2.1.   PHYSIOGRAPHY: Three mountain ranges dominate the geography within Boundary County; to the west lie the Selkirk Mountains, to the northeast the Purcells and to the Southeast the Cabinet Mountains. All lie within the Kaniksu National Forest, managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Separating these ranges are deeply silted valleys, resulting mostly from glacial sedimentation occurring as recently as 11,000 years ago. In some areas, silt deposits resulting from glaciation reach as far as 900 feet below ground surface. By far the largest land feature in Boundary County is the broad Purcell Trench, which extends south from the Canadian border to the Rathdrum Prairie, now in Kootenai County. Round Prairie, a narrow valley through the Purcells, extends from Copeland northeast toward Eastport, ending at Robinson Lake. The Moyie River is another narrow valley extending from Eastport south to Moyie Springs. Paradise Valley extends northeast from Naples to Crossport, consisting mainly of lowlands, and the North Bench rises above the Kootenai River from Three Mile to Moyie Springs. These features generally define the topography and use of lands subject to the jurisdiction of Boundary County, as defined by this Comprehensive Plan. Natural resources within Boundary County include numerous surface water bodies, high-quality groundwater, a variety of native plant species, rich agricultural soils, many species of native and introduced fish and abundant wildlife. Economic mineral deposits are also present, though less abundant. The resources are further described in the following sections.


2.2.   SURFACE WATER: Boundary County is part of the Upper Columbia River Basin. Within the county, there are six sub-basins; the Upper Kootenai, Lower Kootenai, Moyie, Pend Oreille Lake, Priest, and Pend Oreille. These sub-basins include several watersheds which drain into the Moyie River in the northeast, the Kootenai River through the center of the county, Priest Lake to the west, Lake Pend Oreille to the south, and into the Pend Oreille River from the northwestern tip of Boundary County. Boundary County does not hold a surface water resource dominant to the area, but holds water resources sufficient to accommodate development. Data on aquifers is limited. Well logs are available, but vary widely in depth and output, while one well will provide copious flows at modest depth, another only feet away may provide meager or no flow, even at extensive depth. As a result, several water districts and associations have been formed to provide domestic water (see Public Services, Facilities and Utilities). The most prominent surface water resources in Boundary County are, in order of importance; rivers, streams and creeks, lakes and wetlands. The following are descriptions of major surface water bodies within Boundary County:

2.2.1.       Kootenai River: The Kootenai River is the most prominent water body in Boundary County, originating in the Kootenay National Park, north of Mount Assiniboine in British Columbia, Canada, and flowing 485 miles south through the Rocky Mountain Trench into the Lake Kookanusa reservoir created by the installation of the Libby Dam, Lincoln County, Montana, in the early 1970s. The Kootenai River now flows westward from the Libby Dam through a gap between the Purcell and Cabinet Mountains into north Idaho at Leonia, and through the Kootenai Canyon west of Katka into Bonners Ferry. The river then veers northward, entering the Kootenai Valley after transiting the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, exiting Boundary County at Porthill and finally emptying into Kootenay Lake in British Columbia, Canada. Prior to the installation of the Libby Dam, the Kootenai River typically flooded low elevations every spring, laying down rich silt deposits which produced much of the prime agricultural ground lying north of Bonners Ferry. The Kootenai River is the second largest tributary in the Columbia River system in terms of runoff volume, but only six-percent of the river’s length lies in Boundary County. It is Boundary County’s longest river and the most voluminous in terms of stream flow. The United States portion of the watershed is mostly forested, but a wide swath of cultivated agricultural land borders the river on both sides from Bonners Ferry northward to Canada.

2.2.2.       Libby Dam: The Libby Dam was completed in 1972, forming 90-mile-long Lake Kookanusa, which extends into British Columbia. Libby Dam was built to provide electrical power and control annual flooding. Recently, it has also been used to protect indigenous species native to the Kootenai River and the Columbia River by mimicking natural stream flows. Features: Major tributaries below Libby Dam include the Fisher and Yaak Rivers in Montana and the Moyie River in Boundary County. The 56-mile river segment between Libby Dam and the Moyie River has limited flood plain due to the closeness of surrounding mountains and flow within the constricted Kootenai Canyon. In the 5.1 miles between the confluence of the Moyie and the City of Bonners Ferry, river depth is typically less than 27-feet, with mostly gravel substrate. The average gradient is approximately 0.3 percent and the velocity approaches 1.8 miles per hour. Between Bonners Ferry and the confluence of Kootenay Lake, the river slows by approximately 0.1 percent and the river deepens to an average of 37 feet, with pools of up to 95 feet. Dikes and channels have affected the natural flow of the Kootenai River from the 1890s on. The character of the Kootenai River dramatically changes from a bedrock-dominant subsurface in Montana to a silt/clay subsurface in Bonners Ferry, the result of glacial damming during the Pleistocene era, which filled surrounding valleys with sediment, including fine silts, glacial gravels and boulders. As a result, an extensive network of marshes, tributary side channels and sloughs were formed downriver from Bonners Ferry, laying down a natural flow of seasonal sediment that formed the prime agricultural land that currently exists along the valley floor. Today, the longest block of agricultural land in Boundary County lies along the Kootenai River north of Bonners Ferry to the Canadian border, with production of wheat and barley accounting for 62% of the agricultural output of the Boundary County/Creston area. Flows: The volume of water in the Kootenai River fluctuates greatly along its length and in different seasons. At the Kootenai Tribal Hatchery, located just down river from the City of Bonners Ferry, the mean annual flow ranges from 5,240 cubic feet per second in February to a high of 21,970 cfs in June. At Copeland, the mean ranges from 7,176 cfs in March to 39,300 cfs in June, and at Porthill, the low annual mean is 7,701 cfs in March and the high is 38,940 in June. Flooding: Much of the Kootenai River was studied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the development of flood plain maps establishing 100 and 500 year flood plain, but because of the Libby Dam and the extensive diking system, these areas were not sufficiently studied to develop base flood levels.

