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New livestock fencing helps improve Moses Lake's water quality

If you have boated up the north end of Moses Lake toward Rocky Ford, you may have once noticed cows near or even in the lake – which may have been a bit concerning. After all, manure directly entering the lake can introduce undesirable bacteria and increased levels of phosphorus, which can impact Moses Lake’s water quality. And it’s not just the manure. Hoof activity and stirring up the sediments can also impact the lake’s water quality.

Project Site - Before Fencing

Thankfully, through a collaborative effort with the landowner, the cows no longer pose an immediate concern.

Here's how this important project came to be

After receiving a technical assist referral from the Department of Ecology regarding the cows in the lake, Lyle Stoltman, Grant County Conservation District’s Livestock Program Coordinator reached out to the landowner. It was a great day when Stoltman learned that the landowner was willing and happy to work together to address the concern.

Together, they agreed that a new fence along the shoreline was the best approach to help improve the lake's water quality – and Stoltman got to work.

After over a year of planning, careful design, and construction, the fence now spans 1,400 feet across the shoreline. If you were to boat by now, you would see the cows happily grazing 50+ feet from the water, with access to a small watering ramp for drinking water and a large gate for the landowners to easily access and utilize their property along the shoreline.

Stoltman reflects, “Constructing the fence was no small feat.”

Project Site - Fence Installation

Given the rocky terrain, the fence and gate are largely supported by several rock cribs that Stoltman built by hand. The rocks were considered a resource that could be utilized on this project. These structures can be seen from the lake and are a great reference point for the public to see this new project from the water.

Landowner access gate (left) | Watering ramp for cows (center) | Stoltman giving tour of project (right)

Stoltman attributes the success of this project to the landowner and his willingness to partner

“The landowner was great to work with. This is a project he should really be proud of. Not only are cows out of the lake, but this project serves as a demonstration project for other landowners who might be interested in partnering to receive cost-share for fencing and other projects to benefit the water quality in the watershed.” - Lyle Stoltman

Building on this success, the Grant County Conservation District has plans to continue working with the landowner to develop an upland drinking water source for the cows and to restore native plantings along the shore.

So stay tuned and keep a look out.

Photo taken by Lyle Stoltman, GCCD

This project was designed and installed by the Grant County Conservation District with orca recovery funding, made possible through the Washington State Conservation Commission. To learn more about opportunities to partner on projects like this, contact the Grant County Conservation District at (509) 765-9618 or visit us at


Presentation given by Lyle Stoltman, GCCD during the Moses Lake Watershed Council meeting on August 17, 2021.

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