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Project Summary

Project 2001-021-00 - 15 Mile Creek Riparian Buffers
Project Number:
15 Mile Creek Riparian Buffers
Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) provides local leadership in implementation of several full-scale watershed enhancement projects focused on improving watershed health. Working in close partnership with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) our team's strength is our ability to develop and implement scientifically sound, economically feasible resource management plans for private landowners.

This project to implement riparian buffer systems in the Mid-Columbia addresses high priority actions identified in the Fifteenmile Sub-basin Plan. It will dedicate 1.0 FTE to provide the technical planning support needed to implement at least 36 riparian buffer system contracts on approximately 872 acres covering an estimated 40 miles of anadromous fish streams as a 3-year goal. Buffer widths will be between 35 and 180 ft. on each side of the stream. Implementation will include prescribed plantings, fencing, and related practices. Actual implementation costs, lease payments, and maintenance costs will be borne by existing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs: Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Conservation Reserve Enhancement Programs (CREP). Leases will be for 10-15 year periods.

Ten to fifteen (10-15) CCRP/CREP agreements will be signed by landowners annually, committing desired property to CCRP/CREP rules, i.e. shrub/tree/grass planting, weed control, livestock exclusion. Wasco SWCD staff will track contracts to ensure a smooth process between landowners and partner agencies. This tracking entails monitoring the approval process on completed plans through SWCD, NRCS, and FSA County Committee sign-off and Farm Service Agency (FSA) contracting.

This program meets a critical need in Fifteenmile Watershed in particular where existing Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) riparian lease agreements are expiring. This project fills a critical staffing need to conduct assessments and develop plans to address the growing backlog of potential projects. Plans developed under this project are used for federal contracts to implement riparian buffers. The SWCD uses the USDA NRCS Nine step planning process to develop these plans: (1) Identify problems and opportunities, (2) Determine Objectives, (3) Inventory resources, (4) Analyze resource inventory, (5) Formulate alternatives, (6) Evaluate alternatives, (7) Decision - Select Alternative, (8) Implement the Plan, (9) Evaluate plan (monitor).

Operation and Maintenance (O&M) are not required in this project:
Actual O&M is a funded item in the CRP/CREP contracts whereby the landowner receives a small fee per acre to cover maintenance costs. The landowner is responsible under the contract for the maintenance. O&M is funded by USDA.

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is included as a cost item. This is accomplished through visual inspections. Additionally, records of stream miles, acreage and number of plans completed will be tracked for reporting purposes:
Farm Service Agency (FSA) has programmatic responsibility for spot-checking contracts to ensure terms are being met. NRCS has responsibility for technical supervision. The SWCD will use the NRCS Stream Visual Assessment Protocol as the principal monitoring and evaluation tool to evaluate and describe both pre- and post-project conditions.
Proponent Orgs:
Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) (SWCD)
Starting FY:
Ending FY:
Implementation - Project Status Report
Province Subbasin %
Columbia Gorge Fifteenmile 100.00%
Focal Species:
Lamprey, Pacific
Steelhead - Middle Columbia River DPS
Trout, Rainbow
Species Benefit:
Anadromous: 100.0%   Resident: 0.0%   Wildlife: 0.0%

No photos have been uploaded yet for this Project.

Summary of Budgets

To view all expenditures for all fiscal years, click "Project Exp. by FY"

To see more detailed project budget information, please visit the "Project Budget" page

Decided Budget Transfers  (FY2019 - FY2021)

Acct FY Acct Type Amount Fund Budget Decision Date
FY2019 Expense $100,000 From: BiOp FCRPS 2008 (non-Accord) Nov 30th SOY Transfers 12/07/2018
FY2020 Expense $100,000 From: BiOp FCRPS 2008 (non-Accord) FY20 SOY 06/05/2019

