The Northwest Power and Conservation Council has posted on its Web site two separate but related reports by its Independent Scientific Review Panel - recommendations and comments on the Lower Columbia River Ecosystem Monitoring and Data Management Project and the final draft of the "Plan for Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation of Salmon in the Columbia River Estuary."

The full reports and associated materials can be found at: http://www.nwppc.org/library/isrp/isrp2004-16.htm

The first is a project for habitat monitoring in the Lower Columbia River. The second is a plan intended to provide a strategic framework to conduct a research, monitoring, and evaluation program in the Columbia River estuary.

The habitat monitoring plan is based in part on the estuary RME Plan.

Earlier this year the ISRP reviewed both documents and offered concerns and recommendations. The focus of these new reports is on how well the authors of the two documents addressed the scientists' previous concerns.

The ISRP says the habitat monitoring plan is "a significant improvement over the previous draft reviewed by the ISRP.

"It provides a logical, scientifically sound procedure for establishing a monitoring program in the Columbia River estuary and as such is fundable."

The ISRP expressed a number of serious concerns about the proposal in its previous review. In the memo, the ISRP identifies its major concerns and discuss how well the current plan has addressed them. In general, most of the concerns have been addressed reasonably well. However, the ISRP makes several recommendations to improve the plan that should be addressed as the plan moves to implementation."

The estuary RME Plan, says the ISRP, "is a significant improvement over the draft Estuary RME plan previously reviewed . . . The Estuary RME Plan, however, is still "a plan to develop a plan", a discussion about the desired elements of a plan, rather than a plan itself. Much work needs to be completed before a workable plan can be implemented."

In its latest review the ISRP reiterates its support for a monitoring and evaluation plan for the Lower Columbia River Estuary.

"The estuary provides important habitats for downstream migrating salmon. Some scientific analyses have shown that restoration of estuarine habitats may be one of the principle means for increasing survival of downstream migrants," say the scientists. "In addition, the 2000 Biological Opinion places emphasis on the estuary, calling for a monitoring and evaluation program to assess progress toward estuarine restoration.

"Unfortunately, despite its likely importance for salmon, little is known about how salmon use the estuary, the potential sources of mortality and reduced growth, and how habitats will respond to restoration efforts. Recent research is beginning to provide badly needed understanding of the importance of the estuary for salmon. For all of these reasons the ISRP supports establishment of a comprehensive, scientifically sound estuary RME program."

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