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Ada County Responds to IRU Threat to Sue Over Boise River Pollution

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Idaho Rivers United notified Ada County of its intention to sue after noticing stormwater from horse stables running into the Boise River. - GEORGE PRENTICE
  • George Prentice
  • Idaho Rivers United notified Ada County of its intention to sue after noticing stormwater from horse stables running into the Boise River.


In early December, Idaho Rivers United notified Ada County its intention to sue over violations of the Clean Water Act. The concern stemmed from an IRU member who saw water running from the horse stables at Les Bois Park into the Boise River during a major rain event in the winter of 2014.

When Liz Paul, the Boise River coordinator at IRU, started looking into it, she said there were no permits in place for the storm water run-off—a violation of the federal Clean Water Act. 

"At Expo Idaho, you have those huge parking lots, so you have oil, grease, metals, garbage, animal waste," Paul told Boise Weekly in December. "All that gets washed into the Boise River and once it gets into the river, it can cause bacterial problems for swimming. It kills the bugs and fish. You can see the Boise River further downstream as it collects all these contaminants—you don't have a healthy fishery. Then they keep going into the Snake River. They don't just disappear."

Because Ada County owns the land beneath Expo Idaho, Hawk Stadium and Les Bois Park, the county is responsible for monitoring the storm water running into the Boise River from its property—and storm water is a major pollutant to the Boise River, according to Paul.

Ada County responded to the Intent to Sue on Monday, Jan. 4, saying the IRU did not specify the exact sites discharging into the Boise River. Instead, the letter claims "IRU base[d] its allegations on its purported information and belief that storm water or pollutants are discharging into the Expo Idaho Property through on-site conveyances: storm drains, catch basins, inlet and outlet structures, and manholes."

Click to read Ada County's Response Letter to Idaho Rivers United

Ada County said in its response that it has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency on "good-faith steps" such as constructing berms and straw waddles near the drainage ditch by the horse stables. It also has plans to build a piping system that would allow no overland discharge to get into the river.

One of IRU's biggest concerns was the lack of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations permitting for Les Bois' horse stables. 

Ada County said no permit is necessary at this time because "the future of historical horse racing and associated live horse racing in Idaho is uncertain ... there will be no horse racing at Expo Idaho for the foreseeable future."

The letter ends with the suggestion to put the lawsuit to rest "amicably, swiftly, and in the best interests of the citizens of Ada County."

Back in December, Paul said she was confident the issue would be resolved and Ada County would start the process of permitting within 60 days, and no one would need to go to court.