Proposal Title: Tracking Floodplain Forest In Willamette River Tributaries

Principal Investigator: Dave Hulse (UO) (in collaboration with Stan Gregory-OSU)

Summary of the project

In March 2013, the Habitat Technical Team, one of several joint federal/state/local groups resulting from the 2008 Biological Opinions for the Upper Willamette River system of the National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, created a Monitoring Subcommittee, and charged it with developing a plan for a sustained, affordable and practical approach for tracking the extent to which restoration goals are being met in the floodplains of the Willamette River and its major tributaries. In the months that followed, the Subcommittee provided regular updates to the HTT, and in March 2015 submitted to the HTT a report titled Tracking Progress in Restoring the Willamette River Floodplain (Hudson et al. 2015). In summer 2016 the HTT and partners complemented the 2015 document by authoring the second iteration of Willamette River Habitat Protection and Restoration Program (BPA 2016). These reports summarize the organizational, fiscal and scientific context on which the proposal you now hold is based. It has taken decades to achieve this context...a reality the HTT acknowledged by moving to support broadened status and trends monitoring to track progress towards restoration goals.

This project takes the next steps to gather, analyze and make public the ‘backbone’ information needed to meet the original HTT subcommittee charge, by tracking progress towards three widely-shared restoration goals not only in the mainstem Willamette, but specifically in the major salmon-bearing /water supply tributaries, in this case, the Santiam, McKenzie and Middle Fork Willamette Rivers. The restoration goals, addressed in greater detail in the 2015 and 2016 reports, are: Protect and restore the floodplain and its side channels; Enhance and restore habitat for native fish species and other native aquatic communities; and Protect and restore floodplain forest communities.

This project extends a publicly accessible spatial template and corresponding database known as “SLICES” created jointly by the University of Oregon and Oregon State University (Hulse and Gregory 2004). Extensive consultation has identified the minimum set of backbone information concerning floodplain forests and fish communities that must be consistently, regularly gathered about these river and floodplain qualities to know whether or not we are meeting the restoration goals above.

We will prepare information on floodplain forest extent that we will incorporate into tributary SLICES, and ultimately make available to the public for use via a Slices website for the tributary rivers. It is on the basis of comparison with this information that future status and trends will, in part, be determined.