Response for project 200301100: Columbia R/Estuary Habitat

Comment on proposed FY 2006 budget

The $1,000,000 budget is consistent with Bonneville's approved budget and will cover project work for 2006, which will include an emphasis on tidal reconnection and other restoration activities in the estuary and mainstem. Targeted projects will include efforts such as fish passage barrier removal and dike breaches, which will improve ecosystem function for juvenile salmonids as well as other focal species.

Accomplishments since the last review

# of people reached in each of 3 classes (T/S/G): Teachers, Students, General public2500 General Public
# of stream miles treated (0.01 mi.).1
# of structures installed10
# of acres of vegetation planted (0.1 ac.)70.5 acres
# of riparian miles treated (0.01 mi.; count each bank separately)2.2 miles
# of acres treated (0.1 ac)80 acres
Create, Restore, and/or Enhance Wetland386 acres of tidal reconnection through dike breaching.
Does the structure remove or replace a fish passage barrier? (Y/N)Yes
# of miles of habitat accessed (0.1 mi.)16 miles
Was barrier Full or Partial? (F/P)Full and partial
# of riparian miles protected (0.01 mi.)3.5 miles
# of acres of new lease. (0.1 ac.)405 acres
Start and end dates of lease (mm/dd/yyyy)Start date 08/31/2004. Owned in perpetuity.

This contract supports the Habitat Restoration Program within the Estuary Partnership and is designed to develop restoration projects, coordinate the many entities from Washington and Oregon involved in habitat restoration, and leverage funds for projects that employ multiple entities and jurisdictions. The success of this program represents an evolution of targeted, on-the-ground restoration strategies, as well as progress towards a coordinated and regionally defined effort to improve the health of the Columbia River system. Directly, the Estuary Partnership allocated BPA funds to support projects that will result in the restoration of 1,921 acres of historic floodplain and the enhancement of 12.8 miles of stream channels. Funds from FY04 and FY05 have leveraged additional funding that has restored a total of 3,100 acres and 14.4 miles of stream channels. BPA funds from FY04-05 have supported planning and assessments that will improve the selection process and implementation of future projects. In FY 04, BPA funds supported the development of the Scappoose Bay Bottomland Conservation and Restoration Plan, a 9,000 acre assessment of restoration opportunities in Scappoose Bay. The resulting plan identified critical habitats, appraised potential property acquisition opportunities, and prioritized culvert removal sites throughout the watershed. In FY 05, funding has enabled the Estuary Partnership to develop the Strategic Prioritization for Habitat Restoration, a regional planning tool that will determine the most efficient restoration treatments for the areas that will most benefit from them. This tool will provide an ecosystem approach that ensures advancements in project effectiveness and efficiency. In all, the habitat restoration program will use this tool, incorporated with an extensive monitoring campaign and adaptive management, to inform each funding cycle and selection process.

FY 2006 goals and anticipated accomplishments

Isolated or impaired critical habitats continue to need to be restored when significant benefits to fish and wildlife species are attainable. Efforts need to continue to restore tidal swamps, marshes, floodplains, and riparian areas so as to provide additional resting, feeding, breeding, and rearing habitat for focal species (page 2-35 of the Subbasin Plan). This contract is assessing the estuary and lower mainstem by discrete geographic reaches to aid in the development of restoration and protection priorities. The goal is to protect functioning habitats while also restoring impaired habitats to properly functioning conditions, using a combination of active and passive habitat restoration measures to provide both near- and long-term benefits. This project is designed to maximize the efficiency of habitat restoration activities by concentrating on currently productive areas with significant scope for improvement, adjacent areas of marginal habitat where realistic levels of improvement can restore conditions suitable for fish, and areas where multiple species benefit. For FY 06, the habitat restoration program will incorporate this strategic approach in developing restoration activities in the Estuary. Since FY06 projects will not be selected until June of 2005, detailed metrics would be without justification. However, based on the continuing emphasis on tidal reconnection and fish passage enhancement within the historic floodplain, our goals for FY06 are to restore 600 acres of historic tidal floodplain and enhance 7 miles of stream habitat by improving fish passage. At this time, proposals for FY 06 funding indicate ample opportunity to achieve these goals. Estuary Partnership staff anticipate a very competitive project selection process, and expect proposals for FY06 funds to exceed the amount available for restoration funding. Our program will provide resources to project sponsors to align project deliverables with regional restoration goals.

Subbasin planning

How is this project consistent with subbasin plans?

