Fire trucks and police cars often pass Bill Smith’s Fernan Lake home, lights-a-flashing.
The windy road hugging the lake near Coeur d’Alene soon will be widened and straightened as part of a project officials say will make the dangerous stretch safer – but also alter the shoreline.
All the Federal Highway Administration needs to begin work on 11 miles of Fernan Lake Road is the approval of a few more government agencies.
The FHA has applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to excavate and fill parts of the lake during construction. Comments on the permit application are being accepted through Jan. 18.
Construction on the road, a popular route between Coeur d’Alene and the Idaho Panhandle National Forest, is set to begin next fall.
The project calls for removing fill in some areas and filling in about 3 ½ acres of the lake, stream and surrounding wetlands.
“The majority of the fill will be riprap for embankment protection and retaining wall foundations along the reconstructed road,” said Nancy Singer, a spokeswoman with the Federal Highway Administration.
Singer said the walls and riprap would stabilize areas of the shoreline that are eroded and reduce the amount of sediment flowing into the lake.
A bridge would be built over Lilypad Bay on the east end of the lake. The existing road over the wetlands, built on fill, would be removed after the bridge is built – reconnecting the lake and Lilypad Bay.
Smith, a member of the Fernan Lake Preservation and Creation Association, said the possibility of sediment entering the lake and Fernan Creek was the biggest concern expressed by Fernan residents.
Some of Smith’s neighbors also worry access to their homes will be limited during construction, he said.
“It’s going to be darn inconvenient,” he said.
There will be delays and even road closures during the project, Singer said. More information on how traffic will be affected during construction will be released within the month, she said.
The Kootenai Environmental Alliance has not taken a position on the project, and Barry Rosenberg, the environmental group’s executive director, said he hasn’t heard concerns from residents.
The plan makes a lot of accommodations for fish and wildlife, said Ned Horner, regional fisheries manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
“They did a lot of adjustments to deal both with people and with critters, and I think they ended up with a good compromise,” Horner said.
Fish and Game worked with the Federal Highway Administration to preserve fishing access along the road, Horner said. Fishing access likely will improve, he said, despite access being eliminated at some roadside spots popular with local anglers.
Parking will be improved, and Horner said he worked with the highway administration to make sure parking areas were spread out along the road.
Construction will be timed to limit disruptions to nesting bald eagles and the heron rookery at the east end of the lake, he said.
Old growth ponderosa pines removed for road construction will be placed in the banks of the lake to create fish habitats, he said, and steep slopes will be fenced to keep big game from fatal falls.
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