The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reconsidering a permit issued to the Idaho Club in 2019 for a proposed marina and condominium complex at the mouth of Trestle Creek on Lake Pend Oreille. Trestle Creek is designated as critical habitat for bull trout, who use these waters to spawn. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requested consultations with the Corps when new data about the declining population of bull trout in the Pend Oreille Basin became available. The Corps agreed to the USFWS’ request. 

Idaho Conservation League staff in North Idaho and Trout Unlimited’s Coeur d’Alene Basin Project Manager Erin Plue took a trip to Trestle Creek to see what could be lost if this permit is approved. Nestled behind an inlet on the banks of Lake Pend Oreille, we found a serene, hidden refuge for wildlife and a thriving aquatic ecosystem. 

We launched our canoe nearby at the Trestle Creek Recreation Area and paddled about ten minutes to the site of the proposed marina. Leaving the open, choppier waters of Lake Pend Oreille, we turned into a quiet inlet that was almost completely hidden by vegetation. 

Along the banks of this inlet, cottonwood trees, willows, and dogwood have reclaimed the remnants of a boardwalk and docks. A small island in the middle creates a narrow waterway along the outer edge where you can still easily maneuver a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard.  

The calm, cool waters beneath our canoe teemed with life. Schools of sunfish darted in between aquatic plants like coontail, water buttercup, and pondweed while black-striped perch and largemouth bass swam lazily below. In the brush around us, we frequently heard the rustling of unseen creatures who have made this quiet corner their home. 

“The way Lake Pend Oreille formed led to this steep, deep lake with very little variety of shoreline habitats,” Erin explained. “On Lake Coeur d’Alene, you can find all these nooks and crannies to explore that create these life-rich areas. But on Pend Oreille – spots like this are rare and critically important to offer critters a much needed hideaway with protected land and water.”

If approved, the plan for the marina and condominium complex calls for the removal of the island and dredging of the inlet, eradicating this secluded refuge.

We spent the morning floating through this unique place, seeing what fish we could identify and reflecting on what could be lost if it were replaced with another marina and development. 

The Idaho Club has asked the Army Corps to make a decision on the permit reconsideration by the end of October. They plan to begin construction in November.