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Project Summary

Project 2002-002-00 - Restore Natural Recruitment of Kootenai River White Sturgeon
Project Number:
2002-002-00
Title:
Restore Natural Recruitment of Kootenai River White Sturgeon
Summary:
Project 2002-002-00, the Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Program, is a large-scale, collaborative, adaptively implemented and managed, ecosystem-based habitat restoration program to restore and maintain Kootenai River habitat conditions that support all life stages of endangered Kootenai River white sturgeon and other native aquatic focal species within a 55-mile reach of the Kootenai River in Idaho.

Project activities from 2002 through 2005 focused primarily on data collection and analysis to understand the nature of physical habitat conditions in the Kootenai River in order to identify how to best address existing habitat conditions thought to contribute to recruitment failure in Kootenai sturgeon. From 2006 though 2009 work transitioned to consolidation of data, development of one- and two-dimensional models, implementation of a pilot substrate project, and planning work to develop an appropriately scaled approach to habitat restoration in the Kootenai River. During this time frame the Tribe and project collaborators also agreed to shift from a single-species, single-life stage focused approach to a broader ecosystem-based approach.

In 2009, the Tribe completed the Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Program Master Plan, which presented a conceptual framework for a large-scale ecosystem-based river habitat restoration program in the Idaho portion of the Kootenai River. The Master Plan identified reach specific limiting factors in three major Kootenai River reaches and presented a suite of potential restoration treatments to address those limiting factors.

In 2010, the project entered the implementation phase, which includes collaborative planning, iterative design work and review cycles, construction implementation, monitoring and evaluation, maintenance, and adaptive management reviews. Habitat restoration projects were completed in 2011 (Phase 1A and Phase 1B), 2012 (North Side Channels and Upper Meander), and 2013 (Middle Meander and 1A Extension). Additional projects are scheduled for implementation in 2014 and beyond with planning and design work currently underway.
Proposer:
None
Proponent Orgs:
Kootenai Tribe (Tribe)
Starting FY:
2002
Ending FY:
2017
Stage:
Implementation - Project Status Report
Area:
Province Subbasin %
Mountain Columbia Kootenai 100.00%
Purpose:
Habitat
Emphasis:
Restoration/Protection
Focal Species:
Bass, Largemouth
Bass, Smallmouth
Burbot
Cutthroat Trout, Westslope
Cutthroat Trout, Yellowstone
Freshwater Mussels
Kokanee
OBSOLETE-Perch, Yellow
OBSOLETE-Pike, Northern
OBSOLETE-Pikeminnow, Northern
OBSOLETE-Trout, Brown
OBSOLETE-Trout, Lake
OBSOLETE-Walleye
Sturgeon, White - All Populations except Kootenai R. DPS
Sturgeon, White - Kootenai River DPS (endangered)
Sturgeon, White - Lower Columbia River
Trout, Brook
Trout, Bull (threatened)
Trout, Interior Redband
Trout, Rainbow
Whitefish, Mountain
Species Benefit:
Anadromous: 0.0%   Resident: 100.0%   Wildlife: 0.0%
Special:
None
BiOp Association:
None

Overview of the Braided and Straight Reaches of the Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Program. The Canyon Reach is located upstream (east) of Braided Reach 1 and the Meander Reaches are located downstream (west and north) of the Straight Reach.

Figure Name: Figure 1-1

Document ID: P126377

Document: Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Program Feasibility Analysis & Preliminary Design Report for the Upper Meander and North Side Channels Phase 2 Projects; 3/11 - 4/12

Page Number: 8

Project: 2002-002-00

Contract: 46032

Overview of the Upper Meander project area with project extents indicated in green.

Figure Name: Figure 1-2

Document ID: P126377

Document: Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Program Feasibility Analysis & Preliminary Design Report for the Upper Meander and North Side Channels Phase 2 Projects; 3/11 - 4/12

Page Number: 10

Project: 2002-002-00

Contract: 46032

Lateral channel migration in the Upper Meander project area showing left bank point bar development and right bank erosion between 1934 and 2011.

Figure Name: Figure 1-3

Document ID: P126377

Document: Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Program Feasibility Analysis & Preliminary Design Report for the Upper Meander and North Side Channels Phase 2 Projects; 3/11 - 4/12

Page Number: 11

Project: 2002-002-00

Contract: 46032

Lateral migration of the right bank at the Upper Meander project area between 2009 (left) and 2011 (right). The long-term trend in the project area is erosion of the right bank and expansion of the left bank point bar.

Figure Name: Figure 1-4

Document ID: P126377

Document: Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Program Feasibility Analysis & Preliminary Design Report for the Upper Meander and North Side Channels Phase 2 Projects; 3/11 - 4/12

Page Number: 13

Project: 2002-002-00

Contract: 46032

Overview of the North Side Channels project area.

Figure Name: Figure 1-7

Document ID: P126377

Document: Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Program Feasibility Analysis & Preliminary Design Report for the Upper Meander and North Side Channels Phase 2 Projects; 3/11 - 4/12

Page Number: 19

Project: 2002-002-00

Contract: 46032

Historical imagery illustrating the evolution of the North Side Channels project area from 1934 to 2011.

