BPA Fish and Wildlife FY 1997 Proposal

Section 1. Administrative
Section 2. Narrative
Section 3. Budget

see CBFWA and BPA funding recommendations

Section 1. Administrative

Title of project
Asotin Creek Model Watershed - CRP

BPA project number   9605800

Business name of agency, institution or organization requesting funding
Asotin County Conservation District

Sponsor type   WA-Model Watershed

Proposal contact person or principal investigator
 NameAngela Fields
 Mailing address725 6th Street, Suite 102
Clarkston, WA 99403
 Phone509/758-8012

BPA technical contact   Mark Shaw, EW 503/230-5239

Biological opinion ID   

NWPPC Program number   

Short description
10 year conservation reserve program (CRP) to establish permanent grass cover on the 3500 most highly erodible and environmentally sensitive acres will greatly improve watershed condition and fish habitat in the Asotin Creek watershed.

Project start year   1997    End year   

Start of operation and/or maintenance   0

Project development phase   Planning and Implementation

Section 2. Narrative

Related projects

Project history

Biological results achieved

Annual reports and technical papers

Management implications

Specific measureable objectives
With the implementation of this program, we will reduce the amount of sediment introduced to the stream, thus reducing the degree of stream bed gravel cementation and habitat degradation. This program will identify 3500 cropland acres which are the most highly erosive and environmentally sensitive to retire permanently, similar to the USDA-CRP program, providing upland wildlife habitat as well as improving water quality. Currently, 16,420 acres of CRP exist within the watershed. Half of these contracts with USDA will expire in 1996 and the others in 1997.

Testable hypothesis
Since the initiation of the CRP program 10 years ago, it has been noted by the NRCS and the public alike that spring runoff has been cleaner as well as lower in volume. NRCS estimates, using the USLE, are that soil loss in areas farmed in a winter wheat-fallow rotation on 12% slopes typical of Asotin Co. average up to 18 tons/ac. annually. In the upper Asotin Creek watershed, this represents approximately 60,000 ton of annual erosion from croplands. Of this amount approximately 20% will reach Asotin Creek. The CRP program and establishment of permanent grasses will inhibit soil detachment and limit soil loss to less than 1 ton/ac. .

Underlying assumptions or critical constraints
Currently, 16,420 acres of CRP exist within the watershed. Half of these 10 year contracts will expire at the end of this fiscal year. At this time, USDA has made no recommendations for the continuation of this environmentally important program. Indications are that continuation of the program will include eligibility criteria which may exclude many of the acres currently enrolled in Asotin County. In order to Maintain a percent of those highly erodible acres critical for erosion savings and wildlife habitat, a new source of funding with new program guidelines are needed to reap the most environmental benefits for program dollars spent. We believe a locally administered program with locally developed eligibility criteria will enable the highest priority acres within the watershed to be retired to the CRP.

Methods
A voluntary sign up period would be held at which time applications for potential program acres would be collected. Proposed funding would include a $30.00/Ac. payment for a period of 10 years to retire the land from commodity production. Currently the CRP program average rental payment in the county is approximately $50.00/Ac. In exchange for the lower payment producers who wished to graze or hay these acres following full stand establishment, would be allowed to utilize these acres following an established conservation plan. Following the sign up period, all applications would be reviewed to identify which acres would represent the highest savings in potential soil erosion and benefit to water quality. Priorities should be established for areas including: 1) vegetative filter strips adjacent streams where deposition is greatest; 2) areas with highest estimated soil loss based on USLE and/or observed gully erosion; 3) possibility of long term permanent retirement from commodity production; 4) suitability of land to produce desirable pasture or hayland vegetation,; and 5) those areas most critical for upland game species habitat. Following the identification of acceptable acres in the program, contracts would be generated similar to the USDACRP, which would call for the establishment of permanent cover and maintenance during the 10 year contract life. In the first 2 years of the contracts it would be expected that the enrolled acres would be seeded. Grazing or haying of the acres would be excluded until the stand was well established. Following stand establishment grazing or haying would be allowed if done so following an established conservation plan. The approved conservation plan would require grazing practices and intensities that would maintain a healthy vegetative cover and protect all areas from misuse or potential erosion problems. Noxious weed control would be performed during the life of the contract.

