- Associated Press - Thursday, April 3, 2014

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) - Hundreds of trees on a flood-control levee along Coeur d’Alene’s Rosenberry Drive in northern Idaho won’t have to be removed after all.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is no longer requiring that the trees be cut down on levees in order for communities to qualify for disaster relief funding.

“This is a big win not only for our trees locally, but for so many miles of shoreline across the nation,” Adrienne Cronebaugh, executive director of the Kootenai Environmental Alliance, told The Spokesman-Review (http://bit.ly/1dQgaGq) in a story published Thursday.

Under a previous policy, the corps said that trees threaten levee safety because roots could serve as a path for seepage, or trees could topple over in a storm and tear out chunks of a levee. Corps vegetation standards allowed nothing but short grass.

But the federal flood-control agency recently decided it will continue to inspect levies but will not withhold disaster funding if vegetation standards are not met. The vegetation rating will be informational only. Corps officials say they expect the interim rule to become permanent.

“This is huge,” said Gordon Dobler, city engineer for Coeur d’Alene.

The levee separates Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Spokane River from North Idaho College and the Fort Grounds neighborhood.

Dobler said experts examined more than 1,000 trees and identified about 360 as dead or unhealthy. He said some trees will have to come out, but big ponderosas will remain.

After the corps made new standards requiring that trees be removed from levees, many cities and groups in 2011 challenged the decision, not wanting to lose aesthetic groves that provide shade and are visually pleasing.

So last month, the corps adopted an interim policy stating trees on levees won’t disqualify flood-control districts from securing federal aid.

City officials in Coeur d’Alene have hired engineers to examine the structural integrity of the flood-control levee that dates to 1940. That report is expected to be finished in three weeks.

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com

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