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Weekly Fish and Wildlife News
August 28, 2009
Issue No. 498

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Table of Contents

* Invasive American Shad Numbers Sharply Down In Columbia; Ocean Conditions Or Parasite?

* Steelhead Return Numbers Stay High; Tracking Reasons Challenges Researchers

* The Birds: ESA-Listed Brown Pelicans Join Terns, Cormorants On Estuary's East Sand Island

* The Birds: Unique Floating Island Constructed For Caspian Tern Nesting At Summer Lake Wildlife Refuge

* Gillnetters' Early Success Restricts Commercial Fishery To Avoid Impacts On ESA Salmon

* Inter-Tribal Company Would Operate $4.2 Million Fish Processing Facility At White Salmon

* BPA Informs Council On Fish, Wildlife Project Spending For Fiscal Year 2010

* Columbia River Ocean Area Sport Fishing Closed; Upstream Buoy 10 Fishing Goes On With Huge Coho Run

* Fishing For Snake River Fall Chinook Starts Tuesday; Biggest Return In Four Decades

* Northwest Utility, Energy, Research Team Bids On $178 Million Regional Smart Grid Project

* Federal Judge To Consider Preliminary Injunction To Halt Montana, Idaho Wolf Hunts

* CBB Shorts: Reducing Wenatchee River Pollution; Yakima Flow Ops For Chinook; Reducing Puget Sound Sewer Overflows; Willamette Coho Bag Limits Raised; ODFW Fish Conference; Lubchenco Leads Delegation To World Climate Conference

* Feedback: Mercury Contamination In Fish


* Invasive American Shad Numbers Sharply Down In Columbia; Ocean Conditions Or Parasite?

The number of invasive American shad counted passing over Bonneville Dam's fish ladders this year is the lowest since 2000 and continues a downward trend that started following 2004's record count of nearly 5.4 million fish.

The 1.4 million shad counted at the lower Columbia River dam this year is the lowest total since 2000 (1.2 million). The species, which is native to the East Coast, starts showing up in dam counts in late April and are at peak abundance in early summer. The run peters out by the end of August.

The fish counted at Bonneville Dam and upstream dams spawn in reservoirs. It has been estimated that as many as 20 million may enter the lower Columbia River during April-June with most staying in the 145 miles of river below Bonneville.

U.S. Geological Survey researcher Mike Parsley speculates that perhaps the cool ocean conditions recently that help to boost salmon survival may negatively affect shad.

"The Atlantic tends to be warmer," Parsley said of the American shad's native ocean. "Improving ocean conditions for salmon may not be good for shad."

And/or it's possible that "Ichthyophonus" caught up with them. Ichthyophonus hoferi is a protozoan parasite that has repeatedly caused massive outbreaks of disease among species such as herring. Researchers have found that the parasite infects 72 percent of adult, pre-spawn American shad in the lower Columbia River. The shad are in the same genetic family as herring so potentially a disease could have swept through the population.

"They are similar types of fish," said Parsley who is engaged in research intended to better understand the role of shad in the Columbia River and how their presence may affect salmon and steelhead stocks.

The fish were brought west in 1871 by fish culturist Seth Green at the request of the California Fish Commission. Green loaded four eight-gallon milk cans with 12,000 shad fry from a Hudson River hatchery aboard the transcontinental railroad. Stopping in Illinois, Nebraska and Utah for fresh water and cooling ice, he arrived in Sacramento with 10,000 of the young fish still alive.

Then he dumped the fish in the Sacramento River. The population grew and soon sought out new range. The first recorded sighting in the Columbia was in 1876. The American shad can now be found from Baja California, Mexico, to Alaska and has even been spotted across the Bering Strait in Russia.

Rapid shad population growth since the 1950s coincides with the further hydro development, and creation of reservoirs, in the Columbia/Snake system -- The Dalles in 1960, John Day in 1971 and McNary in 1957. The Dalles reservoir submerged Celilo Falls, which had blocked the shad's upriver passage.

There was a big rise in shad numbers in 1961 and1962 when 265,000 and 436,000 were counted at Bonneville. No count previously had been more than 100,000. The counts have been ongoing since 1938.

The shad counts stayed in that range for the most part but spiked again in 1978 and 1979 to 861,000 and 1 million, respectively, and topped 2 million for the first time in 1990. The new millennium witnessed the rise and then the fall of shad numbers.

American shad have been found on the mainstem as far up as Priest Rapids Dam on the Columbia and Lower Granite on the Snake, though concentrations are by far the greatest in the Bonneville and The Dalles pools on the lower Columbia.

"They've basically expanded to the extent that they can," Parsley said.

The research led by Parsley hopes to document effects of American shad on salmon and then point the way for further research that might be needed to evaluate overall impacts.

"We hope to highlight some positives and some of the negatives," Parsley said. Bioenergetics modeling -- an examination what the fish eat -- shows that earlier migrating subyearling fall chinook can enjoy a rich and abundant source of food in larval shad.

But then again shad grow up, changing into juvenile fish. "At that point they could compete with salmon for food," Parsley said.

Another negative could be that juvenile shad "are providing a forage base for predators on salmon" such as northern pikeminnow and bass, Parsley said.

The research has documented that not all shad migrate to the ocean at 6 to 9 months of age. Some linger for a year or even two. That means that those fish have a year round food source on which to build into "nice, big predators" to await migrating juvenile salmon.
On the other hand, recent research has found that Columbia River shad contained elevated amounts of thiaminase and could be a threat to predators which utilize shad as a primary food source. Thiaminase is an enzyme that degrades the essential vitamin thiamine -- vitamin B1.

The research is also exploring whether consumption of American shad is causing a thiamine deficiency in white sturgeon, which may result in reduced reproductive potential.

The shad that die after spawning do provide a source of marine-derived nutrients for the mainstem, though the benefit is relatively small compared to that of salmon that can swim far up into the headwaters. The shad contribution could, however, prompt higher production of plankton, which would be a positive benefit to juvenile salmon.

Parsley said that salmon managers need to consider the impacts of the sum total of American shad on the Columbia River native inhabitants such as salmon.

Parsley said that he and the former lead on the shad research project, James Petersen, have been "trying to get the region to acknowledge the presence of American shad" and that the fact that they could be affecting efforts to revive salmon stocks in the basin.


* Steelhead Return Numbers Stay High; Tracking Reasons Challenges Researchers

The preseason forecast envisioned that 278,900 "Group A" summer steelhead would cross the lower Columbia's Bonneville Dam this year, but a series of high daily counts at the dam convinced the Technical Advisory Team last Friday (Aug. 21) to boost that estimate to 425,000.

But the forecast is likely to rise again.

TAC Chairman Stuart Ellis said Tuesday of the recent forecast, "we're already there." During the July 1-Aug. 25 period 429,536 steelhead were counted passing over the dam's fish ladders. The vast majority of the steelhead passing over Bonneville during that period are considered Group A fish though they also include the beginnings of Group B steelhead which, on average, make their spawning run slightly later than the A stock.

Upriver summer steelhead include hatchery and wild fish that pass Bonneville Dam from April through October of each year. Fish passing April through June are considered Skamania stock steelhead destined mainly for tributaries within Bonneville Pool such as the Wind and Hood rivers.

Steelhead passing during July through October are categorized as Group A index or Group B index fish, based on their fork length. The larger Group B fish primarily return to tributaries in the Salmon and Clearwater rivers in Idaho, while Group A steelhead return to tributaries throughout the Columbia and Snake basins.

Last Friday's forecast update was prompted by a huge surge of steelhead. From Aug. 11-17 each daily count was significantly higher than the previous record (believed to be 14,432 on Aug. 3, 2001). The counts during those seven days ranged from 16,629 to 34,053.

