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Weekly Fish and Wildlife News
November 5, 2010
Issue No. 552

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Table of Contents

* BiOp Challengers: 2010 Supplemental Salmon BiOp ‘Adds Nothing Of Legal Significance’

* Sea Lion Report: Salmon Take Increasing, But Removal Program Keeps It From Going Higher

* Hundreds Of Steelhead Found Trapped In Dworkshak Turbine Tube; About 1,000 Fish Killed

* Bull Trout Redd Survey Shows Average In Flathead River, Sharp Decline In Swan River Drainage

* Last Section Of Columbia River Channel Deepening Completed; Ports Plan New Facilities

* NOAA Releases National Policy Aimed At Expanding Use Of Catch Shares In Commercial Fishing

* ODFW Recovery Efforts Bring Wild Coho To Cedar Creek In Sandy River Basin

* Smelter Waste Slag Contaminating Upper Columbia River Removed, Beach Rebuilt

* USGS: 90 Percent Of U.S. Waters Show Flow Alterations, Harms Native Fish


* BiOp Challengers: 2010 Supplemental Salmon BiOp ‘Adds Nothing Of Legal Significance’

A May 2010 Columbia-Snake river “biological opinion” is illegal in its own right, and does nothing to cure the ills of a 2008 federal strategy for assuring the hydro system avoids jeopardizing the survival of salmon and steelhead protected under the Endangered Species Act.

That’s the contention of the Nez Perce and Spokane tribes, the state of Oregon and a coalition of fishing and conservation groups.

In legal briefs filed Oct. 29 they ask U.S. District Court Judge James A. Redden to declare the 2008 BiOp and the 2010 supplemental BiOp illegal and require federal agencies to go back to the drawing board.

The filings come in what is, at least as now scheduled, the final round of briefing in the latest challenge to a NOAA Fisheries Service prescription for protecting listed salmon and steelhead stocks that swim through the Federal Columbia River Power System’s mainstem dams, and lifting the fish toward recovery.

The federal defendants and allied parties will now have until Dec. 23 to file cross-motions for summary judgment and briefs in opposition to the plaintiffs' motions for summary judgment filed last Friday. The judge would then schedule oral arguments, after which he would gauge the legality of the supplemental BiOp.

The 2008 BiOp was challenged in district court that summer by a coalition led by the National Wildlife Federation and the state of Oregon. They say the strategy’s biological jeopardy analysis – the calculation of the risked faced by the species and how BiOp actions would mitigate that risk -- is flawed. They allege that the BiOp depends on habitat actions that are not certain to be implemented and that the level salmon survival benefits to be gained from habitat improvements is also uncertain.

ESA BiOps evaluate whether a planned action – such as the existence of the dams and their operation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation – jeopardizes listed stocks. The 2008 BiOp says that the dams pose the risk of jeopardy but that risk would be erased through a series of mitigation actions.

The 2008 BiOp, which replaced a 2004 version declared illegal by Redden, was produced after nearly three years in ESA consultation with the dam operators and the Bonneville Power Administration and in collaboration with Columbia basin states and tribes. BPA markets power generated in the FCRPS.
The numerous parties involved debated the merits of the 2008 BiOp and Redden heard oral arguments in March 2009. But, after hearing the judge's doubts about the legality of the plan, Obama Administration officials asked that they be allowed to review the product completed under the previous administration.

In September of last year, the federal government declared the 2008 BiOp legally and biologically sound, but also produced an Adaptive Management Implementation Plan that was intended to shore up the salmon strategy.

But the judge said he did not believe the AMIP was legally admissible in the litigation and ordered the involved agencies to address that issue during a 90-day remand. He ordered the remand so that the science underpinning the 2008 BiOp could be updated and the AMIP be made an official part of the legal record being considered in the lawsuit.

Over this past winter the federal agencies renewed ESA consultation and released the 2010 supplemental FCRPS BiOp, which encased the 2008 BiOp and its no-jeopardy conclusion and added the AMIP as part of the BiOp’s "reasonable and prudent alternative." The RPA outlines hydro system operation and capital improvements that would be implemented to improve fish survivals and includes off-site measures, such as habitat improvements.

