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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Lack of water plan stalls Blackwell Island dredging

Staff writer

The Idaho Department of Lands denied Duane Hagadone’s request to dredge Blackwell Island channel Tuesday because of insufficient details about the project’s impact on water quality and fish habitat.

Hagadone officials said the rejection was a timing problem and that the lands department denied the request only because the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hadn’t yet made a decision on its water quality aspects.

Those decisions are expected in mid-August, and Hagadone will ask the lands department to reconsider its ruling.

“We think we’ve covered all the bases and we are pretty positive DEQ and the corps will issue water quality (permits),” said Jim Coleman, Hagadone’s engineer.

Marina Yacht Club LLC, owned by Hagadone, wants to dredge the channel on the west side of the island to allow for larger boats. The dredging would make the channel at the mouth of the Spokane River about 50 percent wider and at least eight feet deep. The expansion would allow for about 530 boat slips, 29 more than are at the marina on the man-made island bisected by U.S. Highway 95.

By state law, the lands department had to rule on Hagadone’s application within 30 days of the June 9 public hearing. That deadline, combined with the lack of information about environmental impacts and water quality, were cited by the department as reasons for the denial.

“I would call it a temporary victory,” said Rachael Paschal Osborn, a Spokane attorney representing the Sierra Club.

She said that the permitting agencies need to remember that by stirring up heavy metals in the channel bed, dredging can potentially contaminate Lake Coeur d’Alene, the Spokane River and the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in a June 27 letter, asked the corps to deny the dredging permit because the potential release of heavy metals could harm migratory waterfowl, bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout.

Coleman said he’s confident the dredging wouldn’t release contaminants into the environment and in the end would make the channel cleaner by removing the heavy metals. He’s working with DEQ to make sure water quality standards are met.

DEQ asked the corps for an extension to complete its water quality certification, which includes giving the public 30 days to comment. DEQ has until Aug. 15 to make a final decision. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also asked for an extension and has until Monday to provide the corps with comments.

Coleman said he expects DEQ’s draft decision on the water quality certification next week. The public will then have 30 days to comment before the decision becomes final.

The dredging proposal has been changed so most of the soils and silt would be removed from the channel when it’s dry, meaning there is less chance of releasing heavy metals into the water, Coleman said. Workers would use dams to keep out the water. Some of the work would be done in the water, but crews would use silt fences to keep the potentially contaminated soils from escaping. Hagadone wants to start work this fall.

The excavated sand, silt and gravel – up to 220,500 cubic yards – would be used to fill in the east side of Blackwell Island, which was once a city landfill.

Workers would then cap the area with clean sand and gravel. Hagadone eventually plans to turn the area into a business park with condominiums, offices and shops.

Barry Rosenberg of Kootenai Environmental Alliance said the group isn’t opposed to the marina expansion but that Hagadnoe must show the dredging won’t harm the environment.

“So far he hasn’t proven he can do that,” Rosenberg said.

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