Last night, the Coeur d’Alene city council was briefed on the recent edict to remove mature trees from the levee embankment along Rosenberry Drive. Faced with a deadline to respond to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers certification inspection, the City agreed to file a mitigation plan which would allow work to begin on items unrelated to the trees. But the plan would also say that with regard to the mature trees, the City would be exploring other mitigation options and waiting until an ongoing science review on levee vegetation is completed.

The Corps readily admits the lack of science to support the policy of tree removal. From a 2009 fact sheet (pdf) from the Corps’ Research and Development arm:

At the request of the USACE Headquarters (HQ), in July 2007, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) conducted an extensive literature review focusing on the effects of woody vegetation on levees. The findings of the review found that no documented evidence exists to prove trees negatively influence levee integrity; however, research is very limited that specifically addresses woody vegetation on levees.

The Corps is presently doing some of this research. And with any luck it’ll be done sooner rather than later. Because, as Councilman Mike Kennedy put it  last night (to the best of my notes), “It would be a crime to cut down all the trees only to be told the next day that the Corps has changed its policy due to new science.”

Given the circumstances, buying as much time as possible is about the only good option for the City of Coeur d’Alene right now. And we’re glad the Council took that approach.