Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

Weekly Fish and Wildlife News
October 22, 2010
Issue No. 550

Follow the CBB on TWITTER at http://twitter.com/cbbulletin and on FACEBOOK at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Columbia-Basin-Bulletin/230954175071

All stories below are posted on the CBB's website at www.cbbulletin.com
Also available is a free RSS news feed.

Table of Contents

* Snake River Fall Chinook Return To Lower Granite Shattering Records; Fishing Not So Great

* Report Analyzes Success, Impacts Of Efforts To Move Nesting Terns From Columbia River To Interior Oregon

* Pilot Project Uses Receivers On Elephant Seals To Help Track Columbia River Steelhead Ocean Journey

* Lake Pend Oreille Operations Set In Continued Effort To Revive Kokanee, Aid Bull Trout

* Science Panel Reviews RME, Artificial Production Projects To Be Funded Through Council’s F&W Program

* Grant County PUD Moves Forward On Spring Chinook Supplementation For White River, Nason Creek

* Idaho Governor Says State Will No Longer Be ‘Designated Agent’ For Wolf Management

* Montana Unlikely To Join Idaho On Wolf Move; Will Continue Negotiating With Feds Its Role

* Tail-End Fishing Continues; Bonneville Dam Fall Chinook Count Since Aug. 1 at 464,532

* Arctic Report Card Shows Continued Warming, Thinning Sea Ice, Links To Weather Patterns


* Snake River Fall Chinook Return To Lower Granite Shattering Record; Fishing Not So Great

The 2010 fall chinook return to the Snake River basin is huge, more than two times the modern-day record. But, it is not catching on very well with anglers who recently have had their first opportunities in decades to catch and keep the prized late season salmon.

Through Thursday a total of 41,526 fall chinook had been counted this year climbing over Lower Granite Dam’s fish ladders. That’s already well above the previous high for an entire season, 16,624 in 2008. The record goes back to 1975, the year the dam was completed. Lower Granite, located in southeast Washington on the lower Snake River, is the eighth and final dam the fish pass on their spawning journey.

The big return was portended by last year’s record return of jacks, young fish that return to their natal waters after a little more than one year in the Pacific Ocean. The jack count last year was 41,285, four times the previous record of 10,228 in 2008. The broodmates of those big jack classes are now returning as mature spawners.

Returns in recent years represent a big rebound for a species that veered toward extinction in the 1960s and 1970s. The naturally spawning fall chinook run to the Snake River returned an average of 41,000 adults annually during the 1957-1960 period, according to the “Status Report: Columbia River Fish Runs and Fisheries, 1938-2000,” compiled by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and Wildlife. Returns were reduced drastically with 1967’s completion of the Hells Canyon Complex of dams, which flooded spawning reaches and blocked upstream passage. Construction of federal dams on the lower Snake also flooded historic spawning habitat.

The Snake River wild fall chinook were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in April 1992. Returns dipped to as few as 78 wild fish in 1990, though the total count at Lower Granite that year, including hatchery fish, numbered 383 fish.

Sport fisheries on fall chinook had not been allowed for a couple decades. But given a relative rebound in returns -- in large part fortified by hatchery programs -- the retention of fall chinook has been allowed for the past two years and again this year on the Snake where it is the shared Idaho-Oregon border.

The “take permit” provided by NOAA Fisheries “is designed so that fall chinook that are caught during our standard steelhead season can be retained,” Sam Sharr, anadromous fisheries coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game said. The ESA permit also covers the 1.6 miles of the Clearwater River in Idaho. Both Idaho and Oregon boat anglers can catch and keep fin-clipped hatchery origin steelhead and fall chinook.

But, Sharr said, “we haven’t seen that high of a catch.” Through Sunday a total of 380 clipped fall chinook were caught and kept, as were 190 jacks. Anglers caught and released 2,566 unclipped fish that are either of wild origin or are fish born in hatcheries but not fin clipped before their release. The IDFG estimates that anglers fished 95 hours on average for each kept fall chinook.

Fishing was, however, a little better this past week (Oct. 11-17). Anglers caught and kept 163 clipped fall chinook and the average on the Snake was 59 hours per kept fish.

It is also the third year of allowed fall chinook retention on the stretch of the Snake in Washington from Lower Granite up to the Idaho border.

Again, “the catch rate has not been good at all,” said Glen Mendel, district fish biologist for the WDFW. He theorizes that a warmer than normal Snake River may be dampening the fishes’ desire to bite. Mendel also said that people may be catching and releasing chinook that they could have kept because the fish are in the very latest stages of their spawning journey and changing physically, making them less desirable for the dinner table.

Fish that are not harvested, or trapped at Lower Granite to infuse the Snake River fall chinook hatchery program at the WDFW’s Lyons Ferry Hatchery, continue their journey. An as-yet-undetermined portion of the run is of wild origin. The rest are the product of Nez Perce tribal supplementation program and other hatchery program.

Lyons Ferry, long the standard bearer for the threatened Snake River stock, raises the bulk, 4.4 million, of the juvenile fish released into the Snake and tributaries either directly or from acclimation facilities that allow the young chinook to receive their final rearing near sites where they might return to spawn in the wild as adults. Another 1.4 million subyearling fall chinook are reared at the Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery in Idaho and released either directly on-station or from acclimation sites in the Clearwater drainage.

The Idaho Power Company, which owns the Hells Canyon Complex, began its fall chinook program spawning flow regime on Oct. 11 to protect redds now being built in the Snake River below Hells Canyon Dam.

