Getting Involved in Habitat Restoration
Salmon habitat restoration benefits the community at large through improving water quality and increasing salmon populations, to improving habitat for a large variety of wildlife species enjoyed by everyone. Habitat restoration occurs on both public and private lands in the Snake River Region and with the majority of salmon and steelhead habitat located on private property, we strongly support private individuals seeking to conduct habitat restoration. Restoration grant opportunities for salmon recovery projects are made available by various sources throughout the year including; the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, Bonneville Power Administration, National Ocean & Atmospheric Administration, Washington State Resource and Conservation Office and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. For additional information on how to participate in restoration activities or in one of the local grant rounds, please e-mail the SRSRB, or call 509.382.4115.
If you have a restoration project idea, please review the section below outlining habitat restoration in South Eastern Washington and then follow the four guidelines listed below:
1) Speak to your local conservation district for help on your project and the current project submittal process, or contact the Snake River Salmon Recovery Office and we will help you determine a forward path.
2). Put together a project that addresses the following limiting factors for the location of interest: fish passage barriers & diversion screens, floodplain connectivity, channel complexity, fine sediments, water temperature or one of the existing data gaps.
3) Consider the project size and location (priority locations are shown on WRIA maps) – Duration – Species effected – Project costs will determine the impact your project will have and its priority for recovery.
4) Submit your proposal to Snake River Salmon Recovery Board Lead Entity (see deadlines in the Lead Entity Calendar) and be prepared to attend LE Committee/RTT project review meetings.
What Makes a Good Project?
Determining if your restoration idea would benefit salmonid recovery efforts and ultimately be eligible for funding through one of our programs is the first critical step in project development. To support you in your efforts South Eastern Washington has a number of professional restoration experts available to help in the local conservation districts, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, US Forest Service, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Nez Perce Tribe, Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group and the Snake River Salmon Recovery Board. The first thing to determine is what you hope to accomplish through your efforts and where you will be completing them; to support you in this decision, the our Regional Technical Team (RTT) has developed priority restoration actions specific to the watersheds (Table 14 Summary Table of Habitat Factors and Objectives for Each MSA 2011). The RTT has also developed maps indicating the priority populations and the stream reaches where restoration will best serve the restoration goals and objectives for each population, illustrated in the map below.
Figure : Snake River Regional restoration and protection priorities for South Eastern Washington have been excerpted from the Salmon Recovery Plan 2011. The areas highlighted in green indicate the watershed boundaries where large populations of steelhead are expected to exist (>500 Adults) and primary restoration and protection efforts are focused. The yellow areas indicate minor populations of steelhead (50 – 500 adults) and in some cases lower priority for in stream restoration. Furthermore, the stream reaches are highlighted either in orange indicating an instream restoration priority or in red where instream work is not a priority. Projects must fall within the Snake River Region priority areas and address one or more of the limiting factors identified in those areas to be competitive for funding in the annual grant rounds.
The next step in project development is to tailor your project by improving the limiting factors identified where you are planning on working (Limiting Factors Table 14). The limiting factors are describe in the following section providing examples and the impacts to the target habitat and species.
- Fish passage: Fish passage through our rivers and streams to suitable spawning and rearing habitat is one of the highest priority for salmon, steelhead and trout recovery in the Snake River Region. Over the past 10 years > 50 barriers hindering migrating fish have been either removed or modified to allow passage. A passage barrier is an obstruction or a condition which permanently or ephemerally blocks the passage of migrating salmonids during one or more portions of the lifecycle. This can range from diversion or hydro dams to culverts with drops or produces velocities which restrict fish movement. In some instances, high stream temperature or low flows can prevent fish from passing through stream reaches. Thanks to our partners, most of the major barriers to passages have been mitigated and more and more fish are returning to the place of their birth, than they were 10 years ago.
