April 3, 2009 in Idaho

Lawmakers try to scuttle CdA lake management plan

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE - Idaho House members threatened to kill funding for implementing the new Coeur d’Alene Lake Management Plan on Friday, causing a delay in voting on the budget bill for the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

The funding for the lake management plan is just a tiny piece of the budget, which calls for seeking a federal grant to cover the cost next year, or, if that fails, spending $332,500 from the state’s water pollution control account. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has pledged to pay more than $375,000 to match the state’s spending on the management plan, which is required to avoid federal Superfund action to clean up old mine wastes in the lake.

The management plan is aimed instead at lowering nutrient loading in the lake to keep the mine wastes safely encapsulated deep in the sediments of the lake bottom. The state’s funding commitment includes three workers, monitoring, supplies, training, and a $56,300 community outreach program.

But Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, told the House on Friday that he thought the management plan would give the tribe jurisdiction over local landowners and counties. “You’re going to let them rule over us that live there,” he declared. “Boy … I’m uneasy about this.”

Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, said, “This issue of , well, if we don’t do something today it’s going to be a Superfund site tomorrow - we’ve been hearing that for 20 years. … I’m concerned that we’re rushing this legislation through.”

Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, complained that lawmakers just received copies of the Lake Management Plan within the past week and it’s 164 pages long. Cutting off the debate, the House delayed its consideration of the budget bill, HB 276, until Monday.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Record of Decision on the Coeur d’Alene Basin Superfund cleanup left out any Superfund “remedy” to clean up heavy-metal pollution that’s buried in sediments at the bottom of the lake, on the condition that the state and tribe develop a collaborative management plan. Efforts to negotiate the plan failed in 2002, 2004 and 2006, but in 2008, with the help of a professional mediator, a draft plan was complted.

Part of the deal with the EPA is that there’s no Superfund money available for managing Lake Coeur d’Alene; that’s why state are tribal funds are being tapped.


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