By KEITH KINNARD News Editor
SANDPOINT — A district judge is affirming the Idaho State Department of Agriculture’s denial of a proposal to utilize biological controls to combat Eurasian milfoil in the Pend Oreille basin.
Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper petitioned ISDA last year to augment its rules to allow for a variety of bio-controls including natural predators, parasites or pathogens, but the department declined to do so.
In particular, ISDA declined to amend its rules to allow for weevil stocking because it involved reintroducing harvested milfoil into a body of water, which is against the state’s noxious weed law.
Under the LPOW proposal, weevils would be placed on the harvested milfoil and the plants would be reintroduced in an attempt to boost the population of weed-consuming insects.
Waterkeeper persisted and filed a petition for judicial review, arguing that ISDA’s denial of its rule-making effort was unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious.
Second District Judge Jeff Brudie heard oral argument on the matter in January and issued a written ruling on the petition on March 15.
Brudie said it was not within the court’s authority to determine whether it was allowable to transport invasive aquatic weeds in order to perform research or to beat back milfoil infestations. As a result, Brudie said he could only concern himself with whether the department acted unfairly in denying the rule-making petition.
“Based on the record before it, this Court is unable to find ISDA acted in an unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious manner in denying LPOW’s Petition,” Brudie said in his ruling.
Brudie held that the purpose of the noxious weed law is to prevent the movement of aquatic invasive species and allowing plants to be reintroduced would be contrary to the law’s intent.
Waterkeeper further argued that ISDA disregarded biological methods of weed control.
“The Court is not persuaded,” said Brudie.
Brudie noted that ISDA has a record of using biological controls when they’re shown to be effective. The ISDA also references the topic of biological controls in its long-term statewide strategic plan for controlling exotic milfoil.
Waterkeeper also maintained that its constituents’ substantial right to clean water was prejudiced by ISDA’s denial, although Brudie held that the group was unable to show it had any substantial right beyond the right to petition ISDA for a new rule.
Shannon Williamson, LPOW’s executive director, said the group was disappointed by Brudie’s ruling, but is not fazed or daunted.
Williamson admitted that winning the case was a long shot given the court would have to give great weight to ISDA’s determinations. However, she said the group is disheartened by the narrow focus of ISDA’s analysis.
Waterkeeper advocated for biological control research and implementation of all potential agents.
“The ISDA chose to focus their cause for denial on the logistics surrounding one particular method, the milfoil weevil, and we feel that the Judge’s rationale for upholding their denial of our Petition was misplaced,” WIlliamson said in a statement.
Waterkeeper said it intends to address the “real crux of the problem” — the noxious weed law. The group acknowledges it will be a difficult undertaking, but is optimistic that it can meaningfully engage lawmakers to underscore the importance of a diverse approach to controlling aquatic invasive species.
Williamson said Waterkeeper’s constituents have demonstrated they are heavily invested in supporting alternatives to herbicides through advocacy and fundraising.
“LPOW is committed to working on behalf of these constituents, we’re committed to clean water and we’re committed to seeing this through,” said Williamson.
By KEITH KINNAIRD News editor
SANDPOINT — Oral arguments on Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper’s effort to compel the state to embrace the use of biological controls in combating Eurasian milfoil are set for Wednesday in Lewiston.
Jeff Brudie, a 2nd District judge with chambers in Nez Perce County, is hearing the case.
Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper calls the proceeding another critical step in the water quality watchdog group’s journey to add biological controls to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture’s arsenal of methods for controlling the aquatic noxious weed.
Waterkeeper filed a petition for judicial review last year, after the ISDA declined to revise its rules to allow for the use of weevils to devour milfoil infestations in the lake.
Groups in Bonner County have advocated the use of weevils for the last several years as an alternative to herbicides. Partners for Milfoil Control subsequently raised $150,000 to conduct a research to demonstrate the insects’ efficacy in beating back milfoil.
But ISDA blocked the project because it involved placing pieces of weevil-laden Eurasian milfoil back into the water, which the state holds is expressly forbidden under Idaho’s noxious weed law.
Waterkeeper subsequently tried to have the state amend the noxious weed law to include the use of biological controls, but the group was rebuffed.
The group argues the agency misinterpreted the plain language of the state’s noxious weed law and disregarded its own goals regarding the use of biological controls. ISDA countered that it lacked permitting authority and harbored concerns about the use of weevils.
“The fact that the ISDA continues to focus their rationale for rejection of one type of biological control is beyond frustrating. We went to great lengths to ensure that our initial Petition was all encompassing with respect to various forms of biological control, including parasites and pathogens,” Shannon Williamson, executive director of LPOW, said in a statement.