2.2.3.      Moyie River: The Moyie River originates in the Purcell Mountains northwest of Moyie, British Columbia, and traverses Boundary County from near Eastport south to its confluence with the Kootenai River, its course closely followed by the Union Pacific Railroad and the Moyie River Road. The Moyie River Hydroelectric Dam, first licensed in 1949 by the City of Bonners Ferry, lies immediately north of the City of Moyie Springs, and provides electricity to the City of Bonners Ferry and a small portion of land within the jurisdiction of Boundary County. The Moyie River Dam is 92-feet in height, located immediately upstream from the Moyie Falls, which descends 40-feet, and is designed to divert water from intakes at the powerhouse to re-enter the stream below the falls. In addition to electrical generation, the Moyie Dam is also a scenic attraction, viewed from Highway 2 from a turnout above the Moyie Bridge. Flooding: The Moyie River in high water years has over-flowed its banks, but property damage is typically minimal. The most flood-prone area is in Eastport south to Good Grief. This area has been mapped by FEMA and base flood elevations established. Due to mostly deep river channel as the Moyie River travels south to its confluence with the Kootenai River, much of the length of the Moyie River has not been mapped. Flows: Like the Kootenai, the Moyie River varies greatly in flow with season., from a low month mean of 97.9 cfs in September to a high of 3,078 cfs in May, measured at Eastport.

2.2.4.      Named Creeks and Streams/Watersheds: Surrounded by the Selkirk, Purcell and Cabinet Mountains with elevations peaking at approximately 6,000-feet and snow packs lasting year-round, Boundary County accommodates an abundance of creeks of various lengths and water volumes flowing throughout the year. Most have a rapid stream flow due to steep slopes of the mountains. Almost all empty into the Moyie and Kootenai Rivers, with most water exiting Boundary County into Canada and eventually into the Columbia River system and the Pacific Ocean. Many of the creeks in Boundary County were studied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and flood zones established in maps prepared in August, 1982, which depict 100 and 500 year flood plains, stream channels, and on most, the base flood level. The list of named creeks and lakes is included at Appendix I.

2.2.5.      Wetlands: Overview: Wetlands are defined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as “those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetland generally include swamps (sloughs), marshes, bogs and similar areas.” Wetlands also include areas that are dry during part of the year, including but not limited to bottomland forests, bogs, wet meadows and ponds, all scattered throughout the valleys and bottomlands of Boundary County and fed by the area’s rivers, creeks and precipitation. Much of the wetlands within the county have been designated and are managed by the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA, however, other wetlands exist which have not been designated. Identified wetlands are included on the digital zoning map maintained by the zoning administrator. Protection: Wetlands are protected due to their importance in providing food and protection to fish, wildlife and waterfowl. They also act as natural water storage areas during floods and storms by retaining high waters, act as water recharge areas for underlying or nearby aquifers, and purify water by filtering and removing pollutants. Methods exist to recognize and designate wetlands. The most common include recognizing low spots in a flood plain where water stands at or above the soil surface for part of the growing season, locating areas that support plant communities that commonly grow in wetlands for at least part of the growing season, and identifying soils called peats or mucks. Development: Wetlands are protected under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, and the Army Corps of Engineers is tasked with administration. Prior permitting is required when the elimination or alteration of wetlands is intended. These include the placement of fill, certain ditching activities, levee and dike construction, mechanized land clearing, land leveling and most road and dam construction. Construction of structures waterward of the ordinary high water mark of the Kootenai River from Bonners Ferry north to the Canadian border require permits under Section 10 of the River and Harbor Act of 1899. This includes disposal of dredging materials, excavation, filling, channel alteration, bank protection, including riprap, revetment and bulkheads, or any other modification of a “navigable water of the United States.” Structures covered by this section include recreational docks of any size, floating or fixed, to the largest commercial undertaking, such as wharfs, weirs, breakwaters, jetties, permanent mooring structures including pilings, aerial or underwater transmission lines, intake or outfall pipes, permanently moored floating vessels, tunnels, artificial canals, boat ramps, aids to navigation and any other permanent or semi-permanent construction.


2.3.   VEGETATION: Boundary County is home to a diverse range of native plants. It is also highly suitable the production of agricultural crops.

2.3.1.      Forests: Boundary County forests are a traditional foundation of the Boundary County economy and occur in wide ranges on both private and publicly owned land throughout the county. On public land, most forest areas are managed as a renewable resource for the production of lumber and wood products. In addition to native trees, silvicultural production in local nurseries has become an increasingly important facet of the local economy.

