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THE COLUMBIA BASIN BULLETIN:
Weekly Fish and Wildlife News
www.cbbulletin.com
December 11, 2009 Issue No. 511
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All stories below are posted on the CBB's website at www.cbbulletin.com

Table of Contents

* Harvest Managers For 2010 Predict Largest Spring Chinook Return On Record
http://www.cbbulletin.com/368669.aspx

* High 2009 Fall Chinook Jack Count Indicates Greater Adult Return Likely In 2010
http://www.cbbulletin.com/368668.aspx

* Clearwater Coho Project Returns Enough Adults To Produce Own Eggs For Rearing
http://www.cbbulletin.com/368667.aspx

* 2009 Fall Chinook Redd Counts In Snake River's Hells Canyon Marks Another Record
http://www.cbbulletin.com/368666.aspx

* UW Research Program Measures Salmon Abundance, Characteristics In North Pacific 'High Seas'
http://www.cbbulletin.com/368665.aspx

* Researchers Search For Methods To Reduce High Numbers Of 'Mini-Jacks' Produced By Hatcheries
http://www.cbbulletin.com/368663.aspx

* Council Briefed Quagga-Zebra Mussel Action Plan For Western Waters; Funding Needed
http://www.cbbulletin.com/368662.aspx

* EIS Released For Colville Tribes' $40 Million Hatchery Aimed At Restoring Salmon In Okanagan Basin
http://www.cbbulletin.com/368661.aspx

* USFWS Proposes Reintroducing ESA-Listed Bull Trout Into Upper Clackamas River
http://www.cbbulletin.com/368660.aspx

* NOAA Releases Draft National Policy For Use Of 'Catch Shares' To End Overfishing
http://www.cbbulletin.com/368659.aspx

* Mining Pollution Agreement To Bring Nearly $80 Million For Coeur d'Alene Basin Restoration
http://www.cbbulletin.com/368658.aspx

* USFWS Pacific Region's Tim Roth Receives Interior Department Meritorious Service Honor
http://www.cbbulletin.com/368657.aspx

* Interior Launches New Effort To Develop New Tribal Consultation Policy
http://www.cbbulletin.com/368656.aspx

* Land, Easement Purchases By BPA Protects Critical Habitat In Willamette Valley
http://www.cbbulletin.com/368655.aspx

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* Harvest Managers For 2010 Predict Largest Spring Chinook Return On Record

Fisheries experts this week predicted, though with a few caveats, that the new year will bring the biggest return of upriver spring chinook salmon to the Columbia River basin -- 470,000 adult fish -- on a record dating back to 1938.

If such a run materializes, it would break the record of 439,885 set in 2001.

The forecasted run is up significantly from last year's final run of 169,300 fish.

Forecasting the upriver spring chinook return has always been slippery slope with actual returns more often than not turning out to be well above, or well below, preseason predictions.

Inexplicably, the problem has gotten worse with the four of the past six years' preseason forecasts overestimating the adult return by an average of 45 percent. Last year the forecast was for a return of 298,900 adult upriver spring chinook to the mouth of the Columbia River; the actual return fell short by nearly 130,000 fish.

Too rosy preseason forecasts have served to complicate management. Each of the past two years early sport and commercial fisheries were set based on the preseason forecast. But by the time managers realized the run was much smaller run than expected, the fishers had had already gulped a too large of a share of their harvest allocation, which is a percentage of the upriver run.

The harvests are limited to control impacts on fish protected under the Endangered Species Act. Those stocks include the wild Snake River spring/summer chinook and the wild Upper Columbia spring chinook stocks. The "upriver" spring chinook stocks are fish bound for hatcheries and spawning in tributaries to the Columbia and Snake above Bonneville Dam, which is located at river mile 146.

The technical committee that develops salmon and steelhead forecasts to advise Columbia River fishery managers has not yet completed 2010 forecasts for the Willamette River or other lower Columbia River basin spring chinook stocks.

Because of challenges in forecasting the spring chinook returns in recent years, members of the Technical Advisory Committee had to reconsider the analytical models they have used in past years to predict the number of returning fish.

Technical Advisory Committee members have become leery of their past dependence on the jack-4-year-old relationship in making upriver spring chinook forecasts. Jacks are 3-year-old fish (actually 2-plus years old) that mature precociously and return to freshwater after only one year in the ocean to attempt spawning.

Typically most of each year's return is made up of 4-year-old fish that have spent two years in the ocean, so the number of jacks has long been considered a sign of the strength adult run the following year. The monster 2001 run was presaged by a 2000 jack count of 21,259 that was, to that point, the highest on a record dating back to 1960.

"Relationships between different ages of fish within a cohort have historically been fairly strong, with large jack returns resulting in large age-4 returns in the following year," according to a Dec. 9 TAC memo describing its forecast techniques. "TAC has used these relationships to make preseason forecasts, generally by using linear regression models."

In 2007 and 2008, the jack counts at Bonneville Dam were the third and fourth highest on record. But the adult returns the following years were modest and below expectations.

"Uncertainty can be compounded when relationships between variables such as jacks to age-4s are changing, as was apparent in the 2007 and 2008," the memo says.

A record number of spring chinook jacks, 66,630, were counted passing over Bonneville Dam in 2009.

"The number of jacks that returned in 2009 was four times greater than anything we've seen before, which made the number a statistical anomaly," said Stuart Ellis, current chair of TAC and a Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission fisheries biologist. "It's something that's never happened before."

A variety of data is used to produce the forecasts, including harvest totals, dam counts, hatchery returns and wild return data to reconstruct the upriver spring chinook runs. TAC in-season updates its estimates, based in large part on dam counts, but can only do so after 50 percent of the run is estimated to have passed Bonneville.

". we know the environment for young salmon appears to be changing and we need to account for that," Ellis said.

Ellis said this year the committee considered several additional models that took into account other factors such as environmental variables -- including for the first time certain "ocean indicators" charted by the NOAA Fisheries Service Northwest Fisheries Science Center. TAC met with ocean ecologists and sought input from other scientists within and outside the TAC member agencies.

Instead of a single statistical model, TAC members this year explored more than a dozen models that also considered non-linear relationships and sibling relationships. Each was then evaluated to see how it had performed in the past, i.e. how close have its forecasts been to actual returns.

The top performers, seven models in all, were then employed and they generated a range of predicted run sizes from 366,000 to 528,000 upriver adults. The committee members agreed on 470,000 as an average of the models.

The upriver forecast includes 272,000 Snake River spring/chinook, of which 73,400 are expected to be wild fish, and 57,300 Upper Columbia spring chinook (including 5,700 wild). The balance of the upriver forecast is comprised of mid-Columbia spring chinook.

"We're comfortable with this forecast as the most reasonable assessment," Ellis said. It's now up to fishery managers "to make a policy level decision as to how much faith to put into it."

"We're still projecting a strong return for upriver spring chinook salmon next year, but we needed to temper last year's jack return with other indicators of spring chinook abundance," Ellis said. Even the bottom end of the forecast range would be the second highest return on record.

TAC was established under the U.S. v. Oregon litigation and includes representatives from Oregon, Idaho and Washington fish and wildlife departments, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (on behalf of the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and the Yakama tribes) the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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* High 2009 Fall Chinook Jack Count Indicates Greater Adult Return Likely In 2010

High jack returns to the Columbia River basin this year could portend a larger return of 3-year-old fall chinook salmon next year, according to a preliminary run-size forecast produced by Oregon and Washington department of fish and wildlife staffs.

The total 2010 return is "likely" to be greater than the 2009, according to the report distributed Tuesday, "Columbia River Fall Chinook 2009 preliminary returns and Outlook for 2010."

The early analysis notes anticipated trends next year -- whether a larger or smaller run than 2009 is expected -- but does not forecast numbers of salmon. The analysis will be refined over the next two months to produce a February "preseason forecast" that will include numerical estimates of the 2010 run size.

The report says that the 2009 fall chinook return was less than forecast in preseason, primarily because the upriver bright portion of the run was smaller than expected. Fishery managers had predicted last winter 532,900 fall chinook would return to the mouth of the Columbia. That would have been close to the recent 10-year average, which had a low of 219,600 in 2007 and a high of 893,100 in 2003.

The URB portion of the run was expected to number 269,700 this year but fell short. The agencies have not finished calculating the "actual" 2009 return.

