IRU files to sue Ada County for Clean Water Act infractions

BOISE — Idaho Rivers United yesterday sent a 60-day notice of its intent to sue Ada County for ongoing infractions of the federal Clean Water Act. 

The notice, mailed Wednesday, Dec. 2, charges the county with failing to obtain a Clean Water Act permit to discharge stormwater into the Boise River at Expo Idaho and Les Bois Park, as well as with failing to obtain a permit to discharge water from a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) at Les Bois.

“The Boise River is one of our most valuable natural resources and Ada County must do its part to protect water quality,” said IRU Conservation Director Kevin Lewis. “Stormwater contains oil, bacteria, dirt, nutrients and other pollutants that impact public health, make it less safe to swim and degrade aquatic habitat and the popular Boise River fishery.”

IRU first brought the matter to the attention of Ada County in a September 2014 letter. In April 2015 IRU sent another letter asking the county to remedy its past and ongoing Clean Water Act violations.

“We’ve urged the county to obtain a Clean Water Act permit, but the county has not been transparent about how, or if, it’s remedying these infractions,” Lewis said. “When it comes to the vitality of the Boise River, full compliance with the Clean Water Act is the only acceptable option. The Boise River is the lifeblood of the Treasure Valley.”

Since 1990 medium and large municipalities throughout the nation have been required to obtain Clean Water Act permits to convey stormwater into public waterways. In the Boise urban area, Ada County Highway District, Boise State University, City of Boise, City of Garden City, Drainage District #3 and the Idaho Transportation Department share a single stormwater discharge permit. Ada County’s absence from the permit is glaring.

“Its past time for Ada County to obtain a Clean Water Act permit and team up with the other permit holders to reduce stormwater pollution and get the Boise River removed from the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of severely polluted rivers,” Lewis said.

Ada County owns more than 300 acres within Garden City where Expo Idaho, home to Western Idaho State Fair, Hawk Stadium, Les Bois Park and associated stables and facilities is located. Stormwater is collected from parking lots, roads, roofs and other areas of the county property and conveyed to the Boise River without required permitting.

IRU is represented by Advocates for the West, an environmental law firm based in Boise.

(Boise River photo by Steve Bly)