Funding loss could hurt Bear Lake Commission

LOGAN, Utah (AP) — A loss of funding could force the dissolution of the 40-year-old Bear Lake Regional Commission. The cross-state commission is comprised of city and county officials from Bear Lake-area communities in Utah and Idaho. It runs on about $100,000 annually, with both states providing about half the funding. But Idaho cut its contributions last year and now Idaho Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Bear Lake, said it appears there may be no money to fund the commission for the coming year. He said he’s asked the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to find between $20,000 and $40,000 in its budget to keep the commission running another year. Utah officials likely won’t continue to support the commission without help from Idaho, according to those familiar with the discussions, including Jesse Taylor, the commission’s legislative liaison. The loss of the commission would make it difficult for lake-area communities and both states to find agreement on issues related to managing Utah’s second largest natural freshwater lake, said commission chairman Norm Weston, a Utahn who is also a Rich County commissioner. The commission tackles issues affecting lake-area residents on both sides of the border, including natural resource management, water quality and other planning and development matters. It was originally formed in the 1970s to manage septic systems near the lake. Recent efforts have focused on policies and funding to keep quagga mussels from invading the lake and legislation that would allow police and fire agencies from Utah to respond to emergency calls in Idaho. Weston suspects the loss of Idaho funds may be tied to a lack of awareness. Bear Lake crosses state borders but it is better known to Uthans. To remedy the problem, a group of commission supporters met with Idaho lawmakers in Boise late last month to lobby for money. “I’m not going to say we’re confident but we’re feeling better,” Weston said. “We’ve touched bases with people who need to hear our plight.” Gibbs said the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality should decide in about three weeks whether or not it will fund the commission.

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