Data-Driven Decision Making: An Innovative Prioritization Tool for Restoration (and more!)

Year: 2020
Presenter/s: Robyn Pepin
Symposium Session: 2020 - 10 Prioritizing restoration
Topics covered: beavers, fish passage, floodplain, instream structure (culvert/bridge/dam), modeling, riparian, and risk and resilience


The Upper Columbia has over 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of salmon, steelhead, and bull trout habitat, a substantial portion of which is inaccessible to fish due to anthropogenic barriers. Since 1999, partners working in the region have addressed over 135 high priority fish passage barriers. As the list of barriers to address began to shrink, the region now faced the challenge of prioritizing the removal or replacement of the remaining smaller barriers. After a comprehensive assessment of hundreds of new potential fish passage barriers in the Wenatchee subbasin in 2016-2017, the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board and its partners completed a GIS-based prioritization of barriers using species, habitat, and barrier metrics. This talk will include a description of the strategy that was developed and adopted to prioritize fish passage projects in the Upper Columbia and a discussion of the collaboration and technical review efforts to produce a reliable prioritization tool. An ArcGIS model was used as a tool which used spatial analysis in a reliable, repeatable fashion – as input datasets improve and barrier projects are completed, the prioritization can be repeated to give stakeholders the most up-to-date information. Using this tool, the region now has a common language and an apples-to-apples comparison of ecological conditions surrounding each barrier to inform project and funding decisions. Additionally, this talk will address how the concepts behind the barrier prioritization are currently being adapted to prioritize HUC12 watersheds within the Upper Columbia region, as well as individual stream reach segments, for funding opportunities and project effectiveness.