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WSU/Pend Oreille Extension introduced the Sense of Place series in 1999, with a focus on place-based stewardship education. Since 2001, a partnership with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians Natural Resources Department (KNRD) has supported this newsletter and allowed us to expand class offerings through EPA funding. Further staff support comes through Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA). Our newest partner, sponsor of the Rain Garden Challenge, is the Pend Oreille Conservation District. Many thanks to our partners and to you, our readers, for your continued enthusiasm for "digging" into the natural history and culture ofthis part of the world.

Slip-Slidin' Away

by Michelle Wingert • Fisheries Project Manager, Kalispel Tribe

The Pend Oreille River acts a little differently than it did 60 years ago. Until then, it was essentially free flowing. The construction of Albeni and Box Canyon Dams in the ‘50s, and Boundary Dam in the ‘60s considerably altered the flow and elevation of the river and changed the way it interacts with its river banks. Now, the river is wider, slower and deeper, increasing the potential for wind-generated waves. The “unarmored” silt soils at the current level erode more easily. Increased boat and watercraft use cause more wake-related erosion. But, probably the biggest culprit in shoreline erosion is the loss of vegetation along the shoreline. Over the centuries, a variety of plants have adapted to live together along our river banks and their roots work together to bind the soil and prevent erosion. As plant diversity is lost through human use or other causes, the bank’s stability is greatly reduced.

Erosion is a natural process and has occurred along the banks of the Pend Oreille River since its beginning; we cannot stop the erosion process. However, we can “stabilize” our shorelines in a way that can be less damaging both to the river and its inhabitants.

Typically, in the past, stabilizing the banks of the river has taken many forms. Some examples are cement retaining walls, tire barriers, and rip-rap (rock walls). Although these techniques can reduce or even eliminate the problem at a specific location, they generally shift the erosion to another part of the river. Although not desirable, these techniques do have a place in today’s landscape and should be considered when conditions and situations call for their use.

“Bio-engineered” designs are the most suitable for slowing erosion and protecting both property and the environment. Examples of these types of designs are log toes, barbs, woody plantings, soil reinforcement and coir logs, to name a few. These designs have been around for some time. The Kalispel Tribe Natural Resources Department (KNRD), working with many partner agencies, has been installing bio-engineered stabilization projects along the river since 1994. These projects include several different designs and a variety of shoreline conditions. Several of these demonstration sites are accessible for area landowners to view and consider for their own shoreline projects. (Contact KNRD at 445-1147 for more information.)

All landowners, regardless of ownership, must go through a permitting process before beginning bank stabilization work. Assistance with design and process is available from the tribe, the county, the conservation district, the public utility district, and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Although our river may look quite different now than it did before building the dams, we can protect our valued shorelines. With “bio-engineering,” we also protect our privacy, our property values, fish and wildlife habitat, and the natural beauty of our river banks.

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