The daily counts Friday-Sunday ranged from 13,242 to 19,067 and two of the three would have been all-time daily record counts before the previous week's steelhead avalanche.

The overall 2009 steelhead count, which includes some winter steelhead and earlier migrating Skamania stock, through Tuesday was 444,307. That's well above the 10-year average of 196,830 steelhead passing Bonneville Dam from Jan. 1 through Aug. 25 and compares favorably to the 435,035 total through Aug. 25, 2001. The 2001 upriver summer steelhead run -- a record 630,200 by season's end -- greatly skewed upward the 10-year average, as does a 478,000 run total in 2002. Most years during that 10-year period have been in the 300,000 range.

The preseason 2009 forecast was for a total summer steelhead return to Bonneville Dam of 351,800 upriver fish, including 16,000 Skamania index fish, 278,900 Group A index fish, and 56,900 Group B index fish.

The forecast for wild fish totaled 89,900 steelhead and included a strong Group B component. Overall, the 2009 preseason forecast was similar (99 percent) to the recent 10-year average of 357,000 fish.

"It does appear there is a fairly high percentage of wild steelhead,'' Ellis said. The total for the July 1-Aug. 25 count included 131,829 steelhead with an intact adipose fin. Most of them are naturally produced fish. Hatchery steelhead are fin clipped before their release. The Snake River and Upper Columbia wild steelhead are listed as threatened and endangered, respectively, under the Endangered Species Act.

TAC next meets on Sept. 2 to consider revisions to existing forecasts for, potentially, the Group A and B runs as well as upriver fall chinook stocks. TAC is made up of federal, state and tribal fisheries experts.

Theories about the reasons for the ballooned steelhead return are only just forming. Ellis said that data from early sampling of the run at Bonneville shows a higher proportion than normal of fish that have returned to spawn after only one year in the ocean. Steelhead typically spend one to two years and sometimes three years at sea.

It could be that the return is padded by a high number of fish that decided, for whatever reason, to return after one year. And the high numbers could mean that ocean conditions were conducive to steelhead survival, a good omen for next year.

Little is known about Columbia River basin steelhead's ocean sojourn.

"We don't see steelhead in the ocean," said John Ferguson, head of the Fish Ecology Division at NOAA Fisheries Service's Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. The center samples fishes in the Columbia River plume and off the coast in May, June and September as part of a research project. The "Ecosystem Indicators of Salmon Ocean Survival" research attempts to show how physical and biological ocean conditions may affect the growth and survival of juvenile salmon in the northern California Current off Oregon and Washington.

That task is difficult for steelhead, since the fish don't show up in the research and are seldom swept up in ocean harvests. They spend less time than other salmonids in the plume --a freshwater-saltwater mixing zone off the Columbia's mouth -- and then largely disappear.

"They don't go up the coast, they go off the coast" somewhere into the deep blue sea, Ferguson said.


* The Birds: ESA-Listed Brown Pelicans Join Terns, Cormorants On Estuary's East Sand Island

The good bird news this year is that a strategy to draw Caspian terns to newly created habitat outside of the Columbia River estuary appears to be working.

The bad news is that avian predators, particular in the estuary, are behaving in strange ways that pose new riddles for scientists to solve.

Those behaviors include late tern nesting of a magnitude never seen in more than 10 years of monitoring; the appearance of unprecedented numbers of endangered California brown pelicans on the island and the relentless predation of a great horned owl or owls on tern fledglings.

"This is a really strange year," said Dan Roby, co-principle investigator for ongoing research to assess the impact of avian predation on recovery of salmonids species in the estuary and elsewhere in the Northwest and the effect of management actions intended to reduce predation. There are 13 Columbia-Snake river basin salmon and steelhead stocks that are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The project is a collaboration that began in the late 1990s between Oregon State University, Real Time Research Inc., and the USGS-Oregon Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. Support has been provided by Bonneville Power Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA Fisheries and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

East Sand Island has since 2000 held the distinction of being the world's largest Caspian tern nesting colony. It held 10,668 nesting pairs a year ago. Estimates of this year's colony sizes are not yet available.

The colony materialized when nesting was prevented at the former colony site on Rice Island. The researchers estimated that in 1998 Caspian terns nesting on Rice Island consumed about 12.4 million juvenile salmonids or approximately 12.8 percent of the estimated 96.6 million out-migrating smolts that reached the estuary during the 1998 migration year. The bulk of the fish are produced in hatcheries but many are wild fish that are the future of the listed stocks.

Fishery managers theorized that moving the colony closer to the ocean would reduce predation on juvenile salmon and steelhead by putting the birds in a location where they had more prey to chose from, namely marine fish species. The relocation moved through a transition year when terns nested at both islands, but all have nested at East Sand in 2000 and since.

The plan worked, cutting salmon consumption by terns roughly in half. Then a new plan emerged to create new habitat to the terns' specification -- made up of bare sand with a clear view all around -- outside the estuary with the hope the birds would to some degree disperse. That would again reduce consumption of salmon and also eliminate the chance that some calamity at East Sand could wipe out most (estimated at 75 percent) of the West Coast's tern population.

Over the past two years an island-building effort has been led by the Corps. During the winter of 2007-2008 the agency built and/or rebuilt islands at Fern Ridge Reservoir near Eugene, Ore., and at Crump Lake in south-central Oregon just north of where the California, Nevada and California borders meet. Each represents about one acre of suitable tern habitat.

Two projects were completed this past winter at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Summer Lake Wildlife Area located north and a little bit west of Crump Lake in south-central Oregon. A half-acre site in the East Link impoundment there was completed and a floating half-acre island was assembled at nearby Dutchy Lake.

In 2008 a total of 428 breeding pairs colonized the rebuilt island at Crump Lake, a location that had drawn few terns in recent decades. Fern Ridge, which has no tern history, drew a few explorers but no nesters.

Early this season -- in late May and June -- it appeared as if the Crump Lake tern colony size would rise significantly with the head count approaching 1,000.

"It started out looking like it would be wildly successful," Roby said of the goal of drawing more terns to the site. But many of the birds flew off. The high count was just more than 300 nests and Roby said only about 100 chicks were produced.

He said that the drought in northern California and southern Oregon may have caused the departure and other odd bird behaviors. Only three of the many lakes in that part of Oregon still held water by midsummer. Roby said that perhaps the birds encountered a dwindling food supply and decided to move on.

The drought-plagued areas could also explain the high number of birds that nested late on East Sand, which appears to have plentiful good supply of food that includes the brown pelicans' favorite -- anchovies.

As of Aug. 23, about 800 nesting pairs of Caspian terns were still sitting on eggs at the East Sand Island colony and another 300-400 pairs were attending young chicks. Those numbers are unprecedented for this late in the year.

"We usually end our colony monitoring by the end of July" because most of the birds are gone, said Ken Collis, co-principle investigator for the research. The late nesting leave less time for the birds to hatch their eggs, rear their young and fly south before the weather turns.

The colony has been plagued this year by repeated predation on the young terns by owls. Such attacks have happened occasionally in the past.

"What's unusual this year is the persistence" of the owls, Collis said.

The California brown pelicans may have moved north en mass too in search of plentiful food. An estimated 16,000 of the big birds have used East Sand Island this year as a nighttime roost. That is a huge increase over last year when an estimated 12,400 brown pelicans came to the estuary to feed on anchovies, juvenile salmon and other fishes. The 2008 count had stood as the record.

"There are more pelicans than we've ever seen. It's mind boggling," Collis said of the bird numbers.

