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200714700 - Willamette Flow Management Project

Sponsor: Nature Conservancy

Budgets: FY07: $141,200 | FY08: $121,375 | FY09: $147,250

Short description: The Willamette Flow Management project will identify environmental flow requirements for the Willamette River and its tributaries and design and test alternative flow releases from Corps and EWEB dams to achieve more natural flow regimes.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $141,200 | FY08: $121,375 | FY09: $147,250

Comment: Sponsors should take the ISRP comments into account

ISRP final recommendation: Fundable (Qualified)


The sponsor’s response addressed many of the ISRP's questions and comments. However, they only partially addressed two of the ISRP's major comments regarding : (1) a number of methodological questions regarding the "biological response models", and (2) details of how the public will be involved in determining what flow changes to implement and how the social and economic impacts of flow changes will be evaluated. In their response to the ISRP's questions regarding the biological response models, the sponsors indicated that they will use the EDT model and Habitat Suitability Indices (HSI) to evaluate the impacts of flow alterations on habitat of focal species. However, the description of how EDT will be used is very incomplete, and the HSIs are only mentioned as "being developed for a variety of species.” The application of EDT and the HSIs is inadequately described. If the goal of this project is to modify flow regimes to improve habitats for focal species in the subbasin, then the techniques and tools used to predict and measure the complex changes in flow regimes on floodplain function and littoral habitat and the corresponding impacts on biota in those habitats will need to be well developed and powerful. The ISRP recommends that the sponsors engage the assistance of a fisheries biologist well versed in EDT analyses, and fully utilize the products and expertise of those involved in conducting the comprehensive EDT assessments done for the Willamette Subbasin Plan. In their response to the ISRP's questions regarding public involvement, the sponsors provided a fairly complete description indicating that the major public input will be through the Willamette Interagency Flow Management Workgroup, which includes representatives of all federal, state, and local agencies with water resource management responsibilities in the basin. The committee works with the Corps to perform two principal tasks: 1) prepare an annual operating plan for the reservoir conservation storage and release season (2/1-10/30) based on the specific operating requirements of the reservoirs and adjustments given current forecasts for the water year; and 2) work collaboratively with the Corps throughout the reservoir operating season to implement the plan through frequent (often weekly) meetings in which water supply forecasts and weather conditions are updated, and the group works together to make real-time adjustments to operations to balance the competing uses. In addition, the Corps conducts annual public meetings during development of the operating plan. Any significant changes related to the Willamette Flow Management Project would be given the opportunity for public comment. The workgroup membership appears to be limited to government agencies, and it would be advisable to also include NGOs and other stakeholders in order to have broad public input. This proposed Flow Management Study is also linked to an existing Floodplain Restoration Study in the Middle and Coast Forks of the Willamette. This existing study includes an analysis of the needs and opportunities for floodplain restoration, and information on potential flow changes will be evaluated in the context of the benefits and risks to floodplain management. A stakeholder group consisting of federal, state and local agencies, local watershed councils, and non-governmental organizations is helping to guide this existing Floodplain Restoration study. As part of the proposed Flow Management Study, there are a series of annual public meetings proposed that will inform stakeholders about both the Floodplain Restoration Study and the Flow Management Project. The ISRP believes that limiting public involvement to an annual meeting is overly restrictive. The ISRP also notes that there is still no adequate explanation of how the social and economic impacts of flow modifications will be evaluated. Qualifications: 1. The sponsors should develop a more robust mechanism for public involvement. According to the sponsor’s response, most of the involvement appears to consist of a single (sometimes annual) meeting open to the public whose purpose is informational and to garner input. The exception is the Floodplain Restoration Study on the Middle and Coast Forks, which apparently involves watershed councils and NGO’s, although their specific roles are not entirely clear. Making significant changes in flow in the Willamette River will affect tens of thousands of people and their livelihoods. Public involvement during early stages of the project is crucial to gain general public support for the program. 2. The sponsors should develop a plan for assessing economic and social impacts.

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

Review group: OSPIT - Estuary

Recommended budgets: FY07: $141,200 | FY08: $121,375 | FY09: $147,250

Comment: OSPIT recognizes the importance of this work for implementation for the Corps and believes it should be funded at the level proposed.