Upper Columbia Regional Bulletin, September 2019

Fall Greetings and congratulations to our partners on another great summer of project implementation! The purpose of this quarterly newsletter is to communicate relevant and timely information that facilitates recovery efforts in the Upper Columbia. Staff welcome your input on topics about the region and projects. Please let us know if you have any questions or wish to communicate any information.

2019 SRFB Grant Round & Project Highlight

The 2019 Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Funding Board grant round concluded at the end of July when the Joint Chelan and Okanogan Citizen Advisory Committees met in Chelan to develop one regional list for funding consideration from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB). The SRFB will make their final funding determination at their December board meeting concluding a nearly yearlong process that began in our region in March. Each year sponsors from within the Upper Columbia submit habitat restoration proposals to the process that includes draft applications, site visits, presentations, and final applications incorporating feedback. The UC Regional Technical Team reviews and scores projects based on their biological benefit and provides scores and comments to the Chelan and Okanogan Citizen Advisory Committees (CAC). The CAC’s review and rank projects within their respective counties then come together to develop one project list for funding consideration. This tremendous effort from sponsors, RTT, and CAC is what make this process the “Washington Way” and ensures SRFB funded projects have community support. Below is the final 2019 SRFB Regional Ranking.

For more information about this year’s grant round or anything else SRFB related, please contact Pete Teigen at Pete.Teigen@ucsrb.org.

Project Highlight – Hancock Springs
In 2018, Methow Conservancy partnered with US Fish and Wildlife Service to seek SRFB funding for the Hancock Springs project in the Upper Methow. This project will complete the restoration of Hancock Springs by building upon prior successes to provide outstanding spawning and rearing habitat for native salmonid species and life stages. The first phase of restoration has been used extensively for spring chinook spawning and rearing, steelhead spawning and rearing, and sub-adult bull trout rearing, and it’s expected the second phase will provide more high quality habitat for these ESA listed fish. Hancock Springs is a very unique, spring- and ground-water fed channel. The project area sits on a historical dairy farm that led the channel to become wide, shallow, and full of fine sediment, which would have persisted without because it is a spring-fed creek.

The project received one of the highest scores based on biological benefit in recent memory by the Upper Columbia Regional Technical Team (RTT) and was ranked number one by the Joint Citizen Advisory Committee in 2018. RTT called this an “excellent project” because it used monitoring and data to inform the project and it’s an “excellent example of adaptively managing enhancement actions”. The project is being constructed this summer with a 0.4 mile side channel, 0.95 acres of wetland created, and 0.25 acres of uplands treated. The wetland revegetation effort was significant, too, with 36,000 wetland plugs and 405 wetland sod mats grown out from locally collected seed and planted. Another 375 native shrubs and trees will also be planted this fall.

Washington Salmon Coalition Meets In Leavenworth

The Washington Salmon Coalition met August 13th in Leavenworth. The group’s mission is to support and strengthen the 25 Lead Entities in Washington State in their endeavor to restore, enhance, and protect salmonids and their habitats in a scientifically-sound manner that engages local communities and supports our economy. The group enjoyed the sunshine in Leavenworth and met on the lawn for lunch and a group photo during their meeting.

2018 Annual Report: Year in Review

The Draft Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board (UCSRB) 2018 Annual Report to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) was just released for review and provides an overview of recovery projects completed in 2018, an overview of environmental conditions in 2018, and an update on hatchery, hydropower, and harvest in 2018. The Implementation Report and associated Implementation Schedule is one component of the UCSRB’s approach to tracking progress implementing the Upper Columbia Recovery Plan. Below is a brief summary of what was included in the report. The full report can be found at https://www.ucsrb.org/mdocuments-library/reports

Adult Returns
Returns of hatchery- and natural-origin spring Chinook and steelhead remained low in 2018 in all four subbasins (Wenatchee, Entiat, Methow, Okanogan). A total of 654 natural-origin steelhead and 579 natural-origin spring Chinook returned to the Upper Columbia in 2018, which was just slightly higher than the number of natural-origin returns in 2017 (565 spring Chinook; 488 steelhead). Both steelhead and spring Chinook runs over the past two years have been the lowest since the species were listed in the late 1990’s. The 12-year geometric mean of natural-origin returns for both species remains well below the goals set for delisting in all four basins.

Habitat Conditions in 2018
The late winter and early spring of 2018 provided near normal temperature and precipitation for the northwest geographic area (NWCC 2018). By May 1st, rain and snow accumulation was near or above average in Washington. Snowpack as of May 1st was at or above 100%. Overall, observed water supply was 70-90% of normal (30-year average) in most of the rivers in the Upper Columbia (USDA 2019). Most of the rivers in the Upper Columbia experienced flashy winter flows during the winter of 2017/2018, an early, above average spring run-off season and an early, below average summer and fall flows. Temperatures in Upper Columbia rivers were slightly above average during the hottest time of the year (August and September) and near or below average the rest of the year. Ocean conditions in 2018 showed improvement over the previous three years as the anomalous warm ocean water (“The Blob”) that persisted between 2014-2017 showed further signs of dissipating.