Pending Budget Decision?  Yes

Actual Project Cost Share

Current Fiscal Year — 2020
Cost Share Partner Total Proposed Contribution Total Confirmed Contribution
There are no project cost share contributions to show.
Previous Fiscal Years
Fiscal Year Total Contributions % of Budget
2019 (Draft)
2018 $56,706 38%
2017 $35,514 27%
2016 $217,056 70%
2015 $147,553 62%
2014 $359,110 80%
2013 $77,850 46%
2012 $382,597 81%
2011 $446,317 83%
2010 $127,672 59%
2009 $616,890 88%
2008 $631,165 88%
2007 $555,496 87%


The table below contains contracts with the following statuses: Active, Complete, History, Issued.
* "Total Contracted Amount" column includes contracted amount from both capital and expense components of the contract.
Expense Contracts:
Number Contractor Name Title Status Total Contracted Amount Dates
82637 SOW Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) 2001-021-00 EXP WASCO COUNTY RIPARIAN BUFFERS Issued $100,000 7/1/2019 - 6/30/2020
CR-338077 SOW Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) 2001-021-00 EXP RIPARIAN BUFFERS IN WASCO COUNTY Pending $100,000 7/1/2020 - 6/30/2021

Annual Progress Reports
Expected (since FY2004):14
On time:13
Status Reports
On time:23
Avg Days Late:9

Earliest Subsequent           Accepted Count of Contract Deliverables
Contract Contract(s) Title Contractor Start End Status Reports Complete Green Yellow Red Total % Green and Complete Canceled
4935 22189, 26765, 32383, 37494, 46807, 52456, 56911, 60806, 64665, 69192, 72971, 76345, 79709, 82637 2001-021-00 FIFTEEN MILE CREEK RIPARIAN BUFFERS Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) 04/2001 04/2001 Pending 59 190 6 1 72 269 72.86% 32
Project Totals 59 190 6 1 72 269 72.86% 32

The table content is updated frequently and thus contains more recent information than what was in the original proposal reviewed by ISRP and Council.

Review: 2013 Geographic Category Review

Council Recommendation

Assessment Number: 2001-021-00-NPCC-20131125
Project: 2001-021-00 - 15 Mile Creek Riparian Buffers
Review: 2013 Geographic Category Review
Proposal: GEOREV-2001-021-00
Proposal State: Pending BPA Response
Approved Date: 11/5/2013
Recommendation: Implement with Conditions
Comments: Implement through FY 2018: See Programmatic Issue and Recommendation A for effectiveness monitoring.
Council Condition #1 Programmatic Issue: A. Implement Monitoring, and Evaluation at a Regional Scale—See Programmatic Issue and Recommendation A for effectiveness monitoring.

Independent Scientific Review Panel Assessment

Assessment Number: 2001-021-00-ISRP-20130610
Project: 2001-021-00 - 15 Mile Creek Riparian Buffers
Review: 2013 Geographic Category Review
Proposal Number: GEOREV-2001-021-00
Completed Date: 9/26/2013
Final Round ISRP Date: 8/15/2013
Final Round ISRP Rating: Meets Scientific Review Criteria (Qualified)
Final Round ISRP Comment:

The project sponsors provided thoughtful and detailed responses to the ISRP’s questions. These responses included (1) riparian buffer dimensions, types of restoration actions, and adaptive management plans, (2) additional information on the rates of riparian recovery after fencing and replanting as measured by SVAP protocols, as well as a link to the OWEB macroinvertebrate study report showing improvements in caddisflies, stoneflies, and mayflies at buffered sites, and (3) additional details on coordination activities between Wasco SWCD and ODFW, and plans to include ISEMP monitoring and CHaMP habitat survey protocols in Fifteenmile Creek. The coordination with partners and landowners has been excellent and the working relationship with the ODFW habitat improvement project is described in reasonable detail. The ISRP was impressed with the level of coordination between federal, state, county, and local landowners in the subbasin. The ISRP was also encouraged that the project sponsors are aware of the need to increase effectiveness monitoring efforts and are taking steps to make this happen.

