UI Extension Uses $37,000 Grant to Protect Water Systems

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – The University of Idaho Extension water education program has received a $37,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to educate the public on the vulnerability of the Lake Coeur d’Alene and Spokane River water systems.

The project, overseen by program director Jim Ekins, will use native plants to create natural storm water pollution treatment and install signage along 60 miles of shoreline to educate visitors about how to protect the region’s pristine waters. An outdoor classroom will be built near the University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene and North Idaho College to teach school children and college students about water quality. College students will help plant the areas and conduct research.

UofI round

A service learning part of the project follows the efforts senior-level University of Idaho English technical writing class. A student team helped write an additional $3,000 grant from The Mountaineers Foundation to add to the project.

As part of the project, Ekins is working with 24 local and national partners — including all of the cities along the waterway, Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s Lake Management Division, and the North Idaho and Washington Centennial Trail Associations — to plant 1,000 native plants in waterside gardens along Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Spokane River. The gardens create natural storm water pollution treatment. The resulting bio infiltration swales and riparian buffers will filter sediment, petroleum, metals, and other impurities from storm water before it can reach lake or river. The areas will act as demonstration and educational sites for the public.

Signs with QR codes at the sites will help passersby connect to online information about the project. The signs will also act as virtual geocaches, offering an educational scavenger hunt for kids, Ekins said.

The project began in August 2015 and will be completed over the next two years