Search Results for 'Idaho Forest Group'

Healthy forests lead to clean air

Healthy forests lead to clean air

Coeur d’Alene firefighters dig a fire line on the west side of a 1/2-acre fire on Tubbs Hill. About 20 firefighters worked to contain the blaze that started near a lower trail on the east side of the hill.

There is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than at any time in the last 400,000 years.
“That’s not in dispute,” says Dr. Jay O’Laughlin. “What is in dispute is the role of carbon dioxide emissions in affecting global warming.”
No, the good doctor isn’t going to go there. He has better things to do than step gingerly between an SUV and a Prius speeding toward a head-on collision in the ongoing global warming dispute. But he will say this:
“I think we can all agree that there are better places to store carbon dioxide than in the atmosphere.”
O’Laughlin should know.
He can see the forest for the trees.


Dr. Jay O’Laughlin displays a clump of woody biomass near Post Falls.

Dr. Jay O’Laughlin is a professor of forestry and policy sciences, and since 1989, he’s been director of the Policy Analysis Group in the College of Natural Resources for the University of Idaho.
In 2010, O’Laughlin received the prestigious national SAF Award in Forest Science, which recognizes individual research leading to the advancement of forestry.
As Idaho forestry experts go, particularly when it comes to the symbiotic relationships between trees and mankind, perhaps none stands taller than O’Laughlin. His works and manifold publications focus on public land management policies, endangered species

conservation, sustainable forest management, risk analysis, water quality best management practices, and the focal point of our story today, air quality and prescribed fire emissions policies.
Remember that trees are basically 50 percent carbon, and imagine, then, the impact of carbon-belching forest fires on the atmosphere. No, don’t imagine: Consider a few of O’Laughlin’s facts.
• Each year between 2002 and 2006, forest fires in the lower 48 states emitted an average of 59 million metric tonnes of carbon as carbon dioxide, and 2 million metric tonnes as particulate matter. A metric tonne is equal to 1,000 kilograms; a kilogram weighs 2.2 pounds.
• In an average year in Idaho, carbon dioxide emissions from wildfires are the equivalent of 3.6 million cars.
• In 2006 — a bad year for Idaho forest fires — Idaho wildfire emissions were the equivalent of 6.4 million cars.
One more fact that might let you exhale:
• Because of tree growth, Idaho’s forests will offset 88 percent of all fossil fuel combustion emissions in the state in an average year.
If you added up all those numbers and concluded that healthy forests in Idaho are a good thing, Dr. O’Laughlin will give you an A and you may continue reading this story.


Wildfires in 11 western states.

Forests are better off today than they were, say, 20 or 30 years ago because environmentalists, scientists and the timber industry aren’t fighting like they used to, O’Laughlin says. He estimates that eight diverse groups are piloting projects statewide that could further bring disparate interests to many of the same conclusions and practices.
“The idea of forest health is much more widely accepted now,” he said, adding something an environmentalist told him: “‘Stumps are OK but not if you can stand on them.’ The idea is, it’s OK to trim small-diameter trees.”
Further: “Active forest management can improve the situation out there on the lands. We can’t stop all forest fires, but we can reduce the size and intensity of some of them.”
Small-growth trees, shrubs and other renewable energy sources, called woody biomass, are part of the problem, O’Laughlin says. When they form dense undergrowth they become “ladder fuels” that propel fires on the ground up toward the crowns of trees. And that’s the crown of forest fire disaster.
But the woody biomass is also part of the solution, according to O’Laughlin.
“We need active management to trim those forests and reduce those ladder fuels,” he said, openly disagreeing with people who believe Mother Nature should be the sole manager of forestlands.
So what does active forest management look like? Three things, O’Laughlin said, with the added big bonus of reduced carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

Wildfire, fuels & emissions.

1. Active management improves the forest conditions and makes them more resilient to fires. Yes, fires will still happen but with active management, they won’t be as big or as severe.
2. Active management creates valuable renewable energy resources — woody biomass. From an economic perspective as well as environmental, generating and using more biomass makes sense, he says. Fossil fuels, powering vehicles and many manufacturing plants, are dirty and expensive. By comparison, biomass is abundant, cheap and, properly managed, much more clean. O’Laughlin says 2 percent of U.S. energy today comes from the combustion of wood; Idaho taxpayers save about $2 million a year because UI heats the campus by burning sawmill residue.
3. Active management creates jobs: “It puts people to work,” O’Laughlin says. Those are powerful words anytime, but considering today’s economy, it’s particularly pertinent.
O’Laughlin calls those three points “triple win,” helping virtually everybody — and everything.

