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
Fifteenmile Creek Habitat Improvement

BPA project number   9304000

Business name of agency, institution or organization requesting funding

Sponsor type   OR-State/Local Agency

Proposal contact person or principal investigator

 NameRay Hartlerode
 Mailing addressOregon Department of Fish & Wildlife
3450 W. 10th Street
The Dalles, OR 97058

BPA technical contact   Andy Thoms, EWP 503/230-5827

Biological opinion ID   None

NWPPC Program number   3.1D.1, 7.6B.5

Short description
This is the on-going fisheries habitat restoration project for the Fifteenmile Creek Basin designed to restore spawning and rearing habitat for wild winter steelhead. Funding for this project covers O&M of the improvements constructed to date as well as the continuing implementation. Implementation work is primarily riparian fencing and some bank stabilization work.

Project start year   1987    End year   2012

Start of operation and/or maintenance   1999

Project development phase   Implementation and O&M

Section 2. Narrative

Related projects
Projects 9304500, and 940200 share some office space, equipment and personnel. Office space only is shared with project 8805304.

Project history
In the period between 1987 and present, BPA funded habitat improvement work in the Fifteenmile Creek Watershed. During that time, 79 miles of riparian fence, 899 habitat structures, four spring developments, eight fish screens, and three fish passage improvement projects were installed to improve winter steelhead habitat in an effort to increase natural production. In order to be able to install these improvements on private land, landowners signed 15-year leases where ODFW (with BPA funding), assumed maintenance of the improvements. This project provides for the operation and maintenance of these improvements. The implementation of this project is ongoing and we expect to continue to sign leases through at least 1997.

Biological results achieved
This project has benefited wild winter steelhead as well as resident trout by providing increased habitat diversity, and increased shade and cover, but to what extent we are unsure without a more in depth monitoring and evaluation project. The project has greatly increased instream habitat diversity, restored streamside vegetation and canopy, and eliminated streambank erosion on 40.6 miles of stream. The project has also restored full passage by laddering and screening irrigation diversion structures and screening of irrigation pump intakes. Cattle and wheat ranchers as well as other land users have been educated on the importance of restoration of riparian areas.

The recent improvements on Fifteenmile Creek have allowed this stream to begin to recover from decades of habitat degradation due to overgrazing, logging, and road development. Without continued maintenance of these improvements, especially to riparian fencing, the riparian recovery that has occurred in the past nine years will be lost. Whereas, if these improvements are fully maintained for the 15-year term of the landowner leases this stream should be at almost full recovery.

Annual reports and technical papers
Progress reports and billings are due monthly. Annual report is due yearly.

Management implications
The Fifteenmile Creek Habitat Restoration Project preserves management options within the Fifteenmile Creek basin for steelhead and resident species by improving critical habitat. This project will also allow for continued health of Fifteenmile Creek and its tributaries.

This project may also keep the potential alive to restore the traditional Native American steelhead dipnet fishery below Seuferet falls. This fishery was suspended in 1991 due to low escapement.

Bank stabilization and vegetation work has eliminated the chronic problem of fill and removal violations associated with landowners temporary “fixes” to stream bank erosion following high water events.

Specific measureable objectives
1. Provide unobstructed passage over artificial barriers for migrations of adults and juveniles to achieve full seeding and utilization of suitable rearing habitat.

2. Maintain an average maximum summer water temperature of 75oF, or less, at the mouth of Fifteenmile Creek.

3. Provide healthy riparian vegetation on at least 80 percent of the perennial stream miles in the drainage.

4. Increase habitat diversity by increasing pool habitat to 40-50 percent of the total stream area in the drainage.

5. Within the constraints of land use practices, provide for less than 20 percent active erosion of stream banks.

6. Minimize the delivery of sediment from upland sources to the stream channel.

Testable hypothesis
Null Hypothesis: By restoring riparian vegetation, increasing habitat diversity and restoring full passage for adult and juvenile wild winter steelhead the projected annual return of adult steelhead to the Fifteenmile Creek Basin will not be effected.

