Monthly Archive: July 2015

Idaho Falls Woman Recalls Emotional Decision to Have an Abortion

IDAHO FALLS • Only a few minutes had passed between the time Kay walked into the aging, Salt Lake City abortion clinic and when she was called back — but it felt like hours.

“Were we there 30 minutes? An hour? I don’t know,” said Kay, now 33. “At one point I looked at my mom and said, ‘I don’t think I can do this. I’m ready to go home.’”

It was about 9 a.m. on a nondescript day in 2009, and Kay was nearly 12 weeks pregnant. She and her mom had just driven 215 miles from Idaho Falls to end her pregnancy.

She decided to stay.

The two were ushered into a sterile exam room. It smelled like hospital, Kay recalled. Three nurses explained the surgical procedure she would undergo, called a vacuum aspiration. Her cervix would be numbed and dilated, they told her, and and an instrument inserted into her uterus to suction out its contents, which would include the fetus.

The doctor came in.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

Kay began to cry.

The doctor looked concerned. “Do you need a few minutes?” he said.

“No,” she said. “We need to do this. We need to get this done.”

The procedure took only a few minutes, but the experience still has not left her. To this day, Kay tears up when she recalls the abortion she had about six years ago. But she doesn’t regret the decision. Kay agreed to tell her story because she wants people — especially those who want to make abortion illegal — to understand.

“It’s not a process I wish anybody to go through,” Kay said. “It’s a struggle; it’s a heartache; it hurts. But sometimes, there are situations that are out of people’s control and they feel it’s the best thing for them and their family.”

Abortion in Idaho

Kay was one of 2,348 Idaho women who had an abortion in 2009 and among 765 who traveled out-of-state to do so, according to statistics from the state’s department of health and welfare. That number since has declined. In 2013 — the latest year data is available — 1,794 Idaho women reportedly had abortions.

Accessing the procedure in the Gem State isn’t always easy.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, a nationwide pro-choice organization, gave Idaho an “F” grade on its abortion laws. The Guttmacher Institute, a national reproductive health nonprofit, reported 95 percent of Idaho counties lacked an abortion clinic in 2011. Sixty-nine percent of the state’s women lived in those counties.

“The fact is, (abortion) needs to be available and it needs to be a choice that a woman, her family and doctor can choose when the situation is appropriate,” said House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, who is also a medical doctor.

There are currently at least four places in Idaho which provide abortion services. None are in eastern Idaho. An Idaho Falls woman must travel a minimum 160 miles to Twin Falls to access the procedure.

The Decision

Growing up, Kay was adamantly pro-life. At 15, when she became pregnant with her oldest daughter, abortion wasn’t even an option.

“I was like, ‘I’m not doing that — there’s no way,’ ” Kay said. “I was totally against it.”

About six years ago, Kay became pregnant again. She and her boyfriend at the time were thrilled. By then, she had three other children.

“You’ll have a new brother or sister,” she told them.

The couple excitedly let their families know.

Then, one day, that happiness turned to horror. Kay’s brother stopped by her Idaho Falls home for a visit and unexpectedly found drugs — crystal meth. Shocked and devastated, Kay flushed her boyfriend’s drugs down the toilet and ended the relationship — no discussion. She’d dealt with drug abuse in a past relationship, she said, and previously had struggled with drugs herself. She didn’t want any part of it.

That day, abortion became an option.

“I was already struggling to take care of three babies by myself,” Kay said. “I also had to face the issue of my children knowing I was pregnant and knowing a baby was coming and being all excited about it.”

“‘(I had to decide), do I carry it full term and give this baby up?’” she continued. “Not only would that rip my heart out, but I had three kids and it would have killed them. I had to decide what was best (for all of us).”

Seeing It Through

Idaho law requires a woman to receive counseling which includes information about abortion and its alternatives and then wait at least 24 hours before the procedure is provided, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

In Utah, that wait period is 72 hours. Under current law, which has changed since Kay had an abortion, out-of-staters traveling to Utah must also complete an informed-consent class in Utah, which can necessitate two separate trips.

Norma Cornejo, an employee for the Salt Lake City-based abortion clinic Wasatch Women’s Center, told the Post Register about 3 percent of the clinic’s patients come from outside states, including Idaho.

For Kay, the three-hour drive to the clinic in Salt Lake City, which since has closed permanently, was hardly peaceful. Questions and emotions flooded her mind.

“I was scared, sad and mad,” she said. “I was mad at (my ex-boyfriend) — why did he have to use drugs? I was mad at myself — why did I put myself in this position? And I was sad, because I was going to take this little person’s life. (I thought), ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ There were a lot of different emotions at that time.”

