Our Gem Coeur d’Alene Lake Collaborative
Along the shores of Coeur d’Alene Lake, citizen scientists are keeping a close eye and detailed log of changes in the water.
“Living here and watching the effects of growth and development on Coeur d’Alene Lake for 70 years, I’ve been alarmed by what’s happening,” said Dr. Bob McFarland, who monitors Blue Creek Bay and Beauty Bay.
McFarland is a lake ambassador with Bay Watchers, a citizen science program offered through the University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene Community Water Resource Center in partnership with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The program provides educational resources to lake and bay residents, creating a network of neighbors helping neighbors with water issues.
“I wanted to do what I could individually to help preserve our gem,” said McFarland. “Being a bay watcher lets me do a small part to contribute to the necessary hard science.”
The primary goal of Bay Watchers is to educate residents of the Coeur d’Alene Lake watershed through topical workshops. Lake ambassadors learn about water quality, aquatic weeds, invasive species, dock permitting, shoreline development and more.
Through this education, citizen scientist volunteers then monitor long-term water quality trends to augment data collected by the Tribe and Idaho DEQ. They also act as ambassadors for the watershed, helping neighbors answer lake-related questions.
In citizen science programs, community members volunteer to collect data to address real-world problems. The Bay Watchers Program focuses on one of the most complex local water quality problems, the potential release of metal contaminants contained in Coeur d’Alene lake-bottom sediments.
“By the time the deterioration of the lake is visible and apparent to everyone, it may be too late,” said Joe and Lynn Morris, bay watchers for Leaning Pine Point.
Using equipment provided through a grant from the Idaho Community Foundation, the Morrises and other volunteers gather data through the summer months. They monitor oxygen levels, temperature, pH, conductivity and clarity on Coeur d’Alene Lake to see if they are trending in the right direction.
According to University of Idaho lake science expert Frank Wilhelm, Ph.D., the bay watchers provide researchers and agencies with valuable baseline data to determine trends over time. He says this is important work for which researchers often do not receive grant funding.
“We are grateful to be a part of bay watchers to gather data that can be used to educate and implement changes to improve lake water quality and preserve this treasure for future generations,” said the Morrises.
To join Bay Watchers and learn more about Coeur d’Alene Lake, attend a Bay Watchers introductory session at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16 (in-person and zoom options available). Register: www.uidaho.edu/baywatchers
The time is now to engage in preserving Our Gem.
• • •
Learn More: Our Gem Coeur d’Alene Lake Collaborative Online Speaker Series
The Our Gem Collaborative will be hosting an expert Speakers Series on lake-related topics.
These interactive Zoom sessions will be presented from noon to 1p. Register at www.uidaho.edu/cwrc.
• Sept. 15 – Dr. Frank Wilhelm, University of Idaho: Lake Science 101
• Sept. 17 – David Callahan, Kootenai County: Site Disturbance Ordinance
• Sept. 22 – Jamie Brunner, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and Rebecca Stevens, Coeur d’Alene Tribe: Coeur d’Alene Lake Management
• Sept. 24 – Dr. Kim Holzer, Idaho State Department of Agriculture: Kootenai County Aquatic Invasive Species
• • •
The Our Gem Coeur d’Alene Lake Collaborative is a team of committed and passionate professionals working to preserve lake health and protect water quality by promoting community awareness of local water resources through education, outreach and stewardship.
Our Gem includes local experts from the University of Idaho Community Water Resource Center, Coeur d’Alene Tribe Lake Management Department, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber of Commerce, and CDA 2030.