Figure Name: Figure 1-8

Document ID: P126377

Document: Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Program Feasibility Analysis & Preliminary Design Report for the Upper Meander and North Side Channels Phase 2 Projects; 3/11 - 4/12

Page Number: 20

Project: 2002-002-00

Contract: 46032

An example of reed canarygrass dominated riparian terraces along the Upper side channel (left photo) and Middle side channel (right photo).

Figure Name: Figure 1-9a

Document ID: P126377

Document: Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Program Feasibility Analysis & Preliminary Design Report for the Upper Meander and North Side Channels Phase 2 Projects; 3/11 - 4/12

Page Number: 21

Project: 2002-002-00

Contract: 46032

An example of reed canarygrass dominated riparian terraces along the Upper side channel (left photo) and Middle side channel (right photo).

Figure Name: Figure 1-9b

Document ID: P126377

Document: Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Program Feasibility Analysis & Preliminary Design Report for the Upper Meander and North Side Channels Phase 2 Projects; 3/11 - 4/12

Page Number: 21

Project: 2002-002-00

Contract: 46032

An overview of the Braided and Straight Reaches, showing implemented Phase 1 projects, and the Upper Meander and North Side Channels project areas.

Figure Name: Figure 1-12

Document ID: P126377

Document: Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Program Feasibility Analysis & Preliminary Design Report for the Upper Meander and North Side Channels Phase 2 Projects; 3/11 - 4/12

Page Number: 26

Project: 2002-002-00

Contract: 46032

An overview of the Braided and Straight Reaches showing the location of planned future Phase 2 projects. Note that “Phase 1A Extension” and “Phase 1B Extension” projects are Phase 2 projects; these two projects will expand on work done in Phase 1 (Phase 1a and 1b).

Figure Name: Figure 1-13

Document ID: P126377

Document: Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Program Feasibility Analysis & Preliminary Design Report for the Upper Meander and North Side Channels Phase 2 Projects; 3/11 - 4/12

Page Number: 27

Project: 2002-002-00

Contract: 46032

Existing and proposed pool habitat in the Braided and Straight Reaches. Proposed pool locations are based on current and future Phase 2 restoration projects and contribute to the creation of a 'migration ladder' for Kootenai River white sturgeon.

Figure Name: Figure 1-14

Document ID: P126377

Document: Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Program Feasibility Analysis & Preliminary Design Report for the Upper Meander and North Side Channels Phase 2 Projects; 3/11 - 4/12

Page Number: 28

Project: 2002-002-00

Contract: 46032

Modeled inundation extents of observed ecological flows in the North Side Channels area. The red arrow indicates the location of the cross-section data displayed in Figure 2-3.

Figure Name: Figure 2-2

Document ID: P126377

Document: Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Program Feasibility Analysis & Preliminary Design Report for the Upper Meander and North Side Channels Phase 2 Projects; 3/11 - 4/12

Page Number: 43

Project: 2002-002-00

Contract: 46032


Summary of Budgets

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

Expense SOY Budget Working Budget Contracted Amount Modified Contract Amount Expenditures *
FY2016 (Previous) $7,815,710 $7,815,710 $7,660,737 $7,667,987 $7,452,033

General $7,815,710 $7,660,737 $7,667,987 $7,452,033
FY2017 (Current) $7,815,710 $7,815,710 $7,744,905 $7,752,155 $5,463,313

General $7,815,710 $7,744,905 $7,752,155 $5,463,313
FY2018 (Next) $0 $29,000 $29,000 $0

General $0 $29,000 $29,000 $0

* Expenditures data includes accruals and are based on data through 31-May-2017

Decided Budget Transfers  (FY2016 - FY2018)

Acct FY Acct Type Amount Fund Budget Decision Date
FY2016 Expense $7,815,710 From: General FY16 Initial Planning Budgets - Expense 05/22/2015
FY2017 Expense $7,815,710 From: General FY17 SOY Budgets 06/02/2016

Pending Budget Decision?  No


Project Cost Share:

FY2016 1 %
FY2015 3 %
FY2014 5 %
FY2013 5 %
FY2012 14 %
FY2011 19 %
FY2010 17 %
FY2009 11 %
FY2008 2 %
FY2007 6 %
Fiscal Year Cost Share Partner Total Proposed
Contribution
Total Confirmed
Contribution
FY2015 (Unspecified Org) $60,000
FY2015 US Army Corps of Engineers (COE) $50,000
FY2015 US Geological Survey (USGS) $105,584
FY2016 (Unspecified Org) $60,000

Contracts

The table below contains contracts with the following statuses: Active, Complete, History, Issued.
Expense Contracts:
Number Contractor Name Title Status Contracted Amount Dates
BPA-004251 Bonneville Power Administration PIT Tags - Enhance White Sturgeon Habitat Active $70,841 10/1/2007 - 9/30/2008
50673 REL 14 SOW US Army Corps of Engineers (COE) 2002-002-00 EXP USACE-NWS 1 DIMENSIONAL SEDIMENT TRANSPORT Issued $29,000 10/1/2013 - 9/30/2017
71462 SOW Kootenai Tribe 2002-002-00 EXP ENHANCE WHITE STURGEON HABITAT Issued $7,660,737 2/1/2016 - 1/31/2017
75092 SOW Kootenai Tribe 2002-002-00 EXP ENHANCE WHITE STURGEON HABITAT Issued $7,744,905 2/1/2017 - 1/31/2018



