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Motorists drive east on Interstate 84 past the rest area on the eastern side of the Idaho-Oregon border, which has been closed since Aug. 22. The closed off-ramp to the rest area and Snake River View Welcome Center is shown here on Tuesday, Oct. 1.

Travelers may not be feeling quite as welcome to Idaho, since the scenic Snake River View Welcome Center and rest area on Interstate 84 has been closed since Aug. 22 due to a sewage leak. The usually busy and popular rest area, which greets motorists as they enter Idaho on I-84 from Oregon, is on a septic tank, and it’s right above the Snake River, raising concerns about potential contamination.

Jake Melder, Idaho Transportation Department spokesman, said sewage has only been found seeping out on the hillside at the back of the rest area.

“At this point in time, we have not been able to find any evidence of the contamination reaching the river,” he said Tuesday. However, he acknowledged, “It’s very close.”

The closure of the rest area and welcome center, which stretched through the Labor Day weekend and other busy travel times, has brought ITD complaints both from the traveling public and from state legislators.

Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, whose district includes the center, said, “It’s a real nice area — I’ve seen a lot of people stop there. I would like to see it open. At the same time, I appreciate that ITD’s being cautious from an environmental standpoint.”

Melder said, “We have closed the rest area down while we continue to investigate that and determine the reason behind the leak, and begin to form a plan to address that situation.”

You can read my full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up Wednesday's edition of the Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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