The Idaho Club renews push to develop Trestle Creek, threatening imperiled fish

Public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 6

By Jennifer Ekstrom
Reader Contributor

A proposal to build luxury housing and a large private marina at the mouth of Trestle Creek on Lake Pend Oreille poses major threats to bull trout, which are classified as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Trestle Creek is the most important bull trout spawning stream in the Pend Oreille Basin and one of the few places where families can easily observe spawning bull trout and kokanee. The mouth of Trestle Creek is a gorgeous area with important wetlands that are teeming with wildlife. 

The harmful development proposal, put forward by The Idaho Club, aims to remove an island, excavate the lakebed, fill wetlands and waterways, and straighten and harden the shoreline. The development would severely undermine critical spawning habitat for imperiled bull trout. Local community members and fisheries experts have been concerned about the project for years. 

Kokanee spawning in Trestle Creek. Photo by Brad Smith.

Nearly 1,000 community members submitted comments to the Idaho Department of Lands expressing opposition to the proposal. IDL will decide whether to grant The Idaho Club a lakebed encroachment permit, which is required for the construction of the marina. So many people have spoken up that the agency has extended the comment deadline until Friday, Sept. 1 and announced a public hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 6, ensuring everyone’s voice can be heard.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Idaho Department of Water Resources would also need to issue permits before the development can move forward. The Corps is in charge of deciding on the island removal and dredging of the lakebed, as well as filling in areas of the lake and wetlands with rock, dirt and other debris. IDWR is responsible for permitting creek relocations. Neither agency has announced their public comment opportunities.

The Idaho Club has long sought to develop Trestle Creek for its private residents. In October 2022, the Corps suspended a permit it had issued that would have allowed the club to move forward with the development. This permit was canceled in response to litigation filed by the Idaho Conservation League and the Center for Biological Diversity. 

The Idaho Club’s current proposal is similar to past designs and calls for the construction of five single-family luxury estates and 105 fixed-pier docks. The boats accessing this marina would increase the risk of introducing invasive species and would churn up the flowering rush that already exists in the area, causing it to spread. 

The boat propellers would also agitate the sediment on the lakebed, causing more nutrient pollution to mix into the water column. The nutrient pollution feeds the invasive weeds and also increases the risk of toxic algae. 

The areas along the shoreline of Lake Pend Oreille are not currently meeting Clean Water Act standards because there is too much nitrogen and phosphorus in the water. The marina and the residential units would only add to the problem.

Additionally, there is currently no plan for a sewage pumpout station to service the boats, and most of the marina’s 105 proposed docks are large enough to accommodate boats that would likely have toilets and blackwater holding tanks on board. 

There is already a problem with inadequate sewage pumpout stations to service all the boats on Lake Pend Oreille, and this new marina would further stress the other providers. If The Idaho Club were proposing a commercial marina, a sewage pumpout station would be required. Adequate restroom facilities should also be required, to serve the hundreds of Idaho Club residents and guests who will arrive by boat but do not have access to bathrooms in one of the five proposed residences.

The Idaho Club is proposing a community dock rather than a commercial marina, in part because commercial marinas require that 50% of the boat slips be available to the public. The Club wants all of the slips to be allocated to the residents of their private club. 

Another problem with their community dock proposal is that this type of dock system is intended for people who live adjacent to or near each other along the shoreline — but 100 of the slips at Trestle Creek are intended to be used by Idaho Club members who live miles away. 

It would be a dangerous precedent for Lake Pend Oreille if this marina were approved as a community dock. The Idaho Club needs to call it what it is: a commercial marina. 

When deciding whether to grant the permit, IDL must consider if the project is in the public’s interest. Given that the project would only benefit a small number of people — residents and owners of The Idaho Club — this project is not in the public’s best interest. The public would be better served by recovering our endangered bull trout and protecting natural wonders like Trestle Creek for generations to come.

Along with being designated as critical habitat for bull trout by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Trestle Creek provides important habitat for other species including bald eagles, migratory birds, beavers and kokanee salmon. This proposed development would destroy important shoreline vegetation, a beaver dam, nesting trees for bald eagles and osprey, and peaceful recreation opportunities for the public to enjoy. 

The public hearing will be held on Sept. 6 from 5-10 p.m. in the Sandpoint High School auditorium, at 410 S. Division Ave. Residents are encouraged to show up and speak up, and submit written comments by Sept. 1 to ensure they are processed and included in the record prior to the hearing. Find more info at

Jennifer Ekstrom is the North Idaho Lake Conservation associate for the Idaho Conservation League in Sandpoint.

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