The pelicans represent the largest nighttime roost for the species anywhere on the Pacific coast of the United States. On East Sand Island they join what is believed to be the world's largest Caspian tern (10,700 pairs last year) and double crested cormorants (11,000 in 2008) nesting colonies and 7,000 pairs of western gulls, among other birds.

Because of the large numbers of nesting and roosting colonial waterbirds on East Sand, the island has been designated an "Important Bird Area" by the American Bird Conservancy.

The brown pelicans don't nest in the Columbia River estuary. Roby said there are no known brown pelican nesting grounds north of the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. The were first sighted as far north as the Columbia estuary in the 1980 but have only shown strength in numbers in recent years.

"After the breeding season they wander looking for abundant food," Roby said. He believes the huge increase in the number of brown pelicans in the estuary might be a sign that there is also strength in anchovy numbers there. They undoubtedly eat salmon too but probably not in as great numbers as do the earlier arriving terns and cormorants.

"I'm reasonably confident that brown pelicans are not as large a source of mortality" for many of the salmon and steelhead stocks, Roby said. The pelicans first begin to arrive in May and June and reach peak numbers later when many of the juvenile salmonid outmigrants have already exited the estuary.

Because the brown pelicans are protected under the ESA, researchers must tread lightly. They aren't allowed to handle or disturb the birds.

"We don't have any diet data on them at all," Roby said.

Meanwhile, the newly created habitat hosted terns and other birds this summer. Tern counts reached as high as 34 and 56 at East Link Pond and Dutchy Lake at the state of Oregon's Summer Lake Wildlife Area, according to weekly reports from the researchers. And chicks were produced. Terns that had been outfitted with colored bands at East Sand in prior years have been sighted at Crump Lake and Summer Lake.

At least some of the predation on salmon at been shifted from the estuary.

"It appears these birds move to these sites and forage in the vicinity of the sites," Collis said. "We're pleased about how these new sites are working out."

And there's going to be more acreage available next spring. Corps contractors have almost finished a two-acre island in the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge in northern California and expect to finish construction of a one-acre site in the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, which straddles the northeastern California-southern Oregon border, next month.

A second -acre site, a floating Island, will be built later this fall at Sheep Lake on the Lower Klamath refuge.


* The Birds: Unique Floating Island Constructed For Caspian Tern Nesting At Summer Lake Wildlife Refuge

(The following account by Stacy Moore and Sarah Austing of Oregon State University, along with further information about Columbia River Basin bird predation can be found at http://www.birdresearchnw.org/default.aspx)

Would Caspian terns and other colonial waterbirds be attracted to nest on a floating island built to serve as nesting habitat in an area where no natural islands exist?

This was a key question, but just one of several conundrums facing the organizations collaborating on this innovative project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers teamed up with the U.S. Geological Survey, Oregon State University, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Real Time Research, and Floating Islands International to try to make the initial breeding season for the new "Floating Tern Island" a success.

Novel floating island technology was put to the test as Caspian tern nesting habitat at Summer Lake Wildlife Refuge, located in south-central Oregon and managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The plan for increasing the available nesting habitat for Caspian terns in the Pacific Region of the U.S. was developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with NOAA Fisheries and the Corps of Engineers. The large Caspian tern colony on East Sand Island at the mouth of the Columbia River consumes roughly 5-6 million young salmon and steelhead annually, which limits the success of salmon restoration efforts throughout the Columbia Basin. Federal resource managers plan to redistribute part of the tern colony on East Sand Island to alternative breeding sites within their historical range by constructing tern nesting habitat in Oregon and California. One benefit of the plan for Caspian terns would be reduced vulnerability of the tern population to potential disease outbreaks, catastrophic weather events, localized predation or disturbance events, or oil spills compared to the current state of affairs, where most terns are nesting at a single colony site.

During the winter of 2008-09, two half-acre islands were built at Summer Lake Wildlife Refuge. A solid, rock-core island protected with large boulder rip-rap and covered with gravel was constructed at East Link Management Unit. A mile or so to the west at Dutchy Lake, a half-acre floating island covered with pumice gravel was launched. A third half-acre island, also rock-core construction, will be built during the winter of 2009-10 in the Gold Dike Management Unit in order to provide alternate nesting habitat for Caspian terns when the East Link impoundment is occasionally drained to manage aquatic vegetation.
Floating Islands International constructed the floating tern island in Dutchy Lake from recycled plastics. Project manager, Laddie Flock, states that each of the 328 modules that comprise the island consisted of 200 lbs of polypropylene from recycled carpet and 125 lbs of polyester from recycled drinking bottles. The modules were joined on the shores of the lake and once fully assembled, towed out to the desired position in the middle of the lake; thus, no aquatic life was disrupted and water levels remained normal.

Caspian terns prefer bare sand nesting habitat that is clear of vegetation and provides unobstructed views of potential predators. Consequently, the Dutchy Lake floating island was covered in tree mat material to reduce weed invasion before being topped with pumice gravel. Large flat rocks were placed around the perimeter of the island to provide easy means for swimming birds to get on and off the island. Then, to attract terns to nest on the floating island, over 200 Caspian tern decoys were placed on the island, along with an audio playback system that broadcasts digital recordings of Caspian tern calls.

Dutchy Lake floating island is elliptical-shaped and secured at one end to a concrete anchor, allowing the island to rotate in the wind, much like a weather vane. As this was the first season for trying out the floating island technology, managers wondered if Caspian terns would use a floating, rotating island for nesting and, if so, would they be able to locate their nests as the island pivoted from one orientation to another? Also, how could the island be monitored for tern use and, if the island was used by nesting Caspian terns, what kind of nesting success would they have? Would nesting terns hatch their eggs and raise their young to fledging age, or would any nesting attempts end in failure? What factors would cause Caspian tern nests to fail, and could those factors be mitigated?

To help answer these questions, the collaborators on this project decided to build a wooden observation blind that would conceal field biologists while monitoring the island, and secure the blind to a small floating platform. Once the floating blind was assembled, it would be towed out to the floating island and attached so that the blind would rotate freely with the island. After several unsuccessful attempts, the floating blind was securely attached to the side of the floating island, thus providing a place for biologists to observe the colony without disturbing any birds that might decide to nest on the island.
OSU hired two biological technicians for the field monitoring, led by Stacy Moore and ably assisted by Sarah Austing, to monitor the two new tern islands at Summer Lake, and assess the success of this new and admittedly experimental approach to creating tern nesting habitat. Stacy and Sarah started collecting information from their vantage inside the Dutchy Lake floating blind in late April, when there was still snow on nearby Winter Rim. "Snow flurries were blustering through the blind windows" their field notebooks recorded, and "It's bloody freezing in here!" They also noted that the island rocked slightly and they could feel the blind move on windy days. Their notes also reveal their anticipation: "Starting this project we have no idea if the birds will come and, if so, how many."

Their questions were soon answered. In late April, Caspian terns were first sighted loafing on Dutchy Lake floating island, along with roosting ring-billed gulls, American white pelicans, Forster's terns, and double-crested cormorants. By mid-May, the count of Caspian terns on the floating island ranged from 8 -- 33 individuals and some of the terns were copulating and digging nest scrapes in the pumice substrate in preparation for egg-laying. On May 17, the first Caspian tern egg was spotted on the floating island, followed by the initiation of seven additional Caspian tern nests with eggs. The colony monitors were surprised that despite eight pairs of Caspian terns nesting on the floating island, all the ring-billed and California gulls choose to nest on the solid, rock-core island at East Link. It was as if the gulls sensed that there was something not quite right about a floating island that moves and pivots around one end. Whatever the cause, this left the Dutchy Lake
floating island free of nesting gulls and the nest predation pressure that gulls frequently represent at tern colonies. The colony monitors have also observed that tern chicks tended to move freely over Dutchy Lake floating island, whereas tern chicks at other colonies with nesting gulls tend to stay close to their nest scrape and the protection of their parents due to intense predation pressure from gulls.