Annual Progress Reports
Expected (since FY2004):13
Completed:8
On time:8
Status Reports
Completed:76
On time:32
Avg Days Late:17

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
9407 19398, 32183, 36935, 46032, 58178, 63775, 67793, 71462, 75092 2002-002-00 FEASABILITY OF ENHANCING WHITE STURGEON SPAWNING Kootenai Tribe 04/2002 04/2002 Issued 46 289 3 0 8 300 97.33% 0
21787 REL 8 2002-002-00 NWS: PILOT PROJECT ENHANCE WHITE STURGEON HABITAT US Army Corps of Engineers (COE) 12/2005 12/2005 Closed 9 5 0 0 0 5 100.00% 0
28424 35990, 40084 2002-002-00 EXP USGS STURGEON HABITAT STUDY US Geological Survey (USGS) 07/2006 07/2006 Closed 21 25 0 0 1 26 96.15% 0
BPA-004251 PIT Tags - Enhance White Sturgeon Habitat Bonneville Power Administration 10/2007 10/2007 Active 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Project Totals 76 319 3 0 9 331 97.28% 0


Review: Resident Fish, Regional Coordination, and Data Management Category Review

Independent Scientific Review Panel Assessment

Assessment Number: 2002-002-00-ISRP-20120215
Project: 2002-002-00 - Restore Natural Recruitment of Kootenai River White Sturgeon
Review: Resident Fish, Regional Coordination, and Data Management Category Review
Proposal Number: RESCAT-2002-002-00
Completed Date: 4/16/2012
Final Round ISRP Date: 4/3/2012
Final Round ISRP Rating: Meets Scientific Review Criteria (Qualified)
Final Round ISRP Comment:

Additional comment on the response and more detail on the qualifications described above are provided below.

I. More detail on the feasibility assessments and design activities for phase 2 and 3 projects should be presented.

A considerable amount of additional detail was provided about the process used to identify and prioritize Phase 2 and Phase 3 projects. The response relied heavily on the KRHRP Master Plan, referring to this document rather than providing information in the response. The ISRP review would have been greatly facilitated if the sponsors had summarized the pertinent parts of the plan and included them in the proposal. The response stresses the reliance on the adaptive management process and indicates that Phase 2 and Phase 3 projects will be modified based on monitoring results generated from the implementation of Phase 1 projects or the nutrient enhancement and reconnect projects. However, the time between Phase 1 and Phases 2 and 3may be too short to obtain any conclusive indication of project effectiveness. Scheduling future restoration efforts to take maximum advantage of the information being collected from existing projects should be considered.

II. A draft of the KRHRP monitoring and adaptive management plan should be provided. 

As noted above, a link to the draft plan was provided with the response. Although this document describes a generalized adaptive management approach for the project area, it fails to specify how adaptive management will be applied at the project level. Adaptive management processes for each project should be developed and linked to the framework articulated in the subbasin plan. The project level RM&E effort also should incorporate some level of biological monitoring (see qualification above). An understanding of the biological responses by the focal species to individual projects is necessary to determine the extent to which particular restoration efforts are contributing to changes in population attributes detected by the systemwide biological monitoring efforts on the Kootenai River.

 III. Ten recruitment failure hypotheses are listed in the proposal. Identify which of these hypotheses have been tested and what conclusions have been reached.

To date, the relative validity of the 10 recruitment-failure hypotheses has been investigated largely through the application of a structured expert-opinion process. This effort represents a good method of prioritizing experiments to verify the accuracy of these opinions. This should be a near-term RM&E priority.

IV. Summarize the history and results from spill tests resulting from the suit by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2003 that concerned the RPA in the 2000 Biological Opinion and the designation of Kootenai sturgeon critical habitat.

A summary of the results, to date, of the various spill tests from Libby Dam were provided in the response. This information adequately addressed the ISRP concern.

 V. There are three other projects on the Kootenai River that are closely related to this proposal. Describe how this project connects with these projects.

As noted in the qualifications, the administrative relationships among the various projects were adequately described. However, the manner in which information generated by the various projects was being synthesized and interpreted was not explained in the response or in the subbasin adaptive management plan. The ISRP suggests that a multi-project synthesis of the research and monitoring results generated to date be completed.

Additional Minor Comments

This project is entitled “Restore Natural Recruitment of Kootenai River White Sturgeon” in Taurus but also was referred to as “Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Project.” Which is the correct name? Projects should be labeled consistently and should reveal the main thrust of the project.

The ISRP was also concerned that although the project indicated that an “ecosystem approach” was being employed for this project, it seems to be very focused only on the focal species. Other native species receive very little attention in the proposal. The response to the concern about this issue provided some information about studies being conducted on cottids, mostly related to potential predation impacts on focal species. It would be useful for the project sponsors to consider if there are some other native indicator species, such as other fishes or macroinvertebrate species, that could provide an indication of an ecosystem-level response that may not be reflected by monitoring the focal species alone.

The project sponsors did a thorough job of addressing some of the ISRP comments on the original proposal. However, there are several issues that still need to be considered prior to proceeding with this project: See qualifications.

