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News Release

Working together for wetlands

By Amelia Ingle
Public Affairs Administrative Assistant

SPOKANE VALLEY, Washington – Water rushed back into an expanse of farmland in Pend Oreille County last month that hadn’t been flooded since it was diked for agricultural use years ago.

The reduction of the on-site dike was just one of the many projects undertaken by an alliance of agricultural organizations including NRCS, Ducks Unlimited, Lincoln County Conservation District, the Department of Ecology, and numerous permitting agencies. With the help of funds from NRCS’ Wetlands Restoration Enhancement Partnership (WREP), they hope to transform this newly acquired easement from a dry, flat field to a flourishing wetland habitat and establish long-term conservation and wildlife practices and protection.

“NRCS is excited about the development of the restoration and especially the progressive working relationship with the landowner and contractor,” said Carlee Elliott, NRCS Easement Program Coordinator.

Wetlands restoration projects such as these are essential to environmental conservation in the state of Washington, as they provide habitat for fish and wildlife including threatened and endangered species, improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals, reduce flooding, recharge groundwater, and protect biological diversity.

The massive undertaking has been progressing slowly but steadily since last year. Fall of 2020 saw the completion of a new water control structure and spillway, a deep pond excavation, a new culvert, and progress on fencing. The important work of fostering appropriate vegetation was also underway. The ground was broken up and smoothed out to create a soil structure suitable for seedbed use, and contractors began drill seeding a native seed in the riparian buffer zones.

A rush of rain arrived during Spring 2021, and in March NRCS officials found water above all the excavations as well as ponding through a meadow near the southern border. With the April sunshine, water receded and is now holding in the excavations, the channel, and native fauna is slowly returning to the area. As it is well into spring migration most migrating birds have flown the coop, but 18 wood duck were recently spotted in the area, as well as blue heron, killdeer, mallard, Canada goose, western meadowlark, and turtles. Bright blue pops of Camas flowers could be seen throughout the sprayed buffer zones, a good sign that native flora is also returning to the zone.

The work is still far from over. Ducks Unlimited will continue to monitor the structure, berms, spillways and other constructed features as well as the riparian buffers zones, diligently removing anything that could harm essential wetland plant life. “We are planning on a fall seeding and planting of trees and shrubs” said Tina Blewett, Regional Biologist with Ducks Unlimited, Inc. “The next semi-annual report (due in June) will have a list of species seen on site visits.”

Projects such as these are an example of how like-minded organizations can work together toward the collective goal of conservation in the name of wildlife, wetlands, and the world. “I would like to thank all organizations involved for their continued partnership on this project,” said Elliott. "With time and effort, the area that began as an agrarian ugly duckling is slowly growing into a metaphorical swan. Or rather, a wood duck."