2.3.2.      Local forests are primarily conifer with a wide array of species. Forest Service lands within Boundary County comprise 413,000 acres, and predominant conifer species and the percentage of occurrences are: Sub-Alpine fir: 37.5% Lodgepole pine: 18% Douglas fir: 16.9% Western larch: 9.5% Western cedar: 7.3% Grand fir: 6.1% Ponderosa pine: 1.5% White pine: 1.3% White bark pine: 1%

2.3.3.      Hardwoods and Shrubs: Predominant species of hardwoods and shrubs in Boundary County include maple, alder, serviceberry, snowbush, ocean spray, honeysuckle, huckleberry, syringa, choke cherry, wild rose, thimbleberry, willow, elderberry, mountain ash and snowberry. In addition, there are considerable occurrences of kinnikinnick, twin bells, Oregon grape, wild strawberry, ferns and a multitude of native grasses.

2.3.4.      Sensitive/Endangered Species: According to the National Forest Service, there are no sensitive or endangered plant species native to Boundary County.

2.3.5.      Agricultural: Boundary County possesses rich and productive agricultural lands, largely resulting from millennia of flooding and resultant silt left by the Kootenai River. These lands produce a variety of agricultural products, including wheat, oats, barley and other grains, hops, alfalfa and other hay and forage crops. In addition to prime agricultural land, most of Boundary County is suited for smaller scale agricultural production of truck and vegetable crops, and family gardens abound in the community.

2.3.6.      Noxious Weeds: Several species of invasive plants considered noxious weeds have been introduced in Boundary County. Boundary County, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Idaho Department of Lands actively work to eradicate or slow their spread.


2.4.   SOILS:

2.4.1.      Agriculture: Farming: About 68,000 acres in the survey area is used for crop production, hay and pasture. Major crops are spring wheat, winter wheat, oats, barley, alfalfa, clover seed and canola. Ornamental nursery and irrigated hops make up a small but significant acreage. Most of the prime cropland is located on the Kootenai River flood plain, which has been drained and protected from flooding by a system of ditches, pumps and levees. The remainder of the cropland and most of the hayland and pasture is located on the high benches of cleared forest land, with some pasture located on wet bottom lands and meadows along the major creeks of the area. The average size of individual farms and ranches is about 300 acres. Timber: Timber production is carried out both by individual landowners and large timber companies. The majority of prime timberland, but not all, lies on federal and state land and is managed for multiple timber resources. Large corporate timberland tracts range in size from 1,000 to over 10,000 acres. Grazing: Livestock grazing is becoming more important to the area’s economy. Livestock operations include cow-calf or beef enterprises, generally fewer than 100 head. Some large timber companies lease out their cutover timberlands for livestock grazing, and some of the federal and state lands are likewise leased.                  General Soil Map Units: The 2005 General Soils Map of Boundary County, produced by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, shows nine generalized map units, each consisting of several named soils series. Soil types are extremely diverse in Boundary County, with mapping of a total of 201 different soil series. Because of its small scale, the map is not suitable for planning the management of a farm or field or for selecting a site for a road, building or other structure. Detailed soil maps included in the survey can be used to determine the suitability and potential of a unit for specific uses, and can be used to plan the management needed for those uses.



2.5.1.      Overview: Fisheries and related activities are vital components of our larger natural resource management interest. In developing this Natural Resource component of the Comprehensive Plan, it is recognized that fisheries are only a part of an ecosystem dependent on bio-diversity, and that all parts of our ecosystem are directly and significantly impacted by land use and other human activities. Fishing: Boundary County currently provides a range of recreational sport fishing opportunities. The health and population of fish vary greatly from species to species and from habitat to habitat. Fishing opportunities exist in back country lakes, fast-flowing trout streams and natural lowland lakes, with more than 30 fish species in Boundary County, identified by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and fisheries biologists at the Kootenai Tribal Hatchery, listed at Appendix II:

2.5.2.      Rare/Endangered Species: Boundary County’s fisheries are fragile. Several species are either classed as rare or endangered, and some, including the white sturgeon, bull trout, burbot and westslope trout, may be near extinction.


2.6.   WILDLIFE:

2.6.1.      Overview: A diverse array of wildlife species are found in Boundary County. Most species are native and are present in sufficient numbers that they are viable over the long term with proper management and adequate habitat protection. Since only a very small portion of Boundary County is urbanized, nearly every parcel of land in the county currently provides habitat for one or more species of wildlife. Consequently, nearly every land use decision could and will likely have some impact on wildlife. In addition to many healthy populations of wildlife species, both game and non-game, Boundary County is home to six species of wildlife that are classified as either threatened or endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). These species and their habitats have certain legal protections under the ESA wherever they occur. Additionally, Boundary County is home to 32 species of “Special Status Vertebrates” (Idaho Conservation Data Center information system). These are species that for one reason or another are at some risk of losing long-term viability. The six threatened or endangered species are included in the Special Status Vertebrates classification. Wildlife and wildlife associated recreation are important to the custom and culture of this mostly rural community. Wildlife associated recreation, primarily hunting and viewing, are also important economically to Boundary County. The majority of land area in Boundary County, roughly 74-percent, is owned and managed by federal and state governmental agencies. In most instances, especially where threatened or endangered species are concerned, the respective agencies address the needs of wildlife in their management plans. For the most part, land at low elevations is privately owned, and land above about 3,000 feet is owned by state and federal government. Wildlife occupies both lowland and upland habitats and some move freely between these areas.