The program is part of Idaho Power’s commitment to protect and preserve the environment surrounding its dams and generation facilities, which Hells Canyon Dam, which is 66 river miles downstream of Oxbow Dam, which is 12 miles downstream of Brownlee Dam.

The spawning flow will be held flat at a constant flow of approximately 8,700 cubic feet per second and will be maintained through approximately the second week of December. After this time normal operations and flows will resume.

As a result of this year’s fall chinook program, Brownlee Reservoir was drawn down to 2,041 feet elevation by Oct. 11. That is 36 feet below full reservoir.

The draft of Brownlee was necessary to make space in the reservoir to capture inflow to Brownlee in excess of the flat spawning flow release. Due to the temporarily low water levels, the only Brownlee Reservoir boat ramps available in October will be at Hewitt and Woodhead Parks. Additional ramps will be available as Brownlee fills during the fall chinook spawning period.

As mitigation for dam impacts on salmon populations, Idaho power funds the production, at its Oxbow Hatchery in Oregon operated by the IDFG and at the ODFW’s Umatilla Hatchery, of about 1 million juvenile fish which is a part of the overall production target of 5.9 million fall chinook. The IPC fish are released directly into the Snake from the boat ramp just below Hells Canyon Dam.

The eggs for the IPC production come from Lyons Ferry, which has long been the repository for the Snake River fall chinook egg bank, which was begun in 1976 to preserve a vanishing genetic stock.

“Genetically, they’re considered to be the same” wild Snake River stock, IPC biologist Paul Abbott said of the eggs received from Lyons Ferry that are hatched out at Oxbow and Umatilla.

Forecasted inflows are managed so that Brownlee Reservoir is full, around 2,075 feet above sea level, by the first week in December. It’s anticipated that the minimum flow set during the spawning period can be maintained until fry emergence (when the young fish leave the redds, or nests) in the spring without emptying Brownlee Reservoir.

Later this fall surveys will be conducted to determine how many redds have been established in the Snake and tributaries -- Grande Ronde and Imnaha rivers in Oregon and the Clearwater in Idaho.

Redd counts monitor redd locations and establish the location and depth of the shallowest redd. Idaho Power and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service do counts via helicopter during the spawning period over the Snake River. In addition, the Nez Perce Tribe conducts aerial redd counts on the Clearwater, Grande Ronde, Imnaha and Salmon rivers.

These survey flights account for the majority of the redds observed. However, in the Snake River, many redds cannot be observed from the air because they are in deep water. So, deep water redd searches using underwater videography occur during the spawning period as well as the aerial surveys. Redds as deep as 22 feet have been observed in the Snake River using underwater videography.

The number of redds have steadily risen since the counts began in 1991 with a total of 55. Last year’s count was 3,464, the highest ever.

Many of the spawners are of natural origin. Some are fish acclimated by the Nez Perce Tribe at Pittsburg Landing, Captain Johns Landing and Big Canyon before their release. About 650,000 yearlings and subyearlings are now released each year at both Captain John Rapids and Big Canyon and 550,000 are released at Pittsburg Landing. Roughly 40 percent of those tribal releases are marked.

There is also direct release of 200,000 marked subyearlings from near Captain John Rapids and another release of 200,000 marked subyearlins in the Grande Ronde River.

Other spawners may be returns from fin-clipped fish released by Idaho Power.


* Report Analyzes Success, Impacts Of Efforts To Move Nesting Terns From Columbia River To Interior Oregon

Caspian terns can be recruited to new colony sites (i.e., islands in Crump Lake and Summer Lake Wildlife Area) from existing breeding colonies (i.e., East Sand Island) over considerable distances, according to the preliminary conclusions of a study of Caspian tern nesting in interior Oregon and the San Francisco Bay area during 2009.

“Caspian Tern Nesting Ecology and Diet in San Francisco Bay and Interior Oregon” also preliminarily concludes that Caspian terns are more easily recruited to nest at sites with a prior history of tern nesting, as compared to sites with no history of tern nesting (i.e., Fern Ridge Reservoir west of Eugene, Ore.). The draft completed in September can be found at:

The study is part of an ongoing research project that is a joint, collaborative project between Oregon State University, Real Time Research Inc., and the USGS-Oregon Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. Its goal is to investigate the ecology of piscivorous colonial waterbirds (primarily, Caspian terns, double-crested cormorants, American white pelicans, and several gull species) and their impacts on the survival of juvenile salmonids in the Columbia River basin and elsewhere along the Pacific Coast.

The report has been prepared for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District, for the purpose of assessing accomplishments of an ongoing project aimed dispersing a portion of the world’s largest Caspian tern colony, which is located at East Sand Island near the mouth of the Columbia River. A tern management plan envisions moving terns to alternative colony sites in interior Oregon and the San Francisco Bay area, as well as other locations, so that fewer of the avian predators remain in the Columbia estuary to prey on juvenile salmon and steelhead migrating toward the Pacific Ocean. Many of the young fish are members stocks that are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

East Sand was created by the Corps with the deposits of sand dredged from the main Columbia River navigation channel as part of normal maintenance. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also involved in the project in its role as a protector of migratory birds. The research is largely funded by federal entities, including the Bonneville Power Administration.

The 2009 research also showed that the diet of Caspian terns nesting at alternative colony sites identified in the USFWS’s January 2005 Final Environmental Impact Statement regarding the tern relocation project (i.e., Brooks Island, Crump Lake, and Summer Lake Wildlife Area) consisted mostly of forage fishes that are neither listed under the ESA nor of significant economic value for commercial, recreational, or subsistence fisheries.

