In response to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s March 5, 2014 request, the ISRP reviewed a three-year progress report for the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board’s (UCSRB) project Upper Columbia Programmatic Habitat (#2010-001-00) and the Yakama Nation’s Upper Columbia Habitat Restoration Project (UCHRP, #2009-003-00).
The ISRP finds that the UCSRB check-in report on the Upper Columbia Habitat Programmatic Project (2010-001-00) partially meets the ISRP’s previous qualifications, but further response and dialog are requested.
The ISRP appreciates that the Confederated Bands and Tribes of the Yakama Nation (YN) and the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board (UCSRB) submitted their requested progress reports in a timely fashion. The YN report states that it addresses the condition for a monitoring progress report, although it is limited to expressing support for existing monitoring programs. The UCSRB Three Year Check-In report responds to several of the Council’s concerns: administrative efficiency, project selection efficiency, and restoration action effectiveness. The UCSRB report provides a current snapshot of the effort to implement habitat improvement actions under a programmatic umbrella, and, in general, it adequately addresses progress in gaining administrative and project selection efficiencies. Their description of highlighted actions yielded enough detail for the ISRP to believe that the showcased projects were based on sound restoration principles.
However, the progress report does not provide adequate information for the ISRP to verify to Council, BPA, the Governors, or Congress that these specific programmatic efforts are on track for achieving BiOp, Recovery Plan, or Fish and Wildlife Program objectives with regard to action effectiveness. Several important ISRP questions remain substantially unanswered in the check-in document, and additional clarification is needed:
- How, specifically, is this project coordinated with, and informed by, existing effectiveness monitoring programs in the Upper Columbia region? The monitoring programs include the Integrated Status and Effectiveness Monitoring Program (ISEMP), Columbia River Habitat Monitoring Program (CHaMP), and the Okanogan Basin Monitoring and Evaluation Program (OBMEP; a programmatic companion to the Okanagan Subbasin Habitat Implementation Program [OSHIP]). Some of these programs have been in place for a decade or more. Despite this work, the ISRP’s overall impression from the check-in report and accompanying letters of support is that available data should be better utilized in project planning and in demonstrating the biological effectiveness of the ambitious suite of restoration actions undertaken by UCSRB. The ISRP understands that issues specific to RM&E are linked to larger ongoing basinwide RM&E efforts.
- How have the findings from these RM&E programs been incorporated into project selection, restoration planning, and implementation under the UCSRB umbrella? The ISRP would like to see specific examples of how coordination with action effectiveness monitoring programs has improved, how monitoring results have been factored into restoration planning, and how monitoring data have been used to demonstrate restoration success to concerned stakeholders.
- How have limiting factor assumptions and the way in which subbasin plans and models, such as EDT, been used in setting restoration priorities – apart from administrative efficiency? And how will they be used in future priority setting efforts?
- Evidence is needed that these actions are on track for achieving BiOp, Recovery Plan, and Fish and Wildlife Program objectives. This will require evaluating restoration action effectiveness and adopting suitable metrics of success.
The ISRP requests that the UCSRB and ISRP engage in a direct dialog over the next six to nine months so that clarification regarding these questions can be reached. The exchange could be in the form of a presentation to the ISRP that covers all aspects of the project, one or more conference calls with project staff from the UCSRB and YN, or a visit to some of the restoration sites coupled with attendance by some ISRP members at an appropriate UCSRB meeting in 2014.