Re-sightings of banded Caspian terns provide some clues of where the birds using the floating island have come from. Three terns banded as fledglings at East Sand Island at the mouth of the Columbia River in 2000, 2003, and 2006 have been seen at Dutchy Lake floating island, as well as five terns banded as fledglings at Crescent Island on the Columbia Plateau in 2004, 2005, and 2006; one of the terns banded at East Sand Island was actually nesting on the Dutchy Lake floating island. A ninth banded tern that visited recently had been banded a few weeks earlier at the new Crump Lake tern island in Warner Valley. By mid July, high counts of Caspian terns on the floating island exceeded 40, as birds from other locales wandered into the Summer Lake area.

The hatching success and chick survival of Caspian terns nesting on the Dutchy Lake floating island has so far been excellent; eight nesting pairs have hatched and raised 13 half-grown young. To date, these results have demonstrated that floating islands can provide secure nesting habitat for Caspian terns in areas where no natural nesting habitat exists and where draining impoundments to construct rock-core islands is not feasible.

"This is a huge project and we will continue to watch with interest the strategies that Caspian terns employ when choosing preferred breeding sites," said Dan Battaglia, the Coordinator for the Summer Lake field crew. "It is exciting to collaborate with other agencies and use innovative technologies to further wildlife management goals."

* Gillnetters' Early Success Restricts Commercial Fishery To Avoid Impacts On ESA Salmon

The early catch success of the non-tribal gill-net fleet in early-fall outings on the lower Columbia River mainstem resulted in the boats being docked to prevent additional "impacts" in the near term on Endangered Species Act-listed salmon.

The Columbia River Compact last Friday (Aug. 21) decided to rescind a 10-hour fishery that was scheduled to begin Sunday evening, and met again Monday to reduce the areas for fisheries planned Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The Friday and Monday decisions were intended to reduce impacts on "lower river hatchery fall (LRH) chinook tules."

The restriction of commercial fishing planned this week to just the zone closest to Bonneville Dam was aimed at focusing fishing on upriver salmon stocks and away from the LRH tules.

And focus it did. Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife estimated that the two outings scheduled this week would result in a commercial catch of, at most, 4,400 chinook. But the gill-netters caught an estimated 3,500 to 4,000 chinook on Tuesday night alone.

So a Compact telephone conference was quickly arranged to rescind the planned Thursday fishery. The intent is to conserve allowable impacts on "upriver bright" fall chinook salmon. The URBs are fish that originated upriver of Bonneville Dam and include Snake River fall chinook stock, which are also listed. Federal agencies, states and tribes are parties to an agreement that establishes percentage limits on the impacts that state and tribal harvests can have on listed stocks.

Counting the rough estimate of Tuesday night's commercial harvest, the gill-netters had caught 27,300 to 27,800 chinook during six August outings. A state harvest plan had anticipated 19,330 chinook would be caught during eight planned August fisheries.

The commercial fleet is well within its allowable impacts but incurring more impacts could reduce management flexibility later. The late fall fishery is expected to begin Sept. 20, with a one-day target chinook fishery and include six to eight fishing periods by the end of the month. The preseason expectation is for a late fall season catch of 25,200 chinook.

And directed coho fisheries are expected to begin in late September and continue into October and could result in URB impacts. The coho catch is expected to be 31,000 fish.

"We would be, potentially, putting those plans for future fisheries at risk" by allowing the Thursday fishery, said Steve Williams, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife director's representative on the Compact.

The non-Indian commercial fisheries planned for this week were confined to a thin strip of the Columbia River mainstem to avoid LRH impacts.

Harvest of the hatchery tules is limited to protect their naturally produced mates, who are protected under the ESA. In earlier August outings, the gill-net fleet caught more chinook overall than was expected and the catch included a higher percentage of LRH tule fall chinook than anticipated.

The cancelled Sunday evening fishery was planned on the mainstem from the Kalama River at river mile 73 up to near Beacon Rock at river mile 139, about four miles downstream from Bonneville Dam.

On Monday the Compact confined the commercial fishers to the area from Rooster Rock at about river mile 128 up to Beacon Rock so they would catch only URBs. The Compact, which sets mainstem commercial fisheries, is made up of Oregon and Washington fishery officials.

The LRH are swimming towards lower river tributaries with the uppermost being the Sandy River in Oregon and the Washougal River. Both rivers flow into the Columbia a few miles downriver from Rooster Rock.

"The staff has agreed that that we have to be very conservative and very prudent in this part of the game," the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Robin Ehlke told the Compact Wednesday. While other returning salmon stocks are also ESA listed, the LRH are the most constraining for fall season fisheries.

Compact representatives Bill Tweit of WDFW and Tony Nigro of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on Monday agreed to the fish area reduction. Tweit and Williams served as the Compact when the decision was made to eliminate the Thursday night fishery.

They also decided to limit to three the number of white sturgeon that could be possessed or sold per week by each commercial vessel. The limit had been nine sturgeon but the catch to-date of an estimated 3,100 exceeds the August allocation of 2,000. That overage will cut into the 3,200 allocation for late fall fisheries. The commercial fleet is allocated a total harvest of 8,000 white sturgeon for the year.

The good news is that counts of upriver fall chinook at Bonneville have been higher than normal for this time of year. Those counts started at 128 on Aug. 1 and have risen nearly every day. The Tuesday count was 10,857 and Wednesday's was 8,199, which brought the fall chinook count to-date to 62,251. The 10-year average through Aug. 26 is 34,930. Generally by Sept. 7 the 50 percent of the year's fall chinook run will have passed Bonneville.

"Both bright and tule counts are tracking ahead expectations. That's certainly a good sign," Stuart Ellis, chair of the Technical Advisory Committee, told the Compact. TAC's federal, state and tribal fishery experts develop run-size forecasts.

The 2009 preseason forecast is for a total fall chinook adult return of 532,900 to the mouth of the Columbia, which would be similar to the 10-year average. That forecast includes 269,700 URBs, which would be 44 percent greater than last year's return and 46 percent greater than the recent 10-year average.

The Mid-Columbia bright fall chinook forecast is 98,000 adults and the Bonneville Pool Hatchery fall chinook tule forecast is 56,500. The MCB forecast is 116 percent of the 10-year average, and also greater than the 2008 return. The BPH forecast of 56,500 adults is 60 percent of last year's return, and the recent average.


* Inter-Tribal Company Would Operate $4.2 Million Fish Processing Facility At White Salmon

Two years after appointing two people to serve as advisers for a new inter-tribal corporation, the Umatilla Tribes are still hoping three other Columbia River treaty fishing tribes will get on board.

The proposed company would be created to operate a $4.2-million fish processing facility built in 2006 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at White Salmon. The facility would be operated for the benefit of tribal fishers from the four lower Columbia River treaty fishing tribes.

The Nez Perce in mid-August announced the appointment of two individuals to the eight-person board of advisers for a corporation first proposed in October of 2007.

The 8,000-square-foot facility includes cutting/gutting tables, a blast freezer, refrigeration unit and freezer, and commercial-grade ice machines. In the last two years, the primary function of the facility has been to produce ice.

Still, fishers remain optimistic that the facility will eventually be used for its intended purpose -- to give tribes more control over natural resources and to make tribal fishers larger players within the salmon market.

First, though, it will require commitments from all the players.

"This river is what ties us together," said Marcus Luke II, who was appointed two years ago as a representative for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

"The Umatilla, Yakama, Warm Springs and Nez Perce all share this way of life since Celilo and the beginning. We need to keep that relationship going for the next generation's way of life.. I think the fish facility is a great opportunity for all of us tribes to not only work together and help our tribal fishermen, but help provide new opportunities."

