The Efficiency of SandWand Technology as a Habitat Restoration Tool for Native Salmonids in Small Tributaries

Project ID: 8351
Principal Investigator: Zak Sutphin
Research Topic: Sediment Management and River Restoration
Funded Fiscal Years: 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014
Keywords: None

Research Question

Bonneville cutthroat trout (BCT), endemic and historically abundant in the Bonneville River basin (Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah), have experienced precipitous declines in abundance and distribution (Budy et al. 2007; White and Rahel 2008). Their current population, and lack of data accurately defining BCT abundance, has resulted in a listing of "sensitive" by Wyoming and Utah, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management, and it has gained BCT protection under a multiagency conservation agreement (Budy et al. 2007; Teuscher and Capurso 2007).

There are many anthropogenic forces contributing to their decline, but habitat degradation (i.e., high sedimentation, poor riparian corridor) as a result of agriculture, overgrazing, and impoundments is cited (Binns and Remmick 1994; Colyer et al. 2005). Fine sediments are problematic for adfluvial and fluvial BCT as they minimize tributary access (Magee et al. 1996; Colyer et al. 2005) and the amount of cobble substrate preferred by spawning adults (White and Rahel 2008), increasing energy demand necessary for redd development and reduced spawning incidence (Merz and Setka 2004). Similarly, sediments can reduce redd permeability, affecting water quality needed for embryonic development (Tappel and Bjornn 1983)and can even result in entombment mortality (Bjornn and Reiser 1991; Grieg et al. 2005, 2007). A poorly vegetated riparian corridor alters food chain dynamics, decreasing system carrying capacity (Platts 1991; Schrank and Rahel 2006) and may be particularly devastating to BCT residing in tributaries whose diet may comprise a significant amount of terrestrial invertebrates (Hilderbrand and Kerschner 2004).

It is our hope that restoration efforts for BCT will demonstrate the utility for similar efforts with other threatened/endangered salmonids residing in systems affected by Reclamation facilities, thereby improving recovery efforts funded by Reclamation under threatened and endangered (T&E) consultation.

Need and Benefit

Imperiled anadromous fish in Reclamation river basins are confronted with a lack of spawning habitat caused by dams or anthropogenic alteration/contamination as they return to rivers to spawn. This proposal seeks to combine existing or emergent technologies in a manner that could significantly increase juvenile survival in rivers impacted by water withdrawals, logging, mining, or biological, bacterial or viral contaminants.

As the Nation's largest water wholesaler, and second largest producer of hydropower, Reclamation is mandated to pay for recovery efforts of T&E species in the systems where it operates. These costs are usually based on Endangered Species Act (ESA) mandated Biological Opinions and primarily involve hatcheries and river restoration programs. Reclamation's Pacific Northwest and Mid-Pacific Regions currently spend millions each year on recovery efforts associated with anadromous fish production.

The annual impacts to Reclamation's mission, in terms of water delivery obligations, water conservation, and improving water supply flexibility, are enormous. Opportunities to lower or ameliorate these costs are beneficial to Reclamation, and opportunities to do so in partnerships with customers, States, sister agencies, and Indian Tribes are not only attractive, they are tactically advantageous. Reclamation currently has the opportunity (using SandWand technology) to access private sector expertise and resources that complement mission-driven research and development.

It is known that removal of interstitial fines from framework gravels on spawning beds is beneficial (Kondolf 2000; Merz and Setka 2004), but until recently, it has not been possible in a targeted or cost-effective manner. Should this restoration tool prove effective at increasing redd densities and survival of anadromous fishes in areas where spawning habitat is a limiting factor to recovery, then Reclamation stakeholders will benefit. These benefits will likely manifest through:

* Widespread regional application and technology transfer within the agency

* Cost-benefit ratios compared with current spawning bed restoration efforts

* Cleaner, less contaminated water

* Decreased chances of water and power delivery interruption.

Contributing Partners

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Research Products

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Last Updated: 6/22/20