2006 Annual Priorities Report: Coeur d'Alene-Spokane River Basin | Region 10 | US EPA

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2006 Annual Priorities Report: Coeur d'Alene-Spokane River Basin

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

View the Updated Region 10 Environmental Strategy

Description of the Challenge…

Why is it a priority?

The Coeur d'Alene-Spokane River Basin is located in northern Idaho and eastern Washington. It has been severely impacted by more than 100 years of mining, logging, and nutrient enrichment activities from agriculture, urban development, and municipal waste-water treatment plants. Mining contamination has affected more than 166 river miles of the Coeur d’Alene River corridor, adjacent floodplains, downstream water bodies, tributaries and fill areas. Significant measurable risks currently exist to humans (e.g., children with blood lead levels above the national CDC standards) and the environment (e.g., major tributaries devoid of aquatic life, yearly die-off of migrating waterfowl, such as swans and ducks). The contaminants are primarily metals, and the affected media are soil, sediment, surface water, and groundwater.

2006 Annual Report
  Report Home
  Regional Administrator's Message
  Regional Priorities Summary
    Columbia River Basin
    Tribal Environmental Health
    Oil, Gas & Mining
    Diesel Emissions
    Coeur d'Alene and Spokane
    Puget Sound Basin
    Grants Management
  Download Report (PDF, 20pp. 1.4MB)

Contamination in surface water exceeds applicable criteria in the South Fork Coeur d’Alene River basin by up to 200 times for dissolved cadmium and as much as 90 times for dissolved lead and zinc. The most heavily impacted areas, such as lower Canyon Creek, are devoid of aquatic life, while other areas provide only partial support for fish and other aquatic species (e.g., suitable for migration but not spawning and rearing).

In the North Fork Coeur d’Alene River watershed, land use has impacted the health, habitat and abundance of salmonids and other aquatic life, primarily because of excess sediment loading and hydrological changes to the system.

In the Spokane River, nutrients from human activity cause severe algae blooms and depressed dissolved oxygen levels in Long Lake. The Washington State Department of Ecology has determined that loading of nutrients, especially phosphorus, must be dramatically reduced if these water quality conditions are to improve. The overwhelming source of pollutant loading during the critical warm, low flow summer months are the discharges into the river from municipal wastewater treatment plants in Washington and Idaho. Also, a health advisory has been issued for consumption of fish in the Spokane River because of contamination by PCBs and heavy metals.

Goals and Objectives…
What are the desired long-term outcomes?

EPA, in collaboration with state, local, and Tribal partners, will reduce human exposure to lead and other metals, attain water quality criteria, reduce wildlife exposure to lead in floodplain soil and sediment, reduce particulate lead in surface water and downstream migration of contaminated sediment. TMDLs will be established for nutrients for Black Lake and the Black Lake Watershed, dissolved oxygen (nutrients) and PCBs in the Spokane River and for sediment and temperature in Hangman Creek and the Little Spokane River.

Strategy and Approach…
How do we anticipate achieving our desired goals and objectives?

EPA Region 10 is a member of the Basin Environmental Improvement Project Commission. The Commission was established by the State of Idaho to direct and oversee clean-up efforts. It includes commissioners from Idaho and Washington, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the Federal Government, and Shoshone, Benewah, and Kootenai counties. A Memorandum of Agreement outlines the decision making process and implementation of cleanup. A Citizen’s Coordinating Council provides community input to the Commission. The areas affected by mining have been designated as the Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex National Priorities List (NPL) facility. In addition, EPA has undertaken a number of actions to protect water quality in the Spokane River. We will continue to address protection of human health, the beneficial uses of Coeur d’Alene- Spokane River Basin waters (e.g., drinking water and aquatic life support), and long-term cleanup of the environment.

There are three priorities for the environmental cleanup to address; dissolved metals in surface water (particularly zinc and cadmium), lead in floodplain soil and sediment, and particulate lead in surface water.

Previous accomplishments include:

In the next three years we expect to:
  • Implement mine water management remedy and resolve longterm funding for continued operations to prevent contaminated minewater discharges into the South Fork,
  • Complete work in the populated and non-populated areas of the Bunker Hill Box,
  • Identify priority environmental pilot studies for water treatment, wetlands cleanup, and sediment removal, and
  • Identify, in support of State of Idaho efforts, appropriate sitespecific water quality criteria that are protective of resident aquatic life.

Measures of Success…
How will we know we have achieved success?
Construction crews removing lead-contaminated soil from properties in the Coeur d’Alene Basin
Construction crews removing lead-contaminated soil from properties in the Coeur d'Alene Basin.

Community properties and recreational areas are cleaned up to safe levels of lead in soils. Metals loading to streams is reduced. Waterfowl feeding habitat areas are safe.

Results from North Fork Coeur d’Alene River watershed assessment will support the TMDL Implementation Plan.

Black Lake annual measurements of total phosphorus, chlorophyll a, and Secchi Depth will provide a baseline of trophic state for trend analysis over time. Total phosphorus concentrations in all inlets to the lake are reduced. Effluent and receiving water monitoring requirements and effluent limits for nutrients in NPDES permits for Idaho and Washington will be met for the Spokane River.

Related Information
Coeur d'Alene Basin Information
Spokane River Cleanup
Coeur d'Alene Basin's TMDLs

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URL: http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/EXTAFF.NSF/Reports/2006+Regional+Priorities+Coeur+d'Alene+and+Spokane+River+Basins

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