Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Deputy laboratory director nationally recognized for inclusive leadership excellence

Juan Alvarez, Idaho National Laboratory deputy laboratory director for Management and Operations and chief operations officer, has earned a Leadership Excellence Award from the National Diversity Council. The award recognizes individuals from diverse fields who exhibit exceptional leadership qualities and foster a positive and inclusive work environment. Winners must have an extraordinary track record of developing, growing and improving organizations, while serving as a role model for others.

In Alvarez’s time at INL, he has prioritized creating access to opportunities to innovate and improve the lab’s mission and goals. He’s also shown how inclusive diversity is critical to building an empowered workforce that sustains INL’s competitive advantage and helps the community grow.

“Juan is changing the world for the better and inspiring others with his work,” said Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, executive director of INL’s Versatile Test Reactor program and executive sponsor of the Multiculturals in Leadership council. “Recognitions like this further solidify INL’s visibility and reputation as an employer of choice and as an organization that empowers, supports and employs incredible people.”

In addition to his deputy lab director and chief operations officer roles, Alvarez also serves as co-chair of INL’s Executive Inclusion Council, where members provide visible support and strategic insight into where the lab is going to ensure deliberate inclusion actions for effective end results. During his tenure at the laboratory, Alvarez has helped embed visible diversity, inclusive thought leadership and employment equity across INL’s workforce, supply chain and charitable giving. He has also championed INL’s efforts to become a national employer of choice for women, people of color, people with disabilities, military veterans and the LGBTQ+ community.

Alvarez’s inclusive leadership goes beyond the walls of the lab. He also chairs the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs and co-chairs the city of Idaho Falls’ Connecting Us, Sustaining Progress initiative. Alvarez was honored at the 17th Annual National Diversity and Leadership Conference. See a full list of the Leadership Excellence honorees here.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Two eastern Idaho women named 2021 Top Women of the Year

Congratulations to Toni Karlsson and Marcella Medor, two women from Eastern Idaho honored by the Idaho Business Review as 2021 Top Women of the Year.

Medor, president and founder of MarCom, and Karlsson, a research scientist at Idaho National Laboratory, were among the 50 women chosen out of a field of more than 150 nominees. Both will be honored Sept. 30 at the Boise Centre during the 2021 Women of the Year gala.

Medor, a member of the Abenaki Tribe, founded MarCom in 2003. Today, the company is a Small Business Administration-certified, Native American-owned and woman-owned business with offices in Idaho Falls and Butte, Mont., providing management, administrative, engineering, nuclear operations, and health-and-safety services to Department of Energy (DOE) sites around the nation, with 90% of their

work coming from INL. To read more, follow this link: 

An Inside Look at INL’s Partnership with MarCom, LLC

Karlsson started working at INL in January 2019. She holds a doctorate in chemical engineering from Chalmers University of Technology, She earned her master’s in nuclear engineering and her bachelor’s in materials engineering from University of Idaho. Her research involves thermal properties of molten salts used for electrorefining spent nuclear fuel.

Here is a 2020 video of her talking about Molten Salt Reactor research activities at INL:

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

INL researchers help develop irrigation modernization tool

Modernization of irrigation of the West's aging irrigation system has been identified as a way to conserve water, produce power and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Reinvestment in the nation’s irrigation systems has numerous benefits. It can simultaneously promote the economic well-being of farmers and rural communities, generate more renewable energy, and advance environmental stewardship. Plus, such efforts could cut carbon emissions in the farm sector, a priority for the U.S. departments of Energy and Agriculture, as our nation works to combat climate change.
That’s why the Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO), Idaho National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have created a new software tool, IrrigationViz, to help analyze the costs and benefits of irrigation modernization.
Irrigation technology has developed to the point where pressurized pipes can deliver water for irrigation while generating in-conduit hydropower that can be used to power electric pumps that currently rely on diesel, and in the future, also power electric tractors and combines. The rights of way for these pipes can also be used for fiberoptic cable, bringing broadband to rural areas that may currently not have high-speed internet options.
INL and PNNL’s IrrigationViz is a decision support and visualization tool that enables users to estimate how much water is lost by the current system, how much water would be saved by specific investments, and how much hydropower potential there is in the system. It also estimates higher value crops that could be planted based on the improved water reliability, water purification and habitat benefits of including wetlands, and connectivity between surface and groundwater sources.

This tool can help interested parties produce master plans, enabling them to identify the highest priority projects for their system. Using a combination of public and local data and geographic information systems, the tool helps irrigators produce the plans needed to access federal funding programs, such as those of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The purpose of the tool is to help communities identify the system designs that are right for them,” said Thomas Mosier, INL’s Energy Systems group lead. “The hope is that our tool can help stakeholders identify opportunities to achieve benefits for farmers, local communities and the environment. There used to be this one-size-fits-all modernization paradigm. The approach we’re seeing today is much more nuanced to the local context.”