"Following that review, NOAA (with the agreement of the Action Agencies) amended the AMIP in order to assure maximum responsiveness to the new science by adding the following further actions: (i) studies of thermal refugia, (ii) enhancement of adult fish population monitoring, (iii) water temperature monitoring, and (iv) a study of the density-dependent impact of hatchery fish on listed salmonids. NOAA then integrated the amended AMIP into the 2008 BiOp and its RPA as new RPA Action 1A," according to the federal notice announcing the completion of the remand and the supplemental BiOp.

The plaintiffs say the AMIP and remand processes were all for naught.

“A legally adequate RPA for dam operations that are jeopardizing the continued existence of ESA-listed salmon and steelhead today -- the conclusion NOAA reached for the action agencies’ proposed action -- must contain ‘alternative actions’ that can be implemented to avoid jeopardy, (defining an RPA), not just data collection and research for possible future action,” according to the summary judgment memorandum filed Oct. 29 by Earthjustice for the coalition of fishing and conservation groups.

“If the 2008 BiOp and RPA were arbitrary and contrary to law as written, and they were, then neither the 2010 BiOp nor the AMIP corrects these flaws. Instead, the 2010 BiOp and accompanying administrative records confirm that both BiOps are risky, uncertain, fail to address important and relevant issues, and are arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law.”

According to the federal agencies, the AMIP includes expanded research, monitoring and evaluation to quickly detect unexpected changes in fish populations and specific biological "triggers" that, if exceeded, will activate a range of near and long-term responses to address significant fish declines.

The AMIP also calls for the Corps to prepare a plan for developing the scope, budget and schedule for studies needed regarding potential breaching of the lower Snake River dams.

The federal agencies insist that the remand helped evaluate new science and reaffirm the 2008 BiOp’s conclusions.

"We considered new research and literature and will provide a full record of this information. Our review identified modest changes in the science since the BiOp was completed, and we have made appropriate adjustments," according to a joint statement issued by the federal agencies along with the supplemental BiOp. "We have strengthened monitoring of climate change indicators, such as river temperatures, so we can identify and address them. While fish populations and environmental conditions will always vary over the short term, the BiOp delivers benefits for the long term."

The Oct. 29 briefs say that the new analysis essentially ignores newer data such as that regarding the possible negative future impacts of climate change and declining population trends since 2008. In both instances the trends are said to be within the range of data analyzed for the 2008 BiOp.

“The 2010 BiOp adds nothing of legal significance to address the defects of the 2008 BiOp, and through its own analysis, further obscures the issues at the core of NOAA's jeopardy analysis,” Oregon’s motion says. “Rather than address the Court's question of how federal defendants will know the specific survival improvements of the 2008 BiOp are reasonably certain to occur, NOAA now signals that, in its view, it really no longer matters.

“The 2010 BiOp leans more than ever on the AMIP and its triggers. So while the 2010 BiOp considers new information that calls into question NOAA's predictions, NOAA pays it little attention, assured that any significant errors will be detected by the AMIP before it is truly too late.

“The 2010 BiOp's unwarranted reliance on the AMIP, and adaptive management generally, together with its summary dismissal of information unfavorable to its earlier conclusions, render it arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with law in its own right,” the Oregon motion says. “Furthermore, it can only be viewed as yet another failed attempt to cure the defects of the 2008 BiOp.”

The memorandum filed by Earthjustice can be found online at:

The Spokane and Nez Perce tribe filed briefs in support of Oregon’s and the National Wildlife Federation’s motions for summary judgment.

For more documents and information about BiOp litigation go to www.salmonrecovery.gov


* Sea Lion Report: Salmon Take Increasing, But Removal Program Keeps It From Going Higher

Overall consumption of salmon by California sea lions has continued to rise during the past three years, but federal and state officials still feel they are making progress toward reducing predation by removing marine mammals from the area immediately below the lower Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam.