Kay’s mom recalled the car ride, too.

“(Seeing) her pain, that’s hard,” her mom said. “As a parent, you want to protect your children and not have them go through emotional struggles like that. She still has scars; it’s still difficult.”

The car ride home was quiet. Kay said she spent the three-hour drive back thinking — about positive things, negative things — everything.

“It’s a long, long drive,” Kay said. “Your brain is going 110 miles per hour and you keep thinking.… Am I a bad person? Did I do the right thing for my family? Am I going to be considered a murderer? You’re mad at yourself, sad at yourself — you just want to be home and relax, and not take this huge, long drive to get home.”

Moving Forward

For two years after the abortion, Kay had a hard time holding babies. She got emotional at baby showers. She developed a pelvic inflammatory disease after the procedure, which she believes to be a rare complication caused by the surgery. As a result she spent several days in the hospital and developed endometriosis. She was told she is unable to have more children.

To this day, only a handful of her friends and family know she’s had the procedure. She told her children she miscarried.

Every so often, she still thinks about the pregnancy. There are always questions — “What would (the child) look like?” “Would (it) be a boy or a girl? Where would (it) be in life?”

And yet, she has no regrets.

“Did I make the right decision? I don’t know,” she said. “But I know there are situations that are out of people’s control, and we are not perfect. There will be situations where someone (else) has to make a choice like that. I never thought I would, but I had to.”

Editor’s note: Kay is not the real name of the woman featured in this article. The Post Register has given the source anonymity.


ND Fines Idaho Company $900K for Failing to Clean Up Oil Spills

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) | North Dakota regulators have fined an Idaho company $900,000 not cleaning up spills at oil well sites.

The Bismarck Tribune reports that North Dakota's Industrial Commission levied the fine against Alturas Energy LLC on Tuesday.

Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms says the company was issued a complaint in April but has not responded.

Regulators will now ask that a district court judge enforce the state's order and issue a ruling against the company that could allow for the confiscation of assets.

Alturas officials did not return telephone calls seeking comment.


Idaho Woman Tests Positive for West Nile

BOISE | An Idaho woman tested positive for West Nile, making her the first human case in the state for 2015, according to a Wednesday Southwest District Health press release.

The Washington County women, in her 60s, was not hospitalized, but is still recovering. She started noticing symptoms in late June, according to the release.

A horse in Washington County also tested positive for West Nile, according to the release.

Mosquitoes carry the virus, and contaminated insects are confirmed to be in nine Idaho counties: Ada, Canyon, Gem, Owyhee, Adams, Washington, Valley, Payette and Bingham, according to the release.

Most people infected with West Nile show no symptoms. About one in five end up with a fever, headache, body aches, vomiting, a rash or other symptoms; a few — less than 1 percent — develop a serious inflammation of the brain that can cause permanent damage or death.

West Nile has been present in Idaho since 2004, arriving in a rush across most of the state in 2006 in a year that tallied 23 deaths related to the virus. In recent years it has infected a couple of dozen of Idahoans a year, with no more than one or two deaths reported each year after 2006.


August Fish Stocking Schedule for Magic Valley Waters

JEROME • Hoping for some successful fishing? The Idaho Department of Fish and Game released this August schedule for its fish stocking in the Magic Valley region.

The department stocks 10- to 12-inch rainbow trout. Stocking is dependent on river, lake or pond conditions — for angler safety concerns — and dates may change due to weather or staffing.

Body of water; week to be stocked; and number of trout to be stocked:

Gavers Lagoon; July 27-31; 500.

Little Wood River; July 27-31; 760.

South Fork Boise River; July 27-31; 1,900.

Frank Oster #1; July 27-31; 226.

Riley Creek; July 27-31; 226.

Frank Oster #1; Aug. 3-7; 450.

Lake Cleveland; Aug. 3-7; 1,900.

Big Smokey Creek; Aug. 3-7; 950.

South Fork Boise River; Aug. 3-7; 475.

Snake River at Niagara Springs; Aug. 3-7; 380.

Big Wood River; Aug. 3-7; 1,000.

Trail Creek; Aug. 3-7; 350.

North Fork Big Wood River; Aug. 3-7; 250.

Penny Lake; Aug. 3-7; 200.

Warm Springs Creek; Aug. 3-7; 400.

Gavers Lagoon; Aug. 3-7; 400.

Frank Oster #1; Aug. 17-21; 450.

South Fork Boise River; Aug. 17-21; 1,900.

Rock Creek; Aug. 17-21; 1,475.

