Posts Tagged ‘Fernan Lake’

Although construction on the Fernan Road reconstruction project was completed this past fall, the paperwork was wrapped up just recently.  Recall that KEA and Idaho Conservation League had threatened a Clean Water Act lawsuit regarding numerous violations at the construction site.  An agreement was finalized recently with the Federal Highway Administration, the agency responsible for the project, to resolve the claims.

Fernan Violation -- photo by KEA BlackberryCam

At KEA, we were tipped off to problems at the site by members and neighbors living along Fernan Lake. KEA and ICL performed our own inspections at least five times in 2009 which indicated potential violations of the project’s construction permit. In July 2009, Idaho DEQ inspected the site and issued a warning letter to FHWA regarding violations of water quality standards for turbidity.

As a result of direct negotiations between our attorneys at Gonzaga Environmental Law Clinic and the Federal Highway Administration, major improvements to the project were installed in 2010 to prevent massive erosion and sediment problems our investigation had identified. At ICL and KEA’s request, FHWA hired a certified erosion control specialist to review and improve erosion controls at the site. FHWA implemented best management practices, and trained their contractors and personnel on monitoring and reporting practices and preventing discharges. FHWA also updated its stormwater prevention plan to tighten controls on discharges.

By all accounts, the project in 2010 was greatly improved over the project in 2009. Thanks to our lawyers and our erosion expert and our environmental colleagues. We are pleased to have made a difference.



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The Environmental Law Clinic at Gonzaga’s Law School represents Kootenai Environmental Alliance on Clean Water Act issues — currently including our efforts to clean up after the mess made by the Fernan Lake road project, and our efforts on behalf of the Spokane River.  While this is a relatively new development for KEA, and while this clinic is a new incarnation at Gonzaga Law, environmental law clinics around the country are doing important work for small environmental groups like ours.  

 Recently, a number of law clinics have come under attack for their work, including teh nationally ranked clinic  at the University of Maryland, my law school alma mater.  Legislators in Maryland went after the Maryland Law School’s budget after a large poultry producer complained about the Clinic’s Clean Water Act enforcement case against the producer and its contract farmer for polluting the Chesapeake Bay.  After a national outcry, the law school’s budget was restored, but the Environmental Law Clinic will be required to file a report to the legislature regarding its clients and cases.

 Environmental law is a complex field, and having firsthand clinical experience is important legal training for increasingly specialized lawyers-to-be.  But it is also extraordinarily valuable to groups like KEA. We wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford the legal fees that can accrue in complex environmental cases, and we wouldn’t otherwise have access to young, bright, and motivated law students to work on our behalf on such complex matters.  As we try to protect water quality in North Idaho, we’re glad to have Gonzaga’s clinic on our side.

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This posting courtesy of KEA staffer Julie Vanmiddlesworth:

 The 9th annual Lakes Conference held last Saturday at Spokane Community College revealed that many of Idaho and Washington’s lakes are plagued by common problems. Invasive species and high nutrient levels are degrading the waters of many of our beloved lakes.

 Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper advocated for a wider approach to Milfoil control in Lake Pend Oreille, which has been limited mainly to the application of herbicides. Considering the limited success of herbicide application in Liberty Lake and Lake Pend Oreille, it seems that innovative, dynamic solutions such as altering lake levels to expose infested areas during cold winter months, hand harvesting, bottom barriers, nutrient reduction and isolated mass removal should play a larger role in the fight to control milfoil.

 Hayden Lake is also in deep trouble. “The Hayden lake Project”, a documentary video produced by United Citizens for Responsible Growth, Inc. documents the impacts from elevated phosphorous levels in the Lake. Logging, development, unmaintained septic systems, overuse of our water resources, motorized boat traffic, ashes from campfires and forest fires, dishwashing detergent and fertilizer all contribute to the phosphorous load. Algae blooms, swimmer’s itch and degraded fisheries are a result. The documentary was well received, although many of the conference participants know these problems all too well.

 Can we refine our choices and consume less? Less land, less timber, purchase phosphate-free dishwashing detergent and fertilizer…. we may end up with pea green soup rather than clear, blue lakes if we do not.

 “The Hayden Lake Project” will be screened this Thursday at the regular noon meeting at the Iron Horse. DVDs can be purchased at the Kootenai Environmental Alliance office for a mere $15.00.

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