Studies show that the 40 sea lions removed from the area during those years were among the most voracious of the pinnipeds known to prey on salmon, steelhead and other fish species at Bonneville, according to the October research report, “Evaluation of Pinniped Predation on Adult Salmonids and Other Fish in the Bonneville Dam Tailrace, 2008-2010.” The report was produced by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers researchers Robert J. Stansell, Karrie M. Gibbons, and William T. Nagy.

Data collected by the researchers show that while those sea lions represented only 9.5 percent (40 of 420) of the sea lions identified over the years, they accounted for 36.5 percent (3,388 of 9,275) of all the salmonid catch events attributed to specific individuals. The removed animals had a history of staying longer at the dam and eating more fish per capita than other animals seen at the dam.

“This indicates that the removal program has indeed targeted those animals most likely to stay for a long time and consume many salmonids,” the report says. “Consumption estimates and presence metrics for 2008, 2009, and 2010 undoubtedly would have been higher if these select sea lions had not been removed.”

The Corps research was launched in 2002 to evaluate the effect of the California sea lions growing presence below the dam on salmon stocks headed upriver in springtime on their spawning run. The fish include stocks that are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Bonneville is the first hydro project the fish encounter upon their return from the Pacific Ocean.

Historically only a few California sea lions were observed at Bonneville, which is located 146 river miles from the Pacific. But as spring chinook salmon returns swelled early this century, so did the number of marine mammals camped out below the dam’s fish ladders. As many as 104 different California sea lions (2003) have been seen at the dam. The total was 82 in 2008, 54 in 2009 and 89 this past spring.

The number of individual sea lions observed at Bonneville Dam has increased from an average of 83.0 per year between 2002 and 2007 to 123.7 per year for the last three years, according to the Corps report. That is primarily due to an increase in the presence of Steller sea lions, which averaged 5.0 per year before 2008 and 46.7 from 2008 to 2010. Overall number of California sea lions at Bonneville each spring averaged 76.2 per year before 2008 and 75.0 during the past three years.

The adjusted salmonid consumption rate based on observations extrapolated to include totals for unobserved days were 4,294 fish in 2008, 4,037 in 2009 and 5,095 in 2010.

The overall number of salmon passing Bonneville increased from 2008 to 2009 and again from 2009 to 2010 so the actual percentage of the run taken by California sea lions shrank each year. The 2010 run, 267,184 passing Bonneville, was the second largest since 2002. The 2001 upriver spring chinook salmon run, as measured at the mouth of the Columbia, was the largest on record at 439,885.

The report is among the materials being considered by the Pinniped-Fisheries Interaction Task Force as it evaluates the effectiveness of a sea lion removal-deterrence program begun in 2008 by the states of Oregon and Washington, with the help of Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission member tribes, federal agencies and other entities. The states were granted lethal removal authority in March 2008 by NOAA Fisheries Service under Section 120 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The 18-member task force, formed in 2007 to help evaluate the states’ application for lethal take authority, includes representatives from academic, scientific and conservation communities, tribes and federal and state agencies.

The task force was reconvened Oct. 25-26 in Portland, and will meet again Nov. 9-10. When it completes its deliberations, the task force will submit recommendations to NOAA Fisheries on how the program, initially approved for a five-year run, should proceed. The federal agency will then decide whether to continue the program unchanged for the next two years, whether to modify the removal authority and/or terms of its letter of authorization or to determine that the permitted lethal removals have been effective and disband the task force.

The number of California sea lions captured during the March 1-May 31 period over the past three years includes 37 trapped below Bonneville and three at Astoria, Ore., near the river mouth. Ten were accepted by zoos or aquariums, 22 were euthanized and five died accidentally. The approval allows the removal of up to 85 animals yearly though NOAA Fisheries predicted that the states would probably be able to capture and remove 30 of the big marine mammals at best in any given year.

“This is likely the cause of the decline in CSL mean daily presence and maximum numbers seen on any given day, as most of the removed individuals had returned many years and remained at Bonneville Dam for long periods of time,” the Corps report says.

