Whitman County commissioners are concerned the upcoming Palouse Basin Water Summit will become a springboard for those who want to turn off the county’s faucets.What is even the purpose of this summit? No one is going to talk Pullman and Whitman County out of growing. According to U of I economist Steve Peterson, Pullman and Whitman County donate $150 million to the Moscow economy every year. Speaking of water, that's a lot of "leakage." No wonder they want to use "water pressure" to keep us down.
Private and public researchers and officials from Washington and Idaho will speak on improving the understanding of water issues central to the Palouse at the daylong summit Oct. 3. Participants will have a chance to provide input during the afternoon.
Attendees will break into small groups and have the opportunity to express their concerns and offer possible solutions.
The Pullman-Moscow area draws almost all of its water from the Grande Ronde and Wanupum aquifers. The Grande Ronde, the deeper aquifer, has steadily declined with little exception over the past 30 years.
The decline has caused concern that the aquifer is not being recharged, and that residents and businesses in the area draw too much water for it to recharge.
“I’m just afraid it is going to get political,” said Whitman County Commissioner Jerry Finch. “We don’t want people in Washington afraid to take a bath.”
The Whitman County commissioners want to develop the Pullman-Moscow Highway corridor. Boise-based Hawkins Companies is pursuing permits to construct a 700,000-square-foot shopping center on the Washington-Idaho border, butted up against the edge of Moscow. The city of Moscow has appealed past permit applications by Hawkins Companies, saying the proposed shopping center would make the highway more dangerous, that stormwater will pollute Paradise Creek with parking lot run-off, and that it will put extra stress on the aquifers.
Commissioner Greg Partch said the county has been criticized every time it tries to create development.
He’s concerned that the summit will be just another opportunity to stamp on Whitman County.
Rob Buchert, Palouse Conservation District manager, said the only way for one side of the discussion to dominate the summit is for the other side not to present its views.
“If no one from Whitman County shows up to the discussions, no one will know what you are thinking,” Buchert said.
“We want all ideas to be presented. Let’s find out what’s going on.”
Partch said Whitman County wants to conserve water, and the region can have development while protecting its water at the same time.
Buchert said the actual knowledge about the area’s water is limited and the cities, counties and universities don’t know how much interest there is among the general public.
“Everyone wants to have an abundance of water,” Buchert said.
“But are they willing to offer up ideas and become involved? We’ll see. That’s why we are having this summit.”
Buchert said attendance from Washington was minimal at last year’s water summit. He hopes more people show up this year.
“Pullman and Whitman County have never really had to drill new wells like Moscow,” Buchert said.
“I don’t think they have as much a sense of urgency like Moscow and Latah (county) have.”
Buchert said the summit almost didn’t happen because representatives on both sides of the border couldn’t decide what they wanted.
“It can be a lot like herding cats,” he said.
“But both sides have a lot of interest and similar goals. They don’t want to pack up and leave the area because there’s no water.”
Buchert said the summit’s goal is to bring officials from both counties together and have them talk directly to one another.
Mark Solomon, a water activist and researcher who lives in Latah County, said he hopes to continue the conversation that was started at last year’s water summit.
“With the changes Whitman County is facing on land use, this is a good time to come up to speed on what everyone is thinking and start to think of things in terms of a solution,” he said.
“Hopefully, this will go beyond putting slogans on newsprint and hinting at ideas.”
The summit will take place from 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., at the Best Western University Inn in Moscow.
Lunch will be provided for people who preregister.
There is no charge for the event, which is sponsored by local cities, counties, universities and state and federal agencies.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Palouse Basin Water Summit
WHEN: Oct. 3
WHERE: Best Western University Inn, 1516 W. Pullman Road, Moscow.
COST: Free; Lunch will be provided for people who preregister.
REGISTRATION: Contact the Palouse Conservation District in Pullman, go online to www.iwrri.uidaho.edu, or call (509) 332-4101.
And "soapbox" is putting it nicely. "Ambush" would be the better term, especially with Mark "King" Solomon behind the scenes. He's not a "water activist." he's an anti-growth activist that uses water as an excuse.
They want to hear from us, so I encourage everyone to attend and let them how you feel about Moscow and Latah County using water as an excuse to hold Pullman and Whitman County down.