Snake River at Niagara Springs; Aug. 17-21; 380.

Big Wood River; Aug. 17-21; 900.

Trail Creek; Aug. 17-21; 340.

Penny Lake; Aug. 17-21; 281.

Warm Springs Creek; Aug. 17-21; 750.

Gavers Lagoon; Aug. 17-21; 200.

Gavers Lagoon; Aug. 24-28; 400.

Frank Oster #1; Aug. 24-28; 450.

Featherville Dredge Pond; Aug. 24-28; 1,200.

South Fork Boise River; Aug. 24-28; 1,900.

Frank Oster #1; Aug. 24-28; 450.

Big Trinity Lake; Aug. 24-28; 950.

Little Trinity Lake; Aug. 24-28; 475.

Filer/LQ Drain Ponds; Aug. 24-28; 350.

For directions, call Fish and Game’s Jerome office, 208-324-4359.


Fight to Keep Skinny Dipper Hot Springs Open Continues Despite Setbacks

BOISE | The people trying to keep Skinny Dipper Hot Springs open are getting a lesson in federal bureaucracy.

Late last week, the head of the local U.S. Bureau of Land Management office sent a letter to the advocate group Growing Change, saying he couldn’t accept a document from the group outlining proposals for long-term public use of the hot springs.

The proposals “lack the specificity required to adequately address the environmental and management concerns,” Tate Fischer, manager of the BLM’s Four Rivers Field Office, said in his letter.

In April, Fischer announced that he would close Skinny Dipper due to concerns about human health, safety and the degradation of nature around the hot springs, located about four miles east of Banks in the mountains north of the South Fork of the Payette River. Growing Change filed an appeal of that decision in May, as well as a request for a stay of the closure process until the Interior Board of Land Appeals, a panel that settles this kind of dispute, issues a decision on the appeal.

Skinny Dipper has remained open during the back and forth over its closure.

Fischer said he’s willing to keep Skinny Dipper open long term if he receives a proposal that addresses his concerns, such as how to remove or manage human feces near the hot springs, trail management, safety and the presence of illegally installed cement in the soaking pools and PVC pipes that divert hot and cold water into the pools.

If he doesn’t get an adequate plan, he’ll push forward with the process of closing Skinny Dipper for five years.

“If it comes down to not receiving a substantial application ... we probably start looking at removing the pipes in spring of 2016, and then re-vegetating the trail as the closure is in effect,” Fischer said.

Drama

Early this month, the land appeals board denied the request for stay. That sent a ripple of concern through the thousands of people that coalesced the last few months to keep the hot springs open.

“Cross your fingers and toes,” the “Save Skinny Dipper Hot Springs” Facebook page, which has almost 9,000 “likes,” told followers July 6. “We are still in this fight.”

Fischer’s letter brought a despondent response. A Monday post stated Fischer had “denied” the Growing Change proposal, even though Fischer’s letter said the BLM simply couldn’t consider the proposal because it didn’t follow federal government procedures.

“It seems they want to be able to say that nobody stepped up when in reality, they have not been willing to work with us from the beginning,” the Facebook post read. “Sadly, the closure of Skinny Dipper will be going forward. Hopefully the land will heal and after the 7-year rest period, the springs will open again with good stewardship.”

What’s next?

Not so fast, said Antonio Bommarito, executive director of Growing Change. Bommarito said Growing Change is working to resubmit the proposal. This time, he said, it’ll be more detailed and thorough.

“We originally got the feeling that we could just work directly with Tate, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to be the way it’s going to work out. ... As you can imagine, working with the government, they want everything outlined to a T, including maps of exact coordinates of the location in question,” Bommarito said. “We submitted like a three- or four-page document outlining their concerns and how we would resolve them. But, really, I think it needs to be more like a 20-page, really hearty document, which is going to take a long time to do.”

Bommarito said Growing Change is working with the same team of lawyers and law students that helped put together the original proposal, the request for a stay and the appeal.

Fischer said the closure process is moving independently of the decision on the appeal. He wasn’t immediately sure what would happen if the Board of Land Appeals upholds the appeal but announces such a decision after the physical closure of Skinny Dipper has already taken place.


First Sockeye of Year Returns to Redfish Despite Hot Rivers

STANLEY • The first sockeye salmon completed its 900-mile migration Monday to Redfish Lake Creek near Stanley.

