This is the ISRP’s final review of the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce (CREST) Estuary Habitat Restoration proposal (2010-004-00). The intent of this proposal is to continue CREST’s effort in developing, designing, and constructing on-the-ground habitat restoration actions to benefit threatened and endangered salmonid species in the Lower Columbia and Estuary, specifically the 2008 BiOp RPA 37, Achieving Habitat Quality and Survival Improvement Targets.
The ISRP reviewed an early version of the proposal and found that it did not meet scientific review criteria (ISRP 2010-9). A response was requested in the form of (1) a revised proposal and (2) a point-by-point response to the ISRP concerns. On May 21, the Council forwarded CREST’s response and requested the ISRP's review.
The ISRP appreciated the response summary provided by the proponents including the attachments with specific engineering plans for projects at Fort Columbia and Otter Point. However, significant revisions of the proposal itself were not evident and the response failed to provide an adequate level of detailed ecological information regarding the two proposed projects and additional unspecified projects extending through 2018. Project selection criteria, estimation of biological benefits, and methods and study designs for individual and cumulative project monitoring and evaluation remain deficient. Consequently, the ISRP found that the proposal does not meet scientific review criteria.
The role of CREST seems to be primarily one of coordination and assisting in getting subcontracts for engineering companies to develop plans/designs for opening up dikes, installing culverts, and other bioengineering aspects of estuary restoration. They do have some internal capacity for ecological work as evidenced by their presentation at the Science-Policy meeting in Astoria, September 2009. However, their management capability is clearly emphasized in the response. As such, different indicators, in addition to scientific criteria, may be needed to evaluate CREST proposals.
The ISRP is also concerned the proposed procedures for scientific review of CREST projects bypass the ISRP process, and as the proponents state, their projects will continue to be vetted by Estuary Partnership Science Workgroup (EPSW) for technical merit and BPA Expert Regional Technical Group (ERTG) for assignment of survival benefits. In the current instance, the request is to implement two projects that have yet to be reviewed by either the EPSW or ERTG.