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News from the desk of the Mayor:
Many concerned citizens have contacted me recently regarding the proposed silicon smelter in Newport, WA. As reported in the READER on October 12th, 192 acres were purchased by Canadian firm, HiTest Sand near the Old Town/Newport state line for the purpose of developing a metallurgical silicon smelter.
The project is in the preliminary stage of development. Next Monday, HiTest meets with DEQ (ID), Department of Ecology (WA), EPA, Kalispel Tribe and National Park Service to discuss modeling for air quality impact. Modeling framework must be approved by the Washington Department of Ecology, through the Spokane office, before an air quality permit application could be accepted. The application, through the Affected States Rule, triggers notification to neighboring state authorities within 50 miles which includes Idaho DEQ. The public comment period would then follow. The proposed smelter would also require a discharge permit as it would impact Pend O’Reille River downstream.
The proposed site is roughly a mile south of the U.S. 2-Idaho state Route 41 junction. As reported in the Spokane Journal of Business, the $300 million project is projected to bring 170 jobs to a county with 6.4% unemployment rate. The silica, mined near Golden BC, would be shipped to the smelter. The Washington Department of Commerce, who supplied a $300,000 development assistance grant for the project in 2016, has said the smelter will have a net environmental benefit in that solar cells manufactured in Washington will result in a net reduction of carbon. Solar power industry suppliers, such as Moses Lake-based REC Silicon, currently obtain silicon refined in eastern U.S. or overseas.
The Kalispel Tribe of Indians is seeking a federal air quality designation for its Usk-based reservation that potentially could tighten current emission limits. Even if the tribe’s request for a higher air-quality classification is approved, preliminary air quality modeling that HiTest is conducting indicates the facility would be compliant with heightened federal and state standards, according to Pend Oreille County Commissioner, Mike Manus.
The environmental impacts to Sandpoint and Bonner County from a smelter 30 miles upstream would be significant. Air dispersion patterns will bring “emissions of carbon, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, fugitive gasses and silica dust as well as acid rain and diversions” according to Pend O’ Reille Health Blog (http://pendoreillehealth.blogspot.com/2017/10/silicon-smelter-project-in-newport.html). The smelter requires large amounts of power to fuel its sub-arc furnace process, allegedly fueled by coal from Kentucky and wood chips to augment the draw from hydroelectric power. Water levels on Lake Pend Orielle and the river may be impacted as well as water quality through discharge.
I will encourage Sandpoint City Council to pass a resolution urging the DOE to reject permitting the plant, or at the very least, ensure that it meets the highest emissions standards possible. The proposed site would impact air quality for Sandpoint and the region, effecting health, economy and property values. I encourage all of you to provide comment on the proposal when the public comment period opens. You can receive regular updates on development of the project by subscribing to this list serve: email@example.com
Shelby Rognstad was born and raised in Lewiston, Idaho. A fourth generation Idahoan, Shelby moved to Sandpoint in 1999. Shelby first came here to practice permaculture after graduating with a liberal arts degree from the University of Idaho in 1998. In 2006, he opened Common Knowledge Bookstore and Café. In addition to selling new and used books, it served breakfast and lunch using locally sourced and organic foods. In 2013, Shelby co-founded The Hive, an entertainment venue in downtown Sandpoint. Since 2012, Shelby has worked in real estate holding and private lending in North Idaho and Eastern Washington.
Shelby served on the steering committee and Board of Directors for Sandpoint Transition Initiative (2007-2008) and has supported other local nonprofits, including Sandpoint Community Radio, the Public Forum on Sustainability, Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper and the Eureka Institute. He practices yoga and Vipassanā Meditation and has volunteered at Vipassanā Meditation Centers in Washington, British Columbia and Puerto Rico. He is active year round in sports and outdoor activities.
Shelby’s public service began in 2007 when he was appointed to the Sandpoint Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee. In 2009, he was appointed to the Sandpoint Planning and Zoning Commission. He served as Vice Chair until he was appointed to the City Council by Mayor Ogilvie on January 18, 2012. Shelby was elected City Council President in February of 2014. In November of 2015, he was elected Mayor and was sworn in on January 6, 2016.
Education and Workforce Training:
While in office, Mayor Rognstad intends to work with employers, educators and community leaders to develop workforce training and higher education opportunities in Sandpoint. The Mayor recognizes the importance and value of North Idaho College and the PTECH (Pathways to Technology in Early College High School) program in Sandpoint. Sandpoint is fortunate to have excellent options in K-12 education. However, more needs to be done to foster greater opportunities for youth and to develop an educated, skilled workforce in Sandpoint’s growing technology and health care industries. For these reasons, supporting PTECH and the growth of NIC locally are high priorities.
In recent years, Sandpoint has seen significant growth in technology related industries. Aerospace, biomedical and information technology, in particular, have taken a foothold. High tech employers provide high paying jobs that serve a global market. The result is an increasingly diversified economy that ensures economic stability. The Mayor intends to continue to support these growing industries and attract new employers to Sandpoint. By serving the needs of existing companies and leveraging assets, the City will retain quality employers and attract the right kind of growth and development in the future.
Mayor Rognstad is committed to improving the quality of life in Sandpoint. This requires a commitment to sustaining environmental health for which Sandpoint has taken many steps in recent years. We’ve partnered with Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper to develop an herbicide-free weed management program for the lake. We’ve created a city-wide zoning code which encourages multimodal connectivity, energy efficiency, community oriented design and reduces our carbon footprint. Looking forward, the Mayor intends to reduce herbicide use in city parks, complete the implementation of the City’s storm water management plan and ensure long term protection of the City’s watershed.
From the mountain to the lake, Sandpoint boasts many recreational opportunities. Residents and visitors alike have long enjoyed the benefits of our signature assets: Lake Pend Oreille and Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort. However, recent additions like the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail, the Sand Creek Trail and the Watershed Crest Trail have been welcomed additions to our world class park system. Mayor Rognstad will continue to develop opportunities like these in the future.