Brief schedule of activities
1997 - Establish sign up period and evaluation. Select most beneficial acres for the program. Develop 10 year contracts for 3500 acres of CRP. Administer program payments. 1998 - Monitor grass stand establishment, and weed control efforts. Administer program payments. 1999 - Develop conservation plans for those wishing to graze or hay the established stands. Continue to monitor stand establishment and any areas for addition erosion control. Administer program payments.
2000-2006 - Monitor conservation plan implementation and grass stands across the watershed. Administer program payments.

Biological need
The adverse impacts of long term stream sedimentation to fish and their habitat are well documented. When gravels and cobbles become embedded or cemented it will affect fish life in the following ways: 1) make conditions difficult for spawning adults; 2) eliminates living spaces for aquatic insect life; 3) eliminates hiding and resting places for juvenile fish (especially important during winter months); 4) decreases available space for attachment of periphyton; 5) decreases bed roughness, which increases flow velocities, making it difficult for aquatic insects and young fish to maintain position; 6) decreases or eliminates flow of oxygen through the gravel, suffocating fish eggs; 7) keeps fry from emerging out of the gravel after hatching; and 8) decreases bedload movement, a naturally occurring event in healthy streams. A conservation reserve set aside program for the most highly erosive and environmentally sensitive cropland acres within the watershed will have long term benefits on fish habitat and water quality within the Asotin Creek watershed by reducing stream sedimentation.

Critical uncertainties
None.

Summary of expected outcome
The CRP program administered by the USDA has been very popular and successful across the county. Wildlife populations have prospered during its 10 year existence. Both water quality and stream conditions have improved during the life of the previous CRP program. It is expected that by enrolling 3500 acres of the most highly erosive and environmentally sensitive lands that additional and/or continued benefits from this program will be realized throughout the watershed. It is anticipated that even at the reduced rental rate of $30.00/acre a large majority of the farmers in the county will be interested in program participation. Asotin Creek and its fisheries will benefit from the enrollment of the watershed's most environmentally sensitive acres.

Dependencies/opportunities for cooperation
As the USDA's CRP program ends, the availability of a new program would be a welcome alternative to producers who have highly erosive lands where they do not wish to produce a commodity. The public is very much aware of the impact CRP has had upon the local economy and wildlife populations. Any continuation of the program would be supported by sportsmen groups throughout the area. The Conservation District has made implementation of the Model Watershed their top priority. Some of the driving force behind the- Model Watershed has been the ESA listing of the Snake River Spring Chinook. Area landowners, sportsmen, and the Conservation District are committed to improving the Asotin Creek watershed and its natural resources.

Risks
None known.

Monitoring activity
The Conservation District is currently monitoring conditions of the Asotin Creek watershed as the Model Watershed Plan is applied. The CD has recently purchased 3 ISCO sediment samplers which will be installed to monitor the sediment bedload being introduced to the stream. The CD also plans to develop 10 reaches of the stream where 3 representative cross-sections will be established at each reach. At each site information collected will include stream type (Rosgen), cobble embeddedness per cross section, solar pathfinder readings for shade cover, stream flow, juvenile fish counts and species diversity, adult salmon and trout spawning surveys, vegetation belt transect, water temperature, fecal coloforms levels, and establish permanent photo points. We will also evaluate several parameters at the site of every instream structure which is constructed on a 2 and 10 year interval. Range utilization will be measured annually with condition monitored every 5 years at permanently established transacts. Acres enrolled in the 3500 acre CRP will be monitored closely for grass stand establishment, noxious weed control, and any additional erosion concerns.

Section 3. Budget

Data shown are the total of expense and capital obligations by fiscal year. Obligations for any given year may not equal actual expenditures or accruals within the year, due to carryover, pre-funding, capitalization and difference between operating year and BPA fiscal year.

Historic costsFY 1996 budget data*Current and future funding needs
(none) New project - no FY96 data available 1997: 109,000
1998: 109,000
1999: 107,500
2000: 107,500
2001: 106,000

* For most projects, Authorized is the amount recommended by CBFWA and the Council. Planned is amount currently allocated. Contracted is the amount obligated to date of printout.

Funding recommendations

CBFWA funding review group   Bonneville Dam - Priest Rapids Dam

Recommendation    Tier 3 - do not fund