- In-stream flow: Stream flow is crucial to the restoration of salmon, steelhead and trout habitat in that insufficient flows during any segment of their life cycle may cause failure of the population. It is for this reason the SRSRB is a strong supporter of efficiency in irrigation and the development of irrigation plans which increase stream flow for rearing and migrating salmonids. Furthermore, the Salmon Recovery Plan for South Eastern Washington states that prior to conduction in stream habitat restoration, the reach must have adequate flows to support populations. The SRSRB has several partners working on water conservation throughout the region including: the Walla Walla Watershed Management Partnership in Washington and the Walla Walla Watershed Council in Oregon. The Walla Walla County Conservation District, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Department of Ecology and Bonneville Power Administration have contributed significantly to increasing flows in the Walla Walla and Touchet River while the Columbia Conservation District has worked with BPA and completed efficiency projects in the Tucannon River. (For more information on stream flow, please see the tab “Regional Progress”).
- Fish screens: Screening irrigation diversions with fish safe screens prevents juvenile fish and adults from entering irrigation projects where they may be killed. It also prevents juvenile fish from being impinged on improper fish screens. The conservation districts join, in conjunction with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, to work with landowners on a voluntary basis to aid in the screening of diversions either diverted or pumped from the stream. To date, over 500 diversions have outfitted with compliant screens. If you are interested in participating in the program, check with your local conservation district and they may be able to help you with a cost share up to 85%.
- Flood plain connectivity: Floodplain connectivity is the river interacting with its floodplain, meaning flood flows exceeding the 2yr return interval (or 2 year flood, in the 1 year to 100 year scale) flow out over the banks onto adjacent lands, i.e. “the floodplain”. When floods flow out over the banks at volumes > 2yr return, the energy generated by the flood in the channel is greatly reduced, diminishing much of the river’s ability to damage the river channel, banks or floodplain particularly at medium flows. The resulting diminished loss of energy is the outcome of reduced depth and velocity in the channel. Depth is reduced due to the increased capacity of the floodplain and velocity is reduced due to the added roughness of the floodplain and the reduced depth of the flow. Low floodplain connectivity in the Snake River Region is due to channel straightening. The natural incision which occurs in straightened channels and the river levees, often built to protect property, on the floodplain. A watershed assessment of the Tucannon River from river mile 1 to 50 found that over 80% of the rivers total length was unnaturally confined by past and present land management actions. We will never fully understand the impact this has had on the drainage as a whole, but one project completed in 2011 focused on turning back the clock by removing more than a mile of levee created over the past 60 years. In total, the project opened 3 river miles to its floodplain and added 130 acres of floodplain creating the potential for recovery.
- In-stream Habitat Complexity: Habitat complexity simply defined is essentially the channel shape that results from the physical material (biological & geological) available to the stream and how that stream interacts with those materials shaping the stream bed. An example of a common low complexity condition in the Snake River Region is a shallow wide channel with large bed cobble no large wood debris or side channels and few if any pools. In many of the Snake River Regional rivers and streams large trees played a significant role in channel forming process before management activities lead to the simplified existing conditions. Many conditions lead to higher or lower levels of complexity for example; straightened streams confined with levees or rock structures will often increase in gradient and transport the materials (trees) out of the system, perpetuating over simplified channels. This is a common condition in the Snake River Region which was created through land management practices design to reduce large wood debris in stream channels, straighten and shorten channels while tiring to hold them in place with river levees and rock structures.
Habitat Complexity Figure: The image on the left illustrates an over simplified poor habitat condition perpetuated by stream by channel straightening. This section of stream is stuck in this state of equilibrium due to the lack of trees large enough to remain in channel during high water event. The image on the right illustrates good in stream channel complexity exhibiting side channel habitat and pools formed by large wood log jams and gravel bar formation. The reach on the right has not undergone restoration but has undergone similar management as the reach illustrated on the left. The difference between the two reaches is that the reach on the right has recruited wood where the left one has not. Large trees entering the channel in the Tucannon are a major limiting factor for channel complexity which has lead to use of wood placement as a priority treatment in restoring channel complexity in the Tucannon and other rivers and streams in the Snake River Salmon Recovery Region.
