TWIN LAKES - A collaborative effort is reducing stream bank erosion on Fish Creek at the west end of Upper Twin Lake - one plant at a time.
The water quality of both Upper and Lower Twin lakes is improving as a result.
"Stream bank erosion has been going on for years," said Steve Kolb, vice president of the nonprofit Twin Lakes Improvement Association and chairman of the Fish Creek restoration project.
"Measuring on site determined an average of 300 to 400 tons of sediment was washed away from the stream banks each year. All that sediment and nutrient ended up in the Upper Twin Lake. For years, science has shown us that water quality in Twin Lakes has been gradually degrading."
The TLIA is reversing that trend.
The Fish Creek project on the Easterday Ranch has been a collaboration between the all-volunteer TLIA, property owners, concerned citizens, recreational users, ranchers, foresters and local and state agencies the past three years.
"Without this type of teamwork it would be difficult to complete a project of this magnitude," said Debra Andrews, TLIA president. "We have had more than 3,100 volunteer hours from the community helping with this important water quality initiative.
"Groups have come from Washington, Idaho, Montana and as far away as Minnesota."
Along the way, the TLIA's helpers have included members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, lake resident and rancher John Habberstad, Post Falls High students, teens and staff from the Twinlow Church Camp on Lower Twin Lake, Boy Scouts, Rathdrum Rotary Club, Inland Empire Paper Company and others.
Fish Creek is one of the main sources of water flowing into the Twin Lakes. The bank restoration efforts have included planting plants and placing logs and rip rap rock in areas where erosion has been an issue. Cattle crossings have been added and a fence was also constructed along the stream banks to keep cattle and wildlife away from the stream.
"This is good for the environment and fish habitat," Kolb said.
Thomas Herron, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality's regional water quality program manager who has worked with the TLIA on the project, said eventually there will be shade and overhead cover for the creek, which will improve habitat even more.
"It is a wonderful example of what a motivated and effective lake association can do with a little facilitation and opportunity," Herron said of the project.
This year the TLIA will complete a culmination of 1,600 lineal feet of stream bank restoration. The project has included the planting of 500 pine trees and 1,000 native plants and more than 120 tons of rock and logs.
The TLIA received a $5,000 grant from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game early in the project. The project is also being funded by a state Clean Water Act grant of $84,000 that required a 40 percent in-kind match of $56,000 from the TLIA made in the form of services, labor and cash.
The association needs to raise about $10,000 to complete this year's project. It will hold a Beer, Brats and Band fundraiser and silent auction on Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Shrine Club, 1250 W. Lancaster Road, in Hayden.
Looking to the future, the TLIA will seek an additional grant to complete the last mile of stream restoration and fencing. If the grant is approved, it would provide a total of $100,000 in funds, including $40,000 in matching funds from the TLIA.
The TLIA has existed since 1956 to protect the historical values and resources on Twin Lakes and has participated in a citizen water monitoring program sponsored by IDEQ since the 1980s.
"Whether you use Twin Lakes for recreation, drinking water, fishing or just enjoying its beauty, it takes people getting involved to make things happen," Kolb said.
Beer, Brats and Band fundraiser
The Beer, Brats and Band fundraiser organized by the nonprofit Twin Lakes Improvement Association will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Shrine Club, 1250 W. Lancaster Road, Hayden. Cost is $10, which includes a brat or Polish sausage with all the sides and a beer or soda. Additional food and drinks will be available to purchase. There will be live music and a silent auction from 6 to 9 p.m. All proceeds benefit the TLIA's Fish Creek restoration project and the water quality of Twin Lakes. For more information, contact Jeff Mott at 755-8571.