Thursday, February 17, 2011

Landowner attention key to restoration success

By Jani Gilbert, communication manager, Eastern Regional Office

Replanting damaged riparian areas on our shorelines is not always successful. Sometimes these projects are only partially successful. It all depends on whether the landowners, who host the project, care enough to take care of the burgeoning trees and shrubs that do so much to protect our water quality.

This is the kind of landowner who saw to it that a riparian restoration project along their shoreline, four miles south of Ione on the east shore of the Pend Oreille River, was not just successful, but nearly 100 percent successful.

Grant supports successful restoration

Matt and Susan Hobbs used a $6,500 grant from the Washington Department of Ecology to restore their shoreline where approximately 160 feet of river bank erosion had destroyed the viability of the shoreline environment.

The Hobbs’ restored the shoreline without using rock or sloping – only planting. With the help of the (former) Pend Oreille Conservation District, consultant Sandie Durrand, and Jon Jones of Ecology’s Water Quality Program in Spokane, the river bank is well on its way to full restoration.

“Probably the most outstanding thing about this project is that there is near 100 percent survival of the plantings due to the diligence of the Hobbs,” said Jones. “The project was a success because of the landowners’ watering, weeding, and general hard work. Some of our projects fail because there isn’t buy-in by the owners. This one succeeded because the owners wanted it to work.”

“To improve the odds on the ground, we’ve followed-up the plantings with the best weeding and watering we can manage,” said Susan Hobbs. “Frankly, as a grant recipient, we consider it our duty.”

They had help from Sandie Durand of Cascara Consulting in Ione, Wash., who designed and planted the project and was right down on her knees with the Hobbs’ weeding and trimming the plants.

River stewards make the difference

“I care a lot about my work,” Durand said. “This river matters to me. Susan and I did the weeding and trying to keep down the canarygrass. And it was not an easy site to water. We used watering cans and a hose.”

As Durand explains, the site suffered as a result of a 1996-1997 high water event. When the water returned to normal, much of the shoreline had slumped into the river taking with it the natural vegetation and canopy that protected the river.

After that, a large section of the shoreline became dominated by reed canarygrass, along with other assorted, introduced noxious weeds and grasses.

“Reed canarygrass is an aggressive, introduced species of grass that becomes very deeply engrained,” Durand said. “Once it becomes established, it’s very difficult to eradicate it. We needed to remove the sod down several inches.”

Durand planted more than 600 plants, and 25 species, on the site and plans to plant more black cottonwood and local stock douglas spirea (Spiraea douglasii). Eventually the canopy will shade out any remaining canarygrass.

“This may be the only project in this river system done with this diversity of species,” said Durand. “A lot of the success is due to choosing the correct plants and planting them correctly, but that landowner participation is the key.”

By the way, 100 percent success is a bit of an overstatement, but not much! Six plants died out of more than 600. (The culprit may have been a vole but it was more likely a variety of factors.)

Learn more about caring for our living shorelines.

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