SANDPOINT, Idaho - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it is revoking its permit for the Idaho Club to build a marina and lakeside housing development near Trestle Creek on Lake Pend Oreille.
According to the Army Corps, the creek accounts for more than half of the annual bull trout spawning sites in the Pend Oreille Basin. Bull trout are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
“The Army Corps made the right call by pulling the plug on its permit for this highly destructive development,” said Whitney Palmer from the Center for Biological Diversity Sandpoint Center.
The Corps previously suspended its permit in August 2021 after the Center warned that they intended to sue over the agency’s failure to restart consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The consultation was required by the Endangered Species Act.
The Service recently completed its biological opinion on the proposed development’s effects on bull trout. It found that the development would wound, capture and kill bull trout.
The Center sued the Corps and the Service on Aug. 25. The suit challenged both the biological opinion and the permit as being legally deficient. On Sept. 7 the groups sent another notice of their intent to sue over the Corps’ additional violations of the Endangered Species Act, in anticipation of the Corps lifting the permit’s suspension.
In a Sept. 15 letter, the Corps stated that the continued suspension and ultimate revocation of the permit are warranted. That’s because of significant objections raised by the Center and in litigation and changes in the project designs, which the Corps did not previously consider.
Once the Corps revokes the permit, any new permit for this development would need to go through proper environmental review. This would require the Corps to complete an environmental impact statement, a public interest review, full notice and comment process, and new consultation with the Service under the Endangered Species Act to ensure threatened and endangered species wouldn’t be harmed. The Corps would also need to determine the effects the project would have on wetlands and could potentially require the developer to purchase credits through a wetland mitigation bank.
“Trestle Creek and Lake Pend Oreille are gems of North Idaho and the effects of poorly planned resort development would have been a disaster. We’re encouraged that the Army Corps agreed with our concerns, and are hopeful that we can find long term solutions that instead safeguard and protect the important habitat in this area,” said Brad Smith, North Idaho director for the Idaho Conservation League.
The Corps originally permitted the private development in 2009. It includes two properties: one to the north of Trestle Creek and one to the south, consisting of a number of single-family estates, two marinas, a widened concrete boat ramp, 124 boat slips, a sewage pump and a parking lot. Several variances were authorized by Bonner County, allowing for disturbance to the lakeshore and other water quality impacts.
If built, the project would drastically reconfigure the shoreline and harm designated wetlands and designated bull trout critical habitat.
Bull trout have been protected since 1999, when they were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.