Jobs growing like trees in St. Maries, Benewah

Hiring in Benewah County starts rebounding following spring breakup, which began earlier than normal this year.
The number of job postings has jumped substantially in the St. Maries area. There were over double the number of job openings in the first half of March compared to the same time last year.
Half were in the timber industry. Electricians, kiln operators, truck mechanics and skilled saw filers are among some of the good paying jobs the industry needs to fill.

Alivia Metts

Alivia Metts

As the housing market continues to recover, mills like Stimson and Potlatch in St. Maries and Plummer have been in full production, and the need to replace an aging workforce is a growing concern.
To meet the needs of industry — especially as the knowledge, skills and expertise of the baby boomers is disappearing with their retirements — the state’s Workforce Development Council approved a new Industry Sector Grant program. It uses Workforce Development Training Funds to assist Idaho employers in creating new jobs or retaining existing ones. The fund is financed with a 3 percent offset of employer unemployment insurance taxes. It reimburses employers for training costs for jobs that pay at least $12 per hour and include employer-assisted medical benefits.
A partnership between Idaho Forest Group, Potlatch, Stimson, North Idaho College and the Idaho Department of Labor created a Wood Products Manufacturing Center for Excellence at the college. The center will focus on training program logic controller technicians, or PLC electricians, saw filers and log scalers to fill the gaps in these skilled occupations.
The wood products consortium received $374,000 to run training programs for these occupations over the next two years — $281,000 from the training fund and the rest in a match from the businesses. The center at the college’s Workforce Training Center has been operating since Jan. 1.
The local Department of Labor office in St. Maries, in partnership with the St. Maries Joint School District and local businesses, is working to educate young children about job opportunities in their community. An industrial career fair, “Diggers and Dogs,” is set for April 18. Danielson Logging, Buell Trucking and the Idaho Transportation Department will bring equipment for the young people to operate. Avista and Benewah Community Hospital will participate as will North Idaho College with 10 of its programs, Lewis-Clark State College with its Health Occupations program, the Police Officer Standards and Training Academy, the Toni and Guy Hair School, the Idaho Department of Lands and all branches of the military.
Benewah County has recovered faster from the recession than the region as a whole. But it also lost the smallest percentage of jobs during the recession — 6.9 percent compared to 12.5 percent in Bonner County and 9.2 percent in Kootenai County. Since 2009, Benewah has been seeing an improved job market in health care, wood product manufacturing, transportation equipment manufacturing where Ground Force has expanded to Plummer, financial services, and professional and business services. With continued collaboration on workforce issues, the St. Maries area will continue to thrive.

Alivia Metts is regional economist with the Idaho Department of Labor.

Shining star

By the time you read this article the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce will be wrapping up one of the busiest Septembers in its 101-year history.


The Business Development Committee has assisted in contributing to this hustle and bustle with several value added programs for the chamber membership and greater citizens of Coeur d’Alene over the last few months.

The Business Development Committee chose to recognize Miller Stauffer Architects in August with the Community Excellence Award for the vision they have provided the citizens of Coeur d’Alene. As Dick Stauffer put it, this vision has brought together engineering firms, landscape architects, business associations, nonprofit organizations, individuals, differing political parties, city commissions, veterans, recreational users and others seeking and offering input into numerous projects that have helped shape Coeur d’Alene into the world class community it is today.

Steve Wilson

Steve Wilson

Also in August staffers from the United States Senate Office of Small Business held an open forum for the community to voice their opinions and issues that they may be facing in the current economic climate. The information collected by the staffers goes directly back to

Idaho Senator Jim Risch who is the Senior Senate Member in the Office of Small Business in Washington, D.C.
The Business Development Committee also did our part to help drive tourism during the Art on the Green, Taste of Coeur d’Alene and Downtown Street Fair. Committee member Mark Haberman wrote a terrific article for the North Idaho Business Journal featuring the art community and galleries downtown during this tremendous annual event held during the first weekend of August.
In September the Business Development Committee chose to recognize Handshake Productions with the Service Excellence Award. In my time supporting and leading this committee I have never met anyone more excited to receive this award than Chris Guggemos. Handshake Productions has managed events in Kootenai County for more than 21 years now. If you have ever attended one of these events, you will know that Chris is always onsite and successfully juggles the many variables and personalities that come into play.
To round out the busy month of September the annual Tech Tour commenced on Sept. 27. This year’s sold out attendees toured Idaho Forest Group, Rocky Mountain Roller Coasters, Ednetics, River City Fabrication and concluded the day at Tricksters Brewery.
So what is coming up next from the Coeur d’Alene Chamber’s Business Development Committee? On Oct. 22 at the Best Western Coeur d’Alene Inn we will be presenting a seminar on Social Media for your Business featuring Josh Wade with Nectar Media. Contact the Coeur d’Alene chamber today to reserve your seat to learn more about this important marketing tool for your business.