Trapping next year would likely target about 35 California sea lions of the 78 animals that are now eligible for removal. That’s because 37 of the eligible animals have not been seen at the dam in two or more years and six others were not seen last year. Researchers know from past experience that sea lions that do not return in consecutive years are unlikely to return at all.

NOAA Fisheries approval letter says that the states can lethally remove “individually identifiable predatory California sea lions that are having a significant negative impact on ESA-listed salmonids.” To make the removal list a California sea lions must have been:

-- observed eating salmonids in the "observation area" below Bonneville Dam between Jan 1 and May 31 of any year; and
-- observed in the observation area below Bonneville Dam on a total of any five days (consecutive days, days within a single season, or days over multiple years); and
-- sighted in the observation area below Bonneville Dam after they have been subjected to active non-lethal deterrence.

The report noted that, despite the removal of some of the most successful predators in 2008 and 2009 the overall number of California sea lions visiting the dam grew in 2010.

“We expected the results from the 2010 season to show a steep decline in CSL numbers, which should have also resulted in reduced salmonid predation by CSL. However, this was not the case, as many new CSL ventured up to Bonneville Dam this year, if only briefly,” the report says. “It may be that removing 11 to 15 animals each year is not enough to prevent substantial recruitment of new individuals and increased predation, and that it would take more additional measures (e.g. the removal of about 30 individuals) each year to see and document a significant reduction in CSL numbers and salmonid predation.”

One sea lion this past year may have moved to No. 1 on the most wanted for removal list. The report notes that a pinniped branded as C287 took the most fish in one day at Bonneville Dam since observations began in 2002.

“He was seen to take 12 Chinook on April 12, 2010,” the report says. “If we use an average Chinook weight of 6.6 kg per fish (Brown, et al., 2010) this equates to about 85.8 kg in one day consumed. This is almost triple the maximum observed daily consumption by weight of that reported in Kastelein et al. (2000) from captive male CSL over 10 years old in the Netherlands. C287 was first observed at Bonneville Dam on March 22 this year, his sixth year observed at Bonneville Dam.”

“This is not to say every CSL consumes this many fish, but it does give us an indication of how unusual a situation pinniped predation at Bonneville Dam has become when compared to natural or captive consumption studies, and what some CSL are capable of consuming.”

The Corps report and other materials related to the task force evaluation of the removal program can be found at:


* Hundreds Of Steelhead Found Trapped In Dworkshak Turbine Tube; About 1,000 Fish Killed

Hundreds of steelhead fish were found trapped in the draft tube area below turbine unit 1 by staff at Dworshak Dam and Reservoir Wednesday while the electricity generator was being dewatered for routine maintenance, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operations officials at the Walla Walla District.

The adult fish were discovered at about noon after the unit was taken out of service and its draft tube drained to allow access for routine maintenance activities. The project involved following standard operating procedures, according to the Corps.

Some fish were floating, but many were actively swimming so staff immediately focused efforts on rescuing the hundreds of fish still alive. After placing an air line in the water to help supply oxygen, all available personnel at the dam assisted with removal of the fish via large plastic containers to a makeshift “fish slide” just outside the powerhouse where fish could slip into the North Fork of the Clearwater River on the downstream side of the dam.

“By 4:45 p.m. today, over 400 steelhead had been released into the river. So far, no salmon have been found among the fish,” Greg Parker, Dworshak operations project manager, said Wednesday during a status update. “We’re still rescuing live fish and will shift our focus to recovering any dead fish once our rescue effort is completed.”

According to Parker, Corps personnel continued the rescue effort until about midnight and then resumed Thursday morning. A total of more than 500 live fish were returned to the river. The death toll was about 1,000 adult steelhead. Corps officials have theorized that, with so many fish packed into a small area, the fish may have become oxygen deprived.

Walla Walla District staff coordinated with staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Dworshak National Fish Hatchery and Clearwater Fish Hatchery, which is operated by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The hatcheries, both located just below the dam, provided tote containers with ice so the dead fish could be preserved. All of the fish were distributed to local food banks and to the Idaho Correctional Institute in Orofino.