Based on dam counts fishery officials do know that the return this year of 2-year-old URB jacks was the largest since the mid-1980s. Jacks are male fish that return one, two or three years earlier than their more mature broodmates. The URBs are fish returning to hatcheries and spawning grounds on the mid-Columbia's Hanford Reach, the Snake River and elsewhere above Bonneville Dam, which is located 146 miles from the river mouth.

To produce the preliminary 2009 return estimates and 2010 outlook fishery officials looked harvest and hatchery return totals, dam counts and other data. Available age data from 2009 was a part of the 2010 estimate equation.

"What we noticed across the board were high jack counts," said WDFW's Joe Hymer. "It's looking good in that way."

The Mid-Columbia Bright fall chinook stock, which is typically the second or third largest component of the run, produced the best jack return on a record dating back to 1980.

The "2010 return should be above average," according to the ODFW-WDFW outlook. The upriver MCB component (Pool Upriver Brights or PUB stock) is comprised mostly of brights that are reared at Little White Salmon, Irrigon, and Klickitat hatcheries and released in areas between Bonneville and McNary dams.

The Bonneville Pool Hatchery "tule" stock produced a 2009 jack return that was the largest return in the database (1964) by a factor of two. The outlook predicts that the 2010 BPH return should be "improved over recent few years" in which the returns were below the 10-year average.

Lower River Hatchery and Lower River Wild stocks also showed strong jack returns this year. The outlook predicts that the 2010 return "should be an improvement over the past few years" and the 2010 LRW return "should be similar to recent few years but below average."

Dampening the preliminary forecasts to some degree is the fact that the 3- and 4-year-old components of the 2009 return were less numerous the jacks. So the expectation for next year's 4-and 5-year-old classes, which would be broodmates respectively of this year's 3- and 4-year-old returns, and for the overall Columbia River return were lowered a bit in the calculations.

"They didn't show the strength (in numbers) that the younger fish did," Hymer said. That could mean, however, that 2011's 4-year-old class and 2012's 5-year-old class will boost the fall chinook return in those years.

"It's going to take another year or two" to see how many of the older broodmates of this year's jacks return, Hymer said.

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* Clearwater Coho Project Returns Enough Adults To Produce Own Eggs For Rearing

Nez Perce Tribe officials on Thursday for the first time in the 15-year history of the Clearwater Coho Restoration Project delivered fertilized coho salmon eggs from Idaho back to a western Oregon hatchery that has enabled the coho program to take wing.

The delivery included approximately 600,000 bright orange "eyed" coho salmon eggs collected from fish returning to the Clearwater River basin and spawned at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery in west-central Idaho.

The Eagle Creek National Fish Hatchery in Estacada, Ore., will incubate the eggs and rear the resulting juvenile coho until March 2011. The juvenile coho will then be transported back to the Clearwater where they will be acclimated and outplanted into basin streams.

Space limitations in the Clearwater basin at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery and Kooskia National Fish Hatchery limit the tribe's ability to rear the eggs to produce juveniles for release. The Eagle Creek hatchery is located approximately 40 miles southeast of Portland.

The delivery of these eggs represents the first time that enough adult coho returned to the Clearwater basin in Idaho to provide a full supply of eggs for the limited production in Idaho and the space at Eagle Creek. It is a big step toward the program goal of establishing a localized Clearwater River coho salmon broodstock via supplementation.

The Eagle Creek hatchery has served as the backbone to the Nez Perce Tribe's coho project for the past 10 years, acting as the major producer for juvenile coho for outplanting in the Clearwater basin. Until now Eagle Creek used eggs from coho that got their start in the lower Columbia. The Nez Perce project got its start in 1994.

"The arrival of these eggs begins the transition to upriver brood sources for the second phase of the Clearwater coho reintroduction master plan-- an important landmark in re-establishing a self-sustaining coho population in the Clearwater River," said Larry Telles, hatchery manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Eagle Creek NFH. "Once re-established, these fish will act as a critical piece of the ecological puzzle in the restoration of other salmon and steelhead populations of that system."

"It's taken 15 years for these coho to come full circle," said Mike Bisbee, coho project leader for the Nez Perce Tribe. "The demonstrated success of these salmon over the past few years speaks volumes about their instinct to survive and their determination to come home. Coho are extremely forgiving and runs can rebuild quickly. We're helping them do that."

The Nez Perce Tribe's CCRP, funded by the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund through NOAA Fisheries, is successfully rebuilding naturally spawning coho runs to the Clearwater River and its tributaries. Coho produced by the Nez Perce Tribes' CCRP contribute to Columbia Basin and coastal ocean fisheries.

Coho salmon were extirpated in the Clearwater River following the installation of the Lewiston Dam, which had fish ladders that proved to be inadequate for passing salmon upriver, in 1927. A restoration attempt was made by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game from 1962 to 1968 in the South Fork of the Clearwater River. But the effort largely failed due to ice formation, de-watering, flooding and siltation and other factors so the program was discontinued, according to a NPT summary of the Clearwater coho program history.

Coho salmon were officially declared extirpated from the Clearwater River in 1986.

With the dam long-since removed (in 1973), the tribe was eager to give coho reintroduction a try. The CCRP began as a result of a U.S. V. Oregon agreement between tribes, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and federal agencies. In the agreement, surplus coho eggs from lower Columbia River hatcheries were to be used to reintroduce the species in the Clearwater subbasin.

The overall goal of the CCRP is to restore coho to the Clearwater River subbasin at levels of abundance and productivity to support sustainable runs and annual harvest.

The Nez Perce Tribe plan envisions developing an annual escapement of 14,000 coho salmon to the subbasin. That number would support broodstock needs, natural production and harvest for both tribal and non-tribal members.

The run bottomed out from 1984 through 1996 when only two coho were counted crossing the lower Snake River's Lower Granite Dam on their way to the Clearwater.

The first results from the NPT program were witnessed in 1997 when 93 adult coho were counted at the dam.

The returns have since been on an upward trend, with some peaks (3,904 fish counted in 2004) and valleys. The count was 4,770 in 2008 and this year boosted the record count to 4,910.

In the fall of 2009, returning adult coho were trapped at weirs at Dworshak NFH on the North Fork of the Clearwater and Kooskia NHF, on Clear Creek, for spawning at the Kooskia facility. The juvenile fish produced are reared for a year and a half, the bulk of them at Eagle Creek.

This year, 550,000 coho smolts were imported from Eagle Creek NFH, and directly released into Lapwai (275,000) and Clear (275,000) creeks. Another 30,000 coho fry are reared by the Potlatch Corporation and directly released into Orofino Creek in May of each year.

There is some natural spawning of returned adults in the lowest reaches of the North Fork and Clear Creek and up and down Lapwai Creek, according to Bisbee.

Additionally, some adult returns that are surplus to hatchery needs are outplanted in Lolo Creek in hopes that they will spawn naturally. Lolo is a tributary that feeds into the Clearwater about halfway between Dworshak and Kooskia hatcheries.

Another 280,000 coho juveniles are incubated, hatched, and reared at Dworshak and Kooskia hatcheries.

In the spring of each year, coho smolts at from Dworshak are transported to Kooskia. Following a acclimation of 4-6 weeks, coho smolts held at Kooskia hatchery are directly released into Clear Creek.

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* 2009 Fall Chinook Redd Counts In Snake River's Hells Canyon Marks Another Record

Idaho Power Company fishery biologist Phil Groves recalls that during his first year on the job, 1991, only 46 fall chinook salmon redds were counted in the 100-mile stretch of the Snake River from Asotin, Wash., to the base of Hells Canyon Dam.

That's the year before Snake River fall and spring-summer chinook stocks were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

But much work has been done since then to boost Snake River fish stocks. And more and more salmon are building gravel nests -- redds -- in which to lay their eggs. Each of the past two years has produced a modern-day redd count record for the Snake mainstem reach above Asotin.

"To see it now just blows me away," Groves said.

As part of the fall chinook program, from late October through early December Idaho Power and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists conducted eight aerial surveys along the Snake River between Asotin, Wash., and Hells Canyon Dam, an IPC hydro project that blocks salmon from swimming farther up the Snake. It and other dams upstream in the Hells Canyon and the upper Snake effectively block fall chinook from an estimated 80 percent of their historic spawning area.

