Monthly Archive: June 2015

July 4 Fireworks Are a Go for Twin Falls

TWIN FALLS • The fireworks are on for the 4th this year.

The City Council has approved the annual July 4 fireworks display at the College of Southern Idaho. The festivities will start at 8 p.m. with music from the Twin Falls City Band, and the fireworks display itself will run from about 10 p.m. to 10:20 p.m. The area around the CSI traffic will be closed to traffic at 9 p.m.

Getting enough money to support the yearly show has been a struggle for the past six years. This year, a $4,000 donation from Chobani will ensure the show goes on, in addition to fees the city collects from fireworks stands or money that people choose to donate on their water bills or contribute online.


State Committee Looks at Mastery Education System

BOISE • A new state committee looking at mastery-based education met for the first time Thursday and Friday in Boise.

The committee — which includes teachers and school administrators — is developing recommendations related to the implementation of mastery-based education, the Idaho Department of Education announced Tuesday.

The system allows students to advance through subjects based on their knowledge and achievement rather than time spent in class.

South-central Idaho committee members include Shelley Coats, a teacher in the Cassia County School District; and Mike Glenn, a principal in the Blaine County School District.

State legislators passed a bill calling for the Idaho Department of Education to identify roadblocks and possible solutions for implementing mastery-based education.

The committee will also assist with implementation of 20 locally-controlled program “incubators” within the public school system by the start of the 2017-2018 school year.


Aging in Idaho: Can You Spot a Scam?

Scammers love the summertime. Some are schooled in the art of door to door knocking. Others prefer the phone. Do you think you can spot a scam?

Here’s one: “Good morning. We’re working in the neighborhood and noticed your driveway. We could seal it for you. Since you’re a senior citizen and it’s not that big, we can offer you a discount.” This is a real scam and some senior citizens have fallen for it. Mr. Scammer starts sealing the driveway, but says that he has to get more seal coat. He takes off within a few minutes. They may steal anything else of value on their way out. One way to avoid this scam is to take note of the truck or vehicle they arrive in. Is it marked? Can you find the company online with a photo of the representative in front of you? Even if you decide to have a stranger do a job on the outside of your home, you don’t have to pay anything until the work is done. You can agree to inspect the work after it’s done and pay then. Don’t let anyone pressure you into giving them money upfront if you don’t know them. The pressure to act now, for a great price, is part of the scam.

Have you heard about the “granny scam?” Young scammers pretend to be family members in need of help. It’s often centered around an emergency and some excuse for why the person can’t tell their parents. Some senior citizens who suffer from memory and hearing loss become easy prey for this scam. The senior adult on the other line is too embarrassed to admit that they don’t recognize the voice. Some families create a password to avoid this type of scam. If the caller doesn’t offer the password, the senior adult doesn’t give any money. Another option is to make it your practice to never give bank information over the phone or transfer funds based on an incoming phone call.

Scammers love to take advantage of senior citizens who are home during the day. They count on you being vulnerable and unaware. Stay connected as much as possible to family, friends and community members. You’ll be strengthened to say “no,” and can receive warnings about scams. For those of you who serve or advocate for seniors, share information about how to protect yourself from scams.


Groups Clash in Court over Columbia River Basin Salmon Plan

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) | Federal authorities defended their latest plan for mitigating damage to salmon and steelhead imperiled by hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River Basin.

In oral arguments in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, the government argued its approach is resulting in more salmon surviving at dams, juvenile fish migrating faster to the ocean and record numbers of fish returning to restored habitat.

But conservation and fishing groups, Oregon and the Nez Perce tribe, which challenged the plan in court, said it's deeply flawed. They said it won't lead to the recovery of wild fish populations, because many have not achieved the promised benefits and are barely hanging on. Most of the returning fish were artificially bred in hatcheries.

Thirteen species of salmon and steelhead are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act in the Columbia River Basin.

The plan's various iterations have been litigated in court for more than two decades. The most recent plan — known as the biological opinion — was issued in 2008 to cover a 10-year period through 2018, and a supplemental plan was added in 2010. It was struck down in court in 2011 for depending too much on habitat improvements whose benefits are unknown. The plan's latest version was issued in January 2014.

The groups in court clashed over which standard of recovery should be used to measure success. The federal government argued it can't cause additional risks or harm to the fish, and it has met that standard.

The plan, said federal attorney Michael Eitel, isn't a plan for recovery. Rather, it asks whether fish will be "trending toward recovery." This means one year's returns must outnumber the previous year's, regardless of whether that eventually leads to recovery or when.

But the plaintiffs argued the government has set the bar too low. They said because energy-producing dams are the main cause of fish mortality, the plan must do more to protect and recover them.

"A growing species is not the same as a recovered species," said Todd True, an attorney with Earthjustice who represents environmental groups in the court case.

What's missing from the plan, said True, is a definition of what constitutes recovery and when approximately it will be achieved.

True criticized the uncertainty of habitat restoration, which is the plan's main tool to improve fish survival; other plan components include reducing the effects of hatcheries on wild fish and keeping predators at bay, as well as improving fish passage at the dams.

Plaintiffs said habitat can't compensate for harm done in the "migratory corridor" where dams harm fish. Even where habitat has been restored, many fish populations don't replace themselves, said Stephanie Parent, the lawyer representing Oregon.

