Final Report: Environmental Assessment
of Doan Creek Restoration
National Park Service Whitman Mission National Historic Site (WMNHS)
Advisor: Roger Trick, Chief Ranger
My main goal in working with the Whitman Mission was to draft an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the restoration of Doan Creek. By successfully completing the EA I have allowed the park to move closer to its goal of rerouting some of the water in the Doan Creek irrigation ditch back to roughly its original channel across the northern fields and waterways area of the park. This will help to facilitate the reintroduction of fish into Doan Creek. My success in this internship was dependent on my becoming familiar with the proposed area of restoration and considering the ways in which this area would be affected by the park’s plan. I’ve also had to become very familiar with NEPA regulations concerning the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)/EA process.
I’ve learned a great deal about the restoration plan and the NEPA processes from my intern sponsor, Roger Trick. Initially, we discussed the plan that had been drawn up by the Walla Walla County Conservation District (WWCCD), as well as walked the proposed path of restoration. I also spent an afternoon at the mission taking pictures of the general area through which the restored creek would run. Additionally, I spent time away from the mission reading the WMNHS General Management Plan, the restoration plan drawn up by the WWCCD, and the first part of a book Roger gave me on the process of writing an EIS/EA.
After this process of familiarizing myself with both the restoration plan and the EA regulations, Roger and I began discussing possible alternatives that we would need to include but not preference in the assessment. We also considered the different environmental, social, and archaeological effects the project and the alternatives would have on the area. I felt very unsure about what I needed to do, but I decided to begin my initial draft of the first chapter of the EA. After I’d taken the first step, I was in the frame of mind to continue working steadily on the EA, meeting Roger weekly to discuss my progress, any concerns either of us had, and ideas for the upcoming parts of the project.
I accredit my successful completion of this internship to several things. The first is the support I have received from Roger. He was happy to meet with me every week, to address any questions I had, and to share with me any comments that he had. Although he generally made a few suggestions to the work I’d done, most of his comments were encouraging and helpful. He frequently seemed pleased with the ideas that I came up with and gave me a lot of positive feedback on my writing skills.
Although my interactions with Roger were incredibly valuable, I also give myself a lot of credit for this accomplishment. In the past I have generally been afraid to voice my ideas or do things that I felt unsure about because I didn’t want to screw up in front of people I viewed as authority figures. However, with this project I was more assertive and self-starting. I expressed all of my ideas to Roger, and to my surprise he was pleased with most of them. However, I am even happier with myself for starting to write the EA before I felt completely comfortable doing it. Looking back, I feel that if I’d waited until I felt sure about what I was doing, I never would have started. Throughout the entire process I was a little uncertain of where to go next. However, getting it down on paper gave Roger and me something to discuss during our weekly meetings.
This internship has been an incredible learning experience. Through my work on the project I have learned about the environmental and historical aspects of the park. However, I think more than anything I’ve learned about what goes into an EA and the incredible amounts of paperwork the government requires before they’ll allow anything to happen. I have also gained a great deal of confidence in myself and my ability to handle situations outside of a classroom environment. This has been an undoubtedly difficult project, but I ran into no major problems along the way. While certain weeks towards the beginning of the project required that I put in a more than four hours, I was rewarded for that hard work when I got to the end of the semester feeling relaxed about the project’s completion rather than rushed.
Although I considered applying for internships that looked easier than this, I am very happy that I took this one. During the application process I wondered whether I was even qualified to write an EA, but now I realize that it takes the right attitude and a commitment to the project more than it takes a specific set of skills. To anyone considering an internship like this in the future, I would recommend applying for it and not being afraid to enter unfamiliar territory. Although I give a lot of credit to Roger for all his help, I think one of the reasons he was so helpful is because he sensed my enthusiasm for this project and my willingness to work. Something else I found helpful was to set goals for smaller time frames, which allowed me to work steadily on the project rather than putting it off until the last few weeks. This project has given me faith in the statement that the best way to learn something is simply to do it, no matter how awkward it feels at first. This idea has carried me through all of the uncertainties I’ve felt during the semester.
I did my internship with the Whitman Mission as a “weed scout.” This essentially means that I was responsible for being able to identify the different weeds in the park. Each week I walked around the Whitman Mission site and mapped out noxious weed problem areas. This allowed the park employees to efficiently control weeds in the park because they no longer had to go out looking for them, rather they could simply use the map to go directly to the area of concern.
Although I worked at The Mission last semester, the nature of this internship was very different. Last semester I worked primarily from campus, compiling resources and preparing a final document for The Mission. This semester I spent a few hours a week, generally on Wednesday mornings, working in the field, and rather than preparing a comprehensive final product, I turned in a map at the end of each visit, detailing weed problem areas.
I again worked under the supervision of Roger Trick, which continued to be a successful working relationship. For the first few weeks he accompanied me on my rounds of the park, and was a valuable source of information when I had questions about types of weeds and the methods the park planned to use for extermination. I was surprised to learn that a popular method of weed control at The Mission is to buy and release bugs which feed on the weeds and seed heads, preventing them from spreading. I also worked with other members of the mission staff if I had questions that Roger was unable to answer.
I did not run into any problems or difficulties with this internship. Although it was more routine and therefore less challenging, I still saw this as a valuable experience. It gave me a chance to work outdoors and to familiarize myself with many of the invasive species in the area. I was also able to learn a lot about weed control. I have been able to gain a lot of good experience from working with The Mission. In addition, I will be working there for the summer, doing weed control and updating and duplicating many of the plant species in their herbarium. Overall this has been a very rewarding experience.