About Us

About Payette Lake

Big Payette Lake appeared in the late Pleistocene epoch when glaciers carved its basin from the earth, leaving behind the ridge, or moraine, that forms the present south shore where the City of McCall is perched.

The Lake contains about 157 billion gallons of water, covers an area of 7.6 square miles, or 4,800 acres. It spans over 6 miles north to south, with a shoreline of over 22 miles. Depths exceed 300 feet in the northeast and southwest basins. It takes almost two years for the volume of water in the Lake to flow through the outlet on its way to the Pacific Ocean. The entire watershed covers about 144 square miles, much of which is managed by the US Forest Service and Idaho Department of Lands.

Importantly, we drink the water – Big Payette Lake is the sole source of drinking water for the City of McCall and hundreds of lake-side residences.

Our Mission

The mission of the Council is to protect, preserve, and improve the water quality of Big Payette Lake and its watershed through education, scientific study, and conservation activities.

The Council is Now a Tax-Exempt Charitable Organization

The Council was recently granted non-profit, tax-exempt status under IRS rule 501.c.3. This is exciting news, as it will allow us to pursue more grant opportunities, and generally provide for tax-deductible status to donations that are made to the Council. We intend to leverage our new status to expand our work for education and lake protection in 2020, through enlarging our board of directors, revisiting the 1997 Lake Management Plan, and advocating for locally-driven solutions to water quality challenges.

Council History

In 1992, the Idaho State Legislature established the original Big Payette Lake Water Quality Council (BPLWQC) under Idaho Code Title 39, Chapter 66, after concerned citizens, led by Peter Johnson, organized to address a range of threats to lake water quality. BPLWQC was tasked with developing a lake management plant that would establish a testing program for water quality and regulations for the lake. The original legislation can be found here.

BPLWQC at that time consisted of representatives of certain governmental agencies and interest groups, including representatives from the City of McCall, Valley County, land managers, and retailers, as well as two at-large members, Peter Johnson and Diane Plastino-Graves.

BPLWQC engaged the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) to initiate water quality studies through Dr. Paul Wood. After extensive testing of water quality in the lake and its inlets by the USGS, BPLWQC created the Lake Management Plan (the Plan), which was enacted by the Idaho State Legislature in 1998. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) ultimately took over testing from the USGS.

While IDEQ was responsible for water quality testing, BPLWQC spearheaded collaborative meetings and educational efforts including:

  • Hosting an annual meeting of a Technical Advisory Group made up of about 12 members of City, County, and Federal agencies to discuss their efforts in protecting water quality;
  • Hosting an annual public meeting presenting the results of the annual water quality studies;
  • Creating and producing education brochures for lake users and property owners on how to protect lake water quality and a map of Payette Lake with prominent features and information on how boaters can protect the lake;
  • Creation of the Lake-A-Syst program, a program for lakeside homeowners that identified issues that could negatively impact water quality and actions that could be taken to limit negative impacts from building sites.

The original BPLWQC “sunsetted” seven years after the passage of the Lake Management Plan. However, lake monitoring and management issues remain. The BPLWQC has reorganized under Idaho Code Title 30 as a non-profit corporation and continues to have the same focus and mission as the original BPLWQC. As our resident and visitor population continues to grow, environmental pressures on the lake and watershed also increase. Eutrophication, sediment and shoreline erosion, pollution, defense and control of non-native and invasive species, and algal growth are all environmental problems facing Payette Lake. Today, the BPLWQC is once again working to reinvigorate efforts to engage the community to protect the lake and its water quality for current residents and future generations.

Our Board

Deb Fereday


Tom Tidwell

Vice President

Laura Shealy

Secretary / Treasurer

David Simmonds

Pam Pace

Gary Lyons

Scott Harris

Tyler Harris

Ed Elliott

Mike Beckwith

Heather Crawford

In Memory of Rich Holm

We are deeply saddened by the recent death of Rich Holm, a long-time board member, friend, and our Government Affairs officer. Rich was a serious and dedicated champion of Payette Lake. His hard work and wise counsel have been a foundation of our efforts to protect and sustain our lake. Contributions in memoriam will be gratefully accepted and acknowledged by the Big Payette Lake Water Quality Council, PO Box 3108, McCall, Idaho, 83638.