This program is restoring and protecting, at a significant scale, landscapes that are essential to the health of the focal species identified in the subbasin plan. Both aquatic and terrestrial species need a broad range of habitat types in the proper proximities to one another, at the right time, to satisfy feeding, refuge, breeding, and rearing requirements. Over the last 130 years, human activities have altered the lower mainstem and estuary such that significant amounts of fish and wildlife habitat have been lost (page 2-95 and 2-96 in the subbasin plan). From 1870 to 1983 the amount of tidal swamp has declined by an estimated 77 percent and marsh habitat has declined by 43 percent. Salmonids, Pacific lamprey, bald eagle, Columbian white-tailed deer, rely on these habitat types for spawning, rearing, and foraging (see Appendix C of the Management Plan Supplement). In the estuary and mainstem, habitat loss can be attributed to the conversion of wetlands and estuaries to other uses, such as urban and agricultural development, and the effects of flow alterations, dams, dikes, and dredging (page 2-83 in the subbasin plan). Diking is particularly detrimental because it completely removes habitat from the estuarine system. Key Subbasin Limiting Factors This Program Addresses • Availability of preferred habitat (LF.1, page 4-17 and LF.55 page 4-30) • Loss of habitat connectivity (LF.3, page 4-18 and LF.57, page 4-30) • Density dependence (LF.7, page 4-20) • Sedimentation of substrates (LF.18, page 4-23) • Migration barriers (LF.11, page 4-21) • Lack of resting habitats (LF.11, 4-21) Key Subbasin Physical Objectives This Program Addresses • Protect existing rearing and spawning habitat to ensure no further net degradation (page 4-34). • Increase shallow-water peripheral and side-channel habitats toward historical levels (page 4-34). • Restore connectivity between the river and floodplain, as well as in-river habitats (page 4-34)

How do goals match subbasin plan priorities?

This project is a direct articulation of a number of the major components of Strategy 2: Protect and Restore Habitat, found in the Management Plan Supplement;. As described in past accomplishments and the 2006 goals section, this program in implementing large scale restoration in the lower river and estuary. Both aquatic and terrestrial species need a broad range of habitat types in the proper proximities to one another, at the right time, to satisfy feeding, refuge, breeding, and rearing requirements. Disconnected habitat, a lack of habitat, lack of habitat diversity, or lack of access to habitat obviously reduces the spatial structure, abundance, productivity, and life history diversity of species. The project is consistent with the following key assumptions, which are based on assessment data and analysis in Chapter 2 of the subbasin plan: • Human activities have altered how the natural processes interact, changing habitat conditions in the Columbia River estuary and lower mainstem. (page 2-152 of the subbasin plan.) • Habitat restoration efforts are capable of significantly improving conditions for fish and wildlife species in the Columbia River estuary and lower mainstem. (page 2-167 of the subbasin plan.) Implementing this project also involves the development estuary and mainstem prioritization at the reach scale that organizes existing data habitat factor, protecting and restoring riparian and wetland habitat conditions and functions, restoring tidal swamp and marsh habitat. A key step in protecting and restoring habitat is determining which areas or reaches are in greatest need of protection or restoration. In many watersheds, analytical tools such as Ecosystem Diagnosis and Treatment (EDT) are used to quantify relationships between habitat conditions and species response and thus identify those reaches where the need for protection or restoration is most pressing. Currently, no such model exists for use in the Columbia River.

Other comments

Given the extent of habitat loss in the lower Columbia system, habitat restoration—and not just protection—is essential to improving the biological performance of focal species. Currently, conflicts with floodplain land uses and a lack of funds to acquire lands temper large-scale habitat reclamation (through dike breaching, for example), though this program, through its partnerships, has made tremendous strides in overcoming many of these challenges. Battelle Laboratory is currently developing for the Partnership a science-based approach to prioritizing restoration projects in the tidally influenced reaches of the Columbia River Estuary (up to Bonneville). The approach attempts to characterize the suite of stressors (e.g., dams, dikes, armoring, contaminants) that have altered habitat-forming/ecological processes at various scales in the river, and that could affect the potential for successful restoration. The process is GIS-based and transparent, allowing managers and scientists to quickly visualize areas where processes are more intact than others, and also will involve a procedure to rank and optimize restoration actions at different scales. Battelle is working with the University of Washington to integrate their landscape classification system into the prioritization scheme, as well as updating the 2000 TM Landsat imagery that will be utilized for both efforts.