Paul Lumley, executive director at the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, said the fish processing facility is a "fantastic economic development opportunity" that could "create well-paying jobs." Further, he said, the facility is a means for tribes to exercise their treaty fishing rights while giving fishers direct access to commercial markets.

"I cannot imagine a better scenario for tribes to enter into an economic development venture," Lumley said. "If successful, it will be the first time that our four CRITFC tribes have partnered in an economic development initiative. Because this is so unique, it has taken more time than anticipated." 

Luke, who fishes with family members near Beacon Rock at Coberg Beach east of Hood River, agrees.

"We all know our fishermen need ice and that's only the beginning. Maybe later on we could employ many tribal members, provide better fish prices and bite into the bigger market," Luke said. "The facility is big enough for many ideas, maybe even a place to cut, clean and fillet, or freeze under one roof. Maybe we could establish new resources with canners, smokers, and sell ice all year long to local entities."

A feasibility study completed in 2007 projected that the plant could initially buy whole fish from tribal fishers and sell headed and gutted fish to a primarily Northwest market. Later on, the plant could add products like fillets.

As initially envisioned, the facility would be operated for and by tribal fishers. According to planning documents, up to 800,000 pounds -- that's about 40,000 20-pound salmon -- could be processed in the first year of the new facility, which would be FDA food-safety compliant.

Because it is a non-profit entity, CRITFC will not be involved in the business end of the operation.

But Lumley said the four tribes are in a position to take advantage of land, the building and equipment already in place.

"There is no initial capital investment and over $550,000 in operational funds that have already been established," Lumley said. "We are well on our way."

The next critical step in the implementation phase is for the other tribes to appoint individuals to the facility's board of advisers and for each tribe to contribute $7,500 for initial capitalization.

Luke said operation of the fish facility by tribal fishers could have a snowball effect economically and could improve partnerships.

"The local economy could benefit throughout the seasons because Indian people already buy at local grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, marine supplies, school shopping, autos, etc., and maybe it could help improve relationships -- tribal and non-tribal. This can be whatever we want it to be," Luke said.

Last week the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which has operation and maintenance responsibilities as transferred from the Corps, provided 31 totes -- 1,100 pounds each or a total of about 33,000 pounds -- of ice to fishers. The totes were taken to Celilo and Stanley Rock treaty-access sites.

By the end of this fall season, Keith Hatch, BIA fisheries biologist, expects the facility will have provided about 400,000 pounds of ice to tribal fishermen.

The ice making machines can produce 10 tons of ice a day.

The today finished an initial 4.5-day commercial fishery on Columbia mainstem reservoirs above Bonneville. At least two more fisheries are planned, one next week and another the week after. The primary target is fall chinook salmon.


* BPA Informs Council On Fish, Wildlife Project Spending For Fiscal Year 2010

The Bonneville Power Administration this week unveiled a fiscal year 2010 "start of year" fish and wildlife budget that reflects increased spending called for in the federal government's Columbia River basin salmon protection plan and in so-called "Columbia River Fish Accords" signed with states and tribes.

The budget spreadsheet lists 472 projects ranging from hatchery maintenance to habitat restoration. The federal power marketing agency says it expects to fund $215 million in "expense" projects through the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's Fish and Wildlife Program in 2010. Next year's budget for capital projects is $70 million, according to an Aug. 25 letter to Council Chairman Bill Booth from Bill Maslen, BPA director of Fish and Wildlife.

During the 2007-2009 period the program budget initially had a $143 million budget cap for expense and $39 million for capital projects. But the completion of NOAA Fisheries' Federal Columbia River Power System biological opinion in May 2008 and the signing of memorandums of agreement with the Colville, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Yakama and Shoshone-Bannock tribes and the states of Idaho, Montana and Washington resulted in additional project funding needs.

The MOAs alone produced a list of projects for which BPA pledged more than $1 billion in additional funding during the 2008-2017 period. A complete BiOp project list is still in development. The BiOp, which spans the same time period, aims to assure the federal Columbia-Snake river power system does not jeopardize the survival of basin salmon and steelhead stocks that are listed under the Endangered Species Act. BPA markets power generated in the hydro system and funds projects to mitigate for impacts to fish and wildlife cause by the dams.

The projects are channeled through the NPCC's Independent Scientific Review Panel and the Council recommends which projects should be funded. BPA ultimately decides which projects are funded and at what level.

The FY2010 projects budgets may be found at: http://www.cbfish.org/Portfolio.mvc/ViewBudgetSummary/284

The SOY budget bottom line is $250 million, up from $239 million for 2009. The SOY or "planning" budgets assume that actual spending will be less than planned because some projects inevitably stall or fall behind schedule, thus the $215 million spending estimate.

"The FY 2010 SOY budget is based on outcomes of the Integrated Program Review for Power Costs which concluded in June 2009," according to Maslen's letter. "The final Fish and Wildlife Program expense budget for FY 2010 is $215 million and takes into account the continuation of on-going work and expected ramp-up of new work associated with the Accords and BiOp."

The budget incorporates projects recommended for funding by the Council after its recently completed wildlife project categorical review.

"BPA will also strive to incorporate the results of future categorical and geographic project reviews as they are completed, including review comments by the Independent Science Review Panel and recommendation of the Council," Maslen said. "In particular, we anticipate the Council will complete the RME categorical review near the beginning of the calendar year."

"We look forward to working with the Council to better focus RME projects to meet Program and BiOp priorities."


* Fishing For Snake River Fall Chinook Starts Tuesday; Biggest Return In Four Decades

The fall chinook salmon harvest season on the Snake River between Lewiston and Hells Canyon Dam opens Tuesday, Sept. 1, the same day Snake River steelhead harvest season opens.

It will remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week until October 31 or until further notice.

Fishery managers predict the largest fall chinook salmon run in four decades -- they expect more than 28,000 fall chinook to cross Lower Granite Dam on their way back to Idaho. Most of them are headed for the Snake River above the mouth of the Clearwater River.

The daily limit is one adult or jack fall chinook, and three in possession. Anglers may keep only fish with a clipped adipose fin, evidenced by a healed scar, and they may keep 40 salmon for the year, including spring, summer and fall chinook.

All salmon and steelhead with an intact adipose fin must be immediately released unharmed back to the water.

Fishing rules are the same as those for steelhead. Anglers may use only barbless hooks no larger than five-eighths inch from the point to the shank. When the daily, possession or season limit is reached, the angler must stop fishing for salmon, including catch-and-release.

It is unlawful to take or fish for salmon and steelhead by snagging. Salmon and steelhead caught in a legal manner must be either released or killed immediately after landing.

Anglers must have a valid Idaho fishing license and salmon permit in possession to fish for salmon. A salmon permit for the spring or summer season still is valid; for anglers who didn't keep theirs, replacement permits are available for $7.25 for residents and $8.25 for nonresidents.

The Snake River will open to fall chinook in four sections:

-- From the Washington-Idaho border upstream to the Blue Bridge (U.S. Highway 12) between Lewiston and Clarkston.

-- Blue Bridge upstream to the Oregon-Washington border.

-- From Oregon-Washington border upstream to the mouth of Sheep Creek.

-- Mouth of Sheep Creek upstream to Hells Canyon Dam.

No fall chinook may be harvested in the Clearwater River.


* Columbia River Ocean Area Sport Fishing Closed; Upstream Buoy 10 Fishing Goes On With Huge Coho Run

Sport fishing for salmon in the ocean between Leadbetter Point, Wash., and Cape Falcon, Ore., will close Monday, Aug. 31, at 11:59 p.m.