This was the 19th year Idaho Power has cooperated in the surveys. High wind conditions in the river upstream of Pine Bar shortened two surveys; however, biologists from both entities believe total counts are accurate.

This year more than 1,511 redds were counted in shallow water habitat by helicopter, and some ground observations, according to Groves. That is up from 1,233 redds observed during 2008. The highest previous shallow water count was 1,218 redds during the fall of 2004.

Of the 2009 total, approximately 35 percent of redds were observed in the Snake River downstream of the Salmon River and 65 percent were at sites upstream of the Salmon River.

Biologists from USFWS and Idaho Power also conducted a series of deep water searches using remote underwater video. While the numbers have not all been finalized, the Idaho Power crew counted 384 additional deep water redds, and it is expected that the total deep water count will also be a new record for the Snake River.

When added to the shallow water counts the mainstem total is 1,895 and that's before deep water counts taken by the USFWS are added in, Groves said. The IPC and USFWS biologists typically split the survey area in half to conduct the deepwater surveys and the federal agency is still at work on its calculation. Last year's combined deepwater redd count was 586 and 2008's record combined shallow water-deep water count was 1,819.

"This year will certainly be a record" combined total, Groves said. Nests can be seen from the air in water as deep as 11 feet under the very best conditions. The video detections are needed because the fall chinook have been known to spawn in water as deep as 30 feet.

The returning fish are of both natural and hatchery origin. A 10-year production plan approved by tribal entities, Idaho, Oregon and Washington and federal agencies that was completed in 2008 calls for the rearing and release of nearly 6 million juvenile Snake River fall chinook. Some are released from the Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery on the Clearwater and some from Lyons Ferry Hatchery on the lower Snake.

Others are released elsewhere -- below Hells Canyon Dam, at three acclimation sites on the lower Snake and final stage rearing sites in Idaho's North Lapwai Valley, and on the South Fork Clearwater and Selway rivers. The idea is that the acclimated fish will spawn on their own in the wild when they return as adults and supplement the naturally producing population.

Two of the acclimation sites are located above Asotin and contribute to the returning spawners counted by the IPC and USFWS. Additionally the power company releases about 1 million subyearling hatchery fall chinook just below Hells Canyon Dam each year.

The number of Snake River fall chinook spawning in the wild has been building the past few years thanks to: lesser harvests, habitat restoration, hydro system operations designed to improve fish survival, hatchery "supplementation" and other hatchery operational improvements designed to reduce impacts on wild fish and, at times, improved ocean conditions.

The number of fall chinook passing over Lower Granite Dam is up considerably since the Nez Perce Tribe's supplementation program began in 1996. Annual adult counts failed to pass 1,000 from 1976 until 1993 when the tally was l,170. The count took a big jump in 1999 -- 3,384 adult fall chinook -- and then an even bigger jump in 2001 -- 8,915. Counts since have ranged from 8,048 to 16,628 in 2008.

Last year's adult fall chinook tally and the 10,228 jacks were the highest totals on a record dating back to 1975. They were counted passing Lower Granite Dam -- bound for spawning grounds in the lower Snake, and for the Clearwater and elsewhere. Lower Granite is about 140 river miles downstream from Hells Canyon.

The count this year is 15,167 adult fall chinook passing Lower Granite. That is just off the record set last year. The jack total so far in 2009, however, is a whopping 41,286 or four times the record set last year.

"We seem the in the redds with everyone else," Groves said. Jacks are early maturing fish that return to freshwater after only one year in the ocean. Most chinook spend 2, 3 or even 4 years in the Pacific.

Idaho Power each year maintains a steady flow -- this year about 8,500 cubic feet per second since Oct. 12 -- from the Hells Canyon project during fall chinook spawning to assure that redds aren't built at elevations that can't be kept water covered through the winter.

Idaho Power resumed normal operations Tuesday, which allow them to respond to power demand by pushing more water down river when needed. Amidst a cold spell, the flows within 24 hours surged to about 18,000 cfs and then back down again.

Hells Canyon Dam outflow will maintain a minimum flow of approximately 8,500 cfs in order to continue to provide cover for incubating chinook embryos. Generally all of the young fish have hatched out by May.

For updated Snake River flow and information, please visit http://www.idahopower.com/RiversRec/WaterLevels/Hellsrivflw/default.cfm

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* UW Research Program Measures Salmon Abundance, Characteristics In North Pacific 'High Seas'

Salmon "abundance levels now are as high as they've ever been in history" in the north Pacific due to a friendlier ocean and, in large part, growing Russian hatchery production of pinks, according to University of Washington researcher Kate Myers.

"The northern populations are doing quite well and the southern populations aren't doing as well," Myers told scientists and others gathered last week in Walla Walla, Wash., for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' annual Anadromous Fish Evaluation Program review.

Those in attendance Dec. 1-3 heard presentations on the past year's research activities within the Federal Columbia River Power System that are aimed at finding ways to improve passage conditions through Columbia and Snake mainstem hydro projects and reservoirs and improve survival of salmon, steelhead and lamprey. The findings from nearly 60 studies were previewed on topics such as juvenile fish transportation, adult migration, lamprey passage, survival and passage of smolts, predation, bull trout and the estuary.

Information about the 2009 AFEP review, including abstracts, can be found at: http://www.strategicresults.com/afep/index.htm

The main purpose of AFEP is to produce scientific information to assist the Corps in making informed engineering, design and operational decisions for the eight mainstem Columbia and Snake River projects. Active agency participants include the Corps, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bonneville Power Administration, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission represents tribal interests in AFEP's processes.

Additional participants include private and academic research entities, fisheries managers and field biologists that wish to provide scientific input on specific design, construction, and evaluation activities.

Myers was asked to discuss with the group how salmon data collected on the "high seas" might help guide decisions in freshwater. She defined high seas as the Pacific's international zone, the area 200 miles or more offshore of the United States, Canada and Asia.

The principal investigator in the UW's High Seas Salmon Research Program at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences offered an overview of what information might be available and summarized the results of recent high seas salmon research. More information about the program can be found at: http://www.fish.washington.edu/research/highseas/

The northern ocean has become increasingly more productive based on recent trends in commercial harvest data, which is at an all-time high in terms of number and biomass and is dominated by pink salmon. That increasing abundance is due in large part to increasing numbers of salmon fry and smolt releases in North American and Asia, and in particular Russia's northern reaches.

Long-term abundance of Asian pink salmon are positively correlated with rising global ocean heat content, Myers said. The northern Pacific and Bering Sea have seen increased productivity of prey species for salmon that are growing to maturity in northern waters. A global warming trend is believed a likely cause of that rising heat content.

Pinks are the salmon species that make up the biggest share of the catch in the ocean, followed closely by chum. Sockeye are a distant third and chinook and coho are a small percentage of the catch. The most salmon are caught in the Alaska region followed by the Japan, Russia and British Columbia regions. The Washington-Oregon-California region's catch is dwarfed by that of fourth-place British Columbia.

In 2008, 5.1 billion juvenile salmon were released from hatcheries around the Pacific Rim. More than two million were from Japan and more than 1 million originated in Alaska. The U.S. West Coast was the smallest producer.

Myers said that data on salmon and steehead species in the ocean can be used to address key questions about behavior, survival and the condition of the fish that might return to the Columbia river basin. But, the available information is limited. Most of the work by the high seas program is focused on Alaskan fish issues.

The high seas research involves surface gillnet and trawl survey to assess the distribution, abundance and status of salmon and ecologically-related species. Surface long line gear is used for high seas tagging experiments. The data collected includes number of fish, species, length, weight, sex, age determination, stomach content analysis as well as physical, chemical and biological oceanographic data.

The program has been collecting such data since 1953. Since 1992, the UW researchers' work has been coordinated by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, which has a membership that includes the United States, Canada, Russia, Japan and Korea.

The main objective of the NPAFC is to promote the conservation of anadromous stocks in the waters of the North Pacific Ocean and its adjacent seas, north of 33 degrees North Latitude beyond 200-miles zones of the coastal states. Its web site is located at: http://www.npafc.org/new/index.html

Researchers from all of the countries that feed data into the NPAFC processes do come across fish from the Columbia-Snake basin. Sometimes fish tagged by Columbia basin researchers are captured in research nets.

