Response for project 200300700: Lwr Col River/Est Eco Monitor

Comment on proposed FY 2006 budget

The Estuary partnership is prepared to continue the project, 2003-007-00, for Fiscal Year 2006, for the amount of $625,000. This amount is consistent and sufficient to implement the scope and nature of activities approved for the project which includes completing the landscape classification system, initiating implementation of the habitat monitoring, sampling fixed stations for conventional, toxic, and emerging contamination, sampling juvenile salmonids for toxic exposure, and developing risk models to predict the effects of toxics on salmon. All of these efforts should improve ecosystem function for juvenile and adult salmon well as other focal species defined in the subbasin plan (page 2-35).

Accomplishments since the last review

Ecosystem monitoring is a key element of the Estuary Partnership’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan and calls for the Partnership and partners to implement long term monitoring to understand conditions in the river and evaluate trends of actions over time. The two main components of the Ecosystem Monitoring Project are: 1) habitat monitoring; and 2) water quality monitoring. The goal of the Partnership’s habitat monitoring program is to provide long-term data to assess the status and trends of aquatic habitats, and to apply these data, to action effectiveness research on estuary habitat restoration. The following are the most significant accomplishment of the past two years. Habitat Monitoring 2004 1. Completed a draft habitat monitoring plan for the LCRE, approved by ISRP 2. Compiled 40 digital bathymetric datasets to create seemless bathymetric dataset for the lower Columbia River. 3. Partitioned the lower river into 8 hydrogeomorphically unique reaches. 2005 1. Refined the Habitat Monitoring plan for sampling salmonid habitat. 2. Developed a habitat sampling plan for two reaches. 3. Partitioned each reach into complexes. 4. Analyzed each complex for landscape metrics utilizing fragstats. 5. Conducting field sampling on Reaches D and F. Water Quality 2004 1. Began monthly and seasonal (high flow/low flow) water quality monitoring at 7 different locations along the lower 146 miles LCRE. 2. Began modeling the source, transport and fate of toxins in the LCRE. 2005 1. Continued monthly and seasonal water quality sampling at the 7 different locations. 2. Conducting salmon sampling at the same 7 locations where water quality monitoring took place. The water quality component has funded fixed monitoring sites where toxic and conventional pollutants have been sampled throughout the year to quantify the amount of contaminants present under different water conditions. Semi-Permeable Membrane Devices, which mimic the bioconcentration of contaminants in the fatty tissues of fish, will be deployed for 30 days. Sites are monitored for conventional parameters; a national suite of currently used pesticides, additional pesticides and pesticide break down products, dissolved trace elements, trace elements transported (sorbed) to suspended sediment, gross alpha and beta emitting radio-chemicals.

FY 2006 goals and anticipated accomplishments

The goal of the Estuary Partnership’s habitat status monitoring program is to provide long-term data to assess the status and trends of aquatic habitats and to apply these data, as appropriate, to action effectiveness research on estuary habitat restoration. The Estuary Partnership and its partners are developing and testing monitoring protocols to assess these habitats. Partners are compiling and collecting information that is helping describe the aquatic habitats and geomorphology of the lower Columbia River. The result will be a habitat and geomorphic classification system and GIS layers that help identify habitat information gaps and formulate habitat based sampling plans. Other 2006 goals for the habitat monitoring component include: 1. Final Landscape metric analysis will be run on all 8 hydrogeomprphic reaches 2. Post-processing bathymetric data collected 3. Channel metrics will be developed 4. Inclusion of recently flown Lidar into the bathymetric dataset 5. Landscape classification system will be refined and fully automated 6. 2000 Landsat will undergo a revision. Under the water quality component of this project, 2006 will see: 1. The development of conceptual models to identify contaminant sources, and describe likely modes and routes of transport, potential exposure and uptake of toxicant by listed salmon stocks, and possible effects on survival and productivity, based on existing toxicological information. The conceptual model will; 1) help consolidate existing knowledge of contaminant fate and transport in the LCRE and allow better identification of sources and biotic and abiotic cycling processes that could influence contaminant concentrations; 2) develop hypotheses about exposure patterns and risks in specific ESUs, that can be verified with field monitoring; and 3) allow us to identify critical data gaps that can be addressed by sampling efforts in subsequent years. 2. Coordinated juvenile salmon will sampled near the fixed station monitoring sites. Fish will be sampled for bioaccumulative contaminants (e.g., DDTs, PCBs, OC pesticides) and non-bioaccumulative contaminants (PAHs, estrogenic compounds). This monitoring will help assess the extent to which contaminants may affect juvenile salmon survival and productivity and inform model development.

Subbasin planning

How is this project consistent with subbasin plans?

