Conservation grant available for stream-side landowners - Hangman Creek, Little Spokane targeted areas over next five years

Mike Prager
Spokesman-Review Staff writer


The Spokane County Conservation District has a deal for stream-side landowners.

Those who want to protect streams from being fouled with sediment can receive technical assistance and grants for clean-water projects on their property.

The conservation district has received $150,000 in state funds for protecting streams from dirty runoff over the next five years.

Hangman Creek in south Spokane County, the Little Spokane River on the North Side and tributaries of both are the main targets of the spending.

Nearly 60 landowners turned out at two meetings earlier this month. The new grant program pays from 50 percent to 75 percent of most eligible costs.

Owners along the Little Spokane who own small acreages had the best turnout at the meetings, said Walt Edelen of the conservation district.

"They are very interested in getting something done," he said.

But a bigger problem may be to the south where sediments from the heavily farmed Hangman Creek watershed are clogging the Spokane River.

From 1998 through 2001, discharges from Hangman Creek were measured in a special conservation study.

In 1999, scientists calculated sediment runoff at 189,000 tons flowing from Hangman into the Spokane River. It moved either as sand and gravel along the bed of the channel or as finer particles suspended in the water.

Heavy stream flows of 1999 accounted for the high amount of sediment that year.

During the drought year of 2001, scientists calculated that 4,740 tons of sediment went into the Spokane River from Hangman.

Over many years, the sediment has been filling the reservoir behind Nine Mile Dam and is beginning to clog the popular Long Lake below the dam.

"What we are trying to reduce is the sediment load coming down," said Rick Noll of the conservation district.

Not only will sediment clog waterways, but it damages the ecology of lakes and streams. For example, some fish can't reproduce if gravel is covered in silt. On top of that, sediments often contain pesticide and fertilizer residue, which is harmful to the health of surface water.

Field erosion is the prime source for suspended sediments coming out of Hangman Creek.

Projects that would reduce the erosion include fencing off streams from livestock; using alternatives to watering livestock in streams and planting strips of native vegetation to buffer and slow sediment runoff.

Native vegetation includes grasses and larger woody plants such as aspen, red osier dogwood, willow, blue elderberry and red alder.

The vegetation, if planted in riparian buffer strips parallel to stream banks, slows rain water and snow melt as it moves from muddy fields and roads into streams.

For more information on the program, contact Edelen at the conservation district at 535-7274 or by e-mail at


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