Under a new county law, builders on lake and riverfront property must keep their bulldozers 25 feet away from the shoreline.
The provision of the county’s new site disturbance ordinance is a compromise between conservationists and developers, which was approved Wednesday by Kootenai County commissioners.
“If there are things that don’t work, they can be addressed in the future,” said Commissioner Dick Panabaker, after he and Commissioner Bob Macdonald voted for the ordinance. Dick Compton was absent.
Under the new law, which will go into effect in January, development around lakes and rivers must be protected with a 25-foot strip, while fish-bearing streams must be protected with a 75-foot buffer zone.
Now, builders and property owners are allowed to move dirt and remove vegetation with machinery up to the shoreline, although buildings are subject to a 25-foot setback.
The county Planning Commission’s recommendation to the county was to adopt a 75-foot buffer on lakes and rivers, too, but builders, real estate agents and developers objected.
“I’m discouraged we didn’t stay with 75 feet,” said Gerry House, chairman of the Hayden Lake Recreation, Sewer and Water District. “We’ll work with the engineering aspects so they meet what everyone wants for water protection.”
Under the new law, builders must submit designs for any construction within 75 feet of lakes and rivers, showing how they’ll keep 90 percent of phosphorus, nitrogen and metals out of the waterway.
“What we’re looking for is to make sure no phosphorus enters the lake,” county planning director Cheri Howell explained to confused citizens after the decision.
She added that any builder who wants to bulldoze inside the 25-foot or 75-foot protection zones would have to go through an appeal process.
Phosphorus and nitrogen hasten the demise of a lake by encouraging algae and plant growth, and depleting the oxygen that fish need.