COEUR d’ALENE, Idaho — Wolf Lodge Creek is flowing the way it should once again.
The Coeur d’Alene-based Kootenai-Shoshone Soil and Water Conservation District recently completed a restoration project for the stream that drains a 40-square-mile watershed into Wolf Lodge Bay on the northeast side of Coeur d’Alene Lake.
“The project re-established proper channel dimensions and streambank conditions that reduce rates of lateral channel migration and sedimentation,” said Karla Freeman, district administrator. “It also re-established important habitat for westslope cutthroat trout and aquatic organisms.”
More than 80% of the land in the watershed is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Most of the remaining land is privately owned.
The creek is an important tributary to Coeur d’Alene Lake.
A past timber harvest, overgrazing, dredging and riparian vegetation removal resulted in degradation of water quality and fish habitat.
The project incorporated streambank stabilization techniques on 2,000 square feet that provides stability and supports development of mature riparian vegetation.
Complex aquatic habitat components such as depth, velocity, substrate, cover and pools that support populations of wild trout and other wildlife were created.
The project cost about $400,000 and was funded mostly with an Idaho Department of Environmental Quality grant.
Other partners in the project included: the Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Avista Utilities, North Idaho Flycasters, Flycasters International, TransCanada and landowners.
Another district improvement project is Mica Creek south of Coeur d’Alene.
Mica Bay on Coeur d’Alene Lake has a history of excess nutrients due to runoff, which causes dense plant life and death of animal life due to the lack of oxygen.
“The project is 80% complete and will be finished in the spring,” said Freeman, adding that sediment and nutrient reduction is the goal.
Most of the eutrophication has occurred during the past 20 years due to eroding streambanks and nearby farming practices.
Large timber harvests occurred in the upper watershed in the late 1990s and, for the next several years, the lower watershed strained under the increased sudden spring runoffs.
In addition, severe freeze-ups gouged large amounts of banks during spring ice breakup, Freeman said. The ice flows scoured the banks and undermined the alder trees.
The stabilization work will allow the streambank to stand up to high water and freezing conditions, and the rocks will prevent erosion. Without the effects of high water and freezing, sediment will not impact the stream from runoff where it would go into Mica Bay, effecting the look and quality of the water in the bay and for nearby residents.
The Mica project is mostly funded by an $80,000 grant through IDEQ. The landowner is also contributing.
The district is also responsible for four boat inspection stations in North Idaho, including on Highway 53, two on Interstate 90 and at Rose Lake. All watercraft are inspected for quagga and zebra mussels.
The operations are funded with a grant from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. The grant is generally from $400,000 to $490,000, depending if the time of operations are extended.
The stations operate from March to September.
If mussels are detected, the ISDA and local law enforcement are contacted and the watercraft are impounded.