Background Information: The LPRV as a Sensitive Resource

1.1. Purpose

An impact analysis is desired to evaluate foreseeable economic and sociopolitical consequences in the Lower Portneuf River Valley (LPRV), southeast Idaho, should aquifer protection methods be implemented similar to those used on the Rathdrum Prairie of northern Idaho. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ), as fiscal coordinator for the Aquifer Protection Working Group (APWG), seeks bids from qualified contractors to conduct such as study through this Request for Proposal (RFP).


1.2. Background

Idaho's Ground Water Quality (IGWQ) Rule was promulgated to standardize the manner in which the water quality of Idaho's ground water resources is managed. The Rule provides for recategorization of an aquifer from the General to the Sensitive Resource category as a mechanism by which appropriate management tools are 1) identified, designed, and implemented to meet local requirements for ground water protection, and 2) applied and enforced uniformly across an area designated to be in need of enhanced aquifer protection. However, recategorization is only one tool for achieving enhanced protection of underground water supplies and may not be suitable for all communities. In what follows, we refer to any method of enhanced aquifer protection as the result of 'recategorization', whether or not it is eventually implemented under the umbrella of a Sensitive Resource designation.

Drinking water quality in the LPRV aquifer is degrading as population growth imposes greater demands on the aquifer and land use activities cumulatively contribute greater pollutant loads to the aquifer. Several key areas of water quality degradation have been documented and are of concern:

  1. progressively increasing salt contamination in drinking water, derived from a combination of urban road and storm water runoff, and septic effluent

  2. areas of elevated nitrate concentrations, from septic effluent in unsewered areas of the valley

  3. areas of serious chlorinated solvent contamination, from past releases

  4. major fuel spills and widespread leaking fuel storage facilities over the entire aquifer

Similar types and sources of degradation occur on the Rathdrum Prairie in northern Idaho. That aquifer is hydrologically very similar to the LPRV, and enhanced management methods tailored to local needs have been in place there for more than a decade. Enhanced aquifer protection measures have been implemented and managed on the Rathdrum Prairie under the Sensitive Resource designation, the only ground water resource in the state currently so designated. Although the economic and social impacts of enhanced aquifer protection have been overwhelmingly beneficial and widely accepted in the Rathdrum area, it attained that status gradually over two decades. Furthermore, an aquifer has never been recategorized under the IGWQ Rule, so the economic, social and political consequences of such action in the LPRV, whose economic base is quite different from the Rathdrum's, is unknown.

The APWG was formed to assess the rationale for and implications of applying enhanced management methods (through recategorization or other means) to achieve aquifer protection in the LPRV aquifer, and to bring this information to the community and its elected bodies (Pocatello, Chubbuck, Bannock County). Its goal is to enable the community to make a collective decision on whether some level of enhanced protection should be implemented, by weighing the benefits and the impacts recategorization would have on specific aspects of the community's economy, its self-image, and desired quality of life. The APWG has access to local technical expertise (in the form of the Portneuf Ground Water Forum), educational outreach support (Portneuf Chapter of Ground Water Guardians), a large body of relevant environmental and land use information in GIS format for decision-making (see Attachment A), and is part of ongoing efforts to develop aquifer protection policy and improved management methods for the LPRV (through the Regional Geographic Initiatives Steering Committee and Policy Advisory Group).

The APWG has recommended that enhanced ground water protection (whether through Sensitive Resource recategorization or otherwise) be implemented to address three types of land use activities with the greatest potential to degrade water quality in the LPRV aquifer:

(1) septic sewage disposal both on the aquifer and on tributary aquifers;

(2) urban stormwater runoff disposal over the aquifer and adjacent areas; and

(3) storage and handling of hazardous materials, fuels, and non-domestic wastewater over the LPRV aquifer and adjacent tributary aquifers.

Because the three areas recommended by the APWG for enhanced protective management in the LPRV are very similar to the key areas covered by the Rathdrum Prairie's Sensitive Resource management approach, the Rathdrum experience is considered the best template for evaluating the economic and social impacts of applying the same or similar best management methods (BMPs) and best available methods (BAMs) in the LPRV. To this end, this RFP seeks a socioeconomic and fiscal impact analysis to evaluate the foreseeable effects of 1) implementing enhanced aquifer protection in the LPRV using the same BMPs and BAMs currently used on the Rathdrum Prairie, together with the type of coordinated, multi-jurisdictional agreement(s) in place there, and 2) not implementing any enhanced aquifer protection and maintaining current, uncoordinated and fragmentary management practices in the LPRV. The results of this analysis then will be used to 3) estimate the costs and benefits of enhanced aquifer protection to specific community groups/entities in the LPRV.