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Who Will Pay? 

by KEVIN TAYLOR & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & here is still something missing from the draft version of a plan to manage heavy metal pollution in Lake Coeur d'Alene: money.





Just getting the Lake Management Plan up and running with staff and routine water quality monitoring is expected to cost $474,000 the first year, according to budget summaries published with the draft.





The cost of education and outreach programs is projected at another $350,000 the first year; adding other tiers and programs of the plan can bring the first-year budget to $3.4 million.


Who'll put up this money?





"I don't know that they ever had what you would call a reliable funding stream. I don't think anybody's identified that yet," says Tom Herron, the regional water quality manager at the Coeur d'Alene office of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.





"I think [funding] will come when the plan is finalized. It will come from the governor's office," Herron says.





DEQ and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe have been thrashing out a plan to monitor and control heavy metal pollution for decades.





& lt;li & SOME FACTS ARE CLEAR An estimated 83 million tons of waste from a century of mining in the Silver Valley -- arsenic, lead, cadmium and zinc -- have washed down the Coeur d'Alene River and coat the bottom of the lake from south of Harrison all the way north to the outlet of the Spokane River at the city of Coeur d'Alene. & lt;/li &


& lt;li & SOME FACTS ARE WEIRD The sparkling clarity of Lake Coeur d'Alene isn't because it's pure, exactly. Rather, high levels of dissolved zinc from the mining waste are toxic to chlorophyll and other minute aquatic life. Without these little bits floating around, the water is really clear. & lt;/li &


& lt;li & SOME FACTS ARE MURKY When the federal Environmental Protection Agency decided to expand its Superfund cleanup of Silver Valley mining waste to include the entire Coeur d'Alene Basin -- from the peaks of the Bitterroot Mountains in the east to the Columbia River -- North Idaho business and political leaders threw up a firestorm of opposition to having the lake be part of the Superfund cleanup. & lt;/li &





It is unclear who did the main arm-twisting and exactly who cried uncle, but in 2002 the lake was magically considered to be not part of the Superfund cleanup. What this meant was Superfund dollars were not available for a lake management plan.





& lt;li & SOME FACTS ARE WEIRD AND FUNNY Local business types punked dignitaries including Christie Whitman, then head of the EPA; Idaho Sens. Larry Craig and Mike Crapo; Congressman Butch Otter (now governor); and Gov. Dirk Kempthorne (now head of the Department of the Interior). The group had assembled at the Coeur d'Alene Resort to sign the Record of Decision eliminating the lake from the Superfund site in August 2002. & lt;/li &





Resort owner Duane Hagadone, one of the voices saying a Superfund designation would kill the local tourism industry, had waiters carry in goblets filled with water that he said was drawn straight from the lake and he watched with arms folded as the cornered dignitaries glugged the stuff down with varying degrees of trepidation. All except for Tribal Chairman Ernie Stensgar, who lifted his glass up near his chin and put it right back down again.





& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & S & lt;/span & o without any Superfund money, local, state and tribal interests are left to fund the lake cleanup. Stensgar, a couple of years after the Record of Decision signing, once again traveled to the shore of the lake in downtown Coeur d'Alene and pledged $5 million, challenging other parties to match it.





No one has.





Last December, tribal Lake Management Director Phillip Cernera and his DEQ counterpart Glen Rothrock told The Inlander the draft lake management plan was shopped around various business and tourism interests to see about funding.





"We didn't get a lot of response there," Cernera says.





What about business mogul Hagadone? Through his staff, he recently relayed this message -- "Tell him I have nothing to say about it" -- when The Inlander tried to quiz him about funding for the lake management plan.





The draft plan is out for 60 days of public comment and is expected to become final by the end of this year. An electronic copy of the 185-page report can be found at the DEQ Website (deq.state.id.us) as well as at the Coeur d'Alene Tribe's (cdatribe-nsn.gov).





It is not folly despite the lack of money. Both the state and the tribe, which has asserted sovereignty over the southern third of the lake after an epic court fight, agree that aggressive monitoring of the toxic metals is the best approach.





The tribe and DEQ have jointly taken over a series of five water-quality monitoring stations formerly run by the U.S. Geological Survey.





The idea is that the toxic heavy metals piled on the lake bottom remain largely inert as long as the water is highly oxygenated. If oxygen levels fall, the metals could become soluble.





A milfoil infestation in the shallow southern end of the lake shows what the regulators are worried about.





"When the milfoil dies in the fall it decomposes, which uses up oxygen," Cernera says. "So we have anoxic conditions in the south end of the lake, which is bad. If that trend continues northward to areas where we have ongoing pollution then we have a problem."





The southern end of the lake is largely free of mining pollution. The plume of heavy metals does extend about four miles south of Harrison as waters eddy and backspin where the Coeur d'Alene River enters the lake, Cernera says.





"We don't want milfoil fragments moving north and winding up in the northern bays," which all have mining waste, he says.





Other potential sources that can lower the oxygen levels include fertilizers such as nitrogen and phosphorous coming from lawns, farms, wastewater treatment plants and even stream sedimentation from logging in the mountains.





& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he funding for the monitoring efforts is somewhat patchwork.





"I went to my tribal council and got $238,000, DEQ got about $50,000 and EPA has provided lab support," Cernera says. "It's a catch-as-catch-can approach to at least keep the monitoring going. Out of the $5 million we pledged for the lake, we've used a chunk to run the monitoring. We believe it's critical we monitor and protect the lake."





Cernera and DEQ's Herron both praise a component of the draft plan that would establish an education and outreach center near the water in downtown Coeur d'Alene.





"That's big," Cernera says. "That's where anybody can come in and say they are thinking about putting a lawn in, for example, and we can give the 101 ways to put a lawn in correctly."





Outside of the outreach center, regulatory oversight is diffused through a variety of federal, state, county and local agencies. County planning or code enforcement officials, for example, would help keep nutrients from entering the lake by enforcing proper lawn and septic setbacks. The Forest Service would enforce proper logging practices near streams. Even local highway districts would watchdog runoff from lakeside roads.





"The problem is, existing regulatory authorities are not necessarily strong. Also they are not being enforced very often," says Barry Rosenberg, director of the Kootenai Environmental Alliance.





Rosenberg says there is a lot to like in the draft lake management plan but "it's a leap of faith as to whether this thing will be funded."





Cernera and Herron say funding will follow the final adoption of the plan. DEQ will approach Gov. Otter and the Legislature during the 2009 session, seeking funds for 2010.





"I guess to date that's the only commitment we've gotten from the state. I guess we are on a path to seek other commitments," Cernera says. "What we need to do in the next six months is develop that (funding) support."





It can be tough. Like Rosenberg, Cernera notes that groups approached by the tribe and DEQ all like the plan, but...





"Everybody applauds it, but not a penny for it," he says.





"Nobody wanted Superfund. Well, now is the chance to make it work," Cernera says. "I feel good about the plan. I guess I am more guardedly optimistic about the funding stream. From a tribal perspective, we don't want a plan that sits on a shelf. If we see nothing happening, I believe my tribal council will be hard-pressed not to go back to EPA."





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