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Cougar Bay buoys decided

by Alecia Warren
| June 18, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - They're putting a cap on the buoys.

To the relief of Cougar Bay residents and the rankling of Kootenai County officials, the Idaho Department of Lands has granted a permit for only three of the 12 mooring buoys the county requested for Cougar Bay.

"In my personal opinion, it was a serious mistake on the part of the IDOL," said Jim Aucutt, chairman of the county Parks and Waterways Advisory Board. "There are a lot of downsides."

In the IDOL decision issued last week, the agency still permitted for the installation of all 15 no-wake designation buoys the county requested for Cougar Bay. The equipment will be necessary, according to the county, to maintain the no-wake zone after the removal of the current log pilings that have long kept motor boats away.

"The no-wake designation is needed for safety and to reduce conflicts with other established uses in Cougar Bay," wrote IDOL Hearing Coordinator Eric Wilson in a recommendation to agency Director George Bacon, who followed the recommendation in his decision.

The agency wasn't as supportive of the additional mooring buoys requested.

The hearing coordinator pointed to testimony from a May 6 hearing, where members of the public raised concerns that mooring for motor boats would threaten wildlife and non-motorized boats, increase erosion and possibly create noise and sanitation issues.

"Reducing the number of mooring buoys in Cougar Bay would address most of the remaining concerns and reduce the potential conflicts with other uses in the bay," Wilson wrote.

In his final decision, Bacon wrote that if use of the mooring buoys results in conflicts with conservation or non-motorized boats, the permit may be revoked.

Bacon was out of town and unavailable to comment.

The decision was a surprise to the county, Aucutt said.

"All that means is there will be more boats coming in there and anchoring. That creates more disturbance than mooring," he said. "So there's no upside to it."

There are other concerns, he added.

The county, Aucutt said, had considered the buoys to work as a trade-off: Since the designation buoys kept motor boats out of the bay, the mooring buoys provided another way for them to enjoy the area.

"If they make the whole bay no wake, boaters have given up the bay. So we were going to provide the moorage for them," he said.

With only three mooring boats, the trade-off doesn't seem so fair, he said.

In fact, it might not be worth the $1,500 for each no-wake designation buoy.

"It costs so much to deploy the no-wake buoys in order to make it no-wake, we might cancel the whole thing," he said, adding that the bay would lose its no-wake status.

The Parks and Waterways Department has yet to have a meeting on the matter since the decision was issued, however, Aucutt said.

"I'm not sure when we're going to take that up," he said. "There's no big hurry until the pilings are gone."

There is no current deadline set for the piling removal.

Parks and Waterways Director Nick Snyder could not be reached for comment.

Attorney Scott Reed, representing the Cougar Bay Osprey Protection Association formed by Sue Flammia and Ed Haglund, said he would be excited to see designation buoys installed.

"It's been so difficult to know exactly where that quiet area is and isn't," Reed said.

Three mooring buoys sounds fair, he added.

"It's probably something people can generally live with," he said.

The agency's decision is also good news to Dave Larsen, who requested the hearing on the proposed buoys with fellow Cougar Bay residents Haglund, Flammia and Rasmussen, Inc.

"I'm not dissatisfied with that (decision) at all," Larsen said. "The main thing of course is keeping the bay a quiet no-wake area for the kayakers and canoers and the people who come out and cruise through the bay slowly and look at the wildlife, perhaps drop anchor and spend the night."

The suggestion that no buoys will be installed is alarming, he said, adding that Cougar Bay is one of the few areas of the lake where non-motorized boats go unmolested.

"People in their kayaks come out and feel safe and secure. They're not worried about being buzzed by high-speed boats," he said. "Peace and tranquility is greatly underrated. It's what Cougar Bay offers, and that should remain as its major offering."

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