[env-trinity] Trinity River restoration report cites conflicts
tstokely at att.net
Wed May 1 06:42:10 PDT 2019
River restoration report cites conflicts
Recommends complete overhaul of program
- By AMY GITTELSOHN The Trinity Journal
- 24 min ago
A contractor’s report on recommended refinements to the Trinity River Restoration Program suggests a complete re-organization.
According to the report by Headwaters Corporation, the Headwaters Team doesn’t believe the issues identified will be fixed with a top-down solution from the federal Bureau of Reclamation, with a short series of workshops, or by a series of motions from the Trinity Management Council that governs the program.
Rather, the report states, “refining the TRRP will require a complete re-organization of the program.”
The Trinity Management Council is scheduled to meet for a discussion on the report described as an internal workshop from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, May 6, at the TRRP office, 1313 S. Main St. in Weaverville. The meeting is open to the public.
Headwaters, which was contracted by Reclamation, had the following recommendations:
► Develop among the TRRP participants a Cooperative Agreement to amend the 2000 Trinity River Record of Decision. The changes are recommended to improve governance and program decision-making.
► The current Record of Decision can and should stand, the report states, but the Cooperative Agreement amendment should give TRRP participants the ability to develop a single foundational document to guide program implementation and decision making. According to the report, this should result in a single guidance document for the TRRP rather than multiple “foundational” documents that are not always clear and are sometimes contradictory.
► Adopt an official Adaptive Management Plan.
The 108-page report also includes recommendations regarding how to accomplish these goals.
During document development, the report says TRRP should continue to implement current ROD management actions and fund monitoring and other projects currently led by the tribes.
The report includes a section regarding interviews with TRRP program participants and partners.
It was noted that after the ROD was signed, the TRRP was “kicked down” into lower levels of the Bureau of Reclamation which hadn’t been highly involved in its development. At that point, the TRRP became more focused on habitat restoration projects and less on flow management.
“That has manifested itself today in a focus of TRRP action and money on increasingly large construction projects, with little attention paid to more process-based restoration through the application of flow,” according to Headwaters.
“In many cases,” the report says, “interviewees described the TRRP as ‘a jobs program’ for program partners.” This description focused on the TRRP being more about money for program partners and associated projects, and less about a focus on restoration of fish populations.
Interviewees noted this as a “lost opportunity” given that the TRRP is widely viewed as having “everything it needs” — ample budget, controllable water, and experienced staff — to be a leader among large-scale river restoration programs. However, the report says there is acknowledgement that the TRRP is a long way from being a model program.
The report also cites problems such as lack of a common vision for the program, issues decided behind closed doors, and power struggles on the TMC.
“Many interviewees said the requirement of a supermajority for TMC voting is a major impediment to moving forward on issues such as the budget, bylaws, and addition of new TMC members,” the report states.
It noted that, “Several interviewees stated an observation that the TMC does not listen to the Trinity River Adaptive Management Working Group (TAMWG) or consider their input important, and the TMC only gives the appearance of taking public comment and input.”
The report notes that the TAMWG has been rendered “administratively inactive” by the Department of Interior “thus completely isolating stakeholder input from the functions of the TRRP and propagating further divisions among TRRP interests.”
Nearly all interviewees cited conflicts of interest as a significant concern. The TMC members vote on budgets that benefit their agencies or entities in staffing, construction projects and monitoring.
A significant number of the interviewees believed that to increase transparency an audit of the TRRP should be done to account for how the money has been spent and the results of those expenditures.
Several interviewees viewed the Department of Interior agencies (Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) as having a great deal of animosity toward each other and not working together effectively. Interviewees also viewed the two tribes involved as not getting along, translating into difficulties at the TMC level.
The report states that the program staff is highly capable and it’s clear that TMC members, TAMWG members and program staff are passionate about the Trinity River, its resources, and the TRRP program itself.
However, program implementation are staffed by a mix of employees from various agencies who don’t necessarily have a team spirit.
All the good science being conducted by the program is largely falling into an ever-expanding “science pile,” according to the report.
The report quotes the ROD that “restoration must provide a meaningful fishery” as part of trust obligations to the Hoopa Valley Tribe and the Yurok Tribe, and also ensure recreational, commercial and sport fisheries.
Headwaters said its review suggests the TRRP has not achieved this milestone, “after nearly two decades of implementation.”
The full TRRP Refinements report is available on the Journal’s website with this article, or go to the Trinity River Restoration Program website www.trrp.net and look under the Trinity Management Council section.
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