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200733700 - Oregon Plan Monitoring of Steelhead Status, Trend, and Habitat in the Grande Ronde River Subbasin

Sponsor: Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW)

Budgets: FY07: $372,361 | FY08: $388,549 | FY09: $405,339

Short description: Implementation of Oregon Plan, EMAP monitoring for basin-wide steelhead status and trend.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

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


ISRP final recommendation: Fundable (Qualified)


The proposal is straight forward, to monitor steelhead populations and their habitat and thereby provide much needed quantitative data on status and trends of abundance, survival, and productivity. There is a definite need for a steelhead monitoring program in the Grande Ronde basin. This proposed work has the potential to provide such a program, but methodological questions need to be carefully considered. The ISRP is not requesting a response, but the proposal would be improved be addressing the following comments. The proposed program could be sufficient for subbasin-wide monitoring, but monitoring must also be targeted specifically at individual tributaries. As the sponsors are aware, habitat quality and fish abundance vary significantly among tributaries in the subbasin. Habitat factors and fish population parameters in tributaries need to be assessed quantitatively with a rigorous sampling design, as will be done at the subbasin scale. Monitoring at the tributary scale will allow assessment of effectiveness of restoration projects within each tributary to accompany overall basin-scale monitoring. The proposal directly addresses needs identified in the Grande Ronde Subbasin Plan, the Fish and Wildlife Program, and the Oregon Plan. It also incorporates monitoring recommendations made by the ISRP. The sponsors indicate that they will cooperate closely with personnel working under other BPA funded projects. They also say they will cooperate closely with landowners and managers, a necessity if the work is to be successful implemented. The sponsors indicate they will cooperate with the Pacific Northwest Aquatic Monitoring Partnership (PNAMP). What about with the Collaborative Systemwide Monitoring and Evaluation Program (CSMEP)? Aren't both important? The objectives are sentence fragments and could be stated more clearly. The intent of the objectives, however, is reasonably clear. In the Rationale section the sponsors say they will determine productivity, but they do not have an objective or methods for this work. Each objective statement should have been a sentence specifying a desired outcome, not just a phrase denoting an operation. An Objective 2 is missing. Was this just mis-numbering or was an intended objective actually left out? The methods are poorly explained. Numerous questions need to be considered by the sponsors: Objective 1-spawner surveys. How will the initial 50 sites be selected? How was the level of precision of the redd count estimate determined? With such a large error (40%), the actual estimate may not have much value. What can be done to reduce error? The method of transitioning between indexed redds and probabilistic sampling needs to be more thoroughly considered. Doesn’t the method for redd count expansion assume that redds will be spread throughout the range of fish distribution rather than patchily distributed in spawning areas? Objective 3-habitat surveys. How often will habitat surveys be conducted and at what time of year? The sponsors should consider thoroughly how sample size was determined. Approximately how much of the basin will be snorkelable? The presence, size, and depth of thermal refugia should be determined as it has been shown to influence fish distribution in the upper Grande Ronde (see Ebersole et al. 2003, CJFAS). Width-depth ratio should be determined (see Ebersole). The sponsors say that water quality and quantity will not be measured. What does this mean? Does this include metrics such as temperature, a factor that has been shown to impact salmon in the upper Grande Ronde? The sponsors will assess habitat only in snorkelable areas. Some important habitat measures such as temperature can be taken in larger mainstem areas that may not be snorkelable. These estimates may be important because high temperatures may create a barrier to salmonid movement, reduce holding areas for adults (see Torgerson et al. 1999), provide excellent habitat for non-natives, and force cold-water fishes into thermal refugia. Objective 4-juvenile salmon surveys. Why won’t the snorkel survey technique be cross-validated with electroshocking in some areas? Data analysis should involve all fish species, not just salmonids. The Grande Ronde has a relatively rich fish community composed of both cold- and cool/warm water species (e.g., pikeminnow, suckers, etc). The presence of cool/warm water species could serve as an indicator of habitat change. For example, cool/warm water species may have expanded their distribution upstream in tributaries as tributary temperatures increased due to riparian alteration, water withdrawal, etc. An indication of habitat recovery would be contraction of the distribution to more downstream, warmer reaches. Furthermore, some cool/warm water species such as pikeminnow could prey on juveniles and others such as redside shiners, a non-native, may be competitors (see Reeves et al. 1987). Assessment of the fish community probably would require some sampling of faster waters to detect species such as speckled dace.

State/province recommendation: Not fundable

Review group: OSPIT - Blue Mountain

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