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200203400 - Wheeler Co Riparian Buffers

Sponsor: Wheeler County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD)

Budgets: FY07: $89,780 | FY08: $94,769 | FY09: $94,094

Short description: This proposal will provide technical support and planning needed to implement riparian buffer contracts (CREP) on streams within Wheeler County. Riparian buffers address many of the limiting factors identified in the John Day Sub-basin Plan.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $0 | FY08: $0 | FY09: $0

Comment:

ISRP final recommendation: Response requested

Comment:

The SWCD projects as a group continue to be cost-effective approaches to leveraging a large amount of USDA money in CCRP/CREP contracts that would probably not be implemented without the funding of these development positions. The riparian buffer contracts have the potential for strong benefits to aquatic habitat, and so aquatic species, as well as to non-aquatic riparian species. The proposal briefly but clearly describes the nature of the riparian problem and the need for private landowner cooperation. It specifically identifies how riparian buffers will address the aquatic habitat limiting factors identified in the John Day Subbasin Plan as well as the listing factors in the DEQ 303(d) stream segments in Wheeler County. Wheeler SWCD has developed, in collaboration with ODFW, and OWR, a map of passage barriers and habitat potential, and has used this map to prioritize riparian enhancement projects. This project has extensive links and collaborative efforts with other projects conducted through a number of different entities throughout the subbasin. The proposal describes the project history in terms of what did or did not happen, but does not go beyond this to evaluate why things did or did not happen. The proposal would be improved if it presented the project history in more analytical terms, going beyond description to evaluation of why the position has been hard to fill, why landowners do not see it in their interest to sign on, and how to make it in landowner interest to adopt riparian buffer plans, etc. How was the 2002 enrollment target of 60 contracts developed? Why wasn’t it achieved? Objectives are linked to the focal species of the John Day Subbasin Plan and reflect components of riparian buffer contracts. They are measured in: # contracts, acres, miles. It is good to have these objectives quantified, but as with other riparian buffer projects it would be helpful to know the basis for these numbers, to understand how the SWCDs develop their enrollment targets or how these targeted enrollments relate to the total need. The work elements are reasonable and follow NRCS protocols. The project will monitor riparian buffer implementation and the effectiveness of livestock exclusion. Monitoring and evaluation will also be conducted through the application of NRCS protocols, in which a baseline visual stream assessment is followed by subsequent periodic assessments to assess terrestrial change within the riparian buffer. The ISRP recommends that to more completely assess post-project results and effectiveness a cooperative effort be implemented with ODFW to also monitor fisheries and stream habitat response to the implementation of riparian buffers. The sponsors should clarify whether the conservation plans developed as part of CREP enrollment are kept confidential or are reported as part of the project results. If conservation plans are not reported, can they be synthesized in a way that will allow monitoring of progress toward meeting their objectives? The issue of project data provision vs. USDA confidentiality requirements should be addressed. The proposal mentions low rates of adoption in the last funding period. It would be useful to have the sponsors explain how these will be addressed in the next funding cycle. Will outreach and education be conducted in a different manner or target specific areas of concern, or reasons for non-adoption? Will the outreach and education effort have the information to identify landowner concerns, for the purpose of understanding and acknowledgement of reasons for nonparticipation, and to better identify how it might be made in their interest? Has the project learned from its history and is it able to modify practice to improve the number of CREP/CCRP contracts? As with other riparian buffer projects the evaluation aspect could be enhanced by evaluating factors influencing enrollment (although this proposal is notable for having included some discussion of this aspect in the rationale section) and lessons learned from the development and implementation of these contracts. The ISRP recommends that the Oregon SWCDs work together to identify general findings as well as outcomes that vary by SWCD. The evaluation could identify ways to tie in outreach and education with landowner incentives and constraints. Additional thinking might be developed on how to target new audiences. The ISRP requests a response clarifying the following issues identified in the review: 1. The potential to develop a cooperative effort with ODFW to monitor fisheries and stream habitat response to the implementation of riparian buffers. 2. How enrollment objectives are determined. 3. Whether the conservation plans developed as part of CREP enrollment are kept confidential or are reported as part of the project results. If conservation plans are not reported, can they be synthesized in a way that will allow monitoring of progress toward meeting their objectives? 4. The potential for SWCD collaborative development of a report assessing the determinants of successful implementation processes for riparian buffer contracts and other USDA voluntary conservation programs.

State/province recommendation: Not fundable due to budget constraints

Review group: OSPIT - Plateau

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

Comment: OSPIT notes the importance of the CREP projects to DEQ and their ability to draw matching funds. However, budgeting restrictions will not permit us to fund these projects.