In response to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s June 28, 2016 request, the Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) reviewed the Draft Kootenai River Floodplain Ecosystem Operational Mitigation and Evaluation Plan (Mitigation Plan) and supporting appendices submitted by the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho (KTOI) and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFWP). The Mitigation Plan was submitted as a Phase 2 document for the Kootenai River Floodplain Ecosystem Operational Loss, Protection, Mitigation and Rehabilitation Project (BPA Project Number 2002-011-00). The Mitigation Plan is intended to guide the upcoming third phase of the project—mitigation and restoration of the Kootenai River floodplain ecosystem.
The ISRP has conducted a number of reviews associated with this project beginning with a proposal evaluation as part of the Wildlife Category Review (ISRP 2009-17; June 10, 2009) and including two follow-up reviews related to Phase 1 of the project, development of an operational loss assessment (ISRP 2012-18, ISRP 2013-13). In the 2013 review, the ISRP found the project to “Meet Scientific Review Criteria (Qualified)” with the qualifications that the ISRP evaluate 1) the multi-year restoration plan, including specific goals and 5-10 year quantitative objectives for their actions and 2) documentation of progress at regular intervals of 1-2 years. The Council concurred with the ISRP’s qualifications and recommended that the project proponents submit a mitigation implementation plan including an update on project progress. The Mitigation Plan, the subject of this review, is intended to meet these qualifications and was based on information and evaluations provided by the Phase 1 Operational Loss Assessment (OLA).
The proponents were successful for the most part in developing a plan that met their desired principles to provide a clear tie to Operational Loss Assessment (OLA) findings; an acreage-based mitigation accounting; a focus on floodplain, riparian, and wetland habitats being altered by ongoing dam operations; and an approach that is easy to follow, explain, and justify. Despite this evidence of progress, the ISRP’s recommendation remains “Meets Scientific Review Criteria (Qualified).” The qualification is that to strengthen the plan and fully meet the scientific review criteria, the following elements should be added to the next draft of the Mitigation Plan:
- An improved strategic plan to guide implementation
- Quantitative objectives describing desired/expected ecological outcomes of restoration and protection project work. These are necessary to guide effectiveness monitoring for these projects.
- Additional specific details on how monitoring and evaluation activities will be planned, implemented, and evaluated for restoration and protection projects.
Please see the ISRP’s full report for details.