But fishing opportunity remains at the mouth of the Columbia River at Buoy 10 where the coho bag limit was increased this week.

"The Columbia River ocean area has been having a great fishing season," said Eric Schindler, ocean salmon project leader for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Fishery managers estimate that catches will be close to the adjusted catch quota of 96,500 fin-clipped coho by early next week. Landings slowed last week and early this week with poor weather conditions, and allowed fishery managers to leave the season open through the weekend."

The decision came after National Marine Fisheries Service, Pacific Fishery Management Council, the states of Washington and Oregon, and ocean fishers reviewed the catch statistics of the ocean recreational salmon fishery in the Columbia River Ocean Salmon Management Area at a meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The closure does not include the popular recreational fishery inside the Columbia River upstream of Buoy 10. Coho are returning in huge numbers to the Columbia River. Fishery managers are forecasting that 700,000 coho will return to the river this year, which would be the largest return since 2001.

Sport fishing for fin-clipped coho continues in the ocean from Cape Falcon south to Humbug Mountain (near Port Orford) is expected to continue through Sept 30.

In response to new data, ODFW this week actually increased the bag limit on coho to three fish per day in the Buoy 10 fishery, effective Sept. 1. The rule change means anglers can keep two adult adipose fin-clipped steelhead or adipose fin-clipped adult coho in combination, plus one additional adult fin-clipped coho. In a bag limit of three fish, the third fish must be an adipose fin-clipped adult coho.

"The chinook season started off fairly well and went pretty much as planned, although catch rates have dropped off in the last 10 days or so," said Chris Kern said of the Buoy 10 fishery. Kern is an assistant ODFW fisheries manager for the Ocean Salmon and Columbia River Program.

Surveys showed that through Aug. 24, recreational anglers caught and kept approximately 4,100 chinook at Buoy 10, which is within harvest guidelines established earlier in the year by fishery managers from Oregon and Washington. Managers from the two states expect the season to continue as planned through Aug. 31. The area between Buoy 10 and Tongue Point is scheduled to be closed to retention of chinook from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.

Salmon fishing effort at Buoy 10 now focuses on coho.

"Coho numbers in Buoy 10 are still climbing right now", said Kern, adding, "There are lots of reports coming in of 'coho everywhere' in the area, and catch rates should be outstanding over the next few weeks."


* Northwest Utility, Energy, Research Team Bids On $178 Million Regional Smart Grid Project

A team of Northwest energy providers, utilities, vendors and research organizations has submitted a proposal to conduct a regional smart grid demonstration project.

The project is designed to ultimately lower energy costs, reduce emissions, increase power grid reliability and give consumers greater flexibility.

The proposal responds to a June call from the U.S. Department of Energy to create regional smart grid demonstration projects that can show how smart grid technology can enhance the safety, reliability and efficiency of energy delivery on a regional and national level. DOE is providing stimulus funding via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the regional demonstrations. Proposals were due Wednesday, Aug. 26, and funding will be announced by DOE later this year.

The Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project partnership will be led by Battelle and includes a dozen utilities in five Northwest states and the Bonneville Power Administration. The participating utilities run the gamut from investor-owned, municipal, and cooperative rural electrical utilities to public utility districts.

The project will involve more than 60,000 metered customers in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. Using smart grid technologies, the project will engage system assets exceeding 112 megawatts, the equivalent of power to serve 86,000 households.

Following installation of equipment and technology, participants will gather energy use information over a two-year period from 15 test sites that represent the region's diverse terrain, weather and demographics. Test sites range from Fox Island in Puget Sound to the Teton Mountains in western Wyoming, and include the University of Washington and Washington State University campuses.

"The proposed demonstration will study smart grid benefits at unprecedented geographic breadth across five states, spanning the electrical system from generation to end-use, and containing many key functions of the future smart grid," said Mike Davis, a Battelle vice president. "The intended impact of this project will span well beyond traditional utility service territory boundaries, helping to enable a future grid that meets pressing local, regional and national needs."

During the study, researchers will gain insight into energy consumers' behavior while testing new technologies designed to bring the electric transmission system into the information age. A new combination of devices, software and advanced analytical tools will give homeowners more information about their energy use and cost, and researchers want to know if this will modify their behavior.

The project -- if selected -- will last five years and cost about $178 million, half of which will be provided by the project's participants. At its peak, it will create about 1,500 jobs in manufacturing, installation, and operating smart grid equipment, telecommunications networks, software, and controls.

"The project will measure and validate smart grid costs and benefits for customers, utilities and regulators, thereby informing business cases for future smart grid investments," said Davis. "It also will help spur a vibrant new smart grid industry and a more cost-effective, reliable electricity supply, both which are foundations for economic growth and international competitiveness.

"And the information customers receive from the smart grid will empower them to become active instead of passive recipients of electricity," he said.

In addition to leading the project, Battelle will analyze field data collected during the project.

In 2006, the region participated in the DOE-funded Pacific Northwest GridWise Demonstration Project on the Olympic Peninsula. That project was designed to test and speed adoption of new smart grid technologies that can make the power grid more resilient and efficient. The study showed that advanced technologies enabled consumers to be active participants in improving power grid efficiency and reliability, while saving about 10 percent on their electricity bills in the process.

"BPA is excited to be part of the effort to bring a smart grid project to the Pacific Northwest," said the agency's Energy Efficiency Vice President Mike Weedall. "This technology can help meet increasing power demands, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote energy independence and help improve national security. If the proposal is funded, it would also create green, sustainable jobs in technology, energy efficiency and other industries in the region."

Weedall noted the demonstration project builds upon the leadership the Pacific Northwest has delivered to the nation's emerging smart grid agenda including pioneering smart grid technology, utility applications, customer engagement strategies and policy. For example, the 2006 GridWise Demonstration Project showed how smart grid technologies and consumers can play an active role in managing the grid.


* Federal Judge To Consider Preliminary Injunction To Halt Montana, Idaho Wolf Hunts

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula has granted a request for a hearing to consider a preliminary injunction that would halt pending wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho. The hearing is set for Monday, the day before the Idaho hunting season is scheduled to start.

Wolf permits went on sale this past Monday in Idaho, which has set a quota for hunters to kill 220 wolves in a fall season that starts on Tuesday.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks plans to start selling permits Aug. 31 with a statewide quota of 75 wolves during a season that starts Sept. 15.

Idaho permit outlets reported brisk wolf tag sales Monday, with more than 4,000 sold by mid-day.

The wolf-hunting permits there cost $11.75 for residents or $186 for nonresidents, while in Montana the permits will cost $19 for residents or $350 for nonresidents.

That is, if the hunts are allowed to proceed.

Last year, Molloy issued an injunction that stopped similar hunts approved by both states and he later ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to review a decision to remove wolves from protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The service did just that, and the Obama administration delisted wolves in Montana and Idaho earlier this year. But this year's delisting excluded Wyoming, a difference that likely will figure prominently in the arguments of a dozen environmental and animal rights organizations that are seeking another injunction.

The states of Montana and Idaho are among nine parties that have formally intervened in the case on behalf of the federal government's delisting decision.

The three-hour hearing on a motion for preliminary injunction is scheduled at 9 a.m. Monday in Molloy's Missoula court.

Between Montana and Idaho, the hunts potentially could remove 295 wolves from the combined population of about 1,350 wolves.

Montana wolf hunting would be divided into three districts.

One district, covering the northern tier of the state including Northwest Montana, has a quota of 41 wolves, with a subquota of two wolves in the North Fork of the Flathead River.

In the second district, a patch of southwestern Montana from Missoula south through the Bitterroot and Upper Big Hole valleys, the wolf harvest quota is 22.