The two national labs began collaborating in 2018 to find ways that hydropower could enable modernization benefits nationwide and especially across the Western United States, said PNNL researcher Bo Saulsbury.

“It’s really exciting to provide a tool to help assess and realize both short- and long-term benefits,” he said. “Near-term returns include more local jobs, higher profits for farmers, investments in rural communities and increased water supply for various uses. Reducing the carbon footprint of agricultural operations, increasing renewable energy generation and promoting environmental sustainability and community resilience are examples of long-term benefits.”

Federal investment in water and irrigation projects dates back nearly 150 years and is in large part responsible for establishing the rural economy in the United States. A vast system of reservoirs, canals, headgates, levees and culverts provides water to roughly 18.7 million acres of farmland, serving one-third of the U.S. population and generating half of the nation’s total crop revenue.

Since the early 1970s, however, the country’s irrigation infrastructure has remained largely unchanged. Billions of dollars are lost every year by a system that, on average, loses about 30% of its water to seepage and evaporation. Meanwhile, the demand for water has grown, not just from irrigators but conservationists, recreationists, industry and municipalities.

Agriculture is a major user of groundwater and surface water in the United States, accounting for approximately 37% of the nation's consumptive water use and 80% in the West. Efficient irrigation systems and water management practices can help maintain farm profitability in an era of increasingly limited and more costly water supplies.

Recognizing the economic constraints many canal companies and farmers face, WPTO is committed to offering irrigators the decision-making resources they need before they move forward with critical investments.

Monday, June 21, 2021

New Italian restaurant coming to Idaho Falls Greenbelt

A friend of mine who recently moved here commented to me that Idaho Falls didn’t have a “real” Italian restaurant. No offense, but Johnny Carino’s and Olive Garden didn’t count in her view. I had to explain the whole Olive Garden saga, and how it was front page news when the announcement came. But I understood what she was saying.

Little did we know as we spoke that a new Italian restaurant offering authentic cuisine was in the works. Mama Fla, Authentic Italian Cuisine, is eying an opening in the next few weeks at 385 River Parkway, next to the Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce.

Flaminia Cantelli is registered as the owner. She and her husband, Marco Assirelli, are from Rome and moved to Idaho Falls less than two years ago when he opened a North American division of Sensor Medica, a company that makes equipment and software for biomechanical analysis and foot orthotics.

As they have been remodeling the property Mama Fla has been serving food at the Idaho Falls Farmers Market. The projected menu will include fettuccine, linguine, lasagne, gnocchi and rigatoni with different types of sauces. Most of it is what you find around Rome, but the lasagne is from Bologna, in northeastern Italy, and they will also be serving risotto, a northernwestern Italian rice dish.

The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Take-out and delivery options will be available to customers as well.

Their web page is www.mamafla.com and their Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/Mama-Fla-102018922059757/.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Phillips named Bank of Idaho retail banking v.p.

Jarod Phillips
Bank of Idaho has named Jarod Phillips vice president of retail banking, a promotion from his position as vice president/senior branch banking officer.

"Since before I arrived here, Jarod has been a key player in this bank's trajectory," said Bank of Idaho President and CEO Jeff Newgard. "As VP of Retail Banking, he'll be able to capitalize on that depth and breadth of experience. He's got great analytical abilities and he's an outstanding communicator. There's nobody better suited for the job."

In his new post, Phillips' responsibilities will include the administration of bank branches in all regions, providing oversight, guidance and direction on matters ranging from individual branch performance to staffing decisions. He'll work directly with branch managers to ensure that projections, expectations and customer needs are being met through engagement of the bank’s consultative model.

Since signing on with Bank of Idaho in July 1999 as a customer service clerk and loan processor, Phillips has occupied positions as a sales manager, commercial loan officer, branch manager, marketing director, and most recently as senior branch banking officer.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Fall River Electric ballot features seven candidates

Fall River Electric members will be electing three board members this month from a slate of seven candidates.

As a non-profit electric cooperative, one of the guiding principles of Fall River Electric is democratic member control under which an elected nine-member board of directors provides the strategic direction, sets policies, and makes decisions to ensure the Cooperative’s financial viability. Each year, owner-members (customers) of the co-op have the opportunity to electric three board members that will each serve a three-year term.

This year, seven candidates are running for board positions from three of the nine districts.
Those districts including District 1 Rexburg/Rigby area, District 5 that encompasses an area
from northwest Driggs on through the Tetonia and Felt area, and finally, District 6 which is the
Ashton area. All members of the cooperative are eligible to vote for these candidates no matter
where members reside since the board represents all owner-members. Voting can be done
online, by mail-in ballot or in-person at the Cooperative’s Energy Expo to be held on June 19,
2021, at North Fremont High School in Ashton. Winning candidates will be announced at the
conclusion of the business meeting portion of the Energy Expo on June 19.

