Welcome to the 2023 Hayden Lake Watershed Fall Report
From President Jan Wilkins, with contributions from our Board: Barb Neal, Treasurer, Will Neal, VP and Technology Officer, Geoff Harvey, (President Emeritus), Gil Rossner, Shawn Hathaway, Leda Kobziar and Todd Walker.
Ordinarily, this report would have been made at the annual meeting of members, typically held in August at the Hayden Lake Country Club. This year, space availability was an issue, and the Board chose to postpone the annual meeting until May or June of 2024, rather than have it in September, when many of our members have left the lake. We will notify members of the 2024 date once it has been confirmed and we hope to see many of our members then!
To make this as reader friendly as possible, we have abbreviated some of the discussion points, with links to more detailed background notes for those interested in learning more.
Use the buttons below to jump to a favorite topic.
2023 has been busy and challenging, with progress made on some fronts, and new challenges emerging because of the Ridge Creek forest fire. The fire, which began on August 3, was human caused, though specifics have not been announced. The fire burned almost 5,000 acres, but it is not all bad news; more than 90% of the burned acres were of “moderate or low impact.” This means that the Forest Service personnel have determined that the burned areas will likely recover without intense intervention. The fire is 100% contained.
Early observations by the Forest Service show that there has not been significant erosion after two large rain events. This is hopeful news, as erosion from the burned areas finding its way into the lake will continue to be a grave concern that we will be watching. Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation (BAER) funds are available for restoration/improvements to repair the burn damaged areas for one year after the end of the fire. Plans are for hardening at risk slopes, improving culverts, adding armored rolling dips in roads, and other road work.
Another impact of the Ridge Creek fire was its effect on the long-term future of lower Forest Service Road 437, from Hayden Lake Rd. to the intersection of FSR 206. HLWA has been urging closure to prevent sediment from the road and the informal shooting site from entering Hayden Creek, the lake’s primary tributary. The Forest Service initially agreed with our position for closing the road, but recently the Forest Service has chosen not to close the road. It was used as a corridor for moving personnel and equipment to the burn sites.
Instead, we have been told that efforts will be made to improve the road to reduce erosion. Potholes will be filled, and a forest service engineer will be directed to improve the road design. There has not yet been any budgetary commitment, or a timeline set for this essential design and construction. The board is concerned that the creek will continue to receive damaging sediment indefinitely from this poorly designed road.
About 1200 acres of timber may be salvageable, and for sale, from the burn area. It does not appear that the fire will prevent the Honey Badger timber sale from going ahead as scheduled. We can expect to see trees coming off the hills in 2026. For more details about forest service activities, use this link to meeting notes from 10/3/23.
Thanks to all our members who wrote or testified last May to prevent the Board of County Commissioners from rescinding the 300 foot no excessive wake zone on our lake. At this point, it is still in effect. About 500 flyers were distributed over the summer at the public input sites, (Honeysuckle, Sportsman’s and the Hayden Lake Marina), to educate boaters about the 200 foot no wake zone and the 300 foot no excessive wake zone.
We continue to receive reports on our website that violations are resulting in dock and shoreline damage. Many of the violations may be committed by neighbors or renters who are not aware of the rules. We will be doing a mailing in the early spring to all the property owners around the lake to urge their consideration for others’ safety and property, and to understand the rules. It is the owners’ responsibility to educate renters or guests about lake ordinances. Use the excessive wake reporting tool link at the top of the page when you see a violation.
On May 9, 2023 HLWA sponsored a workshop to study improving Kootenai County code enforcement efforts. Over the last few years there have been many events where building or development projects have dumped tons of runoff sediment into Hayden Lake. Erosion and sedimentation threaten adjacent properties, degrade property values, wash sediments into the waterways, compromise drinking water systems, accelerate trophic evolution, diminish fish habitats and set up chain reactions that can lead to toxic blue green algae blooms.
There were 23 attendees from governmental agencies, the construction and engineering sectors, and members of county-wide organizations. Use this link to read the meeting notes.
Throughout the summer, HLWA Board members testified to both the Planning Commission and to the Board of County Commissioners in support of Community Development Director David Callahan’s proposals to impose stiffer fine penalties, ($1,000.00 a day,) and to hire a professional engineer or landscape architect to evaluate the viability of site disturbance plans before they are okayed by planning staff.
We are happy to report that both initiatives were approved. We will be monitoring the effectiveness of these changes.
We will also continue to monitor and report incidents of shoreline degradation as well as building code violations. We have created a link on our website where incidents can be reported anonymously, if folks are uneasy about reporting a neighbors’ questionable building or excavation activities. Use this link for more information, or to report a violation.
HLWA is sending a mailing to all lake property owners this fall, explaining the Shoreline Management Area and Site Disturbance rules. Continued good water quality depends on adherence to these measures.
The good news is that the main body of the lake has been in good shape according to the last 4 years of testing. In fact, low phosphorous levels there have surpassed the hopeful projections in the Hayden Lake Management Plan of 2009. The presence of the 200’ buoys may be contributing to these results. For more specifics, read Geoff Harvey’s report below.
The news is not as promising for the water quality in some of the lake’s shallow bays and in the north arm. HLWA Board members Gil Rossner and Jan Wilkins took part in an informal committee to collect data from many sources to study the present and future of the water quality in the north arm. The fact-finding sessions also included representatives from WID, DEQ, USFS, Idaho Fish and Game, IDA, University of Idaho, and IDL.
As a result of this inter-agency collaboration, the turbidity and the volume of the water in Hayden Creek is now being tested. Several sites in the north arm will also be tested; data from this area of the lake has not been collected or analyzed since 2019. Hayden Creek is the life blood of our lake, so its condition is of foremost importance. Blue green algae blooms in the north arm, and the most recent one being detected as far south as chicken point, pose a serious health threat to people and animals.
Water levels in May were considered normal. Since then, there has been a steady reduction, probably the result of very little rain in July and August and warmer temperatures. Major users like Dalton Irrigation District members are watering many acres of lawns throughout the summer. In addition, as the vacant properties around the lake are infilled with housing, more water is pulled from the lake to supply household water.
Board member Gil Rossner is planning a meeting with the Irrigation District and a mailing to their members emphasizing efficient irrigation, reducing water loss due to evaporation, and replacing grass with drought tolerant plants, trees, and mulch. As residents around the lake, we are sharing this priceless resource, and it is our community’s responsibility to incorporate these habits as well.
Board Treasurer Barb Neal discovered in the spring that the fire hydrants on some portions of the lake had not been serviced in quite some time. After a lot of back and forth between the water district and the fire department, the water district assumed responsibility for ensuring that the hydrants are operational, working collaboratively with the fire department.
Barb has also been active in the establishment of the Firewise Program around the lake. After experiencing two forest fires in the watershed last summer, this preparedness has never been more necessary. Visit East of Hayden Lake Firewise Community.
Infilling mud bog areas on Forest Service Road 437 to prevent sediment laden water from splashing and draining into Hayden Creek is a project tentatively scheduled for the spring of 2024. Board members Geoff Harvey and Todd Walker have applied for a grant from the DEQ to aid with funding. Large logs salvaged from the WID lake debris removal program would be moved into the designated areas, and the ground around the logs would be planted with tree seedlings provided by the forest service. Volunteers from our association will be asked to do the planting. Stay tuned for more details!
HLWA President Emeritus
You may have noticed over the summer months that the waters of the main body of Hayden Lake appeared clearer than normal. Lake clarity measurements completed during the summer 2023 document the high clarity, at times reaching 8.5 meters of visibility. Chlorophyll a measurement, a surrogate for the amount of algae present were correspondingly low. Actual algal counts from samples still being processed will likely support the chlorophyll a results. These conditions were created by lower total phosphorous in the lake than has ever been observed, an average of 3.7 micrograms per liter. This value is over a half microgram per liter below the previous four-year average of 4.3 micrograms per liter. These results reflect exceptionally good water quality in the main pool of the lake. The data collected this year and in the past three years indicate that the high-water quality of the main pool is reflected in the major bays around the main body, Mokins, O’Rourke, Windy and Berven. Unfortunately, this high-water quality would not be expected that the shallow northern arm of the lake (North of Henry’s Point). The shallow nature of most of the North Arm adversely affects its water quality.
There are both short term and long-term explanations for the general and recent decline in the total phosphorous concentrations of the lake. This year’s snowpack and resulting spring runoff were modest. Water yield to the lake was insufficient to spill water over the dike. The late spring, early and midsummer rains were of insufficient intensity to create significant runoff to the lake. These conditions did not allow replenishment of phosphorous to the lake, as existing upper water column phosphorous sank down with senescent algae and out of the lake’s photic zone.
Over the long term, total phosphorus has declined significantly. Total phosphorous concentration measured between 1975 and 2006 averaged 7.5 micrograms per liter. Over the past four years of measurement (2019-2022), the average is 4.3 micrograms per liter. The decline could be attributed to the fact that many of the phosphorous reducing projects prescribed in the Hayden Lake Management Plan Addendum have been completed. Projects, like removal of Mivoden’s sewage treatment from the lakeshore to a land application a mile from the lakeshore, fencing of livestock from tributary streams (Lancaster and Neilsen Creeks), decommissioning of forest haul roads in the Yellowbanks and Neilsen Creek (Deerfoot Ridge) watersheds, the paving of some roads (Mokins Bay Road), stabilization of roads including culvert replacements, and increased vigilance on lakeside and watershed development can be cited. In addition, the Forest Service has not significantly harvested timber in the watershed for over twenty-five years.
The current water quality trend may not hold because changes are afoot in the lake’s watershed. The Ridge Creek Fire which burned through most of August, burned over a quarter to a third to the lake’s largest watershed, Hayden Creek. The Forest Service’s initial assessment indicates most of the burn was light to moderate. However, the fire triggered a massive upgrade of road surfaces in the Hayden Creek watershed, with no attention paid to the locations that load sediment directly to Hayden Creek. Unless upgrades are made to address these sites, much of the aggregate placed on the road is destined to erode and be transported to Hayden Creek. Over the next few years, the fire and road improvements will likely result in more tons of sediment delivery to Hayden Creek, and that sediment will carry roughly 1.6 pounds of phosphorous per ton of sediment. The Forest Service will be laying out Honey-Badger timber sales starting next summer. These initial sales will be sold in 2025 and logged shortly thereafter. We can expect ten years of logging activity in that part of the Hayden Lake Watershed managed by the Forest Service. These sales will be required to meet the Federal Upper Columbia Fisheries Standards which are far more restrictive than Idaho’s Forest Practices Act Rules and Regulations. Maps provided during Honey-Badger’s environmental review indicated most timber sales would be near the ridgetops and well removed from streams. Like the impact of the Ridge Creek Fire, the effects will remain to be assessed how the Honey-Badger timber sales impact the plant growth nutrient (phosphorous) loading to Hayden Lake.
For a deeper dive into Hayden Lake water quality reporting, including the 2022 Hayden Lake TMDL Implementation Plan Update Report visit our Water Quality Monitoring page.
The Association has been approached by some of its members concerning a re-zoning proposal for the parcels that are larger than 5 acres found on the eastern and southern sides of Hayden Lake. The proposed changes would rezone the area from rural residential, (8,000 square feet lots,) to rural, (5-acre parcels).
Landowners in Cougar Gulch on Lake Coeur d’Alene were successful making this change, citing concerns for potable water limits and maintenance of the rural character of their community. The BOCC’s decision in the Cougar Gulch case allowed for landowners to opt out if they disagreed with the rezoning.
We will be sending a survey mailing in the Spring to determine the level of interest for this type of effort on our lake. In the meantime, please contact us through our website for more information.
The construction began in July and was completed December 7, 2023. This area has experienced many wind and tree-fall related power outages, particularly during winter months, which have caused hardships and inconvenience for residents. The $480,000.00 price tag was paid half by Avista, and half by federal infrastructure improvement funds routed from a state grant program. Apparently this project was the only one in Idaho that received this grant. We are grateful for AVISTA’s perseverance and look forward to fewer electrical outages next winter. For more background on specific construction locations and additional history, visit our Avista Power Underground page for a report from Geoff Harvey.
On behalf of the HLWA I reached out to the Hayden Lake Marina earlier this year asking if we could put up an informational kiosk near their boat docks. We received a very positive response from the then General Manager, Joe Clark, who grew up on Hayden Lake. We provided a photo of a kiosk which is like those found at many campgrounds and explained that it would have three sections. One section would be a memorial list of names remembering those who had volunteered many years contributing to our mission of “…protecting and restoring the environmental health, sustainability and scenic beauty of the Hayden Lake Basin”. The next section would be a bathymetric map showing the depth throughout the lake which could be helpful to fishermen. The third section would include county boating safety rules and regulations. With a change of management, this project has been delayed a bit, but we have been assured that the Hayden Lake Marina is still very eager to partner with us. We have been very fortunate to have enlisted a volunteer who is willing to provide his time, talents, and many of the materials at no cost to build the kiosk. We will keep you updated on the progress of this project.