The third wolf-hunting district, which extends across southern Montana east of Dillon, the wolf quota is 12.

The wolf-hunting season runs from Sept. 15 to Nov. 29 in early backcountry deer and elk hunting districts and from Oct. 25 to Nov. 29 statewide. If certain quotas aren't met, the wolf-hunting season could be extended until Dec. 31 in some areas.


* CBB Shorts: Reducing Wenatchee River Pollution; Yakima Flow Ops For Chinook; Reducing Puget Sound Sewer Overflows; Willamette Coho Bag Limits Raised; ODFW Fish Conference; Lubchenco Leads Delegation To Climate Conference

--- EPA Approves Plan For Reducing Wenatchee River Basin Water Pollution
A long-sought plan for improving water quality in the Wenatchee River basin endorsed by local cities, utility providers and the Washington Department of Ecology has been approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Drafted with the help of local stakeholders, the report sets goals for meeting water quality standards for pH and dissolved oxygen in the Wenatchee River and Icicle Creek.

"Though the task may appear daunting, local leaders stepped up and hammered out a plan to protect the environmental diversity emblematic of the Wenatchee watershed," said Tom Tebb, state agency's regional director for Central Washington.

Also called a Total Maximum Daily Load, the report outlines ways to reduce the flow of pollutants such as phosphorus from wastewater treatment plants, leaking septic systems and stormwater runoff to the Wenatchee River and Icicle Creek.
Phosphorus promotes algae growth, which increases pH. When algae growth dies off and decomposes, oxygen is depleted, harming salmon and other aquatic life. The goal is to increase dissolved oxygen and keep pH levels in the range of 6.5 to 8.5 in the river. It is typical to measure pH higher than 9 and dissolved oxygen lower than the state standard of 8 milligrams per liter during the warmer summer months. Warm water, low dissolved oxygen and high pH create stressful conditions for salmon in the river.

Stakeholders also contributed to the development of a Water Quality Implementation Plan, which outlines the steps for meeting water quality standards and measuring progress of actions that improve water quality in the Wenatchee River and Icicle Creek. The plan will be available for public comment soon.

"A locally-driven plan provides the best opportunity for improving the water quality of one of Washington's treasures, the Wenatchee River basin," said Mike Kaputa, Chelan County Natural Resources director. "Achieving these goals is crucial not only to local fisheries, but to maintaining the quality of life residents and visitors expect and value."

The WQIP was constructed with help from the Wenatchee Watershed Planning Unit, Chelan County, Chelan Public Utility District, and the cities of Leavenworth, Cashmere and Wenatchee. The plan outlines what cleanup actions should be taken and tracks how successful those strategies are to reduce pollution in the Wenatchee River and Icicle Creek.


--- Yakima Project "Flip-Flop" Operation to Begin To Encourage Chinook Spawning

The Bureau of Reclamation announced that it has begun the annual "flip-flop" operation in the Yakima Basin by gradually reducing flows in the upper arm of the Yakima River and increasing flows in the Naches River with increased water releases from Rimrock Reservoir.

"We are starting the flip-flop operation earlier this year to make it more of a gradual transition than in the past," said Chuck Garner. "The transition will get the river flows to the same mid-September levels as in the past, but we are taking a slower approach this year."

The purpose of the "flip-flop" operation is to encourage spring chinook salmon to spawn at relatively low flows in the upper Yakima River and the Bumping River so that less water is required during the winter to keep the egg nests covered. The water operation also reduces impacts on irrigation water supply during the next season.

The Sept. 8 operation involves routing water down the Kittitas Reclamation District's Spill Way 1146 into the Yakima River near Thorp, Wash.

Reclamation will install buoys that will be in place from Sept. 8 until about Oct. 20. The buoys serve as a warning to recreationists to stay out of the turbulent flows. It is recommended that recreationists portage around this area.

Flows out of Cle Elum Reservoir will gradually decrease from the current flow down to between 200 to 250 cubic feet per second by about Sept. 15 or sooner. Flows from Rimrock Reservoir are expected to increase from the current flow to near 2,000 cfs by mid-September and could possibly reach 2,200 to 2,400 cfs, depending upon irrigation demands and weather conditions. Flows could exceed 1,200 cfs by Sept. 1, depending on irrigation demands and weather.

Stream flow changes will occur gradually during the Labor Day holiday weekend.


--- Seattle, King County Agree To Step Up Efforts To Reduce Sewer Overflows To Puget Sound

The City of Seattle and King County have agreed to increase their efforts to protect Puget Sound from wastewater overflows during severe rainstorms, according to compliance orders issued today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA issued the orders to address violations of the two governments' federal Clean Water Act wastewater discharge permits.

"We know that sewer overflows regularly deliver harmful pollution to Puget Sound," said Michelle Pirzadeh, EPA's acting regional administrator in Seattle. "What we are requiring of the city and county is clear: They must take steps to reduce the volume and frequency of overflows. We must make sure our treatment plants are doing their best to reduce the amount of untreated wastewater entering Puget Sound waters."

Seattle and King County have combined sewer systems, which carry wastewater and storm water to a sewage treatment plant before being discharged into a nearby water body. During heavy rainstorms, these systems can exceed their capacity and overflow. The extra water gets piped or pumped, with little or no treatment, directly into Puget Sound-area waters.

Seattle currently manages 92 combined sewer overflow locations and King County manages 38, each of which routinely discharge untreated water during heavy rain into Lake Union, Lake Washington, the Duwamish River and Puget Sound. In 2007 Seattle's system overflowed approximately 249 times and King County's system overflowed approximately 87 times.

Each year, an estimated 1.94 billion gallons of untreated sewage and polluted runoff are discharged from Seattle and King County combined sewer overflow outfalls into Puget Sound or its tributary waters. This overflow can also carry high levels of grease, petroleum and other chemicals from our roadways, parking lots and other paved surfaces.

Both the city and county have already added some water storage capacity to their systems, which has reduced the volume of overflows.


--- ODFW Raises Coho Bag Limit On Upper Willamette
Anglers may keep an additional coho salmon on the Willamette River and its tributaries above Willamette Falls under new rules adopted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Effective Sept. 1, the daily bag limit for coho salmon and steelhead in combination increases to three fish on the Willamette River above Willamette Falls, Molalla, and Santiam rivers. Anglers will also be allowed to keep an additional coho salmon on the Yamhill and Tualatin rivers, which remain closed to steelhead. 

Prior to the rule change, anglers could keep up to three adipose fin-clipped steelhead or two clipped or unclipped coho in the upper Willamette, Molalla, and Santiam. Under the new rule, they can catch up to three fin-clipped steelhead or coho in any combination.

The new rules also provide additional coho angling opportunity in the Santiam basin. Effective Sept. 1, coho angling will be allowed in the mainstem Santiam, North Fork up to the Stayton-Scio bridge in Stayton, and South Fork up to the Grant Street bridge in Lebanon. The rivers above these points will remain closed to salmon angling through Oct. 1 to protect spawning spring chinook. 

Fishery managers are projecting that 700,000 coho will return to the Columbia River this year, which would be the largest return since 2001. Steelhead have also been showing up at Bonneville Dam in record numbers.

"It's exciting to see salmon and steelhead returning in such large numbers." said Steve Mamoyac, ODFW fish biologist for the South Willamette Watershed District. "We are pleased to be able to offer these additional opportunities to anglers.

Also, anglers will be allowed to keep an extra fin-clipped coho salmon in several lower Columbia River tributaries, starting Sept. 1.