Myers showed a graph of known Columbia and Snake River steelhead distributions based on information collected from 1956 through 2008. It shows heavy concentrations of the steelhead all around the Gulf of Alaska, some relatively close to the shoreline and others far out at sea. Another big cluster is far out in the middle of the ocean, though closer to the islands that make up Japan and Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. A smallish cluster is right between Japan's northernmost island and Kamchatka, which juts south and a little east.

"There's not very much data" on the high seas distribution of Columbia River fish, Myers said.

But there is enough to know the steelhead are "are using the entire North Pacific as a rearing area." Most detected in the far western ocean are younger fish in their second year in the ocean. Myers speculated that they might have been avoiding predators that lurked in the Gulf of Alaska and only returned there when they had grown big enough to no longer be susceptible.

The gulf is an important rearing area for many of the Columbia fish, she said.

"Relative abundance and tag-recovery data indicate the center of high seas distribution of Columbia River salmon and steelhead is the Gulf of Alaska, which is a critical overwintering area for most major stocks of Asian and North American salmon," according to the abstract for Myers' AFEP presentation.

Unfortunately there are no salmon research vessel surveys now plying the international waters of the gulf.

High seas information could potentially be used by Columbia basin fish managers to gauge the size of returning salmon runs, the timing of those runs, and how much those fish have grown.

The high seas program's own annual trawl survey up the 180 degree longitude line -- the very middle of the Pacific -- turned up a PIT-tagged Columbia basin steelhead this past season. It was suspected the large fish was a B steelhead headed for Idaho. The trawl survey each year samples fish from about 38 degrees latitude, which is the southern limit of salmon distribution, up to the 64 degrees latitude in the Bering Sea.

The UW scientists rigged the Columbia basin fish with an external tag, and then waited for word that the fish had been detected in freshwater. But no word came.

Myers said the salmon and steelhead waste little time once they decide to begin their spawning runs.

"Sometimes the distance is quite great and the time is quite short," she said of that sprint from the high seas to freshwater.

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* Researchers Search For Methods To Reduce High Numbers Of 'Mini-Jacks' Produced By Hatcheries

Researchers continue to look for remedies for "an unforeseen byproduct" of hatchery supplementation of salmon populations -- an unnaturally high occurrence of so-called mini-jacks, male fish that have experienced a precocious maturation and urge to spawn.
A research team led by Don Larsen of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, as well as other Columbia River basin researchers, have shown that the hatchery-rearing environment can cause early maturation to occur more often than in wild populations. Genetics can also be a contributor to higher than normal occurrences of precocious parr, mini jacks and jacks, as compared to naturally produced fish,

That fact can lessen the benefits expected from supplementation, which involves the outplanting of hatchery reared juvenile fish in streams so that they will home in on those waters when they return as adults to spawn. The goal is to increase naturally spawning populations.

But having more mini-jacks in the population can have negative genetic and ecological consequences on wild populations and other native species because many of them don't survive the round trip and those that do may not be as capable spawners as older fish. That higher rates of early maturation mean fewer male salmon migrating to the ocean, the loss of adults available for harvest or broodstock, and a skewed sex ratio in favor of more females in a population.

Spring chinook salmon can spend anywhere from 1 to 5 years in the ocean before returning to their home rivers to spawn. After hatching from salmon eggs and approximately 18 months of growth in fresh water, juvenile fish migrate downstream undergoing the "smoltification" process in preparation for the ocean phase of their life-cycle, according to a feature article posted on the NWFSC web page, http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/features/minijacks/minijacks.html.

Male chinook salmon that return to their fresh water stream a year or two earlier than their counterparts are known as jacks. Most chinook salmon mature at age 4 or 5 after spending 2 or 3 years in the ocean.

Some males, referred to as mini-jacks, have an even shorter life history strategy, skipping a trip to the Pacific Ocean altogether. Mini-jacks either remain near their natal waters or favor a short-term downstream migration in freshwater before heading back upstream a few months later to attempt reproduction at age 2.

Each March, Larsen and his team sample more than 1,000 juvenile spring chinook salmon just prior to their release from acclimation ponds high up in the Yakima River basin. The fish are produced by the Cle Elum Supplementation and Research Facility, one of the pioneers in large scale testing of supplementation techniques. The hatchery and research facility is operated by the Yakama Nation.

Larsen and his team since 1997 when the hatchery started production have tracked the smolt releases using PIT (passive integrated transponder) tag detection systems, which can identify individually-tagged fish as they pass through dam fish passage ladders downstream.

The research team has found over the 11 year course of the ongoing study that migrating mini-jacks are occurring at rates 10-20 times higher than observed in wild populations. An average of 40 percent of the male hatchery fish never migrate to the ocean, but rather mature early as mini-jacks.

Plasma is drawn from each captured male smolt to be tested for 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT), a reproductive steroid produced by the testes of adult male salmon. High levels of plasma 11-KT in juveniles at the time of release from the hatchery are one indicator of a precociously-maturing male -- one that is destined to mature earlier than its broodmates.

Laboratory-based studies led by Penny Swanson of NWFSC's Physiology Program helped develop the necessary tools for further study of the mini-jack phenomenon in the field. The NWFSC's Larsen and Brian Beckman, and University of Washington collaborators, are using those tools to better understand the physiology of the mini-jack and how hatcheries may be contributing to early maturation in male salmon.

Early maturation in male salmon is a naturally-occurring phenomenon, according to the NWFSC. Both genetics and environmental conditions (i.e., water temperature, food availability) can determine when a male sexually matures and can reproduce.

Larsen and his colleagues are testing to what extent hatcheries along the Columbia and Snake Rivers are contributing to a rise in the production of mini-jacks, as some studies have shown that the hatchery-rearing environment can cause early maturation more often than in wild populations. And the phenomenon has been witnessed across the Columbia basin.

"You'll find mini jacks everywhere you look," Larsen said. Most hatcheries use fish food that is high in lipids, which includes fats.

"It's cheaper than making fish food with protein, made of fish," Larsen said. The lipid-fueled diet promotes growth and provides the energy needed to start the physiological shift toward maturation.

"It seems to be that those conditions are conducive to having high rates of precocious maturation," Larsen said. Tests have shown that lipid levels in wild fish are typically 1 or 2 percent while hatchery fish tend to have lipid content of about 9 percent.

"The lipid content of bugs is very low," he said of a staple of wild fishes' diets.

Researchers tried to manipulate growth by cutting back rations of half of the Cle Elum spring chinook production in midwinter when the fish are about a year old, a time when fish in the wild would be feeding minimally. The long-standing hatchery feeding pattern promoted "high growth when you ought not," Larsen said.

For wild fish, "the getting is not good" during the winter when natural food production slows. And they idle in cold, cold water while the hatchery fish live in well water that is held at about 10 degrees C, which is believed to be optimal for growth.

The three-year experiment worked, reducing precocious maturation by about 50 percent. But a late winter boost in food failed to lift the juvenile to "production" size so they headed toward the ocean at a smaller size than their broodmates that were on a normal hatchery diet. And the juvenile survival and adult return rates were lower for smaller fish.

"When it comes to smolt production size does really matter," Larsen said.

The NWFSC scientists have been involved in studies of salmon life history at the Yakima River basin hatchery since the program first started rearing spring chinook salmon from wild broodstock in 1997. Each year, the program releases about 800,000 age 1-plus-year-old smolts, and anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 (hatchery and wild) return each year as adults.

Many of the lipid-bolstered fish have by the spring of their second year already begun an "upramping of hormonal processes" and decide "I might as well start going to the ocean," Larsen said.

Some of the tagged fish are identified downstream each year at Prosser Dam on the Yakima River and some apparently never make that far before turning around. A large share of the fish that do proceed downstream ultimately disappear.

"Our guess is that they just die," Larsen said of missing mini jacks that continued to navigate the Columbia and/Yakima rivers' tepid waters in late summer.

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* Council Briefed Quagga-Zebra Mussel Action Plan For Western Waters; Funding Needed

A quagga-zebra mussel scare in late November in Idaho impressed upon officials there, and elsewhere in the Northwest, that urgency, and money, is needed to guard against the ecosystem and infrastructure havoc that can be caused by the invasive mollusks.

Four water samples taken from the Snake River near Milner Dam in south-central Idaho tested positive for veligers, which are larva of the invasive mussels.