The researchers also preliminarily conclude that:

-- the availability of suitable sites for breeding colonies was the main factor limiting the number and size of tern colonies in both the San Francisco Bay area and interior Oregon, and
-- nesting success at existing colonies was limited by attributes of those colony sites as they influenced (a) quality of nesting substrate, (b) susceptibility to mammalian and avian nest predators, (c) displacement by other colonial waterbirds, and (d) human disturbance.

As part of the project management plan the Corps completed construction of two 1-acre islands and two 0.5-acre islands at sites in interior Oregon that were in use by terns during 2009. Under the management strategy a half acre of suitable habitat at East Sand can be rendered unfit for every acre of suitable tern habitat that is created elsewhere. The goal is to reduce the East Sand colony size by two-thirds. That could mean a reduction in the amount of suitable habitat there from just under 5 acres to as little as one acre.

The new islands are specially-designed tern islands included a 1-acre island on Fern Ridge completed February 2008), a 1-acre island on Crump Lake in the Warner Valley, northeast of Lakeview, Ore, in the south-central part of the state (completed March 2008), and two 0.5-acre islands at Summer Lake Wildlife Area, also in south-central Oregon near the town of Summer Lake (completed March 2009).

Following the construction of these islands and before the arrival of Caspian terns from their wintering grounds, Caspian tern decoys and acoustic playback systems that broadcast Caspian tern calls were deployed on all the islands to attract nesting Caspian terns.

Birds banded previously for identification purposes were spotted nesting at the new interior Oregon sites and at colony sites in San Francisco Bay.


* Pilot Project Uses Receivers On Elephant Seals To Help Track Columbia River Steelhead Ocean Journey

Two NOAA researchers are exploring uncharted territory to better understand the migratory behavior of Columbia River steelhead listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Last spring, NOAA Fisheries biologists Laurie Weitkamp and Michelle Wargo Rub (along with a team of researchers from Oregon State University and Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission), implanted acoustic tags in 100 juvenile steelhead before releasing them back into the estuary at the mouth of the Columbia River. From there, the fish began their 1- to 2-year journey into the ocean.

“We know a lot about Columbia River’s chinook and coho salmon’s migration behavior, but very little is known about where steelhead go once they enter the ocean from the Columbia River,” said Weitkamp, who researches the estuarine and marine ecology of Pacific salmon, and the factors that affect their survival. Rub studies landscape ecology principles and spatial statistical methods to investigate pattern and scale in aquatic ecosystems.

Working with numerous collaborators on the shore and seas, Rub and Weikamp will try to track the fishes’ migration patterns using a variety of acoustic receivers. The receivers are placed on towed hydrophones, stationary arrays, and some even are mounted on elephant seals, which tend to cross paths with the salmon.

Researchers believe that an improved understanding of the steelhead’s ocean migration will reveal how ocean conditions might influence their growth and survival, and help biologists predict how steelhead might respond to climate change.

“What we do know is that they go far west into the North Pacific,” Weikamp said. “If you draw a line from Hawaii to the west side of the Aleutians, that’s about where we believe they’re headed. What we don’t know is if they all go there, and how long it takes. We have very little census information on them.”

The acoustic tags implanted in the steelhead give out a unique ping at – 69 kilohertz, she said.

The different listening arrays can hear the tags if the fish get within a half-kilometer of the hydrophones.

“We implanted as large a transmitter as feasible into the fish,” explained Rub. “By working with a low transmission rate, we get a longer battery life. Also, if we intercept the fish and put the tags in right before they hit the ocean, we maximize the time that the transmitters will be active while the fish are at sea – sometimes as long as nine to 10 months.

“However, sometimes steelhead will hang out for weeks in the estuary,” Rub said. “Although we can track them there too, time spent in the river eats up battery life for ocean tracking studies.”

There is a series of fixed lines of receivers along the west coast, called the Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking Project array, which includes a line out on Willapa Bay with receivers that extends about 30 kilometers. “If our steelhead head north a little bit, they’ll be picked up there,” Weitkamp said.

One of the more interesting aspects of the study is using elephant seals to track steelhead migration behavior.

“The elephant seals also migrate and there’s a good chance that they will overlap with the steelhead,” Rub said. “It’s not inconceivable that both might be in the same area.”

“We also have some research ships listening for marine mammal calls, and they have receivers they can deploy, but it’s a bit of a shot in the dark,” Rub said. “They have heard other fish – not ours. Our hopes lie with the POST array and female elephant seals.”

Rub said that the elephant seals should be returning in December, and she hopes that they will find some detections on the seals’ receivers. 

Both Weitkamp and Michelle Wargo Rub equated the effort to searching for a needle in a haystack. “Not to downplay this study, but it is a pilot project,” said Rub.

For more information about the study, go to: http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/features/steelhead_migration/steelhead-migration.cfm


* Lake Pend Oreille Operations Set In Continued Effort To Revive Kokanee, Aid Bull Trout

North Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille will be drawn down by Nov. 15 and held at 2,055 feet elevation, which is just a foot below its maximum wintertime flood control elevation, in order to provide access to as much spawning gravel as possible for what is believed to be a reviving population of kokanee.

The system operational request from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service moved forward following a discussion at a special Oct. 15 of the Technical Management Team. The USFWS, the state of Idaho and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supported the recommendation. The Corps operates Albeni Falls Dam, which controls Lake Pend Oreille’s elevation.

