Federal agencies force region back to court over salmon

Idaho Rivers United and allied organizations filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the federal government’s old, tired and ineffective plan for restoring Idaho’s endangered salmon and steelhead.

The lawsuit, filed against NOAA Fisheries, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation in U.S. District Court in Portland, asks Judge Michael Simon to strike down a supplemental salmon plan (called a biological opinion) and force federal agencies to comply with laws regarding endangered species protection.

“Federal agencies in the Northwest seem to think they’re above the law and free to ignore what the law requires and what a federal judge ordered in 2011,” said IRU Salmon Program Coordinator Greg Stahl. “This doesn’t even meet a kindergartener’s understanding of right, wrong and the application of justice. If any of us had ignored the law for two decades we’d likely be in jail.”

Two and a half years after federal Judge James Redden ordered NOAA to rewrite its salmon plan and consider lower Snake River dam removal as a legitimate option for salmon recovery, the agency released a biological opinion in January 2014 that basically resembles its predecessor—and is even worse for salmon in some ways.

· It proposes to roll back spill—water sent over dams to help young salmon reach the Pacific more safely.
· It ignores the worsening impacts of climate change, which are already impacting salmon.
· It ignores a federal judge’s explicit order to consider lower Snake River dam removal.

“It’s strange to be issuing yet another press release that more or less resembles ones we’ve distributed in the past, but we were forced down this path by federal agencies that are ignoring sound science and the law,” Stahl said. “The past two to three years have been an opportunity for NOAA Fisheries to write a legal, scientifically-sound salmon plan, but what they came up with appears to fall way short.”

The Biological Opinion was released on the heels of a December 2013 study showing clearly that the people of the region want a new, collaborative path toward salmon recovery. The report, called a Long-Term Recovery Situation Assessment, was the result of a year-long process that included interviews with more than 200 stakeholders throughout the region.

“The report confirmed that Idahoans and others in the Northwest are ready to collaborate in pursuit of durable solutions to our salmon issue,” said Tom Stuart, an IRU board member and avid fisherman.. “From energy production to transportation and water use, the challenges and opportunities are numerous, but collaboration will be next to impossible while NOAA is forcing the region into another round of litigation.”

Spill is another distinct opportunity for progress missed in NOAA’s new Biological Opinion. A basic level of spill has been in place under court order since 2006, with significant benefits for salmon, and scientists say expanded spill could help even more.

“Instead of considering a test of expanded spill in its plan, NOAA has opted to roll back current spill to even lower levels,” Stuart said. “By issuing another status quo plan that does too little for salmon, NOAA and the Bonneville Power Administration have damaged momentum toward collaboration.”

U.S. taxpayers and Pacific Northwest ratepayers have spent $13 billion since the 1980s on salmon recovery measures that have not worked—with about $10 billion spent in the last decade alone. While some ESA-listed salmon and steelhead runs are better off than they were in the 1990s, none are close to being recovered. Many remain at dangerously-low levels, similar to conditions that led to their protection under the ESA in the first place.


(BOISE) – Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter issued the following statement today in reaction to the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho, from Taliban captivity.

“Miss Lori and I couldn’t be happier. Bowe has been in all our prayers for years. So his release from Taliban captivity is cause to continue our prayers – now in gratitude for their fulfillment. We join all of Idaho and America in expressing our joy and welcoming this wonderful news. We look forward to Sgt. Bergdahl’s safe return to Idaho and his reunion with family, friends, and all those who have rallied around them. Today, Idaho gives thanks. Soon we all will celebrate Bowe’s freedom and homecoming.”

2nd Congressional GOP Primary Debate May 11, 2014. 2nd Congressional GOP Primary Debate May 11, 2014. 2nd Congressional GOP Primary Debate May 11, 2014. 2nd Congressional GOP Primary Debate May 11, 2014. 2nd Congressional GOP Primary Debate May 11, 2014. 2nd Congressional GOP Primary Debate May 11, 2014. 2nd Congressional GOP Primary Debate May 11, 2014. 2nd Congressional GOP Primary Debate May 11, 2014. 2nd Congressional GOP Primary Debate May 11, 2014. 2nd Congressional GOP Primary Debate May 11, 2014.

