Friday, December 15, 2006

Windstorm in the Northwest

There were lots of amazing stories about immense wind damage and power outages for people numbering well over a million in the Northwest. I actually think that number was underreported since there were tens of thousands of residences and businesses without power in North Idaho alone that never made the national wires that I saw.

Regardless, it was an opportunity for me to see what local governments deal with in a crisis mode. The following is part of an email update that I received tonight about the state of affairs in our city alone after a storm of this magnitude.

Lots of activity and kudos to the many many staff people that were out and about tending to the damage here.

From Jon Ingalls: DAMAGE ASSESSMENT. Today's major wind storm brought a number of challenges to citizens and city staff. Some of the more significant city challenges and damage sites that I am aware of included (by department):

- Water: Numerous water wells were without power this morning, but Water staff quickly mobilized a plan for transfer of excess capacity from elsewhere in the city where power was still on. Status: As of 2pm, the Elm Street booster pump is without power and it in uncertain if Avista will have it back on line soon. This booster station is critical in serving Stanley Hill. However, Water has a generator in route from Spokane to power the booster station if necessary. All other water systems are fully operational.

- Wastewater: Six of our eight lift stations were without power this morning, and our access to one lift station in Indian Meadows was blocked by a downed power line. Wastewater worked with Avista to gain access to the Indian Meadows lift station, and they went door-to-door in efforts to ensure the lift station was restored before it reached a threatening level. Status: All lift stations are now fully operational.

- Fire: Fire responded to trees down in the Tamarack Mobile Home Park (the one north of Costco on Government Way) when downed trees damaged a number of trailer homes. Status: Fire is working with Red Cross to find alternative housing for displaced residents.

- Streets: Streets responded to about a dozen trees across the roads. Some of the locations with larger street trees and/or significant property damage included: 10th & Mullan, 6th & Spruce, 11th and Harrison, Government Way island, 3rd & Harrison, 3rd & Annie, Hubbard & College, and Garden & Lincoln. Perhaps as many as 8 cars were damaged or destroyed from falling trees. Also, numerous signals required resetting. Status: All streets open and passable.

- Parks: Parks responded to damage at 1) the City Park: one large pine tree down, one maple down and a street light pole downed, 2) Forest Cemetery: three large pines down damaging a street light pole and a fence and 3) trees downed over the Centennial Trail at Hubbard and Old Atlas Road (with fence damage). Also, Parks is assisting with clean up of several trees at the 4th Street and Wilbur well sites. Status: Tree clean-up continuing, trails clear, no imminent hazards remain.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rails to Trails Success in Coeur d'Alene!


December 6, 2006


The North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation (NICTF) and the Lake City Development Corporation (LCDC) announced today a funding arrangement that enables NICTF to acquire the abandoned 5.25 mile long Union Pacific rail line in Coeur d’Alene. The Foundation plans to partner with public and private entities to create a trail that will connect to the existing Centennial Trail in Riverstone and extend northwest to near Meyer Road on the Rathdrum Prairie.

“This is a great day for the citizens of Coeur d’Alene and North Idaho” said NICTF Chairman Matt Snow. “By partnering with LCDC we were able to obtain funding to purchase the Union Pacific right of way. This is the first step towards creating a world class trail that will link our community and be an asset forever”.

Tentatively called the “Prairie Trail”, the new paved trail will be approximately 5.25 miles long and will link neighborhoods and schools with the new Kroc Community Center, Ramsey Park, Riverstone and downtown Coeur d’Alene.

“Kids and adults will be able to safely ride, run or walk from neighborhoods to schools, parks, Riverstone, Downtown and beyond” said NICTF Executive Director Kim Stearns. “The Foundation could not have done this without the support of LCDC”.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a trail that will provide recreation and alternative transportation for our community. The LCDC Board recognized that this is an asset with huge potential benefit for the public. We are pleased to be able to partner in the Foundation’s vision" said Tony Berns, Executive Director of LCDC.

NICTF filed an application with the Surface Transportation Board to “railbank” the corridor and has been negotiating with Union Pacific to purchase the abandoned line for almost 3 years. Elected officials from the City of Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai County as well as U.S. Senator Larry Craig have written letters of support for the purchase by the NICTF. NICTF hopes to close on the purchase of the property by the end of the year. Actual construction of the trail will proceed in phases as funds are raised and will involve close planning with neighborhoods, schools, private developers and public entities. NICTF will begin actively fund raising, planning and designing the trail after closing on the purchase.

"We are thrilled that the Centennial Trail Foundation's dream of a community trail will become a reality" said Coeur d'Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem. "I know that the proximity of the proposed trail to the Kroc Community Center site was one of the reasons why Coeur d'Alene was selected to receive the $60+ million dollar grant."

The NICFT acquisition of the UP right of way is the first enabling step in a longer-term property transfer/acquisition process involving the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) and LCDC. Once the Spokane River stretch of the BNSF rail line is abandoned following the closure of the Stimson DeArmond mill, a portion of the BNSF right of way will revert to BLM ownership. The next step in the proposed process would be BLM trading their BNSF rail line corridor ownership to the NICTF for the UP rail line corridor. Following the trade, NICTF will transfer their newly acquired BNSF/BLM right of way to the LCDC for use in creating the "Education Corridor" in downtown Coeur d'Alene. At the end of the proposed property transfer/acquisition process, LCDC will own the BNSF/BLM right of way and the BLM will hold title to the former UP corridor with the new "Prairie Trail" being managed by the City of Coeur d'Alene.

Local BLM officials are supportive of the proposed property transfer/acquisition process as well as Coeur d'Alene's vision for the Educational Corridor. "There is a rigorous process that must be gone through to obtain approval for any land transfer involving BLM" said BLM Field Manager Eric Thomson, "but we support the project and will do everything we can to see that it succeeds."

NICTF is a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) foundation whose mission is to support and promote trail development in North Idaho. The Foundation welcomes people who are interested in contributing to the Foundation or serving on its Board of Directors. Please contact Executive Director Kim Stearns at 208-651-6271 or for more information about contributing to the Foundation or applying to serve on the Board. For further information on the Prairie Trail project please contact Vice-Chairman Mike Gridley at 208-769-2330.

LCDC is the City of Coeur d'Alene's urban renewal agency. For further information regarding LCDC please contact Executive Director Tony Berns at 208-769-2331.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Coeur d'Alene Housing Assessment Released

Preserving Our Sense of Place: A Housing Needs Assessment in Coeur d'Alene

This report is the starting point for what needs to be a deep and thorough project to improve the housing situation in Coeur d'Alene.