Advances in Watershed Restoration Principles and Practices

Many watersheds across the United States are in a degraded state, requiring restoration to improve the physical and ecological functions needed to support resilient, robust, and connected fish populations at larger spatial scales. Watershed restoration is a large endeavor occurring at all organizational levels: community, local, state, tribal, and federal. The science of watershed restoration has progressed steadily over the past 50 years; resulting in various practices and techniques, and a growing body of case studies from which to learn and adapt. In 1997, a landmark publication titled Watershed Restoration: Principles and Practices (Williams, J.E., C.A. Wood, and M.P. Dombeck, editors; AFS publication) became available to help guide watershed restoration science and practice. In this symposium, we will explore recent research and emerging topics that update and augment the information in Watershed Restoration. Presenters will address ethical, social, and ecological principles of watershed restoration at various temporal and spatial scales under six themes: watershed assessment, effective stakeholder engagement, aquatic connectivity, restoration of physical and ecological processes, native and non-native species, and adaptive management. A panel will discuss a vision for watershed restoration science and practice in the 21st Century and explore the possibility for an updated book.

8:00AM A Systematic Framework and Spatial Optimization for Conservation and Restoration in Southeastern Alaska
  David Albert
The Coastal Forests and Mountains Ecoregion Assessment, developed by The Nature Conservancy and Audubon Alaska, identified watersheds with the highest ecological values for conservation and restoration planning in southeastern Alaska. We developed GIS data on a suite of ecological indicators, characterized how these values had changed over time, and evaluated levels of protection under current management. Ecological indicators included large-tree forests on floodplain, upland and karst landforms, freshwater habitat for salmon, summer habitat for brown and black bear, winter habitat for Sitka black-tail deer, nesting habitat for marbled murrelet, and estuarine emergent vegetation. We used the spatial optimization tool MARXAN to identify areas that contain the highest concentrations of these values within the smallest total area, both at the watershed and sub-watershed scale, and over a range of goals and suitability factors. The result of this assessment was an Integrated Conservation Framework, that describes opportunities for conservation of high-value intact watersheds, restoration in high-value modified watersheds, and sustainable timber supply in areas with existing roads and infrastructure. This application of MARXAN can be used to optimize and prioritize conservation and restoration planning in a wide variety of contexts and spatial scales.
8:20AM Responding to Climate Change Impacts in Forested Watershed Management
  Danielle Shannon
We rely on forests to capture, store, filter, and release clean cold water to our streams and lakes. Our forested watersheds and the vitality of our aquatic communities have been shaped by the unique combination of landscape, climate, and land-use. Over the next several decades, projected climate change will challenge the long-term stability of our forests and the quality and quantity of water resources. Given these challenges, it is important for forest and conservation organizations to be forward looking, flexible and responsive to ongoing changes and to consider site-specific vulnerabilities, risks, opportunities, and ways to adapt to climate change. This presentation will review tools, resources and partnerships developed by the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, U.S. Forest Service, and USDA Northern Forests Climate Hub with a specific focus on adaptation tools relevant to water resources and forest management in the Midwest and Northeast while also providing highlights of real-world stories of land managers who are intentionally incorporating climate change considerations into resource management and conservation to adapt to this challenge.
8:40AM A Successful Model for Multi-Level Stakeholder Engagement in Watershed Restoration: The Drinking Water Providers Partnership
  James Capurso
The Drinking Water Providers Partnership (DWPP) forms ties between municipal water providers and restoration practitioners to protect and restore municipal watersheds, providing clean and inexpensive water to communities in Oregon and Washington, USA. The DWPP partners include federal and state agencies and nongovernmental organizations. The goal of the partnership is to protect and improve water quality through meaningful restoration and outreach within their watersheds. Potential projects include aquatic organism passage, road decommissioning, stream and floodplain restoration, livestock fencing, riparian vegetation management, and public outreach. DWPP encourages the formation of local grassroots partnerships between restoration practitioners and water providers and provides support for project accomplishments. In its fourth year, the DWPP is increasing in regionwide popularity and effectiveness. With an average annual budget of approximately $600,000 US Dollars, the DWPP funds 11 to 14 projects per year. USFS funds generally get matched 1: 2-3 in this partnership. In addition to supporting grassroots partnerships, the DWPP led several workshops for water providers and restoration practitioners in 2018, facilitating communication and directing them to further conservation resources. Interest in this partnership is increasing, with other U.S. regions expressing interest in emulating the model.