Evaluation of Results
The high percentage of riparian buffers that have been enrolled in the CREP program and the number of landowners that are not eligible for CREP but are voluntarily participating in Wasco SWCD and ODFW restoration efforts suggest that the Fifteenmile Creek can be considered a regional model for cooperation in restoring wild steelhead. When effectiveness monitoring results become more complete, the project sponsors together with ODFW should publish their results. Thus others in the Columbia Basin can appreciate their success and learn from their experiences.

Qualification #1 - Continue to bolster efforts to increase biological effectiveness monitoring associated with the buffers
This is a well-organized project that has achieved real progress in protecting riparian zones in the Fifteenmile Creek subbasin. The qualification is that project sponsors should continue to bolster efforts to increase biological effectiveness monitoring associated with the buffers. The response indicates that Wasco County SWCD is closely working with ODFW to assess sitespecific restoration effectiveness and that efforts are underway to implement ISEMP/CHaMP monitoring protocols on a group of 25 sites within the system. These efforts are critically needed, and the ISRP recommends that effectiveness monitoring of selected CREP buffers be implemented as soon as is feasible. In addition, the plan of work should state how plant assemblage goals were specifically determined. NRCS standards were used to select plant assemblages, but a summary of NRCS plant assemblage standards (with species of plants typically used) should be included in the project description with a reference to how these assemblages will benefit aquatic habitat.
First Round ISRP Date: 6/10/2013
First Round ISRP Rating: Response Requested
First Round ISRP Comment:

The ISRP understands that the project supports the administration of CREP buffers and that currently over 90% of private landowners have enrolled in the CREP Program – Wasco County leads the state in this regard. However, a little more information is needed on a few key items.

An adequate response should address the following questions. First, we would like to know more about the buffers themselves: what are their typical width dimensions, how are riparian plant assemblage goals established, and what are the different types of restoration actions in the CREP buffers? Second, what riparian results have been achieved by implementation of CREP buffers to date; specifically, how quickly are riparian areas moving toward desired conditions, and are project sponsors satisfied with progress to date? Finally, more details are needed about how the Wasco SWCD interfaces with ODFW in coordinating restoration activities along Fifteenmile Creek and its tributaries.

1. Purpose: Significance to Regional Programs, Technical Background, and Objectives

This primarily administrative project enables the local soil and water conservation district in the Fifteenmile Creek subbasin to negotiate riparian protection agreements with private landowners under the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). The agreements involve native riparian plant re-establishment, weed control, and livestock exclusion along Fifteenmile Creek, some of its tributaries, and other small streams draining directly to the mid-Columbia River. Much of the cost of the CREP program in Fifteenmile Creek is borne by the USDA, with the Wasco SWCD requesting a modest $86-91K for planning and contract execution over the next five years.

Some of the original CREP agreements are expiring, and the project sponsor wishes to renew them as well as to add new agreements with private landowners to fill gaps identified in the first map: 38 stream miles in total, including Fivemile, Eightmile, Fifteenmile, Ramsey and Dry Creeks. The project's objective is to negotiate 80 CREP agreements (16 per year) committing landowners to abide by CREP rules and to maintain the riparian protections implemented as part of the restoration effort.

While the background and objectives are clearly explained in general terms, little detail is provided about the buffers themselves such as width, specific riparian objectives, or types of restoration actions. A chart or table breaking down restoration actions into general categories - revegetation, weed control, livestock exclusion - would be helpful. There is considerable collaboration between this project and the companion ODFW habitat improvement project in the Fifteenmile Creek subbasin (1993-040-00), and more details are needed about how these two projects work together and share resources.

2. History: Accomplishments, Results, and Adaptive Management (Evaluation of Results)

Because the project is administrative in nature, its accomplishments are described as successful CREP agreements with landowners. The reported results, therefore, are given as contracts signed and miles of stream affected by the agreements. The proposal did not provide any specific data or evidence about improvements in riparian condition over time since the contracts were executed. On the other hand, it is clear from the map that the extent of CREP coverage on the subbasin and adjacent streams is extensive, and if the CREP objectives for riparian condition are being met there is little doubt that the project has led to significant improvements in riparian condition and stream habitat.

Although the ISRP requested project sponsors to show a link to biological improvements resulting from the project in a previous review, the current proposal is still somewhat deficient in this regard. We understand that a convincing demonstration of improvement in steelhead productivity is in the future, but what evidence is available to demonstrate that the buffers have resulted in desired changes in riparian condition? There must be some data showing that the CREP agreements are working. Additionally, even though the results of the stream visual assessment protocol surveys are preliminary they are still of interest to the ISRP and should be included in the proposal.

In the section on adaptive management, the project sponsors state that individual agreements can be modified as needed. It would be helpful to describe how decisions are made regarding modifications and what evidence is required for a modification to take place.

Over the first 11 years this project has signed up 142 contracts covering 3809 acres and protected 128.7 miles of creek riparian habitats. The future goal is to average 10 new contracts per year through 2023 (Is this future goal consistent with the objective for 16 per year under this contract?). Past ISRP reviews have asked for ties to biological/fish monitoring. This proposal indicates that ODFW project 2010-035-00 will do the monitoring. However, the proposal should provide a link or brief summary of that project's results to date that relate trends in benefits to fish from habitat protection applied to Fifteenmile Creek.

Evaluation of Results

The ISRP notes that the 15-year CREP enrollment period may not be long enough to allow monitoring to assess the full habitat benefits of CREP protection. This could be remedied by either extending the contract time or by establishing interim habitat goals that can be monitored during the 15-year period, for example at 1, 3, 5, and 15 year intervals post-enrollment.

3. Project Relationships, Emerging Limiting Factors, and Tailored Questions

As pointed out above, the relationship between this project and the older ODFW habitat improvement project in Fifteenmile Creek (1993-040-00) should be made clearer. How are duplicative efforts avoided? How are riparian improvements coordinated between the two projects and how are workloads shared, if at all?

With regard to emerging limiting factors, the ODFW habitat project identifies the spread of non-native invasive plants as a significant threat to the subbasin. While weed control is mentioned among the supported CREP actions, it was not clear if efforts to control invasives will need to be stepped up in the coming years.

4. Deliverables, Work Elements, Metrics, and Methods

The deliverables and work elements were administrative such as landowner coordination, preparation of NRCS checklists, conservation plan development, CREP agreements, report preparation, and thus there were no technical metrics or methods to review. The proposal did do an adequate job of describing administrative details, however. Based on the funding requested here it is evident that most of the cost of the CREP buffers will be supported by the USDA Farm Service Agency.

The ISRP was intrigued by the macroinvertebrate monitoring studies that were discussed during the site visit and hopes that such sampling can be expanded in the future.

Specific comments on protocols and methods described in

The proposal states that no RM&E protocols will be needed; however, project sponsors will be implementing the NRCS stream visual assessment protocols as mentioned earlier. It would have been helpful for the proposal to briefly describe the SVAP technique.

Modified by Dal Marsters on 9/26/2013 11:20:06 AM.
Documentation Links:
  • Proponent Response (7/9/2013)
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review

Council Recommendation

Assessment Number: 2001-021-00-NPCC-20090924
Project: 2001-021-00 - 15 Mile Creek Riparian Buffers
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Approved Date: 10/23/2006
Recommendation: Fund
Comments: Programmatic Issue: habitat m&e.

