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.