A second round of testing ruled out three of the samples but the fourth was "weakly positive," Idaho Invasive Species Program manager Amy Ferriter told the Northwest Power and Conservation Council Wednesday.

But, a third test came out negative. The incident proved to be a stressful experience.

"What would you have done" had quagga mussels had in fact been detected in the Snake? Council member Tom Karier of Washington, asked Ferriter.

"What would we have done? That's the million-dollar question," Ferriter said. The location was perhaps in one of the worst possible spots for mussels to get a foothold, she said. Veligers and mussels could drift downriver through dozens of dams, including 11 major hydro projects on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers.

The state had developed a program to help address quagga- and zebra-related issues and had a budget, "but it was spent down," Ferriter said. And the budget would have been little help anyway. The state, and other states in the region, have yet to equip themselves with control technology -- the weapons to attack a quagga infestation.

"It made us realize we're not monitoring enough," Ferriter said.

"A lot of what we're talking about here comes down to money," said Stephen Phillips of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission staff and a member of the steering committee for the Western Regional Panel of the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force. The panel represents western states. It recently completed the "Quagga-Zebra Mussel Action Plan for Western U.S. Waters."

The action plan is posted online at:
http://www.nwcouncil.org/news/2009/12/3.pdf

The plan received tentative final approval from the task force, an intergovernmental organization dedicated to preventing and controlling aquatic nuisance species, and implementing the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990.

Now the task force and panel are pushing for implementation of seven priority actions described in the plan: coordination, prevention, early-detection monitoring, rapid response, containment and control, outreach and education, and research.

"Without increased action, quagga and zebra mussels will cause irreparable ecological damage and long-term mitigation costs will be in the billions," the action plan's executive summary warns.

Eileen Ryce, who is chair of Western Regional Panel and Montana's aquatic nuisance species coordinator, Ferriter, Phillips and others briefed the Council on the action plan and asked for its support. Money, of course would be appreciated, as would lobbying of Congress or anyone else that might have funding for implementation.

"It comes with a $76 million price tag," Ryce said of the action plan's seven priority items. A funding source or sources have yet to be identified yet.

"This is a big price tag, but you ain't seen nothing yet if they get in the system," Washington Councilor Dick Wallace said of a region heavily dependent on water management machinery that could be negatively impacted by mussels.

No infestations have been found in the Pacific Northwest but regional officials know that quagga mussels are nearby. They were found in January 2007 in Lake Mead in the Southwest and since then quagga or zebra mussels have been found in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Texas and Utah.

Quagga and zebra mussels are native to the Black and Caspian sea drainages and were introduced to the Great Lakes region of the United States in the late 1980s via ballast water discharge from ocean-going vessels. They have spread throughout the central and northeastern U.S., via a number of pathways. Adult mussels easily cling to hard surfaces such as boats and can be spread when boats are trailered from one water body the next.

Congressional researchers have estimated that Dreissenid mussel infestations in the Great Lakes area has cost the power industry $3.1 billion between 1993-1999, with an economic impact to industries, businesses and communities of more than $5 billion, according to the action plan.

Mussels poses ecological problems by impacting aquatic biodiversity and water quality and reducing food sources for native mussels, fish larvae, and zooplankton. The invasive mussels reproduce quickly and can within a year or two clog water intake and delivery pipes, foul dam intake gates and pipes, and adhere to boats, pilings, and most hard and some soft substrates. That can impact water delivery systems, fire protection, and irrigation systems and hydro production.

A recent assessment of the potential economic impacts to the hydroelectric facilities of the Columbia River basin suggest that costs to install chlorination systems to ward off mussels could cost as much $2 million for some facilities with recurring operation costs of $100,000 per year, according to the action plan.

"Effective and decisive actions and support are needed from water management entities at all levels, including state and federal agencies, tribes, private water districts and concessionaires to prevent the introduction of, spread, or respond to an infestation of quagga or zebra mussels," the plan says.

Efforts to detect and prevent mussel invasions have been started but the develop of development is extremely varied across state, tribal, federal and local agency jurisdictions.

A large chunk of the action plan implementation funding, $31 million for coordination, is to complete, knit together and expand those efforts.

"This is a large problem that crosses all political boundaries," Ryce said.

Another $26 million would be spent for prevention activities such as inspections and heightened law enforcement.

"We're going to need to continue the lobbying effort if we're going to get the money," said Idaho state Rep. Eric Anderson, who praised the Council for a letter writing campaign aimed at sparking more federal action to control invasive mussels.

"If you look back, how all of this has developed over the year and a half, it's pretty remarkable" how much progress has been made," NPCC Chair Bill Booth of Idaho said. His state and Oregon both passed legislation over the past year related to quagga detection and prevention.

"Idaho had a scare because we were looking," Ferriter said of water sampling for veligers that was conducted this year for the first time.

Still, Booth and other members of the Council agreed that more needs to be done.

"This is a friendly audience," Wallace said of the Council.

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* EIS Released For Colville Tribes' $40 Million Hatchery Aimed At Restoring Salmon In Okanagan Basin

A proposal by the Colville Tribes to build a salmon hatchery near central Washington's Chief Joseph Dam appears to have cleared another procedural hurdle with the release last month of what is a mostly positive final Environmental Impact Statement.

The document was prepared by the Bonneville Power Administration to satisfy National Environmental Policy Act requirements. The EIS describes a handful of negative environmental impacts from the construction and operations of the hatchery, such as increased dust and vehicle exhaust locally during construction, balanced against an extensive list of socioeconomic and other benefits.

"We just got great support from the public," BPA's Mickey Carter said of the process leading to the final EIS. A draft was offered for public comment in May 2007. The 10 comments received from individuals and from federal, state, tribal and local entities were categorized and responded to in the final EIS.

BPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns and operates the dam, expect to issue "records of decision" based on the public comments and the analysis in the FEIS by March on whether to implement the Chief Joseph Hatchery Program. If BPA and the Corps decide to proceed with the project, activities could begin in spring 2010.

"We're actually negotiating a construction contract now" so that work could begin immediately if positive RODs are issued, said Linda Hermeston, BPA project manager.

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation first launched the proposal in 2001 through the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. BPA funds the Council program to mitigate for impacts to fish and wildlife from the construction and operation of the Columbia-Snake hydro system.

The tribes aim to boost summer-fall chinook returns and reintroduce spring chinook, a species that was long ago extirpated in the Okanogan River system. The Okanogan flows into the Columbia below Chief Joseph, which blocks salmon passage to historic spawning grounds upstream.

The Council in May gave the go-ahead for the tribe complete final design for the construction of the hatchery.

NOAA Fisheries Service in a July 2008 issued "biological opinion" that said the proposed construction and operation of Chief Joseph Hatchery "is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence" wild Upper Columbia spring chinook salmon or steelhead, two stocks that are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Estimates presented last spring peg construction costs at $37 million over two years, with completion in 2011.

Total cost for all aspects, including planning and design, and construction, is estimated to be $40.8 million. Annual operation and maintenance costs after facilities are fully developed would cost an estimated $2.1 million annually and monitoring and evaluation is estimated to cost about $735,000 each year.

In a memorandum agreement signed by BPA, the Corps and the Bureau of Reclamation in May 2008, BPA agreed to make capital funds available to construct the proposed hatchery subject to NPCC review and meeting all legal compliance conditions. The Corps agreed to support the planning, design and construction of the hatchery.

The proposed hatchery would support the goal of the Colville Tribes to produce adequate salmon to sustain tribal ceremonial and subsistence fisheries and enhance the potential for a recreational fishery for the general public.

The FEIS discloses the environmental effects expected from facility construction and program operations.

The hatchery complex would be located on Corps property near Chief Joseph dam, so the federal agency is a cooperating agency under NEPA. The Corps, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Parks and Recreation, the Oroville-Tonasket Irrigation District, and others cooperated on project design and siting.

The project has two components: 1) to increase the abundance, distribution and diversity of naturally spawning summer/fall chinook within their historical Okanogan subbasin habitat; 2) reintroduce extirpated spring chinook back into the Okanogan River.

The project was designed to make certain the hatchery would not affect the operation of the dam of the Federal Columbia River Power System (e.g., spill, timing, dissolved gases, etc.) or the power system operational flexibility.