Plaintiffs also said the government has not analyzed the effects of climate change and isn't taking any actions to mitigate for them. As a result, said Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda, it's hard to know how much climate change's effect could "erode or negate the predicted benefits" of government's actions to help salmon.

Eitel, the government lawyer, said the magnitude and timing of climate change are poorly understood and its effects on species vary, so additional actions were not planned to offset its effect.

Critics also said the current plan rolls back some of the spill ordered by U.S. District Judge James Redden 10 years ago. In 2011, Redden, who has since retired and stepped off the case, asked the government to consider whether removal of the four lower Snake River dams might be necessary — an action environmentalists have long called for, in addition to increased spill.

The government says breaching dams isn't needed. Lorri Bodi, the Bonneville Power Administration's vice president of fish and wildlife, said it has not ignored the hydro system's effects — it has invested over $1 billion in improvements such as weirs and other types of fish passage, improving survival.

Judge Michael Simon, who took over the case from Redden, did not indicate when he would rule.

No matter what Simon decides, the current management plan will be in place just for another three years. Soon, the government will need to start discussing another biological opinion that would be put in place in 2018.


Caldwell Trustees Mum on Superintendent, Assistant Removal

CALDWELL (AP) |€” School trustees in southwestern Idaho are remaining mum on details about the recent removal of their superintendent and his assistant, despite criticism from residents.

Caldwell school trustees refused to answer questions from the public regarding former Superintendent Tim Rosandick and Assistant Superintendent Luci Asumendi during a meeting Monday evening, the Idaho Press-Tribune reported.

The board unanimously voted to appoint Jodie Mills as the interim superintendent for the 2015-2016 school year.

The board removed Rosandick and Asumendi nearly a week ago, but officials have consistently refused to answer questions about what led to the decision. The two will remain as consultants to the board until their contracts expire in June 2016.

"There are times unfortunately in the management of affairs of either a school district or other entities where there can be circumstances where the cohesive, or unified, or mutual supportive management just does not exist or is in a struggling situation," said Bill Gigray, attorney for the school district. "There was a mutual agreement reached that there needed to be an action taken that all could agree to so this whole process could move on."

Rosandick's and Asumendi's contracts do not contain confidentiality clauses.

Rosandick has been Caldwell's superintendent since 2012, Asumendi was brought on a year later as an assistant and director of elementary and secondary services.

Caldwell parent Shelly McKee said she feels the board has stonewalled parents from learning the truth about the upheaval.

"You guys are elected officials, elected by us, so shouldn't your decisions be what the people want?" McKee said. "And if that's true, I'm not sure that's what went on here."


U.S. Forest Service’s Annual Online Vehicle Auction Begins

TWIN FALLS • The Sawtooth National Forest hosts its annual U.S. Forest Service Vehicle Auction this week. This will be the second year the Forest moved to an online auction.

There are 15 vehicles on the auction block, including pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, utility trucks, sedan, van and a horse trailer.

Vehicle pictures are posted on the General Services Administration web site at gsaauctions.gov, with a description of the vehicle type, vehicle options and any known mechanical problems or damages.

The bidding started Tuesday and ends Friday.

Vehicles can be inspected at the U.S. Forest Service office located at 2647 Kimberly Road E., Twin Falls, by appointment only. All information regarding registration, bidding, payment and removal of items are available on the GSA website. Contact Judi Higley at 208-737-3261 if you have any questions or comments regarding the auction.


Grizzly Bears Captured for Study as Feds Consider Delisting

BOISE (AP) | Twenty-four grizzly bears have been captured so far this year in and around Yellowstone National Park as wildlife managers start another season of research toward a potential lifting of federal protections.

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team captured the grizzlies in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and outside the parks in Montana and Wyoming.

Teams are now starting to trap grizzlies in eastern Idaho.

The estimated grizzly population in the 19,000-square-mile Yellowstone ecosystem is 757 bears.

Gregg Losinski of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game says grizzlies are recovered in the Yellowstone ecosystem and should be delisted.

Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity says the bears also need to be doing well in other recovery areas before delisting can happen.


Nampa Library Asks for Bigger Budget for Costly New Location

NAMPA (AP) | Nampa Library officials are asking for a 16 percent budget increase to help pay for new costs associated with their more expensive location.

The Idaho Press-Tribune reports the new facility is twice the size of the previous library and has been occupied since fiscal year 2015. It was funded and completed by the Nampa Development Corporation.

Interim library director Claire Connley says maintenance and utility costs prompted the request for more funds, which is still not enough to cover increases in insurance and technology expenses.

Property taxes fund the library. The city collected $35.2 million in the current tax year and budgeted $1.8 million for the library, accounting for most of the facility's budget.


Gonorrhea Cases at All-time High in Northern Idaho

HAYDEN (AP) | Health officials are reminding northern Idaho residents to get tested as Gonorrhea cases are at an all-time high in the state's five northern counties.

Panhandle Health District officials say there have been 32 reported cases of the sexually transmitted disease this year, compared to only 17 cases between January and May 2014.

Gonorrhea can be successfully treated if caught early. Some people infected with gonorrhea do not experience symptoms and if they do, they can include a burning sensation when urinating or discharge.

The District's Staff Epidemiologist Dave Hylsky says to reduce the risk of contracting an STD, people should get tested regularly, know their partner's STD status and use condoms.

Despite the recent increase in gonorrhea cases, chlamydia is still the most common STD in Idaho's five northern counties.