Steve Wilson is president and CEO of the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber Calendars

Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce

Downtown Farmers Market: The farmers market will be every Wednesday from May through October on Sherman Avenue and Fifth Street in Coeur d’Alene from 4-7 p.m.

Late Night Shopping: Shops and galleries throughout downtown Coeur d’Alene from 5-8 p.m.

Sunday Markets: Sixth and Sherman from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Live After 5: Live music with Riverboat Dave and the Fur Traders. Enjoy this free outdoor concert complete with beer garden and food vendors, on the lawn at 6th and Sherman in downtown Coeur d’Alene. Information:

Cd’A Artists’ Studio Tour: Visit artists in their studios from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. in Coeur d’Alene, Dalton and Hayden Lake. Fine artwork will be on display and for sale including pottery, oil painting, jewelry, sculpture, metal art, drawings, acrylics, glass work and more. Information: Cheryl Zainfeld, (208) 292-1629 or visit

Upbeat Breakfast: September’s Upbeat Breakfast is brought to you by the Chamber’s Business Development Committee. Join us at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, 7-8:30 a.m. Upbeat Breakfast occurs the second Tuesday of every month. On average 150 members attend, making it one of the most popular networking events in our community. Trade tables allow members to display their businesses and are given an opportunity to briefly address the group. The program features a different speaker each month highlighting various topics of interest. With a reservation, the cost is $14 and includes breakfast and coffee. Seating is limited. Reservations are due at noon on Friday before the breakfast. Information: Brenda Young, Program/Events Manager, (208) 415-0110 or

Membership Appreciation Day at the chamber: The Membership Outreach Committee invites you to enjoy complimentary food sampling and beverages from Texas Roadhouse, The Cellar, Le Peep Cafe, Caruso’s, Pita Pit, Pepsi Bottling Co, Odom and Centennial Distributing at a fun outdoor event in the chamber parking lot from 4-7 p.m. Music provided by Ruby Frog Entertainment. Open to all current Chamber members and their employees. Sponsored by STCU

Fall-O-Rama Golf Scramble at Avondale Golf Course: Come on out to Avondale this fall and join the Chamber golf aficionados for a lively afternoon on one of the Northwest’s most beautiful courses. Includes: 18 holes, 4 person teams, Golf Carts prizes for lowest score, highest score, closest to the pin and More! Lunch provided by Texas Roadhouse, beer and beverages on course, provided by Trickster’s Brewing Company $80 per person or $40 per person for Avondale members. Information: Brenda Young, Program/Events Manager, (208) 415-0110 or
Art Walk: Every second Friday from April-December, stroll through beautiful Downtown Coeur d’Alene and enjoy local and nationally acclaimed artists. Visit supporting galleries, shops, restaurants and businesses with your friends and family. A family-friendly, free event! Come and join us from 5-8 p.m. Just follow the yellow balloons! Information: Cheryl, (208) 292-1629

SEPT. 23-27
Fall Membership Drive: The Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce annual Fall drive is Sept. 23-27, 2013. The Chamber is offering their Marketing option level (normally a $450 investment) for only $345 per year. Act now and get a jump start on investing your business in the smartest investment you’ll make this year! Information: Marilee,  (208) 415-0111 or

Business After Hours: Join us for September’s Business After Hours, 5-6:30 p.m., at Magnuson McHugh located at 2100 Northwest Blvd., Ste. 400 in Coeur d’Alene. Food and beverages will be provided as well as the opportunity to win some great prizes! Business After Hours, held on the fourth Thursday of every month, is a networking event and an opportunity for members to show off their offices or facilities. Food and beverages are provided by the sponsor business. There are drawings for door prizes. This is a great way to meet other chamber members in a more casual “after work” atmosphere. Information: Brenda, (208) 415-0110

