to operate the recharge facility (IDEQ, 2017). This permitting item puts a constraint on the operation and adds costs to recharge. This secondary evaluation would involve filtering the wells database to show the location of nearby water-supply wells and evaluating the proximity to the different high-scoring zones.”

  21. Patrick – Your comments, and the City and PAC, are only providing partial info. to the voters on this issue. There is more than one way to skin this cat besides a binary choice directly from the ratepayers wallet, based on triggering fear.

    Did Steve Burgos and the Public Works Dept. share the WIFIA loan application with you? This has not been shared with the public, as I had to obtain it via a PRR – with an extra hoop to jump through to boot. This document shows $128,415,605 of “Borrower Cash” labeled as “certain” for this Utility Plan, and shows Revenue Bonds at $146,377,805. So why is the City asking the voters to approve $570 million in bonds? This document also references the Federal infrastructure bill that could fund this.

    You participated in the May 11, 2021 Council Work Session where the agenda included the topic, “Federal Funding Opportunities” – which addressed the spending of the $36.5 million in ARP funds the city was soon to receive and specifically included a slide for this money showing, “Make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.” Mayor McLean spoke and used the water renewal project as an example of a use for these funds. The record for that agenda says this funding is approximately three times the amount of federal grant funding the City currently receives on an annual basis.

    And there are also Federal funds that will go directly to the State, which will be funneled out to counties and cities through Governor Little’s office. Since the southern border of the City is where a large amount of this sewer/utility plan is to take place, and where the airport is located, the City could request some of these funds due to the airport’s contribution as a significant economic generator for the state.

    CCDC could also use its tax-increment revenue and apply this to the repair and replacement costs in each URD it scrapes the property tax revenue from, and to the cost of new infrastructure in the Gateway URD by the airport. Replacing 100 year old pipes is urban renewal, right?

    It is important for voters to understand this binary choice is NOT the only way to pay for this, no matter how pretty the pictures are, how eco-friendly it sounds, or how the words are spun. The manner in which the City is seeking to pay for this is not in the best interest of the voters.

  22. Follow the money folks. Who stands to benefit? Let’s start with Mayor McClean and her unbridled desire for growth at any and all costs. She loves dark money and has no moral compass when it comes to transparency. Manipulation at its finest.

    Let’s move on to the developers like Clay Carly and his pals who will benefit from pushing the cost of the infrastructure necessary for their unbridled growth on to the taxpayer. I mean after all, if you can get government money or get someone else to pay your Infrastructure costs, that’s more money for you, right? Don’t believe me? Compare the the property taxes paid by business vs what property owners pay.

    And now the utilities. There are already horror stories in play about people getting unbelievably outrageously high water bills from Suez with no recourse for challenging the meter readings. Combine that with the fact that the city sewer rates are based in water consumption and what do you get? More money for the city.

    And finally Governor Little. Let’s face it shall we? The guy has no courage and just bends with whatever way the wind blows.

  23. western guy
    Oct 28, 2021, 8:47 am

    Schofield says ‘follow the money.’

    I agree 100%. Has anyone (certainly not the MisStatesman) done a presentation and analysis on all the funding sources that have been mentioned in these threads?

    Maybe BoiseDev has the guts to put all the projected revenue and expenditures into one article?

    Injecting ‘reclaimed’ water into the aquifer near existing wells? What could go wrong? Really.

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