Modified by Dal Marsters on 4/16/2012 10:44:20 PM.
Qualification #1 - Qualification #1 - biological assessment should be included at the project-level
The response indicates that project-scale monitoring will be limited to assessment of the effects of the project on habitat condition. In order to determine the manner in which a specific restoration project is affecting one of the focal species, some level of biological assessment should be included at the project-level. The quality of the biological monitoring at the whole-system level appears to be very complete on the Kootenai River and should provide a good indication of how populations of the focal species are changing over time. However, the ability to associate a change in demographics with restoration efforts will require some level of understanding of the focal species' response at the project sites.
Qualification #2 - Qualification #2 - Specific adaptive management components for each project should be developed
A link to a draft of the KRH-RP subbasin adaptive management plan was provided. This document is still under development, and additional detail will be added over time. The plan provides a generalized process for structured decision making about the Kootenai River projects but does not contain enough detail to understand how adaptive management will be achieved at a project scale. Specific adaptive management components for each project should be developed and linked to the subbasin adaptive management plan. The ISRP's programmatic comments on Structured Decision Management in this report provide some additional information on this point.
Qualification #3 - Qualification #3 - white sturgeon in Kootenay Lake and the possible interaction with the river population
The hypothesis raised by the ISRP concerning a larger and relatively unknown sub-population of white sturgeon in Kootenay Lake and the possible interaction with the river population should be considered more completely.
Qualification #4 - Qualification #4 - be more aggressive about publishing the results of the research
The response provides an explanation of the administrative relationships among the various Kootenai River projects. However, an explanation of how RM&E results generated by these various projects are being integrated and interpreted was not included in the response. Some of the projects have been have underway for a number of years and have collected a considerable amount of data. A synthesis of the results obtained across all these projects relative to addressing the two key objectives listed on page 14: (Restore and maintain Kootenai River habitat conditions that support all life stages of Endangered Species Act listed Kootenai River white sturgeon; Restore and maintain Kootenai River habitat conditions that support all life stages of native Kootenai subbasin focal fish species) would be a very useful exercise. The project results are presented in the KTOI proposals largely as lists of parameters being measured. To take full advantage of the wealth of information being generated, these data should be synthesized and interpreted. The synthesis should not be a simple tabulation of data collected but a concise and comprehensive interpretation of these data that can be used to guide current and future restoration efforts on this system. This qualification has been applied to all Kootenai River projects currently being reviewed (199404900, 200200800, and 200200200). A review of the ocean research being funded by BPA was recently completed and could serve as a template for a synthesis report on the Kootenai River. The sponsors of all the Kootenai River projects should also be more aggressive about publishing the results of the research being conducted on the river and floodplain. These are very large projects with the potential to be a model for river/floodplain restoration. However, the experiences gained through the implementation of these projects cannot be effectively shared unless this information is published.
Qualification #5 - Qualification #5 - focus on the experimental evaluation
The ISRP requested some additional information regarding the extent to which the 10 recruitment failure hypotheses had been experimentally tested. The response indicated that there has been relatively little experimental testing of these hypotheses. Their relative validity has been assessed by a very highly qualified expert panel using a subjective scoring system. Expert opinion has considerable value, especially if it is applied using an organized process as was done here. However, expert opinion falls quite short of accepting or rejecting a hypothesis based on specific field data. The RM&E effort in the near term should focus on the experimental evaluation of those hypotheses deemed to be most likely limiting sturgeon recruitment.
First Round ISRP Date: 2/8/2012
First Round ISRP Rating: Response Requested
First Round ISRP Comment:

Responses requested:

  1. More detail on the feasibility assessments and design activities for phase 2 and 3 projects should be presented.
  2. A draft of the KRHRP monitoring and adaptive management plan should be provided.
  3. Ten recruitment failure hypotheses are listed in the proposal. Identify which of these hypotheses have been tested and what conclusions have been reached.
  4. Summarize the history and results from spill tests resulting from the suit by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2003 that concerned the RPA in the 2000 Biological Opinion and the designation of Kootenai sturgeon critical habitat.
  5. There are three other projects on the Kootenai River that are closely related to this proposal. Describe how this project connects with these projects.

This proposal describes a large project that is almost a program in itself. This is a worthwhile effort and has already made some progress towards meeting program objectives. However, some of the very ambitious projects included in this proposal are not described in sufficient detail to determine if they would make a significant contribution to meeting program objectives. The understanding of the factors limiting recruitment of white sturgeon is incomplete. However, the sponsors are relying extensively on the theory that the limiting factors for white sturgeon is at the eggs/larvae stage. It would be useful to provide evidence that focusing on improved survival of this life stage has contributed to recovery of other sturgeon populations around the world.

More detail on the feasibility assessments and design activities for phase 2 and 3 projects should be included. This project is very large and complicated. Essentially, the proposal is for a habitat restoration program in which projects are funded prior to the completion of planning and design. The fact that the program proposes to proceed without a clear identification of limiting factors or specific desired population objectives for the focal species suggests that a more conservative approach might be advisable. Support for projects already initiated and O&M for existing projects could be supported through this proposal with Phase 2 and 3 projects included in subsequent funding requests, once understanding of limiting factors is improved and a full project feasibility assessment and design has been completed.

The KRHRP monitoring and adaptive management plan appears to be viewed as the coordinating structure for the RME program at the subbasin scale. This plan is scheduled for completion in 2012. Review of the RME component of this proposal is not possible without the inclusion of this plan. The revised proposal should have the plan, or at least a draft, appended to the proposal.

There are three other projects on the Kootenai River that are closely related to this proposal. The connections among the four projects are never fully described in any of the four proposals.

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

This is a large project of major significance to a variety of agencies and stakeholders in a large reach of the Kootenai River. The project represents a substantial effort to restore aquatic habitat conditions in a large river that supports a number of ESA listed fish species. Most of the background information is provided in the Major Accomplishments section and is generally adequate. However, the sponsors claim that only the Kootenai River supports a naturally landlocked population of white sturgeon is incorrect. The Nechako River in BC has a non-anadromous population and several relevant papers on this stock were not cited (e.g., McAdam et al. 2005; McAdam et al. 2011). It might be instructive for the sponsors to review literature from the Nechako.

OBJ-1: “Restore and maintain Kootenai River habitat conditions that support all life stages of Endangered Species Act listed Kootenai River white sturgeon” and OBJ-2: “Restore and maintain Kootenai River habitat conditions that support all life stages of native Kootenai subbasin focal fish species” are really stated as general rather than quantitative objectives. The objectives should be specific and measurable. Linking the objectives with the deliverables partially addresses this concern. Nonetheless, it would be helpful if the objectives were more quantitative and included measures of incremental success. Given that the required habitat conditions needed to recover and support white sturgeon are not completely known, these objectives should include both habitat and demographic targets and be closely linked to the RME effort associated with this project so objectives can be amended as knowledge improves.

In addition, the objectives appear to concentrate heavily on the focal species to the exclusion of others. This approach is not ecosystem restoration. It would be helpful to discuss how the restoration actions proposed also will benefit burbot, salmonids and other species such as cottids, which are not ESA listed or harvested but are important for trophodynamics and predation (see below; McAdam 2011). A possible approach would be the application of trophic models to assess the extent to which the bioenergetics needs of focal species will be met by the various measures being taken to improve food supply (e.g., Bevelhimer 2002; van Poorten and McAdam 2010). This comment also applies to the Ball Creek and Floodplain reconnection projects.

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

This project has a relatively long history, and the proposal includes a very good review of the ecological and legal issues around Kootenai white sturgeon. The sponsors have provided a good description of the rather tortuous path they have followed in order to develop the Master Plan (1997-2010). The ISRP appreciated the on-line access to the extensive library of project documents although some (e.g., Kynard et al. 2010) could not be downloaded completely. The vast majority of the literature is grey, however.

Several habitat restoration projects have already been implemented on the Kootenai, but there was little evidence in the proposal that the response of the focal species to these projects has been assessed. The sponsors did state, “Since 2005 the Tribe, in response to Recovery Team guidance, has released either fertilized eggs or free-embryos into reaches of the Kootenai River that have more suitable rocky substrates. The releases have ranged from 400,000 to over one million fertilized eggs or free-embryos annually. To date these experimental releases have not produced a detected increase in captured unmarked juvenile Kootenai sturgeon (Rust 2010).” It would be helpful to put these findings in the context of the recent laboratory experiments reported by Kynard et al (2010) (cited in the document) and McAdam (2011). The propensity of larvae to drift, as well as predation by cottids, was clearly related to substrate size; when gravel and cobble was provided the larvae hid and had lower mortality. Although subject to the usual caveats of lab work, these results have important implications for sturgeon habitat restoration in the Kootenai River. First, the proposal to create spawning substrate in the meander and other reaches should carefully consider bed load movement of mud and sand and the possibility that desirable substrate will be rapidly covered. Second, ecosystem restoration by nutrient addition and other methods could result in increased cottid populations which could increase predation pressure.

In their response to the ISRP’s review of their (STEP) sturgeon and burbot hatchery proposal the sponsors state, “Biological responses to the collective measures associated with the Tribe’s different habitat restoration and nutrient projects is a key component of the program-wide adaptive management approach currently under development. The extent to which sturgeon may benefit from these actions is unknown, but it is likely that improved ecosystem function, habitat complexity, and productivity could be beneficial” (see ISRP 2010-27). Because sturgeon live a very long time, the monitoring work will have to go on at the decade scale in order to assess fish response.

The adaptive management process for the Kootenai River projects is to be described in a plan to be completed in 2012. Because this plan was not included with the proposal, it is difficult to judge the adequacy of the adaptive management process. In addition, the description of the organizational structure intended to implement adaptive management was unclear. According to the proposal there are five teams involved in adaptive management (PeerReviewer Advisory Team [PRAT]; Modeling Review Team; Core Adaptive Management Team [CAMT]: Co-manager and Agency Review Team [CMART]: Kootenai Habitat Policy Team). It would be helpful to include a description of how these groups interact and decide priorities as they relate to RME.

ISRP Retrospective Evaluation of Results

Information on the results of previous projects and studies was provided in the proposal and links to other documents providing this information was provided. However, additional focus should be placed on developing syntheses from information that has been collected to date. These syntheses would be valuable for the formulation of testable hypotheses/relationships that will guide the generation information useful for informing managers and guiding future RME efforts. More extensive application of predictive models also may help in this regard.