2013 Business Tech Tour: The Chamber’s Business Development Committee is asking you to get-on-board and tour some of the best and most interesting businesses our area has to offer. Tour includes continental breakfast sponsored by Best Western Coeur d’Alene Inn, transportation by Alpha Omega Tours. and a complimentary lunch. Cost: $40 members, $80 non-members. Businesses to be toured are: Rocky Mountain Construction, Idaho Forest Group, Ednetics, River City Fabrication, Tricksters Brewing Company. Information: Register online at or contact Brenda, (208) 415-0110

Oktoberfest in downtown Coeur d’Alene: Friday, 4-9 p.m., and Saturday, 1-8 p.m. Tickets $20, includes a glass beer mug, six sampling tickets and admission to all music venues. Pick up your tickets, mugs and maps at the Plaza Shops, 210 E. Sherman Ave., on Friday, Sept. 27 from 3:30-8 p.m., or Saturday, Sept. 28, from 12:30 p.m., while ticket supplies last. Must be 21 — ID required to purchase sampling tickets. Opening Ceremony — 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27. Official “Tapping” of the first keg of the Oktoberfest celebration will be in the Main Tent area located at Second and Sherman.

Coeur d’Fondo Ride around Lake Coeur d’Alene: Brought to you by the North Idaho Centennial Trail Foundation (NICTF). Five bike/race events to choose from all of which showcase beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene and the forest, roads and scenery along Idaho’s Scenic Byway; Highway 97, passing through the communities of Harrison and St. Maries; and finishes back in Coeur d’Alene at the fall Oktoberfest in downtown. Information: or contact Charlie Miller, (208) 415-0115

Post Falls Chamber of Commerce

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony: 11:30 a.m. at Trinity Group Homes, Inc.
16th Annual Kiwanis Classic Golf Tournament: Highlands Golf Course. 1 p.m. Shotgun start. Four Person Scramble — $75 a person. Information: Mary Ann, (208) 777-8587 or Louise, (208) 773-6218

Takin’ Care of Business Membership Luncheon: Red Lion Templin’s. 11:15 a.m. Doors Open. $14 per person. Register Online at

Post Falls Chamber Annual Tappas & Tailgating at the Track Annual Auction: Greyhound Park and Event Center, 6-10 p.m. $30 per person

A shining start for July

A shining start for July

The second quarter of 2013 has kept your Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce Business Development Committee extremely busy. The Second Women Creating Success Conference just concluded last week. 140 Women and 27 trade table vendors gathered to hear inspiring messages from professional women leading our community. Ellen Travolta,

Steve Wilson

Linda Davis, Vicki Isakson, Cindy Leaver, Kerri Thoreson, Katherine Coppock, Ginny Campbell, Katie Brodie and author Susan Nipp were the speakers. The Business Development Committee also recently partnered with the Education Committee to host an Education and Economic forum. This format featured the area’s three college presidents and five business leaders in a discussion how business and education can better partner to prepare students to enter the workforce. Dr. Winslow Sargent from the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy was also recently in Coeur d’Alene answering questions related to the SBA and the government’s role in assisting small businesses in our area, particularly in regards to government regulations. Evrett Benton, president of Stellar Senior Living, was our Business Success Luncheon Speaker in April. Stellar Senior Living is one of the fastest growing senior living communities in the country, employing over 20,000 employees. Mr. Benton discussed driving business growth through the proper engagement and involvement of staff. Of course, the Business Development Committee continued to recognize business excellence in our community through the presentation of the Business Excellence Award each month at the Upbeat Breakfast. Our committee chose to recognize Le Peep Café in April for customer service. In May a long overdue recognition was awarded to Marshall and Gail Thompson from Commercial Printing for the many donated printing jobs they have done for so many organizations and functions in our community. In June we could not contain ourselves and awarded Cheryl Burchell Goldsmith’s the service excellence award and Grace Tree Service the community service award. Coming up is the annual Tech Tour on Sept. 27. Some of the businesses we will be visiting this year include Ednetics, River City Fabrication, Idaho Forest Group and Trickster’s Brewery. More information and tickets will be provided soon from your Chamber of Commerce.

Steve Wilson is president and CEO of the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce.

Forum focus: Averting fiscal disaster

Forum focus: Averting fiscal disaster

Photo courtesy of MATT ROETTER
U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo chats with local businessman Chuck Anderson, left, after a business forum Aug. 10.


