by Kathy Whitlow, Operations Manager

When homeowners Dot and Paul Ingels moved to Donner Lake, they knew they wanted to protect the house’s foundation from already-evident erosion and create a more usable space in their backyard. They just weren’t quite sure where to start. Then, they received a mailing from Truckee River Watershed Council about the River-Friendly Landscaping program.

They contacted the Watershed Council, who sent Conservation Assistant Jane Lufkin to the Ingels’ home to do a free site evaluation. Jane’s evaluation included recommendations for slope stabilization, covering bare soil with native vegetation, mulch or permeable walkways, maintaining the existing vegetation and gravel under decks, and getting better protection for the drip line system around their house. Dot and Paul were both grateful for the gentle push provided by the program. “We would have talked about doing something with the yard for a long, long time. Jane came out, gave us a plan and got us going.”

Clockwise from top: Dot and Paul Ingels enjoy their new backyard; After: soil erosion control measures have made this yard usable and river-friendly; Before (photo credits: Kathy Whitlow, Jane Lufkin)“I know soils but I don’t know this soil,” said Dot, who is a Master Gardener in Marin County and knows a lot about horticulture and sustainable landscaping practices. She appreciated the information Jane provided about her property and techniques that work in this area and was impressed at how detailed the site evaluation of their property was when she received the report. “It gave us everything we needed to work with our landscaper.” They were impressed with Jane’s credentials and loved the extra help in solving some of the design issues in the yard.

The result? A river- and lake-friendly backyard that will be enjoyed by the Ingels family for years to come. When Jane came back out to document what had been accomplished on the property, she was pleased to see that so many of her recommendations had been implemented. Now, most of the runoff from roofs, driveways and other impervious surfaces is directed to vegetation and other landscape features on the property, allowing the water to infiltrate back into the ground instead of eroding soil and running into Donner Lake.

The Ingels’ advice to others about participating in the program? “Go for it!” they say, “Why would you not?”

River Friendly Landscaping improves water quality by assisting residential property owners in voluntarily reducing or preventing soil erosion. It covers older homes in established neighborhoods in the Truckee River watershed within the Town of Truckee, Placer County, Nevada County, and Sierra County.

The program is completely voluntary. The Watershed Council provides free site evaluations, site plans, and resources for homeowners. Contact Andy Otto via email or at (530) 550-8760, ext. 3.

River Friendly Landscaping is a joint project with the Truckee Backyard Conservation Program of the Sierra Nevada Alliance. Funding for this project has been provided in full or in part through a State of California Proposition 50 grant, the State Water Resources Control Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Federal Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program (Clean Water Act Section 319).