Blue Rock Fuel Reduction Project Fisheries Management Indicator Species Report

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1 Blue Rock Fuel Reduction Project Fisheries Management Indicator Species Report Weaverville Ranger District Trinity River Management Unit Shasta-Trinity National Forest August, 2012 Prepared by: Eric Wiseman Date: 08/23/2012 /s/ Eric Wiseman TRMU Fishery Biologist Reviewed by: William Brock Date: 08/24/2012 /s/ William Brock Shasta-Trinity Fish Program Manager Non Discrimination Statement The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or part of an individual s income is derived from any public assistance program. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA s TARGET Center at (202) (voice and TDD). To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C , or call (800) (voice) or (202) (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

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3 Introduction The purpose of this report is to review the Blue Rock Road Fuels Reduction Project (Project) in sufficient detail to determine the effects of the proposed action on the appropriate fisheries Management Indicator Species (MIS) and their associated habitat. The Shasta Trinity National Forest uses fish and wildlife assemblages as management indicators with a basic intent of the concept being that by providing suitable habitat for management indicators that the habitat needs of all other species in that assemblage would be provided. Forest management under the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA) must provide for the monitoring of management indicators. The feasibility of monitoring, including biological factors and logistics, was considered in the management indicator selection process. The Project is located approximately two miles northeast of the community of Weaverville, California on the Trinity River Management Unit of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest The Shasta-Trinity National Forest (Forest), Trinity River Management Unit is proposing the Weaverville Community Forest - Blue Rock Road Fuels Reduction Project in order to address heavy fuel loading within the 157 acre project area. Treatments include manual thinning, hand piling slash, and burning hand piles to reduce high fuel loading in the understory. Following understory thinning, prescribed fire would be implemented to reduce surface fuel loading. Project implementation is estimated to take five years with recurring maintenance underburning occurring 3-15 years later. Approximately six miles of roads managed by Trinity County, State and National Forest Transportation Systems would be used to access the project area. Project Level MIS Fish Management Indicator Species fish that were chosen in the Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) (USDA Forest Service 1995a) represent several fish assemblages (Table 1) that are present on the Forest. Table 1. Shasta Trinity National Forest Management Indicator Species fishes. Fish Assemblage Group MIS Representative Anadromous Commercial/Recreational Sportfish Spring-Run Chinook (South Fork Trinity River only) Winter-Run Steelhead Anadromous Threatened, Endangered & Sensitive Sportfish Spring-run (summer) Steelhead (South Fork Trinity River only) Inland Coldwater Sportfish Rainbow Trout Inland Warmwater Sportfish Largemouth Bass Inland coldwater sport fish are only addressed in watersheds where longstanding natural barriers or dams have blocked migration of anadromous fishes and inland warmwater sportfish are addressed in only warmwater lakes. Several other MIS representatives are addressed only in the South Fork Trinity River (Spring-run Chinook and Spring-run steelhead) (USDA 1995). The Project is located within an anadromous fish-bearing watershed; as a tributary to the Trinity River upstream from the South Fork Trinity River, winter-run steelhead is therefore the appropriate MIS fish representative for this Project. Status and Trend - MIS Steelhead Refer to the Project BA/BE (Wiseman 2012) for information on the biological requirements and life history of Klamath Mountain Province steelhead. Steelhead are most often divided into fall, winter, and spring-run (summer) races. The California Fish and Wildlife Plan (CDFG 1965) estimated a Klamath basin-wide annual run size of 283,000 adult steelhead (spawning escapement + harvest) in the mid 1950 s. Busby et al. (1994) reported winter steelhead runs in the Klamath basin to be 222,000 during the 1960 s. Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Trinity River Management Unit - 1

4 Based on creel and gill net harvest data (Hopelain, 2001), the winter-run steelhead population in the Trinity River (the Klamath Rivers largest tributary) was estimated at 10,000 to 30,000 adults annually in the early 1980 s. Reliable population data has been collected since 1990 for MIS fish species in the Trinity River watershed on the Forest. The winter-run steelhead population, as surveyed by California Department of Fish and Game, has averaged 10,667 fish since 1990 with an increasing trend (Figure 1) over the course of those years. Figure 1. Trinity River Basin steelhead spawner escapement from 1990 through Data taken from the CDFG Trinity River Basin Salmon and Steelhead Monitoring Project Season Report (CDFG 2010). Local Population KMP Distinct Population Segment (DPS) steelhead are located within suitable streams throughout the Forest. Summer-run steelhead have not been documented within the Weaver Creek watershed. Fall-run fish also use New River but to an unknown extent. Steelhead have been consistently documented during Stream Condition Inventories (SCI); (USFS 2001, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008) and spawning redd surveys conducted by the Forest and the California Department of Fish and Game in Weaver Creek, Rush Creek and Little Browns Creek over the past 20 years. Rearing juveniles have been consistently observed by USFS, CDFG and local watershed groups in Weaver Creek (mainstem, East and West), Little Browns Creek, Sidney Gulch and Garden Gulch. Spawning adults are only seen infrequently in local streams, mainly due to a lack of survey effort during their spawning period. 2 - Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Trinity River Management Unit

