Governor seeks lake study as tribe leaves monitoring project

Logan Wilson, foreground, and Tommy Hoard relax on their perch at the Fernan Lake docks in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho for an after-school fishing trip Tuesday, March 13, 2007 alongside about a dozen other fishermen who tossed their lines in during the sunny weather. (AP Photo/Coeur d'Alene Press, Jerome A. Pollos) ** MANDATORY CREDIT **
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COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho's governor called for a third-party assessment of Lake Coeur d'Alene's water quality as a tribe that owns a third of the lake backed out of a joint monitoring project, officials said.

Republican Gov. Brad Little wrote to the Coeur d'Alene Tribe requesting data from the tribe and the state Department of Environmental Quality, The Coeur d'Alene Press reported Sunday.

Little wants a review of the data compiled since 1996, when the tribe and state began collaborating to track toxins and produce plans to reduce pollutants.

"I want to know if a qualified third party believes we have sufficient data so we can be confident that we fully understand the lake's condition," Little wrote.

The tribe has backed away from participating in the lake management plans it was instrumental in producing until 2009, when the last plan was released, officials said.

State inaction and a seeming unwillingness to initiate changes resulting in a cleaner lake prompted the decision, said Phil Cernera, director of the tribe's lake management department.

"The Coeur d'Alene Tribe has basically removed the lake management plan as a solution," Cernera said. "This isn't working. We need to do something else."

In a letter earlier this year to Little and Chris Hladick of the Environmental Protection Administration, tribal Chairman Ernie Stensgar said the plans have not helped reduce pollutants such as phosphorus or the potential threat of heavy metals at the bottom of the lake.

The plans "focused on status quo, non-regulatory and under-funded land management concepts," Stensgar said.

A third-party assessment would guide the state as it proceeds, Little said.

"Such an assessment would inform the state's position relative to the efficacy and desirability of continuing with (a lake management plan) and any other decisions related to protecting the lake," Little wrote.
Information from: Coeur d'Alene Press,

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