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Archive for the ‘Save Cougar Bay’ Category

BLM is sponsoring a public meeting tonight on a proposed trail for Cougar Bay. The trail will be located in a portion of the public preserve known as the John C. Pointner Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary. The Nature Conservancy and BLM are co-managing Cougar Bay lands for hiking, recreation and wildlife habitat. There are a number of improvements in the works, but for this meeting, the BLM and The Nature Conservancy propose to construct a 0.7-mile trail that would follow the banks of Cougar Bay. We’re glad to see this effort move forward – better access to a great local jewel seems like a great idea.

 

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This morning, Kootenai County Department of Parks and Waterways Director Nick Snyder forwarded a couple of photos of the 13 brand new “No Wake Zone” buoys just installed across the mouth of Cougar Bay last week. Snyder added:

“In the next two weeks, we will have LED navigational lights affixed to the buoys. The buoys will help recreational boaters and marine law enforcement identify the line of navigability, as well as protect natural resources within Cougar Bay.”  

Meanwhile, we hear that the formal agreement between the Cougar Bay Osprey Protective Association and Kootenai County regarding the pilings in Cougar Bay is nearing final approval. (More about this VERY soon, we think.)

The installation of the buoys and the formal agreement will represent the culmination of a great deal of hard work to Save Cougar Bay as the last quiet bay on Coeur d’Alene Lake. The preservation of the pilings, the installation of the no wake zone buoys, and the withdrawal of a proposal for mooring buoys in Cougar Bay will all serve to protect the sensitive bay for wildlife and quiet recreation for the foreseeable future.

Our thanks go out to Nick Snyder and his Department: Scott Reed, Sue Flamia and the Osprey Protective Association; and Kootenai County Commissioner Jai Nelson, who took a special interest in pushing for a resolution. Our thanks also go out to our friends and members whose attention and commitment to Cougar Bay made the agreements possible.

Now that summer is here and the buoys are installed – get out and enjoy Cougar Bay!

 

 

 

 

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We got an email a couple of weeks ago from a resident in Post Falls concerned about a pair of suddenly homeless and increasingly desperate osprey. As the all-purpose conservation organization in North Idaho, and friend to animals big and small, could we help?

We set out on twitter (and the telephone), and according to an Avista representative, it seems this particular migrating osprey pair had come into their homelessness through some unfortunate housing choices. The pair had originally settled, like many osprey in our area, on a long-abandoned piling in the Spokane River.  However, almost all of the river pilings were removed this past year.

Forced to find a new home near the water, the pair of osprey chose the top of an Avista power pole along Spokane Street. Here’s what our correspondent said about the sad scene:

Last Thursday, unfortunately, the pole caught fire because of the nest filling with water then arcing across the wires.  The top of the pole broke off sending the nest to the ground.  Luckily, the pair had just returned so there were no eggs in the nest.  The pair also survived.  Avista fixed the pole but has not placed a new platform on the pole.  The osprey pair are still here.  She sits on the pole and he circles above. 

Avista confirmed to us that the pole had a nest box, but the osprey’s poor housekeeping habits turned the nest into a fire hazard – causing a fire on the pole. Twice.  In fact, the second fire caused a brief power outage for much of Post Falls. This sort of osprey-related pole fire is not unheard of, but nevertheless, Avista decided that this particular pair could no longer nest on this particular pole.

Still, the nice people at Avista, who do this sort of thing all the time, were perfectly agreeable to replacing the nest on a nearby tree, but they had difficulty gaining approval from a troublesome landowner. Avista also thought another tree, on property owned by the Post Falls Highway District might work, but it had similar access problems.

Well, today we’re pleased that our correspondent has confirmed that a brand new nest is in the Highway District’s tree, and the osprey have taken up residence already:

Good news!

Avista was out on Friday and put a platform on the tree that sits in the Post Falls Highway District’s jurisdiction.  I’m not sure how they accessed it but it’s done and our osprey have already made their home there.  They had been flying around for the last 4 weeks very unhappy about not having a nest in the same area as the previous one.  I don’t know if it is too late now for them to lay eggs and raise chicks but at least they will have a place to return to next year.

So thanks to Avista and our sharp-eyed correspondent, all is well.

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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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We’ve invited Nick Snyder, Director of Kootenai County Parks & Waterways to join us at our regular meeting at the Iron Horse Restaurant (Noon on Thursday, January 6th) to talk about the Spokane River / Cougar Bay piling removal project.

Cougar Bay and Spokane River watchers will have noticed that the pilings along the Spokane River and outside the mouth of Cougar Bay have vanished. This past summer the Idaho Department of Lands granted Kootenai County the authority to remove all hazardous log pilings and booms from the Spokane River and Lake Coeur d’Alene. The County made quick work of removing a lot of pilings this fall. Also, last summer, an encroachment permit was approved by the Department of Lands authorizing Kootenai County Parks and Waterways to install fifteen buoys to designate Cougar Bay as a “no-wake” zone and three mooring buoys within that zone. Meanwhile, a lawsuit brought by the Osprey Association is pending regarding the Department of Lands denial of their permit application to preserve the pilings.

So what’s next?  This meeting, we think, will be a great opportunity to discuss these and other issues relating to Cougar Bay with the person who currently has the power to make things happen. Or make things not happen, as we might prefer.

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Although things have been quiet recently on the Save Cougar Bay battlefront, new shots were fired yesterday by the Cougar Bay Osprey Protective Association, which filed a lawsuit challenging the Idaho Department of Lands’ rejection of their application to protect the pilings and booms in Cougar Bay. Having been rejected twice by the Department, without so much as a hearing, the Osprey Association filed a “Petition for Writ of Mandate” to have the Court order that IDL accept the application and hold a hearing.

A most unlikely pair of attorneys — Scott Reed and John Magnuson, who are usually on the opposite sides of land use and waterways cases — filed the case late Thursday afternoon on behalf of the Osprey Association.

The petition describes the attempts by the Osprey Association to bring their application for a hearing only to be arbitrarily and somewhat absurdly rejected by IDL. The petition says:

The basis for the rejection of the permit application by respondents and their attorney was the determination that only a government agency is empowered to improve waterways for wildlife habitat and other non recreational uses by members of the public. This interpretation would prohibit other non-profit organizations such as the Idaho Nature Conservency, Ducks Unlimited and the Coeur d’Alene Lakeshore Property Owners Association from seeking to improve waterways for navigational, wildlife habitat or other recreational uses …

The afore-described duties [to accept the application and hold a hearing] incumbent upon [IDL] constitute plain official duties and require no exercise of discretion. [IDL] had no legal right to reject the non-commercial encroachment permit application

The petition points out that “Cougar Bay represents only 1.3 percent (417 surface acres) of the lake where kayaks and smaller water craft can safely enjoy the quiet scenery without risk of being swamped or overrun by larger faster water craft.”

The petition goes into some detail concerning the benefits to recreation and habitat inherent in protecting the pilings and booms. And the petition notes that a great deal of public, private, and non-profit investment has permanently preserved much of the shoreline. The application, the petition says, is consistent with Idaho’s Public Trust Doctrine.

It will be interesting to see what this legal wrinkle does to the recent agreement between Kootenai County and IDL over piling removal.

We remain convinced that Cougar Bay is an extraordinary place, deserving of much more protection than currently exists. The pilings and booms are a remarkable historic and wildlife and recreational resource, but they are, perhaps, the last line of defense. Good luck to the Osprey Association and its lawyers. And stay tuned.

 

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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.

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