The Basin Environmental Improvement Project Commission (BEIPC) was created by the Idaho Legislature under the Basin Environmental Improvement Act of 2001 (Idaho Code Title 39, Chapter 81). In this chapter, it is the policy of the State to provide a system for environmental remediation, natural resource restoration and related measures to address heavy metal contamination in the Coeur d'Alene Basin. The system provided is intended to protect and promote the health, safety and general welfare of the people of Idaho in a manner consistent with local, State, Federal and tribal participation and resources.
The Basin Commission is made up of representatives of the State of Idaho, the three Idaho counties in the Basin, the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, the State of Washington, and the United States of America. The Commission became operational in March of 2002 with the execution of the order from the director of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and participation of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, Benewah, Kootenai, and Shoshone Counties, and the State of Idaho. In August 2002, the State of Washington and Federal Government joined the Commission through the execution of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) agreed by the seven governments.
This MOA affirmed the dual roles of the Basin Commission to exercise certain State authorities as set forth in the enabling legislation, and to coordinate the Commission's activities and authorities with those of other entities operating in the Basin to achieve a similar purpose. Under the MOA, the Commission is established to implement, direct, and/or coordinate environmental remediation, natural resource restoration, and related measures to address water quality and heavy metal contamination. This includes coordinating the implementation of the 2002 Record of Decision (ROD) and the 2012 Upper Basin ROD Amendment (RODA) approved pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation Liability Act (CERCLA). In addition, the Commission has agreed to address adoption and implementation/coordination of the Lake Coeur d'Alene Management Plan, and remediation of heavy metal contamination at specific mining sites in the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River.
HISTORY: In 1983, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listed the Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex in northern Idaho as a Superfund site. This was because of high levels of heavy metals that had been released into the environment by historical mining and smelting operations.
The map above generally depicts the area that the EPA studied when evaluating possible cleanup actions in the Coeur d'Alene (CDA) Basin in the late 1990's. Environmental cleanup and restoration work is taking place in areas contaminated by historical mining waste in the CDA River Watershed, CDA Lake, and the upper reaches of the Spokane River.
EPA and the State of Idaho first focused cleanup actions in the Bunker Hill "Box," a 21 square- mile area surrounding the historic smelter complex. In 2002, EPA issued a Record of Decision (ROD) addressing areas beyond the Box, throughout the CDA River Basin, due to contamination affecting human health and the environment.
The ROD requires cleanup of all contaminated developed residential, public and commercial properties above contamination action levels. Thousands of properties have already been cleaned up as have several recreation sites and mine and mill sites. Cleanup will take many more years.
In 2012, the Upper Basin ROD Amendment was issued by EPA to establish a comprehensive, holistic cleanup approach across the Upper Basin to protect people's health and improve water quality and the ecological system.