3. Project Relationships, Emerging Limiting Factors, and Tailored Questions for Type of Work (hatchery, RME, tagging)

There are three other projects on the Kootenai River that are closely related to this proposal. The connections among the four projects are never fully described in any of the four proposals. There does not appear to be an overarching theme that knits these projects together in a unified strategic approach to restoration of this section of the Kootenai River. The only described process that would encourage coordination are meetings of the whole group working on these projects, that is biologists, engineers, and technical staff of all four projects. The proposals for these four projects seem to suggest disparate objectives for these meetings. For example, the nutrient addition project (199404900) proposal states "Project results will be summarized and presented at an annual meeting of the International Kootenai/y River Ecosystem Restoration Team (IKERT). This multidisciplinary group is comprised of project managers, scientists, and academicians who provide expertise, insight, guidance and adaptive management direction for the project." whereas the present proposal indicates that IKERT is an outreach team, implying less direct involvement with technical direction of the project. The extent to which these meetings achieve inter-project coordination was not discussed, and it appears that a more formal process to achieve coordination would be beneficial. A much more complete discussion of the relationship, interactions, etc. among these projects should have been included in all of the proposals dealing with the section of the Kootenai River in Idaho. 

A list of presumed limiting factors for white sturgeon is provided in the proposal. Identification of these limiting factors appears to be partially founded on research that has been conducted in the project area on this species and on best professional judgment. The proposal indicates that the critical limiting factor for sturgeon habitat is lack of appropriate spawning habitat, specifically, hard substrate on which fertilized eggs can attach. It is not clear that the information provided in the proposal supports this contention. Some of the research on sturgeon survival seems to suggest that lack of recruitment may be more influenced by mortality occurring after hatching rather than failure of the eggs to hatch. Very few fish are produced by the release of large numbers of fertilized eggs and free embryos into the river. In contrast, yearling sturgeon released to the river survive at a very high rate. This observation suggests a problem with habitat for very young fish may have a greater influence on recruitment than the lack of substrate for egg attachment. If the assumption is that good habitat for spawning also represents good habitat for young sturgeon, this point was not addressed or supported in the proposal. The proposal does acknowledge that there appears to be a survival bottleneck during the early rearing period and suggests that it may be due to reduced biological productivity in the river owing to sequestration of nutrients upstream, behind Libby Dam. No information is provided to verify that low productivity is the cause of this survival bottleneck. In fact, the high survival of juvenile sturgeon after age 1 suggests that sufficient food is available to support these fish; why not larvae and fry?

The RME program for this project does not appear to be monitoring nutrient levels, primary production, or invertebrate production in the river. The program that is monitoring these factors (199404900) is located in the Canyon Reach where sturgeon spawning and post larvae habitat is not being monitored. This type of information, in conjunction with data on the dietary habits of the young sturgeon, would be required to establish that the assumption that lack of food is causing high mortality of young sturgeon is correct. Some of this information is being collected as part of the Kootenai nutrient addition project, but the linkages between these projects is not described. Additional work on the factors limiting sturgeon recruitment is clearly needed and should be a focus of the RME effort associated with this project. 

Many of the proposed habitat actions are focused more broadly on restoring the ecological health of the project reach rather than specifically addressing factors thought to impact sturgeon. Actions to restore bank stability, riparian vegetation, wetland habitats, etc. are all likely to make contributions to improved aquatic habitat. But it is difficult to determine whether or not these planned projects are in the most advantageous location to affect responses by the focal species. Some additional information on the factors limiting the productivity of burbot and the various salmonid species that are intended to benefit from this project could have helped to verify that the proposed actions are located in an appropriate location to benefit these fishes.

The effects of non-natives species, especially brown trout and Didymo, deserve additional consideration.

4. Deliverables, Work Elements, Metrics, and Methods

This proposal covers a large number of very ambitious, and expensive, work elements and deliverables. Elements related to the completion and maintenance of project elements that have already been initiated or completed are described in sufficient detail. But the activities associated with the projects slated for phases 2 and 3 would have benefited from a more thorough discussion of what will be required to move these projects to execution. A considerable amount of general engineering detail is provided in the proposal, especially regarding the location of specific project elements. However, description of these phase 2 and 3 projects indicates that feasibility assessment and design have yet to be completed. It is not clear what the feasibility assessment entails. Is this primarily obtaining landowner cooperation and environmental permits? Or is there still some uncertainty that the projects can be executed as designed? Technical review of these proposed projects is difficult without understanding what must be accomplished prior to beginning construction. It is also difficult to understand how accurate estimates of project costs could be generated prior to the completion of the feasibility assessment and project design. Submitting each project as an individual proposal, once the planning, design, and feasibility steps have been completed might be more efficient for moving projects in this program through the review process.

Several other statements in the proposal require clarification. 

  • The sponsors state that they will “complete a feasibility study, 35% design, and final design to place suitable substrate at select locations in the Shorty’s Island/Meander Reach area of the Kootenai River where white sturgeon are currently spawning.” It would be helpful to obtain information on how impacts to the existing spawning substrate will be avoided during the execution of construction for this project. 

  • The proposal further states, “Specifically, the height, location and composition of the substrate beds is designed to avoid inundation by sand dunes on the river bottom, sedimentation during the spawning season, or infilling of interstitial spaces by sediments.” It would be useful to obtain further information on how reliable the models are that were used in developing this design.

