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The goal of the program is healthy aquatic and riparian ecosystems that are protected from the impacts of land use activities, but able to adjust to naturally occurring disturbances, such as wildfires, floods, and droughts. The impacts on these ecosystems from natural disturbances would be within their natural range of variability and this may only be achieved by restoring degraded streams and their riparian areas to their proper functioning conditions.

The objectives for the program are to prohibit land use activities within and near aquatic and riparian ecosystems, including dry, headwater channels, unless such activities are necessary to accelerate meeting the goal of the program. A list of riparian management objectives can be found in US Forest Service Scientific Analysis Team guidelines (SAT 1993: Chapter 5, Appendix 5-K, p 441).

All alternatives include a program of riparian management, including (1) establishment of aquatic-riparian protection zones and management restrictions (standards and guidelines) designed to mitigate the detrimental effects of near-stream management activities on aquatic and riparian ecosystems and (2) establishment of a riparian improvement strategy.

Aquatic-Riparian Protection Widths:
Three stream and riparian protection and management strategies are applied as follows:

Table R-1.
Summary of Management Strategies

Alternative 1
Alternative 2
Alternative 3
Alternative 4
Alternative 5
Protection Zones Method Variable width SMZ Variable width SAT guidelines  Variable width SAT guidelines Variable width SAT guidelines Variable width SNEP
Perennial Streams with Fish 100 - 300+ feet on each side  Minimum 300 feet on each side  Minimum 300 feet on each side  Minimum 300 feet on each side Average 540 feet on each side
Perennial Streams without Fish 100 - 300+ feet on each side  Minimum 150 feet on each side  Minimum 150 feet on each side  Minimum 150 feet on each side Average 540 feet on each side
Intermittent Streams 50 - 300+ feet on each side  Minimum 100 feet on each side Minimum 100 feet on each side Minimum 100 feet on each side Average 540 feet on each side
Ephemeral Streams with Evidence of Scour or Deposition 25 - 100+ feet on each side Minimum 100 feet on each side Minimum 100 feet on each side Minimum 100 feet on each side Average 540 feet on each side
Ephemeral Streams without Evidence of Scour or Deposition Determined on a project level Determined on a project level Determined on a project level Determined on a project level Determined on a project level
Natural Lakes 100 - 300+ feet on each side  Minimum 300 feet on each side Minimum 300 feet on each side Minimum 300 feet on each side Average 540 feet on each side
Ponds, Reservoirs, and Wetlands > 1 acre 100 - 300+ feet on each side  Minimum 150 feet on each side Minimum 150 feet on each side Minimum 150 feet on each side Average 540 feet on each side
Wetlands < 1 acre 50 - 100+ feet on each side  Minimum 100 feet on each side Minimum 100 feet on each side Minimum 100 feet on each side Average 540 feet on each side
Landslides and 

Landslide-prone areas

Extent of features Extent of features Extent of features Extent of features Extent of features

Alternative 1: As directed by each Forest Plan, a variable width strategy is applied to delineate Streamside Management Zones (SMZ's). The widths of these zones are determined by the significance of the beneficial uses of the water, by the condition of the channel and adjacent uplands, and by the stream type (perennial, intermittent, or ephemeral). Generally, the SMZ widths vary from 100 to 300 feet along each side of perennial streams, from 50 to 300 feet along each side of intermittent channels, and from 25 to 100 feet along each side of ephemeral channels. These widths do not vary significantly among the three Forests but in all cases, the actual SMZ width is determined by an interdisciplinary team.

Management activities that can take place within each SMZ are determined by an interdisciplinary team. Both the Lassen and Plumas Forest Plans specifically require the development of a riparian area or SMZ management plan for any activity within a riparian area or SMZ. Minimum requirements for these plans include the establishment of objectives for the vegetation within the zone, the maximum allowable manipulation of that vegetation, and manipulation procedures. Also included are limits on soil disturbance and ground cover requirements, analysis of erosion hazards, specific mitigation measures needed, and identification of opportunities for restoration. The Tahoe Forest Plan emphasizes similar analyses and implementation requirements, but does not require the development of a specific riparian area or SMZ plan.

The requirements of each Forest Plan for riparian area management emphasize riparian dependent resource protection where conflicts arise. None of the three Plans are so strict that new strategies that provide improved protection and management cannot be applied.

Alternatives 2, 3, & 4: The establishment of wide protection zones is directed by the HFQLGFR Act Section 401, Subsection (c) (2) (A) and (B) as "The Scientific Analysis Team [SAT] guidelines for riparian system protection..." (SAT 1993:427-459).

