Our network


Health warning lifted for algae in Fernan Lake

Health warning lifted for algae in Fernan Lake

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the Panhandle Health District have lifted the July 8 advisory warning people to stay away from Fernan Lake.

The advisory was issued after tests detected high concentrations of blue-green algae that can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals.

Officials from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality have been monitoring the lake since the advisory was issued and say the algae levels are no longer a concern.

Swimming and other activities can now be safely resumed, and there are no longer restrictions on domestic water supply use.

Idaho creates online one-stop shop for grower's burn permits

Idaho creates online one-stop shop for grower's burn permits

Idaho has made it a lot easier for growers to obtain burn permits from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL.)

The main burn permits is for crop reside burning, which helps growers to clear a field after harvest even during conditions that would otherwise ban burning.

Before, growers were required to obtain a crop residue burn permit from DEQ and then a separate fire safety burn permit from IDL. Now growers can get both permits in one place on the DEQ website.

Growers must still register at least 30 days before they want to burn and pay a $2 per acre fee. The fire safety burn permit informs fire managers where burning activity will take place in order to ensure public safety and is required to anyone living outside city limits anywhere in the state during the “closed fire season” of May 10 to October 20 every year.

Burn ban on DNR forestland east of Cascades starts July 1

Burn ban on DNR forestland east of Cascades starts July 1

Another warning in the face of the upcoming Fourth of July weekend – the Washington State Department of Natural Resources has placed a burn ban on all DNR-protected land east of the Cascades.

Starting July 1 and running until September 30, the burn ban applies to all forestland under DNR fire protection.

“The seasonally dry weather creates a greater risk for wildfires,” said Commission of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “A burn ban helps to prevent them and protects forests, habitat and property.”

So far this year DNR has already had 172 wildfire starts, which have burned approximately 779 acres across the state.

The ban applies to all outdoor burning on DNR forestland with two exceptions:

Recreational fires in approved fire pits

Gas or propane stoves and barbecue grills

Fireworks and incendiary devices like exploding targets, sky lanterns or tracer ammunition are also illegal.

WSU researchers create gel to keep fields healthy during drought

WSU researchers create gel to keep fields healthy during drought

Washington State University researchers have created a product that could help farmers keep their fields moist during a drought.

Led by Associate Professor Jinwen Zhang, the group created hydrogel pellets similar to the super absorbent material used in diapers. The main difference is what they're made of. While diapers rely on petrolium based gel, WSU researchers have created one out of soy protein.

The pellets swell to hold 250 times their weight in water, and because they are made of biodegradable agricultural material instead of chemicals they leave no residue behind when they disintegrate in the ground. In fact, the soy protein can actually act as a source of nitrogen to help plants grow.

A soy-based product would also lessen dependence on foreign oil imports, and boos the local economy since the U.S. Produces half of the world supply of soy beans.

Wildfire fighters train for the season

Wildfire fighters train for the season

Wildfire season is underway but what does it take to brave the front lines and fight those fires?

Stepping up to fight wildfires is a bold move.

"You pretty much dedicated your summer if you decide to do this," said Veronica Naccarato, wildfire fighter.

Not to mention the danger. Veronica Naccarato has been fighting fires for five seasons.

Friday she helped train more than 30 new firefighters.

"I started what's called a practice fire, just kind of gets them prepared for going out in a real life fire," said Naccarato.

The live burn exercise is the last part to a week long intensive training program.

Veteran firefighters say it is the most important test of the week.

"Live fire exercises at these guard schools are extremely important because once they leave here training is over and as soon as tomorrow they could be on an actual wildfire," said Josh Tellessen, wildfire fighter.

The trainees are from agencies throughout the area. Their ages range from 18 to 60, some are college students and others are just passionate about the environment, but now they all have the same goal.

Fungus, pests afflict Northwest's ponderosa pines

Foresters say pests and fungal infections are afflicting the region's ponderosa pines, and while they seldom kill the trees, they do worry landowners.

The Spokesman-Review reports that the unsightly appearance of the trees is being caused by fungal infections and tiny insects called pine scale that thrive during cool, moist conditions. Pine scale can look like paint spatters, while fungi are identified by black or brown splotches on the needles.

Steve McConnell, a Washington State University Extension forester in Spokane, says he's getting two to three calls per day from panicky landowners. But he says that if trees are otherwise healthy, they should recover no problem.

State Department of Natural Resources officer Guy Gifford says the outbreaks are typically not so widespread. This year, he's seeing acres of affected trees, and he says that is unusual.

EPA spending $38M this year to clean up Silver Valley

EPA spending $38M this year to clean up Silver Valley

The EPA is moving forward to clean up the Silver Valley's toxic past, spending $38 Million on one of the largest Superfund sites in the nation.

The water and mountains are part of what makes North Idaho so beautiful, but if you dig into them you'll find a toxic past left behind by more than a century of mining, which has left the soil and roads around the Silver Valley contaminated.

Crews are now digging towards Silver Valley's future. One of their projects is Polaris Avenue in Osburn, where much of the soil is contaminated with lead and arsenic. Instead of digging up the contaminated soil and putting it at some dump site they're using special materials and asphalt to seal the road and make it safer for the community.

"The reason why the government is here is we think there is enough of a human health concern that we are placing barriers and removing contaminated soils so that people are not at risk," Bruce Schuld with the Department of Environmental Quality said.

The most harmful risk is dust being kicked up as they work, so crews are wetting down the soil as they work.