  • The sponsors state, “This deliverable includes implementation of approximately 12 habitat restoration projects in the braided and straight reaches which are designed to provide specific ecological benefits to Kootenai sturgeon.” It is not clear why so much emphasis is placed on riparian habitat when the benefits of riparian conditions to sturgeon rearing has been questioned (McAdam et al 2005). If the riparian components of this project are intended to primarily benefit species other than sturgeon, this fact should have been discussed in the proposal.

  • The proposal indicates that in work element P3-2: “Implement Phase 3 projects in the meander reaches.” However, planning for this project element is incomplete, so implementation appears to be premature. 

  • The proposal indicates that the development and calibration model being used to support the engineering designs for the substrate placement at Shorty’s Reach is only 23% complete. Is it premature to rely on this tool for the design of a major engineering project?

The sponsors should be complimented for their successful outreach and educational efforts. However, if projects start to unravel because of unexpected changes that may affect ecosystem recovery, for example outlier low or high flows, working relationships between parties may be strained and an adaptive management plan that allows for contingency planning is crucial.

4a. Specific comments on protocols and methods described in MonitoringMethods.org

The details on the overall RME program for the suite of projects planned for the Kootenai River will apparently be provided in an adaptive management plan currently under development. The information provided in the proposal was not sufficiently detailed to enable review. Assessment of the RME effort for this project, therefore, should occur once the adaptive management plan is complete.

Several monitoring efforts related to this project were included in the proposal. Post-project implementation of habitat conditions is planned and links are provided to some of the monitoring methods proposed for use in this effort. However, the descriptions of the methods at this site were often incomplete.

There was no indication in the proposal that assessments of water quality and biological productivity of the river were to be monitored. As noted above, the assumption that sequestration of nutrients above Libby Dam is limiting productivity of white sturgeon has not been well documented, at least based on the information provided in the proposal. As noted earlier, some monitoring and research relevant to this project may be occurring as a part of the nutrient enhancement effort being conducted by the tribe, but insufficient information about RME associated with the nutrient project was provided in this proposal (nor were project linkages adequately described). In addition, the monitoring and evaluation design does not seem to have a sound statistical framework. 

There was no discussion about toxic compounds in the river and what influence they may be having on the health of this ecosystem. However, the proposal did indicate that there were industrial sites adjacent to the river that may be contaminated and that the Bonner’s Ferry waste water treatment plant discharges to the river within the study reach. These factors suggest that toxic chemicals in the river could be an issue and this should be investigated as a part of the monitoring program. The proposal indicated that procedures for monitoring at scales larger than the individual project will be included in the subbasin-scale adaptive management plan. As noted above, this plan should be reviewed as part of this proposal.

The discussion of critical uncertainties research in the proposal states: “This deliverable is to conduct limited critical uncertainties research that is necessary to identify and/or refine design criteria for the KRHRP Phase 2 or 3 projects or otherwise specifically support design or implementation of the projects.” and is conducted to “support Obj 2 i.e. Restore and maintain Kootenai River habitat conditions that support all life stages of native Kootenai subbasin focal fish species (i.e., all life stages of burbot, kokanee, redband trout, westslope cutthroat trout, and bull trout.” This is perhaps the most important deliverable for adaptive management, but emphasis on it seems to be limited. Surprisingly, the contention that survival of eggs and early fry is a key limiting factor for sturgeon recruitment did not seem to be reflected in the priorities of the RME program. Will additional early life history research be included as part of the monitoring effort? Using fin ray geochemistry to assess historical white sturgeon life history movements in the Kootenai River is indicated as a pilot study under critical uncertainties. The ISRP/ISAB expressed concern about the reliability of this technique in their recent tagging report. The project sponsors should consider these concerns prior to initiating this pilot study.

References

 McAdam, S.O.2011 Effects of substrate condition on habitat use and survival by white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) larvae and potential implication for recruitment Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 68: 812–822

 McAdam, S.O., Walters, C.J., and Nistor, C. 2005. Linkages between white sturgeon recruitment and altered bed substrates in the Nechako River, Canada. Trans. Am. Fish. Soc. 134(6): 1448-1456.

 Bevelheimer, M.S. 2002. A bioenergetics model for white sturgeon Acipenser transmontanus: assessing differences in growth and reproduction among Snake River reaches. J Appl Ichthyol. 18:550-6.

 van Poorten BT, McAdam SO. 2010. Estimating differences in growth and metabolism in two spatially segregated groups of Columbia River white sturgeon using a field-based bioenergetics model. Open Fish Sci J 3:132-141.

Modified by Dal Marsters on 4/16/2012 10:43:55 PM.

Modified by Dal Marsters on 4/16/2012 10:44:20 PM.
Documentation Links:
  • Proponent Response (3/7/2012)

Council Recommendation

Assessment Number: 2002-002-00-NPCC-20130807
Project: 2002-002-00 - Restore Natural Recruitment of Kootenai River White Sturgeon
Review: Resident Fish, Regional Coordination, and Data Management Category Review
Proposal: RESCAT-2002-002-00
Proposal State: Pending BPA Response
Approved Date: 2/26/2014
Recommendation: Implement with Conditions
Comments: Implement with condition through 2017. Sponsors to develop a synthesis report for Kootenai River projects (1988-065-00, 1994-049-00, 2002-002-00, 2002-008-00, 2002-011-00) as described by the ISRP. By the end of calendar year 2012, sponsor to submit timeline and plan to Council for the development of the synthesis report. Also refer to the Resident Fish Review and Recommendations for White Sturgeon in Part 2.
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review

Legal Assessment (In-Lieu)

Assessment Number: 2002-002-00-INLIEU-20090521
Project Number: 2002-002-00
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 10/6/2006
In Lieu Rating: Problems May Exist
Cost Share Rating: 1 - Appears reasonable
Comment: Multiple activities to address low recruitment levels of K white river sturgeon; other entities authorized/required, but cost share appears reasonable if confirmed.

