Thursday January 25th
8:00 – 8:30 am Registration and Morning Social
Co-Authors: Dan Bottom, Research Fisheries Biologist, NOAA Fisheries (retired), Corvallis, OR, Greg Hood, Ecologist, Skagit River System Cooperative, LaConner, WA, Kim Jones, Salmon Habitat Ecologist, ODFW (retired), Corvallis, OR, Kirk Krueger, Research Fish Scientist, WDFW, Olympia, WA, Ron Thom, Ecologist, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Emeritus, Sequim, WA
Abstract: Decades of time and energy, not to mention billions of dollars, have been spent on salmon recovery in the Columbia Basin. For many of us, it has spanned our entire careers. Salmon habitat restoration projects started small – small in scope, scale, and budget — but over the last several decades have become dramatically larger and more complex, and hence more expensive. Individual projects have coalesced into programs, and programs have become careers. Yet, the perennial question remains — what have we achieved? While many of our questions will remain unanswered, there is mounting evidence that larger, more complex projects expand and enhance salmon habitat. Now, instead of working at the site-scale, projects are frequently implemented at the reach or multi-reach scale. But where do we go from here? How do we reach beyond the reach?
Since 2010, restoration projects in the lower Columbia River and Estuary have been evaluated by an Expert Regional Technical Group (ERTG) that considers the potential benefits to juvenile salmon. The original criteria generally favored larger restoration projects, but provided little guidance for the spatial distribution of projects along the river. Recognizing this limitation, in 2019 the ERTG developed a landscape framework for restoration to assess and reduce habitat discontinuities. Restoration actions are now evaluated using a landscape ecology approach and a stepping-stone model. Relative distance between restored habitat patches (or gaps) are now evaluated on an equal basis with project size. This approach operationalizes landscape ecology-based decisions for migratory salmon and restores linkages between river reaches. Initial monitoring in the Estuary shows that tighter linkages connecting high quality habitat patches produce synergistic benefits for juvenile salmon.
Understanding Habitat Use
Freshwater aquatic biodiversity is declining on global scales, as well as in our own backyard. For much of the past few decades, the US (through implementation of the Endangered Species Act), has essentially been exploring the hypothesis that protecting “keystone species” can protect ecosystems. Along those lines, single-species approaches to conservation, protection and rehabilitation, have focused on listings under the Endangered Species Act. Thus, habitat restoration efforts have often been targeted at individual species and their habitat needs. But has this really protected freshwater ecosystems? In freshwater systems of the Pacific Northwest, conservation of Pacific Salmon has driven much of the innovation and implementation of habitat recovery planning and protections. As climate change threatens to alter the phenology of native fishes by changing predictable patterns of temperature and discharge, other approaches to habitat restoration and conservation are also necessary. Expanding the scope of restoration goals to include diverse habitats that support complex assemblages of biota can complement existing single-species efforts. Restoration that facilitates the enhancement and re-expression of life history diversity also contributes to resilience in the face of changing climate drivers. In this presentation, we will review different aspects of biodiversity, and how habitat conservation can be implemented and designed to capture different forms of variation that contribute to resilience of our freshwater ecosystems now and into the future.
Co-Authors: Stine Gripe, Hinchinbrook Inc., Carlos Polivka, USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station, Keith van den Broek, Hinchinbrook Inc., David Glisson, Hinchinbrook Inc.
Abstract: Salmonid restoration efforts often aim to enhance habitat scale conditions for specific life stages to remove limiting factors and benefit entire populations. Successful restoration efforts consider restored habitat utilization at different life stages, and what environmental conditions maximize realized benefits. The Entiat River, Washington, serves as a model system for salmonid habitat restoration. Various forms and dimensions of Engineered Log Jams (ELJs) have been installed throughout the river to enhance rearing habitat for juvenile Chinook salmon and steelhead. However, there is still a need to improve our understanding of the timing and duration of salmonid ELJ usage, and the optimal size, design, and locations for these types of structures. To investigate ELJ utilization by juvenile salmonids, we conducted mark-recapture studies at several ELJs in the Stormy B reach of the Entiat River. The ongoing study included weekly PIT tag and recapture events in July and August 2023, and monthly sampling events planned through the following spring. Additionally, we installed a PIT tag array with four antennas at various locations within one large ELJ and one antenna at a natural control site. In contrast to the general assumption that juvenile summer and spring Chinook move downstream early in their life history, our results show a strong affinity to high-quality habitat with over one month of residence time within single structures and reach fidelity in the form of upstream and downstream movements, especially between closely spaced ELJs. Steelhead show even higher site fidelity than Chinook. Array detection rates exhibited daily fluctuations, with the pattern changing throughout the months with changing environmental conditions. Because our results contradicted previous assumptions, we show that long-term studies at various scales enhance our comprehension of salmonid habitat utilization and facilitate more effective targeted restoration measures.
