Wetland Reserve Easement Program property restored in northeastern Washington

DU staff in Spokane, Washington, completed restoration of 110 acres of NRCS Wetland Reserve Easement property in northeastern Washington.

 

Landowners Mike and Christine Mielke enrolled in the conservation easement program to protect and restore wetland and riparian areas on their land in Pend Oreille County, which shares borders with Idaho and Canada.

Most of the county is dominated by the forested mountains of the Colville National Forest, but the Pend Oreille River and 55 lakes in the county also provide rich habitat for fish, waterfowl and other wildlife, as well as recreational opportunities for outdoors enthusiasts.

The property in the Pend Oreille River floodplain was drained and converted to agricultural use likely more than a century ago, reducing or eliminating seasonal wetlands riparian vegetation and introducing non-native crops and hay.

A large dike sat along the northern end of the easement, where a waterway enters the property and connects to the main stem of the Pend Oreille River, almost two miles upstream. This dike contained a culvert with a non-functioning gate. Other features on the property include a pond dominated by water lilies, hay meadows, a seasonal stream channel, upland grass and forest habitat and several natural depressions.

Restoration work included excavation, altering the northern dike, installing a spillway and water-control structure in the main channel, upgrading a crossing over the seasonal stream channel and adding two berms and another water-control structure to other areas.

Wetland excavations held water well into last summer, even in a drought. The wetlands and other habitats are being used by deer, elk, turkey, bear, turtles, frogs, ducks, geese, shorebirds and other wildlife.

The NRCS provided much of the funding for this project and funding was also secured through a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Clean Water Act Program, managed by the Lincoln County Conservation District.

DU designed, permitted and implemented the project and will continue to monitor it through fall.