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County eyes ‘restrictive solutions’

by JENNIFER PASSARO
Staff Writer | March 6, 2020 1:10 AM

Some calling for boats to slow down in Honeysuckle Bay

The Kootenai County Board of Commissioners on Thursday dove back into two waterway resolutions in preparation for the summer boating season.

Commissioners will go forward with a public hearing for a proposed no-wake zone in Honeysuckle Bay, in coordination with the Hayden Lake Watershed District.

A popular summer destination on the 3,800-acre Hayden Lake's southwest corner, Honeysuckle Bay has seen an uptick in use. The bay includes a public swim area, boat launch and docks, as well as a 1,200-foot walking path and levee often used as a jumping off point. The cove of the bay is about a quarter-mile long and a quarter-mile from shore to shore.

A group of lake users wants to make the bay safer by requiring watercraft inside its confines to slow down.

Nick Snyder, Kootenai County Parks and Waterways Director, encouraged the commissioners to collaborate with the Hayden Lake Watershed Improvement District, but that having two different entities managing buoys on one watershed was inefficient.

As more people take to North Idaho's waterways each year, no-wake zones have become a popular agenda item for commissioners. Kootenai County, with its ample waterways and with more than 14,000 registered boaters, sees a lot of resident and nonresident boat traffic. Nonresident boaters on day trips spent about $15 million in Kootenai County in 2015, 20% more than the $12 million resident boaters spent in the county that year, according to the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.

Commissioners discussed the wake ordinance on the Spokane River in a private meeting with their attorney, Kootenai County Sheriff Marine deputies, and Parks and Waterways staff.

“We’ve come up with some more restrictive solutions,” Commissioner Leslie Duncan said. “The language pertains specifically to excessive wake.”

The board plans to return with finalized language in two weeks and go forward with a public hearing on the highly contentious matter.

“The language in place will pertain to lakes, too,” Duncan said, enthusiastic about the county’s ability to streamline waterways regulations.

Commissioner Chris Fillios reiterated that the commissioners are working closely with marine deputies to ensure that regulations are enforceable.

Jim and Avis Stafford, founding members of RiverFriends2019, advocated for strict regulations regarding excessive wakes on the Spokane River caused by surf/wake boats.

“I think you’ll be pleased with what we’ve come up with,” Fillios said.