9:00AM 20 Years of Investment in Healthy Watersheds – Local Capacity Lessons Learned
  Meta Loftsgaarden, Courtney Shaff
For 20 years, Oregon has dedicated 7.5% of state lottery revenues to improve native fish and wildlife habitat and water quality. A portion of this investment has been used to support local watershed councils and soil and water conservation districts to implement this important work on the ground. These local organizations are critical to the success of conservation efforts across Oregon. Their local presence, combined with their capacity to connect with landowners, lead project design and implementation, and monitor project success, has allowed Oregon to address increasingly complex habitat challenges at scale in key areas across the state. This presentation will highlight lessons learned from Oregon’s experiment of providing capacity investments over the last 20 years and new approaches the state is testing based on those lessons.
9:20AM A Restored Stream in the Making: Lower Clear Creek Restoration Partnerships, Planning, Action, and Monitoring.
  Tricia Bratcher
Clear Creek is a tributary to the upper Sacramento River, has Central Valley Project dam (Whiskeytown), and is home to a diverse assemblage of fish and wildlife species, including special status fish species (spring-run Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), Central Valley Steelhead (O. mykiss), and several bird species. The Clear Creek Technical Team (CCTT) began meeting in 1995 to plan, implement, and monitor restoration projects, using a multi-disciplinary restoration approach and incorporating passive adaptive management as well as a watershed-based approach. A CCTT member will share their experiences and the results of over 23 years of partnership building, planning, comprehensive restoration, and monitoring actions. These actions have and are being implemented to address the key limiting factors for fish on Lower Clear Creek, a regulated stream, including: 1) flow and temperature, 2) blockage of access to good habitat by dams, 3) lack of gravel recruitment; 4) channel degradation, 5) input of fine sediments from historic and current land uses, and 6) stranding of juveniles. Other watershed-level processes and/or land actions include timber harvest and fire management. The restoration model for Lower Clear Creek is primarily ecosystem-based but many of the individual projects are specific to the primary target species, Chinook salmon.
09:40AM Break
1:10PM Leveraging Partnerships and Citizen Science to Restore Aquatic Connectivity in Eastern Watersheds
  Craig Roghair, Jacob Lemon, Jessica Graham, Kathleen Hoenke
Identification and remediation of barriers to the movement of aquatic biota in high-priority watersheds are key components to watershed-level restoration. While large barriers such as dams are quite evident, smaller barriers such as road-stream crossing structures often require significant effort to inventory and assess. A complete census of road-stream crossings can be difficult given the high number of crossings and the mixed land ownership in many eastern watersheds. The wide variety of crossing structure types and configurations presents additional challenges to inventory teams. The U.S. Forest Service, Trout Unlimited, and the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership recently began sharing inventory techniques, data management approaches, and project prioritization tools in an effort to improve efficiency and reduce redundancy among our respective aquatic passage programs in the eastern U.S. In 2019, we began to train and deploy teams of Trout Unlimited volunteers in NC and VA to assess crossings in watersheds of shared interest. Here, we share the results of our initial efforts in the form of success stories and lessons learned.
1:30PM Steam Simulation Design to Restore Aquatic Connectivity at Road-Stream Crossings
  Nathaniel Gillespie, Bob Gubernick, Dan Cenderelli, Mark Weinhold, Craig Roghair
In the context of watershed restoration, restoring aquatic connectivity has become a primary conservation management strategy for fish and other aquatic organisms. The stream simulation design approach is the USDA Forest Service’s preferred methodology for restoring aquatic organism passage at road-stream crossings. Many partnering agencies, non-profit organizations and stakeholders have embraced this approach because of its ecological benefits and its socioeconomic benefits linked to increased flood resiliency. The stream simulation design approach is employed at hundreds of sites annually, which are often prioritized through a mix of watershed, target population and community factors. An increasing recognition of the pervasive impact of conventionally-designed road-stream crossings on watershed health and flood resilience has led concerned groups to develop a variety of partners to assess, prioritize, design, fund and implement stream simulation designs. A review of relevant policy challenges to greater implementation of stream simulation designs will be discussed, as well as several case studies of watershed restoration success.
