Bennett Bay marina proposal worries neighbors

Neighbors are raising concerns about a marina proposed for Lake Coeur d’Alene’s Bennett Bay, saying it could affect the lake’s water quality and recreation along a popular part of the Centennial Trail.

The East Lake Village Marina would have 74 boat slips, a convenience store and a public pump-out station, according to an application submitted to the Idaho Department of Lands.

Applicant Jillian Cooper, who listed an Australian address, wrote that the marina would be built in Harrison and towed to the new location, reducing impacts to the lake from construction. The marina would extend about 390 feet into Bennett Bay, which is on the lake’s northeastern shore.

The marina will help meet a growing demand for boat slips on the northern end of Lake Coeur d’Alene, said Rand Wichman, land use consultant for the applicant.

“The cost to boat owners for slip rental is high and the options are limited,” Wichman said in a statement. “This marina will provide an additional option and help to stabilize the cost of slip rental.”

Wichman also said the marina is consistent with the property’s commercial zoning and the long-existing commercial uses of the area.

But nearby residents say the marina could alter the character and ecology of the small, tranquil bay. It would span about a third of Bennett Bay, said Dan Stubbs, who lives immediately east of the proposed location.

“It would change the entire bay, obviously,” Stubbs said.

He’s also worried the marina would threaten drinking water pulled from the bay for homes in the area.

“Having a bunch of boat traffic and gas and oil, and a sewage pump-out facility that close to a water intake I think is a concern,” Stubbs said.

Kootenai County Water District No. 1 serves about 275 customers with water from the bay. The proposed marina would be within 300 feet of the district’s water intake, said Mike Waterhouse, president of the board of directors, which opposes the marina project. Water district officials have asked the Department of Lands to schedule a public hearing on the proposal.

Neighbors also said the marina would affect a busy section of the Centennial Trail, which follows Bennett Bay’s shoreline.

Patrons of a nearby restaurant, Tony’s on the Lake, already park along East Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive and take up spots at a public overlook because of the shortage of parking, Stubbs and others noted.

“I can’t imagine what kind of traffic you would get there with 74 slips,” Stubbs said. Wichman said the marina would require 37 parking spaces, which would go in on property Cooper owns northeast of Tony’s.

In addition to affecting trail use, opponents said the marina would harm the lake’s recreational fishery.

Bennett Bay is a spawning ground for Lake Coeur d’Alene kokanee, and the bay is fished from September through December, said Glenn Eaton, who lives nearby.

“This development will deny fisherman the opportunity to fish this productive area and the increased traffic will negatively impact spawning fish,” Eaton wrote in comments to lands department officials.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game hasn’t taken a stance on the proposal, but recommended keeping the marina’s footprint as small as possible. Waterfowl use Bennett Bay during the fall and winter, and they will be affected by boat traffic, department officials said.

The Department of Lands will accept public comments on the marina proposal through June 2. So far, the agency has received a dozen letters objecting to the marina.

Deputy City Editor Scott Maben contributed to this report.

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