200721000 - Mores Creek Watershed Floodplain and Habitat Restoration: Design and Implementation
Sponsor: West Central Highlands Resource Conservation and Development Council
Budgets: FY07: $1,042,400 | FY08: $830,800 | FY09: $868,300
Short description: The Idaho City Ranger District is teaming with the WCH RC&D and numerous partners to develop a comprehensive, long-term, watershed-scale strategy to restore mining impacted reaches within the Mores Creek watershed in southwestern Idaho.
Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)
Funding category: Expense
Recommended budgets: FY07: $665,000 | FY08: $455,500 | FY09: $523,000
Comment: Bonneville preliminary designation of "in lieu". See issue memo. ISRP fundable qualified: fund completion of planning work and step submittal to address ISRP implementation issues, contingent upon favorable step review by ISRP and Council. The budget reductions are based upon the following reasons: a) the presence of significant bull trout populationsis not assured to justify the requested level, b) the proposed funding level will allow increased water quality and resident fishery habitat improvements and allow any remnant bull trout populations to increase, c) cooperative efforts to provide all applicants abilities to maintain and or enahance their respective projects.
ISRP final recommendation: Fundable (Qualified)
Although this proposal did not participate in the fix-it loop, the ISRP reconsidered its recommendation for this proposal while evaluating the response to proposal 200205900, Yankee Fork Salmon River Dredge Tailings Restoration Project. The ISRP finds that this Mores Creek proposal raises similar concerns as the Yankee Fork project and a similar recommendation of Fundable in Part (Qualified) is warranted. The qualification includes two requirements. First, a thorough analysis of the likely benefits for focal species in the area is required. Second, the sponsors need to obtain pre-implementation reviews of project plans that describe the scientific basis of the methods to be applied and for what purpose. A report of these findings should be submitted to the Council and reviewed by the ISRP before any Fish and Wildlife Program funds are committed to project activities. The ISRP understands that the Council's Three-Step Review Process can be used for complex and high cost restoration projects; this project would benefit from such a review. In sum, this project is scientifically justified to complete this planning phase but is not justified to begin implementation. ISRP preliminary comments (June 2006): Fundable Qualified This is a strong proposal for a well-considered program that demonstrates the value of collaboration, especially in linking with the RC&D to reach landowners who might otherwise be unsupportive. It is unlikely that any but a hard restoration approach could ever restore function and habitat quality in this watershed (Mores Creek is a tributary of the Boise River upstream of Boise, and lies in a fairly constrained small canyon through much of its course). This proposal might accomplish the transformation while recognizing and preserving evidence of the area's history, and creating community support. The implied adaptive management built into a phased sequence of projects and up-front efforts to create fiscal and logistical efficiencies are evidence of the thoughtful design of this program. Because the project is designed to become self-sustaining through operation of natural hydrologic and biological processes it would be a bargain over the long-term. Extensive cost-sharing and in-kind contributions demonstrate successful, ongoing collaboration. It is probable that focal species and other aquatic and riparian species will benefit long-term from this program. Provisions have been mentioned for moving channels and reducing silt inputs during in-stream activities. Could this hazard be further reduced by working in winter or low flow? Disturbed gravels and cobbles can support vigorous weed populations. Efforts should be included to control weeds before, during, and after manipulations to avoid downstream spread and invasion of adjacent uplands. Other than the largely discounted concern about mercury, are there other toxins in the substrate that might be released, and should be managed? It is possible that costs will expand well beyond the current proposal. Including funds for financial and technical assistance to private landowners for projects contributing to the overall effectiveness of the program might augment their cooperation and leverage project investments. The objectives are very broad as expected when additional assessment is proposed. The complexity and level of detail required for the NEPA and permitting processes will demand more specific objectives. The proposed sequence and assignment of work elements seems realistic. Little reference to specific techniques is made, or justified, at this point. Support for the proposed actions is based exclusively on agency technical and scientific reports. Without casting doubt on these sources, they should use the primary literature as well, particularly as pertains to short-term effects on aquatic life of intensive