Co-Authors: Keith van den Broek, Hinchinbrook, Inc., Virginia White, Hinchinbrook, Inc., David Glisson, Hinchinbrook, Inc., Carlos Polivka, Pacific Northwest Research Station, U.S. Forest Service
Abstract: The question of scale in ecological research can influence our understanding of species abundance, distribution, and behavior. Salmonid conservation and habitat restoration depend on scale, varying by location, over time, and between target species. Understanding this interplay is essential for accurately assessing restoration efficacy. Floodplain inundation, crucial for juvenile salmon, depends on river flows and floodplain geomorphology. Thus, floodplain restoration can impact fish at various scales, from river reaches to individual habitats. We studied restored and control floodplains in the Entiat and Twisp Rivers, as well as Nason Creek in the Upper Columbia River, Washington. We conducted mark-recapture studies in 2023 to determine habitat affinity and growth, comparing responses between restored and control sites. Our results varied between restored and control floodplains but also spatially and temporally. Across river basins, restored floodplains exhibited higher recapture rates compared to control sites. At the river basin scale, recapture rates varied, being high in all floodplains in Nason Creek, regardless of restoration status, and higher in restored floodplains compared to control sites in the Twisp River. Entiat data was less conclusive. Growth patterns between control and restored floodplains were similar, except in the Twisp River where fish were larger in specific restored floodplains. Water depth and temperature played key roles in shaping recapture outcomes, and habitat unit types further influenced results. When considering temporal scales, varying and volatile inundation and flow conditions offered robust explanations for divergent recapture rates on different spatial scales.
Abstract: There is an extensive and resource-intensive effort underway to improve stream habitat conditions in the Columbia River Basin, primarily to assist with recovery of ESA-listed salmonids. Many of these projects have the potential to also improve habitat conditions for lamprey, but to achieve this, the unique life-history traits and habitat needs of lamprey must be considered throughout the life of the project from planning through implementation. By integrating the needs of lamprey into salmonid-based restoration efforts, project sponsors and managers can increase the overall ecological value of their project with potentially minimal additional cost. To assist in the development of this integration, we examined a suite of salmonid-focused habitat restoration proejcts in the Methow and Entiat River Basins to deterine their ability to maintain larval lamprey rearing habitat, as well as the use of this habitat by larval Pacific lamprey. Specifically, we sampled >200 engineered log structures (ELS) to examine the size and distibruion of larval rearing habitat and the presecne of larvae in those habitats. To exaine realtioships bewtween larval habutat and the ELS, we classified each ELS based on size, location, and orientation relative to the stream channel. In both the Methow and Entiat rivers, the majority of ELS developed and/or maintained patches of suitable larval lamprey rearing habitat and this habitat was widely utilized by larval Pacific lamprey. Distrubtion of larval habitat and larval presecne was similar for both basins. We did not detect signifcant differences in most of ELS characteristiocs and larval habitat size and quality. Overall, our results indicate that ELS can be an effective means to develop larval habitat and increase the availablity of this habitat in streams of the Upper Columbia.
10:30 – 11:00 am – BREAK
Restoration and Recovery
Abstract: The large spatial scales at which many species are listed under the Endangered Species Act necessarily requires collaboration and cooperation among various stakeholders and rightsholders. These groups typically rely on different methods for assessing trends in both the numbers of organisms and the drivers of their declines, and in many cases, the data necessary to estimate population trajectories are often quite noisy and incomplete. Similarly, evaluating the efficacy of recovery efforts requires us to consider the different spatial and temporal scales at which the varying actions are implemented. I will present two case studies that show how we can address disparate data sources and the varying scales at which restoration efforts are implemented to better understand where and why at-risk species are recovering or continuing to decline. The first is an updated status assessment for ESA-listed bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) across Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. The second is an evaluation of the efficacy of the decades-long, $9 billion restoration spending by federal and state agencies to recover ESA-listed salmon in the Columbia River basin.
Abstract: Intensively Monitored Watershed (IMW) programs have been active across the Pacific Northwest for over twenty years. IMWs couple the implementation of multiple restoration actions in a single watershed with intensive monitoring of habitat and fish populations. Recently, two efforts to review the results of regional IMWs and identify management implications have been completed. PNAMP (Pacific Northwest Aquatic Monitoring Partnership) released a report in 2022 that reviewed results from 13 IMWs in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California. This review concluded that there was evidence that certain types of restoration actions, like barrier removal, were consistently associated with positive fish response but some, frequently employed, restoration actions produced inconsistent fish response. The PNAMP review also concluded that limiting factors often were not accurately identified, limiting the effectiveness of restoration actions. Also, few IMWs were in regions with a well-defined adaptive management process, making it difficult to implement findings from IMWs or other monitoring programs. Following the PNAMP review, a synthesis of the results from the 5 IMWs funded by the SRFB was initiated. This synthesis was completed in spring 2023. This review corroborated most conclusions from the PNAMP review. In addition, this review concluded that some IMW watersheds did not support enough spawning salmon to utilize existing habitat. Therefore, creating additional habitat through restoration actions was unlikely to generate the desired fish response. This review also determined that wood treatments appear to be most effective when very large amounts of material is added to a stream reach. Both reviews discovered that limiting factor identification is often inaccurate. Improving the methods used to identify the factors that control fish production would enhance the effectiveness of restoration efforts.
Co-Authors: Tim Beechie, NOAA – Northwest Fisheries Science Center, Michaela Lowe, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Jeff Jorgenson, NOAA – Northwest Fisheries Science Center, Morgan Bond, NOAA – Northwest Fisheries Science Center
Abstract: The Habitat Assessment and Restoration Planning (HARP) model is a process-based life cycle model capable of evaluating salmonid response to freshwater restoration actions under various climate and management scenarios. The Upper Columbia HARP project builds both on previous models and on previous and ongoing monitoring efforts to produce flexible and spatially explicit life cycle models for Chinook salmon and steelhead in the Wenatchee, Entiat, and Methow basins. The model building process includes a detailed assessment of current and historical fish habitat based on previously collected field data, new remote sensing work, localized statistical models, and published literature from both local and out-of-basin research. The Upper Columbia HARP models will be fully localized models that incorporate local life history data as well as locally relevant mechanisms such as stream drying, fire effects, and variations in mainstem Columbia River survival. To make an informative evaluation, we will work with you to develop alternative restoration scenarios that are realistic and founded in local knowledge, life history information, habitat potential, and previous research. The new models will allow for interpretation of existing prioritization strategies within a life cycle framework.
12:30 – 1:30 pm – LUNCH
River Process and Restoration
Abstract: Pacific salmon and steelhead track fluctuating resources across heterogeneous river networks to grow and survive. The abundance and accessibility of food and the costs of foraging vary between habitats, providing a shifting mosaic of growth opportunities across space and through time. However, a framework integrating the spatiotemporal dynamics of growth potential within riverscapes has been lacking. Here we present the concept of “foodscapes” to depict the dynamic changes in food abundance, food accessibility, and foraging costs that contribute to spatial and temporal variation of fish growth in rivers. We illustrate that “healthy” foodscapes provide a plethora of foraging opportunities—promoting diverse life history strategies that potentially enhance population stability. We identify knowledge gaps in understanding foodscapes, and approaches for management that focus on restoring trophic pathways which support diverse foraging and growth opportunities for salmon.
Co-Author: Colin Thorne, University of Nottingham, UK
Abstract: Process-based restoration aims to reestablish normative rates and magnitudes of physical, chemical, and biological pro- cesses that create and sustain river and floodplain ecosystems. PBR in the context of riparian restoration is not often discussed but is critically important to the success of such projects. This can be viewed not only in terms of the success of the plants themselves, but also the success of the project in terms of providing all or most of the desired outcomes for fish and aquatic ecosystems, including shade, cover, prey resources, organic matter, wood, complexity, and more. The loss of riparian, wetland, and floodplain habitat is widespread in the Pacific Northwest and our understanding of how to restore these habitats is evolving rapidly. With the increase in funding and focus on riparian restoration, the aim of this talk is to provide an overview of the latest science on process-based riparian restoration and show how that relates to real-world examples and applications that can be used by practitioners in the Upper Columbia.
Abstract: After more than thirty years of manipulating rivers in the name of geomorphic and ecological restoration, we’re now in a good position to take a retrospective view of what we’ve accomplished, with an eye towards how best to direct efforts and resources going forward. Regional and global syntheses of restoration projects broadly affirm that restoration “works,” although results are typically modest at best, with physical improvements in desired channel features more widespread than the biological outcomes that commonly motivate such actions. The greatest commonality is that most restoration projects do not address the root cause(s) of impairment, or act at the necessary scale to correct the underlying causes. This outcome reflects the emerging scientific consensus that protecting or repairing landscape- and watershed-scale processes is necessary to sustain desired in-stream habitat. A targeted review of six large-scale restoration projects constructed over the last 13 years along western Washington rivers demonstrate the value of substantial regrading to improve floodplain–channel engagement and the inhibiting effects of adjacent but unmodified infrastructure. More broadly, this review affirms that river restoration is generally beneficial and worth pursuing—but predicted outcomes are not guaranteed. Direct manipulation of the channel can be beneficial but will be self-sustaining only where the underlying watershed and in-channel processes are maintained or restored. Programs that emphasize protection and reconnect of otherwise intact systems will have the greatest likelihood of broadly successful outcomes, although years (and perhaps decades) may be needed to express physical and (particularly) biological restoration results.