Hydropower 2018 – Environmental conditions in 2018 resulted in a year with average water temperatures, but high flow and very high spill for most of the juvenile migration season. Additional spill began April 10, 2018 at the lower four mainstem Columbia federal dams, as mandated by the U.S. District Court of Oregon (known as “spills to gas caps”), and ended on June 15, 2018 (see UCSRB Hydropower Summary 2019). Increased spill had mixed results on survival of out-migrating spring Chinook and steelhead from the Upper Columbia.

Hatcheries 2018 – In 2018, hatchery programs in the Upper Columbia released a total of 685,758 steelhead smolts (down from 886,192 in 2017). One million listed spring Chinook were released for conservation purposes (up slightly from 996,361 in 2017). An additional 1.7 million unlisted spring Chinook smolts were released from Leavenworth and Chief Joseph Hatcheries (down slightly from 2017). Some programs had difficulty meeting their production goals because of the very low hatchery-origin returns in 2018.

Harvest 2018 – Low returns in 2018 meant that fishing opportunities were restricted. Most runs came in at 30% or less of pre-season forecasts. Because of low returns and the need to meet hatchery broodstock goals, there were no conservation fisheries for Upper Columbia steelhead or Upper Columbia spring Chinook. The only anadromous fisheries offered in the Upper Columbia in 2018 were for summer Chinook and sockeye in the mainstem Columbia.

Habitat Projects Completed in 2018
In 2018, partners completed 19 projects across all four major subbasins, comprising 16 restoration, one design, and two assessment projects. This was similar to the number of projects completed in 2017. Since 1998, there have been 496 projects completed in the region, 146 (30%) of which were implemented in the last five years. Based on the last five years of implementation, an average of 30 projects have been completed annually. All project information is captured in the Habitat Work Schedule database (http://hws.ekosystem.us/) and a full list of all Upper Columbia projects completed, proposed, or underway can be found in the 2019 Implementation Schedule, which is also out for review.

2018 Regional Accomplishments
5 barriers removed
99 diversions replaced
16.3 miles opened
0.7 of new side channel
37 acres of floodplain reconnected
4.3 miles of stream treated
18 acres of riparian treated
4 cfs of flow and 400 af of water recovered

Feedback on the 2018 Draft Implementation Report and 2019 Draft Implementation Schedule (https://www.ucsrb.org/?mdocs-file=4721) is requested before or at the upcoming Implementation Team Meeting on September 3rd. The documents will be approved at this meeting. Comments can be sent to Greer Maier at greer.maier@ucsrb.org.

Implementation Team Update

Sept 3 IT meeting: 10am to 3pm at the Pateros Fire Station, Pateros, WA
As part of UCSRB efforts to engage with regional partners outside of the Wenatchee subbasin more regularly, the September IT meeting is being held in Pateros. Agenda topics will include:
UCSRB-RTT updates, including Prioritization strategy and Step 1 (AU) approval process
Review and approval of the region’s 2018 Implementation Report and Implementation Schedule
Regional strategy development for input into RCO State of the Salmon update
For more information about the IT or proposed agenda topics, please contact Sarah Walker at sarah.walker@ucsrb.org.

2020 Upper Columbia Science Conference: Call for Abstracts

The UCSRB has released the Call for Abstracts for the 2020 Upper Columbia Science Conference. Abstracts will be excepted until October 1st. The Conference will be held January 22 – 23, 2020 in Wenatchee at the Wenatchee Convention Center. Information and links to register, sponsor or submit an abstract is located at www.uc2020.org. The conference theme this year is “2020 Vision” and abstracts pertaining to information that can influence prioritization and planning are encouraged. A hotel link to sign up for a government rate room block at two local hotels can also be found at www.uc2020.org

For more information contact barb.carrillo@ucsrb.org or greer.maier@ucsrb.org

Science on the Street

Check out several recent blogs entitled Science On The Street relating to salmon and salmon recovery efforts located on our blog page at https://www.ucsrb.org/category/science-on-the-street/ New articles are added monthly. For a full copy of an article, contact Greer Maier at Greer.Maier@ucsrb.org

Forest Health Update

Since the May Quarterly, members of the NCWFHC have been working with partners and Tapash Collaborative members to hone resource need estimates and investigate creative instruments and approaches that could be used to increase the forest health restoration across all lands in the Upper Columbia region. Current priorities include providing input to the OWNF on their integrated 5-year Plan and UWPP draft alternatives development, and working with partners on strategic state and federal grant applications for strategic project implementation work on the OWNF and adjacent ownerships.

Forest Health Tour

The American Forest Resource Council and other members of the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative recently toured the Upper Wenatchee Project (UWP) on July 23rd to review landscapes, root disease impacts, chipping objectives, commercial thinning samples, protection fire lines and other important items near the Wolverine Community protection fire line and the Ponderosa Pine Plantation, as well as the Lower Chiwawa River area. Through partership with the NCWFHC, in 2017, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (OWNF) received approximately $1.6 million to pilot collaborative restoration and hazardous fuels reduction work. The UWP is a direct response to the call for greater investments in high wildfire risk communities from more than 400 community members who participated in the wildfire and Us Summit following the 2015 wildfire season.

