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Riverside corridor planning underway in Coeur d'Alene

Riverside corridor planning underway in Coeur d'Alene

Planning has officially started on a project that will guide the gradual transformation of a six-mile stretch of land along the Spokane River from Independence Point in downtown Coeur d'Alene west to Huetter Road.

During a kickoff meeting on Monday, a diverse group of land planners, engineers, architects and city officials met to discuss a wide range of possibilities for the corridor.

A master plan being developed by Welch Comer Engineers of Coeur d'Alene could involve recreational, commercial and private development uses, as well as numerous opportunities to secure public access to the Spokane River, including the development of trails and parks along the water and expansion of Riverstone Park.

Large scale watershed restoration in Idaho panhandle

Large scale watershed restoration in Idaho panhandle

The Idaho Panhandle National Forest announced some big improvements to the Moose Drool Watershed Project this year. The project will improve 21 fish passages, 3 miles of in-stream fish habitat and supplement in-stream woody debris with more than 1,000 pieces.

This project is the largest of its kind ever to take place in north Idaho, improving water quality and fish habitat while providing jobs for the local economy.

Significant work on this project will begin this summer and is expected to continue through early October. Contractors will complete the project in summer 2015.

Ongoing work includes rail bed decommissioning and removal, decommissioning of impassable roads, road and trail reconstruction and in-stream improvements.

Forest visitors in the area should be away of several temporary road and trail closures as a result of the work:

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.