1:50PM Effects of Tide Gates on Juvenile Coho Salmon Passage and Estuarine Habitat Use
  Guillermo R. Giannico, Arthur Bass, Jon Souder
Tide gates are one-way doors integrated into dikes to prevent saltwater flooding and allow freshwater drainage into estuaries during low tides. These structures act as barriers to fish. We installed stationary passive integrated transponder (PIT) antennas in two streams: one with a top-hinged gate and one without gate; and monitored coho salmon, Oncorhynchus kisutch, smolt passage. Objectives were to: 1) describe smolt movements in ungated estuarine channel, 2) compare migration rate and behavior of smolts in ungated channel with those in channel with tide gate, and 3) identify tide gate conditions associated with smolt passage. We found that smolt travel time through upper estuary was negatively correlated with fork length, and in the ungated channel half of individuals returned upstream one or more times. Smolt downstream migration peaked at sunset and coincided with flood tides. In gated channel, smolt movement was predominantly towards estuary (only 4% passed upstream) and occurred at greater gate angles and earlier in the day. Top-hinged gates interfere with daily movements of coho salmon smolts in upper estuaries and alter their migration timing. This study is analyzed in the context of a recent systematic review of tide gate related project reports.
2:10PM Restoring Depositional Valley Types to Stage 0 in the Pacific Northwest
  Paul Powers
Stream restoration is often based on the creation or recreation of a single‐thread, meandering channel with a bankfull discharge return period of 1.5 or 2-years. The channel is designed to achieve “sediment‐balance”, that is a condition in which the sediment supplied from upstream and local sources is transported downstream (Lane’s balance). This is appropriate in ‘sediment transport or transfer’ valley types, but not in depositional valley types, which are net sediment sinks. There is now overwhelming geologic, historical, empirical and theoretical evidence that natural, sediment sink reaches are characterized by multi-threaded channels that are fully connected to wetland-floodplain complexes. Within the Pacific Northwest Region (PNW) of the Forest Service (USFS), restoration practitioners have been implementing a process-based, unconfined valley restoration approach referred to as “Stage 0”. This restoration methodology uses historic valley surfaces and geomorphic controls, referred to as the Geomorphic Grade Line (GGL), as the target elevation of both the low flow shallow groundwater elevation and base flow wetted area (Powers et al. 2018). The primary goals of Stage 0 design are maximum floodplain connectivity at all discharge levels and the ability of the river valley to adjust and shape itself in response to watershed scale drivers.
2:30PM Building Watershed-Scale Restoration through Dam Removal
  Brian Graber
Twenty years ago, the Edwards Dam was removed from the Kennebec River in Maine. As one of the first dams removed from a mainstem river, the project served as a catalyst to dramatically grow the rate of dam removals. Since Edwards, 1,172 dams have been removed around the United States. Along with reopening aquatic connectivity, these projects have improved water quality, riverine habitat, and sediment dynamics. However, dam removals are complex to engineer, challenging to regulate, and often face significant local resistance. Due to this complexity, removing more than one thousand dams has required a systematic approach to create the conditions to increase the pace of dam removals. This approach has helped several states build dam removal programs, and includes addressing the factors that limit project implementation at scale, such as fostering state-level leadership; increasing funding sources; clarifying regulatory processes; enhancing incentives for dam owners; training project managers; and building momentum by completing projects. We will also explore different mechanisms to generate watershed-scale dam removal efforts where multiple dams have been removed from one river. Mechanisms include navigating challenging processes such as federal energy relicensing, Army Corps infrastructure disposition, and state dam safety regulations.