The TMT’s federal, state and tribal membership mulls day to day operations of Federal Columbia River Power System operations that have the potential to improve the survival of fish such as Columbia and Snake river salmon and steelhead stocks that are listed under the Endangered Species Act. The Lake Pend Oreille kokanee are not listed or native to the region but have long been considered an important food source for bull trout, which do have ESA protection.

The IDFG would also like to see a flagging kokanee population in the lake restored to levels that would support fisheries. Up until the mid-1960s annual harvests of more than 1 million kokanee were common. But because of a variety of factors, the number of kokanee in the lake has plummeted. The harvest of kokanee has not been allowed since 2000 because of low numbers.

The state of Montana, NOAA Fisheries Service, Bureau of Reclamation and Bonneville Power Administration representatives at the TMT meeting did not object to the SOR.

But both NOAA Fisheries and BPA officials expressed concerns about what will be an early drawdown of the lake, which was at 2.057.71 feet, as measured at the Hope gauge, at 8 a.m. Oct. 15. The lake is one of the few stores of water that can be called on later in the fall and winter for other uses, such as for the generation of electricity during higher demand periods and to maintain flows that cover chum salmon eggs far down stream below the lower Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam.

Chum, which are ESA listed, are expected to begin spawning in late October or early November. Once chum redds are established, operations aim to keep those egg nests covered through the winter. That often requires drawing water from reservoirs upstream. The lake fills the Pend Oreille River, which empties into the upper Columbia.

Freeing nearly two feet of water from the large lake now means less water will be available later, depending on the weather of course, for downstream uses. Other than Canadian reservoirs, the only downstream storage is Lake Roosevelt behind Grand Coulee Dam on the mid-Columbia in central Washington. Lake Roosevelt is within a foot and a half of full pool.

BPA’s Tony Norris cautioned that losing water now could have the ripple effect of forcing more water withdrawals from Grand Coulee in winter to maintain chum flows and threaten operators ability to hit the April 10 upper flood control rule curve target for that reservoir. Hitting that upper rule curve means there is as much water in storage as possible to help augment flows in spring for salmon and steelhead migrants.

Given the fact there were no objections to the operation, the Corps’ Steve Barton said Lake Pend Oreille would be drawn down to 2055 feet by Nov. 15 and that level be maintained within a half-foot range through the end of kokanee spawning or Dec. 31, which ever comes first.

The adult kokanee in Lake Pend Oreille are at low levels. Research indicates that three decades of annual deep drawdowns during the winter months from the 1970s well into the 1990s were the primary factors contributing to the large declines in kokanee abundance, the SOR says. The drawdowns limited the access to spawning areas. Operations were implemented beginning in the late 1990s to better accommodate kokanee spawning. But by than another kokanee nemesis had became a larger factor.

“That’s right about the time we had the lake trout population take off,” said Andy Dux, IDFG fishery research biologist.

The beleaguered landlocked salmon population then became victim of the huge lake trout whose population in the lake peaked early in the new millennium. They and trophy size Gerrard rainbow trout teamed up to nearly wipe out the 1-2-year old kokanee classes and thus prevent them from growing into spawning age.

Since 2000 predation has been considered the primary factor limiting the kokanee population, surpassing spawning habitat limitations.

The state in 2006 triggered a two-pronged attack on the lake trout and a one-pronged attack on the Gerrard rainbows. Beginning in May of that year a $15 bounty was offered for lake trout of any size and any rainbow 13 inches or larger. And commercial fishers were hired to focus on the lake trout.

State officials feel the predator removal effort is paying rewards. Through May of this year 101,000 lake trout had been removed from the lake since 2006, half by anglers and half by commercial netting. Anglers initially led the charge but more recently the netting is producing the largest share of the catch. The fish are harder to catch, and the commercial fishers have been able to zero in on lake trout spawning areas and places where younger lake trout are now known to congregate, Dux said.

“There are fewer lake trout out there,” Dux said. Additionally rewards have been collected for more than 26,500 big rainbows.

The effort seems to be helping. A spawning population of 40,000 females was expected last year, which was an improvement over the 22,000-fish total in 2008 and the record low of 5,000 in 2007. This year, an estimated 59,000 female kokanee are expected to spawn this fall.

“We’re taking some encouragement,” Dux said of the recent trend. The expected spawning class is still small but is an improvement.

“We’ve still got a long ways to go,” he said.

The lake has during the past two winters been drawn down to 2,051, which is at the low end of the range developed as part of the kokanee restoration strategy. If the only management consideration was the resident fish, the lake would be drawn down to the minimum once every four years. That limits the spawning area for kokanee but allows wave action to clean sediment from gravels that are favored nesting sites.

As a result of 2,051-foot lake levels in 2008 and 2009 there is higher quality spawning habitat for kokanee this year, said Russ Kiefer, who represents Idaho at TMT meetings.

“Thus, proving the greatest opportunity for high egg-to-fry survival this year is important for taking advantage of both improved spawner abundance and survival rates that should allow a higher proportion of fry to reach maturity,” the SOR says.


* Science Panel Reviews RME, Artificial Production Projects To Be Funded Through Council’s F&W Program

A “Preliminary Review of 2010 RME and Artificial Production Category Projects” gives a scientific thumbs up to 47 of the proposals for funding through the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program.

The Independent Scientific Review Panel review includes comments and recommendations on 99 submitted projects. The ISRP was created at the direction of a 1996 amendment to the Northwest Power Act that requires review of projects for consistency with the scientific principles outlined in the Council’s program.