5 Existing Habitat Conditions Information on existing conditions in the adjacent and subject watersheds are contained in the following watershed analyses and is incorporated herein by reference: Weaverville Watershed Analyses (USDA 2004). The Project BA/BE (Wiseman 2012) also documents habitat conditions for anadromous salmonids in the project area. Steelhead and rainbow trout have essentially the same habitat requirements including cool to cold water, clean gravel for spawning, cobble and boulder substrate for velocity refuge and cover, large woody debris for cover and habitat complexity, and other diverse habitat elements including deep pools, riffles, cascades and side channel habitat. These habitat elements provide 1) adult and juvenile fish with cover and protection from predators; 2) oxygenated flows; 3) juvenile rearing and foraging habitat and adult holding and foraging habitat, and 4) spawning habitat that is critical to sustain healthy populations of both species. Project Effects to MIS Steelhead Habitat Direct effects Direct effects to steelhead are not likely to occur. There are no aspects of the Project situated where fish are likely to be present. Indirect effects Based on the absence of negative effects to anadromous fish habitat, the Blue Rock Road Fuels Reduction Project would not indirectly affect KMP DPS steelhead trout (rearing juveniles and younger age classes) or their habitat. Potential project level site-specific effects on individual habitat indicators have been mitigated by inclusion of Project-specific resource protection measures that limit disturbances to the Riparian Reserves (RRs). Specifically, the inclusion of a Streamcourse Protection Zone (SPZ) will effectively trap and store any fine sediment mobilized by project activities. Handline construction will not occur within RRs except at discreet locations where it is necessary in order to form a defensible boundary. Water temperature regimes will not be altered as project activities will not result in any measurable increase in solar radiation reaching the stream. The functional level of the turbidity and substrate habitat indicators would not be changed within adjacent fish bearing streams but slightly increased levels may occur in a single intermittent stream channel within the project boundary. Large woody debris recruitment potential will not be affected as all suitably sized pieces within RRs will be left in place. Pool quality and frequency will not be affected as only minor amounts of fine sediment are expected to be mobilized within a single intermittent stream channel. The pool quality and frequency, as well as the width to depth ratio within Little Browns Creek would not be affected by the minor amounts of fine sediment that project activities may deliver to the intermittent stream channel within the project. The project would have no effect on RRs of fish bearing streams as no project activities occur where fish are present. The functional level of the RRs within the single intermittent stream channel will also be maintained following project activities. Cumulative effects Ongoing federal projects in the planning- and sub-watersheds include annual road maintenance, recreation use, timber harvest, road decommissioning, trail maintenance and appropriate responses for fire suppression. The Browns Project Phase I is currently being implemented in the Little Browns Creek 7 th field watershed and includes 186 acres of timber harvest as well as road decommissioning. The Browns Project Phase II-IV is scheduled to occur sometime after October 2012 and involves 375 acres of timber harvest as well as more road decommissioning. The SHF Jobs Partnership and Community Wildfire Protection Project-TRMU Trails Project involves maintaining three miles of trail. This project is also Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Trinity River Management Unit - 3

6 expected to occur within the foreseeable future. Implementation of the Blue Rock Road Project would not result in cumulative effects to anadromous fish or their habitat. There are no direct or indirect effects and would therefore not contribute to other ongoing effects in the planning- and sub-watershed. The project would not result in any measurable increase in Cumulative Watershed Effects in the planning- or project area sub-watersheds. Project Impacts to the Upper Trinity River Steelhead Population Effects to MIS fish will not occur through indirect and cumulative impacts; no activities are planned in any fish bearing streams and so no direct effects can occur. The Project would therefore have no effect on the Upper Trinity River Steelhead population. Effects to MIS Fish Population Trend Based on the absence of fish in the project boundary, the intermittent nature of the single stream affected within the project boundary, the small number of steelhead that may spawn/rear adjacent to the project area and the intermittent nature of Little Browns Creek, it is highly unlikely that that the Project would have any impact on the population trend of winter run steelhead at the Forest scale. Literature Cited CDFG (1965) California Fish and Wildlife Plan. State of California, The Resources Agency, Department of Fish and Game. Vol. 1-3B. CDFG Trinity River Basin Salmon and Steelhead Monitoring Project Season Report. The Resources Agency, Department of Fish and Game. Sacramento, CA. Hopelain, J.S Lower Klamath River angler creel census with emphasis on upstream migrating fall Chinook salmon, coho salmon, and steelhead trout during July through October, 1983 through Inland Fisheries Administrative Report USDA, Forest Service Shasta-Trinity National Forests Land and Resource Management Plan. Shasta-Trinity National Forests, Redding CA. USDA, Forest Service Little browns Creek Stream Condition Inventory Reports. Unpublished USDA, Forest Service Little browns Creek Stream Condition Inventory Reports. Unpublished USDA, Forest Service Weaverville Watershed Analysis. Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Weaverville Ranger District, Weaverville, CA. USDA, Forest Service Little browns Creek Stream Condition Inventory Reports. Unpublished USDA, Forest Service Little browns Creek Stream Condition Inventory Reports. Unpublished USDA, Forest Service Little browns Creek Stream Condition Inventory Reports. Unpublished 4 - Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Trinity River Management Unit

7 Wiseman, Eric Biological Assessment / Biological Evaluation for the Blue Rock Road Fuels Project. Report on file at the USFS Weaverville Ranger District, Weaverville, CA. Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Trinity River Management Unit - 5

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