in-stream disturbances. Local outreach to date has been via mail, however, formation of a semi-formal collaborative group such as a Coordinated Resource Management group could be an effective strategy to educate the parties involved and leverage the efforts of each party. An effective Coordinated Resource Management group builds long-term commitment to sustaining project accomplishments once incentive funding and other resources are no longer available. Idaho Resource Conservation and Development Councils and the US Forest Service have a strong track record with Coordinated Resource Management groups. Collaboration with the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station for monitoring is an excellent idea. However, the best monitoring may not be scientifically innovative; hence careful communication will be needed to assure the project gets the data it requires. The Station has experienced staff and is well qualified to oversee the M&E portion of the study. It is unclear if outcomes, in terms of fish and wildlife, will be monitored. This project could be a model for many other western rivers if actions result in desired population responses. Either way, this project will add to understanding of limiting factors and improve future efforts. Facilities and personnel are adequate. It is not clear if there will be fish data, or other data that should go into wider networks. Current data availability procedure is admirable. More specific comments on the proposal are described below. The overall project phasing as described in Figures 3 and 5 seems logical; however, there is a jump between objectives and monitoring that is not filled by "evaluate Phase 1 metrics". In Fig 3, the success criteria in Fig 5 do not appear. It is important to include the definition of success criteria, particularly since what is missing is an appreciation of what restoration means at the watershed scale. What has been done is to identify general issues: 1. The large cobble dredge spoils restrict channel migration and prohibit establishing riparian vegetation, especially the larger overstory species like cottonwood. 2. Channelization and channel incision have reduced the length of river channel, increasing the water velocity and preventing deposition of fine sediments on the floodplains. 3. The lack of riparian vegetation has contributed to streambank instability, accelerated erosion, increased width-depth ratios, and reduced shade and cover habitat for riparian-dependent wildlife and fish. 4. Complex instream habitat (pools, riffles, overhanging banks, woody debris) are largely non-existent. 5. Water temperatures are elevated by solar and thermal radiation from the tailing and exposed banks in the spring and summer months due to the wide, shallow channel and lack of riparian vegetative cover. 6. Degraded in-stream habitat and water quality conditions create seasonal passage barriers and limit utilization by bull trout and redband trout. While these issues may well be widespread in the watershed, restoration approaches may well vary between reaches, and will be interdependent in a geomorphological sense. So the demonstration site will, we hope, demonstrate the success of a watershed approach to identify appropriate remedies in this reach. However, it will not provide a blueprint for the entire watershed in terms of remedies. In Fig 5, restoration “options” are listed. However, we assume these options are not mutually exclusive and may all apply to the demonstration site and elsewhere. What we would like to see is a “leitbilt” for the watershed as a whole, showing the deficiencies and likely remedies throughout the length of the streams. We would also like to see a short discussion of the range of remedies to be considered; the predominance of rock-and-root-wad engineering in the several proposals we've seen and the absence of soil bioengineering using live woody materials to recapture floodplain fines (and provide nursery conditions for returning cottonwoods) is disappointing. This is not using the best science and technology that is available, and relies overmuch on engineering, rather than bioengineering. For example, Figure 2 - the aerial photo of the proposed Demonstration Site - is a classic “blown-out river” such as is found extensively in California (e.g., the moonscape caused by gravel mining in the Russian River). In that instance, stabilization of the river using willow mattresses and baffles is working well to regain the landscape prior to gravel mining, with only two root wads in 1000 feet length of reconstituted bank.
State/province recommendation: Fundable, but at a reduced level
Review group: Snake
Recommended budgets: FY07: $665,000 | FY08: $455,500 | FY09: $523,000
Comment: Budget reduction realized.The reductions are based upon the following reasons: a) the presence of significant bull trout populationsis not assured to justify the requested level, b) the proposed funding level will allow increased water quality and resident fishery habitat improvements and allow any remnant bull trout populations to increase, c) cooperative efforts to provide all applicants abilities to maintain and or enahance their respective projects.