2nd Congressional GOP Primary Debate May 11, 2014.


Scientists at MIT have developed a new simulation that traces 13 billion years of cosmic evolution. They start the simulation shortly after the big bang with a region of space much smaller than the universe (a mere 350 million light years across).  Still, it’s big enough to follow the forces that helped create the galaxies we see today, and correctly predict the gas and metal content of those galaxies.

At first, we see dark matter clustering due to the force of gravity (first two GIFs). Then we see visible matter — blue for cool clouds of gas where galaxies form, red for more violent explosive galaxies (second two GIFs).

Super massive blackholes form, superheating the material around them, causing bright white explosions that enrich the space between galaxies with warm but sparse gas (fifth GIF).

Different elements (represented by different colors in the sixth GIF) are spread through the universe.

We arrive at a distribution of dark matter that looks similar to the one we see in our universe today (seventh GIF).

The simulation is so complex it would take two thousand years to render on a single desktop. And it’s kinda beautiful.

Image Credit: MIT and Nature Video


US House passes bill to allow consumers to ‘unlock’ cellphones

NBC NewsThe U.S. House passed a bill Tuesday that would allow mobile phone users to legally “unlock” cellphones.

The legislation was a result of an online petition submitted to the White House in 2013, sponsors said. It would repeal a 2012 rule that stopped consumers from unlocking their mobile phone so that it can be used by other carriers. 

The bill now goes to Senate. 

Photo: An online petition submitted to the White House last year asked that consumers be able to legally unlock their phones. (Ben Margot / AP)


You can’t even see North Korea from outer space. At night, the country goes completely dark. 

  1. Camera: Nikon D3s
  2. Aperture: f/2.8
  3. Exposure: 1/1th
  4. Focal Length: 24mm


Wall Street Journal: The hackers who stole 40 million credit- and debit-card numbers from Target Corp. appear to have breached the discounter’s systems by using credentials stolen from a vendor.

That conclusion, which Target said has been reached by investigators looking into the attack, is the first answer to the riddle of how the software that carried out the attack got into retailer’s systems in the first place.

Follow the latest on BreakingNews.com.

(Remarks published on Supt. Luna’s Blog)

Over the past six months, I have not spoken to a reporter or constituent without getting the question about my plans for re-election.  So I am here today to answer that question. In 2007, I proudly took office as Idaho’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, and I was elected again in 2010. Surrounded by a dedicated family, hard-working staff and the most talented educators in the country, we have accomplished a lot in the past seven years.

When we came into office, only 26% of our schools were meeting the academic goals we had in place for them. In just a few short years, that number climbed to 66%.

Idaho was operating under the accountability provisions of No Child Left Behind. We are now out from under many of those onerous provisions and now have a new accountability system:  an Idaho accountability system built by Idahoans. Our new Five-Star Rating System is in its third year and based on multiple measures, including academic growth. Our schools are showing improvement because of it.

In 2007, parental choice was limited by an artificial cap on charter schools. We removed that cap, and today, we have twice as many charter schools serving more than twice as many students.

In 2007, local control was hampered by master agreements and labor laws that tied the hands of locally elected school boards.  Today, Idaho’s school districts are working under reformed labor laws that have empowered school boards with the authority needed to lead their districts.

We were stuck with an outdated salary grid where a teacher’s compensation was based solely on seniority and a teacher’s education level. That has changed. For the past two years, a portion of a teacher’s compensation has been based on student achievement, and today, there is bipartisan support to transition from that stagnant salary grid to a progressive, comprehensive career ladder form of compensation.

In 2007, there was no uniform teacher evaluation process for teachers and teacher evaluations were not tied to student achievement or job performance. We now have a uniform statewide teacher evaluation system, and today, a portion of that evaluation is based on the academic growth of students and a teacher’s job performance.