Independent Scientific Review Panel Assessment

Assessment Number: 2001-021-00-ISRP-20060831
Project: 2001-021-00 - 15 Mile Creek Riparian Buffers
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 8/31/2006
Final Round ISRP Date: None
Final Round ISRP Rating: Meets Scientific Review Criteria (Qualified)
Final Round ISRP Comment:
The consolidated response of the conservation districts to this and other riparian buffer proposals in central Oregon argues that BPA funding will enable the districts and constituent landowners to produce plans that can be put forward for Farm Bill and OWEB support for project implementation. The ISRP endorses this approach, in principle. However, the response sheds little light on the specific ecological questions raised in the first review; specifically, where will riparian buffers be sited, how do these sites fit within the context of the applicable subbasin plan (i.e., priority areas in relation to focal species), and how will their success be monitored? Those questions need to be answered in more than general terms in order for the projects to be assessed scientifically.

Adequate responses seem limited to the list of four programmatic questions at the end of the review. Although a narrative with a much-improved presentation was provided, the response ignored most of the ISRP's preliminary requests that focused on clarification of the 15-Mile proposal. With regard to the 15 Mile proposal, the only information provided on the buffers relative to the focal species (steelhead) is that EDT analysis identified riparian buffers in the lower watershed as a priority restoration action. That was helpful, but more details really are needed. There remains the need to show definitively that the buffer projects fall out of a watershed assessment as a priority, and that there is a plan for effectiveness evaluation, including a biological response through an adaptive management experiment. Without a map of where these buffers are proposed, for example, it is impossible to assess the degree of continuity achievable, which is an important factor in the efficacy of buffers. Opportunities for installing buffers may not coincide with the areas most in need of them but that does not prevent a map being prepared that shows the relationship between the areas with highest priority and those being proposed as a result of landowner willingness and other opportunities. Answers should have been given to all the questions raised in the review, not just the selected few.

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program has been underway for some time and in theory has resulted in significant improvements in stream and riparian conditions. The programs also have provided an excellent means of engaging local landowners in the conservation process. The planning effort is valuable, but it must include an appropriate level of monitoring, and it should build on the 15 Mile subbasin plan. It is not enough to assume that riparian buffers are working if no evidence is being gathered to support this assumption. It is time to demonstrate real improvements, and this will require a more explicit and substantial monitoring program (perhaps basinwide) than was generally described in the response. Basically, the ISRP would like some evidence that (1) the buffers are being sited where they will do substantial good, and (2) implementation of the buffers is resulting in demonstrated ecosystem benefits where steelhead and other focal species occur (e.g., surface water temperature reduction and recruitment of stream cover).

Therefore, the project appears fundable with the qualification that procedures for demonstrating proof of effectiveness will be included in the plan. Specifically, the tie to the biological monitoring by ODFW was missing and must be included. There remains a need to establish a coordinated effort of effectiveness evaluation from the suite of riparian buffer projects within the basin, where a system of treatments and controls might be examined for a biological response from fish, including from within 15 Mile Riparian Buffers. The scientific justification for the project, the ISRP's fundable recommendation, is contingent upon development of that assessment.
Documentation Links:

Legal Assessment (In-Lieu)

Assessment Number: 2001-021-00-INLIEU-20090521
Project Number: 2001-021-00
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 10/6/2006
In Lieu Rating: Problems May Exist
Cost Share Rating: 1 - Appears reasonable
Comment: Coordination, conservation plan development to assist landowners in providing riparian buffer zones (via NRCS funding) NRCS authorized/required, but cost share appears reasonable.

Capital Assessment

Assessment Number: 2001-021-00-CAPITAL-20090618
Project Number: 2001-021-00
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 2/27/2007
Capital Rating: Does Not Qualify for Capital Funding
Capital Asset Category: None
Comment: None

Project Relationships: None

Name Role Organization
Ron Graves (Inactive) Interested Party Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD)
John Skidmore Supervisor Bonneville Power Administration
Jesse Wilson Project Manager Bonneville Power Administration
Zachary Gustafson Interested Party Bonneville Power Administration
Shilah Olson Project Lead Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD)