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AP - Oregon-Northwest

Latest Idaho news, sports, business and entertainment at 9:20 p.m. MST

IDAHO POWER-LAWSUIT

Idaho utility will dismiss lawsuit against EPA over dams

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho utility will voluntarily dismiss its lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency involving relicensing of the company’s hydroelectric project where federally protected fall chinook salmon reproduce.

Idaho Power in documents filed earlier this week in U.S. District Court says the EPA in response to the lawsuit has approved allowing warmer water temperatures in the Snake River below the Hells Canyon Complex on the Idaho-Oregon border.

The National Marines Fisheries Service says the change is not likely to jeopardize salmon or their critical habitat.

Idaho Power says allowing warmer water below the dams could reduce the cost of electricity and save customers up to $100 million over 50 years.

The company says the Hells Canyon Complex generates about 70% of its hydroelectric power supplied to customers.

GYPSY MOTHS-SPRAYING

Washington plans to spray for gypsy moths

(Information from: Capital Press, )

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Two small areas of northwest Washington likely will be sprayed with an insecticide to stop an outbreak of gypsy moths, including a type native to Asia never before detected in the U.S.

The Capital Press reports the Washington State Department of Agriculture said it tentatively plans to release Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki over a small city on Puget Sound called Woodway, and an Everett neighborhood called Boulevard Bluffs.

Officials say a Hokkaido gypsy moth trapped in Woodway this summer was the first Hokkaido moth caught in the U.S.

Three hybrid Asian gypsy moths were caught in Boulevard Bluffs.

Gypsy moths native to Asia are more mobile than European varieties and are considered more of a danger to spread.

Before finalizing plans to spray next spring, the department will conduct environmental reviews and consult agencies including the USDA.

Washington has sprayed for gypsy moths most years since 1979.

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COLD CASE TRIAL-SUSPENDED

Cold case trial suspended, defendant in poor health

(Information from: Post Register, )

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — A judge has suspended a cold case trial after concerns about the mental and physical health of the 86-year-old defendant.

The Post Register reported Thursday that Magistrate Judge James Barrett found Walter Mason lacked fitness to proceed in the trial.

Court officials say the decision delays a case that was on hold for about 40 years.

Officials say Custer County prosecutors charged Mason with murder in September 1980 days after authorities suspect he fatally shot a man over a relationship dispute.

Mason was arrested October of this year in Texas.

His attorney David Cannon didn’t return a request for comment.

Officials say Mason is in custody at the state Department of Health for up to 90 days.

Mason could face up to life imprisonment or be given the death penalty.

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MADISON RIVER REGULATIONS

Public comment sought on rules for Madison River crowding

(Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, )

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Montana officials are seeking public comment on proposed rules to address crowding on the popular Madison River outside Yellowstone National Park.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks released an online survey asking residents to rate alternatives to address issues such as commercial fishing outfitters, social conflict and angler use on the upper river and recreation on the lower river.

The deadline for public comment is Jan. 6.

The Madison River, known for its brown and rainbow trout fishery, starts in Yellowstone and flows past Ennis and into the Missouri River near Three Forks. The state has been considering regulations as the river has become more popular.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission voted earlier this month to ask the public what it would consider proper management of the river.

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MONTANA MINING CLAIMS

Montana court removes potential wilderness mine obstacle

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A recent Montana Supreme Court decision has removed one obstacle for a mining company seeking to explore a silver and copper deposit in northwestern Montana potentially worth billions of dollars.

Exploration in the Cabinet Mountains has been delayed in part by a dispute over whether Mines Management Inc. can access the deposit by tunneling under a man’s nearby unpatented mining claims.

In a 5-0 decision Tuesday, Supreme Court justices ruled that the late Arnold Bakie’s claims were invalid because they didn’t contain any valuable minerals.

The justices overturned a previous jury verdict that Mines Management owed Bakie and investors, including former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, $3.3 million.

Luke Russell, a spokesman for Mines Management owner Hecla Mining Co., says the company is working with U.S. Forest Service officials on an environmental analysis of the mining project.

CHRISTMAS TREES-TIGHT SUPPLY

Christmas tree prices remain high amid low supply

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — Experts in Oregon, the nation’s No. 1 supplier of Christmas trees, say prices for a holiday evergreen will remain higher this year due to a tight supply.

Chad Landgren, with Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, says there are 400 fewer Oregon growers than there were 15 years ago and land once used for Christmas trees is now being used for less labor intensive crops. Many tree farms went out of business about a decade ago.

On average, consumers paid $78 for a tree in 2018, up $3 from 2017.

There are 383 licensed Christmas tree growers in Oregon who sell about 4.6 million trees a year.

Most of those trees are sold in the Pacific Northwest, California, Nevada and Arizona.

Mexico is the top international importer of Oregon trees.

The Associated Press