This year District 1 incumbent Brent “Husk” Crowther is seeking a second term and is joined on
the ballot by fellow Hibbard area resident Rick Clements. Incumbent Brent Robson is seeking a
fourth term in District 5 where he faces newcomer Emily Nichols, while three candidates via for
one position in District 6. Dede Draper is seeking her third term where she faces fellow Ashton
area resident Britney Stegelmeier and Greg Bitter of the St. Anthony area.

Video statements from each candidate can be viewed on Fall River Electric’s website at
www.fallriverelectric.com by clicking the link “Energy Expo.

Written statements from each candidate can be found in the Energy Expo booklet along with
the ballot for mail-in voting which has been mailed to every owner-member of the Co-op.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Idaho Falls considers pilot program to monitor residential water use

To read the city's Water Facility Plan, follow this link: https://www.idahofallsidaho.gov/DocumentCenter/View/975/Water-Facility-Plan-PDF?bidId=

The city of Idaho Falls is looking at starting a pilot program to study residential water use that would involve giving 100 homeowners access to real-time monitoring through a mobile app as the city collects data it intends to use in its decision making.

In 2015, following discussion and public comment, the City Council approved a Water Facility Plan that provides key water system information, evaluations and recommendations regarding growth and sustainability of the water system. Both commercial and residential water conservation measures were recommended in the plan.

The Residential Water Conservation Pilot Program is designed to help shape the future of Idaho Falls residential water use while conserving Idaho’s most valuable resource.

“We have been monitoring some commercial property water use for up to sixty years, but this program will give us the ability to monitor residential property so that we can make more data-driven decisions in the future," said Idaho Falls Water Division Superintendent Dave Richards. “The new system makes water conservation easier for the user by literally putting it in the palm of their hand."

By monitoring water usage in various size homes and properties over the next two years, the Water Division hopes to gain a better understanding of how water is used in households and which water fixture replacements provide the maximum benefit in our area. The division would also gain critical data needed to plan for the city’s future growth and needs.

The program would be similar to energy efficiency programs dating back to the 1970s and '80s, Richards said.

If the program is approved by City Council, the Water Division will contact 100 qualifying homeowners to discuss the program. They would look for homes of varying characteristics (lot size, age, means of landscape watering, etc.). The Division would then install water meters within the existing meter pits on the properties of those randomly selected.

“The pilot program will not impact their water bill, and residents will continue to be billed on a non-metered basis,” Richards said.

Water usage would be monitored for one year prior to installing new fixtures. After that, the Division would schedule a tour of each of the 100 homes to help the resident identify a list of inefficient water fixtures (toilets, faucets, shower heads, washers, sprinkler times, etc.) that qualify for the replacement program.

The resident would have the option of purchasing replacement fixtures from an approved list of WaterSense certified fixtures and selecting a company to complete the installation of the replacement fixtures from an approved list of licensed and bonded plumbers.

The City of Idaho Falls would reimburse up to a maximum of $500 (approximately five fixtures) per household. The city would also reimburse the homeowner up to a maximum of $500 per household for the installation cost of a plumber.

Water usage would then be monitored for a second year, with the Water Division comparing water usage patterns with those of the previous year, before the fixtures were replaced. This could help determine which fixtures promote the best conservation potential for a future water fixture rebate program.

Although no date has been fixed, the Idaho Falls City Council will vote on the program at a regular meeting. To receive notifications about upcoming City Council meetings and city press releases, go to www.idahofalls.gov and click on the Notify Me button.

All City Council meetings are live streamed and archived for later viewing on the City of Idaho Falls website.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Commercial Real Estate Transactions | 7 June 2021

Wolf Holdings, LLC purchased 1.71 acres of land located at 1055 Jones Street in Idaho Falls. Dustin Mortimer of TOK Commercial represented the buyer. Paul Fife of SVN represented the seller.
K&R Commercial Properties, LLC purchased 1.43 acres of land located at 2458 Iona Rd. in Idaho Falls. Dustin Mortimer of TOK Commercial facilitated the transaction.
Eden Home Health of Idaho Falls leased 5,000 square feet of office space located at 2540 Channing Way in Idaho Falls. Dustin Mortimer of TOK Commercial facilitated the transaction.
B&E Ventures, LLC purchased approximately 6,800 square feet of industrial space located at 353 E. 1st Street in Idaho Falls. Dustin Mortimer of TOK Commercial represented the seller. Cody Mitchell of TYGRE represented the buyer.
Blue Pines Management leased 220 square feet of office space located at 610-640 S. Woodruff Avenue in Idaho Falls. Dustin Mortimer of TOK Commercial facilitated the transaction.
The Nova leased 1,400 square feet of industrial space located at 2295 N. Yellowstone Hwy. Dustin Mortimer of TOK Commercial represented the tenant. Randy Waters of SVN represented the landlord.

