At the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s July 26, 2016 request, the ISRP reviewed a Response from the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon (Tribes) concerning the John Day River Watershed Restoration Strategy (Strategy) for the John Day Watershed Restoration Program (Project #2007-397-00). The Tribes’ Response addresses concerns raised in the ISRP’s initial review of the Strategy (ISRP 2016-4; February 26, 2016). The Strategy was developed to address the Council’s recommendation and qualification from the Geographic Category Review (November 2013). That review called for an ISRP and Council review of the Tribes’ Strategy for the project, which was to be developed in coordination with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) John Day habitat restoration and irrigation screening projects (#1984-021-00 and #1993-066-00) and with appropriate local governments.
In the ISRP’s initial review, we found the Strategy to be “an informative, well-produced, highly visual document that presents a basin-wide approach and perspective for protection and restoration of the John Day Basin.” However, despite significant evidence of progress with the Strategy document, we found that the project proponent had not fully addressed the qualifications from the Geographic Review, and thus we requested a response on four primary issues.
The Response did not fully address the four primary issues raised in our earlier review. Although the ISRP appreciates the clarifications and frankness of the Tribes’ response, our present review would have been more efficient had the Tribes addressed our request point-by-point, as is standard practice. A major weakness with the Response document is that the ISRP’s request regarding monitoring and evaluation was not covered.
ISRP Recommendation: Meets Scientific Review Criteria (Qualified)
The Response was useful in providing a better understanding of the motivation and purpose for development of the Strategy. It helped to highlight that the Strategy represents an impressive effort in critiquing the effectiveness of past restoration approaches. The Strategy also establishes a new science-based, landscape- and watershed-level approach for future restoration, based on funding obtained and administered by the Tribes. The Response helped to underscore the extensive efforts that were employed to coordinate and engage a wide range of stakeholders in developing the strategy. The Strategy, however, needs to be strengthened in a number of areas by additional updating and revision as implementation proceeds. Thus, the ISRP’s recommendation remains “Meets Scientific Review Criteria (Qualified).” Key qualifications include:
- Provide a comprehensive discussion of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) linked to a more formal process for adaptive management. The ISRP regards this as the most important qualification. A discussion is needed to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the Strategy, both in its implementation and in the ecological outcomes of protection and restoration. A more formal approach would include tracking of Strategy implementation relative to a clear set of quantifiable Strategy objectives, periodic evaluations, and updates based on lessons learned and new information. The M&E activities could, for example, incorporate and link to ongoing broad-scale monitoring initiatives such as CHaMP, PIBO, Action Effectiveness monitoring (AEM), and ISEMP to the Strategy.
- Describe additional efforts supporting expanded information sharing and public involvement. Although the Tribes’ initial efforts to engage stakeholders appear to have had some success, it is apparent that continued improvement in public involvement and support will be a key factor in the long term success of the Strategy. Some partners and stakeholders seem to be on board with the Strategy while others remain skeptical. More emphasis on development of approaches to achieve greater understanding and engagement by the entire community and by other partners and stakeholders is an important addition that is fundamental for a successful Strategy.
- Modify Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) membership to increase the range of disciplines represented and the diversity and objectivity of its membership. The Stakeholder and Science TACs should be periodically assessed in terms of adequate breadth of disciplines, adequate composition of diverse stakeholder interests, and independence (i.e., no conflict of interest).
- Comprehensively consider upslope conditions. Upslope conditions play a major role in defining watershed health and in controlling processes that create and maintain riparian and aquatic habitat conditions. They are an important consideration in any landscape and watershed scale restoration strategy. As such, upslope conditions and processes should be more fully addressed and integrated into the Strategy and reflected in goals, objectives, and priorities. Doing so would ultimately lead to a more complete landscape approach for the protection and restoration of entire watersheds.
Progress on addressing these qualifications should be reviewed by the ISRP within the next year, potentially during the upcoming 2017 review of the Fish and Wildlife Program’s “umbrella” habitat restoration projects. The Tribe’s John Day project shares many aspects with the Program’s other “umbrella” projects (Grand Ronde Model Watershed, Columbia River Estuary Habitat Restoration, etc.) that solicit, rank, select, and fund specific habitat restoration projects. The ISRP believes the Tribes’ project could share lessons learned with the Program’s umbrella projects. In future reviews, the ISRP would appreciate a point-by-point response to our four concerns to help facilitate an efficient dialogue and review. Finally, the ISRP welcomes more interactions with the Tribes on this project including a teleconference, a face-to-face meeting, and/or a site visit.