Idaho Power is offering to pay half the cost, up to $10,000, to hire a consultant to help Baker County find ways to bring more visitors to the county’s financially ailing Hewitt and Holcomb parks near Richland.
The Boise company made the offer in a recent letter responding to a letter from Bill Harvey, chairman of the Baker County Board of Commissioners.
In the letter, Brett Dumas, Idaho Power’s director of environmental affairs, wrote that “While we do not feel it is the responsibility of our ratepayers or share owners to take on the additional cost burden of operating and maintaining Hewitt and Holcomb parks, we are committed to the future vitality of these parks.”
Dumas wrote that hiring a consultant could help county officials come up with strategies for bringing more visitors to the area, and thus boosting revenue from the two parks on the Powder River arm of Brownlee Reservoir.
“Idaho Power believes generating ideas to enhance tourism interest in these parts is one of the best opportunities to ensure these parks continue to serve the citizens of Baker County in the years to come,” Dumas wrote.
Baker County collected a yearly average of about $57,680 from the two parks during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 fiscal years through a combination of camping fees, season passes and sales of ice, firewood and water.
The yearly average for the previous two fiscal years, 2014-15 and 2015-16, was about $70,900.
County officials blame the declining revenue on inconsistent water levels in Brownlee Reservoir, which at times have left the parks’ boat ramps unusable, as well as health advisories resulting from blooms of toxic blue-green algae.
The Baker County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to discuss the parks department budget situation when it meets Wednesday morning at the Courthouse, 1995 Third St. The parks discussion is set for 10 a.m.