Letters from the West

Idaho Rivers United says Clean Water Act is being violated at Les Bois Park and Expo Idaho

Runoff from Expo Idaho and Les Bois Park is draining into the Boise River, and Ada County doesn’t have permits demonstrating that it meets clean-water laws, Idaho Rivers United says.

The environmental group is demanding that Ada County bring the fairgrounds and all associated facilities in Garden City into compliance with the Clean Water Act.

“We asked the county to apply immediately for stormwater discharge and confined animal feeding operation permits,” said Liz Paul, Idaho Rivers’ Boise River campaign coordinator. “Stormwater is filthy and pollutes the Boise River.”

Ada County owns more than 300 acres within Garden City where Expo Idaho, home to the Western Idaho State Fair, the Boise Hawks’ stadium and Les Bois Park are located. Stormwater is collected from parking lots, roads, roofs and other areas of the county property and conveyed to the Boise River.

“While Ada County has some state-of-the-art stormwater management practices in place at Expo Idaho, it is violating the Clean Water Act because it doesn’t have a permit like everyone else in the Boise urban area,” Paul said.

Larry Maneely, chief of staff for the Ada County Commission, said the 300 acres have never been studied as one drainage. The county expects a survey report as early as Wednesday, Maneely said, and will make recommendations to the commissioners on how to proceed.

“There will probably be more than one option available,” Maneely said. “Their intention is deal with everything in a most responsible manner.”

Les Bois Park’s approximately 70 acres include stables, arenas and the racetrack. Facilities that have 500 or more horses on site for more than 45 days each year are considered confined animal feeding operations under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules, Paul said. Those rules control pollution at feedlots and other facilities for large groups of animals, Paul said.

“If they discharge water into a public waterway, as Les Bois Park does, the owner must obtain a (discharge) permit,” she said.

In its lease with Ada County, Treasure Valley Racing, which operates Les Bois, agreed “at its own expense” to comply with all environmental laws.