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200723700 - UPA Project - Elbow Coulee Floodplain Restoration

Sponsor: Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation

Budgets: FY07: $122,662 | FY08: $3,800 | FY09: $8,900

Short description: This project would eliminate a dike; open an existing side channel and floodplain; reconnect a wetland; and use large woody debris and boulders to split flows. These would increase habitat complexity and create more dynamic habitats for listed salmonids.

view full proposal

Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $45,120 | FY08: $45,120 | FY09: $45,120

Comment: Sponsors must submit a brook trout impact analysis to the Council and if the Council decides it is warrented, develop and submit a management plan for Council review before receiving any funds.

ISRP final recommendation: Fundable (Qualified)

Comment:

The ISRP is not requesting a response, but the proposal would be improved by addressing the following comments: This project would be worthwhile provided that the connection to the mainstem performs as desired. There seems to be some potential for the channel entrance to fill with sediment due to the planned log structures and these concerns need to be addressed prior to funding. Also, some additional attention to the brook trout problem is needed. Reconnecting a habitat containing brook trout with the mainstem may have negative impacts on native fishes. A thorough consideration of the potential impacts of brook trout and methods for controlling them prior to reconnecting the off-channel habitats should be included in the proposal. Technical and scientific background: The background information provided ranges from a very pertinent discussion of the desired outcomes of the project and its history to very general information about floodplains, channel development and sediment dynamics, only tangentially related to the proposed effort. For example, this section includes a rather lengthy attempt to determine whether or not diversion of flow from the main channel of the Twisp River to the floodplain channel will reduce mainstem stream power sufficiently to enable additional deposition to occur. Encouraging deposition in the mainstem is, at best, a secondary outcome of this project (in fact, it is not even listed as one of the project objectives). The main benefit is the increase in floodplain habitat. Nonetheless, the necessary information to justify this project is included. Rationale and significance to subbasin plans and regional programs: The proposal does a good job of linking its objectives to the Methow subbasin plan and the revised 2004 BiOp. The provision of floodplain habitat in this section of the Twisp River was identified as an important restoration action in the subbasin plan. Relationships to other projects: There are a number of other planned projects on the Twisp that may interact with this project, including several other restoration projects in the vicinity of Elbow Coulee. Passage improvements at road crossings higher in the drainage might lead to increased production of juvenile fishes that could benefit from the floodplain habitat. The proposal discusses these efforts and describes how this project fits into the overall plan to improve spawning and rearing conditions, as well as off-channel wetlands, in the lower Twisp River. This project is well aligned with other ongoing or proposed efforts in the subbasin. Objectives: The project objectives are generally appropriate. However, there are some questions about a few of the goals. Some of the currently isolated, floodplain habitats contain brook trout. The proposal suggests that the native fishes accessing these habitats after reconnection will out-compete the brook trout. There is no support in the literature for this contention. In fact, brook trout have been consistently found to be superior competitors when found with bull trout and juvenile Chinook salmon. The outcome of attracting juvenile native fishes to brook trout infested floodplain habitats may actually be detrimental; competitive pressures may offset any benefit associated with the higher quality habitat. A more aggressive approach to reducing or eliminating brook trout prior to reconnecting the floodplain habitats to the mainstem should be included in the project. There also should be some discussion in the proposal of the potential for stranding anadromous fishes in the floodplain habitats. It would appear that this potential problem is less of an issue for this project than the similar Fender Mill floodplain project because connection of the off-channel habitats are intended to be maintained at relatively low flows. However, some attention to the possibility of this occurring with siltation of the channel entrance or exit and how this problem would be addressed should be included in the proposal. Tasks (work elements) and methods: There are a few proposed work elements that deserve further development in the proposal. The floodplain channel connections to the mainstem include several log structures to control siltation and ensure diversion of water into the secondary channel. These log structures, especially at the entrance, would seem to promote siltation rather than prevent it. The debris filter structure in the secondary channel near the upstream connection will collect finer wood and, ultimately, form a partial blockage for flow. The blockage will reduce flow velocities and encourage deposition. The proposal does indicate that maintenance of the channel connections is expected but the current design would seem to exacerbate maintenance concerns. The secondary channel design, especially at the upstream connection, should be reconsidered to deal with this issue. Is it possible that the floodplain springs can provide sufficient flow to keep the floodplain channel watered? If so, a low-flow connection to the mainstem at the upstream end of the channel may not be necessary to achieve the objective of providing access for fish to the floodplain habitats. This option would avoid problems with sediment deposition closing the channel connection to the floodplain. The plan to reduce brook trout populations by seining and angling will not be sufficient to deal with the issue of competitive impacts on native fishes. A more thorough attempt to reduce brook trout populations prior to reconnection of floodplain habitats with the mainstem should be attempted. Electroshocking, or even chemical treatment, might be options. Choosing Douglas fir and ponderosa pine as the species to plant on the floodplain seems unusual. These species do not do well in wet conditions and are not typical overstory species on floodplains. Monitoring and evaluation: The monitoring and evaluation component of the proposal is only briefly described. However, most of the primary elements to assess the success of the project are included. Photopoints will be established and fish populations will be surveyed within, above, and below the project area. WDFW will survey salmon and steelhead redds. However, very little detail on measurement protocols or the timing of measurements is provided. There is no indication of how survival of riparian plantings will be monitored. Some of the monitoring will apparently be done by cooperators, so the proposal did not provide complete certainty that it would be accomplished. Facilities, equipment, and personnel appear to be sufficient for the project. The proposal lists 19 people who will be involved in the project but provides no indication of who will be responsible for what part. In total, the qualifications of the project participants are quite impressive. But without matching the person to the job they will perform, the adequacy of skills is hard to judge. Information transfer: This element is not well addressed. Given the potential of this project to serve as an important demonstration site, it was disappointing that plans did not include more than just annual progress reports. But there is no mechanism specified to enable the transfer of knowledge generated by the implementation and monitoring of this project to other restoration practitioners in the basin. Benefits to focal and non-focal species: Assuming the project performs as planned (see concerns above about some of the objectives and work elements) the project should benefit the focal species as long as the floodplain remains reconnected. This is especially so, given the integrated nature of the restoration efforts planned on the Methow and Twisp. Non-focal species are also likely to benefit, including those that can inhabit the 1.5 acres of newly connected wetland.

State/province recommendation:

Review group:

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

Comment: