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Featured Floodplain Projects

A showcase of regional, national and international floodplain-related projects (completed or ongoing) will be displayed at both the Technical Workshop and the main Conference.

Below is a running list of the projects that will be featured. Click the PDF icon () to view uploaded posters.

Kootenai Tribe of Idaho’s Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Program

Abstract: The Kootenai River Habitat Restoration Program (KRHRP) is a multi-year, ecosystem- based habitat restoration program to restore habitat conditions that support all life stages of endangered Kootenai River white sturgeon, burbot and other native fish. Under this program, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho building a number of habitat restoration projects in the Idaho portion of the Kootenai River.

CTUIR Fisheries Habitat Program Strategic Framework for Restoration Activities

Abstract: The Fisheries Habitat Program goal and objectives supports a highly functioning restored floodplains resulting in self-sustaining physical and ecological processes which protects and enhances sustainable First Foods for Tribal Use. CTUIR presents the strategic framework for restoration activities within the Aboriginal Title Lands that provide scientifically defensible strategies for watershed and floodplain restoration.

South Fork Walla Walla River Salmonid Habitat Restoration Project

Abstract: Degraded and disconnected habitat conditions in the Walla Walla Watershed have contributed to a decline in salmonid abundance. It is the challenging duty of the Umatilla Tribal Fish Habitat Program to restore and sustain habitat conditions essential to salmonid populations, to satisfy needs of the Tribal community. CTUIR Purchased 46 acres of property featuring 3/4 miles of the South Fork Walla Walla River in 2005. Historically, the entire stream reach had been relocated next to a bedrock bluff, for the purpose of protecting an adjacent roadway and for agricultural benefit and resulted in simplified aquatic habitat. A variety of habitat monitoring techniques and habitat assessments were used to determine existing conditions and identify factors limiting salmonid abundance. In-stream channel complexity and floodplain connectivity were identified as key limiting factors. A 1.5 million dollar, two-phased, salmonid habitat restoration project was initiated in 2014 and completed in 2015. Scope of the project were formulated by the identification of limiting factors and incorporated into objectives as they pertained to River Vision Touchstones as well as providing benefit to First Foods. Given the anthropogenic constraints, approaching historical river function was established as a goal of the project with subsequent biological response expected by salmonid populations. Aquatic habitat inventories were completed pre and post implementation for comparative analysis inn regard to monitoring project effectiveness. Results of the project were as follows; improved to 26% of bank length, from 14%, increased channel length by 1,184 meters (1,100 meters braids), habitat units increased by 190% (28 to 81), and wood rating improved by 69%. Technique applicability, proper implementation, and effective monitoring ultimately determined project success.

Restoring Salmonid Habitat in the Upper Tucannon River, a Snake River Tributary, Washington

Abstract: The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) Department of Natural Resources (DNR) adopted a First Foods mission to protect, restore, and enhance water and food resources in response to community cultural values and practices. A subsequent River Vision was developed to acknowledge the specific requirements of Columbia River tributaries and aquatic First Foods, and systematically guide restoration process towards preserving and reinvigorating such staples. These internal priorities and protocols ensure that the Tribal community can continue practicing and preserving valued traditions of CTUIR culture by means of clean water and habitat suitable for salmonids. Degraded habitat conditions in the Tucannon River Basin, a tributary to the Snake River in southeast Washington, hydrologic code 17060107, have contributed to a decline in salmonid abundance from historical levels. Reduction of habitat is primarily due to anthropogenic changes and impacts associated with catastrophic fires that burned 150,000 acres in the watershed during 2005-06. These impacts have resulted in simplified aquatic habitat and decreased efficiency of ground and surface water interactions. A variety of habitat monitoring techniques and habitat assessments were used to determine existing conditions, identify factors limiting salmonid abundance and select priority areas for restoration. Primary objectives of the project were to improve habitat complexity, reconnect the floodplain and rectify fish passage. Proper riverine function was sought with naturally appearing aesthetics to reflect preferences of Tribal philosophy in regard to processes associated with First Foods production and River Vision management. To achieve this, helicopters in combination with track hoes were utilized to place 825 trees and 500 boulders into the stream channel and riparian area to address factors limiting salmon production in a two-mile reach of the upper Tucannon River during July and August, 2014.

Helicopters are an effective means of incorporating whole trees into river channels to improve salmonid habitat complexity. Benefits of placing mature trees via aerial application are; increased capability to access isolated source materials, precise placement into remote areas, reduced disturbance and preservation of riparian and riverine features towards accelerated healing, and capability to transport large trees with full crowns. Combining aerial application with various ground refining techniques is an effective means of addressing habitat deficiencies and achieving ultimate project success. Restoration of the two-mile restoration project resulted in increases of the following; pools from 58 to 167, channel length by 1,242 meters, habitat–type complexity index from 133 units to 258, undercut values from 20% to 46%, wood complexity index from 2.1 to 3.1, river complexity index from 3.78 to 9.88. Landowner cooperation and multi-agency coordination were important determinants of the restoration strategy selected. Technique applicability, proper implementation, attention to detail, and adaptive management ultimately determined project success. Pre and post implementation monitoring will document the degree of achievement in regard to meeting a primary objective of improving physical habitat conditions in the Tucannon Basin by 17% over a 10 year period and will determine if project outcomes contribute towards positive CTUIR community impacts, including fisheries recovery and resource utilization.

Meacham Creek Floodplain Restoration and In-stream Enhancement Project

Abstract: Floodplain and channel processes in Meacham Creek, a 400 km2 tributary to the Umatilla River, have been negatively impacted by past and current land management actions. The primary impacts are associated with the adjacent Union Pacific Railroad railway, built in the early 1900s in close proximity to Meacham Creek. As a result, the channel was disconnected from the floodplain and shallow groundwater table, stream banks are exposed and unstable, roughness features to dissipate flood flow energy are lacking, in-stream aquatic habitat has been removed or simplified, and water quality in terms of stream temperature and sediment routing is degraded. Meacham Creek supports two federally listed threatened species, Middle Columbia River steelhead and Columbia River bull trout, and key species spring Chinook salmon and Pacific lamprey. A multiple phase restoration approach was implemented over 2.5 miles of stream to restore, enhance and protect 62 acres of floodplain habitat and restore channel morphology while enhancing fish habitat. The project resulted in moving the stream into historic channel alignment and excavating historic meanders in the floodplain, resulting in 5,922 ft. of new, reconfigured stream channel and 10,190 ft. of off-channel and side-channel habitat. Habitat complexity was significantly increased by incorporating in-stream habitat features in the channel. Fourteen large spur dikes or levees in the floodplain were modified or removed resulting in removal of 8,420 linear ft., respectively. The project created or enhanced 3.3 acres of wetland features. We present our design development process and show results of our project actions and learned experiences.

Grande Ronde Subbasin Fish Habitat Program Floodplain and Fish Habitat Restoration and Enhancement

Abstract: The CTUIR Grande Ronde Fish Habitat Program promotes large scale floodplain, geomorphic, and hydrological processes and function to restore and re-create diverse floodplain, wetland, riparian, and riverine habitat.

Biomonitoring to Evaluate Fish Habitat Enhancement

Abstract: With a growing need to document stream restoration effectiveness and direct future management efforts, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) sought a program that would assess a wide range of restoration efforts in the Umatilla, Grande Ronde, John Day, Walla Walla and Tucannon subbasins. CTUIR’s approach to habitat restoration is based in the framework of the Umatilla River Vision were Geomorphology, Hydrology, Connectivity, Riparian Vegetation, and Aquatic Biota are identified as the key touchstones vital to a healthy river ecosystem (Jones et al. 2008). CTUIR utilizes this framework to identify and design holistic restoration projects that address the primary limiting habitat factors (FCRPS BiOp 2008) associated with each of the touchstones. The goal of this biomonitoring program is to assess the effectiveness of CTUIR sponsored habitat restoration actions on spring Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), summer steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), and bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) populations. Monitoring of the biological and geo-fluvial responses to habitat restoration actions is fundamental to informing future management actions. Our strategy uses regionally standardized habitat and fish monitoring protocols to sample project reaches pre and post habitat restoration in contrast to unmodified control reaches. Monitoring habitat in parallel with fish surveys provides valuable information regarding fish/habitat relationships (Bouwes et al. 2011, Stillwater Sciences 2012).

Restoring Channel Anabranching and Floodplain Connectivity Downstream of Dams: Example Assessment of the Tieton River in Yakima County

  • Presenters: Tim Abbe, John Soden
  • Authors: Tim Abbe, PhD, PEG, PHG; Deb Stewart, PE; Jennifer O’Neal, MS; Danielle Devier, PLA
  • Affiliation/Research Sponsor: Natural System Design

Abstract: Aquatic and riparian habitat within the Lower Tieton River in Yakima County, Washington have been severely impacted by the Tieton Dam, built in 1925, which has altered the flow, sediment and wood regime of the Tieton River. One of the most significant impacts has been disconnection of the river’s mainstem channel from secondary channels and the floodplain. Simplification of the river, flow confinement to the mainstem channel, bed armoring and the artificial “flip‐flop” flow regime have created conditions that have nearly eliminated steelhead spawning and rearing habitat from portions of the river once rich in this habitat. In addition to the dam, the river has been impacted by historic clearing of riparian forests and construction of State Route (SR) 12, confining major segments of the river. As a result of these flow regime and landscape changes, most of the river within the project reach has become simplified, incised, and disconnected from adjacent off‐channel and floodplain areas.

Based on the critical status of steelhead, WDFW and Yakama/Klickitat Fisheries Project (YKFP) wanted to improve both juvenile rearing and adult spawning habitat. Natural Systems Design (NSD) was contracted by YKFP to assess in‐ stream habitat and present possible restoration actions. A preliminary geomorphic and hydraulic assessment was completed in 2016 that substantiated concerns regarding the severe degradation of in‐stream habitat. While the assessment found there was clearly a need to improve mainstem in‐stream habitat, the most dramatic revelation was the large quantity of floodplain restoration opportunities that met desired project goals and objectives, as well as basin‐wide habitat recovery goals.

After 60 years nearly 1.25 miles of side channel are reconnected along the Okanogan River

Abstract: Since the 1950s over 80% of the Okanogan River has been straightened or diked. Near the town of Okanogan, Washington, two side channels measuring 6,500 feet, were reconnected to provide off-channel rearing habitat for native salmonids, primarily sub-yearling summer Chinook salmon. Once reconnected, wetted width decreased, herbaceous vegetation increased by an estimated 10.9% over 2 years and canopy closure increased at nearly each transect throughout 4,800 feet of one side channel. However, due to low gradient and flow limited by a 24” diameter culvert at the inlet, bed composition did not change. An index of macro-invertebrates depicted an increase in less pollutant-tolerant species and the dominance of non-native fish species has converted to native fish species since the reconnection of the two side channels. Though sample size is small, sub-yearling summer Chinook salmon exhibited a higher growth rate than those rearing in the pool of Wells Dam on the Columbia River, which may result in greater survival.

La Center Wetlands: Floodplain Reconnection for Fish, Wildlife & People

  • Presenter: Caitlin Alcott, CE, CFM, Inter-Fluve – Watershed Hydrologist/Ecologist
  • Authors: Keith Marcoe, LCEP; Paul Kolp, LCEP; Caitlin Alcott, Inter-Fluve
  • Affiliation/Research Sponsor: Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership and Inter-Fluve

Abstract: La Center Wetlands is a 450-acre floodplain reconnection and restoration project located between river miles 3.2 and 5.5 of the East Fork Lewis River, upstream of the town of La Center, Washington.

A levee along the East Fork Lewis separates the river from its floodplain and also serves as a trail for recreation in this natural area. The wetland complex was previously expanded to support waterfowl habitat and a weir was installed to increase ponding. Adjacent property owners use the area for hunting and grazing. Fish passage is limited by both the levee and the weir.

Batwater Station Floodplain Restoration

How Much Habitat is Enough in the Lower Columbia River?

Abstract: Native species in the lower Columbia River evolved under ecological conditions that existed for thousands of years previous to large‐scale development that started in the late 1800’s. As a result of conversion of native habitats to agriculture, industry and urban development, the lower Columbia has lost over 70% of vegetated tidal wetlands, 55% of forested uplands and 114,050 acres of native habitats overall since this time. Protecting remaining areas of native habitats and restoration of native habitats to recover historic habitat diversity should benefit native species, and resource management entities frequently target protecting historic native habitats as an end point for restoration actions or recovering native species. The difficult question that scientists and managers have been asking for many decades is “how much habitat is enough?” Many agencies use minimum viable population or population viability analyses to determine conservation targets for identified species (or focal species). If identifying these are not practical, entities often have to employ an approach that targets protecting or restoring a percentage of historic habitats. Quantities range widely from 10% to over 40%. Another method is using a point in time that represents reference conditions, such as in Tampa Bay, FL where managers target 1950’s habitat coverage (represents an era before air conditioning and wide‐spread urban development). We adapted an overall approach by R. Noss (2000) for the Klamath‐Siskiyou Ecosystem and employed a technique employed by The Nature Conservancy for the southern Rocky Mountain ecoregion and the US Fish and Wildlife Service for the National Wildlife Refuges, based largely on the general species‐areas curve in MacArthur and Wilson (1967), for protecting ecosystems (see Tear et al. 2005) for identifying the quantity of historic habitats we wish to recover. We have established voluntary numeric habitat coverage targets for the lower Columbia River ecosystem with the focus of protecting common species from becoming imperiled:

