Why do we feel better physically around water? What positive health effects does water have on humans? Tune in for our conversation with Dr. Wallace J. Nichols to learn about his #bluemind research.
The Confederation of Canada, in which British Colonies in present day Canada united into one dominion occurred on July 1, 1867 and this summer Canada celebrates its 150th birthday. To celebrate, there are Canadian parties being thrown both north and south of the 49th parallel this year. One of those parties will be at Treefort this year.
To get the low-down on Canada’s presence in Idaho, we had the Canadian Consul General in Seattle, James Hill, join us in studio to talk about who’s coming to Treefort, why America is so important to Canada, and how come poutine tastes so good!
Our theme of From Snow to Flow continues this week with a conversation about the Boise River with Idaho Fish and Game Regional Fisheries Manager Joe Kozfkay and Freshwater Trust Idaho Program Manager Christy Meyer. Our beloved Boise River brings life to the high desert and flows through the heart of the city on it’s way to meet the Snake. The Boise River is an incredible asset that has been taken for granted in the past. These days many individuals and groups are working hard to protect and improve its health and vitality.
We’ll talk with Joe about the Boise River fishery, how the river ran dry one day, and his favorite fish to catch. Christy will share the great work the Boise River Enhancement Network (BREN) is doing to continually improve its health and protect it from threats like the encroachment of development. BREN recently helped complete an in-stream aquatic habitat enhancement project that might just be helping little brown trout babies find shelter from these recent high flows.
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Following our winter sequence of Fire and Ice, the month of March is dedicated to the theme From Snow to Flow on Building a Greener Idaho.
The Clean Water Act was made into law in 1972 to address growing concerns about water quality in the United States. At a time when rivers were literally starting on fire (Cuyahoga River, 1969), public sentiment had shifted away from allowing surface water to be used as an industrial drain system enabling powerful Federal legislation to be enacted to clean up our waterways. It was obvious that industrial pollutants were a problem, and in response, the Clean Water act targets point source pollution. The EPA defines point source pollution as any single identifiable source of pollution from which pollutants are discharged, such as a pipe, ditch, ship or factory smokestack – typically from a wastewater treatment plant and industrial sites.
The Clean Water Act was highly successful at reducing pollution in our waterways, but once the point source pollutants were mitigated, the harmful impacts of nonpoint source pollution became more apparent. The EPA defines nonpoint source pollution as pollution caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and ground waters.
Typically, nonpoint source pollution is harder to identify and treat effectively than point source pollution, so our laws and policies have placed the onous for clean water pollution prevention on municipal wastewater plants, and industries that introduce pollutants to waterways through identifiable, direct pathways. As the low hanging fruit in point source pollution have been harvested, we are left with ever more costly ways to treat this type of pollution. At the same time, we remain relatively hands off on addressing the many significant pollutants contaminating our waters from diffuse, nonpoint sources.
In spite of the success of the Clean Water Act, it is clear that there are still issues to address. Cities in Southern Idaho began facing the economic realities of trying to achieve ever more stringent phosphorous discharge standards for their wastewater plants in the late 2000’s. Phosphorous making its way into the Boise and Snake River drainages ultimately ends up in the reservoirs of the Hell’s Canyon Complex, causing algae blooms, low oxygen content, and fish mortality. This is not a great situation for the ecosystem, or for the recreationalists who enjoy the reservoirs and phosphorous discharge restrictions from point sources were tightened to address the problem. While this was consistent with the Clean Water Act status quo, the tighter phosphorous controls at our municipal wastewater plants are proving to be a costly en devour. Worse, no matter how tightly we control the discharge from our tailpipes, the phosphorous keeps coming – from nonpoint sources.
The City of Boise recognized that the situation was akin to plugging holes in a dike while ever more leaks were springing up just outside of their reach. So, they looked outside of their reach for a better solution. The City identified that an agricultural return drain downstream on the Boise River known as the Dixie Drain was a prime phosphorous reduction opportunity. During the summer irrigation season, the Dixie Drain feeds high levels of phosphorous into the Boise River from nonpoint sources. The City correctly inferred that they could keep more phosphorous out of the river with less expense if they treated the Dixie Drain water as opposed to retrofitting their wastewater plants to extract the last vestiges of phosphorous from their effluent.
The Dixie Drain phosphorous removal project was a great idea, but novel. The Clean Water Act had no provisions for water quality trading of this nature, even if the net outcome was less pollution. In 2009, the City of Boise approached the EPA with the idea. Not surprisingly, a precedent setting project like the Dixie Drain was met with some resistance. The EPA and Idaho DEQ wanted to be very cautious with any legal precedents. The conservation community wanted assurances that the project would indeed result in less pollution, and less expense for the City. Several years of negotiations ensued, but the City knew that they were on to something and doggedly pursued approval for the project. Fast forward to 2016, and the City of Boise became the first municipality in the U.S. to treat water outside of their jurisdiction for the sake of meeting their wastewater treatment obligations under the Clean Water Act and National Pollution Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.
And it’s working. While still in a beta testing phase, the Dixie Drain treatments are removing over 150 lbs of phosphorous from the water per day during the summer months, and doing so at a discount compared to treating at the wastewater plant. Today, cities from across the country are calling the Boise Public Works Department to inquire, “How did you pull that off?” and, “Can this work in our community?”
Join our conversation with Jim Werntz, Director, Idaho Operations at the U.S. EPA, and Steve Burgos, City of Boise Public Works Director as they provide a first hand account of this precedent setting project from inception to implementation. And feel free to take a little pride in this story of how we build a greener Idaho. Cities and Clean Water Act stake holders across the country took note of the Dixie Drain project, and the project has set the stage for the development of a third party water quality trading market in Southern Idaho.
It’s not every day that the mold breaks for the better, but thanks to some key champions in the Gem State, that’s exactly what happened for water quality in America with the Dixie Drain project.
Tune into the show weekly at 3pm on Radio Boise at 89.9 FM or 93.5 FM in the Treasure Valley. Or stream us online at http://www.radioboise.org. You can listen to a podcast of our interview using the player below.
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