By: Shannon Williamson
Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper, also known as LPOW, was founded back in 2009. In the non-profit world, we’re considered a fairly young organization. I took over as the Executive Director (ED) in 2011. I’m fairly certain that an ED’s tenure is measured in dog years, so that makes me 42 with an 8 year-old – which is coincidental since I actually am 42 with an almost 8 year old. Whoa.
LPOW’s mission is straight forward. We work to protect water quality so that our local waterways remain swimmable, fishable and drinkable for future generations. For the extended version, please visit our website at www.lpow.org. As a young organization, we tackle issues that have plagued water quality across our nation for a very long time.
When you think of how stunning Lake Pend Oreille is, you may wonder what the heck I’m talking about since everything looks pretty solid. You’re not the only one. It’s kind of like your aunt Doreen with the killer shoes who looks perfectly fine on the outside, but has “issues” that ruin your family’s Thanksgiving dinner every.single.year. Or something like that.
As part of a global network of Waterkeepers joined under the umbrella of the Waterkeeper Alliance, our watershed is in an enviable position. Rather than working to restore visibly polluted waters like many of our brothers and sisters, we work to protect and preserve Lake Pend Oreille and other local waterways. This is challenging work. It’s easy to get on board when you can see/smell/taste a problem. It’s not so easy when you can’t, even when the problem is still there.
How do we know what challenges our local waters face? We watch. We listen. We monitor water quality at 15 locations across Lake Pend Oreille and the Pend Oreille River. Some issues are in your face, like dumping massive quantities of 2, 4-D into the lake in an effort to get rid of invasive milfoil [didn’t work]. Others are more subtle, like the leaching of compounds from a former wood treatment facility with carcinogenic, renal and neurological impacts into stormwater that subsequently free falls [untreated] into Sand Creek.
Pesticides, wastewater, stormwater, crude oil and coal transport by rail through the watershed. These are the types of stealth issues that have the potential to permanently alter what we all love so much. As The Reader reported, a full coal train, headed for Sandpoint, derailed and spilled coal into the Clark Fork River in Montana just last week. While there is debate about the implications of this unfortunate event on water quality, we’re taking steps to determine just that.
Look – I’m a one woman show over here with the assistance of an active Board of Directors. We need your help. Please get involved, become a member, volunteer, hold a bake sale, tell every single one of your friends about us. Help us keep Lake Pend Oreille the best place to swim, fish and drink in the Inland Northwest. You can do it – I know you can!