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200003600 - Protect & Restore Mill Creek

Sponsor: Nez Perce Tribe DFRM Watershed Division

Budgets: FY07: $245,076 | FY08: $231,573 | FY09: $112,707

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

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $150,000 | FY08: $150,000 | FY09: $150,000

Comment: 2007 Revised Budget: Eliminate noxious weed treatment and education component. Ongoing project; previous investment; implementation complete after FY 08; FY09 reduced to O&M only.

ISRP final recommendation: Fundable


This proposal is for continuing a six-year-old project to provide fish habitat in Mill Creek and its tributaries by restoring the watershed’s physical and biological characteristics from damage caused by such human activities as grazing, timber harvest, and road building. The focal species are Chinook salmon and steelhead. Non-focal species include cutthroat and rainbow trout. Response was needed on the issues identified below. (1) The section on technical and scientific background adequately describes the basic problems but could be improved by omitting the descriptions of proposed or contemplated actions. These descriptions belong in the work elements and methods of proposal Section F. The sponsors made these revisions. (2) Significance to the subbasin plan is adequately shown, but some of the material presented here would be more appropriate for the section on technical and scientific background (Section B). For example, under the heading, Barrier Removal, on page 9, it was stated that “Salmon and steelhead require a network of connected spawning and rearing habitats …” and “reasons for decline” are discussed on page 12. These and other basic considerations should be covered in Section B, not here. The response was adequate. (3) The project history describes actions performed, but response was needed on the physical (habitat response) and biological (fish population response) results of this work, which should be shown in tables and graphs, and then discussed. For example, fencing around the upper meadow was finished in 2001. What changes in the riparian zone, the stream channel, and the fish population resulted? The 1927 aerial photo set as the goal for riparian restoration (85% cover vs. 5% today) is a good example of work continuity. The response was brief but generally adequate. The sponsor wrote that fish population surveys, rather than being done under this project, are by the Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery Monitoring and Evaluation project. The sponsors should obtain the pertinent results from that project and present them in future proposals. (4) The data that were collected on fluvial geomorphology indicate a good fieldwork effort but need to be used to assess the dynamics of the process, in addition to just describing the in-stream state. For example, is there good connectivity with the floodplain? Is there evidence of incision or aggradation? What changes are taking place in the short- and long-terms? An assessment of morphological change over time should become standard methodology in such projects. The sponsors responded that connectivity with the floodplain is good, that data collected show no evidence of drastic incision or aggradation (but do show that habitat complexity is increasing), and that number of pools is increasing, resulting in more diverse habitat within the stream. They referred the ISRP to their attached monitoring report for more detail. The ISRP observes that although the subbasin plan gave little or no direction on fluvial geomorphology, the project’s Monitoring Report contains many measurements, such as Wolman pebble counts, cobble embeddedness, width/depth ratios etc, and indicates that floodplain connectivity is good, and that efforts to reduce sediment input have resulted in greater D50 measurements, etc. Although a commendable number of measurements have been taken, the implications of this data have not been developed to the extent that we know the dynamic state of the creek. What do these measurements say about the dynamic process, for example the balance between erosion and deposition, and the causes that might lead to a change in the current balance? For the work program currently identified, the level of geomorphic inquiry is good, even if it has yet to be interpreted in dynamic terms. (5) The proposal’s objectives were logical and clearly stated. The work elements and methods, however, were vague and unclear in certain respects. For example, under objective 1, “Improve anadromous fish habitat,” none of the methods was directed at doing any improvement. They involve only administrative work and collecting data. What form is the improvement supposed to take? If the idea is to evaluate previous work, this should be explained -- and the processes by which whatever “habitat improvement” actions were performed were supposed to benefit the fish. The linkages between the work, expected physical processes, and the fish needed to be described in the response. The sponsors explained that administrative and data collection functions were listed under the Objective titled “Improve anadromous fish habitat” because “it is that work that leads us to the on-the-ground activities and monitors our successes after implementation,” and that rather than listing administrative and evaluation work under each of the other objectives, they are grouped only under “Improve anadromous fish habitat” to avoid duplication. The ISRP observes that this is still an illogical and potentially confusing situation that could lead to misunderstandings and inefficiencies. It probably arose in this proposal because the proposal format or template calls for “Biological Objectives,” whereas non-biological objectives—such as an Administrative Objective and often some Physical Objectives, etc.—are needed, as well. (6) The ISRP asked specification of vegetation to be planted. The response was adequate. (7) Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) are ongoing and featured in work elements. ISRP asked the sponsors to tell how the project will be modified to show the statistical design for the project M&E. ISRP observed that many variables are to be monitored every five years, and that a five-year interval between data collections may be too long. Other parts of the proposal indicate that biological monitoring is done annually. The results should be shown in the project history. The response referred the ISRP to a monitoring report (including methods) attached in response material. The sponsors relate that statistical design has been used to develop the monitoring plan. Depending upon the parameter being monitored, sampling designs vary from systematic sampling, to cluster sampling. In general, the analysis is completed by determining trends among the variables. Some variables are monitored on an annual basis, such as macroinvertebrates and water temperature, but parameters such as channel morphology are only measured every five years. They point out that the project is focused at on-the-ground habitat improvement actions; it is not a research project that involves intense monitoring with large amounts of statistical analysis. Sampling design of monitoring is apparent in the referenced document that is attached. Such reference (with attachment) seems the best way to cover that issue, where design is too complex for presentation in a proposal—but it would still help for design to be summarized in proposals. (8) The ISRP found that the project will benefit focal and non-focal species but asked that in the response, the sponsors clearly describe the physical and biological processes by which they expect this to happen. The sponsors responded with ample but concise discussion that demonstrated understanding of stream habitat issues. Included was the following, which well describes physical and biological relationships for the species involved: “The physical processes are ever changing, as the environment changes. Cover is provided by overhanging vegetation, undercut banks, submerged vegetation, logs, rocks, deep water or turbidity. Vegetation also provides for physical barrier to the effects of high velocities, and creates roughness and relative stability to streambanks. It also provides shade to the streams which reduce stream temperature to levels acceptable to salmonids. Channel bank shape and condition are highly correlated with the quality of fish habitat and can influence fish distribution. Collectively, these factors affect biological conditions, including fish populations.” (9) The ISRP recommended that, in the response loop, the Nez Perce Tribe prioritize and rank the numerous proposals submitted under “protect and restore” titles. This was covered in response attachments. 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: $150,000 | FY08: $150,000 | FY09: $150,000

Comment: 2007 Revised Budget: Eliminate noxious weed treatment and education component. Ongoing project; previous investment; implementation complete after FY 08; FY09 reduced to O&M only.