April 1, 2008 in Idaho

Logs bring peace to Cougar Bay

The Spokesman-Review

Cougar Bay owes part of its tranquility to floating logs.

The serene bay on Lake Coeur d’Alene is a haven for waterfowl and paddlers who navigate the marshy waters in kayaks and canoes. Bundles of fir and spruce – awaiting their reckoning at local sawmills – helped buffer the bay from heavy boat traffic.

“It’s been de facto off limits because of the logs,” said Matt Miller, communications director for the Nature Conservancy, which owns an 88-acre preserve at the edge of Cougar Bay, including sensitive wetlands. The logs’ removal is “on our radar, though we don’t have a way of knowing what the impacts will be,” Miller added.

North Idaho Maritime expects to deliver the last bundle to the DeArmond sawmill later this week. After that, the tug firm won’t need to lease 180 acres in the bay for log storage.

Idaho’s Department of Lands, which manages the lease, is just beginning to consider what should happen next, said Mike Denney, area supervisor in Coeur d’Alene. Department officials will confer with other agencies. The discussion will include other potential commercial uses for the site and recreational needs, as well as the benefits to wildlife of leaving some pilings and floating log booms in place, Denney said.

Sue Flammia, who lives at Cougar Bay, has watched flocks of white pelicans alight on the log booms. Great blue herons – 14 of them – routinely perch on floating logs just south of North Idaho Maritime.

“I love to watch them. They’re so ancient-looking,” said Flammia, a Coeur d’Alene attorney. “That’s a tremendously important site for them,” just as the pilings are vital to osprey nesting, she said.

With ever bigger boats cruising Lake Coeur d’Alene, preserving a small portion as a natural area is crucial, according to Flammia.

“Cougar Bay is the only quiet bay on the whole north end of the lake,” she said. “It’s the only place for people to be safe in a kayak, a canoe or a small boat.”

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