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Simpson's Historic Plan Includes Key Water Quality Tools

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Idaho GOP Rep. Mike Simpson's infrastructure proposal includes $3 billion to address water quality across the Northwest. (Bob Wick/U.S. Bureau of Land Management)
Idaho GOP Rep. Mike Simpson's infrastructure proposal includes $3 billion to address water quality across the Northwest. (Bob Wick/U.S. Bureau of Land Management)
 By Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID - Producer, Contact
February 15, 2021

BOISE, Idaho -- A $33 billion infrastructure plan for the Northwest developed by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, continues to shake up the region.

While the potential removal of four dams on the lower Snake River has garnered attention, other parts of the proposal are equally important for the Northwest's future.

Justin Hayes, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League, said the plan includes the creation of voluntary watershed partnerships to bring together agriculture interests, communities and conservationists.

"There'd be $3 billion dollars to spend across the region to help address the widespread problem of agricultural pollution getting into rivers and causing water quality problems," Hayes noted.

Simpson's infrastructure proposal aims to bring back salmon while also investing in communities and clean energy, and addressing the needs of the agriculture industry in the Northwest.

Hayes contended the growing number of dairy operations, especially in southern Idaho, has led to water quality issues.

Simpson's plan would invest $400 million in each state for manure management in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Hayes explained devices called methane digesters are key to the plan, managing the waste better and creating energy.

"It also ensures that we lessen the climate change impact that dairies have, so harvesting that methane and using it to make electricity," Hayes explained. "That's a win-win here for the environment and for dairies. Helps us address climate change and it helps us clean up our water."

Hayes added the proposal could be a game changer and would provide the resources for people to work together.

"Simpson's proposal shatters the status quo," Hayes observed. "It invites people into a dialogue at a scale where all of the interests that people have been concerned about can be benefitted."

The plan could be included in a massive infrastructure package the Biden administration is putting together.

Disclosure: The Idaho Conservation League contributes to our fund for reporting on Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, and Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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