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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Conference to focus on protecting area waterways

A three-day conference on the Spokane River and Lake Coeur d’Alene later this month tackles how the region can protect its cherished water bodies while planning for population growth and economic development.

“What type of future do we want for our community, which is in love with its natural resources? And how do we get to that future without sacrificing growth in our communities?” said Andy Dunau, executive director for the Spokane River Forum.

The conference kicks off on Nov. 18 with a daylong symposium on Lake Coeur d’Alene, followed by a two-day focus on the Spokane River.

The symposium will present a five-year report on Lake Coeur d’Alene’s water quality and discuss the lake’s role in community development. The Spokane River conference features current research on the river’s fish populations, water quality, recreation opportunities and projected effects of climate change.

To Dunau, some of the most intriguing research is on the genetic ties of the Spokane River’s redband trout population to oceangoing steelhead. The redband population historically produced both trout that stayed in the river and steelhead that migrated to the ocean and returned to the Spokane River to spawn.

The oceangoing portion of the population was blocked when Grand Coulee Dam was built in the 1930s without fish ladders. But now, Northwest tribes are interested in re-establishing salmon and steelhead runs above the dam, and the Spokane River’s redband population could become important to that effort.

The conference also features a session on “green infrastructure,” such as stormwater gardens, which are designed to keep polluted runoff out of local lakes and rivers.

The Spokane River Forum is organizing the two-day river session. The Lake Coeur d’Alene symposium is put on by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the University of Idaho.