The Clark Fork River Delta Restoration Project is so far being hailed a success despite what seems to be Mother Nature’s best attempt to derail it.

Project leader Kathy Cousins and her crew have had to deal with the onslaught of an early spring that turned the ground to mush and made the work of moving earth with heavy machinery very difficult, followed by drought conditions that provided very little rain for the over 100,000 newly planted native plants and shrubs, as well as a prolonged heat wave that tried to scorch all those new, fragile plants.

Despite the adversity, the project is on schedule and-though Kathy admits, “It’s pretty difficult to create a wetland project in the middle of a drought,”-the plants are growing, the banks are holding and wildlife is returning.

The aim of the Clark Fork River Delta Restoration Project is to protect the 5,600 acre delta from the devastating effects of  erosion to its shorelines.  Much of this erosion (to the tune of 15 acres of  delta shoreline lost each year)  is caused by the effects of dam operations located both upstream and downstream from the delta.

The work  includes rebuilding the delta’s shorelines, raising  areas that were recently submerged, embedding plants along banks to mimic a natural shoreline while stabilizing the banks, and working to fight off invasive weed species that have taken a strong hold in the delta.

ICL has been an integral part of the project, facilitating the  recruitment of  hundreds of volunteers that have lent their time and energy to the work on the ground. From collecting willows and seeds to planting native plants and monitoring vegetation, volunteers have been, and will continue to be, vital to the success of the project.

Throughout  August, volunteers will  still be needed to monitor vegetation with vegetation team leader Derek Antonelli. Future volunteer opportunities this fall  will include collecting seeds and willows  and broadcasting  native seeds throughout specific areas of the delta.

To find out more about volunteering and to sign up, go to the Clark Fork River Delta Restoration website.

If you would like to get a closer look at the delta and learn more about the project, ICL  is  offering a kayak tour of the delta on Sunday, Aug 2 led by the delta project leader Kathy Cousins. Space is limited and registration is required.