The strategy requires that the management of riparian and aquatic ecosystems will "...follow specific riparian objectives" and follow a "fish habitat conservation strategy...", which includes the delineation of Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas (RHCA's). In RHCA's, land-use activities are restricted to those that either directly benefit or do not adversely affect fish habitat. Although final boundaries of RHCAs in a watershed would be determined by conducting a watershed analysis, a set of interim widths have been established as guidelines until the analyses are completed (see Table R-1).

In addition to the interim widths, a set of standards and guidelines for RHCA's is included. These standards and guidelines generally prohibit activities in RHCA's that are not designed specifically to improve the structure and function of the area and benefit fish habitat. They supersede other direction unless the conflicting standard or direction affords greater protection to riparian and fish habitat values and better foster attainment of the Riparian Management Objectives (SAT 1993:440-441 and 448-454).

Alternative 5: The delineation of riparian protection zones is described in the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project: Final Report to Congress (Erman et. al. 1996:270-273). The strategy calls for the recognition of community, energy, and buffering requirements of riparian areas to aid in their protection and management.

The community and energy areas are identified along all channel types. The wider of the two areas defines the zone so that it encompasses both. The community-energy (C/E) zone consists of a very wide riparian buffer area based on slope and potential soil erosion. Management activities permitted within the protection zone is limited and must meet the objectives established for the zone during large scale watershed analyses. Management within land-use buffers is less strict, but must still be designed to meet the ecosystem needs of the C/E zone.

Before any management activity could occur within a C/E zone or buffer, a landscape scale (approximately 100,000 acres) watershed analysis would be conducted. Similar to the SAT guidelines within riparian protection zones and buffers, the management activities permitted by the Act would follow the standards and guidelines established by the specific watershed analysis. Only those management activities that contribute to improving or maintaining watershed and aquatic conditions as described in the riparian management objectives or established in the specific watershed analysis would be allowed.

Riparian Improvement Strategy:

Data from past watershed restoration programs were used to develop that shown in Table 3.3. Unless additional funding is received, the total acres of expected accomplishments for the five year term of the project would be similar to that shown in column three.

Table R-3
Historic and Expected Riparian Restoration Accomplishments

Acres Restored Annually
Total Acres in 5 Years
Tahoe-Sierraville RD

A copy of some of the potential projects that could be accomplished is included in the planning file. This list is by no means complete, nor is it projected that all projects listed will be accomplished during the term of this pilot project. The list is simply a compilation of known projects. The actual projects completed will be determined by analysis of specific projects for this pilot project and as a result of the watershed improvement strategy, discussed below.

Note: If inadequate funding is received to accomplish the strategy described below, such that few projects can be implemented because the planning process receives the majority of the funding, the program will simply implement known high priority projects. The minimum annual funding is estimated at $336,000, or enough to plan and implement three projects.

This watershed improvement strategy follows that formulated by the Feather River Coordinated Resource Management group (Clifton 1994) and the goals listed in the SAT report (SAT 1993). Since the Feather River group has expanded its area of interest to include the entire Feather River basin (FR), has developed an overall strategy for restoration that can be extrapolated to most of the FR, and has aggressively implemented many restoration projects since 1985, it is expected that the group will also be involved in many aspects of this strategy. On the Lassen NF (outside the FR), the Feather River group can be involved if time and workforce allows. The Forest Service will be involved in all aspects of the strategy, especially outside the FR.

Given adequate funding, the following watershed improvement strategy would be instituted as a stepwise approach:

Step 1. Prioritize watersheds for treatment.

Watersheds for treatment will generally be those where treatment for fire and fuels is considered high priority. These watersheds would be grouped according to the rating displayed in Appendix N, "Watershed Sensitivity and Condition Analysis for the Herger-Feinstein QLG Act Pilot Project Area". Watersheds ranked "high risk" and "very high risk of cumulative effects" would be given first priority. The interdisciplinary team on each district where the high priority watersheds are located will make the final decisions about which watersheds to analyze and develop treatments plans.

A sensitivity and condition analysis of the delineated watersheds, identified above, was conducted that spans the three Forest area of the pilot project. In this way an analysis of watersheds and their individual priority was developed that evaluated all watersheds together, regardless of ownership, political, and management boundaries. This analysis utilized the best available information, including the knowledge of those who have been intimately involved with field observations and measurements in these watersheds for many years.

This starting point for project ranking will be integrated with the needs for construction of fuelbreaks and other fuel treatments, consistent with resource management activities listed in the Act. Other watersheds may be listed for project work based on this integrated ranking.

