Lawsuit challenges marina, housing development on Lake Pend Oreille

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Center for Biological Diversity and Idaho Conservation League filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Army Corps of Engineers for approving a lakeside marina and housing development along Lake Pend Oreille.

The developments are zoned near Trestle Creek, which is a spawning stream for the endangered bull trout.

“I’m highly concerned about this development’s threats to bull trout, Trestle Creek and Lake Pend Oreille,” said Whitney Palmer, from the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s disappointing that two federal agencies authorized this incredibly destructive project. Bull trout are resilient fish, but even they can’t withstand the massive habitat destruction and increased boat traffic this project will bring near the mouth of Trestle Creek.”

The private development was first permitted in 2009 and is part of the Idaho Club golf course. It includes two new developments, a number of single-family estates, two marinas, a widened concrete boat ramp, 124 boat slips, a sewage pump and a parking lot. It will also create a private beach along the lakeshore.

The project will reconfigure the shoreline along a stretch of Lake Pend Oreille near Hope, Idaho. The property is a designated wetland and floodplain, and a habitat for bull trout. It will also reroute the North Branch of Trestle Creek, which connects the lake to Trestle Creek approximately one mile upstream, leading to bull trout spawning beds.

“Trestle Creek is the single most important spawning stream for Lake Pend Oreille’s bull trout,” said Brad Smith, ICL’s North Idaho director. “Bald eagles, deer, moose, beavers and more also thrive in this serene, hidden refuge for wildlife — that could all be lost if this harmful marina and high-end housing construction project moves forward. The area would better serve the public interest through permanent protection.”

Building the marina directly to the north of the mouth of Trestle Creek will require the excavation of an island with an active eagle’s nest, the filling of a backwater channel, removal of a beaver dam, and pile driving as many as 410 steel piles for up to eight weeks, which will likely occur when bull trout are migrating out of Trestle Creek.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho on Thursday. It argues that the agencies failed to consider the direct and cumulative impacts of building both the marina and residential development on bull trout critical habitat, resulting in violations of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Bull trout have been protected since 1999, when they were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In 2010, the Service designated critical habitat for the trout, including Trestle Creek.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not comment on the lawsuit pending litigation.