Recently, the Community Water Resource Center at the University of Idaho in Coeur d’Alene, wrapped up its third year of citizen science data collection on Lake Coeur d’Alene with the Bay Watchers. The Bay Watchers are a dynamic group of volunteers that meet with CWRC outreach employees once a month to monitor water quality parameters in their local area or bay on the lake. The program now samples 12 sites on the lake for different water quality parameters. The Bay Watchers are a dedicated and fascinating group; each member has a unique story and an impressive resume of service work. Many Bay Watchers are former board members or C-suite executives of local companies and organizations. These volunteers give up their precious summer days, priceless currency in North Idaho, to come assist U of I and monitor our lake.
As noted in the recent National Academy of Sciences report that was published about the lake, there is a need to monitor the bays where early signs of nutrient enrichment and nuisance algal growth are most likely to appear.
Protecting the water quality of Lake Coeur d’Alene will require that monitoring efforts be fortified and expanded to provide an early warning of deteriorating conditions, regular syntheses of data, and targeted studies followed by application of those results to managing the lake.
Steve Wilson has been the Bay Watcher for Cave Bay since the beginning. He found out about the program through his work at the Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber. He loved working with the Natural Resource Committee and learning about our environment, so he immediately volunteered to be a Bay Watcher when the opportunity came up. Aside from getting to learn new things, Steve’s favorite part about the program is his enhanced awareness of the lake and the appreciation for the detailed and scientific side of life. To help protect and conserve our natural resources, Steve gives the advice to, “be aware, take an interest in our environment, and don’t take advantage of it.”
Julie Fromm is a new Bay Watcher for Rockford Bay. Julie joined Bay Watchers this year after raising concerns about heavy run-off into Rockford Bay. Her favorite part of this experience is learning about the lake and meeting the other Bay Watchers and U of I staff. Since this year is her first year, she is also excited to see how her results from this year’s monitoring will compare to next year’s. Julie is curious about the long-term health of the lake and how pollution affects it, including stormwater contamination.
Barb and Bob McFarland are the Bay Watchers for Blue Creek and Beauty Bay.
They also have been with the Bay Watchers since the beginning of the program. The McFarlands chose their bays because of development in the area. Barb and Bob caught wind of a potential resort being built in Beauty Bay and wanted to monitor the bay pre and post construction.
Blue Creek was also a strategic choice, and the couple has been monitoring the effect of logging in the area on the lake.
At the end of the season, the CWRC staff put together a report outlining the data collected from each site over time. Now in its third year, data collection trends can be analyzed over time and data will be shared with the state and the tribe. With the help from Avista and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, the Bay Watchers will have an opportunity to start monitoring nutrients in select bays starting in the 2023 sampling season. For more information about Bay watchers visit https://www.uidaho. edu/cda/cwrc/baywatchers.
••• The Our Gem Coeur d’Alene Lake Collaborative is a team of committed and passionate professionals working to preserve lake health and protect water quality by promoting community awareness of local water resources through education, outreach, and stewardship. Our Gem includes local experts from the University of Idaho Community Water Resource Center, Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Kootenai County, Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber and CDA 2030.
CDA Press Article