New website highlights Clark Fork River Delta Restoration Project

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A multi-agency Clark Fork River Delta Restoration Project is underway, and a large construction effort has been ongoing through the winter months. A project website now provides an opportunity for the public to follow progress of the project.

The website is www.clarkforkdelta.org. The site features a new video that includes aerial footage of the work recently completed. Interviews with key project participants provide context and explain the goals of the partners in undertaking the project.

The project will protect, improve and restore key riparian and wetland habitats and their ecological function in the Clark Fork River delta.

Operations of the Albeni Falls Dam, Cabinet Gorge Dam and Noxon Rapids Dam have altered the hydrology of the Clark Fork River and Lake Pend Oreille. Wave action and fluctuating lake levels have resulted in extensive loss of soil and native riparian and wetland vegetation. Twelve to 15 acres of the delta's shorelines are lost each year from erosion. The quantity and quality of fish habitat and habitat complexity in the delta are also impacted by dam operations. The project is designed to mitigate these losses.

Areas vulnerable to erosion are being stabilized with rock structures. Riparian and wetland habitat is being improved and diversified behind the new bank protection.

New vegetation will soon be planted, and a weed management and monitoring effort will start in late April and continue throughout the summer. Conservation groups, school groups and individuals in the community are invited to participate. Volunteers can sign-up for scheduled activities on the project website.

The project is being conducted in phases over several years and involves about 1,200 acres. The Bonneville Power Administration and the Avista Corporation provided wildlife mitigation funding for the early phases of the project.

Phil Cooper is a wildlife conservation educator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Coeur d'Alene.

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