By Steve Holt
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, the Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper is not against development or growth per se; however, if you are going to construct a project — especially along the waterfront — it needs to consider all the factors and be performed with the utmost care to protect water quality and wildlife habitat.
Then, every once in a while, there are projects that simply cannot overcome the hurdles and consequences related to either the initial development or the sustained negative effect on the environment and simply should not be allowed to happen, at all.
Unfortunately this is how we see the Trestle Creek Marina project. You simply cannot develop seven homes and park 120-plus boats, with associated boat fuel issues — not to mention car trips, fertilized lawns, etc. — right at the mouth of the most prolific bull trout spawning stream in the Pacific Northwest and not anticipate the negative long-term effects.
Bull trout are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in the lower 48 states and are a barometer for water quality in that they themselves require clean cold water to survive.
This property has changed hands several times with various proposals over the past decade. Unfortunately, many of the issues with the process I feel lie with the agencies that we so often look to protect the environment, and us, form poorly conceived projects.
The Environmental Protection Agency, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Idaho Department of Lands, Bonner County, etc. — not one of these agencies, with the possible exception of Bonner County, was in full support of the project as submitted and all of them, including another dozen or so entities and organizations, all expressed multiple concerns.
Unfortunately, as is so often the case, each permitting agency has its boxes to check, and with a best management practice here and a mitigation measure there, you’ve complied and have acquired a permit.
In the case of Trestle Creek, you can’t excavate 14,000 cubic yards of material from the lake, reconstruct the entire shoreline, remove an entire branch of the creek (north branch) and mitigate your way out of it. This project will do irreparable harm, and there are simply no best management practices available to perform the miracle.
This is a special place. Countless people visit Trestle Creek each year, including many children who love to watch the spawning kokanee and bull trout. There is an active eagles nest and a recently constructed beaver dam on the island slated to be removed — all will be gone. This is prime wildlife habitat.
A project of this magnitude, which poses multiple threats to water quality and wildlife, should be left for another location. This property should be held in trust for the benefit of fish, wildlife and the public, in perpetuity. Whether it’s an outright purchase from the developer or a land swap with agencies owning other lakefront property, we should be focusing on making that happen instead of trying to mitigate our way through an impossible task.
The Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper, Idaho Conservation League and Center for Biological Diversity are presenting on the topic of the Trestle Creek Marina project at the next Lakes Commission meeting, scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 6 at 10 a.m. in the West Bonner Library (118 Main St. in Priest River). The meeting will also be streamed on Zoom, with the link made available at LPOW.org and facebook.com/LakePendOreilleWaterkeeper.
This is an extremely complicated project and process, and we will do our best to boil it down, giving a historical review as well as where we are today. If you have any questions or would like to discuss the matter prior to the meeting, please feel free to contact our office at any time (334 N. First Ave., Ste. 212, 208-597-7188). Hope to see you there.
Steve Holt is executive director of the Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper.
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