Coolin-Chase Lake Wetland development – Update

As most of you know, in April of 2021 a 65 acre parcel in the heart of the Coolin Wetland system (south Priest Lake, Idaho) was awarded to developer Tricore Investments LLC. Despite great public outcry and regional concern for the system, over the course of the last year this savvy developer, was able to subdivide the acreage into 35 new parcels, 26 shoreline parcels and 9 parcels south of Warren Beach Road. SCA and the community have submitted petitions, Letters of Concern, Motions for Reconsideration for Minor Land Division (MLD) approvals citing the many Bonner County Land Use Code violations and on and on….all have been met with a brick wall from the county Planning Department and BOCC. Further, SCA was shocked to learn through a public records request to the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) that a fill permit was granted on July 29, 2022! The permittee has been permitted by The Corps to discharge 1,449 cubic yards of fill in 0.315 acres of our beloved Coolin Wetlands for the purpose of constructing a driveway and structural fill pad to facilitate the development of a massive 4,080 sq. ft. building. There are some conditions but, unbelievably, the ACOE determined that the project “does not have adverse individual or cumulative impacts on environmental values”. SCA has called on The Corps to revoke the permit for numerous egregious permitting application review and processing violations and important considerations. To read SCA’s full letter to The Corps, visit our Facebook page. Please contact The Corps (see below for info) and let them know you want NWW-2022-00237: Gravelle – Warren Beach Road Development – REVOKED!

UPDATE: On January 27th 2023 SCA formally requested that, in addition to revoking the Warren Beach Road development permit, the ACOE completely stop all 404, Nationwide and other permitting in Idaho CLASS I wetland systems. These systems are just TOO RARE and IRREPLACEBLE. Shockingly, the ACOE replied on February 27th stating that there are “NO CLASS I Wetlands in Bonner or Boundary Counties”

To which, SCA said, OH HECK NO! 

After submitting a public records request and contacting IDFG and the lead author and researcher for the Conservation Data Center – Idaho Wetland Conservation Plans, Chris Murphy,  SCA discovered that YES, in fact there are several known CLASS I wetlands in Bonner & Boundary Counties. 

CLASS I Wetlands OF HIGHEST CONSERVATION PRIORITY (Bonner & Boundary Counties, Idaho)

ARMSTRONG MEADOWS Class I – USFS 484457N 1165230W Bonner

BOTTLE LAKE Class I + USFS 484255N 1165237W Bonner
CHASE LAKE Class I – PRI,IDL 482717N 1164915W Bonner
KANIKSU MARSH Class I + USFS 482626N 1165505W Bonner
LAMBERTSON LAKE Class I – PRI 480309N 1164300W Bonner

MOSQUITO BAY FEN Class I – PRI,USFS,IDL 484435N 1165030W Bonner
PACKER MEADOWS Class I – USFS 484300N 1170000W Bonner
PERKINS LAKE Class I – PRI,USFS 484527N 1160515W Boundary
POTHOLES Class I + USFS 483655N 1170055W Bonner
SMITH CREEK Class I + USFS 485211N 1164522W Boundary
THREE PONDS Class I + USFS 483827N 1162552W Boundary

On March 20th SCA submitted another formal request to the ACOE to update their wetland classifications and site maps and exempt permitting in ALL CLASS I wetland systems AND REVOKE the Coolin wetlands – NWW-2022-00237: Gravelle – Warren Beach Road Development permit because it is, in fact, a CLASS I wetland of HIGHEST CONSERVATION PRIORITY!

On March 23rd SCA received the following reply from the ACOE “We will review the information Selkirk Conservation Alliance has provided and will provide a response in the coming weeks.

On May 10, 2023 SCA received the following response letter (excerpt) from the ACOE Kristen A. Hafer Regulatory Program Manager, Walla Walla District

Dear Ms. Anderson, I am writing in response to your follow up letter dated March 20, 2023, restating Selkirk Conservation Alliance’s (SCA’s) request that the Northwestern Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), in accordance with authorities granted under 33 CFR § 330.4(e)(1), revoke the use of Nationwide Permits (NWPs) within Class I wetlands within Bonner and Boundary Counties, Idaho. In your letter, you also provided additional information regarding Idaho’s current classification of wetland sites in North Idaho. Thank you for the additional information. In your follow up letter, you wrote that information that was provided to you by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) stated that there were wetlands within Bonner and Boundary Counties classified as Class I by IDFG. As a result of your March 20, 2023, letter, my Division and Walla Walla District (NWW) Regulatory staff had further discussions with the IDFG regarding its classification effort (Conservation Strategy for Northern Idaho Wetlands; Jankovsky-Jones, Conservation Data Center for Idaho Department of Fish and Game (1997)) and the IDFG Wetland Data Viewer (WDV).1 In accordance with the NWW Notification Procedures for certain Nationwide Permits in Idaho (Enclosure 1), NWW Regulatory staff, by agreement with IDFG, utilize the IDFG’s WDV to determine whether coordination with IDFG is required for proposed activities in wetlands that are classified as Class I. After receiving your first letter dated January 13, 2023, Corps Regulatory Program staff reviewed IDFG’s publicly available WDV to determine if any wetlands within Bonner and Boundary Counties were classified as Class I by IDFG. The WDV indicated that there were no wetlands in Bonner and Boundary Counties ranked by IDFG as Class I. The information in the WDV formed the basis of my previous response to you. After receiving your follow up letter, Regulatory Program staff reached out to IDFG to inquire about the discrepancy between your letter and the WDV and inquire whether the WDV was accurate and up to date. Upon its review, IDFG informed the Corps that, prior to mid-March 2023, data in the WDV was indeed inaccurate for at least 59 sites in northern Idaho. These sites were labeled as “not ranked,” rather than as Class I sites. IDFG further informed the Corps that the data for the WDV was being pulled from the wrong dataset and that the WDV has been updated to pull data from the correct source. As a result, the WDV now reflects the presence of Class I wetlands in Bonner and Boundary Counties. 

Lots of moving parts to conservation of this extraordinary wetland system and all of our North Idaho wetlands!!

SCA will continue to stay vigilant and submits regular Freedom of Information Act (FOIA’s) and Public Records Requests (PRR’s) to applicable federal, state and county management agencies for permits needed to develop not only the Coolin – Chase Lake Wetlands but also the Sandpiper shores – Mosquito Bay Wetland complex. As of 8-29-23, nothing has come down the pipeline (except for the July 29 ACOE fill permit).

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