Wildlife & Water
Over the past decade, the number of vehicle-wildlife collisions has skyrocketed. So have the greenhouse gas emissions from the ever-increasing traffic. I have a plan for reducing the number of vehicles on our roads. For a deeper dive into my traffic suggestions, please click HERE.
I advocated for the $10M Wildlife Crossings SPET Initiative in 2019. Maintaining wildlife permeability is not only (very) good for the animals, but also good for us, as vehicle-wildlife collisions cause millions of dollars of damage and could result in serious physical harm.
Located as we are at the headwaters of the Snake River system, we must be responsible stewards of our water. My goal is for the water that leaves the County to be as clean as the water that came in. The County, in particular has a role to play in this responsibility.
The quality of drinking water in some areas of Teton County are dangerous for consumption. The issue revolves around improperly sited septic tanks in areas with a high water table and permeable rock layers. On the next SPET ballot, I will support an initiative to fund two high-tech, small-scale wastewater treatment plants in the County- one located on the West Bank and the other in Hoback. We should also apply for state funds for these important projects.
Collaboration with local advocacy groups which provide funding for study and education is essential as we progress towards better water stewardship.
Diving Deeper into Water Quality
Whether we are talking about water or practically any other problem, it is important to understand the problem’s source. In the case of water, Teton County suffers from a serious nitrate problem. The majority of nitrates come from ammonia which largely derive from human waste. When nitrate levels in our drinking water reach high enough levels, they remove oxygen from our blood, which isn’t good for anybody, but which is especially dangerous for infants. Nitrate levels in Hoback are over 10ppm, high enough to trigger expensive EPA measures and cause health risks to those drinking it.
Most of these nitrates are getting into our river systems and aquifers due to improperly maintained or sited septic tanks. In Hoback, many septic systems along the river simply cannot function properly due to the high water table and porous rock layers. The same is true for other properties along rivers and creeks in our valley. In order to protect the quality of the drinking water in our aquifers, we should work toward a comprehensive sewage treatment system. I support the development of a small, high tech treatment facility in Hoback, with funding help from a newly formed water district. I also support the construction of a second high-tech treatment facility on the West Bank which could handle all sewage from the contributors on that side of the river.
E. coli represents another critical problem for waters in Teton County. It is important to remember that e. coli exists in every body of the water in the world and is present in all mammal and most bird waste. A 2003 study of Fish Creek revealed that less than 2% of the e. coli bacteria present originated from human waste. Unfortunately, due to Covid, a similar study to track the sources of e. coli in Flat Creek did not occur as scheduled this year. The best way to reduce e. coli in our popular streams and lakes is to continue to work with partners like the DEQ and the Conservation district to educate ranchers and pet owners on the danger mammal feces cause when they get into our waterways. E. coli is an indicator organism and its presence signals that we are losing the battle to keep our waterways clean.
As individuals, we often take water safety for granted. Our community takes water quality for granted, but our elected leaders cannot afford to take water quality for granted. Situated as we are at the headwaters of the Snake River, I feel the weight of responsibility to keep our waterways and aquifers clean.