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Archive for April, 2011

We were recently cc’ed on a copy of a new letter from the Tubbs Hill Foundation to Mayor Bloem and the Coeur d’Alene City Council regarding the ongoing McEuen Park  discussion. In the April 28 letter signed by Foundation President Peter Luttropp, the Foundation reiterates and clarifies its position on the Tubbs Hill impacts of the McEuen project, particularly the proposed trail on the upper north face of the hill. A previous letter from the Foundation had enumerated opposition to the sledding hill, the artificial water features and other intrusions, but hadn’t specifically addressed the trail. In this letter the Foundation confirms a KEA concern:

Since then, our preliminary research and on-site inspections have convinced us that construction of such a trail, as conceptualized in the McEuen plan, cannot be done without disrupting the natural state of the hill. On that basis, we would oppose such a trail.

The Foundation also goes on to affirm support for disabled access to Tubbs Hill and says:

We reaffirm our willingness and desire to work with the city and others to see that such increased ease of use is developed. We believe there is at least one viable alternative that would provide access for the disabled, access that would be far more desirable aesthetically than the proposed north face trail overlooking McEuen Field. It would also provide a richer experience for those with disabilities who would use it. 

And the Foundation echoes KEA’s strong desire to separate the Tubbs Hill issues, including the accessibility issue,  from the McEuen Park issues:

Providing more user-friendly access to Tubbs Hill is a separate issue from the redesign of McEuen Field and should be resolved in a separate process.

 The letter concludes:

The Foundation supports the vision of Tubbs Hill that is more user friendly for all members of our community while preserving the natural state of the hill. We again express our willingness to be a partner in making that vision a reality.

Count us in on that too. We think the Foundation’s position on Tubbs Hill is exactly correct. Regardless of how the McEuen project proceeds, better access for all, which also protects the natural qualities of Tubbs Hill, is worth working for.

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The Kootenai County Commissioners, this morning, in continuation of deliberations begun three weeks ago, declined to create a massive new loophole in the County’s already-weak shoreline protection regulations. Although Commissioner Todd Tondee expressed a willingness to make more aggressive changes, the Commissioners voted unanimously to make “Band-Aid” styled changes to the law rather than major transplant surgery.

KEA had been concerned that the draft changes to the County’s “Site Disturbance Ordinance” which governs development activities near waterways, proposed a sweeping exemption for activities “of such size, scale, regional economic benefit and/or nature that allowing the work to proceed is found to be in the best interests of the public.” The abject subjectivity of the exemption would have created a decision-making nightmare for the County as any large project could have been able to apply under the vaguely worded exemption. Not to mention that these potentially-huge projects would be allowed to proceed within the most important buffer strips around our waterways without much in the way of regulation and permitting. Currently, development activities within very narrow stream and shoreline buffers are highly restricted.

Commissioners Dan Green and Jai Nelson stated that they were unwilling to go that far at this point. Both Green and Nelson declared that they were not willing to create a broad new exemption now, while the development code rewrite is in the works. Green signaled he was even unwilling to give a narrower exemption to only the County’s own projects, saying that if private citizens are not granted a loophole, then the County shouldn’t get one either.

The Commissioners all agreed, however, to make narrower “Band-Aid” changes. It will now be easier for landowners to use mechanical equipment and to work in the narrow shoreline buffer strips when necessary to repair or address erosion, soil instability, or stream bank stabilization. This new flexibility should actually make it easier to fix, or maybe even prevent, problems with properties that would otherwise threaten water quality.

All in all, very good news from the County this morning.

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On Friday, Earth Day, friends and members of Kootenai Environmental Alliance will be celebrating at our first annual, and SOLD OUTEarth Gala at the Hayden Lake Country Club.  Not just celebrating the Earth, we will also be celebrating some great citizens who help us protect what makes North Idaho a wonderful place to live and work and play. Here is the second of two posts on our awardees.

