By Marcy Stamper

Six projects to protect water quality in creeks and rivers in the Methow Valley and northern Okanogan County, primarily from problems associated with livestock, have been ranked high enough that there is a good chance they will receive grants and start work this summer.

The projects, most on private property, would help landowners with fencing and other protection against erosion that can raise sediment levels in the creeks and rivers. The voluntary projects would be administered by the Okanogan Conservation District, which was ranked 53 out of 92 for the $250,000 grant from the Washington Department of Ecology, according to Terri Williams, conservation planner for the district.

The majority of the projects are in the upper Okanogan and Similkameen watersheds, with just one—on Pete Creek, in the Rendezvous area—in the Methow Valley. The Pete Creek project would help property owners construct fencing to create a buffer along the creek to keep livestock from accessing the water and protect riparian vegetation.

While many programs intended to protect water quality are regulatory in nature, the Conservation District works only with landowners who approach them for assistance, and the property owners typically contribute labor, cash and materials, said Williams.

For projects designed to exclude livestock, the Conservation District works with livestock owners who need assistance containing their animals or providing other water sources and with neighboring property owners, said Williams. The Conservation District can help erect fences to create a buffer along a creek but cannot fence the perimeter of a property.

“The Conservation District is a non-regulatory organization. We encourage folks to do the right thing for the right reasons, and can be the bridge with people who need help complying with regulations,” she said.

Some of the projects proposed for the Upper Okanogan would address both natural erosion and erosion caused by agricultural practices, said Williams. Each project will include outreach and education, both for the general public and in some area school districts.

Ecology expects to spend more than $200 million on 70 projects around the state. In addition to projects that promote best-management practices for agriculture, which are expected to receive just $1.1 million of the total, the grants fund streamside restoration and upgrades to water-treatment facilities.

Decisions on funding are expected in May or June. Work would be done by Conservation District staff and property owners this summer.

People may comment on the proposed projects by March 24 to daniel.thompson@ecy.wa.gov. For more information, call (360) 407-6502.

 

With spring comes prescribed burning

The U.S. Forest Service may begin conducting prescribed burns as early as April on some lower-elevation sites, the agency said in press release.

This season, prescribed burning treatments on the Methow Valley Ranger District are planned northwest of Winthrop near Eightmile Creek and Fawn Creek; west of Twisp near Little Bridge Creek; and west of Methow in the McFarland Creek and Squaw Creek Drainages.

Areas planned for either spring or fall burning are shown on a map in the 2014 Burn Plan, a brochure produced by the Forest Service and available at local ranger offices.

Before submitting a prescribed burn for approval, specialists monitor the moisture of accumulated forest debris and assess weather conditions.

“Timing is important and we try to plan our ignitions to coincide with favorable winds that will help disperse smoke away from residential areas,” said Meg Trebon, assistant fire manager for fuels on the Methow Valley Ranger District. “Then, on the day of the burn, we do not begin ignition until smoke dispersal and weather conditions are favorable, and burn plan objectives can be accomplished.”

The Methow Valley’s 24-hour prescribed burning information line is 996-4040.