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Qualitative Assessment: Evaluating the Impacts of Climate Change on Endangered Species Act Recovery Actions for the South Fork Nooksack River, WA
Qualitative Assessment: Evaluating the Impacts of Climate Change on Endangered Species Act Recovery Actions for the South Fork Nooksack River, WA. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-16/153, 2016.
The South Fork Nooksack River (South Fork) is located in northwest Washington State and is home to nine species of Pacific salmon, including Nooksack early Chinook (aka, spring Chinook salmon), an iconic species for the Nooksack Indian Tribe. The quantity of salmon in the South Fork, especially spring Chinook salmon, has dramatically declined from historic levels, due primarily to habitat degradation from the legacy impacts of various land uses such as commercial forestry, agriculture, flood control, and transportation infrastructure. Segments of the South Fork and some of its tributaries exceed temperature criteria established for the protection of cold-water salmonid populations, and were listed on Washington State’s Clean Water Act (CWA) 303(d) list of impaired waterbodies. High water temperatures in the South Fork are detrimental to fish and other native species that depend on cool, clean, well-oxygenated water. Of the nine salmon species, three have been listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and are of high priority to restoration efforts in the South Fork—spring Chinook salmon, summer steelhead trout, and bull trout. Growing evidence shows that climate change will exacerbate legacy impacts. This qualitative assessment is a comprehensive analysis of climate change impacts on freshwater habitat and Pacific salmon in the South Fork. It also evaluates the effectiveness of restoration tools that address Pacific salmon recovery. The objective of the assessment is to identify and prioritize climate change adaptation strategies or recovery actions for the South Fork that explicitly include climate change as a risk. The Beechie method (Beechie et al. 2013), with some adaptation to the South Fork watershed, was used to provide a systematic, stepwise approach to analyzing climate change impacts in the South Fork, including evaluation by climate risk (focusing on temperature, hydrologic, and sediment regimes), per salmonid species (emphasizing ESA-listed species), and per restoration action. The South Fork watershed was divided into twelve analysis units, including five reaches of the South Fork and seven subbasins. Restoration actions evaluated are those that address legacy, ongoing, and future climate change impacts within each reach and subbasin. We found that the most important actions to implement to ameliorate the impacts of climate change in the South Fork watershed are riparian restoration, floodplain reconnection, wetland restoration, and placement of log jams. Most of these actions are already being implemented to varying degrees, but the pace and scale of implementation will need to be increased by explicitly addressing barriers to implementation. This will require substantial planning including a watershed conservation plan, project feasibility assessments, agency consultation, landowner cooperation, stakeholder involvement, and funding. The qualitative assessment’s findings will inform development of the CWA South Fork temperature TMDL Implementation Plan, updates to the ESA Water Resource Inventory Area 1 (WRIA1) Salmonid Recovery Plan, and other land use and restoration planning efforts.
The objective of the qualitative assessment is to identify and prioritize climate change adaptation strategies or recovery actions for the South Fork that explicitly include climate change as a risk.
URLs/Downloads:Qualitative Assessment (PDF,NA pp, 9016 KB, about PDF)
Agency Response (PDF,NA pp, 493 KB, about PDF)
Reviewer Comments and Response (PDF,NA pp, 430 KB, about PDF)
Charge Questions (PDF,NA pp, 286 KB, about PDF)
Peer Reviewers (PDF,NA pp, 327 KB, about PDF)
Peer Review Plan (PDF,NA pp, 33 KB, about PDF)
Record Details:Record Type: DOCUMENT (PUBLISHED REPORT/REPORT)
Organization:U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LABORATORY
WESTERN ECOLOGY DIVISION
ECOLOGICAL EFFECTS BRANCH