2.6.2.      Classification of Wildlife: All wildlife in Idaho is classified under Idaho Administrative Code IDAPA 13.01.06. It is important to recognize that this classification is not consistent with federal classifications for some species. For instance, the gray wolf is classified under the ESA as an endangered species, while Idaho classes the gray wolf as a big game animal.                  Big Game Animals (IDAPA                         Boundary County is home to eight of the 11 species of big game animals found in the state of Idaho. Hunting of big game is an important aspect of local custom and culture, and contributes significantly to the local economy. Big game hunting occurs on both public and private land in Boundary County. Most big game species winter primarily on private property at lower elevations.                         Changing land uses over the past several decades have impacted big game habitats, migration routes and forage ranges, and it is anticipated that such change will continue and impact big games species into the future.                         Common names for big game animals occurring in Boundary County are: Mule deer, whitetail deer, Rocky Mountain elk, moose, mountain lion, mountain goat, black bear, and gray wolf.                  Upland Game Animals (IDAPA The only upland game animal that occurs in Boundary County is the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus). Although they can be found throughout Boundary County, snowshoe hares occur mostly at mid to higher elevations and primarily on lands under federal, state or timber company ownership. At present, very few hunters pursue snowshoe hares. They are an important prey species for forest carnivores.                  Game Birds:                         Upland Game Birds:      Native upland game birds that occur in Boundary County are three species of forest grouse; ruffed grouse, blue grouse and spruce grouse. Ruffed grouse occur throughout the county but are most abundant at lower elevations and are the most likely of the three species to be found on private property. Blue grouse and spruce grouse are found primarily at mid to higher elevations above 3,000 feet. Land above 3,000 feet in the county is mostly owned by federal or state agencies or by private timber companies.      Non-native upland game birds found in Boundary County are Merriams turkey, ring-necked pheasant and California quail. These all occur primarily on or adjacent to agricultural ground throughout Boundary County. Currently, only the Merriams turkey is present in sufficient numbers to maintain a self-sustaining long term population. Merriams turkeys are abundant throughout the lower elevations. Lack of winter habitat causes turkeys to flock up in large numbers on farms where people are feeding livestock. Large parcels with abundant winter forage and habitat are more conducive to turkey viability than are small parcels where livestock is raised and forage limited. Ring necked pheasants and California quail are very susceptible to hard winters and clean farming practices. The recent establishment of three wildlife areas, the Smith Creek and Boundary Creek Wildlife Management Areas and the Ball Creek Ranch, as well as the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge provide most of the pheasant and quail habitat in the county.                         Migratory Game Birds:      Migratory game birds found in Boundary County include ducks, geese, coots, snipes, swans, Sandhill cranes and mourning doves. For a complete list of species, see IDAPA      Populations of migratory birds in the county fluctuate throughout the season as birds migrate to other areas for wintering or breeding. The majority of migratory bird habitat in the county is associated with the Kootenai River Valley and its associated wetlands and farm ground. Prior to diking the Kootenai River, in Idaho and British Columbia, the entire Kootenai Valley provided a vast expanse of wetland habitat for large numbers of migratory waterfowl. Draining the wetlands and flood prevention from the river dikes and Libby Dam eliminated nearly all of the wetland habitat within the Idaho portion of the Kootenai River Valley (approximately 35,000-40,000 acres). Relatively recent establishment of four wildlife management areas (McArthur WMA, Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, Boundary Creek WMA and the Ball Creek Ranch) has resulted in the restoration of approximately 3,400 acres in Idaho’s portion of the Kootenai River Valley.      Other areas that provide wetland habitat for migratory birds include the shorelines of most low elevation lakes, riparian areas along low elevation streams, and Round Prairie. Cereal grain production in the Kootenai Valley provides an important food source for migratory waterfowl.                  Furbearing Animals: (IDAPA There are 11 species of wildlife that are classified as furbearers in the state of Idaho, all of which can be found in the above IDAPA rule. All of these species occur in Boundary County. Historically, trapping of furbearing wildlife was important economically to the county. At present, fur trapping is done primarily for recreation. Most furbearer species presently occur here in sufficient numbers that they are considered to be viable and self-sustaining over the long term. Two species, the Canadian lynx and the fisher, are listed as special status vertebrates by the Idaho Conservation Data Center. Additionally, the Canadian lynx is listed federally as a threatened species. While federal, state and private timber lands provide the majority of habitat for lynx, fisher and pine martins, the other furbearing species; beaver, badger, red fox, mink, muskrat, otter, bobcat and raccoon are commonly found on private property. Negative impacts to these species from development include direct loss of habitat for beaver, otter, muskrat and mink. Additionally, beavers conflict with humans by cutting down ornamental trees, plugging road culverts and flooding property behind their dams. Idaho Fish and Game receives numerous complaints every year from people who have built homes in riparian areas and are now dealing with problems from beaver activity. Landowners often remove beaver dams on their own, which can result in downstream flooding.                  Protected non-game species: (IDAPA This IDAPA section deals with wildlife species that are not considered game mammals, game birds or furbearers but are protected to some degree by regulation. The rule also lists exceptions to this classification.                  Threatened or Endangered Species: (IDAPA This IDAPA subsection defines these species for Idaho. It is important to remember that wildlife classified under this subsection in some cases may not be consistent with federal threatened or endangered wildlife listings. When a conflict occurs, federal rules apply. A complete listing of these wildlife species can be found under the above IDAPA code. Boundary County is home to five species of terrestrial wildlife that are listed federally as threatened or endangered. Of these, the grizzly bear and gray wolf are the most likely to be impacted directly or indirectly by land use decisions on private property, though the gray wolf is anticipated to be de-listed in 2008. With the exception of large timber company holdings, woodland caribou and lynx habitat is found primarily on public lands. Bald eagle nesting and roost sites are commonly found on private property within the county, as is the majority of spring grizzly bear habitat. Impact to grizzly bears can be direct through loss of critical habitat, especially spring range, or indirect from increased human-bear conflict where development occurs within or adjacent to important grizzly bear habitat. Impacts on gray wolf populations would most likely be indirect as a result of impacts to prey species such as deer, elk or moose.

