Bear Lake Watch introduces legislation in Idaho to preserve the lake

By Rod Boam; Cache Valley Daily

File photo of Bear Lake in the winter.

FISH HEVAN – David and Claudia Cottle of Bear Lake Watch are introducing a resolution to the Idaho State Legislature to have Bear Lake be recognized, protected and preserved for future generations.

They also want it recognized for its unique geological features, fisheries, and recreational value among other characteristics.

“Idaho has preserved other lakes in their state but not Bear Lake,” Claudia said. “They have been preserving lakes in their state since the 1920’s.”

The Cottles have done their homework and gained support from communities around the lake and from Pacific Corp, the power company that controls the water gates that pump water into the Bear River.

They also went to the Bear River Irrigation Company and other of the users of the water pumped out of the lake.

“We didn’t want to impede anything they were doing,” she said. “We also have support from three legislative representatives, Mark Harris, Kevin Andrus and Josh Wheeler. They are working with us.”

They have been in Boise during the legislature to take it to the different committees to get support.

If Utah had spent the money in the beginning to preserve those lakes years ago they could have saved a lot of taxpayers’ money

“It is interesting Utah has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on Utah Lake and Great Salt Lake to rescue them and appoint commissions to watch over the lakes,” she said. “ If Utah had spent the money in the beginning to preserve those lakes years ago they could have saved a lot of taxpayers’ money.”

“There are some people we’ve met in Idaho that think Pacific Corp created Bear Lake as a dam to be used for irrigation,” Claudia said. “They didn’t realize it is a natural lake.”

The representatives from Bear Lake Watch have visited people at the Idaho State Parks, Idaho Department of Water Resources the Department of Environmental Quality and other entities to further their cause.

“We have had not much opposition,” Cottle said. “Everyone has been pretty positive with what we are trying to do.”

The resolution recognizes Bear Lake was natural lake at the time Idaho gained statehood and remains a highly valued resource for its native fisheries, recreation, and distinctive characteristics, including its water clarity, mineral and chemical uniqueness giving it the turquoise blue color which is known all over the world.

The resolution also mentions Bear Lake as a reservoir since the early 1800’s to store water for irrigation, flood control and incidental power generation.

They also encourage states agencies to collaborate with other agencies and stakeholders to preserve and enhance the lake.

If the Fish Haven couple are successful in the Idaho Legislature the plan to do go to the Utah Legislature in the future and try the same approach to protect the Utah side of Bear Lake.

North Beach at Bear Lake State Park gets over 300,000 visitors per year. Photo courtesy of Idaho State Parks.

Bear Lake Watch started in 1982 by Merlin Olsen, Phil Olsen, Dick Motta and David’s father Russ Cottle in an effort to protect and preserve Bear Lake in Utah and Idaho by promoting responsible management.

The lake is about 109 square miles (280 km2) in size, it is split about equally between Utah and Idaho. The Utah portion alone comprises the second-largest natural freshwater lake in Utah, after Utah Lake.

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