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Wednesday, August 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Fernan project may face suit

Devices fail to keep silt out of lake, groups say

By Thomas Clouse tomc@spokesman.com, (509) 459-5495

Environmental groups filed a notice Wednesday with the Federal Highway Administration and a Clarkston contractor that they need to do more to stop silt from reaching Fernan Lake or will face a federal lawsuit.

The Kootenai Environmental Alliance and Idaho Conservation League issued the notice regarding runoff from work to rebuild Fernan Lake Road, around the scenic lake just north of Coeur d’Alene.

The silt fences and straw-filled devices designed to stop runoff apparently are not doing enough to stop silt from reaching the lake, said Rick Eichstaedt, of the public-interest law firm Center for Justice.

“We happened to be out there three weeks ago when it was raining and it was just pouring mud into the lake,” said Eichstaedt, who is representing the Idaho Conservation League. “Part of the Clean Water Act says you can’t pollute streams and lakes. They need to have proper measures in place and make sure they are working.”

The construction project comes under the Federal Highway Administration. Mark Guse, the project engineer, could not be reached for comment. A representative from his office referred questions to the contractor, M.A. DeAtley Construction, of Clarkston.

M.A. DeAtley’s project manager, Dusty Forsmann, said he was aware an inspection had been done of the silt fences and straw devices designed to trap silt while allowing water to pass through.

He said he believes the inspection came “during a pretty good rain event. I think some of those did go over the top,” Forsmann said. “But those questions should be addressed by the Federal Highway Administration.”

The project is ahead of schedule, and most of the major work should be completed this year. A second layer of asphalt next year would complete the project, Forsmann said.

Eichstaedt explained that the 60-day notice is required before a lawsuit can be filed. During that time, the contractor or federal highway officials could put in extra measures to stop the inflow of silt.

“If not, my clients have the right to take them to federal court and have a federal judge order them to come under compliance,” he said. “It’s clear there are problems with that project.”

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