There was a digital divide between our rural schools and our urban and suburban schools so access to learning opportunities was limited to some or not available to all. Today, because of the miracle of technology, the Idaho Education Network has expanded access to the best educational opportunities to all high school students in the most rural and remote parts of Idaho.

In 2007, high school students in other states were enjoying the opportunity of getting a jump start on college and professional-technical by earning dual credits before graduating from high school. Today, we have incredible advanced opportunities in high school by helping high school students pay for dual credit, Advanced Placement or professional technical courses. In the past three years, we have seen an explosion in the number of students participating and the number of college credits earned.

Today, every high school junior is now taking a college entrance exam before they leave high school.

We have adopted higher academic standards, Idaho’s core standards, to make sure students are getting the education they deserve in grades K-12 so they are prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce.

We have provided more transparency to parents and taxpayers by creating an online academic report card and a fiscal report card.

We created the Idaho Math Initiative to improve math education across all grades. This laid a strong foundation for raising academic standards in mathematics and to give Idaho teachers additional professional development.

I could go on. These are just a few of the things we have accomplished in the past seven years.
We have implemented many more things to improve our public education system and ensure every student graduates from high school and graduates prepared to go on to postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation.

Many of our efforts have been successful, some have not. But they all have led us to where we are today. Today, we have a clear path forward. We have bipartisan support for changing things like the way we compensate teachers, investing in advanced technology in the classroom, creating more advanced opportunities and more. We welcome this support. We must continue to do important things, and we must continue to them in bipartisan ways.

This is a landmark opportunity in the State of Idaho. This is something we have wanted for a long time, but it has always been elusive – for political reasons. It seems like lately, everything I do, every action, every speech, every request, is looked at through the lens of re-election. And I believe there are some who currently support what we are doing, but who might feel the need to distance themselves from this work – or even oppose it – simply because they think it might benefit me politically. Therefore, I want to take that off the table. It is for that reason that I will not seek re-election in 2014. This is not a decision I came to easily, but I know it is the right decision for me, for my family, and for the children of Idaho.

The changes we need, the changes our children deserve cannot be built upon merely a political foundation. They must be based on a real belief and value system that truly puts children first because, if reform and change is based solely on political expediency, then when the politics change so will the commitment.  I want to do what I can to take the politics out of what we are doing now and focus on completing the important work ahead of us.

There are important things that we can and must accomplish this Legislative Session and over the next 11 months in the best interest of Idaho students. Elected officials have political capital, and they can spend it many ways. One of those ways is getting hard things done, and I plan to spend the political capital I have doing just that. During this Legislative Session and over the next 11 months, I will do everything I can to begin to implement the recommendations of the Task Force for Improving Education. That must remain our top priority in Idaho.

(BOISE) – Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter announced the appointment today of Patrick McDonald of Boise to fill the District 15 Idaho House of Representatives vacancy left by the resignation of Representative Mark Patterson.

McDonald was among three nominees submitted to the Governor last Friday by the District 15 Republican Legislative Committee. The former U.S. marshal and Idaho State Police officer will serve out the remainder of Patterson’s term and will seek the Republican nomination to run for the seat in his own right in the May 20 primary election.

The other nominees were Rod Beck and Sam Hoagland.

“The citizens of District 15 deserve the chance for continuity and someone of unquestioned integrity representing them in the Idaho House. Pat McDonald ably provides those qualities, as well as a lifetime of service and a focus on the public’s safety and wellbeing,” Governor Otter said. “It’s important that he wants to keep serving in the Legislature beyond this term. More importantly, I trust him to serve District 15 and all of Idaho with character, honesty, and great distinction.”

McDonald, 67, was born in Salt Lake City and grew up in Burley. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Idaho State University and was a member of the Idaho State Police for 33 years – rising through the ranks from trooper to captain and regional patrol commander. McDonald was U.S. Marshal for Idaho during the George W. Bush administration. He and his wife, Sarah Jane, have three sons.

A federal judge has struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban, saying it is unconstitutional.