The Power Act amendment also says the Council must fully consider ISRP recommendations when making its recommendations regarding funding. The funding recommendations go to the Bonneville Power Administration, which funds the program as mitigation for impacts on fish and wildlife caused by the federal Columbia-Snake river hydro system. BPA markets the power generated in the system.

The ISRP found that 22 of the 99 proposals meet scientific review criteria and that another 25 proposals meet criteria with some qualifications. ISRP recommendations on those 47 projects should be considered final, the report says.

“In addition, the ISRP finds 3 proposals do not meet criteria and deems 5 proposals not applicable for review at this time,” the review says. “In addition, the ISRP requests responses on 44 proposals. Project proponents are provided an opportunity to respond to ISRP concerns by November 15, 2010 before the ISRP submits its final report to the Council on December 16, 2010.”

The review can be found online at:

Comments on the preliminary review should be delivered by Nov. 23 to:

Lynn Palensky
Project Development
Northwest Power and Conservation Council
851SW Sixth Ave., Suite 1100
Portland, OR., 97204-1348

Or by e-mail to:

This preliminary review report comes in the middle of a process the Council is conducting to consider funding proposals related to research, monitoring and evaluation and artificial production. Similar processes are also under way for other categories of projects.

The Council expects to make final project funding recommendations to BPA on all the RM&E and artificial production project proposals by early 2011. There will be an opportunity for further public review and comment after the final ISRP report in December and before the Council makes it final project recommendations.

The final review will include consideration of the project sponsors as well as 59 recently reviewed projects in context with the 99 RM&E and artificial production projects now under review, which include currently funded projects as well as new Columbia River Fish Accord projects and new projects that address gaps in the program and the 2008 Federal Columbia River Power System biological opinion that were identified in the 2009 collaboration process with regional fish management agencies.

The BiOp spells out what measures NOAA Fisheries thinks must be taken to avoid jeopardizing the survival of 13 basin salmon and steelhead stocks that are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

“This categorical review is intended to enable the Council, the ISRP, and Bonneville to review all similar projects (such as fish tagging studies) funded or proposed for funding through the Program,” the review says. “A central purpose of such a broad review is to highlight issues common to similar projects such as relevancy, duplication, coordination, scope, and consistency with the broad basinwide objectives and provisions in the Fish and Wildlife Program.

“Specifically, with regard to the research, monitoring and evaluation components of the projects, the Council and Bonneville are using the categorical review to ensure that RM&E implemented under the Program meets the performance-tracking and adaptive management needs and commitments” under the program and the BiOp.

“The ISRP has identified programmatic issues – some old, some new – that it will discuss over the next two months and include in the final December 16, 2010 report,” the report says. “Programmatic topics will include but not be limited to ocean studies, fish tagging, lamprey, habitat action effectiveness monitoring, results reporting, and process issues.

“The final report will also include (1) more in-depth consideration of the 59 ‘contextual’ proposals; (2) programmatic-level discussion of how well the projects aligned with the questions and policies that the Council provided in its July 15 letter to the ISRP; and (3) follow-up reviews of two proposals reviewed in the Fiscal Year 2010 Fast Track review.”

In its letter “the Council also asked the ISRP to review the project proposals mindful of the Council’s goal to reduce duplicative or excessive levels of research, monitoring, and evaluation and provided eleven questions/policies to guide the review. The Council hopes that cost savings identified by eliminating redundant or excessive RM&E could be applied to on-the-ground work,” the ISRP said.


* Grant County PUD Moves Forward On Spring Chinook Supplementation For White River, Nason Creek

During a public meeting last week Grant County PUD officials previewed concept designs planned for future facilities for supplementation of spring chinook salmon on the White River and Nason Creek, two tributaries to the Wenatchee River in central Washington.

Spring chinook that inhabit the two Wenatchee tributaries are part of an “evolutionarily significant unit” that is listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. The PUD funds a variety of fish and wildlife enhancement projects as mitigation for impacts caused by the dams it owns, Wanapum and Priest Rapids.

The proposal discussed at the Oct. 13 meeting in Leavenworth would attempt reduce to the White River facility footprint and effects on the local environment by using existing hatcheries outside the Wenatchee Basin to incubate eggs and rear young fish before they are transported to the White River site for final rearing and acclimation through the winter and spring months. An original consideration was to build hatcheries in the White and Nason subbasins.

The option is expected to show marked improvement as fish that spend winter months in the river or creek of their birth appear to have higher survival rates and are more likely to find their way back to spawn as adults than fish release after a short-term acclimation.

Nine months of collaborative effort by a work group made up of area residents, civic leaders, agency personnel and Grant PUD staff produced recommended designs that identify options for protecting endangered spring chinook that are also sensitive to the special qualities of the upper Wenatchee landscape.

The work group formed in early 2010, dedicated long hours and many meetings to address concerns regarding Grant PUD’s obligation to construct and fund long-term facilities that will aid in the recovery of White River and Nason Creek spring chinook salmon, both part of a group of fish listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

The work group’s initial goal was to identify optimal facility designs, which will replace Grant PUD’s current process of short-term acclimation in the White River. That process has not resulted in acceptable rates of returning fish.

“The benefactor here will be the spring chinook and that is most important. To conserve and protect this cold water fishery is paramount, and I think we are well on our way in the White River,” said Bob Stroup, an area resident and a member of the Icicle Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “We’ve come a long way since this started, and this was a very thorough presentation. I am very impressed by your approach to this project, and I look forward to working together in the future.”

