The year started out with a bang when winter gave way to spring temperatures, creating havoc in much of the Magic Valley, especially in the Mini-Cassia region.
Residents from the Wood River Valley to Buhl watched helplessly as meltwater surrounded homes and washed out roads and bridges.
Dairies struggled to deal with excess water, and one dairy outside of Shoshone pumped flood waters from its lagoon into a nearby canal, eventually contaminating groundwater wells in the area.
4 Bros. Dairy was fined $70,000 by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture for illegally discharging wastewater into the Milner-Gooding Canal.
While the valley dealt with flood waters, reservoirs in the Upper Snake Basin filled and mountain snowpacks built to healthy levels prior to spring planting.
By the end of the growing season, Upper Snake Basin system was still 75 percent full and 180 percent of the 30-year average, said Corey Loveland, water operations manager for the Bureau of Reclamation in Heyburn. Previous high-moisture years included 1986, ‘97 and 2011.
The 2017 Legislature set aside $10 million for a $45 million world-class agricultural center to be built in the Magic Valley, and pledged another $5 million from 2018’s coffers if the University of Idaho can raise the rest of the money needed for the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, known as the UI CAFE. The university plans to partner with industry groups — such as the Idaho Dairymen’s Association — and sell land to contribute its $15 million share of the center.
The university did a feasibility study comparing several sites in Jerome County — one to determine the cost of building a new center, complete with a high-tech rotary milking parlor, and the other to determine the cost of retrofitting an existing dairy. The university decided retrofitting an existing dairy would be too costly.
Before the university could get much further, some residents of eastern Jerome County bristled over the idea of a new dairy coming to the area. Both Hazelton and Eden city councils began work to upgrade their areas of impact to exclude large agricultural operations such as the CAFE.
The UI CAFE has not been tabled, but if it goes forward, it probably won’t be in eastern Jerome County.
Snake River Canyon Park
Jerome County commissioners have vowed to complete the 4,000-acre Snake River Canyon Park, which has been on the drawing board for years.
The park, formerly known as the North Rim Park, is a 6.25-square-mile block of desert leased by Jerome County and owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management north of the Snake River — roughly from the canyon rim to Interstate 84 and from U.S. 93 to near Devils Corral.
The commissioners would like the area to become an outdoor destination for all ATV, motorcycle, mountain bike, equestrian and shooting sports, but the park must be made safe for all users. Shooting would be allowed in a safe zone in the east end of the park.
But recreational shooting is already allowed on neighboring ground owned by the Idaho Department of Lands, which commissioners fear would deter many from using the park. The County Commission has sent a letter asking the IDL to prohibit recreational shooting on the narrow strip of endowment land between the park and the canyon rim.
Many in town were shocked when Twin Falls County Sheriff Tom Carter showed up at a Filer City Council meeting in June to pitch the idea of his department taking over law enforcement for the city less than 3,000. Residents quickly rallied in support of the police department.
The City Council abandoned the idea, but fired Police Chief Tim Reeves in July, and decided to cut one police officer’s position from the budget. In response, the Filer Fire Department penned a letter to Mayor Rick Dunn and the Filer City Council, expressing dismay over the firing of the chief and the elimination of the other position.
Firefighters had “lost confidence” in the city’s government, the letter said. The firing of Reeves has “diminished morale, made our fire scenes less safe and have taken from us a trained and valuable member of our department.”
An effort to recall Mayor Rick Dunn and three of the four council members was stopped in its tracks when the Twin Falls County Elections Department declared many of the signatures on the petitions to be invalid.
Meanwhile, former Mayor Bob Templeman beat out council members Russell “Bud” Sheridan and Ruby Allen for mayor in the November election. Dunn did not run for a second term. Political newcomers Samuel Callen and Candise Ramsey took Sheridan’s and Allen’s council seats.
Lucky, the Gypsy
Rising Stars Therapeutic Riding Center in Twin Falls won Lucky, a 7-year-old Gypsy Vanner therapy horse, in a national online contest that pitted 80 horse therapy centers across the nation against each other. The top 20 facilities each won a horse from LexLin Gypsy Ranch in Rockwood, Tenn. Rising Stars placed 16th in the contest.
LexLin’s “Gift Horse” program, has donated 65 Vanners since 2009 to spread the awareness of the breed as therapy horses. Vanner horses, bred in World War II to pull caravans, are known for their short, muscular bodies and calm disposition. Lucky is dapple gray and stands just 14 hands high.
The horses are perfect for those with physical or mental challenges, said Rising Stars founder and Director Marni Porath. The riding center and its 50 volunteers and 13 therapy horses serves about 90 clients.