Thursday, September 19, 2013

Lake Spokane shoreline goes au natural

By Jamie Gardipe, Water Quality Program, Eastern Regional Office

Project partners include: Avista Corporation, Ecology, The Governor’s Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance, Lake Spokane Association, Stevens County Conservation District, and Spokane Conservation District.
Why replace bulkheads with natural shorelines? While bulkheads can provide protection to property where they are built, they can also cause problems for neighbors, and overtime often fail. Bulkheads transfer wave energy to other areas where it may result in more erosion. Unlike natural shorelines, bulkheads don’t provide habitat for fish and wildlife. Additionally, lawn to the edge of bulkhead doesn’t provide the right vegetation to filter runoff before it enters the water.
  • help protect the shoreline from erosion
  • decrease the intensity of waves
  • provide habitat for fish and wildlife
  • increase safety by providing a gradual slope rather than a drop-off to the water
  • reduce polluted run-off
  • increase the aesthetic value of the property
In the spring of 2012 Ecology began working with local partners to identify potential property owners interested in naturalizing their shoreline on Lake Spokane. The lake, known for low dissolved oxygen problems, is actually a reservoir on the Spokane River controlled by Avista Utilities’ hydropower operations. Run-off and other non-point source pollution from homes contribute to the lake’s water quality problem. In order to help address these impacts the project team pursued a demonstration bulkhead removal and shoreline naturalization project.

Eric and Alycia Staggs decided their property located on the southeast corner of Lake Spokane was the perfect guinea pig for the project. Their bulkhead was failing and they were excited about making the change to a naturalized shoreline. The majority of the project was funded through Ecology’s Water Quality Program’s Direct Implementation Fund, a subset of federal grant funds dedicated sources of pollution like residential runoff and erosion. The Spokane Conservation District supplied engineering and design grant funds and the Staggs family purchased the plant material.

Spokane Conservation District was key to success of the project. Their staff provided technical assistance by working with the project engineer on the design, providing additional funding, applying for permits, and supervising construction contractors. After obtaining all the permits required, the project began in February 2013 following reservoir drawdown. The district spent four days on-site overseeing bulkhead demolition and re-grading of the shoreline, returned in the spring to plant shoreline vegetation, and later repaired erosion caused by high lake levels and rain. The homeowners used time-lapse video to show the project transformation from start to finish.

For more information on protecting clean water and natural shorelines visit: Our Living Shorelines:

Spokane River Basin:
Spokane Conservation District:

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