By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Members of the Bonner County Zoning Commission unanimously approved a conditional use permit July 21 for a wastewater treatment facility at the Camp Bay development.
The facility, situated on about 40 of the property’s 427 acres and meant to serve 21 of the 37 proposed residential lots, would rely on individual septic systems for initial treatment, as well as a secondary treatment area and large soil absorption system — or drainfield — to process waste from the 24 planned homes on the lots.
The facility will consist of mostly subsurface components and a small building, and was designed by Coeur d’Alene company J-U-B Engineers for developers M3 ID Camp Bay, LLC.
Brad Marshall of J-U-B Engineers, serving as the representative on the application, told the commission that knowing there are “large lots” out at Camp Bay is “a critical point of the project.”
“We have the ability to create individual on-site [wastewater treatment] systems on each and every lot within that project,” he said. “We have the appropriate soils, the appropriate sized lot. … But we’re choosing to develop, quite frankly, a state-of-the-art package treatment plant that produces a better discharge and is, quite frankly, better for the county, the environment and the lake.”
He said that “substandard systems” that served cabins at Camp Bay have been removed, and that the new community system will not cause visual or noise impacts. “Mild odors” might be possible “within the immediate area of the site,” Marshall said.
“Given the characteristics of this project, a lot of the residents will be seasonal,” he said. “They will not be there, likely, in the winter. … With that said, we don’t expect to see a lot of flow. We have to design for year-round flow, but in reality, our flows will likely be very minimal. We may have some peaks around the holidays, on July 4 for example, but realistically, we’re designing for a … worst case scenario, but our flows will likely be dramatically lower.”
While the development at Camp Bay has been controversial — stemming first from land ownership conflicts between family members and more recently due to a question of public lake access at the end of Camp Bay Road — members of the public at the July 21 CUP hearing were urged to keep their comments related to the wastewater treatment facility.
Most of them did, with several expressing concerns about comments the county received from Panhandle Health District, which stated that despite M3 reporting “no lakes, streams, rivers or other bodies of water on the site,” PHD had observed “numerous water bodies (creeks, streams, drainages, swales, etc.) on the site” during field work in the spring.
While county planning staff presented a map from the U.S. Geological Survey showing only a small stream on the western side of the 40 affected acres, Idaho Conservation League Lakes Conservation Associate Jennifer Ekstrom urged the board to reconsider the facts.
“I would strongly suggest that this commission would give greater weight to our local agency with boots on the ground,” she said.
Kathryn Kolberg, a specialist in environmental health at PHD’s Sandpoint office, also testified to the presence of surface water at Camp Bay.
“We find water all around the county that is not on certain USGS maps,” she said. “PHD has also not yet approved this plan. We have reviewed it and we have passed it on to [the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality] to expedite their ability to review it from the engineering aspect, but Panhandle Health needs some additional information in order to assess the system components related to the surface water we observed.”
Marshall rebutted, stating that his client’s application referred only to the area on which the wastewater treatment facility would be built.
“In our application, we stated that there is no water on the treatment site, because there isn’t,” he said, adding later: “Holistically, across the project, 427 acres, like every other valley draw hillside in the county or North Idaho, there are some intermittent streams. There are some wetlands.”
Bonner County Planning staff recommended approval of M3’s CUP application with several conditions, including two that were added specifically in response to concerns about the fact that local and state agencies had yet to sign off on the design of the facility. According to those conditions, M3 must obtain final approval from both PHD and DEQ, as well as implement a sewage management agreement, before being issued the CUP.
“We agree with those conditions of approval,” Marshall said. “They’re appropriate, and they’re logical.”
The Zoning Commission followed staff’s recommendation and approved the CUP with a unanimous vote.
“There’s a lot of emotion around this particular project, but we are here tonight to look at a specific thing as it pertains to this, and I, for one, am sticking very closely to staying inside that,” said Zoning Commissioner Kristina Kingsland.
To learn more about the project as well as other files currently before Bonner County, go to bonnercountyid.gov/departments/planning/current-projects.
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