Another requirement was that it not adversely affect ESA populations via mixed stock harvest, reduced productivity of the wild fish or other factors. The project was designed to make certain it is aligned with FCRPS BiOp prescriptions, ESA recovery objectives or hatchery operational principles recently developed by the Hatchery Scientific Review Group.

Planners also wanted to make certain that the hatchery operations had minimal effects on water quantity and use irrigation and municipal withdrawals.

Component 1 of the hatchery supplementation program is designed to produce 1,100,000 summer-fall chinook smolts annually. Component 2 would produce an additional 500,000 early-arriving and 400,000 late-arriving summer/fall chinook hatchery smolts primarily for harvest purposes.

A third component involves producing 900,000 spring chinook smolts in an effort to return naturally spawning spring chinook to their historical Okanogan subbasin habitat and in the Columbia River between the Okanogan River and Chief Joseph Dam. Those could also increase the potential for tribal ceremonial and subsistence fisheries and recreational fishing opportunities.

The spring chinook component could eventually contribute to the recovery of the ESA-listed Upper Columbia River stock.

The summer/fall chinook components production would involve developing local broodstock, propagating the full historical run of summer/fall chinook by extending the current broodstock collection by two months and raising yearling and subyearling life stages, improving spawning distribution throughout their historical habitat and controlling the proportion of hatchery-origin fish spawning naturally.

Water to the hatchery would come from three sources: Rufus Woods Lake, a relief tunnel that collects seepage from the abutment of Chief Joseph Dam, and a well field.

Summer/fall and spring chinook salmon incubated and reared at the hatchery would be released into the Columbia River there or transported to ponds along the Okanogan River and Omak Creek for final rearing, acclimation and release.

A comprehensive monitoring and evaluation plan is being developed to evaluate general program success.

"Some benefit to local economy could be realized if chinook recover and stimulate fishing and related recreation and tourism. No measurable effects to area housing, utilities, schools, law enforcement, or tax base are predicted," according to the FEIS.

The entire FEIS and supporting information may also be viewed at:
http://www.efw.bpa.gov/environmental_services/Document_Library/Chief_Joseph/

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* USFWS Proposes Reintroducing ESA-Listed Bull Trout Into Upper Clackamas River

As part of a broader effort to recover the threatened bull trout, the Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday proposed to reintroduce the native fish species to the upper Clackamas River in northwest Oregon.

A public comment period on the proposal is open until Feb. 8. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Forest Service are participants in the proposed project.

The reintroduced fish would be designated as a "nonessential experimental" population, under the Endangered Species Act. The classification precludes anyone who accidentally kills or harms the fish from being in violation of the ESA, provided such "taking" happens as part of an otherwise lawful activity.

Federal projects will not be altered or stopped to protect these fish, and sport fishing in accordance with Oregon regulations would not result in a violation of the ESA if a bull trout was harmed.

"For thousands of years bull trout were present in the Clackamas River," said Robyn Thorson, regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. "After evolving there and existing all that time they were eliminated by human activities; reintroducing them will provide another solid step in our recovery strategy for the species."
 
The boundaries of the proposed experimental nonessential population would include the entire Clackamas River as well as the Willamette River from Willamette Falls downstream to where it meets the Columbia River, including Multnomah Channel. The upper Clackamas River subbasin contains a total of 70.1 river miles of suitable spawning and rearing habitat.

Recent surveys have determined that bull trout currently do not exist in the area, and it is thought highly unlikely that other populations would re-colonize the area on their own due to geographic distance to other existing bull trout populations.

The last documented bull trout observation in the Clackamas River drainage was in 1963. Their elimination was likely caused by many of the same factors that led to the decline of the bull trout across its range, including migration barriers from hydroelectric and diversion dams, direct and incidental harvest in sport and commercial fisheries, targeted eradication through bounty fisheries, and habitat and water quality degradation from forest management and agricultural activities not in accordance with best management practices.

Many of the limiting factors that helped drive bull trout to extinction in the drainage have been mitigated -- diversion dams have long since been removed and three hydo projects owned by Portland General Electric have been outfitted with passage devices, in most cases as part of efforts to revive salmon and steelhead stocks that are also ESA listed.

A slew of new regulations put place since the early 1990s provide substantial protections for watersheds and aquatic habitats on U.S. Forest Service- and Bureau of Land Management- -administered public lands in the upper Clackamas subbasin. Most of the upper basin is managed by the federal agencies.

Tighter angling rules, also enacted to protect listed salmon and steelhead, are also in place now.

"The Clackamas River, due to the quantity and quality of available habitat, likely provides one of the best opportunities to reestablish a viable population of bull trout into historical habitat within the 'coastal' evolutionary lineage," according to a draft "environmental assessment" of the proposal.

That lineage includes fish from the Deschutes River and all of the Columbia River drainage downstream (including the Willamette and Clackamas rivers), as well as most coastal streams in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. Two other lineages in the bull trout ESA listing are the Snake River and the upper Columbia River.

The goal of the EA's proposed action is to re-establish a self-sustaining bull trout population ranging from 300 to 500 spawning adults annually in the Clackamas River by 2030 that contributes to the conservation and recovery of bull trout in the Willamette Basin and to overall recovery criteria outlined in the draft recovery plan.

A detailed feasibility assessment completed by the agencies in 2007 determined that this reintroduction is biologically possible. The best candidate for bull trout donor stock was found to be the Metolius River, a tributary of the Deschutes River in central Oregon.

The proposed action includes the direct transfer of wild bull trout adults, subadults, juveniles, and fry from the Metolius River subbasin to the Clackamas River. The numbers and life stages of fish transferred each year will be linked strongly to the annual population size of the donor stock.

In addition to monitoring reintroduced bull trout and the donor stock, the agencies also plan to monitor the response of the existing native fish community, particularly federally listed salmon and steelhead, to the reintroduced bull trout.

A July 2008 scientific workshop was called to evaluate the prospective impacts the bull trout's reintroduction could have on other species in the Clackamas basin in terms of predation and competition for habitat and food resources. In many cases elsewhere, juvenile anadromous salmonids provide the most significant forage base for bull trout. Alternatively, bull trout are known to eat other predators that consume juvenile anadromous fish and eggs such as resident rainbow and cutthroat trout, mountain whitefish, and sculpin.

The EA concludes that "the best available information, which includes the results of the workshop described above, suggests impacts to salmon and steelhead and other native fish in the subbasin are unlikely to be significant." And if the monitoring shows that impacts are significant, "the reintroduction program will be discontinued and actions will be taken to remove bull trout from the experimental population area."

For more information go to http://www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/Species/Data/BullTrout/ReintroductionProject.asp

Bull trout are protected as a threatened species under the federal ESA throughout their U.S. range, which includes parts of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Nevada. The draft recovery strategy for bull trout was developed over a three-year period with involvement from more than 120 stakeholder states, tribes, watershed councils, and representatives of industry and conservation groups.

Bull trout are members of the char subgroup of the salmon family, which also includes the Dolly Varden, lake trout, and Arctic char. They can grow to more than 30 pounds in lakes, but in streams rarely exceed 4 pounds. They have small, pale yellow to crimson spots on a darker background, which ranges from olive green to brown above, fading to white on the belly.

Historically bull trout occurred throughout the Columbia River basin, east to western Montana, south to the Jarbidge River in northern Nevada, the Klamath Basin in Oregon, the McCloud River in California and north to Alberta, British Columbia, and possibly southeastern Alaska.

Today bull trout are still widely distributed but they have declined in overall distribution and abundance. Small bull trout eat terrestrial and aquatic insects but shift to preying on other fish as they grow larger.

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* NOAA Releases Draft National Policy For Use Of 'Catch Shares' To End Overfishing

NOAA released this week for public comment a draft national policy encouraging the use of catch shares, a fishery management tool that aims to end overfishing and rebuild and sustain fishing jobs and fishing communities.

In doing so, NOAA officials stressed that catch shares are not a panacea or one-size-fits-all solution, but are a proven way to promote sustainable fishing when designed properly at the fishing community level.

"We have made great progress in rebuilding many fisheries, but more than 20 percent of our fish stocks have not been rebuilt, and even larger proportion of our fisheries are not meeting their full economic potential for the nation," Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke said. "Catch shares is a tool that can help us realize the full economic and biological benefits of rebuilt fisheries."

