Anyone who has listened to my North Idaho Arts & Adventure radio show knows I have a special place in my heart for Lake Pend Oreille. We all do. Time after time I have heard the story about how when first approaching Sandpoint crossing the Long Bridge, a love affair with this place has kindled from virtually every person who has ever been here. I have had the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille Conservancy on the show several times. We all have the same goal. Preserve our majestic and pristine clear waters and forests.
Today Jennifer Ekstrom of the Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper visited the studios to talk about the Lake. Just this last weekend the DSBA and Waterkeeper held the annual cleanup of Sand Creek. According to Jennifer a record number of people turned out to help with the efforts. 37 people filled a dump truck with debris. Good work everyone.
Here is how the interview went:
1. Would you share a bit of background about Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper?
a. LPOW works to protect LPO and the surrounding watershed from pollution and inappropriate uses.
b. We are founded on the principal that every person has a fundamental right to clean water, and we are here to help protect that right with and for everyone who enjoys and depends on the lake.
2. What issues do you focus on?
a. Humans have significant impacts on the waterways we live by, and LPOW is working to minimize those impacts by both increasing individual awareness about what people can do, and also by upholding the rules and laws that are in place to guide us toward lesser impacts.
b. Our current focus is working to reduce stormwater, wastewater and pesticide pollution.
3. What are some of your current priorities for this spring and summer?
a. LPOW is working for a comprehensive, ecologically sound plan to address aquatic invasive weeds. This plan includes native weevils, nutrient reduction, manual removal, and limited use of bottom barriers.
b. Reliance on herbicides is poor policy that is unsound environmentally and economically.
c. So one of our priority projects is the native weevil research. This little native bug feeds on the plant's juice, and causes the plant to fall out of the water column. Weevils are known to work very well on milfoil infestations in other lakes and the research we have planned for this summer in LPO will help determine if they will also work in large water bodies with flowing water and a winter drawdown.
d. Alternatives to the chemical centric focus of the past years is critical for a number of reasons. The problem with chemical herbicides, in addition to their human health impacts and ecological impacts, is that they do not solve the problem. Taxpayer money is needed every year, year after year, in order to provide short term weed control. They do not solve the problems that cause the weeds to become prolific.
e. And that fundamental problem comes back to the human impacts on the waterways we live near, and LPOW's work to reduce nutrient pollution. Basically everything we do has the potential to add nutrients to the waterways, and those nutrients create an environment that nourishes and feeds the milfoil and also algae growth. We need to look for ways to minimize our human impact.
4. So what CAN people do to help to keep pollution out of the lake?
a. People can help in so many ways.
i. Reduce the amount of fertilizer you use and choose Phosphate-free fertilizers and cleaning supplies. Contrary to popular belief, the Phosphorous in fertilizer is only useful to stimulate root growth, not to help make a lawn green. So really, the only time it is useful is if you are putting in a new lawn. But using less overall if important as well.
ii. Other ways people can help are by picking up your pet waste,
iii. making sure your summer campfires are placed away from the high water mark,
iv. being aware of the limits of your septic systems. If summer parties are planned consider renting porta potties. An overloaded and aging septic system can significantly impact water quality.
b. And one last thing that is very important is that if you do have a milfoil infestation around your private dock or swim area, know that you can rake the debris from the area NOW to help prevent its growth later in the season. This is the perfect time to rake your milfoil, before the water level rises completely. Check in with Bonner County weed department first, (208)255-5681. They want to be aware of what your plans are, and you do need to dispose of the plant matter well away from the shoreline.
5. Lake Pend Oreille is so big. How do you stay informed about what is going on with potential pollution sources all around the lake and what do you do when concerns come up?
a. LPOW has a pollution hotline where citizens can report pollution concerns. Individuals are encouraged to report water quality concerns to 208.597.7188. We will investigate, assess the level of threat, and seek corrective action as appropriate.
b. Also look for us out on the lake this summer in our Waterkeeper boat. We will be out there monitoring the waterway and keeping an eye out for pollution. Our boat will be well marked, and we look forward to seeing you so please do come say hi if you see us on the water.
6. How can people get involved with Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper?
a. The best way for people to show their support is to become members. You can do that by going to our website homepage and clicking the membership link, or by calling us at 208.597.7188.
7. What else is going on this summer that you want people to know about?
Earth Day - There's lots going on. Here is the calendar: http://www.idahoconservation.org/icl-community/north-idaho-earth-day-events
RFK JR - May 18th at the Panida. Click here for their site: http://www.panida.org/master.html
Jennifer Ekstrom of the Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper
Gary Lirette, featured in Where To Retire magazine and host of the Tuesday noon local radio shows: North Idaho Business as well as North Idaho Arts.
E-mail Gary or call 208-610-1384
Read Gary's Blog
For more detailed local info & real estate
Tomlinson Sandpoint Sotheby's International Realty
200 Main Street
www.SandpointID.net - To learn all about Sandpoint and North Idaho
www.RealtySandpoint.com - For Sandpoint Realty
www.SkiSchweitzer.net - To visit Schweitzer Mountain's Community Web