Co-Authors: Kai Ross, Shelby Burgess, and Reid Camp, Cramer Fish Sciences
Abstract: With increased emphasis on restoration of floodplain habitat to improve habitat for listed salmon, the size and complexity of these projects has continued to increase with many projects covering several kilometers of river and hundreds of hectares of floodplain habitat. The size and complexity of these projects present technical challenges for evaluating their physical and biological success using traditional, field-based methods. We developed an efficient approach for evaluating large floodplain restoration projects that uses a combination of remote sensing (LiDAR and aerial imagery) and limited field data to evaluate project success. We tested and refined our methodology on four large restoration projects in Washington State including the White River County Line, Middle Entiat, Tucannon PA-3, and the South Fork of Nooksack Upper/Lower Fobes projects. Our results demonstrate that more than 20 floodplain and riparian metrics such as floodplain area and width, residual pool depth, large wood estimates, sediment deposition and storage, organic inputs, and riparian shade and vegetation extent can be easily and reliably quantified using remote sensing data (i.e., green LiDAR) coupled with limited field data. Further, increased spatial coverage inherent in remote sensing methods offer a complete census of habitat and more robust measurements than field derived estimates (e.g., floodplain area/width, riparian shading). Using these methods, we were able document large (>50%) increases in floodplain width, side channels (area, length), and total suitable habitat for juvenile salmonid fishes as a result of restoration at most of our pilot sites. We also documented winter use of floodplain habitats by using eDNA data and changes in fish capacity before and after restoration using snorkel surveys. Our results demonstrate that using remotely sensed data coupled with targeted field data collection can be used to efficiently evaluate the success of large floodplain projects at improving habitat and conditions for fish.
3:15 – 3:30 pm – SHORT BREAK
Co-Author: Zach Sudman (Rio ASE), Mike Brunfelt (Inter-Fluve), Jaime Goode (Rio ASE), Pollyanna Lind (Inter-Fluve), Gardner Johnson (Inter-Fluve)
Abstract: Under current climate change trends, wildfire frequency, extent, and severity are all projected to increase throughout western North America. Case studies from the Methow River Basin provided observations of direct fire impacts to fish habitat restoration projects and potential indirect secondary post-fire impacts to restoration projects in the Chewuch River and Beaver Creek. Additionally, observations were made for fire impacts to Wolf Creek, a designated wilderness-area watershed relatively free of anthropogenic disturbances. The Chewuch River case study included fifteen restoration sites along seven river miles. The Beaver Creek case study included twelve restoration sites along one river mile, as well as observations along six river miles upstream and downstream of the restoration sites. The Wolf Creek case study included hillslope, floodplain, and river observations along four miles of valley within the Okanogan National Forest. The lessons learned from the case studies provide information for river restoration practitioners and stakeholders to understand and consider the risks wildfires pose to restoration projects, and suggestions for mitigating those risks. Through more rigorous consideration of observed and projected climate and wildfire trends, stream restoration actions can become more resilient to the effects of wildfire and habitat restoration projects can more effectively buffer some of the negative impacts of wildfire, thereby contributing to proactive management strategies aimed at climate change adaptation and mitigation.
In 2022, the Yakama Nation partnered with the Okanogan National Forest to construct the Mystery and War Creek Reach Habitat Restoration Project and the lower Little Bridge Creek Project. These large scale restoration projects spanned 3 miles of the mainstem Twisp River and 1.5 miles in Little Bridge Creek respectively.
A restoration strategy was developed using habitat data that was collected during the Upper Twisp River and Tributary Habitat Assessment, along with research on large wood characteristics in unmanaged watersheds. Based on this analysis, a decision was made to install 48 large wood structures comprising 960 logs with rootwads in the mainstem Twisp River and 37 large wood structures comprising 180 logs with rootwads in Little Bridge Creek. Coarse slash was locally sourced from a forest health logging operation which reduced structure porosity and enhanced local hydraulic influence, thereby creating diverse geomorphic, ecological and biological habitats.
The construction method employed a Boeing Vertol (CH-106) helicopter to place wood and construct each structure. In areas with suitable hydraulic and hydrologic conditions, and where feasible with local infrastructure constraints, this technique proved to be an efficient, low impact approach to treating several miles of habitat within a short work window.
Co-Authors: Matt Young-Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation
Abstract: Instream wood and stream habitat complexity are consistently identified as limiting factors in habitat performance models of the Methow and Okanogan subbasins. We explored recent indices of wood abundance in the anadromous network of these two Upper Columbia subbasins and applied a deterministic model to enumerate the quantity of wood necessary to meet near-term “functional” condition benchmarks at reach, sub-watershed and subbasin scales.