“As a member of the White River Work Group, I really appreciated visiting hatchery facilities to see what the White River tanks would look like,” said Rachel Scown who represented the North Central Washington Audubon Society on the work group. “I was concerned about how the acclimation tanks and ponds would affect the adjacent soils of the wetlands. Grant PUD made a number of technical experts available so we could ask questions and have a productive discussion about what will work best on this site.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service, which has ESA oversight, determined in a 2008 biological opinion that there is a high risk of extinction for the White River and Nason Creek spring chinook populations if hatchery supplementation is not implemented.
The components of spring chinook spawning in the White River and Nason Creek are critical to recovery of the Wenatchee spring chinook population and are at critically low abundance levels. Supplementation using adaptive management is necessary to recover this population, NOAA Fisheries says.

The White River captive brood supplementation program represents an opportunity to provide a short-term boost in adult abundance while maintaining population diversity and productivity within the Wenatchee River spring chinook population, according to Grant PUD.

The White River spring chinook population is one of five remaining spring chinook spawning aggregates in the Wenatchee River spring Chinook population within the Upper Columbia River ESU. The White River spawning aggregate represents what appears to be a distinct sub-population within the Wenatchee spring Chinook salmon population whose abundance levels are critically low, thereby limiting the abundance of the Wenatchee Basin spring chinook salmon population.

Currently, White River spring chinook salmon are being raised at the Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery located just east of Stevenson, Wash., in the Columbia River Gorge, before they are transported by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists over 240 miles to their home stream in the White River basin for the short-term acclimation and spring release at a variety of sites. The program has been ongoing since 2004.

The plan now is to plunge into the permitting and preliminary planning phases. Related permits are required from local, state and federal entities. The PUD hopes to win those permits by 2012 and launch construction in late 2013 or early 2014, according to spokeswoman Dorothy Harris. Under that scenario the first crop of young fish to overwinter in the new facilities would be released for their migration toward the Pacific in 2015.

While the primary focus of last week’s meeting was on White River spring chinook salmon recovery efforts, Grant PUD plans to apply lessons learned in the White River public process to the Nason Creek program.

In a parallel process, a policy group formed to discuss technical issues such as best management practices for hatcheries, habitat protection and loss of fish to predators in Lake Wenatchee. The policy group drafted memos summarizing their conclusions regarding these and other technical and policy-related concerns to the Priest Rapids Coordinating Committee and its Hatchery Subcommittee. The committee, made up representatives from Grant PUD, NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Colville Confederated Tribes, Yakama Nation and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, have established objectives to help recover natural fish populations to self-sustaining and harvestable levels through the mid-Columbia region and to mitigate for continued fish mortality.

To continue engagement with the public, Grant PUD plans to host annual meetings on the White River and Nason Creek programs.

The meeting presentation, technical report and information on other fish protection programs supported by Grant PUD are available online at http://www.gcpud.org/naturalResources/fishWaterWildlife/habitatHatcheries.htm


* Idaho Governor Says State Will No Longer Be ‘Designated Agent’ For Wolf Management

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter announced Monday that his state will no longer act as the federal government’s “designated agent” for wolf management.

The Republican contends that wolves have been “devastating” deer, elk and moose populations and the state has a “sovereign right” to protect its big game populations.

“Idahoans have suffered from this intolerable situation for too long, but starting today at least the state will no longer be complicit,” Otter wrote. “As you know, Idaho stands ready to manage wolves when the species is once again delisted. Until then, the state will not manage wolves as the designated agent of the federal government.

“That means that Idaho Department of Fish and Game will not perform statewide monitoring for wolves, conduct investigations into illegal killings, provide state law enforcement in response to illegal takings or implement the livestock depredation response program.”

Otter said he is instead directing Fish and Game to concentrate on protecting ungulate herds from wolves, using experienced volunteers to act as “special agents” in carrying out “control actions” in certain areas where wolf impacts on elk, in particular, have been documented.

In a statement released Monday afternoon from Washington, D.C., a Department of Interior press secretary said sport hunting for wolves cannot legally resume, despite Idaho’s action.

“In light of the federal court ruling, the wolf is again on the Endangered Species list and therefore we cannot currently authorize the resumption of sport hunting of wolves,” said Kendra Barkoff. “Up to this point, we appreciate the states of Idaho and Montana who have been working responsibly to manage wolves; nonetheless, we must follow the court’s ruling.”

It is unclear what impact Idaho’s new policy towards wolves will have on Montana, which is currently pursuing a multi-pronged approach to restore a managed wolf hunt. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Joe Maurier and Carolyn Sime, the state’s wolf management coordinator, could not be reached for comment.

Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg recently said that in his conversations with Otter, the governor said his new approach toward wolves is similar to declaring Idaho a “sanctuary state.” That term is typically applied to cities and states that refuse to take on any role in enforcing federal immigration laws.

Otter wrote another letter to Salazar in August stating the Idaho Fish and Game Commission had recommended that the state remain in a lead management role for wolves, and asking to negotiate a new memorandum of understanding for that to happen.

But Otter warned that he would be seeking a “provision for public hunting” in the agreement, despite the ruling from U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula earlier this year that restored ESA protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana, effectively ending managed wolf hunts in both states.

Idaho assumed a lead management role around 2006, using federal funding to carry out a variety of wolf-related duties. Otter noted that Idaho eagerly accepted its new role to show that the state could manage wolves in a manner similar to the way other predator species are managed.

