Governor steps up for Pend Oreille

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Well done, Governor.

Early last week, Butch Otter announced an agreement with federal resource managers that should provide certainty for great recreation on Lake Pend Oreille all summer.

By helping broker the agreement between the state, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration, Gov. Otter is helping ensure that annual lake drawdowns won't occur prematurely, as many lake users have feared since at least 2013. Holding levels at or slightly above 2,061 feet into late September not only assures peak recreational usage for many thousands of North Idahoans, but protects kokanee spawning grounds near the shoreline and habitat for bull trout downstream.

In December 2013, a number of people who should have been strongly advocating for maintaining the summer lake levels had struck a tone that sounded a lot like defeat. As this newspaper editorialized, citizens' use of this fabulous lake and the remarkable comeback of the kokanee were being relegated to second-class status, with greater demand for power production and other downstream interests grabbing the lake's reins. Potential economic damage to the region was nothing short of frightening.

Our editorial concluded:

"The state of Idaho and its representatives need to wake up to the influence that is being exerted on its citizens and its resources. It's time for the state to be a leader and come to their defense.

"Part of that mandate is to insist Pend Oreille be managed as a lake and that its fisheries be restored and managed with sustainable practices.

"Only then can citizens be assured that the lake returns to the same condition in which it was found before dams were installed and natural ecosystems were disrupted."

Thanks to terrific cooperation between all interested parties - and we note yet again proof that the federal government is not Idaho's enemy - one of North Idaho's most rewarding economic and recreational summertime shows will go on.

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