Response for project 200301300: Grays River Watershed Assess

Comment on proposed FY 2006 budget

The proposed budget ($325,348) is not consistent with the budget required to complete this study in FY 2006. When this study was originally approved in the FY 2003 Estuary provincial review, the budgets were as follows: FY 04 ($474,734), FY 05 ($325,348), and FY 06 ($365,348). In their recommendation (see project detail web site), the NPPC recommended a third-year budget that was less than that proposed by the project sponsors, yet the narrative states the project should be funded as proposed. Funding of the project at an amount less than the proposed budget for FY 06 will not enable researchers to complete the project as planned. In fact, additional funds of $121,100 in FY 2006 are needed beyond the original request of $365,348. This additional money is needed for three reasons. First, the project is requiring much more coordination with local stakeholder groups than originally proposed. We estimate this increased coordination would cost an additional $31,110. Second, high water and vandalism of equipment in the winter of 2004-05 resulted in the loss of data previously collected, as well as a change in the bathymetry that is used to create the hydraulic model and fish habitat estimates. Additional field work is needed to complete the hydraulic modeling and fish habitat assessment at an estimated cost of $75,000. Finally, WDFW is opening a new field office in 2005 located on the Elochoman River. It is likely that personnel from this office would be used on the Grays contract in 2006. It is expected that these personnel will be full time employees. When the original FY 06 budget was developed it was assumed that personnel working on this project would be temporaries. While salaries will not change, the rate for benefits is higher for full time employees. Additional cost of $15,000 to maintain current staffing levels. Therefore, we are requesting a total of $486,458 for FY 2006.

Accomplishments since the last review

CY 2003-2005 data collection: chum salmon redd locations; stage and discharge; surface and subsurface substrate samples; landslide locations and channel configuration; channel bathymetry; aerial photography various years. CY 2003-2005 data analysis: GIS map of chum salmon spawning sites; estimate of chum spawning escapement (2004); completion of geomorphic assessment including sediment yield, landslide maps, and channel change evaluation; hydraulic model set-up (grid network); hydrologic model set-up; selection of habitat assessment sites. CY 2003-2005 reporting: draft final geomorphic assessment report; progress report (presentation) to CBFWA fall, 2004.

FY 2006 goals and anticipated accomplishments

The overall project goal is to enhance and restore ecological integrity and ecosystem function in Grays River watershed. The specific goal for FY 2006 is to produce a set of recommendations to restore chum salmon spawning habitat. These recommendations will incorporate the results from the watershed, geomorphic, hydrologic, hydraulic, and biologic assessments. The recommended restoration and enhancement efforts developed in this project shall also incorporate local community stakeholder interests and needs. The goals of the project will be accomplished by completing a set of objectives including (1) locate and map chum and Chinook salmon spawning sites in the Grays River subbasin, (2) use a hydrologic model to estimate discharge through the study sites over a range of landuse alternatives, (3) use hydraulic model to predict depth and velocity at study sites over a range of hydrologic inputs, (4) integrate results from geomorphic, biologic, watershed, hydraulic, and hydrologic assessments into a comprehensive watershed assessment, and (5) complete a final project report that contains the results from the watershed analysis and provides a specific list of recommended restoration options to enhance chum salmon.

Subbasin planning

How is this project consistent with subbasin plans?

This project is identified within the Grays River Subbasin Plan under Section 4 (Key Programs and Projects). This project will provide information to managers that will directly addresses biological objectives, strategies, and knowledge gaps identified within Section 5 (Management Plan) of the Subbasin Plan. The project goal is to recommend actions that will result in recovery and conservation of ESA-listed salmon in the Grays River. This is consistent with the recommendations from the Subbasin Plan (see priorities below). This project also addressed RPA Action 157 under the NOAA Fisheries 2000 FCRPS BiOp and would continue to contribute to the ESA commitments made by BPA and the FCRPS Action Agencies under NOAA Fisheries’ revised 2004 BiOp. The objectives of this project are consistent with the near-term RM&E estuary targets included in the FCRPS Action Agencies’ 2005-2007 Implementation Plan (IP).

How do goals match subbasin plan priorities?

Section 5.4 of the Subbasin Plan describe factors currently limiting production of chum and fall Chinook salmon in the Grays watershed, and prioritizes river reaches where recovery actions should be implemented. This project is directly assessing the limiting factors for most of the priority areas. For example, the Subbasin Plan lists the middle mainstem Grays and tributary reaches, and the upper watershed as priority habitat areas (p. C-71). Our primary chum habitat study sites are centered in the Gorley reach of the mainstem Grays, the West Fork, Fossil Creek, and lower mainstem Grays. We will be focusing on assessing habitat quality in these reaches using many of the factors listed in Table 12 (e.g., connections to floodplain, riparian health, mass wasting, substrate quality, etc.). Our watershed assessment is focusing on the sediment input to the upper Grays, and is examining specifically the impacts of forest land use on watershed quality which is also recommended in the subbasin plan (Table 12). Our study areas are closely aligned with the Tier 1 priority reaches identified as in need of recovery actions in the Subbasin Plan (Table 14 and Figure 20). Data that we will be collecting and reports we prepare in FY 2006 will be used to directly support implementation of recovery actions outlined in the Subbasin Plan (Tables 15 and 16). In summary, the Grays River watershed assessment project is closely tied to the implementation of the recommendations within the Subbasin Plan as well as the objectives of the Action Agencies’ IP for the 2004 BiOp. However, the FY 2006 budget as currently proposed is not sufficient to complete this project in FY 2006. Many of the landowners and management agencies within the Grays Basin are patiently awaiting the results of our watershed and biological assessment. Delays in completion of this assessment may negatively affect the cooperative relationships we have established with these entities.

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