Blackwell Island might become the latest waterfront place to live or work in Coeur d’Alene.
Besides modernizing and expanding the current dilapidated marina, businessman Duane Hagadone wants to build a business park just north of Cedars Restaurant that could include condominiums, offices and shops in a “village-type” atmosphere.
The plan also calls for a public walkway that would meander along the Spokane River on the east side of the man-made island that is divided by U.S. Highway 95.
The public will soon get a chance to comment on various aspects of the multimillion-dollar project, which is moving through a maze of government channels.
Hagadone is asking the Idaho Department of Lands and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to dredge the channel on the west side of the island to allow for larger boats. The dredging would make the channel about 50 percent wider and at least 8 feet deep. The expansion would allow for about 530 boat slips, just 29 more than what is currently allowed.
The lands department is having a public hearing June 9 on the dredging proposal. Kootenai Environmental Alliance requested the hearing and paid the $75 fee to notify the public because it has concerns about public access, water quality, aquatic and wildlife habitat and diminishing recreational lake opportunities for local residents.
The public has until the same day to make written comments to the Army Corps.
Marina Yacht Club LLC, which is owned by Hagadone, also is asking to include 78 acres of the island in Coeur d’Alene’s city limits, giving it the ability to use city water and sewer. A small chunk of the island, which currently is an RV park owned by the Hall family, was annexed in 1996.
The Coeur d’Alene Planning Commission is having a public hearing June 14 on the annexation proposal and the limited design planned unit development request, which outlines plans for the marina, boat sales facility and the business park.
Hagadone is asking the city to waive the 40-foot shoreline buffer and height restrictions to allow for the waterfront walkway and taller buildings.
Before the city finalizes the annexation agreement, city officials and Hagadone would have to hash out a contract outlining the conditions both parties must meet including how much Hagadone would pay in annexation fees.
Hagadone wants to use most of the 220,500 cubic yards of dredged sand, silt and gravel to fill in the east side of Blackwell Island, where the condos and offices would go, to raise it above the 100-year flood level.
The proposal states that the dredged material will be capped with a minimum of 12 inches of clean sands, gravels or pavement and then compacted and engineered for future building sites. Any excess soil from the dredging will be hauled off site for disposal.
The dredging proposal already has sparked controversy and caused Hagadone to withdraw his initial request in December at the urging of government agencies. Officials said Hagadone’s plan was incomplete and left too many questions about the level of metals in the soils and the potential for breaking the seal over the aquifer that provides drinking water to more than 500,000 people. There also were concerns about dredging in an area that is a former city landfill.
Hagadone resubmitted a new, more complete application to the state and federal agencies in March after hiring experts to do more soil tests.
In a May 3 letter, the DEQ still has concerns about potential spills in the gas dock and pump-out station area of the marina. The agency is opposed to the 480-foot seawall that would harden the shoreline and eliminate habitat for fish and remove trees and shrubs that help filter nutrients and sediment from runoff. Other questions also remain about how the lake would be protected during the dredging process.
Hagadone declined to comment but said in an October interview that he has no intention of harming the lake or the river and that his company has an excellent track record when it comes to reclamation projects. He pointed to transforming the former Potlatch mill site into the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course.
“I love this town,” he said. “I love this lake. I’m not going to hurt it.”
Hagadone said he has won awards such as the Urban Land Institute Award for Excellence for ensuring that the golf course is “totally environmentally sound.”
“Not a drop of any foreign material gets into the lake,” Hagadone said. “Sometimes people kind of forget what we do.”
Some local residents aren’t so convinced.
NJ Cooper wrote in an e-mail to the lands department that Blackwell Island should be preserved for the health of the local ecosystem. Copper refers to Hagadone Hospitality as “The Beast.”
“The Beast has had too many concessions for excessive development on Lake Coeur d’Alene. More boating facilities will have a negative impact on Blackwell Island as well as on Lake Coeur d’Alene.”
Other residents aren’t necessarily against improving the existing marina; they just want to make sure there is public access to the channel, especially for canoeists and kayakers, and public use of the boat launch and restrooms.
Monica Donegan wrote that public access is needed especially because the U.S. Bureau of Land Management launch to the north is locked much of the year and requires user fees. She also suggests that Hagadone build a footbridge across the river to connect Blackwell Island and North Idaho College.
Other people, including many elected officials, wrote to tout the economic boost the marina will have for the region.
Sen. Dick Compton, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Post Falls Reps. Bob Nonini and Frank Henderson submitted letters of support, as did Kootenai County Commissioner Katie Brodie and Sheriff Rocky Watson.
Jobs Plus President Steve Griffitts, who oversees the local job recruiter, wrote that Blackwell Island has been “an area of blight and abuse for years.” He said the Hagadone project will create jobs and help the economy.
“It would also re-create the front door of what people see when they arrive to our community from the south on Highway 95,” he wrote.
Blackwell Island didn’t exist until a lumber company decided a canal was needed as an alternate passage around the boggy area where Lake Coeur d’Alene became the Spokane River.
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