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Posts Tagged ‘Coeur d'Alene Lake’

I felt bad for the boy scout dutifully selling popcorn at the Spokane Albertsons Saturday. It’s a tough job. He was sitting there with his father and what looked like his younger sister raising money for the scouts to go to camp. They were probably there for hours. Although, I’m sure the scout’s troop would put the hard-earned fundraising dollars to good use, I’m less sure about local scout leadership.

An offer by Discovery Land to swap the Boy Scout’s venerable Camp Easton on the eastern shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene for a property on the west shore at Windy Bay isn’t going so well. On the one hand, there’s a lawsuit claiming that disposal of the Camp Easton property would violate the original deeds donating the property to the Boy Scouts. On the other hand there’s a lawsuit against Discovery for failing to close the deal on the property it had intended to swap.

With lawsuits proliferating, it isn’t clear why the scout council just simply reject the wildly unpopular idea at this point. Inland Northwest Council Executive Tim McCandless was recently quoted, “There is no intention to make any decision until the Boy Scout board has what they feel is full information on all aspects of the proposal,”  What are they waiting for?

 

 

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Our many friends and neighbors on the east side of Coeur d’Alene Lake alerted us to the disturbing report that the venerable Camp Easton, a Boy Scout Camp for some 90 years, is in the process of being sold to a developer. Indeed, an offer from Discovery Land Company exists for the 383 acre camp, along with a “significant proposal that would fully fund building a brand new Boy Scout camp on a terrific piece of property on Lake Coeur d’Alene.” Discovery is the company behind the Gozzer developments.

It is unclear what the developer plans for the incredible lakefront property, but we’re pretty sure it doesn’t involve scouting. Local scout leaders are opposed to the deal. Local scout alumni are opposed to the deal. And local residents are opposed to the deal. But the lure of big money in a tough economic environment might be too attractive for the local Boy Scout administration.

This asset, we think, is far too valuable to liquidate. The location is one that, we think, will be difficult to duplicate. Turning the keys to the camp over to a developer would be tragic.  Consider contacting the Inland Northwest Council of the Boy Scouts of America with your concerns.

Check out this Boy Scout promo video about Camp Easton.

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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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Announced Monday and likely to be approved by a federal court in the next month or two, Hecla Mining and the U.S. EPA have settled longstanding Superfund litigation. The settlement establishes Hecla’s contribution toward the costs of the Coeur d’Alene basin minewaste cleanup. According to news reports, Hecla has agreed to pay some $263 million toward the cleanup which is estimated to ultimately cost more than $2 billion.

Although the accounting and apportionment of the funds will be complex, Hecla’s settlement will essentially be added to previous settlements – particularly the ASARCO settlement for some $452 million announced last year – to fund the bulk of the outstanding cleanup effort from this point forward.

With each flood season, historic mine wastes continue to contaminate some 160 miles of shoreline and riverbank in the Coeur d’Alene basin with heavy metal pollution. As a result, the basin constitutes one of the largest and most expensive Superfund cleanups in the U.S. The metals, which are at levels above federal health-based cleanup standards, are a danger to both humans who live and play in the region, as well as fish and wildlife that live there. For example, annually, some 150 tundra swans die from lead poisoning related causes during their migration stopover.

Prior to this settlement, Hecla had been a fierce opponent to EPA’s plans for a comprehensive cleanup plan for the upper Coeur d’Alene basin. Those plans, rolled out to the public last summer, are expected to be finalized soon. Now that Hecla has settled its obligations to the cleanup, and has reportedly achieved some level of protection for its ongoing mining operations, its vocal opposition to the cleanup should quiet.

Indeed, with the litigation largely resolved, the financing largely settled, and with the cleanup plans for the upper basin to be approved soon, the Coeur d’Alene basin cleanup may be entering a new era. Collaboration and cooperation should be much more prevalent as the cleanup continues from the upper reaches of the Coeur d’Alene basin down to the Coeur d’Alene Lake.

In fact, planning for the lower basin cleanup is just now getting underway. Along those lines, a more formal collaborative effort is in the early stages of being formed to engage stakeholders in designing the lower basin cleanup work. The cleanup of the waterways and shorelines between Cataldo and Harrison will be complex and expensive. Indeed, some approaches could still be quite controversial. However, without the specter of ongoing litigation, the cleanup should proceed less acrimoniously. We certainly look forward to getting on with it.

 

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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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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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Late last week, we were forwarded an email from Greg Clark with the U.S. Geological Survey, whose team did some water monitoring during the flood event January 18th of this year. The monitoring in Harrison, where the Coeur d’Alene River flows into Coeur d’Alene Lake, shows that the conveyor belt of contamination from the upper basin to the lower basin was particularly bad during the flood this year.

According to Clark’s email, a measurement of the concentration of lead in the water at Harrison was the second highest ever recorded, the highest being a major flood in 1996. Also, the sample had the highest concentration of zinc and highest concentration of cadmium in more than 20 years. Clark said, “Based on these numbers, the load of lead delivered to the lake on January 18 alone was about 160 metric tons, or about 75% of the mean annual load of lead delivered to the lake during 2004 through 2009.” (Our emphasis.) However, Clark noted that sampling at the Lake’s outlet on January 20 was low, indicating that most of the lead settled to the lake bottom.

More disturbingly, however, is the measurement of flooding right before the peak. According to Clark, the river flow at Cataldo was higher than what was measured at the peak of the 2008 flood, but river the flow at Harrison was quite a bit lower. Clark says that this flow data indicates that a great deal of the water — and its accompanying sediment and metal contamination — was dumped into the lateral lakes along the lower basin. As Clark somewhat understated it in the email: “Obviously not good news as far as wildlife is concerned.”

Aerial photo of Coeur d'Alene River flooding at Harrison in 2008

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