On the lake: a column about lake issues by the Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper

Meet the new associate director

By Travis Dickson
Reader Contributor

Hello Sandpoint! My name is Travis Dickson and I am proud to be the new associate director with Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper. 

LPO Waterkeeper Associate director Travis Dickson takes water quality samples. Courtesy photo.

Right now you may be asking yourself, what is a waterkeeper? Waterkeepers throughout the world are tasked with the duties of collecting water samples, testing them for signs of pollution and making the results available to the public. Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper also organizes educational events and holds an annual Water Summit to celebrate our lake. Our organization aims to keep Lake Pend Oreille drinkable, fishable and swimmable for future generations through education, community engagement and advocacy.

Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper is more than10 years old and, for the past eight years, we have been conducting our Water Quality Monitoring Program. A colossal amount of work has been done through those years and an extensive dataset has been produced. With gratitude and respect, I wish to thank all past LPOW workers and volunteers for their achievements in developing this program. 

The amount of time and effort that has been put into this organization is nothing short of admirable. The information collected from this program not only helps to better understand the health of our lake, but assists regulatory authorities that hold polluters accountable. 

I have inherited a very robust dataset produced from LPOW’s eight years of monitoring. The data consists of measurements for 11 variables from 15 locations around the lake. These measurements give us an idea of how “clean” our lake is. I’d like to invite you to visit our website to explore the new data visualization charts that make it easy and fun to explore the “cleanliness” of your favorite swimming holes in Lake Pend Oreille.

I was raised in Bonner County, went to Sagle Elementary School and graduated from Sandpoint High School. Sandpoint is my home and over the years I have developed a deep respect and love for Lake Pend Oreille. 

Following my graduation from SHS in 1998, I left town in search of an education in the environmental sciences. After receiving bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees — and a quick stint working for a few environmental consulting firms — I moved back to Sandpoint in 2014. I have been a volunteer with LPOW ever since.

I am a passionate environmentalist who values human health. Guided by the age-old-adage “you are what you eat, drink and breathe,” I believe that to be fit and healthy you need a healthy source of food, water and air. I believe that the best way to protect our own health is to protect our environment. I am committed to protecting the health of this community, by first understanding the threats to the ecosystem and then advocating for the preservation of our greatest local resource: Lake Pend Oreille.

You may be asking yourself, how can I help LPOW’s initiative? We are a non-profit organization and, of course, open to your donations. After all, the more funds we have, the more testing we can do for the community. But even more valuable are contributions of your time and expertise. 

Our door is always open and we are located in suite 212 of the Cedar Street Bridge.

Currently we are gearing up for this season’s water quality monitoring program. Volunteers are eager and ready for our upcoming orientations, to be held on Thursday, June 4 and Wednesday, June 10 at the City Beach Pavilion. Our first sample date for the season is scheduled for Tuesday, June 16. Please contact us with questions you have regarding the upcoming sampling season. 

Again: Thank you to all our volunteers. This is truly a citizen’s science program for the people and by-the-people.

Please visit our website (lakependoreillewaterkeeper.org), which includes news and events happening around the community. We hope you’ll find this information helpful.

I thank you all for your support. I look forward to contributing to the preservation of our beautiful lake.

Travis Dickson is associate director of the Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper.

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