ISDA has further argued that LPOW’s substantial rights had not been prejudiced by its decision. LPOW disagrees.
“LPOW’s constituents are prejudiced by ISDA because its decision to continue using herbicides to control noxious weeds directly relates to the purpose of LPOW as an organization, which seeks to defend the substantial and fundamental rights of its constituents to clean water,” Williamson said in an affidavit.
Counsel for ISDA do not dispute that biological controls have a role in noxious weed controls, but they have to be utilized under the right circumstances.
“It simply cannot risk further infestations by allowing the movement and/or introduction of viable noxious weeds into the very environment from which Idaho has sought to eradicate them, whether for research or for other purposes,” deputy attorneys general Angela Kaufmann and Sean Costello said in court documents.
Williamson said the group will lobby state lawmakers to bring changes to the noxious weed law if it does not prevail in court.
“This has been a long process and valuable learning experience. We don’t take the litigation lightly and only engage in this process when all other options have been exhausted,” said Williamson said in the LPOW’s statement.
By ADRIENNE CRONEBOUGH Kootenai Environmental Alliance
The largest coal company in the world, Peabody Energy, is hoping to build an export terminal north of Bellingham, Washington, so that they can export massive amounts of coal from Wyoming and Montana to countries like China and India.
The proposed Cherry Point
terminal would export approximately 48 million tons of coal per year, which would make it the largest coal export facility in North America. There are an additional four terminals being proposed in Washington and Oregon which would equate to between 126-166 million tons of coal being transported and exported each year. The coal would be transported by open rail cars from the Powder River Basin. These coal trains have serious implications for the environment and the public health of northwestern communities like Sandpoint
Today, Shannon Williamson, Director of the Lake Pend O’reille Waterkeeper
, spoke at KEA’s Lunch & Learn to raise awareness about the probable effects that the community of Sandpoint would see if this export terminal is approved.
The rail route hugs ~ 30 miles of Lake Pend Oreille’s shoreline before traveling directly over the water by bridge. Currently, Sandpoint sees ~ 50 trains per day. The proposed terminals would more than double train traffic, meaning that Sandpoint would see one train about every 12 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Note that these trains are each ~1.5miles long with ~100 uncovered cars requiring 4-5 diesel engines each.Burlington Northern Railroad (BNSF)
calculated that coal trains lose up to 500 lbs of coal in the form of dust per car en route from mine to port. The coal dust will yield impaired water quality through the leaching of toxic heavy metals. Coal contains heavy metals: aluminum, antimony,arsenic
, barium, beryllium, cadmium, calcium, chromium, cobalt, iron, lead
, magnesium, manganese, mercury
, molybdenum, nickel, potassium, selenium, silver, sodium, strontium, tin vanadium and zinc.
Another concern would be the possibility of derailments; which Sandpoint has seen two of in the past year. A derailment over Lake Pend Oreille would poison a major supply of drinking water for the community and would have serious ecological implications.
Agencies are currently collecting public comments in their preparation of the Environmental Impact Statements for the Gateway Pacific Terminal in Bellingham, Washington through January 21, 2013. Please consider:Signing a PetitionSubmit Your Comments Online to Army Corps of Engineers, Washington Department of Ecology & Whatcom City Council
By KEITH KINNAIRD News editor
SANDPOINT — Water from Lake Pend Oreille could be used to cool the Pend Oreille River downstream from Albeni Falls Dam in late summer under an agreement reached between the Kalispel Tribe of Indians and federal resource managers.
The Pend Oreille Basin Commission will scrutinize the agreement and its potential impacts when it meets on Thursday at Dover City Hall, located at 699 Lakeshore Ave. The meeting starts at 9 a.m.
The discussion will be preceded by a fishery update by the Idaho Department of Fish & Game and a presentation on efforts to restore the eroding Clark Fork Delta.
The Bonneville Power Administration announced the agreement with the Kalispell Tribe in July. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management are also party to the agreement, which aims to improve threatened bull trout and other cold-water fish habitat below the dam.
Under the agreement, the federal government will provide $39.5 million over the next 10 years, a sum which includes $2.5 million for land acquisition. The agreement also proposes altering water management in late summer and early fall, according to a BPA news release.
Temperature modeling is already being done to try and gauge how much of a boon Lake Pend Oreille water would be to bull trout below the dam, said Chip Corsi, Fish & Game’s Panhandle region supervisor.
