At the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s August 20, 2013 request, the ISRP reviewed an updated report produced through the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho’s Kootenai River Floodplain Ecosystem Operational Loss, Protection, Mitigation and Rehabilitation Project (BPA Project Number 2002-011-00). The report is titled Phase 1: Kootenai River Floodplain Ecosystem Operational Loss Assessment Report (2013). The project sponsors updated the report in response to ISRP comments on a 2012 draft version of the report (ISRP 2012-18).The sponsors’ updated report is intended to complete Phase 1 of the project.
The project’s purpose is to provide the foundation to build a Protection, Mitigation, and Restoration Management Plan to guide rehabilitation of the Kootenai River and its floodplain. The project was initiated to assess and mitigate the impacts related to the operation of Libby Dam. As described by the sponsors’ cover letter, they developed indices that quantify abiotic and biotic perturbations of the ecosystem and used a standardized scale to compare and contrast between indices. In addition, they note that products developed to build these indices (LiDAR, land cover classification maps, etc.) have provided information to other Kootenai River projects, such as the Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Project, the Reconnect Kootenai River with Historic Floodplain Project, and Albeni Falls Wildlife Mitigation Project.
The ISRP recommends that the project Meets Scientific Review Criteria (Qualified). The qualifications are that the ISRP would like to review the multi-year restoration plan, including specific goals and 5-10 year, quantitative objectives for their actions. The ISRP would also like to see documentation of progress at regular intervals of 1-2 years. Development of this plan is presumably the next step in the process after completion of the loss assessment. The sponsors have effectively mobilized experts from several disciplines and may already have annual reviews, so a restoration plan with quantitative goals and objectives and regular updates should be manageable.
Overall, the sponsors did a commendable job of directly addressing and responding to most ISRP questions. They provide a reasonable approach for dealing with a very complicated set of ecological, informational, and operational challenges. However, the ISRP remains concerned about their ability to detect perturbations from fairly modest treatments in the face of an expansive, highly degraded basin that is still affected by dam operations.
See the full memo for details.