Clark Fork Delta work cruising along

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The operation of two dams on the Clark Fork River is contributing to erosion of the delta, resulting in the loss of approximately 12 to 15 acres each year.

So the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has been partnering with a number of entities to restore the vital resource for fish and wildlife in North Idaho.

The delta provides connectivity between mountain ranges, nutrient and sediment transport and water-quality improvement.

It also provides essential cover and feeding habitat for migrating and breeding songbirds, water birds, waterfowl, raptors and numerous other species.

The delta also benefits people and has cultural significance to Native Americans, including the Kalispel Tribe, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, Confederated Tribes of the Salish and Kootenai and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe.

In 2012, Fish and Game, Ducks Unlimited and a diverse group of state and federal partners began planning and designing a restoration effort for the delta.

The goal of the restoration project is to protect areas vulnerable to erosion while improving and diversifying key riparian and wetland habitats to restore ecological function in the Clark Fork Delta. To meet this goal, planners are focusing on two objectives.

One, to protect existing areas within the delta from further erosion using environmentally compatible stabilization methods.

Secondly, to restore and enhance the edge and interior areas promoting habitat complexity with large woody debris, promote diverse native riparian vegetation growth such as black cottonwood, dogwood and willow, and reduce non-native invasive reed canary grass.

Contractor Envirocon began work in October, improving the roadway into the Clark Fork drift yard public access and boat launch to allow for the staging of rock and equipment.

By Nov. 17, the contractors had completed the construction of a floating bridge across one of the two channel crossings.

Approximately 15,000 tons of rock, 10,000 willow whips and 350 large trees with roots and branches attached are now stockpiled at the delta.

Some 43,000 tons of rock will eventually be transported to the delta, and 41,000 willow whips will arrive in mid-December.

All of the rock, willows and trees are being used to construct vegetative rock structures along the banks and the front of the delta.

As of Nov. 25, the second channel crossing composed of rock and culverts was completed and the contractors are now excavating and moving earth fill.

A total of 518,000 cubic yards of soil will be moved by the time the project is completed in late February.

All bridge crossings will be removed in March and Fish and Game will work with volunteers to seed and plant on the newly created island areas.

Construction updates as well as other information on the project can be viewed on the project's website: www.clarkforkdelta.org.

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