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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.

Gem State gubernatorial debate mocked across country

Gem State gubernatorial debate mocked across country

It may have seemed like a Saturday Night Live sketch, but it really was a debate between the men who want to be Idaho's GOP candidate for governor in an event that is now being mocked across the country.

The GOP primary is Tuesday and, according to candidate Harley Brown, Idahoans will choose between, "a cowboy a curmudgeon or a normal guy."

That so-called normal guy Brown referred to is State Senator Russ Fulcher, who is making the rounds before voters hit the polls.

The debate lasted almost an hour, but the most popular highlight reel, just a few minutes long, is what the whole world is watching and it is not a good look for the Gem State.

Two of the candidates, dark horses to put it mildly, are Harley Brown and Walt Bates, provided the entertainment in the forum.

"I am about as politically correct as your proverbial turd in a punch bowl," Brown said during the debate.

"Our forests are like growing tomatoes, well they are pretty red don't pick 'em," Bates said during the debate.

Fulcher said he's not impressed with the spectacle the debate turned into and added he wasn't surprised.

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.

Festival at Sandpoint announces 2014 lineup

Festival at Sandpoint announces 2014 lineup

The lineup for the 32nd Annual Festival at Sandpoint was announced on Thursday. Leading the marquee are Huey Lewis & the News, Ray Lamontagne and  a recently reunited Nickel Creek. Tickets are available now.

Here’s the complete lineup for the Festival at Sandpoint:

Washingtonians flocking to Idaho for cheaper alcohol

Washingtonians flocking to Idaho for cheaper alcohol

Just hundreds of yards from Washington, and barely into Idaho, the shelves of the State Line Liquor Store are stocked, but sticker shock proves they won't be for long.

The store opened months after Washington voters passed I-1183. When privatized liquor started almost two years ago in Washington, Kootenai County saw an increase of $7 million in liquor sales each year. So many people are crossing the border to buy booze. Those purchases from Washingtonians left nearly $420,000 in sales tax for Kootenai County last year.

If you put the average price for a bottle of liquor at about $20, that means 350,000 bottles would leave the county each year. The sales tax would stay.

The Idaho State Liquor Division says Kootenai County had the highest growth in the state.

"It's not a regular thing but when I'm over here, pop in, just do it," said Eric Carlson of Spokane Valley.

Almost every license plate KXLY saw at the liquor store this afternoon was from Washington, including Eric Carlson's.

"How come they can do it cheaper here, not there. It's not like we're crossing oceans?" Carlson said.

Three senior women crowned champions of Moving Minutes Challenge

Three senior women crowned champions of Moving Minutes Challenge

From the Panhandle Health District:

Three senior women from Kootenai County logged 990 minutes each of physical activity weekly to win the team trophy in the Panhandle Health District’s (PHD) second annual Moving Minutes Challenge.

Idaho State Police trooper suspended without pay

Idaho State Police trooper suspended without pay

An Idaho State Police trooper has been suspended without pay as authorities investigate accusations he engaged in criminal activity in two northern Idaho counties in 2013.

The agency in a statement on Thursday says 48-year-old Daniel Howard is suspended pending the outcome of criminal charges.

The agency placed the 19-year veteran on paid leave in December and without pay in April after Kootenai County authorities announced charges.

Howard faces charges of grand theft, petit theft, and possession of an untagged deer involving acts authorities say occurred in Kootenai County.

He's also charged with forgery, title fraud and grand theft for actions authorities say occurred in Bonner County.

Idaho State Police issued the statement after the Bonner County Daily Bee sought information about Howard's employment status.