On top of the dozens of hazards sockeye face on their trip in a normal year, hot rivers have killed tens of thousands of salmon this summer in the Columbia River including more than half of the sockeye heading up the Snake River to Idaho’s Stanley Basin. Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologists have trapped and trucked 37 sockeye this month from Lower Granite Dam in Washington to the Eagle Hatchery to save as many of the precious fish that are part of a remarkable captive breeding program that has prevented the sockeye from going extinct.

Through July 27, 368 sockeye were counted at Lower Granite Dam 30 miles downstream from Lewiston. Biologists fear only a fraction of those will make it to the Sawtooth Basin, where some are trapped and taken to hatcheries while others are allowed to spawn in Redfish Lake.

Trapping and transporting sockeye is one of many safeguards Fish and Game implemented to restore the most southern sockeye population in the world. Fish and Game’s captive breeding program, which raises sockeye from egg to adult in a hatchery, foregoing the risky trip to the ocean. The program ensures that regardless of how many adults return this summer, the agency will still be able to ramp up its release of juveniles in the spring.

Despite a challenging summer, Idaho’s sockeye population has dramatically improved over the last decade, and Fish and Game’s sockeye program is designed to adapt to changing conditions.

An abundant sockeye return in 2010 allowed Fish and Game to try a pilot project where 19 sockeye were trapped and trucked from Lower Granite Dam to the Eagle Hatchery to see if the fish could survive the rigors of transport, and they did, said Roger Phillips, a Fish and Game public information specialist.

Biologists are currently in a wait-and-see mode for the fish remaining in the rivers.

“I don’t know what to expect because this is a year we’ve never seen before,” said Mike Peterson, senior research biologist said. “We’re going to learn the thermal tolerances of these fish.”

After sockeye cross Lower Granite Dam, they still have 400 miles to travel in the Snake and Salmon rivers to reach the Sawtooth Basin.

In the last decade, between 30 and 78 percent of sockeye that crossed Lower Granite Dam completed the trip to the Sawtooth Basin.

“I’m hoping we get that 30 percent conversion, but realistically it could be less,” Peterson said.


Crisis Center Expands with New Funding

TWIN FALLS • A $100,000 increase in funding for the Crisis Center of Magic Valley means more staff, training and services for domestic violence victims.

In 2014 the shelter had more than 4,000 overnight stays by women who had been abused by a partner. The center served more than 56,000 meals, helped nearly 800 victims in court and took about 350 calls on its crisis line. Additional funding means the group will help even more women escape abusive situations, said Director Jesse Vallez.

President Barack Obama signed a bill into law in December that tripled the federal Crime Victims Fund from $745 million to $2.4 billion. For the current fiscal year Idaho was awarded more than $10 million, half of which has already been allocated.

The funds have already had a positive effect in Twin Falls.

“We’ve been working with the grants and just since February the numbers of victims we have gotten out onto their own has doubled,” Vallez said.

The Crisis Center of Magic Valley covers six counties in south-central Idaho and started expanded many of its services when Vallez learned of the additional funding.

The center has taken on more families and equipped them with more supplies and has also started new counseling groups to target specific populations. New counseling groups for women, men, teenagers and abusers have opened within the center this year.

The center now offers training in self-defense and de-escalating potentially violent situations. Vallez plans to add classes on healthy relationships for children in grades 6 to 12. The funds will also victims get jobs, get GEDs and get into programs at the College of Southern Idaho.

The center will also take the new funding and use it to purchase needed items for victims such as pots and pans, clothing and even auto parts.

“Sometimes that $150 item is all they need to be independent,” Vallez said. “All of the things we offer are so when they are back on their own they can deal with everything to the best of their ability without having to go back to the abuser.”

There has never been as big of a jump in the fund and the money was distributed to each state based on population. Once the funds reach Idaho, the money is put under control of the Idaho Council on Domestic Violence and Victim Assistance to give to local agencies that provide services to victims of crime. The Magic Valley had four programs awarded money so far in 2015 for a total of $649,009 that started being paid out this month.

Crisis Center of Magic Valley received an increase of more than $100,000 and has started multiple new programs. Vallez took the position over in February shortly before applications for the funding were due to the Idaho Council for consideration.

“I don’t think I slept. I literally had to do that in two weeks,” Vallez said. “Since I’ve been here we’ve been changing everything.”

The Crime Victims Fund is derived from criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, penalties and special assessments collected from offenders convicted of federal crimes. The fund is not paid for by taxpayers, said Luann Dettman, executive director of Idaho Council on Domestic Violence.

To keep getting funding from the Idaho Council every year, certain qualifications need to be met. So while the Magic Valley saw an increase of more than $200,000 in funding, not every shelter was so lucky. The Mini-Cassia Shelter for Women went from $42,000 in the fiscal year of 2014 to no funding from the Crime Victims Fund this year because the shelter no longer has a director.