“They’re going to take a look at what the temperature data are telling them right now and if you actually increase the volume of water through Albeni Falls Dam how much benefit would that buy in terms of cooling down the Pend Oreille River,” Corsi told the commission last month.
The agreement has raised some eyebrows in Bonner County because it could potentially lead to a lower-than-traditional lake level in late summer and early autumn. Moreover, the basin commission was not looped into the discussion prior to the agreement being reached.
“There wasn’t any thought to involving the stakeholders beforehand, apparently,” said Ford Elsaesser, chairman of the commission, which advises the state on water quality and quantity issues.
The agreement is part of ongoing work to mitigate the construction and inundation impacts of the dam since it was constructed in the 1950s.
By KEITH KINNAIRD News editor
SANDPOINT — On the surface, stormwater might appear to have a fairly benign influence on water quality.
But stormwater can carry with it some pretty nasty stuff — everything from litter and hazardous chemicals to fertilizers and PCBs. Even human microbial pathogens can creep into surface waters with stormwater.
Stormwater, also known as polluted runoff, is recognized as one the nation’s most significant threats to water quality, according to Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper.
“It’s kind of universal around the nation,” waterkeeper Executive Director Shannon Williamson said of the issue.
As a result, the water quality watchdog group decided to commemorate the 40th anniversary of implementation of the federal Clean Water Act by installing medallions around storm drains in the city to raise awareness.
The group obtained 150 of the badges from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. They read “DUMP NO WASTE, DRAINS TO LAKE” and feature an animated fish and drop of water arranged to resemble a Yin-Yang symbol.
Volunteers have so far installed about a quarter of the medallions due to uncooperative weather.
“I’m hoping next week that it stays dry for a couple of days in a row where we can head on out again and get the rest of them down before the weather really turns,” said Williamson.
City officials have estimated that only about 5 percent of Sandpoint’s stormwater is routed through a wastewater treatment plant. However, another 30 percent of stormwater runoff is treated through bio-filtration features such as swales.
Although no study has been done in Sandpoint, Williamson suspects most of the stormwater pollution is from petroleum products leaking from vehicles and fertilizers.
“There’s a lot of properties that have nice green lawns that go right down to the water’s edge and people are keeping them that way using a lot of fertilizers,” said Williamson.
Landowners in Bonner County are recommended to learn about the Pend Oreille Lake*A*Syst program, which offers landscaping ideas that aren’t so hard on water quality.
By KEITH KINNAIRD News editor
SANDPOINT — The Idaho Department of Fish & Game is heading back to the drawing board to develop new ways to justify lake level recommendations that aid kokanee recovery.
Since the 1990s, Fish & Game has relied on egg-to-fry survival rates when making winter pool recommendations for Lake Pend Oreille. But the reliability of that metric has fallen into question amid closer scrutiny of the data collected by the department.
At first, survival rates bounced around at expected levels of 6-15 percent, but have recently become inexplicably higher even when the lake is drawn down to 2,051 feet above sea level, which reduces the amount of shoreline spawning habitat.
“Three years in a row, we had these really high egg-to-fry survival rates — so high that they weren’t really even plausible,” Andy Dux, Fish & Game’s principal fishery research biologist in the Panhandle, told the Pend Oreille Basin Commission on Friday.
The egg-to-fry survival rate is the product of a wide array of sub-estimates of wild and hatchery fry abundance, maturity proportions, sex ratios, wild and hatchery spawners, and fecundity. Each of those sub-estimates also have their own variations.
Although the department is confident about the accuracy of the sub-estimates on their own, it has growing doubts about the accuracy when all those are thrown into the same mix.
“The problem can come in when you start to combine all those things and the variation can compound itself,” Dux said.
The accuracy of the survival rate is important because it’s the scientific basis for recommending a higher winter pool of 2,055 feet and the lower pool of 2,051 feet.
Then there are the downstream interests in Lake Pend Oreille’s water, which include power generation for the region and endangered chum salmon in the Columbia River.
A deeper drawdown typically satisfies the downstream interests, but hampers recreational access to the lake and threatens to de-water shoreline spawning grounds used by late-run kokanee.
“Everyone else wants 2,051 except for us, right?” said basin commission Chairman Ford Elsaesser.
Elsaesser said it’s long been understood that a lower lake level limits the amount of spawning habitat.
“There didn’t seem to be a great deal of uncertainty in the past,” said Elsaesser.
But Fish & Game contends it needs a solid scientific footing to justify its recommendations to other state and federal resource managers.
