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200711300 - Cowiche Restoration and Protection Project (Easement/Fee Simple Acquisition)

Sponsor: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)

Budgets: FY07: $300,000 | FY08: $0 | FY09: $0

Short description: The goal of this project is to protect stream and riparian habitat, and floodplain functions along the Cowiche Creek. The project will acquire conservation easements protecting more than five miles of critical, high quality, steelhead and coho habitat.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $300,000 | FY08: $0 | FY09: $0

Comment: Consider funding out of land/water acquisition project.

ISRP final recommendation: Fundable

Comment:

This proposal requests the majority of its funding for the acquisition of the conservation easement in 2007. This project is an important component of the effort to restore the Cowiche watershed. A combination of factors support funding: the area where the easements will be secured is a location where subdivision and more intensive land-use seems likely to occur, and this site is significant for the focal species. The project is one of the few easement/acquisition plans that has a strong biological justification. Long-term benefits from the conservation easement should be significant for spring chinook, steelhead, and coho, if development is prohibited/deterred for a long time. The establishment of riparian reserves at the project site should offer positive benefits to riparian wildlife. Non-focal aquatic species also should benefit from the added habitat protection. There should be no negative impacts. Monitoring is going to be done by others, but it appears adequate. Coordination with other efforts downstream looks good because several recently completed downstream projects have removed almost all of the passage obstructions. Other Comments: Technical and scientific background: The background information and description of the problem is fully described. The risk of subdivision of the project property and the consequent degradation of habitat quality would be unfortunate given the amount of effort that has gone into improving access for anadromous fishes to this watershed. This section of the proposal does a very good job in describing how this project/land acquisition in Cowiche Creek will fit in with other closely linked projects to help in the restoration and protection of high priority habitat for spring chinook, steelhead, and coho. Documentation is generally good but could be improved by describing the status of non-target focal species -- bull trout, westslope cutthroat, and coho -- that this project would impact, and documenting the current condition of the riparian zone in the area in question (and will it require a substantial restoration effort). Rationale and significance to subbasin plans and regional programs: This project is closely linked to the Yakima Subbasin Plan and the Yakima Subbasin Salmon Recovery Plan objectives as indicated in the Background section (even though it doesn't do this in this section). Relationships to other projects: The relationship to other projects in the Cowiche watershed are fully described and the degree of coordination among these efforts is impressive. Objectives: The objectives are appropriate, and the rationale for attempting to achieve the primary objective (habitat protection) at this site is well substantiated. Timelines are not given, but the budget section only requests funding for FY2007, so the easement would have to occur in the next fiscal year. Tasks (work elements) and methods: The work elements are fairly simple and involve establishing the value of the easement or land purchase and negotiation with the landowner. The work elements are appropriate for the objective. Monitoring and evaluation: The evaluation of project effectiveness will be included in a watershed-scale assessment. The fact that adult steelhead entering the watershed and smolts leaving are being monitored should provide a very good indication of the cumulative effect of all the projects being implemented in the watershed on this species. There is no indication that the secondary focal species (coho, bull trout and cutthroat) will be monitored. Given that this effort is part of an integrated attempt to restore the watershed, these species also should be considered in the monitoring effort. There is no mention of habitat or water quality monitoring. More detail on the monitoring program would be required to fully assess the adequacy of the effort. Facilities, equipment, and personnel appear to be appropriate, although no resumes for project PIs are provided. Information transfer: There is a formal presentation "How to Restore a tributary watershed" to be made to Yakima F&W Board, local community, etc., to describe the Cowiche restoration effort. This should be a good tool for public outreach. Some of the monitoring work should be communicated through traditional scientific channels. There is no mention of this in the proposal.

State/province recommendation:

Review group:

Recommended budgets: FY07: (n/a) | FY08: (n/a) | FY09: (n/a)

Comment: