200736200 - Assessing Fish Passage Through the Icicle Creek Boulder Field Above Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery
Sponsor: Washington Trout
Budgets: FY07: $26,068 | FY08: $17,378 | FY09: $0
Short description: This proposal seeks to assess fish passage through, and road-construction impacts on, the boulder field upstream from the LNFH in Icicle Creek. Study results will include an evaluation of the need for a project to improve fish passage in this reach.
Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)
Funding category: Expense
Recommended budgets: FY07: $0 | FY08: $0 | FY09: $0
ISRP final recommendation: Fundable (Qualified)
ISRP comments on various sections/elements of the proposal are provided first, followed by a summary. The ISRP is not requesting a response, but the proposal would be improved by addressing issues and concerns identified below. Technical and Scientific Background: The proposal does a good job of providing the background necessary to understand the problem and question that is addressed in the proposal. If the barrier to upstream migration of anadromous salmonids at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery is removed in 2007, steelhead, coho, Chinook, and adfluvial bull trout will potentially be able to migrate to the upper watershed. Icicle Creek contains a long alluvial valley in its upper reaches that could provide productive spawning and rearing habitat, but salmon, steelhead, and bull trout first have to migrate through a narrowly confined canyon reach that is dominated by large cascades. The "boulder field" at the mouth of the canyon reach occurs at a channel constriction made even narrower by the presence of Icicle Creek road. This project will use snorkeling and other methods to estimate whether the boulder field constitutes a migration barrier that would partially obviate the need for fish passage at the hatchery (a short distance downstream) or if some sort of passage assistance is needed. The boulder field is a natural channel feature; however, the gradient and frequency of cascades may have been increased by road construction. This proposal raises an interesting question: Is human-assisted passage around a natural barrier to fish migration justified if there is high potential for salmon and steelhead production upstream from the site? That would seem to be a policy issue. Rationale and significance to subbasin plans and regional programs: The significance of the proposal to the Wenatchee subbasin plan is discussed. The plan calls for implementing fish passage assistance in Icicle Creek if the boulder field is deemed a passage problem. Relationships to other project: This project is one of a trio of projects that have been submitted by Washington Trout to study Icicle Creek and its fish populations. The other two proposals are 200719000 and 200734900. This one addresses a question that has been raised as to whether a boulder field located upstream of the now to be restored natural channel is a barrier to passage of anadromous fishes. The other two are proposals to monitor fish use of the restored portion of the natural river channel (200719000), and to monitor fish use of the river upstream of that portion (200734900). Reference is made to Chris Jordan's M&E project in the Wenatchee Basin, and other potential sources of cooperation are cited. On page 10 of the proposal, it is stated that Dr. Peter Bisson is a technical advisor who will "assist in the execution of the proposed work". For the record, Dr. Bisson, a member of the ISRP who reviewed the proposal, was unaware of this project until he read it on April 10, 2006, and has no involvement in this work. Objectives: The objectives are very clear and succinctly defined. There are three: (1) examine the historical record to determine the distribution of anadromous salmonids upstream from the hatchery site prior to the hatchery's construction, (2) attempt to observe salmon and steelhead ascending the boulder field after passage is provided past the hatchery weir, using snorkeling and underwater videography, and (3) determine the influence of the road on the boulder field, to see if fish passage assistance is warranted. The project will take place in 2007-2008 only. The objectives are generally related to the Wenatchee subbasin plan. Tasks (work elements) and methods: Fish passage would be studied by snorkeling within the boulder field weekly from August-December and March-May. Spawning and redd surveys will be conducted immediately upstream from the site. Methods are not specified. A geomorphologist will study the boulder field to determine the influence of road construction. Snorkeling efficiency will depend on water clarity and the level of turbulence. There will be periods during spawning migrations when snorkeling will be ineffective. Additionally, no safety plan was presented in the proposal, nor was there reference to one. This is of particular concern to reviewers experienced in this area. Snorkeling in a cascade-dominated, high-energy stream can be extremely dangerous, and there was no description of the flow thresholds or turbidity levels that would halt the surveys. Perhaps general observation from the boulder field would be sufficient to see if fish are able to pass this particular portion of Icicle Creek. Monitoring and evaluation: This is a monitoring project by nature. Facilities, equipment and personnel seem reasonable for the task. Facilities required are not extensive. Personnel are experienced and plan to cooperate with others doing similar work in the Wenatchee River Basin. However, the proposal does not describe whether snorkeling crews will have first-aid training or how much experience they will have had. Information transfer: According to the cover page, the project will be publicized on the Washington Trout website and in progress and final reports, as well as peer-reviewed publications. The latter seems a bit optimistic, considering the results will primarily be of local interest. Long-term storage of data is not discussed. Benefit to focal and non-focal species: The project is likely to be helpful in understanding how anadromous salmonids ascend a steep, cascade-dominated stream reach, or whether passage is possible only under certain flow conditions. Findings of this study will resolve an uncertainty about ability of anadromous fish to pass a large boulder field. As a result it will either lead to a recommendation for improving passage by some means, or it will show that there is no need to do so. Non-focal species are not mentioned, but will not likely be harmed. Summary: While the proposal meets the criteria established for ISRP review, we rated the proposal Fundable (Qualified) because we are concerned about the need for inclusion of a detailed safety plan to cover the use of snorkeling, if it is to be used in this hazardous environment, and advise contracting officers to require such a plan be included. The safety of this part of the proposal is questionable. A contingency plan that specifies boundaries of flow within which it would be safe to snorkel would be good. This is an inexpensive project that likely will resolve a controversy that has arisen over the plans of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery to modify their weir on Icicle Creek that has prevented anadromous fish from ascending the river beyond. Some opponents have argued that a boulder field, proposed for study in this proposal, would still block the fish not much further upstream. That argument led to some delay in the plans for the changes in the weir, until it was pointed out that the boulder field was itself a human artifact created by road construction. This finding effectively dealt with the argument posed by some that it would be contrary to the natural situation to modify the boulder field. This project has good potential for understanding the timing of fish migrations, especially when considered as part of the trio.
Recommended budgets: FY07: (n/a) | FY08: (n/a) | FY09: (n/a)