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Lake Coeur d'Alene study moves forward

Staff Writer | December 15, 2020 1:07 AM

The future of Lake Coeur d'Alene's water quality rests in the hands of a committee of 13 experts as the National Academy of Sciences' two-year study could begin this month.

Commissioner Chris Fillios said he, NAS representatives, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality members, and a representative from the federal Environmental Protection Agency recently discussed plans to move forward with the study.

The Kootenai County Board of Commissioners contributed $200,000 this year to the NAS study intended to identify areas of concern within Lake Coeur d'Alene.

The $200,000 was part of the state's roughly $770,000 allocation for the study, tentatively scheduled to be completed in May 2022.

The 13-person committee will analyze historical and recent water quality data, available modeling, the 2009 Lake Management Plan, and other information gathered by The Coeur d'Alene Tribe, county, and state divisions.

The study will not include recommended remedial action. Following the committee appointments either this month or in January, the members may work about 15 hours per month on the project.

"We need somebody to come in as a third party review of the data," Commissioner Leslie Duncan said. "Then when they settle on what they believe is the trend, they'll go in and say how do we stop, slow down or reverse it, and that is a whole other study."

The commissioners nominated James Sturgess, chairman of the county's Natural Resource Advisory Committee, to contribute to the study. He has a master's in ecology, and he's done nutrient cycling, metal toxicity, and regulatory management.

The NAS's designated tasks for the committee are to:

  • Evaluate current water quality in the lake, lower rivers, and lateral lakes, focusing on observed trends in nutrient loading and metal concentrations while considering how changes in temperature or precipitation could affect those trends.
  • Consider the impacts of current summertime anoxia on the fate of the metals and nutrients.
  • Consider whether reduced levels of zinc entering the lake resulting from the upgrade to the Central Treatment Plant and other upstream activities remove essential control on algal growth.
  • Discuss whether the metal found in the lake sediments will be released into the lake if the current trends continue. If sufficient data is not available, the National Academies will identify the additional data required to achieve an appropriate confidence level.
  • Discuss the relevance of metals released in the lake to human and ecological health.

------ SIDEBAR

During Monday’s commissioner meeting, the board confirmed new members to eight citizen-run boards that advise county policies and actions.

Two boards, the Planning and Zoning Commission and Historic Preservation Commission, will finalize the nomination process over the coming weeks. Due to the high number of applicants and statutory requirements, a meeting next week will determine if the county commissioners need to interview potential candidates.

Appointments to the eight advisory boards are:

North Idaho Fair

Tim Vulles, Miranda Hamilton, Elise Burton, Joe Doellefeld, Elizabeth Brewer, as an alternate.

Aquifer Protection District

Michelle Johnson, BiJay Adams, Bob Haynes, Jim Hudson, Jessie Camburn

Board of Community Guardians

Beth Garside, Peter R. Purrington, Carol Ridge,Nancy Edwards, Teresa (Terri) Radford


Tim Komberec, Alex Birch, Joan Genter

Natural Resource

Richard Meyer, David Brown

Noxious Weed Control

Jack Zimmer, Linda J. Ely, Laurin Scarcello


Al Beauchene, Thomas Strangeland


Don Warner, Gary Schmidt,