The anadromous stocks include wild A-run steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), fall- run Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and recently reintroduced Coho salmon (O. kisutch). The tribe has begun a recovery effort for anadromous lamprey (Lampreta tridentata).
The majority of the Lapwai Creek drainage is federally designated as critical habitat for the Snake River Basin Steelhead DPS. The Snake River Basin Steelhead DPS is a December 2005 continuance of the August 1997 62 FR 43937 ESU (evolutionary significant unit) listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The Snake River fall Chinook ESU was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act on December 28, 1993 (58 FR 68543).
A robust data set exists within the watershed that shows steelhead distribution and relative abundance throughout the entire Lapwai Creek drainage. Steelhead habitat requirements, relative to other fish species in the watershed, are fairly specific. Habitat conditions adequate for supporting productive populations of steelhead will help ensure high-quality habitat for other aquatic biota as well; in this way, they may be considered an indicator species.
Oral histories of the Nez Perce Tribe and local residents refer to the regions once significant salmon runs. Like many anadromous streams in the Columbia River Basin, populations of anadromous fish species have declined significantly from historic levels. Stories told of this area describe fish so thick within Sweetwater Creek that children caught them in gunnysacks and men didn't have to travel to the Clearwater because they could catch enough fish for their families in Lapwai Creek. Traditions of harvesting salmon, suckers (Catostomus spp.) and resident fish are discussed in Salmon and His People (1999), a written history of the Nimiipu's interaction with fisheries resources throughout time.
A 2006 Biological Opinion issued by NOAA Fisheries states that the steelhead population utilizing Sweetwater Creek, a Lapwai Creek tributary with a historically high volume of cool spring -fed flow, was likely a significant and unique or source population for the Clearwater basin during times of low flows in the years prior to Sweetwater Creek irrigation diversions. Irrigation diversions notwithstanding, comparisons of electrofishing data sets for the Lapwai Creek and Potlatch River basins reveal that juvenile steelhead capture densities observed within the Lapwai Creek (Chandler, C.A., and Parot, R. J. 2006, Chandler C. A. 2006) watershed in 2003 and 2004 were as high as or higher than those noted within concurrent and comparable electrofishing surveys of the nearby Potlatch River basin (Bowersox, B. and Brindza, N. 2006). The Technical Recovery Team for this area recognizes that within the Snake River Basin, the Lower Clearwater River and its tributaries are among the few areas with predominantly wild fish production and limited hatchery influence (2006 NOAA LOID/BOR BiOp).
Significantly, wild steelhead of the Lower Clearwater basin have seemingly adapted to survive abnormally warm water temperatures. High juvenile steelhead densities have been recorded within monitoring sites in which summer water temperatures exceeded 20º C (68º F) on a daily basis while low densities have been found within the boundaries of a Lapwai Creek monitoring site in which water temperatures as high as 31.8º C (89.2º F) were recorded. In light of current global climate forecasts, a robust population of steelhead possessing the ability to survive such adverse water temperatures would ostensibly be of great importance to the region.
Objective 1 – Reduce Stream Temperatures
One of the 3 objectives identified in the Restoring Anadromous Fish Habitat in the Lapwai Creek Watershed is to reduce stream temperatures.
Reduce water temperatures to levels meeting applicable water quality standards for life stage specific needs of anadromous and native resident fish, with an established upward trend in the number of stream miles meeting standards. The benchmark for this objective is to reduce overall days exceeding daily average temperatures at less than 16 degrees Celsius for spawning and rearing for anadromous salmonids and less than 20 degrees Celsius under all circumstances. Additional benchmarks for specific project types are discussed under relevant deliverables. Desired out comes include restoring hydrologic functions related to temperature--identifying and rehabilitating wetland and floodplain areas, restoring riparian functions related to temperature--continuing efforts aimed at increasing streamside shading.
Objective 3 – Improve Habitat Diversity and Complexity
One of the 3 objectives identified in the Restoring Anadromous Fish Habitat in the Lapwai Creek Watershed is to improve habitat diversity and complexity.
Improve aquatic habitat diversity and complexity to levels consistent with objectives in the subbasin plan, with particular emphasis on recovery of anadromous stocks. Aquatic habitat condition (including diversity and/or complexity components) is limiting all focal species. Improvement in habitat productivity is considered critical to attainment of goals for both anadromous and resident species. Address priority problems with protection and restoration activities designed to promote development of more complex and diverse habitats through improved watershed condition and function. Desired outcomes include additions of large woody debris, stream channel reconstruction, increased side channels, increased pool quality/quantity, floodplain reconstruction, protecting and restoring wetland, and improved hydrologic functions. Benchmarks are noted in the deliverable descriptions for projects associated with this objective. Link to Clearwater Subbasin Plan, pg 37 (NPCC, 2005). objective is consistent with the Clearwater Subbasin Management Plan, pg 35 (NPCC, 2005).
Projects selected for installation in the 2014-2018 timeframe include ongoing restoration measures from the previous project period, new sites for implementation, and several planning projects. The following objectives and deliverables were developed for implementation:
Deliverable 1 – Improve Riparian Corridor
4 miles riparian restoration
Deliverable 2 – Reduce Streambank Erosion
1.1 miles plan development; 800 LF streambank protection
Deliverable 3 – Reduce Road Associated Sediment Delivery to the Stream
1.5 miles road improvements; 5.0 road miles planned and designed
Deliverable 4 – Reduce Sediment Delivery to Stream from Uplands
120 acres upland treatment
Deliverable 5 – Remove or Retrofit Fish Barriers
Remove 3 barriers restoring 1.25 miles of access.
Deliverable 6 – Restore Floodplain Access and Reconnect Channel
Complete 7.6 miles of floodplain analysis; restore aquatic habitat suitability to 1,200 feet of stream channel.
Deliverable 7 – Improve Watershed Hydrology
Install 1.5 acres wetland enhancements, 40 acres upland grass/forb planting, and 60 acres upland tree planting.