Catch share programs, which include Limited Access Privilege programs and individual fishing quotas, have been used in the United States since 1990 and are now used in 13 different commercial fisheries. Four new programs will begin over the next year. NOAA estimates that rebuilding U.S. fish stocks would increase annual commercial dockside values by an estimated $2.2 billion, a 54-percent increase over current dockside values of $4.1 billion, and help support jobs in the seafood industry and across the broader economy.

"From Florida to Alaska, catch share programs help fishing communities provide good jobs while rebuilding and sustaining healthy fisheries and ocean ecosystems," said Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "Although this is a national policy, our emphasis is on local consideration and design of catch shares that take into consideration commercial and recreational fishing interests."

A catch share program differs from traditional fishery management by dividing up the total allowable catch in a fishery into shares. These shares are typically allocated based on historical participation in the fishery. They may be assigned to individuals, cooperatives, communities or other entities, who would be allowed to fish up to their assigned limit. Catch share participants also agree to stop fishing when they have caught as much as they are allowed.

Under traditional management programs, fishermen compete for a total allowable catch. This has lead to fishermen racing each other to catch as many fish as they can before the total catch limit is reached. This results in more boats and gear than necessary, quotas being exceeded, increasingly shorter fishing seasons, unsafe fishing and high levels of bycatch. It also may result in too many fish brought to market at once, reducing their market value to fishermen and coastal communities.

"Catch shares allow fishermen to plan their businesses better and be more selective about when and how they catch their allotment, because they know their share of the fishery is secure," said Jim Balsiger, acting administrator of NOAA's Fisheries Service. "They can plan their fishing schedules in response to weather, market, and individual business conditions. Catch share programs help eliminate the race to fish, reduce overcapacity and bycatch, enhance the safety of fishermen and their vessels, and improve economic efficiency. They also help ensure fishermen adhere to annual catch limits because the value of their share is directly linked to the overall health of the fish stock and its habitat."

While catch shares are not always universally embraced when they are first introduced, their benefits have been well proven. "We fought against the program right up until the time it passed," said Alaska fisherman Rob Wurm, referring to the halibut and sablefish catch share program, which began in 1995. "But to my surprise, it really has worked well. It has created a lot of stability, stopped the race for fish and changed the fishing environment in ways that have made it safer and allowed us to avoid bycatch."

Halibut fishermen had been reduced to a fishing season of less than a week just before the North Pacific Fishery Management Council introduced an individual fishing quota program. Under this catch share program, fishermen have a quota they can catch over a season that now runs from March to November. The program has dramatically reduced fishing accidents, extended the sale of fresh halibut for a premium price, given fishermen time to avoid bycatch of undersized halibut and other bycatch and promoted sustainable management of the fishery. The program has reduced the number of people holding fishing permits while providing those in the industry with more stable and sustainable jobs.

Members of NOAA's Catch Shares Policy Task Force, which includes participants from each of the eight councils as well as NOAA experts, provided input on the draft policy.

Among the policy's components:

-- Development of a catch share program is voluntary. NOAA will not mandate the use of catch shares in any commercial, recreational, or subsistence fishery.
-- The individual fishery management councils will consult fishing communities to evaluate the data, effects, and enforceability of any potential catch share program before moving forward. In some cases, councils may find catch shares not to be the most appropriate management option.
-- NOAA will provide leadership and resources and work in partnership with fishery management councils, states and members of the public to help with the implementation of catch shares. This includes assisting fishing communities as they make the transition, and conducting regional workshops, online seminars, and other educational and outreach programs.
-- Well thought-out and developed catch share programs will promote sustainable fishing communities by supporting good jobs, and promoting preservation of wharfs, processing facilities, and fuel and ice suppliers.
-- Catch share programs can be designed to set aside shares to allow new participants into the fishery, including new generations of fishermen, small businesses, or others.
-- NOAA encourages those councils adopting catch shares to consider a royalty system to support science, research and management as fisheries become more profitable under the program. NOAA will also seek appropriated funds to supplement what may be collected through cost recovery and royalties to assist in the design, transition period and operation of catch share programs.

To read and comment on the draft policy, go to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/catchshares

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* Mining Pollution Agreement To Bring Nearly $80 Million For Coeur d'Alene Basin Restoration

Millions of dollars will go toward correcting more than a century of mining pollution in Idaho's Coeur d'Alene Basin under the terms of an environmental damage settlement announced this week by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

The settlement, the largest bankruptcy settlement for natural resource restoration in U.S. history, awards approximately $79.4 million to partially restore natural resources in Idaho's Coeur d'Alene Basin damaged by the mining operations that gave the basin the name "Silver Valley."

In addition, $28.9 million will be held by the Successor Coeur d'Alene Custodial and Work Trust to be used to perform work selected by the Environmental Protection Agency as part of its comprehensive remedy at the Coeur d'Alene Site and prioritized by Interior and USDA/FS as co-Natural Resource Trustees.

Nationally, the settlement with ASARCO LLC, a North American mining conglomerate, provides about $194 million for the recovery of wildlife, habitat and other natural resources manages by Interior and state and tribal governments at more than a dozen sites around the nation. Of the dozen sites, the Coeur d'Alene Basin is scheduled to receive the largest amount of money for natural resource restoration.

"This is a milestone not only for the Federal Government but also for Interior and its Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program," Salazar said. "It exemplifies government working effectively for the American taxpayer to recover damages from polluters and restore and protect significant national landscapes and wildlife resources that have been injured."

The settlement stems from the largest environmental bankruptcy in U.S. history, in which Grupo Mexico agreed to pay $1.79 billion for environmental liabilities as part of an overall plan to purchase ASARCO LLC out of bankruptcy. Of that amount, about $494 million will be used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for cleanup at the Bunker Hill Metallurgical and Superfund site in the Coeur d'Alene Basin, which spans parts of northern Idaho and eastern Washington. Asarco is a copper mining company based in Arizona that is responsible for sites around the country contaminated with hazardous waste.

In over a century of mining in the Coeur d'Alene Basin, millions of tons of ore containing silver, lead and zinc were mined, leading to decades of disposal of wastes onto the lands and into the waters of the basin. Those wastes polluted rivers and streams, soils and riparian areas and seriously harmed fish and other wildlife.

Now that a settlement has been approved, a plan will be developed to address the documented natural resource damages and guide restoration efforts in the Coeur d'Alene Basin by the federal government's natural resource representatives in the basin: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (lead trustee), the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, along with the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and in consultation with the state of Idaho.

During the restoration planning process, the public will be asked to participate and comment. Once a plan is in place, the settlement funds will be used to restore, replace, rehabilitate or acquire the equivalent of the damaged natural resources. The settlement provides only a portion of the money needed to restore natural resources damaged by mining and the release of hazardous substances in the basin.

The natural resource restoration planning and implementation will be coordinated with the EPA's clean-up plans and actions. Natural resource restoration actions are in addition to EPA and/or state government clean-up actions at a hazardous waste site and may exceed the level of clean-up actions. The clean-up and restoration activities will involve millions of dollars and will likely span decades.

Discovery of gold in the Coeur d'Alene River's North Fork in 1883 attracted thousands of prospectors and their families. While the gold rush was short-lived, the upper basin became the largest historic silver, lead and zinc mining district in the world, ultimately producing 7 million metric tons of lead, 30,000 metric tons of silver and 3 million metric tons of zinc.

 Impacts soon followed: mining wastes, including arsenic, cadmium, lead and zinc, were discharged directly into the river and its tributaries or were deposited on land, migrating into ground and surface water. The Coeur d'Alene River carried these contaminants west into Coeur d'Alene Lake and adjacent wetlands, and occasional river flooding deposited contaminated sediment throughout the 19,200-acre lower basin floodplain.

More than 100 million tons of soil and sediment were impacted by mining, milling, and smelter operations. Remaining waste rock, tailings, mine drainage, and contaminated floodplain sediments continue to pollute the ecosystem with extremely elevated metals contamination.

In 1991, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho initiated a Natural Resource Damage Assessment under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act and the Clean Water Act to assess damages to natural resources in the Coeur d'Alene Basin resulting from exposure to mining-related metals. The results of this assessment confirmed widespread distribution of mining-related contamination throughout the basin and described the resulting damage to natural resources and the loss of ecosystem services.

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe filed suit in 1991 against Asarco and several other companies, seeking damages for impacts to natural resources in the basin. The federal government filed its suit in 1996. Settlements with some parties have occurred and others are still being negotiated.