Alternative Hypothesis: By restoring riparian vegetation, increasing habitat diversity and restoring full passage for adult and juvenile wild winter steelhead the projected annual return of adult steelhead to the Fifteenmile Creek Basin will increase from approximately 250 to a high of approximately 3340.

Underlying assumptions or critical constraints
The underlying assumption in this project is that by controlling grazing of riparian areas, stabilizing streambanks where necessary and providing fish habitat diversity on private lands winter steelhead habitat will be restored and the dwindling population in Fifteenmile Creek will begin to rebound.

Critical constraints are:
Leases. This project occurs on private agricultural lands, and work is authorized through the use of 15 year riparian leases with the private landowners. Landowner acceptance and cooperation are necessary on private lands to allow for implementation of improvement activities.

Permits. Fill and Removal Permits or waivers from the Oregon Division of State Lands must be obtained before any instream habitat work is performed.

Budgeting. Implementation of project work is highly dependent on receiving funding in a timely manner. In past years construction opportunities have been lost when BPA budgets have not been received for up to six months beyond the scheduled contract start date.

The goal of the Fifteenmile Habitat restoration project is to increase production of winter steelhead within the Fifteenmile Creek Basin using habitat protection and enhancement measures. To accomplish this goal, work will progress in the following three phases:

1. Project planning and preparation (Prework)
2. Implementation
3. Project maintenance (Postwork)


Obtain landowner lease agreements for 1997.
Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife will negotiate with several landowners within the Fifteenmile Creek Basin to develop lease agreements. Riparian lease maps will be developed showing exact locations of proposed projects. The lease signing will only occur after all parties have agreed to all conditions of the lease agreement. The riparian lease agreement will then be notarized and recorded at the Wasco County Courthouse.

Identify project work sites.
ODFW will walk streams and use stream survey information as well as aerial photographs to assist in identifying project work sites. A project work map will be developed identifying and marking on the map the type of enhancement activity that will occur. The project will then be staked or marked in the field.

Engineer, Design, and Contract construction of habitat treatment measures.
ODFW will develop construction schedules based on time of year, type of project, and landowner requests. Project personnel will write riparian fence protection as well as streambank stabilization contracts and specifications. ODFW will also advertise project bids, select contractors based on criteria set by State of Oregon and obtain all the necessary permits required to complete habitat treatment measures.

Purchase construction materials.
ODFW project personnel will determine the amount and type of materials needed to complete all riparian protection projects for the 1997 field season. Project personnel will write all materials specifications and criteria. We will also advertise, select low bidder, and accept delivery of construction materials based on specifications and criteria.


Implementation of habitat protection and enhancement measures will be consistent with site specific plans that were developed during the prework activities.

ODFW, where at all possible, will allow for natural rehabilitation of riparian and instream fish habitat. This will be accomplished by the construction of riparian protection fences to exclude livestock from riparian areas. Approximately 10.5 miles of riparian protection fence will be constructed within the Fifteenmile Basin thereby protecting approximately 5.25 miles of stream. All construction will be performed by private contractors or the Northwest Service Academy to ODFW specifications. Locations of riparian protection fences will be determined during the prework assessments. Adjustments to fence lines will be allowed at the landowner request up to the time of construction.

ODFW will only construct stream bank stabilization projects where necessary to protect riparian protection fences from immediate destruction. This work will occur on approximately 700 feet of highly eroding stream bank within the Fifteenmile Creek Basin.


Postwork activities will begin when construction is completed, and will continue until the end of the project. This will be done to ensure continued functioning of all habitat restoration projects thereby ensuring success of the entire habitat restoration project.

Inspect and maintain riparian protection fences.
All riparian protection fences, including livestock watergaps, will be visually inspected at least once per month throughout the year. During periods of heavy livestock usage or inclement weather, fences will be inspected more frequently. All damage from livestock, wildlife, weather and vandalism will be documented. All necessary repairs will be corrected as soon as possible.

