EPA Science Inventory

Integrating Salmon Recovery, Clean Water Act Compliance, Restoration, and Climate Change Impacts in the South Fork Nooksack River

Citation:

Grah, O. AND S. Klein. Integrating Salmon Recovery, Clean Water Act Compliance, Restoration, and Climate Change Impacts in the South Fork Nooksack River. 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference, Vancouver, BC, CANADA, April 13 - 15, 2016.

Description:

"The South Fork Nooksack River (SFNR) is an important tributary to the Nooksack River, Bellingham Bay, and the Salish Sea. The South Fork Nooksack River comprises one of the 22 independent populations of spring Chinook in the Puget Sound Chinook Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU), which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The population is considered essential for recovery of the ESU. The SFNR has suffered from legacy impacts, temperature exceedances and fine sediment, due to forestry, agriculture, flood control, and transportation facilities. The temperature exceedances threaten spring Chinook salmon survival and as such under the Clean Water Act, this pollution must be addressed through a total maximum daily load (TMDL) regulatory program. Further, climate change is projected to cumulatively add to the existing legacy impacts. Millions of dollars are spent on salmon habitat restoration in the SFNR that primarily addresses these legacy impacts, but few if any restoration actions take climate change into direct consideration. The Nooksack Indian Tribe and USEPA-ORD jointly completed a climate change pilot research project that addresses legacy impacts, ESA recovery actions, CWA regulatory compliance, and salmon habitat restoration in one comprehensive project. The project evaluates how land use impacts, including altered hydrology, stream temperature, sediment dynamics, and flooding of adjacent river floodplains, combined with projected climate change, could be incorporated into a TMDL and influence restoration actions pursuant to the ESA and watershed recovery plan. The project evaluated the effectiveness of existing habitat restoration plans and how such plans and actions could be modified to be climate ready and promote ecosystem resiliency in the face of continued climate change. This presentation will summarize the context, methods, and results of this unique climate change project."

Purpose/Objective:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 10 and EPA’s Office of Water (OW) and Office of Research and Development (ORD) have launched a Pilot Research Project to explore how projected climate change impacts could be considered in the implementation of a Clean Water Act (CWA) 303(d) Temperature Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL,) and influence restoration actions in an Endangered Species Act (ESA) Salmonid Recovery Plan. The Pilot Research Project uses a temperature TMDL being developed by Washington’s Department of Ecology (Ecology) for the South Fork Nooksack River (SFNR) in Washington, as the pilot TMDL for climate change vulnerability analysis. An overarching objective of the Pilot Research Project is to support the goals and priorities of EPA’s Climate Adaptation Plans. The project consists of two separate research assessments: The Quantitative Assessment (pending publication) provides a comparison of QUAL2Kw modeled stream temperatures, including riparian shading, with and without climate change for the 2020s, 2040s and 2080s. A range of projected climate change impacts from a high, medium and low impact scenario are analyzed for each time period. This assessment discusses and considers the relevant CWA water quality standards developed to protect beneficial uses, including cold water fisheries. The Qualitative Assessment (in review) is a comprehensive analysis of freshwater habitat for Endangered Species Act (ESA) salmon restoration in the SFNR under climate change. The objective of this Qualitative Assessment is to identify and prioritize climate change adaptation strategies or recovery actions for the SFNR that explicitly include climate change as a risk The SFNR is a sub-basin (watershed) of the larger Puget Sound Basin (Salish Sea) and so the methods and findings of this project have broad applicability in this landscape. Stakeholder outreach and Tribal engagement is considered a critical element of this project. A unique partnership has evolved between EPA/ORD and the Nooksack Indian Tribe. The Nooksack Indian Tribe has led and EPA/ORD has supported the completion of the Qualitative Assessment. ACE Task 204

URLs/Downloads:

015913_KLEIN GRAH PRESENTATION_SSEC_2016 CONFERENCE_FINAL_04-15-16_508.PDF   (PDF,NA pp, 2719.684 KB,  about PDF)

Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (PRESENTATION/SLIDE)
Completion Date: 04/15/2016
Record Last Revised: 09/20/2016
Record Created: 09/20/2016
Record Released: 09/20/2016
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 327014

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LABORATORY

WESTERN ECOLOGY DIVISION

ECOLOGICAL EFFECTS BRANCH