Susan Ashe, the legislative director for Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession, says the three-hour afternoon get-together will start with a review of and discussion about the Spokane-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer study released in May -- "for those who aren't up-to-speed on the issue," says Ashe. Then the agenda will turn to water conservation, with a report on two focus groups that were convened recently to gauge people's attitudes about water conservation (see sidebar). The meeting will also feature a panel discussion about conservation.
The bi-state meeting was proposed in May by Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin, who wanted to capitalize on the momentum generated by the release of the aquifer study. "I'd like to do this in June," Larkin told The Inlander at the time. "The farther away we get from the subject, the less impact the discussion will have." Larkin had also hoped to bring together Idaho interests this summer to talk about water in advance of a bi-state meeting. That never happened.
Ashe says Mayor Hession hopes the September meeting will be a springboard for future discussions. This time, "we're targeting local and state elected officials from both sides of the border," she says. But she knows a broad range of non-elected stakeholders will eventually want to have their say.
"I'm looking at [the meeting] with an open mind," says Larkin. He's skeptical, though, about whether it will lead to a sustained regional dialogue about water. "I led a meeting like this over in Spokane two years ago, with elected folks from both sides, and we agreed that we needed to meet every quarter." That group hasn't met since.
Some blame the aquifer study for actually dousing the discussion. The study concluded the water level in the aquifer isn't falling, for now.
"Once people heard that, they stopped paying attention and there went the urgency to get anything done," says Spokane City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Mary Verner.