During the field trip, participants learned from Bill Burgess about challenges with reliable materials flow due to the shift from larger-to-smaller diameter trees, and how chipping can help achieve a blend of economic and restoration objectives through the use of smaller-diameter materials. Tour participants also reviewed the importance of blending forest health restoration treatments with species selection, wildlife habitat needs and in-stand resilience traits such as disease and fire resilience.

The NCWFHC Has Two New Voting Members!

The NCWFHC is pleased to announce that they have two new voting members: The Methow Valley Citizens Council and Hampton Lumber.
MVCC is a 20+ year-old grassroots citizen-led group interested in the Twisp River, other restoration projects and linkages to local conservation and planning interests. Steering Committee members George Wooten and Lorah Super are part of the MVCC. The MVCC will be represented by Hannah Dewey.
Hampton Lumber participates on collaborative work on the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest and is interested in increasing its engagement on the OWNF. Hampton staff bring industry and environmental planning expertise and have the capacity to work on project-level subgroups. Hampton Lumber will be represented by Anjolene Price.
Please reach out to Hannah (hannah@mvcitizens.org) and Anjolene (anjoleneprice@hamptonlumber.com) directly for more information and to welcome them to the NCWFHC.

Kristin Bail Named New Forest Supervisor for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Kristin Bail has been named the new Forest Supervisor for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Her reporting date is September 1st. Kristin’s most recent appointment has been as the Acting Director at the USFS for Watershed, fish, wildlife, air and rare plants in Washington, DC.

Workshop and Demonstration – Creating Healthy, Wildfire-Safe and Wildlife-Friendly Forests

Sponsored by the WSU Extension and DNR, A forest health workshop is scheduled for Friday, October 4, 2019 in Leavenworth at the Chelan County Fire District #3 from 9 am – 4 pm. For more information on registration and costs, please contact the WSU extension at (509) 667-6540.

Other Announcements

State Seeks members for Fishing Guide Advisory Group

Candidates are being sought for a fishing guide advisory group to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Group members provide input on new reporting requirements for commercial guides. People interested in signing up for the advisory group can email Raquel Crosier at raquel.crosier@dfw.wa.gov.

WDFW Salmon Rescue and Salvage

While this summer’s drought was tempered by lower temperatures and rain compared to the 2015 drought, there may still be incidents of fish stranding this year. If you’re out working and observe fish stranded in pools due to low flow, please reach out to Amanda Barge, Graham Simon or Jenni Novak. They are covered as state employees to save ESA species under 4(d) limit 3, commonly known as “rescue and salvage”.

Contact Information-
Amanda Barg amanda.barg@dfw.wa.gov 509-429-9285
Graham Simon graham.simon@dfw.wa.gov 509-670-0742
Jenni Novak jennifer.novak@dfw.wa.gov 509-314-5215

Senator Hawkins Hosts Listening Tours Dates In Early September

2019 12th District listening tour schedule-
To schedule an appointment for one of these dates or to obtain more information contact brad.hawkins@leg.wa.gov or call the legislative office at 360-786-7622.

Riparian Noxious Weed Survey

The RCO is currently sharing a survey regarding riparian noxious weeds to assist with invasive vegetation management. The survey is located at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LFH2DDF.

Please contact RCO for more information.

Upcoming UCSRB/NCWFHC Meetings:

Regional Events:
September 3 – Implementation Team Meeting. Pateros Fire Station, Pateros. 10:00 am – 3:00 pm. Topics include prioritization strategy and Step 1 (AU) approval process, 2018 Implementation Report and Schedule and regional strategy development for input into RCO State of the Salmon update.
September 4 – NCWFHC Steering Committee Partner Work Session. USFS WNF SO, Wenatchee. 1:00 pm-4:00 pm. Topics include the process for updates to Integrated OWNF 5-year Plan, the Upper Wenatchee Pilot Project, and draft grant proposals.
September 11 – Regional Technical Team. Community Foundation, Wenatchee. 11:00 am – 3:00 pm. QA/QC of prioritization Step 1 results.
September 12 – NCWFHC Project Workgroup Webinar. 9:00 am – 11:00 am. Topics TBD.
September 17 – Methow Watershed Action Team Meeting. Twisp River Bank Bldg., Twisp. 9:00 – 12:00 pm. Topics TBD.
September 18 – Wenatchee/Entiat Watershed Action Team Meeting. Confluence Technology Center, Wenatchee. 9:00 am – 12:30 am. Topics TBD. (Wenatchee & Entiat WATs now meeting jointly unless separate meetings are needed).
September 23 – Similkameen-Okanogan Watershed Action Team Meeting. Okanogan County Planning Conf. Rm., Okanogan. 10:30 am – 12:30 pm. Topics TBD.
October 10 – UCSRB Meeting. Douglas County Land & Transportation Building, E. Wenatchee. 9:00 am – 2:00 pm. Topics TBD.
January 22-23, 2019 – Save the Date – Upper Columbia Science Conference. Wenatchee Convention Center, Wenatchee. 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. Topics include 20 years of salmon recovery science in the region and networking with other partners and practitioners.