The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $2,069,912 to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, giving local water quality improvement projects across the state a welcome funding boost where it’s needed most.

“I love these projects,” said Chris Hladick, EPA’s Regional Administrator in Seattle. “We get to help local groups design and build locally-supported solutions to often complicated and persistent environmental challenges. Through these grants, we watch water quality magic happen.”

Jason Pappani, DEQ’s Surface Water Program Manager in Boise agrees: “The Clean Water Act Section 319 grants are the cornerstone of Idaho’s nonpoint source management program and provide resources for landowners to implement projects to improve and restore water quality for future generations of Idahoans.”

The bulk of the state’s grant will fund new on-the-ground projects similar to the successful work documented in three recently published Idaho success stories:

Efforts to Control Sediment Builds Community and Yields Environmental and Economic Benefits, North Fork Coeur d’Alene River Sub-basin, Idaho.   For decades, stakeholders in the North Fork Coeur d’Alene (NFCDA) River sub-basin have worked to reduce sediment pollution and restore coldwater fisheries habitat by reducing erosion from forest roads and by restoring riparian and instream habitats. Water quality in multiple previously impaired segments has improved, thanks to dedicated individuals, available funding sources, and a programmatic approach to implementation and monitoring.

Watershed Restoration Decreases Sediment Levels and Improves Fish Habitat in Lost and Falls Creeks.   In the early 1990s, U.S. Forest Service (USFS) data indicated that excessive sedimentation from eroding forest roads negatively affected cold-water aquatic life in Idaho’s Lost and Falls creeks in the North Fork Coeur d’Alene (NFCDA) River Sub basin. Watershed stakeholders, led by the USFS, have worked to decommission failing forest roads, remove eroding culverts, and restore stream habitat. Over time, these activities have reduced sediment levels and improved aquatic habitat. As a result, DEQ removed these three AUs from the state’s 2016 list of impaired waters for sediment.

Riparian and Wetland Restoration Reduces Bacteria in Deep Creek.  Agricultural sources contributed to impairment of Deep Creek in the Idaho portion of the upper Palouse River Sub-basin. First identified as impaired in 1992, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) included four Deep Creek assessment units (AUs) on the 1998 Clean Water Act (CWA) section 303(d) list of impaired waters due to bacteria, sediment and temperature. Watershed partners implemented agricultural best management practices (BMPs) and stream and wetland restoration projects, which reduced bacteria levels and prompted DEQ to propose to remove two Deep Creek AUs from the impaired waters list in 2016 for bacteria.

This state and local project funding is just one part of EPA’s overall effort to ensure that America’s waters are clean and safe. This year, EPA is distributing more than $170 million nationally in Section 319 grants to states, territories, and tribes to reduce nonpoint runoff in both urban and rural settings.  EPA’s non-point efforts also include  reducing  excess nutrients that can enter our waters and cause public health and environmental challenges. Over the last two years, states have restored nearly 100 waters, eliminating 140 impairments and reducing over 17 million pounds of nitrogen, nearly 4 million pounds of phosphorus, and 3.5 million tons of excess sediment through Section 319 projects.

Congress enacted Section 319 of the Clean Water Act in 1987, establishing a national program to control nonpoint sources of water pollution. Through Section 319, the EPA provides states, territories, and tribes with grant funding and guidance grant funding to implement their nonpoint source programs and to support local watershed projects to improve water quality. Collectively this work has restored over 10,000 miles of streams and over 164,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs since 2006. Approximately 1500 restoration projects are underway across the country.