“We have to take a look at these data that are driving these decisions,” said Chip Corsi, Fish & Game’s Panhandle region manager.
Corsi added that kokanee recovery is working and the department has two years to develop new ways of justifying its lake level recommendations because of an agreement with the Bonneville Power Administration which sets a higher pool this winter and a lower pool next winter.
Dux said a possible alternative could be to monitor direct incubation success by placing kokanee eggs at various levels of the lake in different spawning habitat conditions.
“It’s going to give us a lot more information about the effects lake levels are having in a fairly short time frame,” said Dux.
But members of the basin commission remain skeptical.
“It seems to me there is a lot of variables here that aren’t being taken into account,” said basin Commissioner Linda Mitchell.
Bonner County Daily Bee
SANDPOINT — Time is running out to comment on the Idaho Department of Fish & Game’s plans to implement more restrictive rainbow trout regulations and restore a limited kokanee fishery on Lake Pend Oreille.
The deadline to comment on the proposed rule changes is Sept. 30.
The current regulation — unlimited rainbow trout harvest and a $15 incentive — would be replaced with a six-day daily trout limit with no cash incentive. The new rules would also allow only one rainbow trout over 20 inches.
Although the angler incentive program would end for rainbow trout, it would resume for lake trout.
Jim Fredericks, Panhandle region fisheries manager, acknowledges that the rule changes aren’t the “ultimate trophy regulation” for the lake, but it’s a big step in that direction.
Efforts to suppress lake trout began in 2006 and are paying off.
“We’re certainly not saying the battle is over, but thanks to everyone involved, we’ve come a very long way in the past six years,” said Fredericks. “We are now at a point where we can start to rebuild the trophy rainbow trout fishery and provide limited kokanee harvest.”
The proposed kokanee limit will also be six fish.
“We aren’t talking about a return to the heyday of 25 or 50 fish, but even so it would be great to see people out trolling for kokanee again,” said Fredericks.
The lake’s kokanee population has been steadily increasing since 2007, when it was at an all-time low. The population is now at a higher level than when it was when kokanee were closed to harvest in 2000, according to Andy Dux, a Fish & Game biologist heading up the research program.
As long as kokanee numbers continue to ascend, the population is capable of supporting a fishery, Dux said.
Another main topic in the rule-change effort involves the management of Priest and Upper Priest lakes. Priest Lake is being managed as a lake trout fishery, whereas Upper Priest is managed to maintain the native bull trout and cutthroat trout populations through active lake trout suppression.
Due to the extent of the extent of the lake trout movement between the two lakes, Fredericks said managing the two as separate systems is no longer a practical, long-term solution.
Abandoning efforts to maintain the native fish community in Upper Priest Lake or trying to restore a kokanee, bull trout and cutthroat fishery in both lakes through a lake trout suppression efforts has drawn mixed reviews from anglers.
Although the lake trout fishery is very popular with some, others have little interest in lakers and welcome the prospect of a more diverse fishery, Fredericks said.
“In short, people were divided almost right down the middle,” he said.
Compounding the problem is the fact that biologists don’t have a clear picture of lake trout and kokanee populations in Priest Lake are interacting right now.
“Given the split public response — coupled with questions about factors controlling the kokanee population, lake trout diet and growth, angler harvest rates and potential funding — it would be premature to make a decision about the long-term management of Priest Lake right now,” said Fredericks.
As a result, the department plans on using the 2013-2018 planning period to collect necessary data to gain a better understanding population dynamics and ecology of Priest Lake. A stakeholders group will also be formed to help guide long-term management plans for Priest and Upper Priest lakes.
The draft fisheries management plan can be viewed online: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov
How to weigh in
Anglers who have thoughts on proposed rule changes can send their remarks to Idaho Fish & Game via these methods:
• Call: (208) 769-1414
• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Mail: 2885 West Kathleen Ave., Coeur d’Alene, ID. 83815
• In person: at the address above
• Online: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov
Bonner County Daily Bee
SANDPOINT — Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper is receiving a $9,000 grant from outdoor clothing and gear manufacturer Patagonia for its pursuit of ecologically sound alternatives to herbicides.
Waterkeeper said Patagonia typically awards grants in the $3,000-$8,000 range, although the group’s project garnered additional financial support.
“We were very excited to receive this grant. Patagonia’s support for our project demonstrates their commitment to the environment and the importance of clean water,” said Shannon Williamson, executive director of Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper.
