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Zoning Commission OKs Camp Bay sewage plant

Staff Writer | July 23, 2022 1:00 AM

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SANDPOINT — Despite community concerns, the Bonner County Zoning Commission voted unanimously to approve M3’s wastewater treatment facility next to Camp Bay.

All five commissioners were in attendance, with one joining via Zoom.

The project still needs approval from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the Panhandle Health District before construction can begin.

Fred Arn, a Camp Bay resident who also manages 50feet.net and is resisting M3’s development plans, brought up the application’s “inaccurate map” because it did not show South Camp Bay Road.

Arn is involved in civil litigation over public access to Camp Bay, which hinges upon Camp Bay Road touching the high water mark of Lake Pend Oreille.

Another concern with the application arose due to another alleged inaccuracy. For the conditional use permit, JUB Engineers, who was contracted by M3 for the proposed facility, wrote that “[t]here are no lakes, streams, rivers or other bodies of water on the site.”

At the public meeting, JUB engineer and planner Brad Marshall said a small stream crossed the western edge of the proposed project. He also explained that there is always water on site in North Idaho, especially seasonally. He still determined that there are no bodies of water on site.

In the PHD’s response to the application, Tim French wrote that “PHD did observe numerous water bodies (creaks, streams, drainages, swales, etc.) on the site. The proposed wastewater system infrastructure will be going near, over, or under many water bodies.”

Water flows are a concern for large soil absorption systems, as potential waste could flow offsite.

Commenting on the proposal, Jennifer Ekstrom of the Idaho Conservation League noted the discrepancy between JUB Engineering and PHD’s response to the application. Eskstrom said “due to this significant discrepancy I have a number of concerns. One is that surface water could become contaminated with nutrients and bacteria via the sewage saturated soil.”

“This contaminated water could present a public health hazard on and off the site,” she said. “Contaminated surface water could also carry nutrients into the near shore area of Lake Pend Oreille. … Any additional nutrients will increase susceptibility to toxic algae blooms and weeds.”

Ekstrom cited Bonner County Code 12-223, which states that before a CUP may be approved, the Zoning Commission must find that “the proposed use will neither create a hazard nor be dangerous to persons on or adjacent to the property.”

Commissioner Kris Kingsland wanted to ensure that the commission’s decision on the CUP would not impact Panhandle Health District’s, nor Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s decision-making process. Swati Rastogi of the Bonner County Planning Department stated that JUB and M3 will still have to receive appropriate permits from PHD and DEQ.

Jacob Marble, the chair of the Zoning Commission, was not particularly concerned.

“I personally don’t care if there’s 24 systems or one system because either way Panhandle Health is going to make sure the soil is properly permeable and nature is gonna do its thizzang.”

“Even if the effluent gets dumped right into the lake, that kind of pollution takes care of itself with time.”

The permit application was approved unanimously.