“We’re not getting any funding at the moment,” said Ruth Blunt, crisis line advocate. “We are currently trying to keep ourselves afloat.”


Ulta and Petco Open at Canyon Park West

TWIN FALLS • Ulta and Petco are now open at Canyon Park West shopping center in Twin Falls.

The two stores join Dick’s Sporting Goods, which opened March 27, and Bed Bath & Beyond June 23. Bed Bath & Beyond sells domestic merchandise and home furnishings for bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and dining rooms.

Petco opened Monday and sells pet products and services.

Makeup store Ulta opened the doors to its 10,000-square-foot store Friday. It features 20,000 beauty products across 550 brands, as well as a full-service salon.

Ulta grand opening events are scheduled this weekend. A ribbon cutting will take place at 10 a.m. before doors open at 1951 Fillmore St. The first 100 shoppers on Friday, Saturday and Sunday have the opportunity to win beauty give-a-ways valued from $5 to $100. Ulta Beauty experts will be on-hand all weekend to offer free makeovers and consultations.

Emily Ribick, an Ulta spokewoman, said the store is currently still hiring for a few positions. Interested applicants can apply online by visiting www.ulta.com/careers.

“Our entire store team is from the local community. We will have hired more than 20 people once all jobs are filled,” Ribick said.

The Chicago-based retailer of salon products and services has a Pocatello store. There are 797 Ulta stores in the U.S.

“We are truly a beauty destination for Twin Falls, and our Ulta beauty experts are ready to help with all of your beauty needs, from the basics to the perfect shade of lipstick to the newest hair tool,” said Kelly Smith, Ulta grand opening manager, in a press release.

Debbie Carpenter, a volunteer with Anythings Pawsable, brought four cats to Petco Friday. She plans to take a litter of kittens to the store this weekend.

Anythings Pawsable, a nonprofit rescue founded in 2011, is dedicated to helping homeless and abandoned animals. Carpenter said they are the only local partner that will have cats available for adoption at the store.

“We will keep them full all the time and when one is adopted, we will replace them,” Carpenter said.

Once a month, Anythings Pawsable adoption events featuring dogs and cats will also be held at Petco. Cats can typically be adopted for $65 and dogs cost $55. Adoption fees include spay or neutering and vaccinations. Currently, volunteers with Anythings Pawsable have 20 cats and dogs in foster homes across the Magic Valley. Carpenter said having cats at Petco is a good method to getting them adopted quicker.

“We could take so many more in than what we do. It’s really hard to turn them away because we don’t have a place for them,” she said. “Petco opens up another opportunity for us.”

Other stores yet to open are Ross Dress for Less, Mattress Firm, Men’s Wearhouse and Noodles & Company.

Project Administrator Tina Luper said Ross Dress for Less is planning to open sometime in October. Ross Dress for Less sells brand-name clothing at discounted prices.

Noodles & Company is also set to open in October. Noodles & Company is a fast-casual restaurant headquartered in Broomfield, Colo., that offers international and American noodle dishes, as well as soups, salads, pasta and sandwiches.

Men’s Wearhouse will open Dec. 2 and is a men’s dress clothes retailer with corporate offices near Houston, Texas, and executive offices in Fremont, Calif.


Construction to Start on New Watkins Distributing Facility

JEROME • A groundbreaking ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. July 29 for the construction of a new distribution facility for Watkins Distributing at Cross Roads Point Business Center.

The 11,000-square-foot facility will be a cross-docking distribution center, servicing the Magic Valley and Wood River Valley.

“The Highway 93 corridor is seeing more and more development,” said Larry Hall, executive director of Jerome 20/20. “With Cross Roads Point Business Center directly adjacent to the Highway 93 and I-84 exit, it serves as a unique hub for transportation and distribution of all types.”

In 1988, Mitch and Tony Watkins purchased a small distributor in Twin Falls. Today, Watkins Distributing now covers most of the state with locations in southern, eastern and northern Idaho. The primary warehouse facilities are in Idaho Falls and Hayden, with two other locations serving as distribution centers in the Magic Valley and Lewiston.

The family-owned company employs more than 150 employees in Idaho and contributes more than $70 million to Idaho’s economy annually.

“It is exciting to have Watkins Distributing expand their business to Crossroads Point Business Center. We are confident our location will enhance their great service to the Magic Valley,” said Arlen B. Crouch, owner of Crossroads Point Business Center.

Construction of the distribution facility is schedule to be completed in late 2015 or early 2016.