Congressman Mike Simpson’s “Northwest in Transition” proposal would restore Idaho salmon and invest in communities, jobs, clean energy, and healthy farming communities across our state and the Northwest. His concept includes investing $1.2 billion specifically for watershed restoration efforts in the Snake River Basin, including in southern Idaho.
Agriculture makes up a significant portion of the land and water used within the Snake River Basin. Irrigation for agriculture, for instance, makes up more than 80% of the water rights in the Snake River plain. As a result, impacts to the agricultural system along the Snake River have major implications for the quantity and quality of water in the Snake River and its aquifer.
Dairies and feedlots produce large amounts of manure. If not properly managed, this waste can run into the water system as pollutants. New technologies, such as manure digesters, can turn this waste into fuel called biogas, reducing potential water and air pollution. Support for these technologies allows the agriculture industry to make strides toward a more sustainable system while investing in rural communities.
What’s in the proposal?
- $700 million for watershed partnerships to identify, develop, and implement high-value, voluntary watershed/water quality improvement projects.
- $400 million for incentives and grants for the construction of manure digesters and waste containment systems for dairies and feedlots to prevent or reduce pollution and other animal discharge into the Snake River.
- $100 million in grants to the University of Idaho to fund research and development of advanced animal waste digesters or other technologies to convert manure and other animal waste into biofuel, bioenergy, and other valuable products.
- Agriculture partners within the Columbia Basin watershed who participate will receive a 25-year exemption from all Clean Water Act or Endangered Species Act lawsuits related to water issues in their basin.
This proposed investment of $1.2 billion dollars to improve water quality in the Snake is exactly the scale and scope of investment that’s needed to address the long-standing pollution issues in the watershed. The funding will incentivize farmers and other agricultural interests to adopt best management practices and new technologies that will reduce pollution to our waterways while also providing legal certainty to those who participate in watershed partnerships.
What can I do to support this proposal?
Write Idaho’s Congressional delegation and Governor Brad Little to demonstrate your support for Congressman Simpson’s proposal. The concept is a framework that takes all stakeholders into account and seeks to make all communities whole, while offering funds to restore the Snake River, aligning with ICL’s efforts to return the Snake to a safe, swimmable, and fishable condition. ICL believes it’s a strong starting point as we work to develop solutions together for Idahoans and the people of the Northwest. Urge your family, friends, and community members to speak up for a prosperous future for Idaho.
It’s also important to engage other elected officials at all levels — state legislators, county commissioners, and city councils and mayors — and utility board directors to let them know that this is an opportunity to lead their communities toward a better future as envisioned in Congressman Simpson’s concept.