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House hesitant on Lake CdA plan

Sat., April 4, 2009

No vote yet on cleanup funds

BOISE – Idaho House members threatened to kill funding for the new pollution management plan for Lake Coeur d’Alene on Friday, saying they felt they were being rushed.

The plan is a collaborative effort of the state and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe to clean up heavy-metal pollution at the bottom of the lake, and is to be paid for by both entities.

But state 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.”

State 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 a week ago and it’s 164 pages long.

Cutting off the debate, the House delayed until Monday its consideration of 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 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.

The Environmental Protection Agency called for the state and tribe to develop a collaborative management plan to clean up pollution at the bottom of the lake. Efforts to negotiate the plan failed three times, but in 2008, with the help of a professional mediator, a draft plan was completed.

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 and tribal funds are being tapped.

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached at (866) 336-2854 or

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