As a young woman in the 1970s, I traveled the United States looking for a place to call home. I was raised in the Bay Area of California and wanted out of the city with its noise, congestion and pollution. I spent time in the Northeast, on the East Coast, and in the Midwest and Southwest. When I finally drove north from Boise up Highay 95 through Moscow and Coeur d’Alene, I knew I had arrived. I graduated from the University of Idaho in 1986 and have been in the area ever since. My two boys were born and raised here and my youngest graduated from UI as well.
There have been many changes over the years. Priest Lake used to be a magical place known only to locals; today it is a national tourist destination. Schweitzer has become a 4.5 star resort. And Priest River has a stop light. But the things that make this area special haven’t changed. We possess one of the few areas in the country that still have clean air, clean water and endless wilderness to hike, fish, hunt, and (in my case) ride horses in.
That is our strength and our “draw.” That is why people move here, live here and visit here. The HiTest silicone smelter will change all that. While they offer the area 150 jobs of dubious desirability, the potential exists for it to put hundreds in the tourist and recreation business out of work, not to mention the financial destruction that loss of property value will cause land owners.
I truly don’t understand how things have gotten this far. How is it that anybody can think a silicone smelter less than 2 miles from downtown Newport is a good thing? I’ve seen the data on their emissions and it is horrifying. Apparently the issuing of carbon credits to such a facility is a way to justify sacrificing the land to an environmentally devastating industry. And we are letting them in to our backyard.
What are we thinking?