SCA Coolin Wetlands letter of concern
Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE)
201 N 3rd Avenue
Walla Walla, WA 99362-1876
Cc: Kalispel Tribe, Bonner County Board of County Commissioners, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, USFWS, IDWR, IDFG, Panhandle Health
October 25, 2021
RE: Bonner County subdivision in Critical Class I wetland (Chase Lake – Coolin Wetlands) south Priest Lake, Govt. lots 2, 3 and 4 Section 9, Township 59N, Range 4W, Boise Meridian, Bonner County, Idaho off of Warren Beach Road
Dear Army Corps of Engineers et al.,
Selkirk Conservation Alliance would like to call your attention to a major threat to one of our areas last remaining wetland systems, and one of only three functioning wetland complexes remaining around Priest Lake Idaho.
Selkirk Conservation Alliance is very concerned over the recent waiver of Bonner County subdivision requirements and subsequent subdivision of land by a boundary line adjustment (BLA) process that was approved administratively by the county’s Planning Director on August 5, 2021 for a 65 acre parcel owned by Tricore Investments LLC (PLBM LLC) in the heart of the Coolin-Chase Lake Wetlands off of Warren Beach Road, south Priest Lake Idaho.
See this link to documents on file at the Bonner County Recorder’s Office (Enter Tricore and date range 8-1-21 to 10-22-21) https://erecorder.bonnercountyid.gov/bonnerweb/search/DOCSEARCH98S5
Through this very questionable administrative loophole the developer was able to create a major subdivision (26 parcels) while circumventing the land division regulations in the county’s land use code governing minor land divisions, short plats and subdivisions.
The developer was able to divide the land into 26 new shoreline parcels without oversight or requirements by local, state, tribal or federal agencies for site information including water courses (lakes, streams, rivers and other bodies of water), springs and wells, wetlands, Flood Hazard Zones, Public Services including sewage disposal, source of power or source of water supply. The county simply reviewed the legal site descriptions and signed off on all 26 “Twenty Acre Waived Exempt Quitclaim Deeds” which created 26 shoreline parcels on the south end of Priest Lake in the heart of a critical Class I wetland system that has been identified by the Idaho Conservation Data Center as being a top priority for Idaho Panhandle wetland conservation. Idaho Conservation Data Center – Idaho Department of Fish & Game 2004: Conservation Strategy for Idaho Panhandle Peatlands https://idfg.idaho.gov/ifwis/idnhp/cdc_pdf/peatland04_reportpdf.pdf
The landowner has also applied for numerous Minor Land Divisions (MLD’s) in addition to these 26 parcels, that would appear to create 12 more parcels in this large development. If administratively approved this development would contain 38 parcels.
The Coolin-Chase Lake wetland site has been identified (2004) by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game; Idaho Conservation Data Center as one of the most important wetland sites in the Panhandle of Idaho. Extensive studies by Bursik and Moseley (1995) identified 45 sites considered critical to conservation of the full array of peatland biota and wetland communities of the Idaho Panhandle region. Each of the 45 sites was ranked on richness, rarity, condition, and other values (interpretive values, wildlife, fisheries, etc.). The Coolin/Chase Lake wetland area was ranked in the top five of outstanding Idaho Panhandle wetlands-peatlands, standing out as having the greatest ecological diversity of all 45 sites identified as being critical to/for Idaho wetlands conservation. The Coolin-Chase Lake wetlands contained all 12 of the ecological features used to rank and prioritize Idaho wetlands. Further, according to IDFG, this wetland site contains the most extensive floating mats known in the region and the largest bog microsites in the state.
Land development and housing construction on this 65 acre site would entail the filling in, ditching, draining and destruction of this important and finite wetland ecosystem. Development would equate to the permanent loss of numerous wetland species both flora and fauna and many ecosystem functions (which greatly benefit humans) at the south end of Priest Lake including (but not limited to) flood control, water filtration and aquifer recharge. Development of these wetlands would also negatively impact Priest Lake shorelines and area streams from increased erosion due to lack of wetland flood control annually. The Coolin-Chase Lake wetland is also located over the Priest Lake-River Aquifer and plays a critical role in water filtration and recharge for the aquifer.
WE URGE YOU to deny any and all ACOE 404 permits seeking to develop in this critical wetland system. Since recent ownership was transferred through another set of BLAs and Quitclaim deeds on October 6th for the aforementioned 26 parcels, please also be aware of the following entities: South Shore Priest Lake LLC, Neal Hughes, Darcy Sklothaug, Levi Snyder, Raymond Gonzales, Robert Gravelle, Daryl Gravelle and Code Red Consulting.
Further, any ACOE Nationwide Permits should be denied and reviewed with the full knowledge that each parcel is part of a larger wetland complex although they are under ½ acre in size individually.
Due to the critical importance of protecting and preserving Idaho Panhandle wetlands and protecting and preserving the long-term environmental health of Priest Lake, Priest River and the Priest River Aquifer we greatly appreciate your attention to this matter.
Selkirk Conservation Alliance (SCA) is one of north Idaho’s oldest conservation organizations and has been working to protect and conserve the lower Selkirk Mountain ecosystem with a particular focus on the Priest Lake Watershed for the past 35 years. Bonner county lies within our advocacy area and the decisions made by Bonner County Commissioners, Bonner Planning and Zoning Commission and the Planning Department have a direct effect on the short and long term preservation and conservation of our region’s air, land, wildlife, forests, water and wetlands.
Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.
Selkirk Conservation Alliance
PowerPoint (with site maps, parcel maps, national wetland inventory map, quitclaim deed summary for BLA’s used to create the major subdivision in the Coolin wetlands and summary of quitclaim deeds transferring ownership)