Inspect and maintain bank stabilization and instream habitat structures.
All instream fish habitat structures will be inspected following spring high flows. All damage to or failure of fish habitat or bank stabilization will be documented. Should repairs to structures be necessary, ODFW will implement repairs through private contractors. Repairs to structures will only be made if necessary to protect riparian fence or if failure is about to cause damage to valuable crop lands.

Monitor stream temperatures.
Thermographs are deployed at 10 locations throughout the Fifteenmile Basin. Five are installed in Fifteenmile Creek, four on Eightmile Creek, and one on Ramsey Creek. All data will be downloaded into computer and summarized monthly.

Monitor stream flows.
Stream flows will be monitored at six (6) different locations throughout the Fifteenmile Creek Basin. Flow will be measured during stable flow conditions. Flows are taken during the months of May, August, and October.

Photographic documentation.
Photo point documentation will be taken at 41 established locations throughout the Fifteenmile Basin. Photo point pictures will be taken in late September under low flow and high vegetation growth conditions.

Brief schedule of activities
Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife will work with four landowners on Fifteenmile Creek, three landowners on Eightmile Creek and one landowner on Dry Creek.

Fifteenmile Creek Habitat Restoration Project will construct approximately 10.5 miles of riparian protection fence. Approximately 700 ft of highly eroding stream bank will need to be stabilized. This includes the construction of deflectors, jetties and adding some Rip-Rap. Bank stabilization will only occur where it is necessary to protect riparian protection fence. A tentative work schedule will be as follows.

Landowner lease development will occur during the months of January and February 1996 for the 1997 field season. March through May will be used to design identified projects, develop construction contracts and specifications. All purchases of construction materials will occur in the months of April through June. Implementation of riparian protection fences will occur all year as weather permits. Implementation of all bank stabilization project will occur only after July 1 through November 31. Maintenance of existing riparian fencing as well as newly constructed fences will occur during the entire year as needed. Maintenance of existing instream structures and bank stabilization structures will occur only during the months of July 1 through November 31. Monitoring of stream temperature will be done each month of the year. Stream flow monitoring will be conducted during the months of May, August, and October. Photopoint documentation will be conducted during September.

Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife will work with several landowners on Fifteenmile, Eightmile, Ramsey and Dry Creeks. This year we will attempt to tie together the remaining landowners into one continuous block. The Fifteenmile Creek Habitat Restoration Project will begin the operation and maintenance phase of the project, and complete a limited amount of implementation. Tentative work schedule will be the same as above.

1999 and beyond:
In 1999 the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Fifteenmile Creek Habitat Restoration Project will be in the operation and maintenance phase of the project, with very limited implementation. Maintenance of all projects will occur during the entire year. Fence lines will be checked weekly and repairs made as needed. Maintenance of all instream structures will occur from July 1, to November 31 as this is the allowed in water work period. Monitoring of stream temperature will occur throughout the year. Stream flow monitoring will be conducted during the months of May, August, and October. Photopoint documentation will be conducted during September.

Biological need
The Fifteenmile Creek Basin supports the eastern most population of wild winter steelhead in the Columbia River Basin. Fifteenmile Creek and its tributaries support a locally important recreational resident trout fishery. Winter steelhead produced in the basin contribute to sport fisheries in the Columbia River. They also contribute to Indian treaty harvest in the Columbia River and have historically supported an important dipnet fishery below Seufert Falls near the mouth of Fifteenmile Creek.

Production capacity of Fifteenmile Creek is estimated at 1585 adults and 52,305 smolts (U>S> v. Oregon Fifteenmile Creek steelhead production report). Current spawner escapement, however , is estimated at 250 adults. Historically it is estimated that there was approximately 131 miles of steelhead spawning habitat and 125 miles of rearing habitat in the Fifteenmile Basin. Surveys completed in 1986 indicate that available spawning habitat has been reduced to 91.5 miles while suitable rearing habitat has been reduced to 44.5 miles.

