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As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in Elmore County collecting petition signatures and otherwise finding and networking with people who support our proposed nuclear plant. I like the work because I’m pretty extroverted, but there’s a sense of urgency. Wednesday, April 22 will be a make-or-break day for the plant effort, as the Elmore County Commission will hold a hearing about our request to rezone land for the plant.

Today I spent the afternoon and early evening in Hammett, a small farming town of a few hundred people between Mountain Home and Glenns Ferry, and a few miles from the site of our proposed nuclear plant.  There’s a lot of hardship in Hammett and for a Boise PR consultant used to a comfortable life, it was an eye-opening experience.

In Treasure Valley, as hard as we have it, I think we’re largely insulated from the worst of the economic downturn. To really see a town suffering, spend some time in Hammett. Given the events of the day, the comments of some of our opposition seem downright callused toward people who are struggling to get by and find work.

I went door-to-door and to the few businesses that were open. Closer toward the Interstate, one woman and some friends stood around a car in front of her house; the engine wouldn’t start and they were waiting for a friend to come and help.

“Will there be work there for women?” she asked me in Spanish. “I worked at the potato plant for 13 years and they laid me off when it closed. It’s really hard to find any work now.”

I told her we will make it a point to hire from Elmore County and if someone has a clean background, a good work history and completes training, we will have a job for them in construction or operations – if and when the plant is ever open (my mother is from Mexico and speak fluent Spanish). I’m paid to communicate and I do it well, but I really felt helpless. I could offer promises and hope, and my assurance I’m working as hard as I can to get the plant built, but I could do nothing to help her life immediately.

I heard loud banging around a group of mobile homes. I found two men repairing a car body with a hammer. They signed my petition, but told me they didn’t have much faith the plant would get built. Companies have let Hammett down before, they said, by not hiring much locally, or closing their factories.

“We’ve got to get something built around here,” said one of the men.

Another woman told me Hammett is always neglected, not getting the services and infrastructure it should have, and believed that would continue even if the plant were built.

“If the plant opens, it will just be a pissing match between Glenns Ferry and Mountain Home to get the benefits,” she told me. “Hammett won’t get anything.”

I’m typing this blog in the comfort of my home in Hidden Springs. Today, I was an outsider in a town where people are having a hard time coping with job loss and recession. I spent  the day getting some peoples’ hopes up. Now, it’s time to deliver and devote all of my energy to the goal of developing the power plant, so that our team and the Elmore County Commission will come through for the people of Hammett.

I recently distributed the following news release for one of my clients, the Idaho Ground Water Appropriators. Surprisingly, the media coverage thus far doesn’t seem to grasp the economic dimension of the problem. The mainstream press has more or less portrayed it as a fight over water – it’s that and much more.

NEWS RELEASE

For immediate release

Contact: Randy Budge, 232-6101; Lynn Carlquist, 731-5827; Dean Stevenson, 431-0924

Pocatello, Idaho – March 13, 2009

Groundwater pumpers submit plan to avoid economic disaster, compensate aquifer spring users

Shutoff of surface wells would endanger water supply for cities, factories, food processors, farmers and cost thousands of jobs

Pocatello–Hoping to avoid the loss of thousands of jobs, groundwater users on the Snake River Plain aquifer submitted a plan late Thursday to compensate aquifer spring users and thereby allow continued use of the aquifer by cities, factories, food processors, dairies, farmers and other entities that depend on the water for their economic survival.

Magic Valley Ground Water District and North Snake Ground Water District filed a 2009 Replacement Water Plan and Third Mitigation Plan with the Idaho Department of Water Resources late Thursday afternoon. The filing was in response to a March 5 order from the IDWR for up to 430 water users in Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Twin Falls counties to shut off their water, so that Clear Springs Food Inc. can continue to receive an additional 2 cubic feet per second in water flow.

“We hope the director will accept and implement our mitigation plan and that the curtailment won’t take place,” said Lynn Carlquist, Chairman of North Snake Ground Water District. “As a simple matter of economic survival for these six counties, we need to address the curtailment so it does not occur.”

The plan filed Thursday provides for measures not seen in past proposals, including the “Over-the-Rim” direct delivery of ground water from existing wells to Snake River Farm’s intake. This proposal proposes to convert up to 2,000 acres of irrigated farmland from ground water irrigation to surface water irrigation. Certain members of North Snake Ground Water District farming near the canyon rim above Snake River Farm have agreed to cooperate in the effort. Surface water leased from the Upper Snake reservoir system will be delivered through the North Side Canal Company “S Coulee” to replace the ground water irrigation. It will now be up to Director Tuthill to either approve this plan or curtail 41,000 acres.

Carlquist pointed to March 7 Idaho Statesman story announcing Idaho’s jobless rate is at a 21-year high of nearly 7 percent, with some 53,000 unemployed; the state is expecting a 12 percent drop in tax revenue. Economists say joblessness will continue to rise nationally for the rest of the year and into early 2010, with the unemployment rate reaching 9 to 10 percent before it turns around.

Lynn Tominaga, Executive Director IGWA, said. “To avert this catastrophe, we will spend over $900,000 on this 3rd mitigation plan so that Clear Springs, will receive its water. This is in addition to the millions of dollars we have spent over the last few years to mitigate their material injury claim.”

Dean Stevenson, Magic Valley GWD director said, ”We would like to thank North Side Canal Company board of directors and Manager Ted Diehl for their cooperation and help in getting this plan put together to avoid this water delivery call.”