The group intends to use the funds to continue raising community awareness about aquatic invasive weeds in the Pend Oreille system and the importance of utilizing ecologically sound alternatives to herbicides to curb infestations. Those methods currently include diver dredging and benthic barriers, although LPOW hopes to implement the use of biological controls such as weevils.
The grant funding will also be used to sustain the city of Sandpoint’s efforts to control Eurasian milfoil using mainly diver dredging in the City Beach area.
“It just goes to show how persistence pays off. We’ve come a long way in a relatively short amount of time and the city’s alternative program for aquatic invasive weed control is off to a very strong start. We’re thrilled to have the ability to help ensure the success of this program with the support of organizations such as Patagonia,” said Williamson.
By CAMERON RASMUSSON Staff writer
SANDPOINT — The city’s milfoil problem is improving quickly as divers make progress on a manual treatment plan.
Since beginning in mid-August, divers have worked to clear out Eurasian milfoil from City Beach and surrounding areas. The approach, which was chosen by the City Council as an alternative to chemical treatments, has proven effective, according to city GIS manager Jared Yost.
“I would say everything has gone very well so far,” he said.
When many community members balked at the prospect of introducing herbicides into waters used for boating and swimming in late spring, council members decided to pursue a non-chemical solution to the problem. This manual milfoil management plan uses pontoon boats as a staging area for divers to cover infestation areas. After pulling weeds in the target region, they feed the milfoil into a pump that brings it to the surface for later disposal. About one more week of work remains on the project this year.
The original goal was to remove at least 20 percent of the milfoil from the region this year, ensuring that the swimming areas and main boating channels remain clear. Yost said that based on the current progress, they should have no trouble meeting all expectations this year.
“What we’re hoping to do is get it into a containment state,” he said.
While the water treatment plan will cost the city more than if officials had taken up the Idaho Department of Agriculture’s offer to apply herbicide treatments for free, several contributions have seriously mitigated costs. The Tri-State Water Council originally received $25,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which Idaho Conservation League associate Susan Drumheller suggested be re-purposed to assist in the milfoil clean-up effort. This grant is now being used to help pay for the divers necessary for removing the weeds by hand.
Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper also pledged $10,000 in funds to purchase the necessary equipment for the project. This money was originally raised in 2009 to test the use of milfoil weevils, insects that target the weeds as a natural food source. However, complications regarding the Idaho Legislature’s ban on transporting aquatic invasive species forced them to put the project on hold. Now the money is being used to address the milfoil problem — just in a different way than originally envisioned. Waterkeeper officials also hope to have another $10,000 available for the city in the future.
That’s good news, because this project will need to occur over a series of years before the weeds are reduced to targeted levels. Nevertheless, Yost said the effort is off to a great start.
“We may be way ahead of the game in getting on this as early as we did and clearing out as much as we did,” he said, later adding, “We’ve put ourselves into a very manageable situation.”
The Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper (LPOW) Program Director is responsible for assisting the Executive Director in all aspects of the management of the organization and its operations. The full-time staff person reports directly to the Executive Director of Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper.
The successful candidate will work closely with the Executive Director to:
· Raise the organization’s profile within the community and garner support for complex issues related to water quality and conservation of water resources.
· Financially support the organization through various mechanisms including recruitment and management of members, grant proposal preparation, fundraising events, cultivation of major donors and other opportunities as they emerge.
· Communicate the status of LPOW’s initiatives to members and the community at large through regular e-newsletters, social media posts, mailings and other means as needed.
· Prepare written documents and/or oral presentations addressing various water quality-based initiatives.
· Recruit, train, coordinate and supervise volunteers and volunteer-based projects.
· Organize and staff public events.
· Work on other projects as assigned.
· Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as environmental science or related field
· Demonstrated commitment to environmental protection.
· Computer proficiency including Microsoft Office Suite.
· Previous non-profit experience preferred.
· Previous fundraising experience preferred.
· Ability to safely operate watercraft preferred.
Knowledge, Skills, Abilities
· Highly motivated self-starter with excellent multi-tasking abilities.
· Ability to work independently with minimal supervision.
· Excellent written and oral communication skills.
· Excellent organizational skills.
· Ability to facilitate meetings and communicate effectively.
· Flexibility to accommodate irregular daily tasks.
· Understanding issues affecting water quality.
· Diplomacy and strong critical thinking skills.
· Driver’s license and dependable transportation.
Competitive non-profit salary, commensurate with experience. Position is contingent on continued funding. The successful candidate is expected to fund at least 25% of their salary through various fundraising mechanisms. Start Date
Immediate To apply
Please email your resume, cover letter and three references to email@example.com