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Whitefish Lakeshore violation an insult to our greatest resource

| June 26, 2024 1:00 AM

I am writing in regard to the recent Whitefish Pilot story “Construction causes rockslide on Whitefish Lakeshore.” I would like to share my concerns and take a stance to support greater enforcement and stricter penalties for homeowners and contractors who violate the Whitefish Lakeshore Protection Zone. 

The Lakeshore Protection Act in Montana aims to conserve and protect natural lakes because of the important role they play in biological processes that contribute to a healthy natural environment, and their high scenic and resource values. We must not turn our backs on the importance that lakes and water resources play in our health and economy. 

The contractor in this case was quoted in the Whitefish Pilot as saying, “with the amount of material that’s actually in the water, I don’t want this to be blown out of proportion.” On social media, the contractor stated that “it will have no lasting impact on the lake or the community.” I beg to differ, and in fact, the developer of the single-family residence responsible for the recent violation was cited for a separate violation last year, when workers denuded the lakeshore’s slope by removing a large copse of trees within the Whitefish Lakeshore Protection Zone without a permit. It is a big deal each time a violation or degradation occurs! 

The Wisconsin Association of Lakes points to studies suggesting that good water quality is reflected in property values; it follows that the protection of good water quality should become a community priority. Excessive loading of phosphorus and nitrogen rich sediment from shore land development leads to poor water quality, nuisance plant growth and habitat degradation.  

Bonding for projects could be an option to deter continued violations of toothless laws designed to prevent environmental damage. Projects should be required to become bonded when they obtain building permits for activity within sensitive areas. This is a proactive approach requiring a significant monetary investment by the owner and contractor toward the protection of community resources. Additional impact fees and an inter-local agreement with the county are needed to address future accidents and violations. 

As a longtime resident of the City Beach neighborhood on the south end of Whitefish Lake, I have watched trees mysteriously die at the hands of greedy landowners. Somehow, we let kids swim in the most polluted area of the lake from sewage effluent and spilled fuel or discharged uncombusted fuels from boat and truck engines. This last violation of the public’s trust and insult to one of our greatest resources must be addressed by the city, county and state and enforcement and penalties must be increased to prevent continued damage.  

We are lucky to have Mike Koopal and his team at the Whitefish Lake Institute working to navigate the impacts of our changing community on our lake. Please reach out to WLI or get involved with the Whitefish Lake and Lakeshore Protection Committee. 

 

–– Shawna Moore, Whitefish