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199304000 - Fifteenmile Creek Habitat Restoration and Monitoring Project

Sponsor: Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW)

Budgets: FY07: $375,687 | FY08: $388,463 | FY09: $395,156

Short description: Provide continued operation and maintenance on previously installed fencing and instream habitat, monitor the success of all restoration efforts, and begin implementation to improve instream habitat complexity within the Fifteenmile Creek Subbasin.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $323,687 | FY08: $323,687 | FY09: $323,687


ISRP final recommendation: Fundable (Qualified)


This group continues to impress, and is congratulated on preparing an excellent proposal that follows the subbasin plan and the previous advice of the ISRP. Fifteenmile Creek is one of the Basin's success stories in terms of bringing stakeholders and management organizations together. The work deserves to be continued, but it is time for the project managers to begin showing results in terms of improved population characteristics (e.g., VSP parameters) and long-term trends in habitat improvements. Although we are not requesting a response, the ISRP believes the project sponsors should consider the following points: This project is an ODFW-led effort that has been ongoing for about a dozen years. The major emphases of the project are livestock exclusion from riparian areas, in-stream habitat improvements, and smolt monitoring. The technical background section provides a good description of the watershed's history and the significance of its fishery resources. Overall, Fifteenmile Creek has served as an excellent example of cooperation by local, federal, state, and tribal organizations, with a concerted effort to build local support. It could serve as a demonstration project for the basin, particularly for the bank stabilization work. However, a better documentation of biological response is required. The proposal does a good job of describing the history of the project, going back to its genesis in 1987. The table giving a list of the accomplishments by year, including cost breakdowns, was helpful. The project history did not include a subbasin-wide summary of habitat improvements (e.g., total miles of stream fenced, numbers of structures placed, accompanied by an estimate of new pool habitat created), reductions in fine sediment in spawning gravels, and other performance metrics. Having those kinds of summary numbers would help evaluate the overall project effectiveness, and improve the proposal. The Fifteenmile Creek Restoration Project has implemented riparian protection and instream habitat improvement for almost 20 years. Much of this work is now demonstrating improved ecological health indicative of riparian corridor vegetation and improved channel stability. The minimal monitoring and evaluation of the project to date has primarily been useful to qualitatively demonstrate these improvements. Photopoint documentation and previous redd surveys are useful tools to document improvements but offer minimal quantified evidence to monitor successful fisheries and water quality recovery objectives. This project proposes more scientific-based quantitative monitoring and evaluation to determine the success of implemented measures on fisheries populations. Previous temperature monitoring has suggested slight localized improvements to late summer water temperatures but is often obscured by conditions such as beaver impoundments, and increased water withdrawal. The steelhead redd survey protocol was modified in 2003 to incorporate a stratified random reach survey with index stations. Although this method has more scientific rational, it is still difficult to statistically enumerate adult escapement in the basin. This is the basis for proposing a quantitative approach to monitoring and evaluating the effects of habitat improvement using rotary screw traps and an adult monitoring facility. This proposal will address instream habitat improvements that the Fifteenmile Subbasin Plan (WCSWCD 2004, pg 16) identified as the number two limiting factor in improving steelhead recovery as modeled by the EDT Scenario Builder. This will be accomplished through the design and construction of large woody debris complexes in areas defined in the subbasin plan and ODFW stream survey as productive but limiting in rearing habitat. This component will be the future direction for project implementation now that an estimated 85% of the riparian corridor is excluded from livestock grazing and undergoing vegetative recovery. The objectives are clearly stated and measurable. Timelines were not always spelled out and should be clearer. The objectives called for increasing steelhead smolt output, but the proposal does not address the issue of adult returns and how this might influence smolt production, as we know they do. The abundance of adult steelhead returning to Fifteenmile Creek is estimated, thus it should be possible to estimate an egg-to-smolt survival rate (assuming a certain number of eggs per female), which would be an excellent indicator of restoration effectiveness. The appropriate response variable would be the smolt yield per spawner as a function of the number of spawners. The project sponsors should publish the results of their bank stabilization efforts -- successes and failures. They have put over 2000 fish habitat structures. What are the results? There is a need for more literature in this area, towards evaluation of it as a cost-effective restoration approach. What is the tie between the efforts and the geomorphologic processes? Like the Wind River, this could be a good demonstration area. Fifteenmile Creek is the eastern-most stream for winter steelhead, thus critically important. The background section of the proposal would have been more persuasive if it had included information about the recent status and trend of fish populations and habitat. Since this project has been in place for over a decade, what have we learned about its effects on fish (especially winter steelhead) populations and stream habitat? What is the evidence that all the hard work has really helped? The second objective (page 13) describes the monitoring program. Although this section was reasonably complete in terms of field techniques, there was no description of how that data would be analyzed, i.e., what statistical approaches would be used to measure response to the restoration work. Some further suggestions should be considered. Methods are clearly described, and it was good to see some discussion of the changes that have been made in response to past difficulties. PIT tags will be utilized to determine in-subbasin and out-of-subbasin effects on Fifteenmile Creek’s wild winter steelhead population. Because of the duration of the Fifteenmile Creek project, this watershed is an ideal place for PIT-tagging to determine the effectiveness of different restoration actions in different parts of the system. Although steelhead/rainbow trout will be PIT-tagged, it appears that the focus is on determining smolt trap efficiency and the proportion of age 0 downstream migrants to "true" smolts. Additional PIT-tag detectors on some of the tributaries and in the lower mainstem could yield important information. The assistance of a statistician may help design this level of evaluation.

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

Review group: OSPIT - Gorge

Recommended budgets: FY07: $323,687 | FY08: $323,687 | FY09: $323,687

Comment: OSPIT recommends removing the PIT tag task to reduce the monitoring component of this project to more compliance monitoring and keeping within the province budget.