200719000 - Icicle Creek Ecological Recovery and Fish Population Monitoring

Sponsor: Washington Trout

Budgets: FY07: $213,500 | FY08: $170,786 | FY09: $170,786

Short description:

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $0 | FY08: $0 | FY09: $0

Comment:

ISRP final recommendation: Response requested

Comment:

The ISRP believes this project has merit, but is requesting a response to several questions and concerns. ISRP comments on various sections/elements of the proposal are provided first, followed by a summary. Technical and scientific background: In many respects the Icicle Creek restoration project is similar to other floodplain reconnection projects proposed for the Wenatchee subbasin, and this proposal outlines the most comprehensive post-reconnection monitoring program of any of them. The technical background section does a good job of describing the scientific rationale for the study and explaining its relationship to fish and wildlife recovery goals. Rationale and significance to subbasin plans and regional programs: The proposal describes a clear relationship to the objectives of the Wenatchee subbasin plan, although it does not mention the Council's Fish & Wildlife Plan or the BiOp. Relationships to other project: This proposal represents one of three related ones to study the Icicle Creek watershed as it is recolonized by anadromous salmonids. The proposal adequately describes its relationship to the other projects and shows how the information produced by them would fit together to monitor recolonization of this reach of Icicle Creek. Objectives: Objectives are clearly stated and include a very wide range of topics, from the genetic analysis of salmon and trout, to growth and food habitats, tracing their rearing locations, aquatic insect communities, and riparian communities. Timelines are described and the objectives of each work element are tied to each other. The proposal is to "monitor the timing and pattern of use of the channel for rearing, migration, and spawning by juvenile and adult salmonids, elements of the aquatic food web related to juvenile feeding ecology; physical and chemical characteristics of the stream channel; riparian and hyporheic zones; channel geomorphology; and changes to the riparian shrub/tree community as fish access is improved and more normative flow return to the channel." (Page 7) Much of this statement of the objectives appears to be primarily of academic interest, whose potential benefits to fish are not specified and are difficult to assess. While the benefits to fish would be clear from accomplishment of the objectives spelled out in the first clause in the sentence, the same cannot be said for those later in the sentence. If the study documents use of the channel by juvenile and adult salmonids, why would it be necessary to analyze the food web and feeding ecology? Justification is weak or lacking for the isotopic analysis, which appears to be aimed at tracing micro-movements of the fish. What significance would this have in terms of what might lead to a benefit to the fish? Won't it be possible to deduce fish movements into and out of the restored channel by means of recovery of marked fish? The same question applies to the proposed study of geomorphology, and changes to the riparian shrub/tree community? Would any findings from those aspects be likely to lead to any adjustments in management measures? The proposal indicates that a change in the food web is expected as flow is restored, but if presence of fish is documented and their size is comparable to those outside, what would it matter whether their diet might be somewhat different from the main stream? The justification for genetic studies of rainbow trout and/or bull trout is not clear. What significance would this have in terms of a benefit to the fish? On the other hand, there is an extremely important genetic question that applies to recolonization by spring chinook and/or coho salmon that is not addressed in the proposal. As background for this question it is necessary to keep in mind that the existing populations of these fish are themselves products of recolonization that has occurred since the early 1930s, when access to the upper Wenatchee River was restored by removal of the Lamb-Davis mill dam at Leavenworth, followed by provision of fish passage at Tumwater Dam, upstream of Leavenworth. The so-called "Grand Coulee Fish Maintenance Project" then followed in the late 1930s into the early 1940s, during which adult salmon were trapped in the fish ladder at Rock Island Dam in the mainstem Columbia downstream of the confluence of the Wenatchee River and transported to the Wenatchee River and its tributaries. This is all documented in Fish and Hanavan, 1948. Currently, those salmon - products of recolonization - are listed under ESA. Furthermore, the fishery agencies have concluded, on the basis of genetic analysis by Fred Utter done in the 1990s, that the White River Spring Chinook (tributary to Lake Wenatchee) represent a distinct population segment of the Upper Columbia River Spring Chinook ESU, and have proposed management measures accordingly. The basic question that could be addressed in this study is "How long does it take for recolonization to produce a stock of spring chinook that is distinguishable from others in the same drainage?" It might be found that as a result of colonization of the Icicle segment by only a few families of chinook, the stock would very soon be distinguishable from others due to limited representation of the gene pool, but that as the population grew the differences might blend. Or it might be that they would become even more different due to effects of relative isolation and local adaptations or genetic drift. The results in any case would be of considerable importance in decisions about appropriate strategies to use for recovery of endangered salmon stocks in general. Tasks (work elements) and methods: See comments on Objectives. The methods described for direct measurement of abundance of fish populations are appropriate, although the study design for use and analysis of PIT tags is not clear. Where and how would recoveries be made? Others appear to be primarily of academic interest with little or no possibility of direct benefit to fish. Some proposed methods are quite new and innovative (untested). Some are so new (e.g., scale and otolith microchemistry) that they must be tested on a non-native species - brook trout - to ensure they work as anticipated. There did not appear to be any major weaknesses in the sampling protocols overall. Scientists from several universities will be involved in this study, although who would complete each work element wasn't always clear. Special approval will be needed for PIT-tagging ESA-listed species such as bull trout. Monitoring and evaluation: This proposal is a monitoring proposal by nature, and the results ought to be generally applicable to other floodplain restoration projects in the region. Personnel are well qualified for this work. The proponents appear to have made a strong effort to include university personnel. Information transfer: Unfortunately, the subject of information transfer was not covered. Presumably much of this work will be publishable and with the university involvement that will surely be one of the goals; however, the provisions for data management were not discussed. Benefit to focal and non-focal species: Information on focal species will likely be very helpful to understanding their recovery and recolonization in watersheds from which they had historically been extirpated. Non-focal species will also be likely to benefit from this project. Summary: The part of the proposal dealing with direct observations of juvenile and adult use of the restored channel and description of the physical changes in the channel itself can be justified as monitoring of effects of a management measure. Objectives having to do with the food web, including isotopic analysis, are not likely to lead to benefits to fish and should be eliminated. An objective should be developed dealing with genetic analysis of the spring chinook recolonization process. This proposal and proposal 200734900 should be combined and funded at a reduced level to eliminate unnecessary and inappropriate objectives and methods we specified under those headings above. There should be monitoring and evaluation of the effects of this improved passage as they directly benefit fish numbers, but these proposals go beyond what is necessary or desirable. A better literature review is needed to fill in some gaps on work that needs to be done. There are a lot of places in the technical background that could be further supported by additional literature and research.

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State/province recommendation: Washington

Review group: Washington list

Recommended budgets: FY07: (n/a) | FY08: (n/a) | FY09: (n/a)

Comment: See Washington guidance