“They’re all going to be put to good use,” said Corps spokeswoman Gina Baltrusch.

It is believed that most of the fish are the product of the hatcheries, both of which use water from behind the dam to rear young steelhead and salmon. A combination of attraction to the currents created by the dam’s output and the urge to home in on that reservoir water are likely reasons that the fish often congregate just below the facility.

There are no fish passage facilities at Dworshak. Steelhead spawners have not had access to the North Fork above Dworshak since the dam was completed in 1973.

The standard operating procedures require placing a bulkhead (gate) at the entrance to the penstock (pipe) and then placing stoplogs in the tailrace where the water from the unit discharges through the draft tube into the tailrace (water below the powerhouse). Prior to placing the bulkheads, the unit is run to discharge any debris that might be in the bulkhead slots and to try to move any fish out of the draft tube area. Placement of these bulkheads is done by crane and takes several hours each.

During that time, fish have the potential to re-enter into the draft tube area.

“Typically we have less than 30 fish total and they are returned back to the tailrace unharmed,” Parker said. “In this situation, we had around 1,500 fish when we dewatered which has never happened before.”

The Corps has already looking at potential solutions, such as installing screens to prevent fish from swimming into the draft tube during the time it takes to put the bulkheads into service, Parker said.


* Bull Trout Redd Survey Shows Average In Flathead River, Sharp Decline In Swan River Drainage

This year’s survey of bull trout spawning turned up average results in Montana's Flathead River Basin, but indicate a significant decline in the Swan River drainage.

Every fall, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks crews survey spawning streams, looking for bull trout spawning beds called “redds.” The surveys focus on the same stream sections every year in the South Fork, North Fork and Middle Fork of the Flathead River system, as well as the Swan River, which also feeds into Flathead Lake.

Because of substantial rainfall in September, there were higher stream flows and less-than-optimal survey conditions, raising the possibility some redds were missed.

Surveys have been conducted in the Swan River Basin for the last 29 years, with a basin-wide average of 669 redds for the last 15 years. This year’s count of 378 redds is less than half of that average.

Counts peaked at around 800 in 1997 and 1998 but declined in the following years until a brief rebound 2006 and 2007. They have declined ever since.

Biologists believe a reason for the decline may be non-native lake trout, which were first detected in Swan Lake in 1998. Subsequent studies indicate that lake trout have been present in the Swan River system since the early 1990s, with the population steadily growing since then.

Lake trout have led to declines in bull trout populations in other waters throughout the region, most notably the Flathead Lake bull trout population that depends on spawning in the upper Flathead River system.

Bull trout counts in the North and Middle forks of the Flathead focus on eight stream sections, and this year’s count of 190 redds is on par with the 193 average over the last 12 years. The eight stream sections account for an estimated 45 percent of the total Flathead Lake spawning run.

This year’s count of 136 redds in Middle Fork stream sections is the highest since 1989, but counts in the standard North Fork stream sections were down considerably, as they have been for years. To determine if bull trout spawning patterns have shifted, crews looked upstream from the standard stream sections and found that may be the case. In the upper reaches of the Big Creek drainage, there were 36 redds, and 23 were counted in the upper Coal Creek drainage.


* Last Section Of Columbia River Channel Deepening Completed; Ports Plan New Facilities

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed the last section of the Columbia River Channel Improvements Project this week, finishing an effort that took more than 20 years to complete.

The project deepened the Columbia River by three feet, to 43 feet along a 103-mile stretch of river from the Pacific Ocean to Portland, Ore.

The Corps’ contractor J.E. McAmis and its subcontractor Dutra Dredging completed the last section of work between river miles 66 and 67 near Longview, Wash.

“Dutra’s vessel Paula Lee dredged the last material on Wednesday and the Corps survey boat Redlinger did a post-dredge survey on Thursday,” said Mark Dasso, Portland District’s Columbia River Improvements project manager. The post-dredge survey is used to ensure that the work complies with contract requirements, Dasso said.

