ITD to transfer land to Coeur d'Alene Tribe for wetlands

The Coeur d’Alene Press
COEUR d’ALENE - The Idaho Transportation Department announced it will soon transfer the ownership, easement interests and management of five parcels of wetlands to the Coeur d'Alene Tribe.

The transfer of about 160 acres, all in Kootenai County and with a value of roughly $1 million, marks the end of more than 13 years of planning, construction and wetland restoration work associated with the upgrade and realignment of U.S. 95 from Worley to the Mica Creek crossing.

Under the Clean Water Act, ITD is required by the Army Corps of Engineers to offset the environmental impacts from reconstruction of U.S. Highway 95. By purchasing and preserving the parcels, ITD has successfully replaced the loss of wetlands and aquatic resources on the Coeur d'Alene Reservation and within the watershed, thereby fulfilling ITD's compensatory mitigation requirement.

"Throughout the process, we've been concerned primarily with protecting the fish, wildlife, and critical habitat in the region that were affected by the highway project. This transfer meets our goal of protecting and improving natural resources on our reservation," said Scott Fields, the Coeur d'Alene Tribe's Water Resources Program Manager, in a press release.

Originally, ITD planned to mitigate effects of the construction work through the creation and development of wetlands at just two designated sites. While certain actions on these properties were successfully completed, it was not sufficient to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act. As a result, ITD and the Tribe agreed that ITD would fulfill its mitigation requirements by purchasing additional private parcels in the Lake Creek drainage to be transferred to the Tribe for long-term management and protection.

The agreement between ITD and the Tribe will result in the preservation of more wetlands and associated uplands acreage than originally planned.
Four of the parcels are within the boundaries of the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation; the fifth parcel is adjacent to the northwest boundary of the reservation.

"From the beginning, we all agreed that ITD would identify and develop the sites, bring them to a successful state and then transfer them to the Tribe for the long-term stewardship of the wetland sites," said Damon Allen, engineer for ITD.

The Tribe will manage the properties consistent with a conservation easement and will focus its efforts on protecting water quality and improving fish and wildlife habitat on the reservation for perpetuity.

The Tribe plans to reforest some of the transferred lands and also complete work to reduce erosion along stream banks.

Published 9-6-13