KEA's Korrine Kreilkamp at Roots meeting at Art Spirit Gallery, photo by KEA BlackberryCam

As one of our Board members put it last month, “if Korrine Kreilkamp isn’t honored with an award this year, there’s something terribly wrong.”  The Board member is right, and nothing is wrong, Korrine Kreilkamp is being honored with our first “Young Environmentalist” award for her amazing work on KEA’s Community Roots program. Started in 2007, Roots has grown into a dynamic and innovative local food movement. First, in 2007, Korrine organized the Roots Local Food Share, assisting local backyard gardeners and small farmers donate fresh produce to local food assistance facilities. Then, Korrine was instrumental in the partnership at Shared Harvest to create Coeur d’Alene’s first community garden — with a portion of the garden and a portion of the harvest going to the Community Roots local food share effort. And now, Korrine is coordinating the second growing season at Roots CSA in Dalton Gardens, the region’s first and only charitable CSA.  She’s done the fundraising, the outreach, the volunteer recruitment, and she’s turned more than a few shovelfuls of dirt. We’re pleased and proud she’s working with us at KEA.

The Art Spirit Gallery

Also, for the first time, we are presenting a Business Award for their commitment to the environment, the community and to KEA. And our first award winner, the Art Spirit Gallery, deserves the recognition. An early sponsor of our now-famous Junk2Funk fall fashion event, Art Spirit helped foster a connection between the arts community and the conservation community that will make both communities stronger.

Steve Gibbs

Always and enthusiastically supportive of our efforts — in ways large and small — Art Spirit Gallery and proprietor Steve Gibbs are generous in their time, their donations, and their gorgeous gallery setting. We’re pleased to honor the excellent Art Spirit Gallery for their excellent support.


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On Friday, Earth Day, friends and members of Kootenai Environmental Alliance will be celebrating at our first annual Earth Gala at the Hayden Lake Country Club.  Not just celebrating the Earth, we will also be celebrating some great citizens who help us protect what makes North Idaho a wonderful place to live and work and play. Here is the first of two posts on our awardees.

Scott Reed and Art Manley

Since 1994. KEA has awarded the Art Manley Environmentalist Award to someone for sustained efforts in furtherance of our mission: “to conserve, protect and restore the environment in North Idaho with a particular emphasis on the Coeur d’Alene basin.” Named for our founder, former state senator and dedicated conservationist Art Manley, the award this year goes to Julie Dalsaso. An all-star volunteer, Julie is positively dedicated to the Coeur d’Alene basin and working on its many complicated environmental problems.

Julie Dalsaso

There is not a governmental agency in Idaho that hasn’t receive a letter from her or heard from her at a hearing. Julie is passionate about protecting water quality in our lakes, protecting our shorelines from contamination, and protecting waterways like Cougar Bay for quiet recreation. Her hard work is tenacious and her commitment is extraordinary.

Also this year, we are inaugurating a new award, named for Scott and Mary Lou Reed, also founding members of our organization. The Reeds – Scott, a universally well-respected lawyer in Coeur d’Alene, Mary Lou a former State Senator and all-purpose community activist (both winners of the Art Manley Award, by the way) – are recognized for their principled defense of our environment and our community through action.

Pter Grubb

So it is appropriate that the first Reed award goes to Peter Grubb, owner and operator of ROW Adventures in Coeur d’Alene. Peter has always been committed to environmental causes, is involved with a number of Idaho conservation efforts and organizations, and he has been very active locally. Peter and ROW joined the KEA effort to protect Cougar Bay for quiet recreation – and demonstrating the value of the Bay with kayak tours. But Peter was also a leading plaintiff in the court battle with Idaho Department of Transportation over the megaloads that are clogging the Lochsa-Clearwater Wild and Scenic River corridor. Peter’s willingness to stand up to the oil giants was inspiring, but also true to his nature.

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Interns Wanted

It is almost the summer intern season, and we’re looking for a few good ones to help us out this year.