2.7.   MINERALS:

2.7.1.      This section deals with economic deposits of rocks and minerals. Minerals are solid substances that occur naturally and are composed of specific atoms that are chemically bound together in a specific arrangement. Rocks are usually composed of a variety of minerals that are bound together either chemically or mechanically into a solid.

2.7.2.      Mineral resources can be either metallic or non-metallic. Metallic minerals are divided into precious metals that are used in jewelry and some industrial applications, such as gold and silver, and base metals, such as zinc, copper and lead, which are used primarily for industrial purposes. Non-metallic minerals also have a variety of uses. An example is gypsum, which is used in making cement. Rock resources include such things as limestone, which is also used in making cement, phosphatic shale, used in making fertilizer, and various types of granite, sandstone and marble, which are used for building stone, statuary, etc. Sand and gravel deposits are also important rock deposits and are used extensively for road construction and in the building industry. Coal is often referred to as an “energy mineral,” though it is actually a type of rock.

2.7.3.      The Northern Rocky Mountains are blessed with a great variety of valuable mineral resources. These are particularly abundant in Montana, but less significant resources have been found in Boundary County.

2.7.4.      Regional Overview: Boundary County is bounded on three sides by important mining districts. The most important of these are the Sullivan District in southern British Columbia, the Coeur d’Alene District in Shoshone County, and the Butte-Anaconda and Troy Districts in northwestern Montana. Other important districts are located farther south and west in central and western Idaho. All of these areas have a geologic setting and geologic history that is highly favorable for the development of rich mineral deposits. The geology of Boundary County is less conducive to the formation of concentrated mineral deposits, particularly metallic minerals, which is the main reason that no highly productive districts have been discovered in Boundary County despite over 100 years of exploration. However, the geology of some portions of the county is somewhat similar to that in more productive areas, so there is still potential for future mineral discoveries.

2.7.5.      Mineral Occurrence: Metallic minerals make up a large part of the resources of the Northern Rocky Mountains province. Both precious and base metals are present, but in northern Idaho, northwestern Montana and southern British Columbia, base metals seem to be better developed than precious metals. The most important minerals are lead, zinc and copper. Of the precious metals, silver is more abundant than gold. In most cases, two or more metallic elements occur together in the same rock so that most mines produce more than one type of resource. Non-metallic mineral resources are limited in the region. There are no important deposits of phosphatic shale, such as occur in southeastern Idaho, and neither limestone nor gypsum is present. There are also no occurrences of energy minerals such as coal or uranium. Sand and gravel deposits occur throughout the region and are an important resource, although many deposits tend to be somewhat limited in extent. There are several types of rock that make good building stone. These deposits are voluminous and constitute an important potential resource for the future.

2.7.6.      Metallic Minerals: Table 1 (below) is a partial list of the mines that have operated in Boundary County over the years. Few, if any, of these mines are still active, but historical newspaper reports suggest that gold, silver and lead were the most common metallic minerals that were sought and/or produced at these mines (Kent, 1987). Except for the Continental Mine in the Selkirk Range in the extreme northwestern corner of the county, it appears that none of the mines were major producers. The primary host rock for metallic minerals throughout the region is the Belt Supergroup. In evaluating the mineral resources of northern Idaho for the Bureau of Land Management, Tetra Tech and Silverfields (2005), stated that, “The Belt Supergroup rocks are extremely important for mineral resource potential within the BLM planning area.” Belt rocks are the host rock in both the Sullivan District in the north and the Coeur d’Alene District to the south. Both of these mining districts produce mostly lead, zinc and silver from Belt rocks. Belt rocks also host lead-silver deposits in Boundary County. The Belt Supergroup is more widespread in Boundary County than in any other part of Idaho. Most of the rocks that form the Purcell and Cabinet Ranges are part of the Pritchard Formation, which forms the oldest exposed part of the Belt Supergroup (Miller and Burmester, 2003). The Pritchard Formation is mainly composed of hard, slightly metamorphosed, fine-grained sandstone and shale (argillite), but it also contains many layers of dark gray to black crystalline igneous rock called diabase (Bishop, 1973). Diabase magma intruded into the argillite and sandstone and is thought to be responsible for the crystallization of the metallic minerals. At least nine of the mines in the Purcell Range are located along the boundaries (contacts) between diabase and sandstone or argillite. Some of these are also associated with faults, and the presence of faults appears to be a favorable indication for the development of ore veins. This is also true to the north and south; in both the Coeur d’Alene and Sullivan Districts, later uplift and faulting caused the metallic minerals to be re-mobilized and concentrated along faults (White and others, 2000, Morton and others, 1973, Tetra Tech and Silverfields, 2005). The Sullivan District of southern British Columbia formed along the Moyie Fault, and mines in the Troy area of northwestern Montana are also associated with this fault. The Moyie River follows the fault southward through northeastern Boundary County, and a few placer gold mining operations were located along the river early in the 20th Century. However, there is no evidence that any hard-rock mining activity has taken place along the fault in the Moyie River canyon. The host rock for the Continental Mine and a few others is much younger than the Belt Supergroup, and the ore minerals in these mines had a different origin. These minerals formed when various types of granitic magma (tonalite, granodiorite, monzonite, etc.) intruded into the Panhandle Region between 70 and 150 million years ago, forming the Kaniksu (North Idaho) Batholith that is now exposed in the Selkirk Range (Alt and Hyndman, 1989). The geologic map of the Bonners Ferry Quadrangle (Miller and Burmester, 2003) shows many igneous rocks of different age and composition within the Batholith in the Selkirk Range. Some of these are likely to be richer than others in metallic mineral resources. Gold, perhaps with some silver, is more commonly associated with granitic rocks than are the lead, zinc and copper that form in association with rocks like diabase.

