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199607705 - Restore McComas Meadows/ Meadow Creek Watershed

Sponsor: Nez Perce Tribe DFRM Watershed Division

Budgets: FY07: $700,463 | FY08: $660,022 | FY09: $732,452

Short description: Protect, restore, and enhance the Meadow Creek Watershed to provide quality habitat for anadromous and resident fish. This will be accomplished by watershed restoration projects such as culvert replacement, road obliteration, and streambank stabilization.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $331,259 | FY08: $331,259 | FY09: $331,259

Comment: 2007 Revised Budget: 1) Reduced budget associated with riparian revegetation, road decommissioning (and find other cost share funds to complete project) and noxious weed treatment; and 2) eliminate budgets associated with culvert designs (work element 3a and e), two culvert replacements, and education component (work element 2c). Address ISRP concerns during contracting.

ISRP final recommendation: Fundable in part

Comment:

This is a 10-year-old project to restore the watershed’s physical and biological characteristics. The focal species is steelhead. The secondary species are spring/summer Chinook salmon, coho salmon, and rainbow and cutthroat trout. The project involves planting riparian vegetation, replacing passage-blocking culverts, decommissioning roads, controlling weeds, maintaining previously built livestock fencing, and installing salmonid habitat features in streams. All of these can be scientifically justified except the latter item, which is inadequately covered under Biological Objective 5 “Improve aquatic habitat diversity and complexity.” The proposed actions under that objective included installation of rock structures and wood material, such as tree stumps. Some of these, particularly the wood material, may be beneficial, but the sponsors have not justified it. The project’s hard-engineered structures bring the value of the entire plan for in-channel work into doubt (more on this below). The ISRP is also concerned that too much reliance is placed on the hydrodynamic modeling that was stated in the response. It might be useful for some objectives but not for assessing fish habitat and for the probably ill-advised ideas for hard-engineered structures. The section on technical and scientific background adequately describes problems that need to be addressed. One particularly strong aspect is the recognition of anthropogenic causes of harm to the watershed and streams -- not just the instream symptoms. The ISRP suggested some reorganization of proposal material, which the sponsors did in response. The significance to regional programs is adequately shown, as are relationships to other projects. The project history contained descriptions of past activities performed but lacked data on physical and biological results that would indicate what the 10 years of activities have accomplished in terms of improved habitat characteristics and fish populations. Also, it was not clear what assessment may have been made of the dynamic aspects of the fluvial geomorphic process. The ISRP asked for a response on these issues, and the sponsors responded with adequate discussion of physical matters. However, on the subject of the project’s biological effects, the response was as follows: “This project has never been under contract with BPA to determine the response of focal species. It is a project focused on implementing on-the-ground watershed restoration projects.” Clearly, the project's overarching goal is to restore habitat for salmonid fishes. This cannot be claimed to have been achieved unless the results compose the suite of conditions that fish actually use and thrive in. It could be argued that monitoring fish abundance is not needed where it is reasonably certain that the work will result in an environment meeting that suite of conditions for the focal species. The proposal does not show that the project will meet that test. The proof of fish habitat restoration is fish. The proposal’s objectives and methods were generally adequate with respect to planned actions but not with respect to in-channel work. The reviewers asked that the methods for increasing “instream habitat complexity” be described in more detail and justified in the response. They asked specifically that the response include description of the kinds of “grade control structures” to be built, and what is supposed to be their function in terms of fish habitat. They asked for discussion of how focal species would use the grade control structures, and what evidence exists that these devices would benefit the focal species and be cost-effective. They also asked what form the “wood material” structures would take, and requested description and literature-based evidence (or statistics from the project’s past work) that the planned methods are beneficial. The response on drop structures and other in-channel work raised ISRP concern that the plan emphasizes hard-engineered methods (e.g., cross-vanes, w-weirs and J-hook vanes), which are of uncertain benefit to fish, and which may harm habitat. The proposal did not deal adequately with the fish habitat aspects of stream processes. From a non-biological literature source, the response lists 12 objectives for “properly designed” stream structures. One is “improve fish habitat,” but others would often conflict with it. An example is the objective, “decrease near-bank velocity, shear stress or stream power.” There was no consideration that some of the project’s focal and secondary species benefit from strong near-bank velocities that bring the most food per unit time past their preferred hiding places under stream banks or in wood lodged against banks—and that strong current against banks is needed to form and maintain hiding cover. The response is too vague about “habitat diversity and complexity.” To say instream structures will be designed to “accommodate” fish habitat by creating pools where they naturally would form is important in a general sense, but it should also be considered that creating proper stream conformation for fish involves far more than that. It also says structures will “protect the stream bank from eroding into the channel; therefore, decreasing excessive sediment into the stream . . .” This intent seems laudable, but over-stabilization with “hard structures” can be harmful, and the response indicates hard engineering. Restoring riparian vegetation (perhaps also adding large woody debris along banks) would often reduce streambank erosion, while still allowing the moderate channel migration that is essential to form and reform natural stream features that compose fish habitat. Channel migration (which involves bank erosion) not only creates undercut banks that shelter fish, but can also recruit gravel from stream banks to replenish the streambed gravel beds that salmonids need for reproduction. The proposal does not consider the benefits of natural rates of channel migration. In the previous funding cycle, the ISRP review of this project expressed reservation about funding because a complete and detailed monitoring and evaluation (M&E) plan was not provided. Consequently, a detailed M&E plan was expected in this proposal. This proposal contained good general description of an M&E plan but remained deficient with respect to statistical design and methodological details. The ISRP asked for a response to include details of the plan and methods. The sponsors responded by attaching a monitoring report for 2005, that includes methods, but they did not summarize the methods because it “would be rather lengthy,” and instead said ISRP “input would be appreciated,” thus implying the ISRP should undertake the lengthy task. As the project has not been funded for biological M&E, the sponsors should obtain biological M&E in the future via another project which is monitoring their stream and incorporate the results in their proposals. Finally, in the response loop, the ISRP recommended that the Nez Perce Tribe suggest a priority and rank of the numerous proposals submitted under the titles “protect” and “restore,” indicating where habitat actions and protection in the Clearwater offer the most potential benefit. In response, a table showing priorities of projects was attached for this and other projects. For full comments on "restore and protect" type projects, please see heading “General comments concerning Nez Perce Tribe proposals to protect and restore various watersheds” at the beginning of the ISRP comments on project # 199607702, Protect & Restore Lolo Creek Watershed. .

Response loop edit

See the sponsor's revised proposal from the response loop. You'll be taken to CBFWA's proposal system in Section 10 where most sponsors uploaded revised narratives or other responses to the ISRP comments.

State/province recommendation: Fundable, but at a reduced level

Review group: Snake

Recommended budgets: FY07: $331,259 | FY08: $331,259 | FY09: $331,259

Comment: 2007 Revised Budget: Reduced riparian reveg, eliminate culvert designs, eliminate 2 culvert replacements, reduced road decommissioning (and find other cost share funds to complete project) and noxious weed treatment, eliminate education component.