ISRP Review of the Yankee Fork Salmon River Restoration Accord project (2002-059-00)

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On February 17, 2012, the Council requested that the ISRP review a revised proposal and supporting appendices for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes’ (Tribes) Accord project, Yankee Fork Salmon River Restoration (2002-059-00). The Yankee Fork of the Salmon River, located in central Idaho in the Salmon-Challis National Forest east of Stanley, is one of the larger watersheds (190 sq mi) within the Upper Salmon River Basin. The currently proposed habitat enhancement activities focus on creating a connected series of self-sustaining, small ponds and side channels at two locations. These enhancements are designed to provide high-flow refuges and year-round rearing habitat for juvenile Chinook salmon.

These two enhancement activities represent a less ambitious approach than envisioned in an earlier Step One habitat restoration master plan that the ISRP reviewed in September 2008 (ISRP 2008-11). In that review, the ISRP found that the Yankee Fork restoration plan did not meet scientific criteria. In response to the ISRP’s concerns, the Tribes worked with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Forest Service, and the landowner to gather information and refine the proposal. The Tribes’ submittal is available here.

The ISRP reviewed the submittal and recommends Meets Scientific Review Criteria (Qualified)

Qualifications:

1. Develop a formal Fish and Wildlife Program proposal for the pond reconstruction actions.

The pond reconstruction identified in the response documents does not adequately provide the material expected in a Fish and Wildlife Program proposal. Since the 2008 Step Review, the proponents and co-managers have obtained additional information, conducted analyses, and modified the scale of the project to such an extent that the previous step document cannot realistically serve as the proposal.

The restoration of the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River is going to be a multi-year, multi-strategy effort. A complete proposal is needed that establishes the baseline status of the focal species, the habitat, limiting factors, explicit improvements in focal species life-stage survival from restoration, and a monitoring plan to evaluate restoration. The analysis of 20 years of fisheries data, currently being completed and due May 2012 by Gregory Aquatics, should be incorporated into the formal Fish and Wildlife Program proposal.

2. Pursue the reach-scale analysis and design work needed to develop justified actions. Do not implement the pond reconstruction elements until the necessary assessment is complete.

3. Make necessary modifications in design specifications for pond series habitat alterations so that they function primarily during base flow conditions in summer and during winter. Re-construction of pond margins to hold juvenile Chinook salmon during high flow conditions in June is not biologically justified and should not be part of the proposed work.

The ISRP should review the revised proposal and supporting documents identified above before pond reconstruction is implemented. Depending on the project schedule, this review step may be incorporated into the Council’s upcoming Geographic Reviews.

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