4. Project Objective Setting

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4.1 Introduction

Project objectives help the project team have a clear focus regarding project deliverables. Setting objectives helps to identify what is the most important approach to monitoring in terms of timescale, which aspects to concentrate upon and details necessary to provide conclusive results. Adopting the well-defined SMART approach will help ensure that sound objectives can be set. More details of this approach can be found in Appendix 4 but in essence the idea is to define objectives which are:

  • Specific (concrete, detailed, well defined),
  • Measureable (quantity, comparison),
  • Achievable (feasible, actionable),
  • Realistic (considering resources), and
  • Time-bound (a defined time line).

4.2 Setting SMART project pbjectives

Figure 4.1: Restore floodplain dynamics
Figure 4.2: Increase habitat heterogeneity
Figure 4.3: weir obstacle

4.2.1 Stage 1 – Define the aim

Firstly determine the overall aim of the project. For example:

  • Restore floodplain dynamics by reconnecting to the river
  • Increase in-channel habitat heterogeneity (range and diversity)
  • Increase salmonid spawning opportunities upstream of a weir

You now know what you wish to achieve, but this does not define how you are going to do this or measure success.

4.2.2 Stage 2 – Set specific project targets

Restoration measures then need to be selected and designed to achieve the overall aim, and specific targets should be defined that can be measured against. These might include some or all of the following:

Note: These are only suggestions and not an exhaustive list.

Aim: Restore floodplain dynamics by reconnecting to the river Figure 4.1

  • Cut a new meandering river at a new bed level to encourage a more natural floodplain connectivity flow regime.
  • Improve floodplain vegetation diversity.
  • Ensure flood risk to any properties is not negatively affected.

Aim: Increase in-channel habitat heterogeneity Figure 4.2

  • Increase habitat diversity for macro-invertebrates by improving flow variability.
  • Create refuge areas for fish.
  • Encourage development of natural chalk stream habitat.

Aim: Increase salmonid spawning opportunities upstream of a weir Figure 4.3

  • Remove weir structure to restore fish passage to upstream gravel beds.
  • Narrow the river to maintain clean gravels in weir location.

You can now identify your key aim(s) and specific targets in terms of river restoration techniques.

4.2.3 Stage 3 – Set SMART objectives

Having identified aims and targets, SMART objectives can be set as shown in the examples below. By adopting this approach questions can be asked at this point in terms of how achievable it might be to:

  1. Measure the outcomes of the projects
  2. Define what is realistic both in terms of project size and available time/resources.

Determining what is Achievable and Realistic on your site, and over what Timeframe

The examples below identify Specific and Measurable aspects of project objectives, but the A, R & T of the SMART process should all influence every aspect of these, and apply more generically.

Some things to consider:

Achievable: What can be achieved should be determined from a review of evidence of success on other, similar sites to the one in question. Seek advice, similar examples and perhaps develop some concept of „reference conditions‟ for what you are trying to achieve, either from literature or a nearby reach within your catchment which has had minimal human intervention.

Realistic: Consider carefully your available resources (money, people, and time) and factor in longer-term post-project management which may be necessary (requirements for this will be identified through the monitoring process). Any major concerns of stakeholders which cannot be eliminated or circumvented may substantially limit what is possible.

Time-bound: Not only do you have to consider the duration of the project works in order to allocate your resources, but the timing may be crucial. Seasonality is a major consideration for aspects such as site access (stability of ground for supporting heavy plant); hydrology (bed and banks may not be accessible in high flows); ecological disturbance (e.g., a whole cohort of Salmon may be lost by digging up the bed during/just after the spawning season or bird nesting where floodplain work to be completed) and establishment of vegetation (to name just a few).

Note: The following examples Figures 4.4, 4.5, 4.6 are designed to help with the SMART' process and do not cover every option, since targets and objectives MUST be site specific.

4.2.4 Adding time to monitoring objectives

The period of monitoring of a river restoration project has up to now generally been assumed to be 3 years post-completion, simply because funding has most often been costed over this period. However, by considering the project objective(s), river type and potential sensitivity to change this can help to identify when monitoring should be undertaken both of what number of years and how often within each year. Following the example given from Section 4.2 setting monitoring targets timescales might be as follows:

Example of time-bound objectives for weir removal

SMART objectives with a time-bound element
Spawning: Measure the increase in numbers of brown trout redds just after spawning season on upstream gravel beds to determine change in numbers from completion of project for a 3 year period initially. If no conclusive results are forthcoming, consider additional impacts and/or increase the period of monitoring. Check redds on downstream gravels to compare current levels of spawning with post-project levels over the same 3 year period.

Siltation: Measure the % of silt deposit in existing downstream spawning areas to check in % increase in fines that may adversely affect spawning following weir removal. Measurement to be taken immediate after weir removal, 3 months post, and after a high flow event.

Fish passage: Count the number of brown trout passing through previously impassable reach during November over a 3 year period.

Channel width: Complete cross-sectional surveys throughout narrowed reach immediately post- construction, 1 year on and 3 years on. This may need to be extended beyond this period to include 5 and 10 year assessments. Review at end of 3 years.

You are now able to establish the likelihood of success of the project, why specific techniques are to be used, what is the associated risk, and estimated time scales for completing the work, any constraints and approximate costs. NOTE: Depending on available expertise and the type of project it may be necessary to seek expert advice in the form of a short scoping study to establish project risk, appropriateness of techniques and additional studies necessary.