The rules, prompted by an exceptionally large run of hatchery coho to Big Creek and Youngs Bay, give anglers the opportunity to retain up to three hatchery coho per day in open waters of Bear Creek, Big Creek, the Clatskanie River, Gnat Creek; the John Day River (Clatsop County), the Klaskanine River; the Lewis & Clark River, Youngs Bay, and Youngs River.

Effective Sept. 1, the daily bag limit in these areas is two adult adipose fin-clipped steelhead or adipose fin-clipped coho or chinook in combination, plus an additional fin-clipped coho, but only in waters that are currently open to coho angling by permanent rule (see 2009 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations for open waters). In a bag limit of three fish, the third fish must be a fin-clipped coho.

"We have a near record-run of hatchery coho returning to the lower Columbia River system this year and want anglers to be able to take advantage of this opportunity," said Chris Knutsen, ODFW fish biologist for the North Coast Watershed District. "Coho fishing has been exceptional and prospects for continued success are very good. Some of these streams are closed to angling during the month of September, so anglers need to check their regulation pamphlet. Coho fishing in October should be excellent."


--- More Than 30 speakers Confirmed For ODFW Fish Conference
How do scientists predict the number of salmon that will return from the ocean next year?

What are the ramifications of wave energy development off the Oregon coast?

Why are urban centers so important to the future of Oregon's salmon, trout and steelhead?

These are just a few of the more than 30 topics that will be addressed during the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department's STEP conference in Salem Sept. 11-13.

STEP stands for Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program, which was adopted by the Oregon Legislature in 1981 to mobilize teachers, students, and volunteers in an ongoing statewide effort to bolster the state's salmon, trout and steelhead populations.

The bi-annual STEP conference pulls experts from a wide range of fish-related disciplines together to explore the latest developments in fish conservation, management and research.

The conference is designed to give attendees a broad understanding of the science and politics of Oregon's signature fish through a "crash course" taught by some of the region's leading biologists, conservationists and community activists.

"Salmon in the City" is the theme of this year's conference, which will take place at the Oregon 4-H Center eight miles west of Salem.

"Urban areas represent the key constituents to successful salmon recovery," said Kaitlin Lovell, senior program manager for the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, one of the conference speakers. "Urban areas typically represent critical habitats that must be restored to successfully achieve recovery. As degraded as they are, urban areas also represent some of the best, immediate opportunities for restoration." The City of Portland, for example, has critical habitat for 13 fish species listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The conference will include an overview of ODFW's new 25-year angling plan, which focuses on enhancing youth fishing opportunities near Oregon's population centers. It will also highlight a new fish-friendly "green" housing development in Salem, provide helpful hints to teachers who want to incorporate fish-related material in their lesson plans, and even offer tips for homeowners on how to build a backyard rain garden.

"This will be an excellent opportunity for people to come learn about Oregon's fish from some of the top people in the field," said Shelly Miller, acting STEP coordinator. "We are excited about the caliber of the people and the quality of the topics that will be represented at this year's conference."

Registration is required and costs $15. Forms are available on ODFW's Web site at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/step/step-conference.asp.

For a list of conference speakers and their topics.



--- NOAA Administrator Lubchenco To Lead U.S. Delegation to World Climate Conference

Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, will lead a U.S. delegation to Geneva, Switzerland, Aug. 31-Sept. 4 for the World Climate Conference-3 in efforts to establish a Global Framework for Climate Services. This framework is intended to help meet accelerating demands for useful information on the impacts of climate change.

"Climate change is real. It is happening now, in our backyards and around the globe," said Lubchenco. "Decision-makers across all sectors require reliable, relevant information about the current and projected impacts of climate change, whether they are farmers, manufacturers, or city officials planning snow removal budgets or options for water resources, transportation or new housing developments. In a rapidly changing world these decisions cannot be made based on weather of the past; decision-makers need to know what to expect in the next twenty to fifty years to plan effectively."

Next week's conference will bring together those who collect and develop climate information with those who need it, setting in motion an unprecedented opportunity to design a system that will inform decision-making in a way that is similar to how weather services work today, but on a longer time-scale. Climate services would include the broad range of what users require to address their needs, including data collection, technical assessment, analysis and prediction, and the ability to interpret and use the information.    

The U.S. delegation will include representatives from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. National Science Foundation, USAID, the Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA and NASA. U.S. officials will be actively engaged at the conference, learning from the international community and sharing American knowledge and innovations.

The first two World Climate Conferences, in 1979 and 1990, greatly enhanced capabilities to observe and assess climate change, ultimately leading to the establishment of the World Climate Research Program and the Global Climate Observing System, as well as the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"Rarely are we presented with such a clear chance to shape our future, to start taking actions essential to making our planet healthier, safer and more environmentally and economically viable. We look forward to working with the international community to make this a very successful conference," said Lubchenco.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.


* Feedback: Mercury Contamination In Fish

--- From Don A. Essig, Water Quality Standards Coordinator, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality

RE: USGS Study Documents Widespread Mercury Contamination In Fish Nationwide, CBB, 08/21/2009, http://www.cbbulletin.com/351355.aspx

In their study released this past week the USGS did not document "mercury contamination in every fish sampled in 291 streams across the country". Rather "Mercury was detected in all fish sampled from 291 streams across the United States." There is a difference, and it is important.

While it is accurate to say every fish had detectable mercury that does not mean they all were contaminated. This would be true were we talking about DDT, PCB's or some other manmade toxin. With mercury and other naturally occurring toxins it is wrong to equate detection with contamination. Mercury is a natural element, has always been in our environment, and always been in fish.

Still the USGS is likely correct. Given the estimated tripling of air mercury levels since the industrial revolution it is reasonable to expect that all fish these days have elevated levels of mercury and in that sense they are all contaminated. That conclusion can not be drawn from just measuring current levels of mercury in fish; it requires much deeper investigation, much of which the USGS is involved in.

What troubles me as a regulator is that your report will leave readers with the impression we should have fish with no mercury. We will never get there, never were there. While it is important to recognize that fish have been contaminated with mercury, it is also important to realize that a portion to the mercury we find in fish these days is natural. How much is natural is very hard to say, but it is not zero.

Don A. Essig
Water Quality Standards Coordinator
Idaho DEQ
1410 N. Hilton
Boise, ID 83706-1255

Editor's Note: For more information and recently posted Frequently Asked Questions about "Mercury in Fish, Bed Sediment, and Water from Streams Across the United States" go to the USGS website at http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/mercury/MercurySurveyFAQ.html

Questions include:
-- Were we surprised to detect mercury in every fish sample?
-- Where does the mercury in these streams come from?
-- Has mercury always been in fish? Is atmospheric mercury natural?


MESSAGE TO READERS: The CBB will not be published next week. We will return Sept. 11.

For more information about the CBB contact:
-- BILL CRAMPTON, Editor/Writer, bcrampton@cbbulletin.com, phone:
541-312-8860 or
-- BARRY ESPENSON, Senior Writer, bespenson@msn.com, phone: 360-696-4005; fax: 360-694-1530

The stories in this e-mail newsletter are posted on the Columbia Basin Bulletin website at www.cbbulletin.com. If you would like access to the CBB archives, please consider becoming a Member of the CBB website for as little as $5 a month. Your membership will help support maintenance of the 10-year (1998-2008) news database and the production of trustworthy, timely news and information about Columbia Basin fish and wildlife issues.


Feedback comments should be sent by e-mail to the Editor at bcrampton@cbbulletin.com. Please put "feedback"in the subject line. We encourage comments about particular stories, complaints about inaccuracies or omissions; additional information; general views about the topic covered; or opinions that counterbalance statements reported.

The Columbia Basin Bulletin e-mail newsletter is produced by Intermountain Communications of Bend, Oregon and supported with Bonneville Power Administration fish and wildlife funds through the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program.
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