In response to the Council’s October 15, 2012 request, the ISRP reviewed a report produced through the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho’s Kootenai River Operation Loss Assessment project (#2002-011-00). The report under review is titled Phase 1: Draft Kootenai River Floodplain Ecosystem Operational Loss Assessment Report. It is intended to provide the foundation to build a Protection, Mitigation, and Restoration Management Plan to guide rehabilitation of the Kootenai River and its floodplain.
This is a follow-up review to the ISRP’s review of the project in the Wildlife Category Review (ISRP 2009-17; June 10, 2009). The ISRP found that proposal met scientific review criteria. Specifically the ISRP stated that the outstanding proposal continued to "model how research can be usefully integrated into more immediate program goals. This project is not only benefiting the subbasin but the Program overall by demonstrating what could be achieved elsewhere in terms of interdisciplinary value, program integration, and community involvement, all to benefit fish and wildlife." Following the ISRP review, the Council recommended that an ISRP and Council review of the completed operational loss assessment was needed, and out-year budgets for capital and expense would be determined based on that review.
The ISRP reviewed the Kootenai River Ecosystem Operational Loss Assessment (OLA) Report from the standpoint of determining if the loss assessment approach provides a sound scientific basis to guide the implementation phase of the Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Project. The approach is designed to provide a foundation and context for estimating losses due to the construction and operation of Libby Dam and for developing a prioritized approach for selecting mitigation actions and assessing mitigation progress. The ISRP found the report to be well-organized, clearly written, and informative. It is a broad scale assessment of the past major changes in ecosystem function in the Kootenai as a result of anthropogenic disturbances. It is also potentially useful as a foundation or framework to help in developing a strategic approach for restoration.
However, the ISRP recommended that although the Index of Ecological Integrity approach is conceptually sound in providing a framework for documenting past loss of large-scale ecological integrity in the Kootenai, insufficient scientific evidence is presented to show that the Index of Ecological Integrity approach contains the sensitivity to be useful as a monitoring tool for accurately assessing smaller-scale restoration efforts.
Consequently, the ISRP requested:
- a response containing a more thorough evaluation of the accuracy, precision, and sensitivity of the component indices and of the composite Index of Ecological Integrity;
- a discussion of the rationale for the present method of equal weighting for all metrics and component indices versus preferentially weighting metrics and indices, and under which circumstances equal weighting would be preferred
- information on how the Index of Ecological Integrity approach was selected over other approaches considered in developing the Operational Loss Assessment;
- a response on the sensitivity of the Index of Ecological Integrity for detecting the more subtle effects on river function and ecological integrity expected from planned habitat modifications; and
- other items as requested in the attached memo.
The ISRP appreciates the well-organized draft and looks forward to a response. The ISRP understands that most of its requests for clarification concern the sensitivity of the various indices to detecting changes in the ecosystem due to habitat restoration actions. If the sponsor requests, the ISRP is open to discussing its review and the best approach to respond.