The DOI, USDA and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe previously concluded settlements with several other parties potentially responsible for natural resource damages in the basin. These settlements are currently supporting restoration activities, guided by a 2007 Interim Restoration Plan. Some recently completed projects include stream stabilization and culvert passage improvements in Pine Creek and wetlands restoration along the Lower Coeur d'Alene River.

More information about these and other projects is available through the report: Coeur d'Alene Basin Natural Resource Damage Restoration Accomplishments: Restoration Activities 2007-08," which is available at http://www.fws/gov/Pacific/ecoservices/envicon/nrda/pdf/CDAnrdaReport111009.pdf.

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe also settled previously with ASARCO for about $5 million, which is being used to develop and implement the 2009 Coeur d'Alene Lake Management Plan. This plan was collaboratively developed by the tribe and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

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* USFWS Pacific Region's Tim Roth Receives Interior Department Meritorious Service Honor

Tim Roth has been honored by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for his leadership and exceptional accomplishments as the deputy project leader for the Columbia River Fisheries Program Office in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Pacific Region.

The office is located in Vancouver, Wash.

During a celebration in front of his peers in Portland, Robyn Thorson, director of the USFWS' Pacific Region, presented Roth with the Department of the Interior's Meritorious Service Award, the second highest honor an employee can receive from the department.

The award recognizes Roth's scientific excellence in collaborating with partners using innovative approaches to protect fisheries resources in the Pacific Northwest throughout his 35-year career.

Roth provides guidance and leadership as the Pacific Region's representative on the Production Advisory and Harvest Committees of the U.S. v Oregon forum of the Columbia River and on the Pacific Fishery Management Council and as the region's past representative on the Salmon Technical Committee of the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the Bi-lateral Chinook Technical Committee of the Pacific Salmon Commission (Pacific Salmon Treaty).

"I have been working with Tim for over two decades and it has been a joy and a privilege to serve alongside a person whose scientific and management contributions have been such a positive force in shaping aquatic resource conservation in the Pacific Region," said Howard Schaller, project leader for the Columbia River Fisheries Program Office in Vancouver.

Roth's advice and guidance is regularly sought by peers and managers within and outside the Service and strongly influences management decisions in the Columbia Basin. His technical expertise and leadership have contributed to successful negotiations of harvest agreements between Canada and the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, and numerous Pacific Northwest tribes for over 25 years, according to the agency.

Most recently, Roth provided critical guidance to design a plan to modify tule and upriver-bright fall chinook hatchery production above Bonneville Dam, which eased requirements for annual spill at necessary mainstem hydro dams while meeting fish production obligations to key West Coast fisheries.

Roth was also instrumental in guiding the congressionally-mandated mass-marking of 37 million salmon at USFWS hatcheries that provide opportunities for fishermen to selectively harvest hatchery fish in nationally and internationally important fisheries, according to a press release announcing the honor. These selective fisheries have become an integral part of non-tribal harvest management, while ensuring the protection of populations listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Roth was raised in the Pacific Northwest and makes his home in Ridgefield, Wash. He graduated from Northwest Nazarene College in 1974 with a degree in biology.

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* Interior Launches New Effort To Develop New Tribal Consultation Policy

The Department of the Interior last week launched a new effort to develop a department-wide policy on tribal consultation, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk announced.

The new consultation policy will be developed with input from the nation's 564 federally recognized tribes. 

"President Obama respects the inherent sovereignty of Indian nations and believes that the federal government must honor its commitments to American Indian and Alaska Native communities," said Salazar. "The President's Executive Order on consultation recognizes that the federal government has a responsibility to uphold not just a government-to-government relationship with tribes, but a nation-to-nation relationship. That is why we are working to implement a consistent and comprehensive Department-wide tribal consultation policy and process upon which tribes can rely."

The effort announced today is consistent with the requirements of an executive memorandum issued by Obama on Nov. 5 that directs all federal departments and agencies to develop a "plan of actions" to implement the policies and directives of Executive Order 13175, Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments, issued by President Clinton on Nov. 6, 2000. Obama signed the memorandum at the White House Tribal Nations Conference held at the Interior Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C.

"On Nov. 5, President Obama issued his executive memorandum supporting tribal consultation as 'a critical ingredient of a sound and productive federal-tribal relationship'," Echo Hawk said. "The effort we are undertaking today to develop Interior's plan as called for by the president will begin a new and positive chapter in the history of federal-tribal relations."

The president has directed each agency head to submit to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget within 90 days of the date of his memorandum a detailed plan of actions the agency will take to implement the policies and directive of Executive Order 13175. The department is seeking tribal comments via email, regular mail and in real-time meetings by Jan. 15, on questions asking what the parameters of a comprehensive Interior Department-wide consultation policy should entail.

To view "Tribal Consultation, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies" and "Executive Order 13175 -- Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments", visit http://www.indianaffairs.gov/WhoWeAre/AS-IA/Consultation/index.htm and scroll down to the section "Presidential and BIA Tribal Consultation Documents".
 
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* Land, Easement Purchases By BPA Protects Critical Habitat In Willamette Valley

Rare and endangered Willamette Valley wildlife have gained nearly 500 acres of newly protected habitat, including some of the best remaining slices of native wetlands, prairies and oak woodlands, through four recent purchases of land and conservation easements funded by the Bonneville Power Administration.
  
Sensitive species from the endangered Fender's blue butterfly to the western meadowlark, Oregon's state bird, depend on the habitat, which is some of the most imperiled in the Pacific Northwest and faces pressure from development. Less than 2 percent of the Willamette Valley's native upland prairie remains. Only 5 percent of original prairie and oak woodlands remain.
  
"We're taking advantage of a rare and important opportunity to protect critical habitat that will only become more valuable and important to Oregon and its wildlife," said Russell Hoeflich, Oregon director for The Nature Conservancy, which purchased one parcel and an easement on another with BPA funds.
  
The new protections include:

-- A conservation easement on a 152-acre parcel in Polk County, adjacent to the 2,492-acre Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge. It is one of the best remaining examples of Willamette Valley prairie and supports one of the largest known populations of Fender's blue butterfly. The Nature Conservancy will hold the easement and restore about 30 acres of agricultural land to upland prairie.

-- Purchase of 10.45 acres for addition to The Nature Conservancy's Willow Creek Preserve just outside Eugene. TNC will restore the sheep pasture to native prairie while protecting it from residential development. The parcel connects two of the largest populations of Fender's blue butterfly and other rare plants and animals.

-- A conservation easement on a 198-acre farm just south of Albany, near Bower's Rock State Park. This property expands a network of protected lands along the main stem of the Willamette River. The Greenbelt Land Trust will work with the property owner to manage the land, reconnecting the Little Willamette side channel to the river and providing habitat for steelhead and chinook.

-- A conservation easement on a 120-acre farm in Polk County north of the Luckiamute State Natural Area at the confluence of the Willamette, Luckiamute and Santiam Rivers. River confluences support diverse fish and wildlife. The Greenbelt Land Trust will restore oak savanna, prairie and wetlands.
  
All the parcels fall within high priority conservation opportunity areas outlined by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Oregon Conservation Strategy.
  
BPA ratepayers are funding the protection efforts in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy, Greenbelt Land Trust and ODFW to help mitigate impacts of the construction and operation of federal dams in the Willamette River system. The nearly 500 acres -- roughly 400 football fields worth of habitat -- bring the total Willamette Valley lands protected by BPA funding to about 6,200 acres.
  
"A focus for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is to not only protect the valuable wildlife attributes of the individual properties but to add to a larger conservation network of properties in biologically important areas of the Willamette Valley," said Michael Pope, ODFW wildlife mitigation coordinator.
  
Conservation easements permanently limit development. While the land remains in private ownership and on local tax rolls, the habitat may be managed and restored by landowners, local conservation agencies or municipalities. 
  
"The protection of these lands is of great value to fish and wildlife because the habitat is so rich and diverse and represents some of the last remaining native habitats in the Willamette," said Bill Maslen, BPA's Fish and Wildlife director.
  
BPA's fish and wildlife mitigation program has protected more than 300,000 acres in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana since 1980 to mitigate the impacts of federal dams on fish and wildlife. BPA works with project partners to identify important fish and wildlife projects and then funds protection and restoration activities to improve the habitat value.


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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.

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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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