It was the last question asked during a 75-minute business forum on Aug. 10 featuring U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, and the Gang of Six stalwart from Idaho smiled. Or maybe it was a grimace. He’d just been asked how much of the criticism directed at members of Congress and the president should instead be directed back toward the people leveling the complaints.
“We deserve the criticism we’re getting,” he said, but conceded: “The country is getting what it’s voting for.”
Crapo further acknowledged that the cost-cutting components of the Bowles-Simpson plan, an imperfect but promising start to solving the nation’s budget crisis, was “ravaged by special interest groups,” factions that wield much more power than their numbers should dictate. The special interest groups defended the juiciest hunks of budget meat — from entitlement programs to specific business interests — and with an all-too-compliant Congress effectively assured that the United States would keep digging its multi-trillion dollar hole a couple trillion bucks deeper.
Watch closely the candidates who tell the public they’ll deliver what the public wants without any pain, the senator advised his audience at The Coeur d’Alene Resort.
“It’s unfortunate, but those are the ones who usually get elected,” he said.


During those 75 minutes with 41 regional business leaders, Crapo painted a grim picture of America’s economic plight. As a member of the Senate’s powerful finance and banking committees, he has heard from some of the planet’s most respected financial experts. Summarizing their conclusions on the fiscal disaster that’s looming closer, Crapo warned that the slide won’t be gradual.
“It’ll be like being in a room like this and somebody hits the light switch,” he said.
Put another way: It will be like 80,000 football fans trying to exit a huge stadium during a crisis, and there’s only one exit.
So how do we get into a game we can all win?
You start by facing reality. And the reality is, the reality of just a year or two ago would have been less painful to confront than the one America faces today.
Before he offered solutions that, over time, would put the federal government back on track toward a balanced budget, Crapo dabbed more splotches of dire paint on the grim picture. The Bowles-Simpson plan, imperfect as it may have been, would have cut at least $4 trillion over the next decade “just to keep our heads above water,” Crapo said. Had it been adopted and moderately revised, Crapo suggested, the nation’s budget could have been balanced within 30 years, with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid all solvent.
But because Congress was unable to agree on a plan then, the debt hole has only gotten deeper.
“Instead of a $4 trillion plan, we now need a $5 trillion plan,” he said. And yes, that’s just to keep our heads above water.
Crapo’s quite certain no cavalry trumpets will be heard until after the Nov. 6 election. How the nation will face the “fiscal cliff” at that point is anybody’s guess.
Crapo reminded his audience of the likelihood that no matter what happens in the federal election, a lame duck Congress and perhaps president will still be seated for almost two critical months. Until the members-elect are actually seated, he said, the late 2012 Congress isn’t likely to make any big decisions.
One stark possibility, he said, was raised in mid-July by Washington Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat. She suggested that if Republicans don’t agree to higher taxes for the wealthiest Americans so heavy budget cuts could be somewhat mitigated, Democrats should be willing to let the country go over the fiscal cliff.
While letting all tax cuts expire would save an estimated $5 trillion to $10 trillion over the next decade, Crapo said, it would also reduce the overall economy by 2 or 3 percent — enough to plunge the nation into “a significant recession.” He cited studies that strongly suggest higher tax rates on those earning more than $250,000 a year would ultimately reduce jobs and lower wages and benefits, severely hurting the same middle class Americans that tax-hike supporters hope to help.
As bad as it all looks and with just four months left in 2012, there is a way out, Crapo insists.
Not that it will be easy.


To take three big strides toward better days, Crapo says Americans need to focus on these things:
1. Debt
2. Tax policy
3. Regulatory policy
The giant’s share, he agrees, is on the spending side. That’s been the mantra of most Congressional Republicans for years now, and Crapo’s banging the same drum. But he’s also going further.
Crapo said that “to go into the tax code and fix it” would stimulate job creation, grow the economy and “make our country much more competitive.”
“America will get back in the game,” he declared.
But creating a “simpler, fairer and more competitive tax system than we have now” isn’t a simple panacea, he said.
“Some people will pay more taxes,” he predicted. “Some people will pay less.”
If he had his way with the code, Crapo would reduce the corporate tax rate — ours is the highest in the developed world at 39.2 percent — to 25 to 30 percent. He’d also reduce six tiers of individual taxes to three more equitable tiers.
And the regulatory squeeze that so many businesses say is throttling their ability to produce is costing the nation far more than it’s generating, Crapo said. Regulatory overload combined with a deeply flawed tax system has led to uncertainty for many business owners and potential investors who don’t know what the rules of the game will be several months down the road, let alone in the years ahead. And that uncertainty has kept massive amounts of capital on the sidelines instead of injecting it into the economy, Crapo said.
While there is no painless quick fix, Crapo emphasized the need to balance long-term objectives with short ones. For example, he agreed that the U.S. is too dependent on fossil fuels and needs to broaden its energy portfolio for economic and environmental reasons. But it might take decades to see the long-term benefits of an expanded energy portfolio. Right now, he said, the U.S. needs to take better advantage of resources at its fingertips.
Jim Riley of Riley and Associates was among those who applauded the senator for his willingness to put partisanship behind the greater goal of a strong country. And he encouraged the audience not to stand quietly on the sidelines.
“We can’t just be critics of this,” Riley said. “We have to look at the bigger picture … and speak out.”


