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2002 Index Watershed Salmon Recovery Monitoring Report

Category: Fish/Shellfish Research and Management - Fish/Shellfish Research

Date Published: December 2002

Number of Pages: 56

Author(s): Dave Seiler, Greg Volkhardt, Andrew Murdoch, Shane Hawkins, and Howard Fuss: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Bill Ehinger: Washington Department of Ecology

DESCRIPTION:
Monitoring of all components except habitat began in 2000 and 2001 in five index watersheds: Deschutes River and Big Beef Creek in Puget Sound; Bingham Creek on the Washington Coast; and Cedar Creek and Chiwawa River in the Columbia Basin. This report describes the results of monitoring that occurred during the second year of the project; between October 2001 and September 2002. It also describes the results of first year smolt monitoring under the index watershed monitoring program.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

Beginning in the early 1990s, many salmon, steelhead, and trout/char stocks were listed or are under consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). In response to these listings, federal, state, local, and tribal governments committed substantial resources to planning and implementing the recovery of depleted salmonid stocks. It is recognized that an important component of salmon recovery and key to de-listing salmonid populations is a credible monitoring and adaptive management program.

In 1999, the Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Ecology (ECY) developed an approach for index watershed monitoring that involved measuring the production of wild downstream migrating juvenile salmon (smolts), habitat, water quality, stream flow, and macro-invertebrate assemblages in selected watersheds. Broad ranging goals included evaluating factors that influence wild salmon production, human activities and natural processes that modify those factors, and monitoring the effects of restoration activities on salmon production and the aquatic environment. To begin achievement of these goals, monitoring of all components except habitat began in 2000 and 2001 in five index watersheds: Deschutes River and Big Beef Creek in Puget Sound; Bingham Creek on the Washington Coast; and Cedar Creek and Chiwawa River in the Columbia Basin. This report describes the results of monitoring that occurred during the second year of the project; between October 2001 and September 2002. It also describes the results of first year smolt monitoring under the index watershed monitoring program.

Wild salmon freshwater production estimates were made for all five index watersheds in 2001 and 2002. In the Deschutes River, we estimated the production of 892 coho, 104 steelhead, and 23 cutthroat smolts in 2001. Wild salmonid production in 2002 was higher, with an estimated 60,000 coho, 65 steelhead, and 31 cutthroat smolts migrating from the basin. Coho estimates are preliminary in both years. In Big Beef Creek, we estimated the wild production of 21,855 coho, 1,932 steelhead, and 1,024 cutthroat in 2001 and 23,304 coho, 2,191 steelhead, and 1,589 cutthroat in 2002. In Bingham Creek, we estimated that 45,000 and 29,813 wild coho, 835 and 495 wild steelhead, and 133 and 80 wild cutthroat were produced in 2001 and 2002, respectively. Estimates for Columbia River tributaries include 24,138 and 31,909 wild coho, 3,565 and 2,225 wild steelhead, and 2,337 and 3,903 wild cutthroat produced in Cedar Creek in 2001 and 2002 respectively. In the Chiwawa River, we estimated wild spring chinook smolt production at 12,431 for the 1999 brood (spring 2001 trapping) and 37,271 for the 2000 brood (spring 2002 trapping). Neither of these estimates included the migrations of sub-yearling spring chinook that occur in the fall period prior to the smolt out-migration. Some of these fall-migrating sub-yearlings rear to smolt size downstream of the trap and contribute to the adult spring chinook escapement into the Chiwawa River.

Temperature, stream flow, water quality monitoring, and macro-invertebrate sampling occurred in all five index watersheds in 2001/02. Water quality parameters measured included turbidity, total suspended solids, fecal coliform bacteria, ammonia-N, nitrate+nitrite-N, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and soluble reactive phosphorus (orthophosphate). Hardness and dissolved metals (copper and zinc) were analyzed at each site for several months when sampling was initiated, but were discontinued when the concentrations were found to be low. Field measurements included dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, and conductivity. Many of these measures were folded into a Water Quality Index (WQI). Sampling of benthic macro-invertebrates was conducted each fall.

The WQI for the Deschutes River in 2002 was relatively low, 69, due to high fecal coliform bacteria, nutrient concentrations, and suspended solids and turbidity. One low pH and one high fecal coliform sample were outside state standards for the Deschutes River. Water temperatures exceeded standards on 27 and 44 days, depending on the monitoring site. In Big Beef Creek, parameters were within standards except for two low pH readings and one high fecal coliform count. Water temperature at the outlet of Lake Symington exceeded temperature standards 73 days in 2002, reflecting the impact of the reservoir on temperature. Although not fully analyzed, temperatures at other stations are substantially lower. The WQI on Big Beef Creek was 73 in 2002, due to high total phosphorus, suspended solids, and turbidity values on two occasions. The WQI for Bingham Creek was 84 in 2002. The only problems measured on this stream were three low (<6.5) pH values. The WQI for Cedar Creek was 81 in 2002. Conditions were impaired by high fecal coliforms, low pH, and high water temperatures that exceeded standards on 64, 10, and 25 days depending on the sampling station. The only violations of water quality standards noted for the Chiwawa River were for one low pH and one high pH. Temperatures were within standards. The WQI was only 54 in 2002 due to elevated suspended solids, turbidity, and total phosphorus.

Field work conducted in 2001/02 represents the second year of monitoring under the joint WDFW/ECY Index Watershed Monitoring Program. Wild salmon production monitoring has occurred over a much longer period of time in these basins, ranging from 5 years in Cedar Creek to 25 years in Big Beef Creek. By measuring the annual production of juvenile salmon and environmental parameters across the basin, the focus of this project is at the watershed scale. This is much broader than the site scale that most restoration projects are focused. Therefore, this monitoring program evaluates changes in fish production and environmental conditions well, but is unable to evaluate the benefits from either a single project or a suite of land-use management or regulatory actions. Instead, it evaluates the cumulative effects of all restoration projects on the measured parameters given the background of human land use and natural stochastic events (e.g., storms, windthrow, etcetera). At the end of 2002, a number of SRFB-funded recovery projects have occurred in the index watersheds: 2 in the Deschutes River; 4 in Big Beef Creek; 7 in Cedar Creek; and none in Bingham Creek or the Chiwawa River. All of these projects are expected to increase or maintain salmonid production in the index watersheds.

Over the two years that index watershed monitoring has been conducted, three major project limitations were noted: 1) the project incorporates a passive approach to monitoring that fails to test specific solutions to salmon recovery in each basin; 2) funding limitations resulted in the loss of the important habitat assessment/monitoring component from the project; and 3) the lack of control and treatment streams limits the project’s ability to separate change associated with salmon recovery activities from natural variability. Recommendations to address these limitations focus on transitioning the Index Watershed Monitoring program into a pilot Intensive Watershed Monitoring program, which follows designs from the Statewide Comprehensive Monitoring Strategy and the Forest and Fish Monitoring and Design Team Report. A separate proposal will be completed in early 2003 which describes this transition in detail.