“Completing this project has been important to regional ports and to shippers alike,” said Dave Hunt, executive director of the Columbia River Channel Coalition. “Everyone is working to take full advantage of this opportunity. For instance, the Port of Longview is building the first export grain terminal to be built in the United States in 25 years.

“The regional ports are all working on facilities or services that will be needed, based on projected increases in goods and commodities that will be imported and exported – three extra feet of depth means increased economic benefits to the entire region,” Hunt said.

The Corps began dredging in 2005. The Columbia River Channel Improvements Project was a collaborative effort between the Corps and six lower Columbia River ports (Portland, Vancouver, Kalama, St. Helens, Longview and Woodland) to improve navigation by deepening the navigation channel to accommodate the current fleet of international bulk cargo and container ships and to improve the condition of the Columbia River estuary through the completion of other environmental restoration projects.

The only actions left for the Corps to complete are planting native plants and trees at Cottonwood Island in spring and settling the accounts with its project partners, Dasso said.


* NOAA Releases National Policy Aimed At Expanding Use Of Catch Shares In Commercial Fishing

NOAA this week released a national policy encouraging the consideration and use of catch shares, a new fishery management tool aimed at rebuilding fisheries.

“Catch share programs have proven to be powerful tools to transform fisheries, making them prosperous, stable and sustainable parts of our nation’s strategy for healthy and resilient ocean ecosystems,” said Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator . “NOAA’s policy encourages fishery management councils and stakeholders to explore the design possibilities of catch shares to tailor programs to best meet local needs.”

Catch share programs include limited access privilege programs and individual fishing quotas. They dedicate a secure share of fish to individual fishermen, cooperatives or fishing communities.

Catch shares are used in 14 fisheries managed by six fishery management councils from Alaska to Florida and are being developed in additional fisheries. Both here and in other countries, NOAA officials say, catch shares are helping eliminate overfishing and achieve annual catch limits, improve fishermen’s safety and profits, and reduce the negative biological and economic effects of the race for fish that develops with some traditional fishery management.

After considering public comment on its draft policy, NOAA added several guiding principles to the policy, including a recommendation that regional fishery management councils periodically revisit allocations between commercial and recreational sectors in fisheries.

The policy also does not advocate individual catch shares for private recreational anglers.

NOAA officials say councils will have the agency’s support to consider catch share programs for charter boat and head boat sectors to explore recreational catch share pools that could benefit the health of the resource and the charter industry.

“The purpose of this policy is to provide a strong foundation for the widespread consideration of catch shares, which have proven to be an effective tool to help rebuild fisheries,” said Monica Medina, principal deputy under secretary for oceans and atmosphere. “The key to a successful catch share program is extensive stakeholder involvement in the design of catch shares that take into consideration each community’s particular fishing traditions and goals.”

David Walker, a commercial fisherman who is part of the Gulf of Mexico red snapper individual fishing quota program, has seen how a catch share program can transform a fishery.

“This program has been a phenomenal success for the fish, and when you take care of the fish, you take care of the fishermen,” said Walker, who fishes from the homeport of Destin, Fla. “Before the program began in 2007, we were having to fish under derbies and having to go farther and farther to fish. We were getting fewer and fewer days as efforts were intensifying. Everyone raced for the fish and we were fishing in weather conditions that were dangerous at times. Fishing under the IFQ program implemented in 2007 has been a blessing to us. Now we have a year round season with very few discards. Fish prices are good. And the fish stock is rebuilding.”

On the West Coast, Steve Bodnar, the executive director of the Coos Bay Trawler Association, has been working with the Pacific Fishery Management Council to help develop a catch share program for the West Coast bottomfish trawl fishery.

“We’re on the edge of doing something great,” said Bodnar, who represents a group of fishermen based in Coos Bay, Ore., who own and fish from nine trawlers. “This program is opening up communication between fishermen who were used to working alone. We're going to swap quota to keep as many boats on the water in order to keep our port whole. We’ll also work together to share resources, to develop gear that will avoid fish that are not as abundant and catch the healthier stocks, and to market our catch to help consumers support local fishermen. By working together, we will survive.”