2.7.7.      Non-Metallic Minerals and Rocks: So far as is known, no non-metallic minerals have been produced in Boundary County. Economic rock deposits are sometimes considered to be non-metallic mineral deposits. Sand and gravel deposits are the most abundantly produced resource of this type in Boundary County. This type of deposit is widely used for road aggregate and in making concrete. Topographic maps produced by the United States Geological Survey show more than 50 surface mining operations where sand, gravel or rock have been extracted. New pits are being opened annually, while others have become inactive or abandoned as the resource apparently became depleted. Many of the quarries shown on the topographic maps are labeled “borrow pits,” suggesting the material being mined may have been soil or bedrock for use as fill material for roads or other construction projects. Borrow pits are commonly located along roadway construction projects and are in operation only as long as the duration of the construction project. The status of the borrow pits in Boundary County would have to be investigated on a case-by-case basis to determine how many are active today or could be potentially active in the future. Many of them are located within relatively remote mountain valleys of the Purcell, Cabinet and Selkirk Ranges and it is unknown what the material was used for or how far it was transported. There are also numerous sand and gravel quarries where unconsolidated river and/or glacial sediment is mined. A number of these are known to be in operation as of 2006, although no list of them has been prepared. Glacially-deposited sand and gravel are widespread throughout the major river valleys and along many of the larger creeks in the county and are generally mapped as “quaternary alluvial and glacial deposits” on the geologic map of the Bonners Ferry Quadrangle by Miller and Burmester (2003). Some of this material is suitable as aggregate, but some may contain too much silt and clay to be useful, and other deposits may be in environmentally sensitive areas where quarrying may be dangerous or disruptive. More detailed maps showing the precise locations where sand and gravel could be extracted economically and safely are currently not available. There are also several businesses in Bonner and Boundary Counties that extract decorative rock for use in the construction industry or other customers. Various types of granite, probably from the Selkirk Range, appear to be the most common rock type extracted in these operations.

2.7.8.      Mining History: Early miners headed for the goldfields of southern British Columbia passed through Boundary County in the 1860s, but it wasn’t until the latter part of the 19th Century that word of mining activity in the county began to spread. Some of the earliest activity was in the northwestern part of the county near Priest Lake, where the Continental Mine was discovered in 1887. This mine was most active in the early part of the 20th Century, but activity began to decline by 1940. It continued to operate sporadically for another 40 years, but has been inactive now for more than two decades. Placer gold mining was active in the 1890s on several streams, particularly the Moyie River, and hydraulic mines to speed up the process were in operation in the 1910s. Most of the other mining claims in the county were filed in the late 1890s or early 1900s, and were operated now and then for a few decades at most. None were as successful as the Continental Mine, which was not as successful as the mines in Shoshone County.

2.7.9.      Resource Potential and Planning: Based on past mining activities in Boundary County, along with geologic similarities to more productive regions to the north and south, it is clear that planning for future growth and development in Boundary County should consider the potential for additional mining activity. Because the geology of Boundary County is not especially diverse, the potential for new types of discoveries is low, and it is likely that the types of resources that have been developed in the past will continue to be the resources of the future. Glacial sand and gravel deposits are present on both public and private land in the county. Some deposits in the valley of Round Prairie Creek are likely to be as large as several tens of thousands of cubic yards. The State of Idaho operates a fairly large pit on the north side of Highway 95 in the Robinson Lake area, and this pit has not yet fully tapped the resource in the area. Thick deposits are present on both sides of the valley and also underlie it. However, these deposits also form the main aquifer in the Round Prairie groundwater basin, and numerous residents obtain their groundwater from these deposits. Sand and gravel deposits are also present along the Moyie River, and in years past at least two deposits have been exploited near Meadow Creek. However, to date, development of gravel resources along the Moyie has been limited. As in the case of Round Prairie, these gravel deposits are the principal source of groundwater for residents living in the valley. Sand is abundant in much of the Kootenai River Valley, particularly on the river floodplain, where it is utilized for agricultural purposes. These deposits have not been extensively mined. Although sand pits in or along the channel would likely be highly productive, environmental and ecological concerns are likely to prevent quarrying activity in these sensitive places. Farther from the river, particularly on the elevated terraces (“benches”) that border it, sand and gravel are poorly developed. Much of the land on the North Bench and in Paradise Valley is underlain by finer-grained silted clay of lake origin and is unsuitable for use as aggregate. Usable sand and gravel are primarily restricted to the edges of the valley at the foot of the mountains. However, the gravel deposits that border the benches are important as recharge areas for groundwater percolating into the Kootenai Valley, and removing them could jeopardize groundwater production within the Valley. The potential for future exploration and development of metallic mineral resources along the Moyie River Fault should be part of future planning decisions. The association of lead, zinc and silver with this fault in regions to the north and south has been recognized within the past 10 to 15 years, and though not highly likely, it is conceivable that mining companies will be examining the possibility that these resources exist along the Boundary County portion of this fault as well. The distance spanned by this fault in Boundary County is approximately 30 miles, a length that is sufficient to hold several productive mining areas. It is possible that additional metallic resources also exist in the Selkirk Range, because it appears that only a few of the many granitic plutons there have been explored in the past. Whereas the association of lead-zinc-silver deposits with the intrusive diabases in the Belt Supergroup is well-documented, less is known about the association of gold-silver deposits in the Selkirk Range, and mineral occurrences are not well understood. In addition, there has been less exploration along the faults that are present in the western portion of the range, where Belt rocks are also present.

