Writings and observations

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for March 20. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

The Idaho Legislature adjourned for the year on March 29. It wound up proceedings with action on transportation and tax legislation.

Mayor David Bieter on March 31 declared a state of local emergency in the City of Boise due to nearly unprecedented flows on the Boise River and the unpredictable impacts those flood waters could have on the city over an extended period of time.

Representatives Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador have introduced legislation to address the routing of the Gateway West Transmission Line, through the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.

The Treasure Valley saw more than 80 new jobs in the state’s growing solar industry last year, according to a report released today by The Solar Foundation. The Boise’s metropolitan area is now home to 289 solar jobs, an increase of 43% from 2015 figures.

Idaho Fish and Game on March 30 transported about 4,000 adult sockeye salmon from its Eagle Fish Hatchery to its sockeye hatchery at Springfield to ensure the fish remain protected if there’s flooding at the Eagle hatchery.

Boise State University now offers a fully online bachelor of business administration degree in management. The new management degree, offered through Boise State’s College of Business and Economics, gives working adults an affordable, flexible way to finish their bachelor’s degree and advance their careers.

PHOTO Wind blown precipitation fall streaks at sunset over Pocatello. (photo/Jeff Hedges, National Weather Service, Pocatello)

Share on Facebook

Briefings

Water rights weekly report for March 20. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

A coalition of water-protection, public-health and animal-welfare organizations on March 30 filed a legal challenge over the water rights for a proposed 30,000-head mega-dairy near the Columbia River. The facility would be one of the nation’s largest dairy confined animal-feeding operations and poses a major threat to ground and surface water, air quality and public health in the region. Last month the Oregon Water Resources Department proposed approving key water rights required for Lost Valley Farm, a business venture of California dairyman Gregory te Velde.

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Congressman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, have introduced legislation to create a negotiated settlement between the state of Utah and the Utah Navajo Nation (the Nation) over water rights claims on the Colorado River.

The publicly elected Board of Directors of Coachella Valley Water District and Desert Water Agency have decided to ask the Supreme Court to review a lower court ruling that gives unprecedented groundwater rights to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. The formal request for review will likely be submitted early this summer with the U.S. Supreme Court likely to accept or deny review of the case this fall.

The national government of Nigeria said it will begin regulating and licensing water drilling and use, through an agency called the Nigeria Integrated Water Resources Management Commission.

From Stanford: “A new report from Stanford’s Water in the West program assesses progress among states in the Colorado River Basin with respect to environmental water rights transfers, a legal tool that enables water rights holders to voluntarily transfer their water to rivers, streams and wetlands to benefit the environment and potentially generate revenue.”

Share on Facebook

Digests

jones

The Idaho Legislature’s efforts to improve our foster care system may be a bright spot of the 2017 legislative session. I say “may be” because a great deal of effective follow-up by the Legislature and Department of Health and Welfare will be necessary to get the job done right.

For years the foster care system has suffered from underfunding, understaffing, too much bureaucracy, not enough coordination with stakeholders, and too little attention to how the system is working and what can be done to improve outcomes for foster children.

One judge told me that there are dedicated workers on the front lines, but they are often prevented from trying new approaches by bureaucratic red tape from above – the old refrain that we have always done it this way, so let’s keep doing it this way – even if there is no evidence to show that the old way is the best way.

Following the 2016 legislative session, the Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations began a comprehensive review of the foster care system to determine problems and possible remedies. Its report issued this February disclosed, among other things, a worsening shortage of foster parents, insufficient support and services being provided to foster parents, insufficient staff to perform the needed services, strained relationships with stakeholders, and no system-level accountability for child welfare outcomes.

The Office made a number of recommendations to address these deficiencies. It was essential to better compensate foster parents and to give them more say in order to be able to provide the best outcome for their foster kids. More staff was needed to support and serve foster parents and children.

The Legislature provided a substantial boost in funding this session for the foster care program–funding for eight additional staff and a twenty percent increase in compensation for foster parents. Senator Abby Lee of Fruitland played a significant part in getting this funding increase through a committee vote.

In addition, the Legislature approved House Concurrent Resolution 19, which authorizes an interim legislative committee “to undertake and complete a study of the foster care system in Idaho.” The committee will be co-chaired by Senator Lee and Representative Chrisy Perry of Nampa. Both have worked hard on the foster care issue.

While increased funding will certainly help, the findings and recommendations of the interim committee will be critical in determining the future effectiveness of Idaho’s foster care system.

It must be outcome oriented so that foster children are able to thrive. Foster parents must be listened to and properly supported. Social workers and other staff must have manageable workloads and given some flexibility in carrying out their work. More attention needs to be given as to what can be done for older children who have been in and out of the system numerous times, rather than simply warehousing them. The hard work is just beginning and it is incumbent on anyone interested in a better foster care system to keep informed on the interim committee’s work and to provide their input to the committee. This is Idaho’s chance to get it right.

Share on Facebook

Jones