Capital Assessment

Assessment Number: 2002-002-00-CAPITAL-20090618
Project Number: 2002-002-00
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 2/27/2007
Capital Rating: Does Not Qualify for Capital Funding
Capital Asset Category: None
Comment: None

Independent Scientific Review Panel Assessment

Assessment Number: 2002-002-00-ISRP-20060831
Project: 2002-002-00 - Restore Natural Recruitment of Kootenai River White Sturgeon
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 8/31/2006
Final Round ISRP Date: None
Final Round ISRP Rating: Meets Scientific Review Criteria
Final Round ISRP Comment:
This was a generally well-prepared proposal for a multitude of simultaneous on-the-ground habitat restoration work, research, modeling, and data assessment in the Kootenai River where white sturgeon have reproduced historically, but now are unsuccessful at producing recruits (even though they spawn). The premise is that multiple remedial approaches are necessary because the reason(s) for recruitment failures is still uncertain and the population is in precipitous decline. The ISRP questioned the strategy of concurrently pursuing multiple (very expensive) directions, although agreeing with the ultimate desirability of restoring suitable spawning and rearing habitat. Doing all these efforts at once seemed to make it more difficult to tell what actions were successful and what ones were not, while managers need to know which actions were effective in order to sustain long-term habitat and population management. The ISRP initially recommended that the habitat modifications be funded in stages, with periodic independent reviews of syntheses of the work to date and identification of major findings, before committing to modest scale engineered habitat modification. The sponsors believe otherwise, and their response clearly lays out their arguments.

The sponsors provided a very thorough and persuasive response. They defended the application and testing of multiple, nearly simultaneous approaches to improve sturgeon recruitment with logical arguments. Each of the ISRP's reservations was countered with detailed evidence supporting the sponsors' approach. In the case of the proposed spawning channel, the ISRP misunderstood its intended use (it is a research tool to learn about egg and larval habitats and survival and not a production facility). The parts of the proposal that the ISRP found not well justified were more fully explained. The entire response was informative without being overly defensive. The response was fully adequate, persuasive, and commendable. It is an expensive project but not out of line with the tenuous state of the sturgeon population in the Kootenai.

The background of the proposal is well written and provides a comprehensive summary of the status of efforts to understand the factors limiting reproduction and/or recruitment of white sturgeon in the Kootenai River. The sponsors identify that the project is consistent with the Kootenai Subbasin plan, Council's Fish and Wildlife Program, and various other regional plans. The proposal provides a good narrative on specific plans and programs with a table of specific recovery plan items. A good and very helpful table links most of the projects. There is thorough presentation of the relationship of this project to others in the subbasin and in nearby subbasins (Lake Roosevelt). A succinct summary of the project history is provided, including reports, papers, and presentations of results.

The primary objective is to restore natural recruitment, as emphasized in the response. Determining the requirements for natural recruitment through research is secondary. Establishing which of the multiple remedial actions they propose was most successful can occur later. The conservation aquaculture program is viewed as a necessary stopgap measure until natural recruitment is restored. The strategy and methods are generally adequate. For several of their work elements (i.e., #2) they have a good subsection "Expected outputs and how they will be measured." There were questions about other tasks that were adequately resolved in the response. For most work elements there are identified metrics to evaluate the habitat remediation experiments. The sponsors have demonstrated excellent facilities, equipment, and personnel. There are excellent communication plans and the project sponsors have a record of producing annual reports, peer-reviewed publications, and presentations.
Documentation Links:

Council Recommendation

Assessment Number: 2002-002-00-NPCC-20090924
Project: 2002-002-00 - Restore Natural Recruitment of Kootenai River White Sturgeon
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Approved Date: 10/23/2006
Recommendation: Fund
Comments: The Mountain Columbia oversight group (OG) requests that BPA allow flexibility between years and manage this as a three-year, eight-million-dollar budget (i.e. allowing of rescheduling of funds from one year to the next) because the rate and pace of implementation is uncertain and will be determined through pilot project implementation and recovery team decisions. We made substantial budget reductions in this project and so if there is a need for funding beyond the eight-million-dollar level the OG also asks that the project sponsor has the ability to request funds through the within-year process.

Project Relationships: None

Name Role Organization
Sue Ireland Project Lead Kootenai Tribe
Virgil Watts III Project Manager Bonneville Power Administration
John Barco III (Inactive) Interested Party Bonneville Power Administration
Paul Krueger (Inactive) Supervisor Bonneville Power Administration
Shawn Young Technical Contact Kootenai Tribe
Edna Runyan Administrative Contact Kootenai Tribe
Alison Squier (Inactive) Interested Party Kootenai Tribe
Ted Gresh Env. Compliance Lead Bonneville Power Administration
Sean Welch Interested Party Bonneville Power Administration