2:50PM Refreshment Break
3:20PM Advances in Techniques to Establish Relationships between Instream Flows and the Ecological and Recreational Values of Protected Streams
  David Merritt, Victor Engel
Unambiguous and quantifiable relationships between variable instream flow conditions and the ecological and recreational values of streams are necessary to protect these values in water right proceedings in the western U.S. Recent advances in decision support software incorporating detailed bathymetry, floodplain topography, 2-D hydraulic data, and habitat suitability criteria for both fish species and functional guilds of riparian plant species allows users to make spatially-explicit evaluations of simulated flow regimes and associated changes in reach-scale ecological values. Case studies of simulations parameterized with detailed field data are presented, along with descriptions of complementary studies investigating the relationships between instream flows and recreational patterns, instream flows and aquatic communities, and acoustic biodiversity of bird and amphibian species in relation to riparian habitat structure. The results of these studies and others being conducted in protected streams are being combined with information on watershed characteristics, regional hydrologic models, riparian habitat photogrammetry, and valley classification schemes to make inferences about the relationships between instream flows and ecological values in ungaged or poorly-gaged streams in remote areas.
3:40PM Testing the Compatibility of Grazing Practices with Salmonid Restoration
  Michael Wisdom, Bryan Endress, Joshua Averett, David Bohnert, Ted Sedell, Mary Rowland, Rebecca Flitcroft, Aric Johnson, Sarah Brandy, Brett Roper, Seth White
Cattle grazing is the dominant land use on public allotments in the western United States that contain salmonid-bearing streams, and where salmonid recovery under the Endangered Species Act has become a primary objective. Testing of grazing practices thought to be compatible with salmonid recovery, however, has received little research attention, and represents a major knowledge gap and management controversy. To address this knowledge gap, we are evaluating practices designed to minimize grazing time by cattle in riparian areas. Research occurs at Meadow Creek, a tributary of the Grande Ronde River in northeast Oregon where Snake River steelhead and Chinook salmon populations are classified as threatened. Practices include the use of small pastures, upland water, upland nutritional supplementation, short grazing periods, moderate stocking rates, deferred rotation, early-season grazing, compressed late-season grazing, real-time monitoring of ecological indicators, and strategic herding of cattle, the combination of which is intended to maintain cattle distribution in uplands. These practices are not new, but their integration remains untested at operational scales. A variety of ecological, economic, and social factors are being evaluated. We share preliminary results, describe management utility, and discuss long-term challenges imposed by climate change for salmonid systems like Meadow Creek that are temperature-limited.
4:00PM Environmental Mediation of Interactions between Native and Non-Native Fishes: Intellectual Traps and Management Opportunities
  Michael Young, Daniel Isaak, Kevin McKelvey, Taylor M. Wilcox, Michael K. Schwartz
The introduction, establishment, and spread of nonnative species is considered one of the fundamental threats to the conservation of biodiversity. Following such introductions, many native species have suffered declines in abundance, contracted distributions, or even extinctions. Although introductions of non-native species can be catastrophic for native taxa, their effects are sometimes exaggerated and can lead to needless or even harmful responses by managers, or failed opportunities to intervene. We contend that appreciating the environmental context of native and non-native species interactions can lead to more strategic and cost-effective actions, and illustrate these perspectives using three case studies involving native and non-native fishes in the northern Rocky Mountains: rainbow trout and cutthroat trout, brook trout and bull trout, and two cryptic species of sculpins.
4:20PM The Restoration Intensity Continuum: Can the Water Do the Work, or Do We Need the Big Yellow Machines?
  Warren Colyer
The practice of restoring rivers and streams has evolved much in recent decades. Trout Unlimited has evolved, as well, from volunteers spending weekends rolling rocks into their favorite streams to increase cover for trout, to over 200 professional staff developing, designing and implementing watershed-scale projects to restore hydrologic and fluvial processes in streams and rivers across the country. Our members are still the engine that drives the organization, but now they are complemented by a staff of professional project managers, engineers, ecologists, and water quality and instream flow specialists. Together with partners we raise millions of dollars, volunteer thousands of hours, and restore hundreds of stream miles every year. In this presentation we will describe some of the tools we use, from the passive restoration projects that change land use, to low-intensity “hand-tool” projects that encourage beaver activity and increase instream wood, to massive construction projects that rebuild valley bottoms. The common thread in all these approaches is a focus on restoring the natural processes that build and maintain habitat and water quality to support trout and salmon.
4:40PM Panel Discussion

Organizers: Dan Shively, John Rothlisberger, Nathaniel Gillespie, Brett Roper
Supported by: USDA Forest Service, AFS Fish Habitat Section

Location: Reno-Sparks CC Date: October 1, 2019 Time: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm