This week, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will break ground on a 65 acre wetland restoration project to provide natural habitat for many species that continue to be harmed by the historic releases of mine waste.
"We are very excited about this project," said Jim Teare, Habitat Manager with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. "We recognize the importance of projects like these, not only to the wildlife such as tundra swans, but to local folks like those from the Tribe."
"Many of our families continue to practice their traditions, like food gathering, in places that have always been sacred to them. But this is not true of the Lower Coeur d'Alene River," said Chief Allan, Chairman of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, referring to mine waste contamination in the Lower Coeur d'Alene River. "As cleanup and restoration activities occur, we hope our families will eventually be able to return to this important area," said Allan.
"Our goal is to use as much native vegetation as we can," said Teare. "This includes the use of water potatoes, which we recognize as supremely important to the Tribe." Additionally, the project includes adding in water control structures and improving stretches of both Canary Creek and Robinson Creek.
The actual restoration work is being funded by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality's Page Ponds Mitigation fund. After the work is completed, Idaho Fish and Game will maintain the site, which is included and managed as a part of its Coeur d'Alene River Wildlife Management Area.
The Tribe passed a resolution in 2000 encouraging tribal members to refrain from recreating and subsistence gathering in the Lower Coeur d'Alene River Basin. "The river turned white and our people stopped visiting the area. It's such a vivid picture that has been handed down to us through oral tradition.
This area that once was so meaningful to our people was forever changed due to the pollutants that came downstream," said Quanah Matheson, Cultural Affairs Director for the Coeur D'Alene Casino. Matheson will provide a tribal blessing prior to Friday's ground breaking.
The blessing ceremony will be held on Friday, August 28th, 2015 at 10 AM at the Robinson Creek project site, located at 20294 S. Robinson Creek Rd., Cataldo, Idaho. Everyone is welcome.