“We showed, during delisting, that we are responsible stewards of all our wildlife, including your wolves,” Otter states in his latest letter to Salazar. “Today I join many Idahoans in questioning whether there is any benefit to being a designated agent without the flexibility of a public hunt, which has been denied.”

Otter concluded by saying he is “committed to finding a path forward for delisting” wolves and restoring the state’s authority to manage the species.

On Thursday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Idaho Fish and Wildlife Office opened a 24-hour, toll-free line for calls related to endangered gray wolf management within the state. Officials said the action was taken in response to Otter’s announcement that Idaho would no longer manage wolves as a designated agent under the ESA.

Procedures for reporting and addressing wolf depredation incidents will remain unchanged, officials said.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Division will continue to respond to suspected wolf depredations on livestock or pets. 

“We learned on Oct, 18 that Gov. Otter terminated state management of wolves in Idaho. We want to assure the public that the Fish and Wildlife Service will investigate all wolf depredation incidents and take appropriate action,” said Robyn Thorson, regional director for the federal agency’s Pacific Region. “When livestock depredation is reported, we will continue to work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Division as it investigates depredation by problem wolves, and we will authorize wolf control as situations dictate.”

Additionally, the toll-free line will serve as a clearinghouse call center to help the public report wolf mortality and find answers to other wolf management questions as the transition from state to federal management occurs.  A similar service was previously provided by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

South of Interstate 90, anyone may legally shoot a wolf in the act of attacking any type of livestock on their private land or grazing allotment, and anyone may shoot a wolf chasing or attacking their dog or stock animals anywhere except within the National Park System.

North of the Interstate, endangered wolves are subject to additional protections and can only legally be taken when authorized by a permit issued by the Service or if exempted by an incidental take statement associated with a consultation with the Service that results in a biological opinion. Livestock owners are prohibited from taking wolves seen actively chasing, attacking, or killing their livestock; only authorized agents can take chronically depredating endangered wolves.


* Montana Unlikely To Join Idaho On Wolf Move; Will Continue Negotiating With Feds Its Role

Idaho’s move to end its cooperation with the federal government over wolf management may or may not have ramifications for Montana, a state that is not likely to follow the lead of its western neighbor.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter on Monday announced that his state would no longer act as the federal government’s “designated agent” in managing wolves. Idaho Fish and Game will no longer be involved with monitoring, investigating and providing law enforcement in response to illegal takings of wolves, duties it has performed under a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 2006.

Montana has had a similar agreement since 2004 that is set to expire at the end of this year, and Montana will negotiate for continuing its role in wolf management, said Carolyn Sime, who heads wolf management efforts for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
“Our agency leadership has decided that ... it’s in the best interests of Montana in the long term to keep Fish, Wildlife and Parks on the ground,” she said from her Helena office.

The reason for that, simply put, is that Montana has considerable leverage and discretion in how to respond to wolves that are impacting wildlife and livestock.

“If we think an entire pack needs to be removed ... we’re the ones that still make that decision rather than the federal government,” Sime said. “Why would we give that up? It doesn’t make sense.”

As another example, she noted that Kent Laudon, the state biologist who monitors wolves in northwest Montana, has several years of experience in talking with hunters, working with landowners and livestock growers and following wolf packs.

“He’s not a fed,” Sime said. “He’s a state guy.”

In Idaho, official wolf management will revert to the federal government and that state, presumably, will no longer receive federal funds for wolf management. Montana currently gets about $625,000 annually in federal funds that is mostly used to support on-the-ground wolf management. It does not cover all costs, however.

“Our legal team (involved with wolf litigation) is not covered by federal dollars,” Sime said, citing an example.

Sime said there may be some political pressure in Montana to do the same thing that Otter did. She already has received correspondence from one group decrying that Montana now stands alone in not having the “backbone to stand up to federal bullying.”

But Sime believes Montana is pushing against the feds and for state wolf management authority on multiple fronts. Montana is involved in an appeal of last summer’s federal court ruling that put wolves back under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, effectively ending the state’s ability to run a regulated wolf hunt.

There are several bills that have been drafted in Congress to delist Montana and Idaho wolves, and those may advance, she said.

And there are renewed efforts to persuade Wyoming lawmakers to develop a wolf management plan that would pass muster with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Service. The main reason for the summer court ruling is that U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy determined that wolves in the Northern Rockies could not be delisted along state lines — the Montana and Idaho populations were delisted but not the Wyoming population because that state’s plan is considered deficient.

The long-term implications of Idaho bowing out of wolf management is that it might complicate a future move to delist wolves. If Idaho strays from its current wolf management plan, for instance, that could be an obstacle.


* Tail-End Fishing Continues; Bonneville Dam Fall Chinook Count Since Aug. 1 at 464,532

Both non-tribal and tribal commercial fishers were back out on the Columbia River mainstem this week chasing the last of the year’s salmon spawners, as well as the last of their harvest allocations for the season.

The tail-ends of the upriver fall chinook salmon and steelhead runs are evident, and the counts of coho salmon passing up and over Bonneville Dam are also declining with each passing day. The upriver fall chinook counts have slowly declined from a peak of 21,612 on Sept. 5 to only 291 on Wednesday. Steelhead counts have, for the most part, been declining since hitting a peak of 9,337 on Aug. 8. Wednesday’s count was 128.

The coho peak count was 6,057 on Oct. 11; Wednesday’s count was 1,255. Bonneville Dam, at river mile 146, is the first hydro project the fish encounter on their way upstream to hatcheries and spawning grounds in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

The total fall chinook count at Bonneville, which began Aug. 1, is 464,532. That count is higher than the 10-year average through Oct. 20 of 369,677. The Bonneville fall chinook counts include upriver brights as well as Bonneville Pool Hatchery tules and some Mid-Columbia brights fish.