More specifically, we are looking for motivated, reliable, and energetic summer interns who would like to gain hands-on experience with community outreach, marketing, non-profit events, and conservation research and advocacy. The internships would be unpaid, but we will provide a great summer experience, a great working environment, and flexible part-time or full-time hours. No experience necessary, but good writing and communication skills are certainly preferred, some college preferred but not necessary, and a strong commitment to our environmental mission is essential. If you are looking to get involved in an environmental non-profit, gain valuable experience, and give back to the community, we want to hear from you.

How to Apply: send a letter of interest and resume to KEA@kealliance.org by May 15.

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The estimated costs for McEuen Park were released this morning and, not surprisingly, a huge hunk of the costs for the park are in the parking facility. We still think this is both unfortunate and unnecessary. The total McEuen project costs, according to the released estimates (pdf), range from $23.8 million to $28.0 million.

Although drowned out by noisier complaints about the boat launch (and maybe to a lesser extent Tubbs Hill), the design of the Front Avenue parking facility remains a big gripe of ours. It provides an oversupply of parking, in the wrong location, and in a manner that physically and visually separates downtown from the park and lakefront.  Now that the cost figures have been released, the problems are even more clear.

Team McEuen estimates Front Avenue parking to cost from $7.0 million to $8.3 million and other Front Avenue improvements to cost from $1.2 million to $1.4 million. In other words, Front Avenue and its parking consumes about one third of the cost of the entire project. Moreover, these costs do not include a second below-street  “Centennial Level” of parking, which has been shown on previous Team McEuen illustrations (as shown above). This newly “alternate” lowest level of parking would add another $5.5 million to $6.5 million.

A better, cheaper, and more functional location for downtown and McEuen parking is not under Front Avenue, but on vacant and underutilized properties north of Sherman. Construction and design costs are likely to be much lower, and the more central location would be much better for the future economic development purposes of downtown. We think the investment in improvements to McEuen Park are worth doing, but only if the investments are in the park itself, not a parking facility.

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Idaho and Montana wolves have had a pretty tough week. First, the wolf-panicked Idaho legislature authorized the Governor to take “disaster emergency” actions.  Then, the wolves were a subject of one of the few “policy riders” to survive the government shutdown budget brinksmanship. And on Saturday, even though it may not matter anymore, Judge Malloy in Montana tossed the proposed settlement of the continuing litigation over delisting the wolves from Endangered Species Act protections in the Northern Rockies.

What does it all mean? It’s maybe too early to say, but odds on a wolf hunt this fall are certainly not as long as they were a couple of days ago.

Here’s some of what we’ve been reading about it all:

Idaho legislature passes “wolf disaster emergency” legislation, making westerners look like wimps — Idaho Mountain Express

An editorial about the legislature’s not-exactly-scientific approach to wolves  — Idaho Statesman

Judge Malloy declines to accept the proposed settlement. — Idaho Statesman

The actual Malloy opinion, linked here,  is well-written and fascinating reading. (All the legal arguments, from all the parties, are linked here.)  — via Wildlife News

All that work by Judge Malloy may soon be moot.  The wolf rider is still attached to the federal budget resolution.  — Spokesman Review

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From KEA’s conservation advocate Adrienne Cronebaugh:

Last summer, Idaho Department of Lands granted Kootenai County an encroachment permit to install mooring buoys inside Cougar Bay and no-wake zone buoys at the mouth of the bay. The installation of those mooring buoys had been of great concern to the residents of Cougar Bay as well as the many individuals in the community that visit the bay for quiet recreation and wildlife viewing.

After listening to community concerns, Kootenai County Parks and Waterways agreed not to install mooring buoys in Cougar Bay and instead will begin looking for a more appropriate mooring location that can better serve the needs of the motorized boater. Meanwhile, Parks and Waterways will install the less controversial buoys to delineate the no-wake zone at the beginning of the Summer 2011 boating season.

Parks and Waterways Director Nick Snyder explained that, “The buoys are needed to caution motorized boaters, and to better define the line so that it can be legally enforced.” In support of Parks and Waterways, and to help protect the quiet and non-motorized recreation and wildlife values in the Bay, we’ve agreed to help raise a portion of the funds to install the no-wake zone buoys. (Please contact the office or click on the donate button below to contribute to this effort!)