To read the policy and profiles of catch share programs, go to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/catchshares

NOAA has partnered with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to create a new NFWF grant program called the Fisheries Innovation Fund that will award $2.2 million to support local fishermen and fishing communities that want to consider catch share programs and put their ideas into action. NFWF is providing grant writing training via a webinar on Thursday, Nov. 11, from 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. EST.

To register for the webinar go to https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/635451856


* ODFW Recovery Efforts Bring Wild Coho To Cedar Creek In Sandy River Basin
For the first time in more than 50 years, wild coho are moving into the upper reaches of Cedar Creek near Sandy.

After years of planning and preparation, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is in the process of releasing more than 100 wild coho into the stream in the Sandy River basin.

“This is a major milestone in the recovery of wild coho in the lower Columbia River basin,” said Todd Alsbury, district fish biologist for ODFW’s North Willamette Watershed.

Until this year’s release, salmon and steelhead had not inhabited the upper reaches of Cedar Creek since the early 1950s when construction of the Sandy Fish Hatchery created a barrier to fish passage.

The hatchery is located on Cedar Creek approximately a mile upstream from its confluence with the Sandy River. From now on, wild coho and winter steelhead will be selectively passed through the Sandy hatchery into more than 12 miles of high quality fish habitat waiting for them upstream.

The Sandy fish hatchery is the end of the road for thousands of hatchery-reared coho that return to the facility every year. In years past, the hundred or so wild coho that also made their way to the hatchery were captured by hatchery technicians and released into the nearby Sandy River at the former site of Marmot Dam.

Thanks to $3.7 million in funding support from the City of Portland, ODFW is moving ahead with plans to construct a state-of-the-art system of fish weirs, traps, and intake screens that will enable wild salmon and steelhead to move beyond the hatchery with limited handling while hatchery-reared fish are collected for the department’s brood stock programs, provided to the Oregon Food Bank, or distributed throughout the Upper Sandy Basin for nutrient enrichment. The contribution is part of the city’s Habitat Conservation Plan for the nearby Bull Run Water Supply project .The city is committed to spending up to $90 million over the next 50 years to mitigate for the impact to fish habitat caused by drawing its domestic water supply from the Bull Run River.

Alsbury said that if the project works out as hoped Cedar Creek could provide permanent habitat for up to 600 wild coho.

“Restoration of passage is in Cedar Creek in combination with numerous other restoration efforts throughout the Sandy Basin will be a significant contribution to recovery of fish in the region,” he said.

* Smelter Waste Slag Contaminating Upper Columbia River Removed, Beach Rebuilt

Contractors from Teck Metals Ltd. (formerly Teck Cominco) have finished removing black slag, a byproduct of the smelting process, from Black Sand Beach near Northport, Wash.

Teck’s smelter in Trail, British Columbia, discharged granulated slag to the Columbia River over nearly a 60-year period. A portion of the granulated slag accumulated at Black Sand Beach, an informal recreation site, three miles south of the Canadian border.

The Washington State Department of Ecology and Teck signed a voluntary agreement in July 2009 to remove the slag and rebuild the beach. The site encompasses about one acre of state trust land managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources.

Teck assumed all engineering, construction, and oversight costs associated with this project as part of the agreement. The main goal of the project is to prevent further contamination of the upper Columbia River from slag that might erode or be deposited back into the river.

Teck agreed to remove the slag and transport it by truck for recycling at its smelter in Trail. The company hired a number of contractors from northeastern Washington for the work.

Slag is an industrial waste that contains hazardous substances including zinc, lead, copper, and other metals that cannot be removed by normal smelter processing. Certain metals in slag harm the health of the river and aquatic life. Removing slag protects the aquatic life and the health of the river.

