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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Clark Fork Delta restoration planned

An excavator gathers up driftwood from a 60-acre site on the Clark Fork Delta on Lake Pend Oreille. (FILE)

SANDPOINT – A restoration project to prevent additional erosion of the Clark Fork Delta where it enters Lake Pend Oreille in North Idaho is scheduled to begin in fall 2013.

The Bonner County Daily Bee reported that the estimated cost of $6 million is being paid for through the Bonneville Power Administration dam mitigation funding and relicensing agreements.

“It’s not going to be cheap,” said Kathy Cousins, a biologist with Idaho Fish and Game.

She said operation of Albeni Falls Dam on the Pend Oreille River over the last 57 years is causing the Clark Fork River Delta to erode at a rate of about 5 to 8 feet a year.

“We’re talking about a couple hundred acres at least,” Cousins said about the amount of erosion since the dam’s installation.

She said the delta is not only important for resident and migratory wildlife, but also helps improve water quality.

The restoration project involves creating barrier islands to protect existing islands. Officials also want to raise a portion of the delta islands that are currently submerged, increasing wildlife habitat.

Another goal is to increase habitat diversity by using woody debris that would help with sediment deposition. Work toward that goal could mean altering a log boom system to divert timber into the restored areas.

“It’s a very ambitious schedule, but we have to do this because there is a little bit of urgency,” Cousins said. “Every year that we do not do the work, we’re losing more wildlife habitat.”

Cousins said officials will use their experience restoring the Pack River Delta when making decisions about the Clark Fork Delta. Some of those lessons learned involve placing rocks and logs to direct water away from shorelines and using breakwaters created from vegetation.