In response to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s December 8, 2020 request, the ISRP provides a follow-up and Step Master Plan review regarding the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s (CTUIR) project, Freshwater Mussel Research and Restoration (#2002-037-00). One primary section of the ISRP’s review addresses a follow-up evaluation of the CTUIR’s response titled, The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s response to the Independent Scientific Review Panel’s, Final Report: Mainstem and Program Support Category Review (ISRP 2019-02, May 29, 2019), review of the Freshwater Mussel Research and Restoration project (also see the CTUIR’s Cover letter dated December 4, 2020). That response is part of an iterative review intended to address the Council’s qualifications placed on this project as part of the Mainstem and Program Support Project Review from August 2019 (see ISRP 2020-5; ISRP 2019-2, pages 68-69; ISRP 2018-8, page 69).
The second primary section of the ISRP’s review is an evaluation of the DRAFT Master Plan: Freshwater Mussel Conservation, Supplementation, Aquaculture, Restoration, and Research using the Council’s Step Review criteria. The Master Plan is intended to provide “a framework to guide freshwater mussel conservation, aquaculture (including artificial propagation), supplementation, restoration, and research to make progress towards supplementation and restoration.” The plan is also intended to “facilitate coordination among any parties involved in propagation and/or population restoration efforts supporting recovery of three genera of western freshwater mussels (e.g., Anodonta, Gonidea, and Margaritifera) and to ensure those efforts are based on sound science.”
The ISRP’s overall recommendation is Response Requested. The ISRP requests the Freshwater Mussel Research and Restoration Project (hereafter “Mussel Project”) to continue to revise the Draft Master Plan and submit a Final Master Plan to the ISRP for review by December 31, 2021.
The CTUIR’s efforts to protect and restore freshwater mussels in their ceded lands in five basins in Oregon and Washington are one of the most extensive in the western United States. The Mussel Project integrates assessments of distribution and abundance, habitat relationships, genetic analysis, salvage and translocation, and artificial propagation and reintroduction of native mussels. As well, this project provides critical information for other projects in the Pacific Northwest and is developing methods that could increase the effectiveness of mussel conservation throughout the Columbia River Basin.
The Master Plan is a major step forward for the Mussel Project. The Draft Master Plan displayed careful thinking about how and why mussels should be propagated to support their restoration in CTUIR ceded lands. Positive aspects of the Draft Plan include:
- General biology of mussels and characteristics of basins are well explained.
- Detailed past research on taxonomy and genetics of the mussels is well presented.
- Collaboration with scientists from the USGS lab in Columbia, Missouri on the best methods for increasing rearing success is a positive development.
- The Plan’s objectives are mostly SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound).
- The experimental design is carefully planned and logical.
- Use of research vessels to conduct pilot outplanting during a first year to determine suitability of habitat is an excellent plan.
- The phased approach with explicit adaptive management allows learning and mid-course corrections at every step.
The Mussel Project has many strengths, but the ISRP recommends the Master Plan be further strengthened by addressing scientific concerns and suggestions for improvement regarding 1) monitoring the distribution and abundance of mussels, 2) salvage and translocation of mussels, and 3) artificial propagation and augmentation/reintroduction of mussels. This will require integration of these three primary components of the Mussel Project and development of SMART objectives for all three components rather than just the artificial propagation program. The ISRP provides specific recommendations for each of these primary components and expects the project proponents to explain which recommendations are incorporated into the Final Master Plan, which are not feasible with existing funds and expertise, and which will be pursued under external funding opportunities or budget reallocation.