Nearly 6,400 cubic yards or 9,100 tons of sediment containing slag were removed from the beach area. After the slag was removed, clean fill material including sand, gravel and cobbles was used to rebuild the beach. The access road used during construction was restored to look more like it did before the construction.

Under the terms of the voluntary agreement, Teck has agreed to monitor and report on any changes they may observe on the beach over the next five years.

“An important goal was to establish a replacement beach that looked similar to the original beach, minus the black slag,” said project manager Chuck Gruenenfelder with Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup office in Spokane. “The final design considered aesthetics and stability. This was a success because of active community input, good technical coordination and planning, and involvement of local contractors in the construction.”

The site retains much of its original character and is now healthier for people and the river, according to Gruenenfelder.

Local Northport companies performed about 50 percent of the project work, which provided a positive economic impact to the community.

The extent of contamination and associated human health and environmental risks posed by past discharges from Teck's Trail facility into the Upper Columbia River are currently being investigated under a separate, comprehensive multi-year study. That study is being led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Teck in coordination with state, tribal and federal authorities.


* USGS: 90 Percent Of U.S. Waters Show Flow Alterations, Harms Native Fish

The amount of water flowing in streams and rivers has been significantly altered in nearly 90 percent of waters that were assessed in a new nationwide United States Geological Survey study. Flow alterations are a primary contributor to degraded river ecosystems and loss of native species.

"This USGS assessment provides the most geographically extensive analysis to date of stream flow alteration," said Bill Werkheiser, USGS associate director for Water. "Findings show the pervasiveness of stream flow alteration resulting from land and water management, the significant impact of altered stream flow on aquatic organisms, and the importance of considering this factor for sustaining and restoring the health of the nation's streams and ecosystems."

Flows are altered by a variety of land- and water-management activities, including reservoirs, diversions, subsurface tile drains, groundwater withdrawals, wastewater inputs, and impervious surfaces, such as parking lots, sidewalks and roads.

"Altered river flows lead to the loss of native fish and invertebrate species whose survival and reproduction are tightly linked to specific flow conditions," said Daren Carlisle, USGS ecologist and lead scientist on this study. "These consequences can also affect water quality, recreational opportunities and the maintenance of sport fish populations."

For example, in streams with severely diminished flow, native trout, a popular sport fish that requires fast-flowing streams with gravel bottoms, are replaced by less desirable non-native species, such as carp. Overall, the USGS study indicated that streams with diminished flow contained aquatic communities that prefer slow moving currents more characteristic of lake or pond habitats.

"Management practices related to water demand continue to alter stream flows in many places," said Jeff Ostermiller, Water Quality manager with the Utah Division of Water Quality. "Understanding the ecological effects of these flow alterations helps water managers develop effective strategies to ensure that water remains sufficiently clean and abundant to support fisheries and recreation opportunities, while simultaneously supporting economic development."

Annual and seasonal cycles of water flows -- particularly the low and high flows -- shape ecological processes in rivers and streams. An adequate minimum flow is important to maintain suitable water conditions and habitat for fish and other aquatic life. High flows are important because they replenish floodplains and flush out accumulated sediment that can degrade habitat.

"While this study provided the first, national assessment of flow alteration, focused studies within specific geographic regions will provide a better understanding of the ecological effects of altered stream flows, which can be more effectively applied to local water management challenges," said Carlisle.

The severity and type of stream flow alteration varies among regions, due to natural landscape features, land practices, degree of development, and water demand. Differences are especially large between arid and wet climates. In wet climates, watershed management is often focused on flood control, which can result in lower maximum flows and higher minimum flows. Extremely low flows are the greatest concern in arid climates, in large part due to groundwater withdrawals and high water use for irrigation.

The study identified over 1,000 unimpaired streams to use as reference points to create stream flow models. The models were applied to estimate expected flows for 2,888 additional streams where the USGS had flow monitoring gauges from 1980-2007. The estimated values for the 2,888 streams were compared to actual, measured flows to determine the degree to which streams have been altered.

This study was conducted by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program (http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa), which has assessed the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of streams and rivers across the nation since 1991.

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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