We were a little taken aback this week, with the done-deal announcement that the Idaho Department of Lands and Kootenai County have entered an agreement that the County will now be responsible for the removal of hazardous pilings and booms in the Spokane River and Coeur d’Alene Lake. The agreement, signed without public input, and at an August 31 meeting of the County Commissioners without any evidence of public notice, seems designed to undercut the efforts by the Osprey Association to preserve the booms and pilings in Cougar Bay.
We understand that the plans to remove pilings from the Spokane River have been in the works for quite some time. However, the inclusion of Coeur d’Alene Lake in this agreement appears to be a new development. Indeed, we’ve been unable to determine how and when this decision by the Commissioners got made.
The agreement was signed by Rick Currie for the County Commissioners on August 31, and it was signed by Mike Denney from the Department of Lands on August 17. Recall that IDL rejected the Osprey Association application at the end of July, and sent its explanatory letter to attorney Scott Reed dated August 12 with no mention of any negotiations with the County.
The agreement itself is broad, vague, and as typical in Idaho, unfunded. The stated purpose of the agreement is “to allow the County to remove pilings and booms they deem hazardous to navigation in the Spokane River and Lake Coeur d’Alene and to enhance public education about navigation.” Yet the agreement is explicit that “this agreement does not obligate either party to expend funds.”
According to the oddly-worded agreement, the county shall, among other things, “Remove the pilings they deem appropriate at their expense. Appropriateness shall be based on feasibility as well as economic viability.”
Meanwhile, the State is obligated only to “assist the county in locating owners of pilings to be removed” and to provide information to the County to create informational brochures about piling removal.
It appears that with this agreement, the Idaho Department of Lands has abdicated its responsibility for Cougar Bay booms and pilings to the County, which has neither the expertise nor process to make such decisions. More critically, the path forward for the Osprey Association is less clear. Now, with the County as the contractual “appropriateness” decision-maker for pilings and booms in the Lake, renewal of its application to IDL to preserve the pilings will likely face another layer of bureaucratic nay-saying.
KEA has made a Public Records Act request to the County for documents and correspondence relating to this agreement and to the Cougar Bay pilings, and we hope to learn more about how this decision was reached. Regardless, it appears that the Kootenai County Commissioners are now key to the future of Cougar Bay.