2.7.10.  Governmental Agencies:        Many of the existing mines and prospects in Boundary County are on public land. Since much of the county is publicly owned, this is likely to be the case for any future mines that might be developed. Most of this land is owned by the U.S. Forest Service, but some may be owned by the Bureau of Land Management or the Idaho Department of Lands.        These agencies are primarily responsible for evaluating proposals for mineral resource development on their lands. The U.S. Minerals Management Service is the agency that is largely responsible for developing resource assessments on federal land, and sometimes become involved in reviewing development proposals as well. Other agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, are involved in assessing the environmental impacts of proposed mining operations.        Other lands are privately owned, either by logging companies or by individuals. Regulatory oversight on these lands is provided by the state and county governments, such as the State Land Commission, the Bureau of Mines, the Idaho Department of Lands and the Department of Environmental Quality.

2.7.11.  Reclamation: The 1971 Surface Mining Act requires that all surface mining operations undertaken in Idaho by private individuals or companies operate under an approved reclamation plan. Prior to operation, applicants must file the reclamation plan with the Idaho Department of Lands, and must submit a performance bond to the IDL to ensure funds are available to complete the proposed reclamation. In general, the bond rate does not exceed $2,500 per acre. The IDL may contact other agencies for input before approving reclamation plans. Reclamation normally includes backfilling, grading, topsoil replacement and reforestation. When operators violate reclamation plans or fail to submit a plan prior to operation, the IDL has authority to levy financial penalties of up to $2,500 per day. The IDL performs periodic site inspections to ensure compliance with reclamation plans. A list of Boundary County mines is available at Appendix III.


2.8.   BEACHES AND SHORELINES: Boundary County features three beautiful rivers; the Kootenai River, the Moyie River, and Pack River.

2.8.1.      Kootenai River: The main body of water, the Kootenai River, flows into the county from Montana, heads northwest and exits into Canada at Porthill. There are three public boat launches at Bonners Ferry, Deep Creek and Copeland allowing access to the 47 miles of meandering shoreline through the Kootenai Valley to Canada, and allowing access by more intrepid boaters wishing to traverse the more rapid waters along the 19 miles from Bonners Ferry to Montana. The shoreline of the Kootenai River is mainly silt and clay, surrounded mainly by privately owned farmland. The county does not have any official beaches, but there are a few small areas along the Kootenai River with public access commonly used for swimming.

2.8.2.      Moyie River: The Moyie River is the second largest waterway, with water flowing from watersheds in the Purcell Mountains in Canada, entering Boundary County near Eastport and traversing south to meet the Kootenai River near Moyie Springs. There are numerous outdoor and recreational areas along the 19 miles of Moyie River shoreline in Boundary County. There are five ingress/egress points for rafting, kayaking and canoeing where the waters are gentle before hitting exciting whitewater south of the Meadow Creek Campground. At the Moyie River Crossing, there is a picnic area, rest rooms and sportsman’s access. There is also a private campground at the confluence of the Moyie and Kootenai Rivers featuring a beach.

2.8.3.      Other Shorelines: There are numerous streams and creeks with over 300 miles of shoreline, many accessible for hiking and fishing. The shorelines of the county’s rivers, lakes, streams and creeks are an appealing asset.


2.9.   AQUIFERS: This section deals with the groundwater resources of Boundary County. Underground bodies of rock that contain and will transmit usable quantities of water are referred to as aquifers, which are significant in that they supply a large proportion of the American population with water. According to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, more than 90-percent of the state’s residents rely on groundwater as their primary drinking water source (DEQ, 2004). In Boundary County, the percentage of residents dependent on groundwater is lower than in other portions of the state, but is not known with certainty. Currently there are 24 public water supply systems in the county (see Public Services Facilities and Utilities) in addition to many private systems. Of the 24 public systems, nine are sourced primarily by surface water (creeks or springs), serving approximately 5,000 residents. Spring water is actually groundwater that emerges at the surface because the groundwater table is above the level of the land service. Hence, only five of the public water systems utilize true surface water, and only about 4,700 people rely on this source. Assuming a total County population of 10,000 in 2006, this implies that more than 50-percent of Boundary County’s population relies on groundwater from aquifers. Because so many people depend on it, it is entirely possible that abundant, high-quality groundwater is Boundary County’s most crucial resource.

