Idaho’s Most Popular Lake is Most Polluted
There are other famous lakes in Idaho (a friend is boating at Payette Lake this week), but Coeur d'Alene would be the most popular because of the sheer number of tourist visits. When I took a job in Idaho, a friend back east wrote to me and told me about his visits there. He said it was among the most beautiful places in America. The last time I was there, it was a long Independence Day weekend, and it rained. The streets were still clogged with traffic, and it wasn't easy finding a seat at a restaurant.
Can all the public attention be harming the lake?
I don’t believe it’s that simple. You still have agriculture in the region, and that means there’s going to be runoff from nitrogen and fertilizers. I grew up on a resort lake, albeit smaller, and you showered after swimming and nobody drank the water. There were 300 homes along the shoreline, and one of my dad’s duties every summer was to visit the cottages. He would pour green fluorescent dye into the toilet and then flush. It was shocking to see how many septic systems leaked. You could be sitting on a boat by a dock and within 15 minutes of flushing see a green cloud form in the water.
This is a trade we make when it comes to leisure. A lake may look pristine, but it isn’t. With good management, we can find a balance. There are places far worse than Coeur d’Alene. I’d say right now we have an acceptable level of pollution. As the population of the region soars, some additional remediation will be required.