The tribe has some questions about techniques being used in a project to stabilize about six miles of eroded shoreline along the heavily traveled St. Joe River. Tribal biologist Jack Gunderman said the tribe wants to make certain that habitat for fish and wildlife is preserved during the $270,000 stabilization process over the next several years. For example, he said logs that provide habitat for fish could be anchored in the water by rocks. Nine Benewah County property owners have teamed up with the Natural Resource Conservation Service to shore up the riverbank by building rock berms. Putting in the 'woody debris' increases cost of stabilization, but not prohibitively, Gunderman said. The tribe is particularly interested since the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision affirmed its ownership of the southern third of Lake Coeur d'Alene and the St. Joe River upstream to St. Maries. Along the St. Joe, ice floes crash into the banks in the winter and floods wash away still more of the bank in the spring and summer. Vegetation that might have anchored soil has been razed to make way for pastureland. And, power boats set off wakes that wash repeatedly against the shore, all adding to erosion.
The tribe has given its blessing to Sen. Mike Crapo's efforts to fund cleanup of the Coeur d'Alene River Basin. The Idaho Republican has introduced legislation seeking $250 million for environmental restoration of the basin, along with additional appropriations from Congress. 'Appropriate cleanup ? will require funds from every source we can tap,' Crapo said. Tribal Chairman Ernest Stensgar said the tribe supports those efforts but more needs to be done. 'This funding, while significant, cannot accomplish our goal of total cleanup of the basin.'