The US Army Corps of Engineers intends to revoke the Idaho Club’s permit for a private marina and housing project on Lake Pend Oreille in response to recent litigation by conservation groups.
The Idaho Club, a golf resort near Sandpoint, wants to build the project at the mouth of Trestle Creek, about 4 miles south of the golf course along Highway 200. The creek is a major spawning ground for endangered bull trout.
In a Sept. 15 letter to William Haberman, managing member of Valiant Idaho LLC, owner of the Idaho Club, the Corps said it would continue to suspend its permit for the Trestle Creek marina project and offered to revoke license as of September 1. 26.
Haberman and a Corps attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Idaho Club had the opportunity to request a meeting with the Corps for more information. The letter said the Corps would revoke the license after the meeting.
“We’re really pleasantly surprised that the Corps is considering revoking their license,” said Kristine Akland, northern Rockies attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. Last week, Akland said he witnessed bull trout spawning in the creek, which was “incredibly special and unique.”
On August 25, the Idaho Conservation League and Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Corps for violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. Then, on September 7, conservation groups sent a notice of intent to sue the Corps for also violating the Endangered Species Act.
The Corps first authorized the project in 2009 and recently renewed it in 2019. The Corps suspended the permit in August 2021 after the Conservation League of Idaho and the Center for Biological Diversity sent a notice of intent to sue for the agency’s failure to resume consultation with FWS, which is required by endangered species law.
FWS issued a biological advisory on the impact of the proposed bull trout development on August 12. The advisory concluded that the development would injure, capture and kill bull trout; and would have long-term negative effects on fish and critical habitat in Trestle Creek. FWS nevertheless concluded that the project would not jeopardize the recovery of the species.
Conservation groups filed their complaint in response. One of their complaints was that FWS had not reviewed the new design plans for the project.
In the letter to Haberman, the Corps said the revocation is warranted due to “changes in the proposed project” as well as “significant objections related to these new designs, raised through litigation associated with this project. “which had not been examined before.
The 2019 permit was based on outdated information from the original 2009 design plan, said Whitney Palmer, a Sandpoint-based staff member for the Center for Biological Diversity.
In August, the Idaho Club submitted “updated design information” that was not included in the documents assessed by the Corps when issuing the 2019 permit. “The newly provided designs now include five residential parcels waterfront single family homes, a community pavilion and additional features such as road infrastructure,” the letter reads.
Akland said if the Corps revoked the permit, it would address concerns raised in the notice of intent, as the project could not proceed further without obtaining a new permit. “If there’s a revocation, we call it a 100% win,” she said.
Once the Corps revokes the permit, any new permits for development would have to go through appropriate environmental review, a press release from conservation groups said. This would require the Corps to complete an environmental impact statement, a public interest review, a full notice and comment process, and further consultation with the Service under the Endangered Species Act to ensure that threatened and endangered species would not be harmed. The Corps would also need to determine the effects the project would have on wetlands and could potentially require the developer to purchase credits through a wetland mitigation bank.
If constructed, the Project would radically reconfigure the creek and shoreline designated as Bull Trout critical habitat by the FWS. The development would involve the diversion of a branch of the creek which flows into the cove where the marina would be built.