Boise Mayor David Bieter was joined by U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson, U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran and Idaho DEQ Director John Tippets in addressing the gathered crowd to celebrate completion of this national precedent-setting project.
“This project is a great example of the way the city of Boise approaches everything we do,” said Mayor Bieter. “Rather than just meeting our obligations, we ask ourselves how we can reach farther and do things better. With great partners, we are setting new standards that are making people across the nation fans of our effort to become the most livable city in the country.”
Eight years in the making, the Dixie Drain project will greatly enhance water quality in the Boise and Snake rivers by removing up to 140 pounds of phosphorus per day, or roughly 10 tons each year. This innovative effort involved significant collaboration between a variety of local, state and federal groups and agencies and is seen as a potential model for similar projects across the country.
“The Dixie Drain project is an exemplary model of federal, state, and local cooperation” said U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson. “It sends a message that we can achieve desired regulatory results through flexible, innovative, and cost effective methods. I am so pleased that Idaho is leading the way in creating a framework that can be applied nationwide to help local communities deal with complex water issues.”
Federal regulations will soon require the city of Boise to remove 98 percent of the phosphorus from the water leaving its treatment facilities, which goes back into the lower Boise River. Phosphorus, found in many household and agricultural fertilizers, is a normal part of any river ecosystem. High amounts of phosphorus, however, can produce algae blooms and have significant water quality impacts.
To meet the requirements, the City is currently making improvements that will remove about 93 percent of the phosphorus at its existing facilities, as required by the new regulations. However, modifications to the City’s existing facilities to remove the final five percent would have been extraordinarily expensive and provided a diminished environmental return on investment. Roughly 80 percent of water that leaves the city of Boise’s existing water treatment facilities is used downstream to irrigate agricultural fields, where it picks up more phosphorus before it drains into the Snake River.
For the same cost as upgrading facilities at the existing treatment plants, the new facility at Dixie Drain removes much more phosphorus from the Boise River, creating a lower cost per pound removed and a far greater environmental outcome. “Today’s commissioning marks the capstone of a process where stakeholders worked together to find a path forward that will result in lasting environmental benefits for the Boise River and Snake River systems,” said Idaho DEQ Director John Tippets. “The Dixie Drain project exemplifies how various partners can collaborate, leverage strengths and resources, and together implement innovative environmental solutions.”
Essentially, for every pound that is not removed at a treatment facility in Boise, a pound and a half is removed downstream at Dixie Drain. By treating both upstream in Boise, and downstream at Dixie Drain, the overall benefit to the river system is greatly improved.
“I commend the city of Boise for its steadfast leadership in completing the Dixie Drain project,” said EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran. “Boise is doing groundbreaking work here that will achieve greater pollution reduction in the Boise River than if the conventional path had been followed. While the city was making major upgrades to its treatment plant, it saw an opportunity to remove even more phosphorus, faster, by building the Dixie Drain.”
The 49-acre Dixie Drain facility, located between Notus and Parma has been in operation since July. “What began on the back of an envelope over lunch has blossomed into an outstanding local, state and federal team effort that will help protect the Boise and Snake rivers for all Idahoans,” added McLerran.