Step 2. Conduct project watershed analyses.

Identify critical areas needing treatment within each project watershed. Project watersheds are those identified in Appendix N and are generally about 10,000 acres in size.

An interdisciplinary team will identify critical areas within priority watersheds during project specific watershed analyses. The objectives of the analyses are to:

a. Develop an understanding of past and present activities and processes that influence watershed conditions and a comprehensive analysis of the cumulative effects impacting current conditions.

b. Delineate areas of critical sensitivity and treatment opportunities. These are areas with accelerated erosion and sedimentation problems; impaired soil, hydrologic or riparian functions; or habitat loss.

c. Develop area specific problem statements linking existing conditions and processes with deteriorating ecosystem conditions (cause-and-effect relationships).

d. Develop area specific desired condition statements and objectives for both physical and biological components.

Step 3. Develop a range of solution alternatives for each critical area that meet the objectives developed by the watershed analysis.

Step 4. Conduct a cost-risk analysis of the preferred alternative and use to prioritize identified cause and effect treatment opportunities.

The cost-risk analysis should generally follow that described in FSH 2509.13, "Burned-Area Emergency Rehabilitation Handbook". Evaluation criteria, alternatives, treatment costs, and potential resource value gains and losses are analyzed.

Step 5. Design and implement treatments as prescribed by the above process and where funding allows.

Restoration projects would most likely include the following:

a. Riparian habitat improvements (e.g., releasing aspen stands from competition from conifer encroachment; enhancing willow flycatcher nesting and foraging habitat).

b. Aquatic habitat improvements (e.g., stabilizing eroding stream banks; restoring wet meadow conditions).

c. Road relocation or improvements, including stream crossings (e.g., road reconstruction to improve drainage and reduce erosion; relocating road segments out of riparian areas; decommissioning or obliteration of unneeded roads; and constructing stream crossings that can accommodate, at a minimum, the 100-year flow).

d. Mitigation of soil disturbances (e.g., compaction caused by skid trails and landings).

Step 6. Monitor watershed condition and project effectiveness.

Implement the monitoring plan developed for the pilot project and develop a specific monitoring plan for each project. Generally, for restoration projects, the plan will follow:

a. The strategy established by USDA Forest Service, Region 5 for monitoring the success and effectiveness of Best Management Practices for water quality (FSH 2509.22, May 1992).

b. Protocol for monitoring soil quality standards as defined in FSH 2509.18 - Soil Management Handbook and R5 Supplement 2509.18-95-1, where appropriate.

c. Stream Condition Inventory protocol at established stations as set forth in the "Pacific Southwest Region Stream Condition Inventory Handbook" (draft version 3.0, June 26, 1995.)

d. Specific project monitoring to establish the success of individual structures, mitigation measures, management changes, etc., and to determine maintenance needs. Where appropriate, project monitoring will include water yield, timing, and quality changes over the short- and long-term as prescribed by subsections (j)(1)(C) and (k)(1)(B) of the Act.

Step 7. Adjust the watershed improvement strategy as needed and report the findings.

Where appropriate, the watershed improvement strategy will be adjusted and monitoring information used to improve the effectiveness of the program and projects.

Monitoring information will be evaluated annually and a report of accomplishments and effectiveness submitted. All information will be made available for public review. At a minimum the report will include:

1. A short description of the project(s) implemented and their location.

2. The number of acres treated.

3. The total cost and cost per acre as a result of planning and implementation broken down by individual accounting elements.

4. The cost of monitoring and reporting.

5. A description of all benefits derived from the project(s), including quantification data where possible.

6. A description of any adverse environmental impacts resulting from implementation of the project(s).

7. Before and after photographs where photographs will describe the change visual.

Estimated annual operating cost.

A reasonable scenario of this riparian restoration strategy is estimated to cost $1,700,000 annually, or $8,500,000 for the term of the pilot project.
Interdisciplinary team to analyze a project watershed (average 10,000 ac) and write the NEPA document $7,000/plan.
      @ 7 plans/yr (1 per district) $50,000/year.
Project design and contracting $5,000/project.
      @ 2 projects/plan, or 14 projects/yr
      (70 projects over the term of the pilot project)
Average implementation cost $100,000/project.
      @ 14 projects/yr $1,400,000/year.
Monitoring and reporting cost $2,000/project.
      @ 14 projects/yr $28,000/year.
Maintenance cost for 3 years $5,000/project.
      @ 70 projects total $70,000/year.
Unforeseen costs $82,000/year.
Total annual cost $1,700,000.

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