Source: TOK Commercial

Monday, June 7, 2021

Public review of MARVEL microreactor document starts

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced the start of a 31-day public review period on a Final Environmental Assessment for a proposal to construct the Microreactor Applications Research Validation & Evaluation (MARVEL) project microreactor inside Idaho National Laboratory’s (INL’s) Transient Reactor Test Facility.
MARVEL, a sodium-potassium cooled, thermal microreactor with a power level of less than 100 kilowatts of electricity using High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU), will be capable of testing power applications such as load-following electricity demand to complement intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar – to help ensure reliable energy around the clock. It will also test the use of nuclear energy for water purification, hydrogen production, and heat for chemical processing.  
From Jan. 11 to Feb. 9, 2021, DOE conducted a public review and comment period on the project’s Draft Environmental Assessment. Comments received during that public review period, along with the agency’s corresponding responses, are published in the Response to Public Comments section of the Final Environmental Assessment issued today. DOE invites the public to comment on a proposed Finding of No Significant Impact for the project.

“Nuclear energy has always been a reliable power source that doesn’t emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,” said INL Director John Wagner when the Draft Environmental Assessment was issued for public review on Jan. 11. “MARVEL is the next step that will allow for prompt, small-scale demonstrations of several environmentally-friendly technologies associated with advanced microreactors as well as larger reactors, which will benefit the nuclear energy industry and energy consumers.” 
Ever since the first useable amount of electricity generated by nuclear energy was demonstrated in 1951 at the Experimental Breeder Reactor-I in Idaho, nuclear power has played an essential role in U.S. electricity generation. Nuclear energy today generates nearly 20% of the nation’s electricity and about 55% of U.S. carbon-free electricity. That electricity is generated by large light-water reactors that each generate hundreds and sometimes thousands of megawatts of electricity, with each megawatt being enough to power about 1,000 homes.
International interest is now growing in microreactors: very small, factory fabricated, transportable reactors. Microreactors can be used in remote communities, industrial sites and defense bases, as well as for applications such as backup generation for power plants, humanitarian assistance, water purification, hydrogen production and disaster relief missions. Just like large traditional reactors, microreactors use fission to produce energy with no carbon emissions.
The DOE Microreactor Program supports research and development (R&D) of microreactor technologies. Led by INL, the program conducts both fundamental and applied R&D to reduce the risks associated with new technology performance and manufacturing readiness of microreactors. The intent is to ensure that microreactor concepts can be commercially licensed and deployed, and to reinvigorate U.S. leadership in nuclear energy.  
MARVEL will be an important step forward to provide industry partners with the ability to test new microreactor-related technologies and provide real-world, viewable examples of how commercial end-users could incorporate microreactors into their clean energy portfolios. The Final Environmental Assessment and proposed Finding of No Significant Impact, prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, are posted for public review at:
The 31-day public review period on the Final Environmental Assessment and proposed Finding of No Significant Impact will conclude on July 8, 2021. Comments on the proposed Finding of No Significant Impact can be submitted by mail to Garrett Kropp, 1955 Fremont Ave., 83415-1222 or by email to marvel@id.doe.gov. Paper copies of the document are available on request.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Showbiz Cinemas pulls out of Jackson Hole Junction; Ron Sayer, apartments part of new plan

The updated plan for Jackson Hole Junction

Jackson Hole Junction announced Thursday that Showbiz Cinemas will not be building an entertainment center at the Sunnyside Road development, but Ron Sayer Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, and Ram will be relocating their dealership there and Pioneer Crossing Apartments will be building 224 residential units.

“Jackson Hole Junction is thrilled to bring two fantastic amenities to Idaho Falls,” said Matt Morgan, one of Jackson Hole Junction’s developers, in a news release. “And this is just the beginning. We’ll be bringing more exciting projects to Jackson Hole Junction soon.” 

While ground had been broken at Jackson Hole Junction in February 2020, Texas-based Showbiz Cinemas suffered heavy financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has scaled back its business. Morgan and his partners “are re-imagining Jackson Hole Junction,” according to the company news release. The revised plans include dining, upscale living, retail spaces and additional healthcare providers.

Jackson Hole Junction’s first hotel, a Holiday Inn & Suites, opened last June and enjoyed a successful first season. The commercial center is looking to add a second hotel in 2022.