The total upriver summer steelhead count from July 1 through Wednesday is 380,165. That’s slightly below the 10-year average, 395,142. The preseason forecast was for a return of 453,000 upriver summer steelhead, as counted passing Bonneville, including 337,500 “Group A” fish and 99,100 “Group B” fish. That forecast was recently updated to include 314,000 A and 71,000 B steelhead.

Group B steelhead 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 above Bonneville.

The latest upriver bright fall chinook forecast is for an overall return of 326,500 to the mouth of the Columbia. That would be slightly higher than the preseason forecast 319,200.

Most of the URBs are destined for the Hanford Reach section of the Columbia River, Priest Rapids Hatchery and the Snake River basin. Smaller URB components are destined for the Deschutes and Yakima rivers.

Snake River wild fall chinook are a sub-component of the URB stock and are protected under the Endangered Species Act, as are wild Snake River and Upper Columbia steelhead. Limits are imposed on commercial and sport mainstem harvests as a means of controlling impacts on listed stocks.

The Columbia River Compact on Monday approved a tribal commercial fishery from 7 a.m. Wednesday through 7 p.m. Friday (today) in mainstem reservoirs between Bonneville and McNary dams. Allowable sales include salmon, steelhead, walleye, shad, yellow perch, catfish, bass and carp. Also allowed is the sale of fish caught during that time period in platform and hook and line fisheries above and below Bonneville. The Compact, which sets mainstem commercial fisheries, is made up of representatives of the directors of the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife.

The tribes – the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakama – during a fall season that began in late August have caught an estimated 130,061 chinook, 25,608 steelhead and 9,659 coho through last week, according to an Oct. 18 ODFW-WDFW fact sheet. That catch includes 52,464 URBs and 11,408 B steelhead.

That catch represents 16.1 percent of the estimated URB run (a 25 percent tribal impact is allowed under the terms of a management agreement between the tribes, states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington and the federal government) and also a 16.1 percent impact on the B steelhead run (the tribes can harvest up to 20 percent of that run based on the current forecast).

The tribes expect to catch about 1,800 chinook (including 1,000 URBs), 2,600 coho and 1,300 steelhead (including 700 B steelhead) this week. That would push their impact to 16.5 percent for URBs and 17.6 percent for B steelhead.

The Compact also approved two 12-hour fisheries this week overnight Tuesday-Wednesday and Thursday-Friday from a point near Longview, Wash., upstream to Bonneville and from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday from Longview down to the river mouth. The nighttime fisheries require larger mesh nets that are more efficient at catching chinook than coho while Wednesday’s fishery has no mesh requirements.

The non-Indian gill-net fleet had through Oct. 18 caught 31,848 chinook, 16,423 coho, 183 chum and 3,111 white sturgeon during the fall season. The catch expectations for this week’s fisheries were 600 chinook, 2,500-3,000 coho, 80 chum and 350 sturgeon. ODFW and WDFW staff the catch total after this week “to be within but close” to ESA impact limits for non-tribal fisheries this year.


* Arctic Report Card Shows Continued Warming, Thinning Sea Ice, Links To Weather Patterns

The Arctic region, also called the “planet’s refrigerator,” continues to heat up, affecting local populations and ecosystems as well as weather patterns in the most populated parts of the Northern Hemisphere, according to a team of 69 international scientists.

The findings were released this week in the Arctic Report Card, a yearly assessment of Arctic conditions.

Among the 2010 highlights:

--  Greenland is experiencing record-setting high temperatures, ice melt and glacier area loss;
-- Summer sea ice continues to decline — the 2009-2010 summer sea ice cover extent was the third lowest since satellite monitoring began in 1979, and sea ice thickness continues to thin. The 2010 minimum is the third lowest recorded since 1979, surpassed only by 2008 and the record low of 2007; and
-- Arctic snow cover duration was at a record minimum since record-keeping began in 1966.

There is also evidence that the effect of higher air temperatures in the Arctic atmosphere in fall is contributing to changes in the atmospheric circulation in both the Arctic and northern mid-latitudes. Winter 2009-2010 showed a link between mid-latitude extreme cold and snowy weather events and changes in the wind patterns of the Arctic, related to a phase of the Arctic Oscillation.

“To quote one of my NOAA colleagues, ‘whatever is going to happen in the rest of the world happens first, and to the greatest extent, in the Arctic,’” said Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Beyond affecting the humans and wildlife that call the area home, the Arctic’s warmer temperatures and decreases in permafrost, snow cover, glaciers and sea ice also have wide-ranging consequences for the physical and biological systems in other parts of the world. The Arctic is an important driver of climate and weather around the world and serves as a critical feeding and breeding ground that supports globally significant populations of birds, mammals and fish.”

In 2006, NOAA’s Climate Program Office introduced the annual Arctic Report Card, which established a baseline of conditions at the beginning of the 21st century to monitor the quickly changing conditions in the Arctic. Using a color-coded system of “red” to indicate consistent evidence of warming and “yellow” to show that warming impacts are occurring in many climate indicators and species, the Report Card is updated annually in October and tracks the Arctic atmosphere, sea ice, biology, ocean, land and changes in Greenland.

The Report Card can be found online. http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard/

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.


Home Contact


              Page Updated: Saturday October 23, 2010 02:42 AM  Pacific

             Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2010, All Rights Reserved