Groups urge reconsideration of Trestle Creek development

The 105-slip marina and residential project received unanimous BOCC approval Jan. 13

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

A handful of local conservation groups are joining forces to push back against a marina development planned for the Trestle Creek area of Hope, arguing that impacts on threatened bull trout were not adequately considered during the permitting process. Groups and individuals bringing the motion include Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper, Idaho Conservation League, Panhandle Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and the Clark Fork Coalition.

The Idaho Club North Lake project, located just north of the Trestle Creek Recreation Area managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is defined by Bonner County planning staff as a “large-scale mixed use planned unit development.” The proposed project — brought by applicant Valiant Idaho, LLC — would feature single-family homes; boat storage, mooring and repair; and a 5,000-square-foot pavilion on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille, where the North Fork of Trestle Creek meets the lake.

A map indicating where the proposed Idaho Club North Lake project would be located in Hope. Courtesy image.

The Board of Bonner County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the application for the project on Jan. 13, after the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval in December. Opponents filed the motion to reconsider two weeks after the BOCC’s decision.

According to a March 9 media release from the groups bringing the motion, “The U.S. Army Corps and Idaho Department of Lands permits for the marina were initially issued 12 years ago, and the reconsideration argues that conditions have since changed, calling for a new consultation with [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services]. After permits for the wetland fill expired, they were renewed without the consultation.”

The groups are “concerned that the disturbance caused by the development, plus the 12 variances to county code — including reducing the rear lot line and wetland setbacks to [zero feet] and doubling the impervious surfaces such as asphalt and roofs to 70% — will contribute to pollutant-riddled stormwater runoff that will damage water quality and result in negative impacts to natural resources.”

The groups also reiterated comments from Idaho Fish and Game sent to the county in December, which noted that, “Trestle Creek supports a very high density of spawning bull trout relative to other bull trout spawning streams in their range across the northern Rockies” — highlighting the importance of the habitat to the threatened species.

Those bringing the motion to reconsider also allege that “project approval occurred even though the developer has not obtained a required permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the removal or ‘taking’ of a well-established bald eagle’s nest.”

“This is one of those unfortunate situations in which many of the key agencies and other [non-governmental organizations’] comments have been completely dismissed throughout the process,” said Steve Holt, executive director of the Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper. “This project deserves more public scrutiny because of the potential impact it could have on the treasured natural heritage we all share.”

Limited access to the site for emergency personnel has also been a focal point for critics of the project. The proposed 105-slip marina would be accessed by crossing railroad tracks, and will host 51 vehicle parking spots, seeing as property owners maintain that most visitors will arrive by boat.

“The marina is private, not public,” said Marty Taylor, project planner and representative for the applicant, during the Jan. 13 hearing. “It’s important to recognize that this is not a Sandpoint City Beach situation where you can have quite an impacted facility — pick your weekend, Memorial weekend, Fourth of July weekend. This is a private facility. There are no boat trailers that are going to be parked along the access road, that’s what the boat storage buildings are for. It’s important to distinguish.”

Still, during the hearing, local fire officials remained unconvinced that there will be adequate access for fire vehicles, especially all the way down at the docks.

“I am for responsible development, but what I am seeing here — relative to the marina development — is that we do not have a way to get there,” Sam Owen Fire Co-chief Stu Eigler said, adding that “boats are basically bombs waiting to go off, and when they do, it’s not just one — it goes from one to the other to the other.”

The hearing also saw comments from local agencies and citizens with concerns about wildlife habitat, many echoing the comments from IDFG.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the application for the Idaho Club North Lake planned unit development.

As of March 9, LPOW and associated groups report they have yet to receive a response from Bonner County regarding their motion to reconsider, which was filed Jan. 27.

Planning Director Milton Ollerton told the Reader in an email March 10: “The County is working on a response. The county has 60 days to respond to the reconsideration request. It may take the full 60 days.”

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