The Northwest Power and Conservation Council on Tuesday recommended, with qualifications, that an ambitious and expensive habitat restoration project be funded in the Tucannon River basin to make the southeast Washington stream more hospitable for threatened Snake River spring/summer chinook salmon and steelhead.
The project proposed by the Snake River Salmon Salmon Recovery Board outlines an expense budget of $10,852,980 for fiscal years 2011 through 2018. The current contracted amount under this project for fiscal year 2011 is $96,063 for project administration and preliminary planning with a performance period of Jan. 28, 2011 to Jan. 31, 2012. In addition there is a contract request for $495,205 associated with the project that reflects a proposed work period of Sept. 15, 2011, to Sept. 30, 2012, according to a NPCC staff memo describing the project.
The Tucannon drains into the Snake River between Lower Monumental and Little Goose dams near Starbuck, Wash. The Snake River spring/summer chinook and steelhead stocks are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The tributary habitat project is intended to assist in satisfying commitments made under NOAA Fisheries Service’s 2008 Federal Columbia River Power System biological opinion, a strategy that outlines measures that are intended to mitigate for negative hydro system impacts on listed fish.
The goal of the new Tucannon River project is to implement on-the-ground habitat restoration actions to meet population specific targets required under the 2008 BiOp. The aim is to improve habitat quality 17 percent by 2018, which is expect to, in turn, benefit spring/summer chinook, steelhead, bull trout, fall chinook, freshwater mussels and other species.
The project includes the following restoration actions:
-- Protect and maintain natural processes such as natural hydrologic and sediment routing throughout the system to allow natural migration and wood recruitment.
-- Connect disconnected habitats such as oxbows, wetlands, and former mainstem and side channels. Remove fish barriers.
-- Address roads, levees, and other human infrastructure impairing processes by removing or modifying culverts, levees, dredge spoils, diversion dams, and grade control structures.
-- Restore riparian processes by isolating and protecting healthy riparian areas, eradicating invasive species, and planting native communities.
-- Improve in-stream habitat conditions by installing large individual trees and large woody debris structures in the mainstem channel.
The entities that will be implementing the actions include Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Columbia Conservation District, the Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Pomeroy Conservation District, and/or other qualified groups, tribes, or agencies that submit proposals that are approved by the SRSRB.
The Council recommendation to the Bonneville Power Administration was made with the condition that the SRSRB provide a report by the spring of 2013 addressing two issues raised by the Independent Scientific Review Panel in its Aug. 8 “final” review of the project.
The ISRP reviews for scientific merit projects channeled through the Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, which is funded by BPA. The panel is also called on to review projects developed specifically to address elements of the BiOp. Bonneville also has BiOp funding obligations as a federal “action” agency. It markets power generated in the federal Columbia/Snake river hydro system.
The ISRP said that the SRSRB and Bonneville needed to better describe the criteria that will be used to prioritize future projects that need to be developed. It also said a comprehensive restoration strategy and associated prioritization process should be developed before implementation of on-the-ground restoration activities.