This review is the ISRP’s final review of information supporting a scope change for the Latah Soil and Water Conservation District’s (Latah SWCD) project Restore Potlatch River Watershed (200206100). The Latah SWCD requested new work elements be added to the existing project to address significant limiting factors as outlined in the Potlatch River Watershed Management Plan. The work elements are designed to address upland issues as well as instream habitat and riparian issues.
The work elements include:
- WE#27 – Remove Debris
- WE#29 – Increase Instream Habitat Complexity
- WE#30 – Realign, Connect, and/or Create Channel
- WE#33 – Decommission Road/Relocate Road
- WE#84 – Remove/Install Diversion
- WE#181 – Create, Restore, and/or Enhance Wetland
- WE#184 – Install Fish Passage Structure
- WE#186 – Operate and Maintain Habitat/Passage/Structure
This action is addressed in the recently signed Memorandum of Agreement between the State of Idaho and the FCRPS action agencies.
This review began with the Council’s November 2008 request for us to review the Latah SWCD’s scope change request. We reviewed that information, and on December 19, 2008 requested a response. On February 23, 2009, we received a response. We reviewed the response and released a memo on March 27, 2009. In that review, we found that the proposal met scientific review criteria in part. Specifically we recommended that four work elements were justified: 27, 33, 186, and 84 (although the benefits expected from replacing old culverts with "fish friendly" culverts were not adequately justified). Four other work elements – Big Bear Creek cascade fish passage improvement, 29, 30, 181, and 184 – were not described in such a way to ecologically justify their bioengineering approach. In addition, their plans for monitoring and evaluation were not sufficiently described. On April 10, 2009, the Latah SWCD responded to our concerns. Our review follows below.
ISRP April 2009 Final Recommendation: Meets Scientific Review Criteria
The Latah SWCD’s April response provided additional information regarding the proposal to add eight work elements to its existing BPA contract and enables the ISRP to now fully support the request. The work elements not fully supported in the ISRP 2009-8 report – Big Bear Creek cascade fish passage improvement, WE 29, WE 30, WE 181, and WE 184 – are now described in such a way that we can fully appreciate and support the ecological justification for the bioengineering approach that has been and will be employed. Additional information regarding the monitoring and evaluation program was presented to show how components will be coordinated with specific respect to this proposal and results incorporated into future management actions for the Potlatch watershed. The letter of support from NOAA (that provides funding for Latah SWCD through the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund) was helpful, especially as it indicated that agency’s endorsement of Potlatch results to date and the monitoring protocol and track record.
ISRP April 2009 Final Comments
1. Technical Justification, Program Significance and Consistency, and Project Relationships (proposal sections B-D)
The response provided additional clarification in regard to several issues. It gave supplemental information based on project survey data with respect to pools in the Potlatch tributaries, their thermal regime, and their use by juvenile steelhead.
Reviewers had also asked to what extent the proposed investments on streams flowing through private lands will be protected (by easements, changes in livestock management, etc.) in the future. The response discussed the situation with enough detail to convince reviewers that as much as possible is being done within the limitation of private land ownership to protect habitat improvements resulting from project activities.
2. Objectives, Work Elements, and Methods (section F)
In our December 2008 review, we also asked what was meant by "increasing riparian habitat complexity" or how the goal of increasing riparian complexity would be achieved. The April response discussed this issue and clarified how project staff approached project selection and design.
Many of the site restoration efforts involve intensive bioengineering, as opposed to passive restoration. The April response material provided additional information that was sufficient to demonstrate the need for bioengineering, in some situations, to address legacy impacts. It also dealt with the need for continued maintenance.
Based on the change of scope request and initial response it was unclear whether the Latah SWCD planned to provide adult migration at a natural passage barrier at stream mile 5.6 of Big Bear Creek – the top priority subwatershed. The April response indicates the Latah SWCD does not intend to modify this natural stream feature, and the ISRP concurs.
We had also asked for additional clarification on work element 30 that includes channel realignment, which may or may not provide significant benefit to steelhead rearing, depending on the situation. In the reviewers’ minds, the initial response had not indicated specifically how the WE 30 reaches will be restored and managed to retain conditions that will benefit this species. The new discussion clarified the issue (by incorporating stream avulsion risk, etc.), and this work element seems justified.
3. Monitoring and Evaluation (sections G and F)
The newly-provided material allays reviewers’ concerns over project monitoring and evaluation. Those concerns had originated from a lack of information, rather than any direct evidence of inadequate or misdirected monitoring. The request for change in scope and initial response had given the impression that the Latah SWCD monitoring plan was a set of various components that had not been thoroughly thought out and coordinated. The April response (especially the link provided to the just-completed IDFG 2007 Annual Report) shows the effort is complex, with extensive interaction with the IDFG, NOAA-funded project and other agencies. It appears well coordinated and adequately positioned to assess changes in habitat and fish abundance resulting from the BPA-funded work. The new detail provided on photo monitoring points, plant survival surveys, other summer habitat surveys, and juvenile steelhead abundance now garners support from the review panel.
4. Overall Comments - Benefit to F&W (all proposal)
In December 2008, we stated a belief that the project is on the right track and should produce real benefits to A-run steelhead, especially when upland treatments already underway are combined with riparian and instream restoration actions. The additional information provided in April 2009 was sufficient to justify all of the proposed actions.