Based on surveys conducted in 1986, the factors contributing to the reduction of the quantity or quality of rearing habitat include:

1. Up and downstream passage barriers. Adult steelhead are being blocked or detrimentally delayed on their upstream migration, resulting in the failure to seed suitable spawning and rearing habitat. Juvenile steelhead are likewise blocked from suitable rearing habitat by man-made barriers. Additionally, juvenile steelhead are suffering direct mortalities through unscreened irrigation diversions.

2. Lethal summer water temperatures. High summer temperatures have greatly reduced rearing habitat capability. Approximately 70 percent of the riparian area on agricultural lands is degraded due to livestock grazing and insufficient buffers maintained between cultivated fields and the stream channel. On private forest and National Forest lands the riparian vegetation is generally in good condition. The lack of riparian vegetation and low summer flows result in water temperatures up to 85o F at the mouth of Fifteenmile Creek. More than 35-40 miles of stream are unsuitable for steelhead rearing due to high summer water temperatures.

3. Low summer flows. Low summer flows associated with agricultural user demands decrease the quantity and quality of available suitable rearing habitat. Reduction of riparian habitat has decreased the moisture holding capability of stream adjacent soils and has diminished summer low flows. About 50 miles of stream are affected by reduced summer flows.

4. Lack of habitat diversity. The drainage is currently riffle dominated. The pool-riffle ratio, in existing suitable raring habitat, is 1:10 due to channelization and lack of large woody debris input from the riparian zone. The lack of pools and cover reduce rearing habitat for steelhead, particularly yearling and older fish.

5. Lack of channel stability. The lack of channel stability has increased sediment loading and channel width while decreasing effective cover and the quantity of pool habitat. Channelization of Fivemile, Eightmile, Fifteenmile, and Ramsey creeks has reduced or eliminated the natural floodplains and channel sinuosity resulting in higher stream velocities which accelerate bank erosion and downcutting.

6. Sediment loading. Land use activities within the basin have increased sediment deposition to the stream channel. This increased sediment loading degrades spawning and rearing habitat.

Critical uncertainties
The most critical uncertainty with this type of project is the fact that it relies heavily on the voluntary cooperation of the private landowners in the Fifteenmile Creek Basin. If an individual landowner chooses not to cooperate in the project then there is a gap in the riparian restoration. If several large adjacent landowners along the stream choose not to cooperate, then the success of the project downstream of those landowners would be difficult. However, to date, most landowners contacted have chose to cooperate in the project and have signed 15 year riparian protection leases.

Summary of expected outcome
A variety of benefits are projected to result from implementation of the Fifteenmile Habitat Restoration Project. Increases in average annual production of winter steelhead smolts are estimated to range from approximately 22,000 to 52,305. This is an average annual increase of 130 to 280 percent above basin’s current smolt production. This projection reflects estimated changes in production resulting from implementation of projects proposed for BPA funding.. Average annual adult increases in returns to the mouth of Fifteenmile Creek are estimated at 1556-3340, using the U.S. v. Oregon smolt -adult survival of 7.1 percent.

Increases in smolt production were determined from comparisons of pre- and post -treatment smolt abundance estimates. Pre-treatment smolt estimates are assumed to be equal to the current estimated smolt production capacity established for Fifteenmile Creek under U.S. v. Oregon. Post-treatment estimates assume full implementation of all BPA projects and a ten year recovery period. They are based upon the quantity of suitable proposed low flow rearing habitat and two levels of habitat response to treatment (Low and High). Streams assigned to the “low” production class are those where less than full recovery is expected. The majority of this category occurs in the lower basin areas. Associated smolt densities used for these areas are only about 25 percent of those for “high” production area. “High” production areas are those where nearly full recovery is anticipated. Densities for these areas are generally conservative and derived from less productive “westside” streams such as Fish Creek, Wind River and the East Fork of the Lewis River. In fact, monitoring of juvenile abundance in areas treated in the Fifteenmile Creek following 1975 flooding has shown larger total increases than were estimated. In one sample section of about 300 yards in length on the upper main stem of Fifteenmile Creek, increases in total numbers of juvenile steelhead were more than 9-fold ten years after treatment. Additionally, the winter steelhead in the basin are extremely resilient, well-adapted wild stock. This stock has proven its resiliency over the last 10-15 years and are expected to show rapid response to improved passage and habitat conditions in the basin. This stock further benefits from having only one main stem dam (Bonneville) to negotiate.