Jim Riley, Riley and Associates
Jerry Jaeger, Hagadone Hospitality Co.
Jack Riggs, Pita Pit USA
Sandy Patano, Communications consultant
Dick Bennett, Idaho Forest Group
Jim Pierce, Washington Trust Bank
Brad Corkill, Whiteman Lumber
Luke Russell, Coeur d’Alene Mines
Jim and Tom Addis, Tom Addis Lake City Ford


• If you added up all forms of debt in the U.S. and divided it up equally, every single family in the country would owe more than $683,000.
• During fiscal year 2011, the U.S. government spent $3.7 trillion but brought in only $2.4 trillion.
• An estimated 48.5 percent of all Americans live in a household that receives some form of government benefits. In 1983, that number was below 30 percent.


According to a July U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey of 1,225 small business owners:
• 78 percent want government to get out of the way.
• 90 percent are concerned about the impending fiscal cliff and are worried that Congress will fail to take action to prevent it.
• Nearly 60 percent say expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax rates and other business provisions, coupled with sequestration, will directly impact their business’s growth.
• Still, 68 percent of small business owners say their business is headed in the right direction.


Research released July 17 by the National Federal of Independent Business shows that raising tax rates on those earning more than $250,000 would have the following effect over time:
• 710,000 fewer jobs in the U.S.
• 1.8 percent lower wages overall
• 2.4 percent less overall investment
• 1.3 percent decrease in the U.S. economy

Commissioners approve Chilco Mill permit

COEUR d’ALENE - The Kootenai County commissioners voted 2-1 on Thursday morning to grant Idaho Forest Group a permit to expand its 251.6-acre Chilco Mill onto another 46.5 acres.

The conditional use permit, allowing the lumber company to improve operations at the site, had been protested by neighbors of the mill worried about water supply impacts and increased noise pollution.

“That’s a high concern of mine, after my relatives were here and stayed at a hotel because they couldn’t stand the noise,” Kristine Marsan, a neighbor of the mill, told the officials before their deliberations. “They said they couldn’t do it. Too much clanging and banging.”

But Commissioner Dan Green, who voted in favor of the project, noted that the expansion would allow the Athol mill to consolidate operations and make work more efficient.

“It’s weighing building economic prosperity versus the needs of local residents,” Green said.

The vote followed a public hearing continued from last week, to allow for a site visit.

The three elected officials also approved a variance allowing mill buildings to be only 160 feet from a nearby residence, instead of the usual 1,000 feet.

According to the project narrative, expanding onto two adjacent parcels will allow for the relocation of the mill’s parking lot, storage pond and piping network to allow for additional lumber storage.

IFG also plans to construct a 130-foot portal crane to store and water logs more efficiently at the mill. More space is also expected to provide separate room for truck scales, truck tarping and turnaround to relieve lumber yard traffic congestion.

An IFG spokesman could not be reached on Thursday afternoon.

To mitigate impacts on neighbors, some of whom have said they can’t open their windows in the summer because of noise from the mill, the commissioners conditioned that a vegetative buffer on top of an existing berm be completed at once, instead of phased over several months.

“It’s easier to enforce,” Green said. “It’s done or it’s not done, instead of (the county) periodically going back and forth and reviewing the phasing.”

Commissioner Todd Tondee also pressed for a 6-foot, 100 percent obstruction fence at part of the mill’s perimeter, to shield activities from the nearby residence of Larry Tipke.

“If you have lights coming in, it’s something I’d like to see mitigated,” said Tondee, who also voted for the project.

Commissioner Jai Nelson voted against approval.