The habitat status monitoring program component is consistent with the following key assumptions, which are based on assessment data and analysis in Chapter 2 of the subbasin plan: • Our current understanding of the interrelationships among fish, wildlife, and limiting habitat conditions in the estuary and lower mainstem is not robust and introduces substantial uncertainty in decisions intended to benefit recovery and sustainability of natural resources. (page 2-156 of the subbasin plan.) • Human activities have altered how the natural processes interact, changing habitat conditions in the Columbia River estuary and lower mainstem. (page 2-152 of the subbasin plan.) • Changes in the Columbia River estuary and lower mainstem habitat have decreased the productivity of the ecosystem and contributed to the imperiled status of salmon and steelhead. (page 2-161 of the subbasin plan.) The water quality monitoring component is consistent with the Strategy 12 defined on page 4-43 of the subbasin plan: • Limit the effects of toxic contaminants in the Columbia River estuary, lower mainstem, and near-shore Ocean. Implementing this strategy involves (1) extensive sampling to determine the locations and concentrations of contaminants in the lower mainstem and estuary, and (2) reducing uncertainty about exposure risks to salmonids, sturgeon, and lamprey. The effects of toxic contaminants could be addressed through the removal, treatment, or containment of hot spots or by addressing contaminants at their source, such as through the establishment of total maximum daily loads and best management practices that address stormwater and point sources. In either case, more specific data are needed on contaminant sources and the location and extent of contaminant effects before specific management actions can be taken. Key Limiting Factors This Program Addresses Contaminant exposure of salmonids, sturgeon, lamprey, and bald eagle Limiting Factor 5 (page 4-19), 22 (page 4-23), 26 (page 4-24), 33 (page 4-25), 44 (page 4-27), and 51 (page 4-29) Key Physical Objectives This Strategy Addresses • Reduce contaminant exposure of emigrating salmonid and Pacific lamprey juveniles and white sturgeon eggs and juveniles. (page 4-35) • Continue to reduce, monitor, and understand contaminant sources in the lower Columbia River. (page 4-40)

How do goals match subbasin plan priorities?

The habitat monitoring component directly supports Strategy 2 of the Management Plan Supplement: “Protect and Restore Habitat (page 2-6). Specifically, this project is implementing the Strategy Component: “Assess the Columbia River estuary and lower mainstem by discrete geographic reaches to aid in the development of restoration and protection priorities; develop an approach for determining expected outcomes of research, monitoring, and evaluation activities” (page 2-7 of the Supplement). The ecosystem classification system will help us better understand the extent, availability of shallow water habitat utilized by a number of focal species. The Supplement categorized the reduction of toxic contamination as one of its primary strategies. Sublethal concentrations of contaminants affect the survival of aquatic and terrestrial species by increasing stress, predisposing organisms to disease, delaying development, and disrupting physiological processes, including reproduction. Fall Chinook and chum may be particularly susceptible to contaminants because they prefer peripheral shallow-water habitats where contaminants can accumulate. In the case of bald eagles, concentrations of PCBs, pesticides, and dioxins in eggs collected along the lower Columbia were at levels associated with reduced breeding success. (page 2-85 in the Subbasin Plan). Another key objective this project addresses is “Develop an understanding of emigrating juvenile salmonid life history diversity . . . in the lower mainstem, western Oregon tributaries, estuary, and plume” (page 2-10 of the Supplement) The ecological risk model is looking at different types of pollutants that salmonids are exposed to. To accurately do this, tracking where the fish are and how long will need to be identified in order to accurately reflect the dose of toxins fish are exposed to while emigrating through the LCRE. The water quality and salmon sampling component of the will be drawing conclusions from the sampling and analysis data. This is in response to Strategy 3: Address Toxic Contaminants, specifically the key objective “Continue to reduce, monitor, and understand contaminant sources in the lower Columbia River” (page 2-12 of the Supplement). The semi-quantitative model of contaminant flux will begin to track the source, transport, and fate of contaminants throughout the LCRE.

Other comments

Subbasin planning efforts in the lower Columbia mainstem and estuary were challenged by the lack of documented understanding about key life history requirements some focal species, their habitat needs, how watershed-scale processes affect those habitats, and how species interact, as well as the role of toxics in the ecosystem. This is in sharp contrast to the level of understanding about how tributaries function, where, in many cases, significant data have been collected and models such as EDT are available to organize data and hypothesize relationships between habitat conditions and productivity. In the estuary, research, monitoring, and evaluation needs include mapping, quantifying, and comparing current and pre-twentieth century aquatic habitats in the estuary to better understand the restoration potential of specific geographic areas; establishing goals, objectives, and scientific principles for restoration; and establishing a habitat monitoring program for use in an adaptive management process. Additional research is needed to understand how physical processes affect habitat conditions and water quality in the estuary and mainstem, how focal species use those habitats, and how focal species are affected by predators, introduced species, and contaminants.