2.9.1.      Overview There are many different types of aquifers, but they all share two common characteristics. First, they must have void space in which water droplets can accumulate. In most aquifers, this void space occurs in the form of pores between particles or grains of rock. Some aquifers have little or no pore space but are fractured, and the fractures create void space in which groundwater can accumulate. Rocks that have neither pores nor fractures do not contain groundwater. The second feature that is common to all aquifers is that the void spaces are interconnected, allowing water droplets to move freely within the rock. If the fractures or pores in the rock are isolated, groundwater is trapped and cannot move toward a well, and therefore the rock does not make a good aquifer. The degree to which rock can transmit water is referred to as its permeability, and aquifers are said to be permeable. Rocks that do not transmit water effectively are referred to as impermeable. The Department of Environmental Quality categorizes aquifers in terms of their geological origin and composition. The DEQ recognizes three principal types: 1) valley fill aquifers; 2) fractured basalt aquifers; and 3) sedimentary and volcanic aquifers. The best aquifers in northern Idaho are classified as valley-fill aquifers, which are described as “sediments and rocks … that were loosely deposited some time ago by air, water or glacial activity on the earth’s surface.” In places where aquifers have been well-studied, they are usually given geographic names, as in the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer in Bonner County. Not all groundwater is suitable for all uses. Water suppliers and water managers classify groundwater according to its highest beneficial use. Beneficial use is determined largely according to the chemistry of the water, which is referred to as water quality. The highest beneficial use is water for human consumption. Groundwater whose chemistry makes it unsuitable for consumption may still be suitable for other purposes, such as stock feeding, irrigation, or industrial applications. Regulatory agencies such as the Department of Environmental Quality, who are charged with oversight of groundwater quality, strive to maintain groundwater at its highest beneficial use. Water managers normally do not attempt to improve the quality to a higher beneficial use. Purifying large volumes of naturally occurring groundwater to a higher beneficial use would be prohibitively expensive unless other sources of usable water were non-existent. The Idaho State Legislature passed the Groundwater Quality Rule (IDAPA 58.01.11) in 1997, granting the DEQ the authority to formulate and administer groundwater quality rules to protect existing and potential future beneficial uses of groundwater throughout the state. The Idaho Department of Water Resources has divided Boundary County into seven “hydrologic units,” which the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality refers to as “watershed sub-basins,” defined below. Within these “hydrologic units” or “watershed sub-basins,” the DEQ has recognized twelve groundwater districts, which it refers to as aquifers. These have been given numbers, not names. Unfortunately, the DEQ map does not include a description of these aquifer units, so it is difficult to use this terminology in discussing Boundary County’s groundwater resources. Another way of describing the occurrence of aquifers and groundwater is to discuss them in terms of groundwater basins. A large geographic area such as a county may contain one or more groundwater basins, which can contain multiple aquifers. In many cases, groundwater basins coincide with or encompass portions of surface water basins (watersheds). Groundwater in different basins may differ greatly because of differences in the type, depth and chemistry of the aquifers. The Idaho Department of Water Resources uses this terminology to describe groundwater resources in some parts of the state.

2.9.2.      Critical Groundwater Areas and Groundwater Management Areas: The Director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources is granted the authority to designate Critical Groundwater Areas (CGWAs) and Groundwater Management Areas (GWMAs) in the state. The IDWR defines a CGWA as “all or part of a groundwater basin that does not have sufficient groundwater to provide a reasonably safe supply for irrigation or other uses at the current or projected rates of withdrawal.” A GWMA is “all or part of a groundwater basin that is approaching the conditions of a CGWA.” Since 1962, only five CGWAs and twelve GWMAs have been identified; all except for the Rathdrum Prairie GWMA in Bonner and Kootenai Counties are in southern Idaho. The IDWR considers the groundwater resources in Boundary County to be adequate to meet the demand for the foreseeable future at the county’s present rate of growth.

2.9.3.       Groundwater Basins in Boundary County: A list of groundwater basins and their characteristics are available at Appendix IV.

2.9.4.       Groundwater Quality: DEQ Source Water Assessment Reports identify potential sources of contamination for each public water supply system, and in a few cases discuss specific instances when water samples indicate that the system has been impacted by a contaminant. Similar data are not available for the private wells and water systems in the county. from nearby septic systems appears to be the most likely and common risk for most water systems. State law requires that wells be a minimum of 100 feet from the nearest leach field, but some public, and probably more private, wells are in violation of this setback. Microbial contamination can be detected by laboratory analysis for fecal coliform bacteria, which is the main concern involving septic systems. potential sources of contamination are drainage ditches, storm drains, and similar features that may collect contaminated runoff from roads, fields or industrial sites and funnel these contaminants to a zone of leaching. The DEQ appears to have identified a few cases where this has occurred. runoff is another potential source of contamination that can affect both surface and groundwater. There are more than 30 inactive mines in the county, and some of these are within the drainage basin of public water systems. The DEQ makes an assessment of the potential for contaminated mine runoff, and due to the limited scope of these operations and their inactivity, the DEQ considers the potential for mine contamination to be low.


2.10.                    CLIMATE: Boundary County is a wonderfully blessed pace in terms of climate and weather, with a warm and dry summer, dry and beautiful fall, mild and damp winters and wet and muddy spring. As indicated in the general soil classifications defined in paragraph 4, above, the climate can vary widely depending on location, with temperatures varying from five to 15 degrees with this region. Boundary County receives an average annual rainfall of 22 ½ inches and farmers and gardeners in most areas of the county enjoy from 100 to 115 frost free days per year. The average high temperature in July is 83 degrees F, and the average low temperature in January is 18 degrees F. Excluding Creston, British Columbia, Boundary County enjoys the mildest climate of the surrounding regions.


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Chapter 3, Transportation a