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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Colville Confederated Tribes (Section 319I - 1994)

Integrated Resource Management Planning (IRMP) is the cornerstone of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation's Nonpoint Source Management Program. An interdisciplinary process to achieve resource management goals, IRMP reflects the traditional Native American holistic view.

The IRMP is divided into three levels of activities, according to priorities. The highest priority level includes upgrading the monitoring program and database, on-the-ground application of nonpoint source controls in the Omak Creek and Nine Mile Creek watersheds, a water quality chemical analysis lab, maintaining existing nonpoint source control programs, and evaluation.

Stream Restoration Uses Holistic Methods

Over many years, human use has severely degraded the streams that flow into Buffalo Lake. Grazing practices and road construction have altered water quality and traditional cultural uses in the watershed. In certain areas--like Buffalo Creek--the stream had completely disappeared.

The Buffalo Creek Restoration Project focused on restoring the stream and returning it to a natural ecosystem, while still meeting the tribes' economic, cultural, and recreational needs. In this project, nature was both the teacher and the model. Using a holistic approach, the Colville Tribes adopted restoration methods from nature effective in less degraded watershed areas. To demonstrate effective and inexpensive restoration, the tribes chose a small area where the stream should be, but was no longer, present. Without visible water, the creek had no name and was not found on any map.

The Colville Indian reservation lies within the Okanogan Upper Columbia Region of Northeast Washington State. The reservation spans 1.3 million acres, 7,800 of which are covered by surface water, and has a population of 7,000. The economy is dependent on government jobs, timber, and agricultural development. The Colville Tribes have attained treatment as a state under sections 518, 106, and 319 of the Clean Water Act.

To trap sediment, workers placed native logs and twigs in the streams as nature would have done to make in-stream structures. The only nonnatural materials used were coconut matting to support in-stream structures and fencing materials to protect the riparian area.

In only four months, the stream emerged and defined itself. Nine months later, small fish appeared and natural vegetation returned. The site has also produced visible benefits upstream. And Buffalo Creek now appears on the map.

With little likelihood of enough financial resources to restore all watersheds on the reservation, the Buffalo Creek project demonstrates to resource managers that this low-cost approach works. The project cost less than $5,000, funded by section 319. Should a catastrophic incident occur, replacement is possible. Long term goals for Buffalo Creek include improving water quality and vegetation so that the natural ecosystem is restored. The benchmark will be the return of beaver.

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