Elk 2

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is taking steps to address crop damage caused by elk in the Magic Valley. Nonlethal measures are preferred, but Fish and Game may up the ante if need be.

Idaho saw its third-largest increase in cases of COVID-19 today, adding a further 128 cases to bring the statewide sum to 3,871. The South Central Public Health District reported one new case of the coronavirus in Blaine County today, bringing the local total up to 507 confirmed and 11 probable.

Meanwhile, our reporters take a closer look at the local economy and environment. Read on for the top news stories of Friday, June 19.

• The federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program has pumped millions of dollars into the local economy since early April. Zions Bank alone processed nearly 200 PPP loans in the Wood River Valley, totaling over $24 million, according to Zions Bank Public Relations Officer Malcolm Hong. The Ketchum and Hailey branches of D.L. Evans processed 260 loans, worth more than $19 million, according to the bank. 

Zions Bank Regional President Tracy Groll, based in Ketchum, said issuing the loans marked an unprecedented moment in banking history.

“I have never seen anything like it,” Groll said. “Thousands of loans were made within a few weeks without getting financial statements, or even knowing some of our clients very well. I don’t know of any company in this valley that did not apply for a loan.”

• A 10-year-long project to improve forest health on Bald Mountain is set to begin as soon as August following a finding of no significant environmental impact by the U.S. Forest Service. The stewardship program plans to remove dead trees and plant new seedlings across 920 acres of land on the iconic Ketchum mountain.

• The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will be using four elk-management tools this summer and fall to reduce crop damage and depredation claims in the Magic Valley region, the department announced Monday.

“In the event nonlethal hazing becomes ineffective, Fish and Game staff will harvest elk at night on the [affected] farm,” the department stated.

• The Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency has tentatively agreed to assist with supplementing the cost of pedestrian-friendly improvements at the former KIC building under construction at the northwest corner of Sun Valley Road and First Avenue.

During a meeting Monday, property owner Dave Wilson requested funds to supplement the cost of installing 8-foot-wide heated sidewalks parallel to the building on Sun Valley Road and First Avenue, redesigning and installing a bulb-out curb at the corner of First Avenue and Sun Valley Road and installing a bench, new tree wells and street lights, for a total of $190,000.

The building will be a mixed-use structure with retail and residential space.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare recorded the largest statewide spike in coronavirus cases since April 2. Today's 128 new cases comprised the third-largest increase in infection rate since COVID-19 first arrived in Idaho. The state's total has now risen to 3,871. As of Friday, 89 people have died and 3,183 people have recovered.

For more on the outbreak, plus the rest of your local news, pick up a copy of today's Idaho Mountain Express, or check mtexpress.com for updates throughout the weekend. 

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