EPA Grant Funds Used for Water Quality Improvements, ‘Buffalo Bridge’ Creation

Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Planning and Environmental Protection (PBPN PEP) received a $100,000 Clean Water Act Section 319 grant award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. PBPN PEP’s proposal was awarded the funds for a two-year project that began in January of 2021.

Overall, the project goals are:
• Improve water quality conditions
• Reduce sedimentation
• Support the PBPN Bison Program in the Soldier Creek Watershed

To achieve these goals, PEP partnered with the PBPN Road and Bridge and Land Management Departments to install streambank stabilization and best management practices (BMP) on a small area of Soldier Creek referred to as the “Buffalo Bridge.”
Buffalo Bridge received its name because the Tribe’s buffalo herd crosses the stream in an area located below the bridge over N Road. Crossing the stream here allows the herd access to separate grazing pastures as part of rotational grazing practices.

“Moving the buffalo between, different pastures for grazing, requires less effort for our department because we can move them under the bridge in the fall without having to load them up in trailers. This means we don’t need to have a corral system at each of the pastures to move the buffalo back to the winter pasture,” Michael Boswell, PBPN Land Maintenance Manager, said.

Heavy machinery being used under the bridge over N Road to reduce erosion and to smooth out the area making it safe for buffalo to cross the stream under the bridge. This allows the animals to move between pastures for rotational grazing.

This reduces equipment needed and staff time to move between pastures but it’s also safer for the animals. “Before the construction there was a four foot tall ledge and the buffalo would walk on it going back in forth from the east and west pastures,” he added.
Virginia LeClere, PBPN Environmental Manager, said, “The project kicked off with contract preparation and coordination meetings in 2021 and early 2022. Road and Bridge then coordinated with engineers/contractors from Wildhorse Riverworks and Water Resources Solutions, prior to mobilizing in June 2022.”

Once on-site, the crossing was cleared and excavated creating a hardened crossing according to engineered plans. In addition to the on-site operator expertise, Road & Bridge also transported and delivered nearly 2000 tons of rock needed to complete the BMP.
PBPN’s Land Maintenance Department will close out the BMP installation by seeding the area with native grass and planting trees.

“With the rock work and vegetation grow-in final, a once degraded crossing will be made safer for the buffalo and result in less sedimentation to Soldier Creek,” LeClere said.
Through this grant award, PBPN also committed to developing a nine-element based plan. This plan intends to guide staff and Tribal Leadership in making sound management decisions aimed at protecting water quality on the common land. It will complement the Middle Kansas Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy.

LeClere said, “The PBPN land and infrastructure-related departments coordinate frequently for Tribal and federal grant projects of all scopes and sizes. These collaborations allow the departments to share data, pool resources, generate mutually beneficial outcomes for every involved department, and ultimately support the Nation and community in a more efficient and holistic manner.”