  • No new net loss of native habitats as of 2009 (represents 50% loss, or 114,050 acres, since 1870)
  • Recover 30% of historic extent for priority habitats by 2030 (restore 10, 382 acres); 40% of historic extent by 2050 (restore 22,480 acres ) including: Representation of priority habitats and rare, vulnerable communities; Redundancy by representing multiple examples of habitats within each region; Resiliency of communities to persist through disturbances by ensuring good quality, condition of habitats
  • Other aspects, based on historic template: Focus restoration of priority habitats in historic locations; Multiple large “reserves” and smaller patches that fill gaps, ensure corridors, increase connectivity; Identify minimum size criterion for larger reserves and minimum number of occurrences of habitats by region

We are working on a concurrent process for rare and threatened focal species and will integrate these targets into the natural habitat diversity targets once they are ready. Next steps for these targets include: 1) publication in refereed journal, 2)identifying a minimum size criterion for larger “reserves” and smaller patches of habitats, 3) identifying a minimum number of occurrences of habitats by region, 4) identifying gaps in habitats, key corridors for species, and 5) evaluating these targets to ensure they are protective of common species.

More Than One Look: Using Hydrodynamic and Ecosystem Models to Predict Habitat Changes at Restoration Sites

Abstract: Predicting the outcomes of habitat restoration actions in the lower Columbia River and estuary has largely been based on qualitative or quantitative models which tend to be limited spatially and temporally. Current restoration site planning and design efforts have largely relied on the experience of the practitioner, generalized peer reviewed metrics to anticipate post-restoration conditions, and models focused on determining hydraulic conditions. In the lower Columbia River and estuary, these approaches have been utilized for single species restoration at project sites. To assess how restoration actions could effect multiple species and physical conditions at a proposed restoration site, the Estuary Partnership used the Hydrologic Engineering Center Ecosystem Functions Model (HEC-EFM, USACE). We coupled a hydrodynamic model with vegetation and hydrology data from reference sites, fish suitability, and wildlife habitat suitability data to the ecological model to answer questions about the timing and frequency of inundation through different seasons using three different restoration scenarios. The ecological model was able to quantify and predict available acres for ESA listed salmonids, dabbling ducks, Columbia River white tailed deer and native vegetation under restored conditions. Based on modeled results, the spatial and temporal changes to habitat were mapped at the project site to inform design and feasibility questions.

Lots of Data Without the Fishy Smell: Application of Acoustic Imaging to Evaluate Fish Behavior Near Tidal Wetlands

  • Presenter: Collin Smith
  • Authors: Collin Smith, David Ayers, Paul Stumpner, and Fred Feyrer
  • Affiliation/Research Sponsor: USGS

Bringing Fish Back to the Columbia Basin Rivers and Tributaries

Altered Flood Control, Climate Change, and Rebuilding Columbia Basin Salmon Stocks

  • Presenter: Kyle Dittmer
  • Author: Kyle Dittmer
  • Affiliation/Research Sponsor: CRITFC

Abstract: Columbia Basin salmon evolved in an environment of annual snow-melt driven water cycles which has been diminished by the modern hydro-system. New research shows that dams can be used for controlled flood pulsing to mimic the natural peaking flow regime to benefit fish and wildlife. Altered Flood Control operations – using modified Upper Rule Curves and earlier refill dates – can help achieve a more natural river system.

Event Hosts

Canadian Columbia River Intertribal Fisheries Commission

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

Cowlitz Indian Tribe

Okanagan Nation Alliance

Upper Columbia United Tribes

Upper Snake River Tribes


Chinook Level


Sockeye Level


Cowlitz Indian Tribe

Coho Level


Bull Trout Level


Steelhead Level


Lamprey Level


Kootenai Tribe of Idaho

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