In early April, the last piece of construction equipment rolled across the temporary bridge that provides access to the Clark Fork River Delta restoration site, signaling the end of the first phase of this extensive project in the Idaho Panhandle. Heavy equipment and work crews spent last winter working in less-than-ideal weather conditions to complete the earthmoving portion of the project. Nearly 300,000 cubic yards of earth and rock were moved to raise and protect portions of two islands in the delta and construct rock weirs and breakwaters along exposed shoreline areas. More than 40,000 willow cuttings were planted within these rock structures to provide riparian shrub habitat for fish and wildlife. Thousands of additional herbaceous and woody plants will be planted across the project area in the coming months thanks to invaluable help from local volunteers.
The main purpose of the Clark Fork River Delta project is to eliminate the severe bank erosion that has been ongoing in the delta for several decades following the construction of Albeni Falls Dam in 1955. The first-phase construction follows several years of assessment and feasibility studies to determine the degree of the erosion. Estimates generated during this phase put the loss of wetland and riparian habitat from erosion at 10 to 15 acres each year, or over 600 total acres since the dam was completed. Ducks Unlimited, in close coordination with the project design team and staff from the Panhandle Office of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), used the assessment results to develop a restoration design that provides solutions to the delta's widespread erosion.
The Clark Fork River Delta is a special place for wildlife and has been recognized by the IDFG as one of the 10 most important wetland areas in Idaho. Despite the extensive loss of habitat that has occurred there over the past half century, the delta provides important resources for thousands of waterfowl during the fall and spring migrations.