In addition to increased fisheries production there will be: improvements to water quality (reduced sediment loads and summer water temperatures); improved bank stability (resulting from structural treatments and riparian restoration activities); significant increases in the amount and quality of riparian habitat benefiting many wildlife species; and increased landowner sensitivity and participation in riparian area and fish habitat management. These benefits are tangible and have been proven treatments, similar to those proposed in this program, which were implemented on about 10 miles of flood damaged streams in the Fifteenmile basin in 1975. Monitoring of this work has found: 1) dramatic increases in stream surface shading; 2) virtual elimination of severe bank erosion in treated areas; 3) re-establishment of dense riparian vegetation and general increases in use by riparian-dependent wildlife species; and 4) strong support for continued treatment by more than 90 % of landowners involved in the initial 1975 efforts. Expected high levels of landowner cooperation and support, coupled with 15 year easements granted to ODFW for treatment areas, suggest that benefits of the basin improvement program should be substantial and long lasting.

Dependencies/opportunities for cooperation
The most significant events that will affect the project’s timing are weather related. In the past year the Fifteenmile Basin has experienced three major flood events. These events have not only hampered construction of new riparian fencing, but also substantial maintenance of existing fences has been required. In most years fence construction can occur throughout the winter, but if heavy snowfall or substantial freezing occurs fence contracts must be postponed.

There is a large amount of cooperation on this project. The success of this project depends on cooperation with private landowners and other agencies such as the Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District, The U.S. Forest Service, The National Resource Conservation Service, The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, and the Bureau of Land Management.

There are no apparent risks to completing this habitat restoration project. The winter steelhead population in the Fifteenmile Creek Basin is a species of concern and is at a very low level. This population is the most eastern occurring run of wild winter steelhead, and therefor, (like other populations occurring on the edge of their range) are most in danger of extinction. The real risk is to the viability of this population if its habitat problems are not addressed.

Monitoring activity
Temperature and photo data are collected and evaluated with data collected in prior years. Measurements of benefits are derived through evaluation of baseline data for the historical comparison of water temperature, stream surface shading, habitat types riparian vegetation complexity, macro invertebrates, width/depth ratio, bank cover, dissolved oxygen, pH, water hardness, turbidity and erosion. this will allow us to digitally store and display spatial data including water temperature, stream surface shading, bank cover, dissolved oxygen, pH, water hardness, turbidity, erosion, and any additional site specific monitoring data. Macro invertebrate sampling protocol was extensively used and an indicator of water habitat quality. A modified Hankin and Reeves/U.S. Forest Service Region 6 stream inventory protocol will be used to assess instream characteristics. Data obtained will include stream surface shading, habitat types, width/depth ratio, bank cover and erosion, and other instream characteristics that can be altered by domestic livestock use. photo points are established inside exclosures to show vegetation composition attributable to fencing, and outside exclosures ( as controls), and well-established range monitoring photo points that fall within or near the exclosures will serve as historical reference.

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
1995: 319,835
Obligation: 0
Authorized: 229,000
Planned: 329,000
1997: 325,000
1998: 300,000
1999: 200,000
2000: 200,000
2001: 200,000

* 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 1 - fund

Recommended funding level   $325,000

BPA 1997 authorized budget (approved start-of-year budget)   $315,000