No more water at Lake Cd'A BLM sites

Federal sequester prevents repairs at Mineral Ridge, Beauty Bay

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COEUR d'ALENE - Pack canteens.

Recreationalists planning to take in the views along the Bureau of Land Management's scenic hiking trail at Mineral Ridge or planning to picnic at its Beauty Bay site should plan on bringing some drinking water.

Water systems at both locations are broken, and the bureau can't afford to fix them because of budget cuts from sequestration.

"We just don't have the staff to do it," said Suzanne Endsley, BLM spokesperson in Coeur d'Alene. "We're not able to hire any seasonal employees, which is really a tragedy, because we're usually able to get college students during the summer."

The BLM issued a press release noting across the board federal budget cuts that took effect in March - known as sequestration - caused a 50 percent reduction in staff.

Coeur d'Alene recreation staff went from eight positions to three and a half, Endsley said. It amounted to about a $500,000 hit in the budget.

The reduction means the BLM's Coeur d'Alene Field Office won't have staff at either site to conduct the necessary bi-weekly water sampling in order to meet the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality drinking water standards, according to the release.

So even if they could fix it, they couldn't test it routinely to ensure the water quality complies, Endsley said.

She said the priority for the Coeur d'Alene office is to maintain garbage service and keep the BLM boat launch operational during the summer. Sunday, temperatures are forecasted to reach 90 degrees.

Sequestration was used in 2011 as a tool in the Budget Control Act, which called for an increase in the debt ceiling in exchange for $2.4 trillion in deficit cuts over 10 years. When senators and legislators, known as the "Super Committee," were unable to reach agreement on spending cuts, across-the-board reductions kicked in.

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