- Fine Sediment: Sediment refers generally to fine material collecting in salmonid spawning and rearing areas. Fine sediments (sand, clays and organics) are natural in streams however elevated levels of fines in salmon spawning streams reduces the ability of salmon, steelhead and trout to successfully spawn by chocking eggs and fry before they hatch or leave gravels. Fines also reduce the ability of streams to interact with the shallow water table reducing aquifer recharge and reduces cool water from reentering the stream channel from the ground. Fine sediments in the Snake River Region originate in many areas including agricultural fields, range lands, along roadways, on forest lands and within stream channels. Fine sediments are not unnatural in streams especially within the Palouse Region of South Eastern Washington however, the proportion of fine sediment in the regional stream 10 years ago were severely detrimental to salmon recovery. The development of grazing management, minimum till agriculture and improvements in road way and forest practices have greatly reduce fine sediment being rout to salmon streams where implemented. Today in the region fine sediments are no longer as significant of a problem as 10 years ago.
Sediment Figure: The two images shown above illustrate the variable effects of agriculture practices on fine sediments reach streams. The image on the right illustrate the effects of winter and spring conditions on a conventionally tilled fields, resulting in soil loss for the producer and fine sediments being transported to salmon and steelhead streams. The image on the left illustrates a field where no-till agriculture has been used. The use of no-till agriculture improves soil condition increasing moisture retention and minimizing soil loss. Over the long run the use of no-till will improve production and reduce operational cost however initially production is reduced and start up costs prohibit some producers from moving to no-till. The Snake River Salmon Recovery Board and Bonneville Power Administration have funded the Conservation Districts to aid producers in transitioning to Best Management Practices.
- Water temp: Stream temperature is another important factor limiting the survival of salmon, steelhead and trout in our regional streams. The tolerable range of temperature varies by species and the restoration target set in the Salmon Recovery Plan is to not exceed 72 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 4 days annually in the lower reaches of the spawning and rearing reaches. Historically, many of the regional drainages exceeded 80 degrees F for much of August limiting the range of populations. Great strides have been made in reducing stream temperatures in regional streams through the establishment of riparian shade, the narrowing and deepening of stream channels reducing irrigation withdrawals and improving stream channel interaction with the shallow aquifer. In many of the regional streams where salmonids spawn and rear 68 degrees F has not been exceeded over the past 5 years and in the Tucannon River at the WDOE Marengo stream gage hourly mean temperatures have not exceeded 66 degrees F since 2008 (Figure below).
Water Temperature Figure: Stream temperature has been measured by the Washington Department of Ecology since 2003 at the Marengo stream gage on the Tucannon River, and by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife prior to 1992. Mean daily high temperatures have been declining since the earlier period of record and significantly since the early 1990s. Many factors are reflected in this trend however some credit is due to riparian plantings and increases in In stream flow.
- Assessment to fill a data gap:
Due to the evolving science of habitat restoration and the complexity in the natural systems we are trying to restore and deep understanding in natural science is required for our success. The SRSRB utilizes and adaptive management approach where as new information becomes available we modify techniques and priorities to best meet the recovery objectives. To support this adaptive management objective the SRSRB works closely with its partners and convenes the Regional Technical Team for support in technical review.
The Project Submission and Selection Process
If you are a private landowner and would like to submit a restoration proposal we welcome you effort. On your behalf the SRSRB provides funding to your local conservation district to aid you in the completion in salmon project applications and in some cases the districts may be willing to sponsor the solicitation of funding on your behalf. The first step is to fill out a project application and submit it with your project proposal to the SRSRB on the designated due dates (SRSRB 14th Rnd Calendar ). A citizen and technical committee assembled by the Snake River Lead Entity will meet in late March and again in July to review projects for compatibility with recovery goals.
A project is scored according to its effect on limiting factors, location, size, duration, species effected and project cost. The committee will also make recommendations on projects to help submitter improve their chances of receiving project funding and aid.
Dependent upon project score and final ranking, the project will then be submitted to the Snake River Funding Board and upon approval be funded.
Please refer to the Lead Entity Project Calendar for current Project Round dates.