BOISE, Idaho - Federal and state environmental officials joined members of Idaho’s congressional delegation today on a tour of an innovative environmental project that the City of Boise will use to help meet stricter water pollution rules in a cost-effective manner.
The City of Boise hosted Environmental Protection Agency Region X Administrator Dennis McLerran and Idaho Department of Environmental Quality Director Toni Hardesty along with Idaho’s U.S. senators and representatives at the site of its proposed Lower Boise Phosphorus Removal Project in rural Canyon County.
EPA will soon require lower phosphorus limits at City of Boise and other municipal treatment facilities across the Treasure Valley. The limits will protect and improve water quality in the Lower Boise River, Snake River and Brownlee Reservoirs. Phosphorus from sources like agricultural drains and wastewater treatment plants can cause algae blooms in the Snake River and Brownlee Reservoir and sometimes kill fish.
The City is proposing an innovative, first-of-its-kind approach to meet the expected limits by removing phosphorus from an agricultural drain wing into the Lower Boise River between Notus and Parma. Phosphorus removed from the drain would be used as a credit to meet the new treatment plant limits.
The purpose of Wednesday’s meeting was to inform Administrator McLerran and the congressional delegation about the benefits of the project and urge approval of the concept.
"This unique solution will help keep our river clean with the least possible impact to taxpayers,” Mayor David Bieter said. “By cooperating across all levels of government, it is possible to find solutions such as this that are effective and efficient. I look forward to working with the EPA, our congressional delegation and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality on this project.”
“The cities of the Treasure Valley are to be commended for their idea to lower phosphorus levels in a fiscally responsible manner,” said U.S. Senator Jim Risch. “This approach benefits all of the communities involved and will have a positive impact on the river system. This is an excellent collaborative project that should move forward."
“The use of the Dixie Drain as a filter is an innovative model for local water quality improvement that should be approved and implemented and is the kind of project that can succeed if regulatory inflexibility is not a barrier to success,” said Senator Mike Crapo, the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's Subcommittee on Wildlife and Water. The subcommittee oversees EPA actions in the U.S. Senate.
“What the City of Boise is proposing with the Dixie Drain project is a win for the environment, a win for taxpayers, and a win for the utilization of cooperation and innovation in regulatory affairs,” said Congressman Mike Simpson, ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment, which funds the EPA. “I want to thank Administrator McLerran for coming to Boise and seeing firsthand the way in which this innovative project can be a model for future regulatory efforts across the country.”
“This project holds a great deal of potential for the taxpayers and the river," Congressman Walt Minnick said. “We look forward to continuing the dialogue with Administrator McLerran and hope this concept will prove to be a model for other Idaho cities.”
If the project is approved, Boise and the other municipalities would be the first to implement a phosphorus removal effort of this kind in the United States. Because of its precedent-setting nature, the project is being watched closely by regional and national regulators, municipalities, environmental groups and other water quality stakeholders.
Along with removing phosphorus, the City’s proposal reduces sediment flowing into the river and creates natural wildlife habitat. The site of the project is along the Dixie Drain about five miles west of Notus. Water used for farming in the area flows into the Dixie Drain and eventually into the Boise River.
With support from U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, and Congressmen Mike Simpson and Walt Minnick, other Treasure Valley municipalities are working with Boise, EPA Region X and IDEQ on the Lower Boise Phosphorus Removal Project.
Idaho DEQ Director Toni Hardesty, Nampa Mayor Tom Dale, Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas and Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd along with representatives from Eagle, Middleton, Star, Parma and Notus also attended the information meeting Wednesday morning at the Dixie Drain.