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Analyst: Hayden Lake in excellent shape

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | June 6, 2024 1:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Geoff Harvey likes what he sees at Hayden Lake.

“The lake is in very good shape,” he told the 4C Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday.

The retired water quality analyst said the lake that is known for its strong fishery and popular with boaters has low chlorophyll, high-dissolved oxygen and good clarity to about 8 meters.

He said there isn’t a lake in Kootenai County with such low total phosphorus, with the exception of the south reach of Lake Pend Oreille.

Harvey said Hayden Lake’s watershed had not been disturbed for decades until last year’s Ridge Creek Fire and will be again with the Honey Badger timber harvest.

“It’s just been sitting there, basically,” he said.

The Honey Badger Project covers 52,600 acres of the Coeur d’Alene National Forest, including over 60% of the Hayden Lake Watershed, an area that poses high risk for fire, insect infestation and disease.

The project will improve forest health, reduce the potential for high-intensity wildfires, maintain or improve water quality and habitat, and improve sustainable recreation options, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Residents and visitors will see the effects of project activities along the slopes east of Hayden Lake, but not yet. The full project implementation will be staggered over the next 20 years, according to the U.S. Forest Service

Timber harvests, ranging from thinning to clear-cutting depending on forest health, won’t begin before 2025, a press release said.

Harvey said the only problem area of the lake with 40 miles of shoreline is the north arm, roughly 2 to 4% of the lake. 

“In my opinion, it's that way there because the lake is very shallow,” Harvey said.

He said the shallow water leads to increased phosphorus and compared it to Fernan Lake, which he said “is shallow and very eutrophic.”

Hayden Lake is going to get even cleaner.

The Hayden Lake Watershed Improvement District recently announced its lake debris removal program has returned and started May 9.

The goal is “to help the lake community rid the area of winter’s cast-offs and put a new shine and greater safety on Hayden Lake.”

People can participate in the program to free the lake of large floating debris and junk like barrels, beams and planks by first getting a permit. Then, they can tag, tow and tether the debris to the collection site at Mokins Bay. The deadline is Sunday.

Other efforts to care for the lake are underway.

Tom Yount with the Hayden Lake Watershed Improvement District said they are hopeful of landing a $350,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant to study and develop a way to eliminate harmful algae blooms.