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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Colville Confederated Tribes


Owhi Lake -
Restoring a Resident Fishery

The Owhi Lake watershed is a 25,000-acre watershed located in Okanogan and Ferry Counties of Washington state, near the center of the Colville Confederated Tribal Lands. The lake, which encompasses 500 acres, is 10 miles northeast of Nespelem, near tribal headquarters. The project area is within the Little Nespelem watershed. The Little Nespelem River originates at Owhi Lake.

The Owhi watershed is roughly one-third rangeland (8,790 acres) and two-thirds forest land (16,210 acres). The rangeland occurs at lower elevations in the southwest corner of the watershed and extends north to Owhi Lake and east to the Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir forests. Owhi Lake is nutrient-enriched; its problems have multiple sources, but livestock's unrestricted, all-seasons use of the Owhi creek and lakeshore coupled with a historic pattern of road construction for timber harvesting intensify the impacts from all sources.

Limiting livestock access

The tribes' Owhi Lake section 319 project is part of an integrated management plan that includes forests, rangelands, recreation, and traditional land uses. Its goal is to improve water quality through best management practices (BMPs).

Tribal activities have focused on limiting livestock access to Owhi Creek and Lake. Using section 319 funding, tribal, and other money, the tribes fenced Owhi Lake and created livestock enclosures to restrict the use of pastures along the creek. The primary and ultimate objective of these and other project activities is to flush the lake and reduce the inflow of phosphorus. However, the tribes also plan to improve riparian habitat and encourage more beaver activity along the creek.

The fencing portion of the project was completed about 18 months ago. School children worked with tribal technicians; they planted riparian vegetation and helped put medium organic debris in the creek, using only local materials. Owhi Lake also has the most important resident fishery within the reservation. Indeed, the lake provides an excellent subsistence fishery for the Colville Tribes and is the sole source of brook trout broodstock for the entire reservation. The Tribal Fish and Game Division collects between 700 and 800 thousand brook trout eggs annually to restock the fishery. Current fish stocking efforts provide subsistence and recreational opportunities for tribal members and other lake users.

CONTACT: Gary Passmore
Environmental Trust Department Colville Confederated Tribes
(509) 634-8844


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