Meanwhile, as for the pilings in Cougar Bay, it seems they will remain for now.

Back in October, the Cougar Bay Osprey Association had filed suit to force Idaho Department of Lands to accept their application for a permit to protect the pilings. IDL, meanwhile, had transferred the responsibility for the pilings to Kootenai County. However, recently, the Association settled the lawsuit so that IDL would, if necessary, take the Osprey Association application.

At this point, with Parks and Waterways on board, it looks as if it may be possible to protect the existing pilings without more hearings. We are currently working with Parks and Waterways and the Osprey Association to finalize the details on just how the preserved pilings will be maintained. We are also hoping to help Parks and Waterways raise grant money and in-kind donations for dealing with any hazard pilings and for future piling protection efforts.

We’re pleased that Parks and Waterways listened and responded to our concerns. Indeed, special thanks should go to Director Nick Snyder for working through the details with us. We look forward to future collaboration with both Kootenai County and Idaho Department of Lands in preserving Cougar Bay for wildlife habitat and quiet recreation.

Mostly, though, thanks to all of you that attended hearings, came to meetings, contributed money, wrote letters, and sent emails.  Together we do make a difference! Stay tuned for details on a celebration this summer.

 

 

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After hearing testimony on proposed amendments to the County’s site disturbance ordinance, the Kootenai County Commissioners put off a decision until they can reconvene on April 28th to deliberate further. The proposal, which purports to fix some flaws in the law, also creates a huge loophole in the regulations that govern shoreline development and construction activities. Of the dozen or so witnesses heard by the Commissioners, only one spoke in favor of the amendments.

All of the commissioners agreed that the ordinance needs some fixing, but they seemed to differ in the extent of the fixes they were willing to entertain at this point. On the one hand, Commissioner Jai Nelson agreed that the ordinance needed some fixing, but had serious reservations about the inherent subjectivity that would be built in to the new language. She noted that other shoreline protection codes elsewhere in the country are more protective, more flexible and can be more objectively applied. She indicated that on this ordinance, she’d prefer to defer to the “creative potential” of the new code-writing consultants just hired by the County to overhaul zoning and development codes. On the other hand, Commissioner Todd Tondee said he was convinced there was an interim need for a broad exception for larger development projects, and he was untroubled by the subjective decision-making the amendments would require until the new codes come on line. Commissioner Green signaled that he was “philosophically against Band-Aid approache[s]” to ordinances at this point, but he was also convinced that some immediate fixes were necessary, and he was worried that worried that the broad loophole exemption might be too subjective and maybe “more radical than I’m prepared to pursue at this time.”

In the end, the Commissioners decided they just needed more time to more carefully consider the proposal, more carefully consider the testimony, and essentially, decide how much of a Band-Aid to apply. Commissioner Nelson said that she didn’t want to be simply “shooting an arrow and then drawing a bull’s-eye around where it lands.”

 

 

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In our line of work, we often need to remind ourselves that not everyone knows what we’re talking about. When we advocate for cleanup of the Coeur d’Alene basin, for example, we sometimes forget that not everyone knows that it’s a big mess.

Recently, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and Idaho’s DEQ did a survey of what people know – and don’t know – about the Lake and its environmental problems. At noon on Thursday at the Iron Horse, Rebecca Stevens from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and Becki Witherow from DEQ will discuss the study.

We’ve seen a preview of presentation, and the results are fascinating. Most area residents know that the lake is indeed cleaner than it was in the 70s, but few understood that mining wastes remain a problem and few knew that metals are still entering the lake. Residents were generally aware of bank erosion problems from boat wakes, and they were generally aware that growth and development are related to water quality. But there was limited understanding in the general public about the Lake Management Plan and the details of the Coeur d’Alene basin cleanup. There was very little understanding of the roles of different agencies involved in the Lake’s water quality efforts. A good percentage, though, thought mandatory measures were appropriate to protect water quality.

So, in other words, our work is still cut out for us.

 

 

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