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200102100 - 15 Mile Creek Riparian Buffers

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

Budgets: FY07: $86,168 | FY08: $88,500 | FY09: $91,887

Short description: This proposal develops riparian buffer systems on streams in the Fifteenmile Subbasin and other direct tributaries to the Columbia River in northern Wasco County. Implementation of buffer plans developed under this proposal are fully funded by USDA.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $86,168 | FY08: $88,500 | FY09: $91,887

Comment: Programmatic Issue: habitat m&e.

ISRP final recommendation: Fundable (Qualified)

Comment:

The consolidated response of the conservation districts to this and other riparian buffer proposals in central Oregon argues that BPA funding will enable the districts and constituent landowners to produce plans that can be put forward for Farm Bill and OWEB support for project implementation. The ISRP endorses this approach, in principle. However, the response sheds little light on the specific ecological questions raised in the first review; specifically, where will riparian buffers be sited, how do these sites fit within the context of the applicable subbasin plan (i.e., priority areas in relation to focal species), and how will their success be monitored? Those questions need to be answered in more than general terms in order for the projects to be assessed scientifically. Adequate responses seem limited to the list of four programmatic questions at the end of the review. Although a narrative with a much-improved presentation was provided, the response ignored most of the ISRP’s preliminary requests that focused on clarification of the 15-Mile proposal. With regard to the 15 Mile proposal, the only information provided on the buffers relative to the focal species (steelhead) is that EDT analysis identified riparian buffers in the lower watershed as a priority restoration action. That was helpful, but more details really are needed. There remains the need to show definitively that the buffer projects fall out of a watershed assessment as a priority, and that there is a plan for effectiveness evaluation, including a biological response through an adaptive management experiment. Without a map of where these buffers are proposed, for example, it is impossible to assess the degree of continuity achievable, which is an important factor in the efficacy of buffers. Opportunities for installing buffers may not coincide with the areas most in need of them but that does not prevent a map being prepared that shows the relationship between the areas with highest priority and those being proposed as a result of landowner willingness and other opportunities. Answers should have been given to all the questions raised in the review, not just the selected few. The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program has been underway for some time and in theory has resulted in significant improvements in stream and riparian conditions. The programs also have provided an excellent means of engaging local landowners in the conservation process. The planning effort is valuable, but it must include an appropriate level of monitoring, and it should build on the 15 Mile subbasin plan. It is not enough to assume that riparian buffers are working if no evidence is being gathered to support this assumption. It is time to demonstrate real improvements, and this will require a more explicit and substantial monitoring program (perhaps basinwide) than was generally described in the response. Basically, the ISRP would like some evidence that (1) the buffers are being sited where they will do substantial good, and (2) implementation of the buffers is resulting in demonstrated ecosystem benefits where steelhead and other focal species occur (e.g., surface water temperature reduction and recruitment of stream cover). Therefore, the project appears fundable with the qualification that procedures for demonstrating proof of effectiveness will be included in the plan. Specifically, the tie to the biological monitoring by ODFW was missing and must be included. There remains a need to establish a coordinated effort of effectiveness evaluation from the suite of riparian buffer projects within the basin, where a system of treatments and controls might be examined for a biological response from fish, including from within 15 Mile Riparian Buffers. The scientific justification for the project, the ISRP’s fundable recommendation, is contingent upon development of that assessment.

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 - Gorge

Recommended budgets: FY07: $86,168 | FY08: $88,500 | FY09: $91,887

Comment: The project has an excellent track record for implementation and leveraging matching funds. Fund as proposed.