As for some nearby residents’ concerns about the mill impacting water supply, the commissioners noted that the Department of Environmental Quality has found nothing to support that theory.

“The DEQ, they’re going to keep up and monitor (the situation),” Tondee said.

That didn’t necessarily placate Tipke, whose property line borders the mill’s.

Tipke said on Thursday afternoon he is still concerned the environmental agency won’t follow up on initial water quality monitoring.

He worries that polluted water used to wash logs at the mill could end up in the Chilco Aquifer, he said.

“My concern is if they keep doing this, that the Chilco Aquifer runs into the Spokane Aquifer,” he said. “How many other people have to be affected?”

The project site is located on the west side of Old Highway 95, about 1.5 miles north of Chilco Road.

The Chilco Mill processes logs from North Idaho and Washington and sells lumber throughout the world. The mill employs 226 workers.

Cd’A’s past linked to today, tomorrow

Cd’A’s past linked to today, tomorrow

If you have not heard the Coeur d’Alene Chamber is celebrating 100 years. A yearlong celebration is currently under way. This celebration not only highlights past chamber events, activities and businesses, but also serves as an opportunity to acknowledge today’s “Shining Stars” and the vision of tomorrow’s success.
Organized in September 1912, the chamber moved through its first decade driven by the impact lumber mills, mining and transportation had on commerce and economic development. Next month we will learn a little more about mining; this month we learned that two big lumber companies dominated: Winton Lumber Company and Rutledge Timber Company. We also celebrated the arrival of the electric rail which linked Spokane to Coeur d’Alene and later ran north to Hayden. The downtown depot sat where The Resort’s clock tower presently sits.
Today, transportation is still extremely important to our economy. The importance of the rail has been replaced by trucking and air. Did you know that the economic output of general aviation at the Coeur d’Alene Airport is similar to that of the Boise Airport? True, according to Greg Delavan, Coeur d’Alene’s airport manager.
Just what drives this activity? Three major companies: Empire Air, Unitech Composites and Transtector Systems. Empire, employing some 350 people, excels in aircraft maintenance. They are the major maintenance contractor for Horizon Air. Unitech specializes in the manufacture of composite structures and products in the aerospace industry. Transtector’s success is built upon its expertise in surge protection devices used by many, including the military for their communication systems. In fact, last year Transtector was awarded a $4.6 million contract by the U.S. Air Force. These “Shining Stars,” along with the airports and other partners are worthy of major celebration.
We started by talking lumber and while many might believe that lumber has gone away, that is definitely not the case. Another “Shining Star” is the Idaho Forest Group, LLC. Formed in 2008 by merging Riley Creek Lumber and Bennett Forest Industries, Idaho Forest Group continues to grow. They recently announced the purchase of Clearwater Paper Companies, Lewiston mill. Utilizing state of the art technology, including optical imaging equipment, Idaho Forest has been able to produce consistent quality products sold worldwide, including a growing Japanese market. A focus on quality excellence assures that the lumber industry will remain a key component of the Coeur d’Alene business community and important to the chamber.
Join us Dec. 1 for our second 100-Minute Wine and Cheese Reception, hosted by Magnuson and McHugh, and Dec. 13 for Upbeat Breakfast with Mayor Bloem, giving her traditional end of the year address on the “State of the City.”
'Eco-nomics' showcased at Chamber green expo

‘Eco-nomics’ showcased at Chamber green expo

Claudia Childress gathers information about how Idaho Forest Group uses 100 percent of the logs that are processed at their Chilco facility. Idaho Forest Group was one of the local companies sharing their latest strategies and technologies regarding their environmental initiatives at the North Idaho Green Expo held April 12.

Most people know it’s environmentally friendly to turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth.

Same goes for not littering, driving less, taking shorter showers.

But what about applying green-friendly practices to business?

How far has protecting nature’s resources — not to mention reducing utility costs — seeped into the public’s consciences since its early days when the movement was more fringe than mainstream?

Further than one might think.

“You don’t realize how many different companies are out there and how many are moving toward going green,” said Mike Henley, visiting the North Idaho Green Expo, the eco-friendly convention where businesses and citizens traded tips for living green as individuals, businesses and a community.

“The word needs to get out more. It’s taken some traction, it’s getting going, but it’s just now getting out.”

That was the goal of the convention at The Coeur d’Alene Resort, part of the Coeur d’Alene Area Chamber of Commerce’s Upbeat Breakfast and in partnership with the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors.

What else is making its way to the green side?

How about energy improvements financed into home loans to make homes cheaper on utilities and more livable; construction courses for storm water systems to reduce erosion sediment in water streams; and lumber industries utilizing every scrap of log, from sawdust to make particle board and chips to make pulp.

The incorporation of more green gearing up in the business world is opening up a whole new market, said Dave Porter, founder of Seattle-based PorterWorks, who spoke at the breakfast about the economic value of going green.

“There’s a $140 billion opportunity in the next years,” said Porter, a nationally recognized speaker and trainer on green business practices and living. “This is huge business.”

Of the 128 million homes in America 95 million need to be retrofitted.

Porter, a former Realtor who worked with lenders and appraisers, understands the value of making buildings more energy efficient to save on utility costs, not to mention to conserve energy and natural resources.

By 2050, the world’s population could double, while only 3 percent of the world’s water is drinkable.

“Consumers are asking for this,” he said, adding that federal regulations could toughen policy, too, but simple changes like changing to LED light bulbs are also effective. “Your competitors are doing it. That’s called ‘duh.’”

Gary Kretz, a home builder with Solid Rock Contracting, Inc., said he noticed a spike in demand for more energy efficient homes between three and five years ago.

Now better insulated homes with more windows are in demand, he said.

“From a builder’s standpoint, people are asking, ‘How much is my gas going to be? How much is my electricity going to be?’” he said, calling the expo a good mix of green business ideas. “It’s been recent, and a big influence to the buying.”

James Costello, home mortgage consultant with Wells Fargo, was there to educate.

His bank offers financing for improving energy efficiency of homes, has been since the 1990s, but people are usually surprised to hear it.

“I’m trying to get the word out,” he said. “Lenders won’t talk about it.”

Others at the show remained skeptical.

“The intent is really good, but you have to be practical,” said Bob Weaver, calling some of the conservation approaches extreme.

He was given an LED light to use at home, which he said he might, but he might not.

“The sky is falling, the sky is falling,” he said. “I’m not sure I buy that.”

The intent is good, but the sky is falling approach isn’t necessary, said Weaver of all going green can offer.

A year in review

A year in review

Alivia Body

Fifteen months after the Great Recession ended northern Idaho continued to feel the effects.
Through the third quarter 2010, Idaho’s five northern counties had yet to see year-over-year job gains. The unemployment rate following the worst downturn since the double dip recessions of 1980-1982 hit 18.7 percent, boosting the number of workers off the job from 10,500 in 2009 to nearly 12,500 in 2010. Another 1,500 people entering the labor force in 2010 aggravated the picture since total employment fell 400 from 2009 to 2010.
Since then, however, the region’s urban center — Kootenai County — has experienced year-over-year growth. The spread widened each month during the fourth quarter. By December, employment was nearly 6 percent higher than in December 2009.
That final quarter growth kept the annual job loss at just 300, or 0.6 percent, in Kootenai County. The slide to 53,600 on average through 2010 was substantially smaller than the 5.9 percent loss — 3,400 jobs — from 2008 to 2009.
A net gain of 300 jobs in private sector services — transportation, warehousing, utilities, educational and health services and leisure and hospitality — was more than offset by the 600 jobs lost on the production side of the economy and in government.
The construction industry continued to be the hardest hit. After losing 1,100 jobs in 2009, the sector shed another 500 in 2010. The losses in manufacturing and government were fewer than 100 each.
But there is some light.
The 600 manufacturing jobs posted with the Department of Labor’s offices in the five northern counties would counter the production sector losses in 2010. Empire Aerospace/ Airlines, Ground Force, Sunshine Minting, Idaho Forest Group, Buck Knives and the Welco mill all contributed to the new job listings.
The retail industry posted 1,000 openings in 2010, boosted by the openings of new Walmarts in Hayden and Post Falls and Super 1 Foods in Sandpoint. But even without the job infusion from those stores, retail job listings in 2010 still outnumbered 2009, a sign that merchants believe consumer spending will be picking up. Health care and social assistance followed with 900 job postings while administrative and support service businesses listed 800 jobs. Overall job postings were up by 60 percent from 2009.
With the number of unemployed at record levels, the number of job applicants as expected was up but only by 1.3 percent from 2009, and that reduced the competition for each job. In 2009, there were nearly seven applicants for every job opening posted through the Idaho Department of Labor. By end of year 2010, that ratio dropped to almost five applicants for every opening.