North Idaho's Clean Lakes Act goes into effect Saturday and could prove an important link between government and the public in protecting the state's waterways.
But an Idaho water quality expert says it takes money along with public sentiment to undo man's contamination.The act, introduced by Sen. Mary Lou Reed, D-Coeur d'Alene, creates a regional coordinating council that receives information from a public advisory committee and a technical one. The law affects the lakes in the five northernmost counties for now.
Council members, who have yet to be appointed by Gov. Cecil Andrus, will be a direct line to lawmakers, who ultimately control policy and purse strings.
The council will be responsible for seeing lake management plans devised and put into play. It has no regulatory or enforcement powers.
Ken Lustig, Panhandle Health District's environmental chief, will receive $80,000 to implement the act in its first year. He said he will assign seven staff members to spend four hours per week, each assigned to a different lake.
While scientists consider technical aspects of the lakes, the citizens group will examine social issues including possible conflicts between different users.
"There are going to be some very interesting surface water issues that are social and aesthetic and have little or nothing to do with traditional eutrophication," Lustig said.
Eutrophication is the growth of algae in a lake, which can be speeded up by man's actions. A nutrient management act passed by the Legislature this year was intended to limit the discharge of phosphorus into the lakes, which spurs the increase of algae.
While Lustig has the money and the manpower to work on the lakes, the Division of Environmental Quality has some responsibility but no money specifically for that end, said Ed Tulloch, water quality field supervisor.
Tulloch said he is encouraged by the legislative blessing of a pilot project in northern Idaho.
However, he said, "sizeable amounts of money" will be needed to actually clean up and maintain lakes that need the work.