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Summer Drawdown could Harm Reservoir Water Quality

by Associated Press
Capital Press - July 5, 2002

CASCADE, Idaho (AP) -- City and state officials are alarmed by the prospect that the drawdown of Lake Cascade could occur in the heat of summer instead of past spring and fall releases.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation planned to release 55,000 acre-feet of water from the reservoir starting in July to meet Snake river flow requirements set by the National Fisheries Service to protect the migrating fall Chinook salmon, a threatened strain under the Endangered Species Act.

The lake is already low because winter snowfall was about average. Drawing it down in the summer could cause toxic algae blooms in the reservoir. Leaving the water higher until fall helps prevent their growth.

The Bonneville Power Administration for years reimbursed Idaho Power Co. for water it releases from its Brownlee Reservoir in Hells Canyon for the salmon migration. That kept the water level higher at Cascade, but that agreement expired in 2000.

That forced river managers to find other sources for 427,000 acre-feet of water the Fisheries Service requires to help the salmon.

"Obviously, a drawdown this summer raises concerns about the lake," said Mark Snider, spokesman for Gov. Dirk Kempthorne. "No decision has been reached, but we're actively involved with all the entities to see if there is a way to work around this."

"The community of Cascade can ill afford the loss of water and water quality as they go into the height of the summer tourism season," said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. "Cascade has already taken a huge economic hit with the loss of the timber mill."

Jerry Gregg, area manager for the Snake River Project of the Bureau of Reclamation, said his agency will move an extra 10,000 acre feet of water form Deadwood Reservoir rather than Lake Cascade, drawing Deadwood down to minimum pool.

Even if Idaho Power, Bonneville and Reclamation cannot agree to keep the "split release" of the past five years, there still would be 350,000 acre feet in Cascade by the end of August, about 50,000 acre-feet above minimum pool, Gregg said.

That reservoir hit minimum pool in 2001.

A split release would add 100,000 acre feet to 350,000.

Former Mill Town making Transition to Tourist Mecca
related article in same issue of the paper

CASCADE, Idaho (AP) -- It was a shock, even though people had been expecting it. This timber town's heart, the Boise Cascade sawmill where generations of Cascade residents had earned an honest wage, stopped beating early last summer.

But the internal struggle is great. People are worried the town's character will disappear behind a Sun Valley-like traffic jam, that the average Joe won't be able to afford a home, and that once-proud timber workers will become de facto manservants for well-to-do retirees.

"It's a given that Valley County has become the playground for Ada County," said Lee Heinrich, the county clerk.

No one in Cascade wants the town's quaint blue-collar nature, speckled with cafes and log-cabin motels that cater to hunters, anglers and snowmobilers, to change.

The prospect of creating an exclusive enclave like McCall or Sun Valley goes against the town's easy-going grain. Some residents worry it could also create an economically polarized community of haves and have-nots. But people need jobs.

Valley County residents say they have no choice but to put up with the changes that have force them to forgo their timber traditions in favor of the West's new mantra: tourism and recreation.

"I don't want to see the community grow," said Heinrich, who has been in office since 1991. "But you either progress or you regress. to make things better, you just need more people."

Valley County already has gone a long way down the outdoor playground path.

Two-thirds of the county's housing units are owned by people whose primary residence is outside the county. Most of those second homes are in the McCall area, where people Heinrich calls Idaho's "rich and famous" have built "million-dollar cabins" along the shores of Payette Lake.

Adding momentum to the county's metamorphosis was May's state land lease offer to WestRock, a $1 billion four-season resort developers hope to build on the shores of Lake Cascade, just a short drive from Cascade and McCall.

Hailed and criticized as potentially another Sun Valley, the self-contained resort's potential effect on development in Valley County is still unclear.

Some, mostly the county's working class, see WestRock as a panacea. to others, who worry their mountain hideaway may become sullied, it's the plague.

"I don't think I've seen another issue that's split people here like WestRock," Heinrich said.

One thing is certain: If WestRock clears its remaining legal challenges, its existence will bring more people through Cascade on Idaho 55 and those people will have money.

Until recently, Cascade has not ventured very far into this new era of tourism.

The city lobbied for the state park facilities that now grace the shores of Lake Cascade and welcomed local businesses such as RV parks, lodges and fly shops.

But many of the city's post-Boise Cascade economic development projects would foster ties to the timber industry, a plan civic and business leaders say is important for their community identity and the health of the hillside forests ringing the city.

Cascade hosted a 1998 protest against the Clinton administration's "roadless initiative," one of a number of government policies the timber industry blames for its own decline in the West. Until the mill closed in 2001, the city seemed to be focusing more on fending off the timber industry's coming demise than embracing other possibilities.

Some in the town hold a grudge against government policies they say forced the timber industry's demise. Others reserve some of their ill feelings for Boise Cascade, which many residents say didn't give local residents enough opportunity to find buyers for the mill. Last month, Boise Cascade announced the mill will be dismantled.

When it became clear his job at the mill was in jeopardy, former Boise Cascade forklift driver Ron Lundquist accepted an invitation from his friends, Ashley and Katrin Thompson, to manage the hotel they hoped to build in Cascade.

For the past year, Lundquist has been taking hotel and restaurant management courses through the state Labor Department's Job Service in the hope that a state economic development grant allowing the hotel's construction would come through.

Earlier this year, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne presented Cascade with a $400,000 check to build the sewer infrastructure needed for the project. Now, when Lundquist is not in the classroom, he's helping the Thompsons lay the groundwork for the Ashley Inn, which could be complete by Christmas.

Yet, when the conversation turns to the mill's demise, his preference for the town's past is clear.

"Losing one more sawmill like Cascade will further erode the strength of the fabric of the whole nation," Lundquist said.

by Associated Press
Summer Drawdown could Harm Reservoir Water Quality
Capital Press - July 5, 2002

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