The Coeur d’Alene Lake Basin spans 3,700 square miles and includes the perimeter lands of Coeur d’Alene Lake, the Coeur d’Alene River subbasin, and the St. Joe/St. Maries Rivers subbasin. The Coeur d’Alene Lake Collaborative is a partnership among all stakeholders in the basin to care for our lake and ensure a bright future. Learn about historic and current influences on water quality in Coeur d’Alene Lake here.

Aren’t background levels of lead naturally higher in the Coeur d’Alene watershed?

Is Coeur d’Alene Lake part of the Superfund cleanup? (ref: 2002 Record of Decision, Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex OU 3 - Lake part of site, but not part of action. Development of Lake Management Plan placed Coeur d’Alene Lake outside Superfund Process and instead under state and tribal control in order to reduce of the probability of additional metals movement from the sediments at the lake bottom into the lake water.)

Can’t the metals be removed from the lake by dredging?

Where does the Lake Management Plan funding come from?

What can I do to help keep the lake clean?

Is it safe to swim in the lake?

Is it safe to eat fish from the lake?

Where can I get more information on:

Who can I contact for more information?

Where did the LMP come from? OR Is the LMP a TMDL-related plan? OR What exactly IS the Coeur d’Alene Lake Management Plan?

LMP as an Alternative to a CERCLA Remedy:

The Coeur d’Alene Lake Management Plan is unique. It is not a TMDL, but rather an alternative to a remedy under CERCLA. Below is a summary of how this unique situation came about.

  1. Initial Superfund Cleanup:

    EPA and DEQ initially focused Superfund clean-up in the 21 square-mile area known as the “Box.” The primary focus was addressing human health risks associated with lead, cadmium, zinc, and arsenic [as determined in the 1991 Record of Decision – Operable Unit 1 (OU1) for populated areas and 1992 ROD for OU2 non-populated areas]. These efforts did not address mining related metals contamination in CDA Lake.

  2. First Lake Management Plan Attempt:

    The watershed studies conducted by IDEQ, the Tribe, and USGS, in the late 80s and early 90s, indicated Water Quality Standards for metals were being violated and that dissolved oxygen depletion in the shallow southern third of the lake were routinely observed. As a result, the first Coeur d’Alene Lake Management Plan was developed by the Clean Lakes Coordinating Council, IDEQ, the Tribe, and numerous advisory groups. It was adopted in 1996. The plan relied heavily on existing regulatory authority and institutional arrangements as well as voluntary management actions to achieve its goals. No new funding was provided and funding commitments to support implementation were lacking. There was no mechanism to track or coordinate voluntary efforts, monitor WQ, or evaluate effectiveness to make appropriate adjustments.

  3. Expanded Superfund Cleanup:

    EPA expanded its focus outside the Bunker Hill Box in 1998 with a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study for OU3. This encompassed areas within the CDA Lake basin, including the lake, and Spokane River to Upriver Dam in Washington. EPA issued its interim ROD in 2002, but it didn’t include remedial actions for CDA Lake. They deferred the decision of whether to select remedial actions for the lake, anticipating the revision of the 1996 Lake Management Plan. EPA concluded that an effective LMP outside of the CERCLA process would reduce riverine inputs of nutrients and metals that continue to contribute to contamination of the lake and Spokane River.

  4. The Role of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe in watershed Management:

    In 2001, the US Supreme Court decision in Idaho v. United States affirmed that the US, as trustee, and the CDA Tribe, as beneficiary, hold title to the bed and bank of all navigable waters lying within current boundaries of the reservation, including portions of CDA Lake and the St. Joe River.

  5. LMP Addendum:

    In 2002, DEQ and the Tribe, in consultation with governmental agencies and other stakeholders, conducted an evaluation of the 1996 LMP and its implementation. They took into account new information and recent legal/regulatory decisions. The result of this effort was a draft Coeur d’Alene Lake Management Plan Addendum (December 2002) that offered conclusions and recommendations. It was never formalized.

  6. Further LMP Efforts:

    Efforts to collaboratively develop a revised LMP in 2004 were unsuccessful due to disagreement over funding for staffing and implementation projects, as well as future reliability of funding. DEQ prepared its own draft LMP in 2004 that was never formalized. The Tribe prepared its own draft in 2006 that was also never formalized. The disagreements and mutual recognition of the need for effective lake management led to the Tribe, DEQ, and EPA entering into a formal Alternative Dispute Resolution process to negotiate an agreed-upon LMP.

  7. Successful LMP Development:

    The Coeur d’Alene Tribe (Tribe) and the State of Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) collaboratively developed the 2009 Lake Management Plan (2009 LMP) with the goal: to protect and improve lake water quality by limiting basin-wide nutrient inputs that impair lake water quality conditions, which in turn influence the solubility of mining-related metals contamination contained in lake sediments. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assisted the Tribe and DEQ in developing the LMP by convening and participating in an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process. The plan was signed into law and implementation is ongoing. The resulting partnership between IDEQ and the Tribe has proved to be invaluable, with team members from both entities working together to complement and reinforce the work of others. The result has been a defensible, concerted effort toward our common goal.