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Weekly Fish and Wildlife News
September 23, 2011
Issue No. 591

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Table of Contents

* White Salmon River Fall Chinook Captured, Moved Upstream In Preparation For Condit Dam Removal

* Battle Over Ballot Title For Oregon Non-Indian Gill-Net Ban Goes To State Supreme Court

* Hanford Reach Fall Chinook Return Downgraded; More Fish Now Turning Into Snake River

* Fall Chinook Return Uncertainty Puts Gill Netters On Hold; Snake River Return Holding High Numbers

* New Hatchery Chinook Fishery Opened In Tailrace Of Chelan PUD Powerhouse

* Montana Seeking Public Input On 28,000 Acre Stimson Forest Conservation Easement Project

* Study Details Timber Harvest Impacts On Stream Temperatures; Private Lands Warmer

* Lower Columbia River White Sturgeon Season Opens Week Earlier Than Planned

* Corps Begins Lowering Lake Pend Oreille To Hit Levels Benefitting Kokanee Production

* Interior Releases Klamath Dam Removal Studies; Cost Likely Under $450 Million Cost-Cap

* High Water Damages Bonneville Fish Ladder; John Day Reservoir Level Could Be Highest Since 1995


* White Salmon River Fall Chinook Captured, Moved Upstream In Preparation For Condit Dam Removal

It was smiles all around Wednesday for those watching the capture of tule fall chinook salmon in southwest Washington’s lower White Salmon River and the fishes’ release upstream, above the soon-to-be-removed Condit Dam.

The trapping effort has been ongoing since Aug. 29 in the effort catch fish before they spawn in the lower three miles of river. Egg nests or redds created there will likely be smothered by sediment that will flush out of Northwest Lake when a hole is punched through the bottom of the dam in late October.

The hope is that the wild “tule” fall chinook salmon population will spawn upriver and start to build the population and fill some five or so miles of mainstem habitat that becomes accessible with the removal of PacificCorp’s Condit Dam. The entire 125-foot-long concrete structure will be removed over the next year.

The dam removal will also open up 33 miles of steelhead habitat that has been blocked since the dam was built. Chinook and steelhead stocks are the two species that would benefit most with the reopening of upstream habitat. Potentially spring chinook, coho and lamprey could eventually colonize.

The reopening of the river is a dream come true for people representing entities that had been engaged in negotiations that led to a court settlement in1999 for the dam’s removal. The dam was built in 1913, equipped with a fish ladder. But the ladder washed out in 1918 flooding and was never replaced.

“We’ve been deprived of the resources of the river,” said Emily Washines, a member of the Yakama Nation whose family has long called the White Salmon River country home. She joined other tribal members, as well as state and federal officials, PacificCorp staff, whitewater rafters, local business owners and others to watch the fish transfer.

Washines showed off beadwork, depicting a tribal fishermen dipping salmon from rushing water with a dipnet, that was about three-quarters complete. It is being made by her mother in honor of the planned opening of the river.

“It’s not done yet, just like this,” she said of the beadwork and the actual dam removal. But the tribe is pleased with what is a relative certainty. The final several feet of the dam’s thickness is scheduled to be blown out Oct. 26.

The 13-foot by 18-foot drain tunnel will drain Northwest Lake, and send downstream an estimated 2.4-million cubic yards of sediment that has accumulated behind the dam since its construction.

The trapping project was collaboratively planned by the White Salmon Technical Working Group, which is made up of representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Yakama Indian Nation, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Forest Service, PacifiCorp and U.S. Geological Survey. All had representatives on hand Wednesday to update media about the progress of the trapping effort.

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission’s hydro coordinator, Bob Heinith, who has long worked toward finding a removal solution, said the timing is right for the White Salmon tule population to blossom. Forecasts are for good ocean rearing conditions for salmon and potentially high snowpacks and streamflows for the second year in a row, which is good for fish.

“The next three years we are going to have wonderful conditions,” Heinith said.

The White River stock are part of the Lower Columbia chinook “evolutionarily significant unit” which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The ESU includes all naturally spawned populations of chinook salmon from the Columbia River and its tributaries from its mouth at the Pacific Ocean upstream to a transitional point between Washington and Oregon east of the Hood River and the White Salmon River, and includes the Willamette River to Willamette Falls, Oregon, exclusive of spring-run chinook salmon in the Clackamas River, as well as seventeen artificial propagation programs.

Those hatchery stocks include tules produced at Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery, which is located just downstream of the White Salmon’s confluence with the Columbia River. The tule artificial production was launched 100 years ago using wild fish from the White Salmon River.

And still today, “they are genetically identical,” Rod Engle of the USFWS said. He and his agency are leading the trapping-transport operation with help from Yakama Nation, WDFW and CRITFC biologists. And the effort is seeing considerable success.

By Thursday, about 400 tules had been captured and moved upriver. And about 85 percent of those fish were of natural origin, either wild fish or the product of Spring Creek spawners that strayed onto the spawning ground, Engle said.

He said he was surprised at the high percentage of wild fish in the mix. Previous trapping had averaged about 60 percent wild.

“And we’re getting some females that are just fantastic,” -- big 4- and 5-year-old fish that can be expected to be pretty productive.

With an average of about 40 fish being caught per day in recent days, Engle said he expected to easily reach the goal of transporting at least 500 fish upstream.

Most of the fish are being caught about a mile upriver from the mouth with a 200-foot-long seine, which biologists use to encircle the migrating spawners. Then the fish are dipped out of the river, put in water tank and transported a few hundred yards downriver and put in floating tank with holes to allow the pass through of river water.

There the biologist collect genetic samples and outfit the females with external tags so they can be identified later during spawning ground surveys.

When a certain number fish have been corralled and sampled, they are floated downriver, loaded on a tanker truck and then driven upriver past the dam to be released.

A bit farther upstream from the seining operation biologists are using a temporary weir to steer the fish into the White Salmon Ponds, a facility that was until the 1970s used to collect fall broodstock for the Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery. The fish captured there are also being transported upriver.

A few bright fall chinook, steelhead and even about 10 pink salmon have been swept into the nets. Pinks are relatively uncommon in the Columbia River Basin. The steelhead are being genetically sampled and then released so, if trapped again, local origin wild fish can be identified and moved upriver, according to the Yakama Nation Fisheries research scientist Joe Zendt.

Monitoring conducted in 2008 and 2009 showed that transplanted tules did spawn and produce young. Mostly strayed hatchery fish were caught, and transplanted upstream, those years during tests of various fishing gear.

The tests were conducted in preparation for this year. Next year the trapping won’t be necessary.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming the salmon home,” said Bill Sharp, Yakama Nation Fisheries Klickitat coordinator.

PacifiCorp in 1991 filed an application with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to renew the project's license, which was to expire at the end of 1993. The project has been operating under annual licenses since that time.

But after reviewing FERC's 1996 environmental impact statement for the project, the company decided that its terms and conditions would make operating the dam uneconomic. They included mandatory prescriptions issued by the NOAA Fisheries Service for installation of state-of-the-art fish passage facilities and higher in-stream flows.

Three years later PacifiCorp entered into a settlement agreement with intervenors in the licensing process that called for dam removal.

Since that time the company and others involved have been planning and working through the numerous bureaucratic hoops that had to be cleared before a dam could be removed.

The parties to the settlement that ultimately lead to Condit’s removal include the Yakama Nation, American Rivers, American Whitewater Affiliation, Columbia Gorge Audubon Society, the Columbia Gorge Coalition, Columbia River United, Federation of Fly Fishers, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the White Salmon River, The Mountaineers, Rivers Council of Washington, The Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited, Washington Trout, the Washington Wilderness Coalition, CRITFC, USFS, the U.S. Department of Interior, NMFS, the Washington Department of Ecology and WDFW.

For documents and more information go to http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/cwp/condit.html


* Battle Over Ballot Title For Oregon Non-Indian Gill-Net Ban Goes To State Supreme Court

Proponents and foes alike last week lined up to ask the Oregon Supreme Court to require a rewriting of an election ballot title that would serve to ban non-Indian commercial gill-nets on the mainstem Columbia River under the state’s jurisdiction.

The initiative was proposed in July by the Coastal Conservation Association via a filing with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Election Division. The CCA is a non-profit organization that has 17 coastal state chapters whose membership is comprised primarily recreational saltwater anglers. Chief petitioners are state Sens. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, and Rod Monroe, D-Portland and David Schamp, chairman of the Oregon CCA chapter’s board of directors.

The Oregon initiative process requires the creation, by the state Attorney General’s office, of a draft ballot title and summary that breaks down the intent of the proposal for voters. The CCA aims is to get the initiative on the November 2012 general election ballot.

That draft was due, and delivered, July 26 and followed by a comment period that ended Aug. 9. The AG’s office then, taking the comments into consideration, delivered a “certified” ballot title Aug. 24 that outlined its understanding of what would occur if the initiative is approved, or if it was voted down, and provided an updated summary of the proposed measure’s intent.

That opened the door for appeals or petitions to the Oregon high court to have the title, summary and description of the measure’s consequences reworded. Both the CCA and commercial fishing interests responded, and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission checked in as “amicus curae,” a friend of the court. The Supreme Court is directed by law to address such petitions “expeditiously” so that such initiative drives can proceed in a timely manner.

CRITFC was formed by the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakama tribes to provide technical assistance regarding the implementation of Columbia River treaty fishing rights. Mainstem Columbia River commercial fishing is now regulated by the Columbia River Compact, which was created as the result of a congressional directive in 1918 Congress. The Compact is made up of representatives of the Oregon and Washington department of fish and wildlife directors. Fisheries are co-managed where the river represents the states’ border.

The allocation of Columbia River fish resources is guided by a 10-year court-ordered agreement, via the long-running U.S. v Oregon lawsuit, that was approved in 2008. The agreement was the result of negotiations between the parties to the lawsuit, which include the four treaty tribes, the states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and the federal government.

CRITFC’s petition to the Oregon court says that the ballot title and summary is “at odds” with the federally created Compact and would not properly inform voters of that fact.

“The description of the proposed initiative should fully inform the public of any potential disruption to the operations of the Compact it may cause, and information such as the foregoing is central to that task,” according to the CRITFC petition.

The CRITFC petition also suggests that the ballot title and summary as written could conflict with the catch sharing provisions of the 10-year U.S. v Oregon fishery management agreement.

In the event of a conflict, Oregon could seek “to modify its terms or invoke dispute resolution, but it could not unilaterally require renegotiation of the agreement” as a result of the ballot initiative, the CRITFC petition says.

“Alternatively, Oregon could seek to withdraw” from the agreement.

The ballot initiative petitioners and CCA say that the certified ballot title wrongly states that the “measure may affect Columbia River Compact, tribal fishing rights, and fishing management agreements between the federal government, tribes and states.”

“The Attorney General may not state that a measure may change a law in a certain way when the measure expressly provides that the measure does not make that change,” according to the CCA petition to the Supreme Court. The fishing organization’s proposed change of Oregon law says that the gill-net ban would not apply to tribal fisheries.

It says the initiative proposes to “comply with the terms of Columbia river fisheries management agreements between the United States, Indian tribes and states.”

“The Attorney General’ s conclusion (that the proposal) may affect tribal fishing rights is contrary to any reasonable interpretation of the language, which specifically exempts treaty tribal fisheries from the prohibition on the use of gillnets and the sale of fish taken by gillnets,” the CCA petition to the Supreme Court says.

The ballot petitioners say that the certified ballot title fails to incorporate comments made by the petitioners. The title reads” “Specified commercial non-tribal fishing methods/procedures changed; recreational salmon fishers ensured minimum share of catch.”

The CCA says the title “fails to inform voters sufficiently of the change in current law that the measure proposes, which is to ban the use of gillnets in Oregon Columbia River commercial fisheries.”

Petitions filed by commercial fishermen Steve Fick, who also operates a small fish processing company, and Cary Johnson, and Hobe Kytr, administrator for the Salmon for All, a non-profit trade association of commercial fishers and fish processors, say the proposal, as described by the proponents and as described by the Attorney General, is illegal, and inequitable economically.

“The proposed initiative would unilaterally, which would be in violation of the interstate agreement, change permitted commercial fishing methods, regulations and procedures,” according to Johnson’s petition to the Supreme Court. “It would reverse the state’s ban on seines in the Columbia which was established by voters in 1948.”

The petition suggests shifting from gill-nets to seines, which are presumed to be less harmful to wild salmon stocks that are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The CCA, CRITFC and the commercial fishing petitioners all said that the voters need a clearer portrayal of the proposals effects.

Fick suggested that the ballot initiative summary should read:

“Summary: Current law allows commercial fishing in Oregon waters of the Columbia River by both Oregon and Washington-license fishers. Measure bans commercial harvest of salmon/sturgeon/other fish by Oregon fishers with currently-legal gear, but does not ban Washington Columbia River fishers using the same gear; prohibits Oregon buyers from purchasing Columbia River salmon and other fish harvested by specified gear; uncertain effect as to buying restriction on Oregon purchase from tribal fishers. Measure may affect Columbia River Compact and fishing management agreements between federal government, tribe sand states. May allow previously prohibited Columbia River harvest methods.”

State law allows that any Oregon elector who submitted timely written comments on the draft ballot title may petition the Oregon Supreme Court if the elector is dissatisfied with the certified ballot title issued by the Attorney General.

If an elector files a petition to review a certified ballot title with the Supreme Court, the elector must also notify the Elections Division in writing that a petition has been filed.

After a petition to review the ballot title is filed, the Supreme Court conducts the review. If the Supreme Court determines that the certified ballot title complies with the statutory requirements, the court certifies the title to the Secretary of State.

If the Supreme Court determines that the certified ballot title does not comply with the statutory requirements, the court either modifies the title and certifies it to the Secretary of State or refers the title to the Attorney General for modification.

If the Supreme Court refers the ballot title to the Attorney General for modification, the Attorney General must file a modified ballot title with the Supreme Court and serve copies on all parties to the proceeding.

The Attorney General must then file the modified ballot title with the Supreme Court no later than the fifth business day after the court referred the title to the Attorney General for modification

Any party to the ballot title review proceeding may file an objection to the modified ballot title no later than five business days after the modified title is filed with the Supreme Court

If a party to the ballot title review does not file an objection by the deadline, the Supreme Court certifies the modified ballot title to the Secretary of State and enters an appellate judgment the next judicial day.

If a party to the ballot title review does file an objection by the deadline, the Supreme Court must review the modified ballot title to determine if the title complies with the statutory requirements for ballot titles.

If a party to the ballot title review does file an objection, steps 2–5 are repeated until a final ballot title is certified by the Supreme Court and an appellate judgment is received by the Elections Division.


* Hanford Reach Fall Chinook Return Downgraded; More Fish Now Turning Into Snake River

The Sept. 15 updated forecast for Hanford upriver fall chinook salmon, like in-season forecasts for points downriver, downsizes expectations but still includes a good number of fish.

The preseason forecast was for an adult return of 135,819 fall chinook to the mid-Columbia Reach. The Sept. 15 return prepared by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Paul Hoffarth pegs the 2011 return to the reach at 58,478 adult chinook, considerably lower than predicted.

The Hanford Reach return includes both wild, naturally spawning salmon and fish produced at Priest Rapids Hatchery. They are part of “upriver bright’ fall chinook stock that includes returns to the Snake River and smaller components destined for the Deschutes and Yakima rivers. Snake River wild fall chinook are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

“It’s still a moderate run,” Hoffarth said of the anticipated return. A return equaling the Sept. 15 forecast would be more than twice the best return since he began producing forecasts for the Hanford Reach.

The return in 2007 “was horrendous” with only 12,000 adult fish, Hoffarth said. But the next two years were better at 22,000 in 2008 and 26,000 in 2009. The 2010 return, however was strong. A total of about 80,000 adults returned to the reach, and another 19,000 returned to the hatchery. The reach return included 6,600 jacks, 22,000 3-yar-olds and 32,900 4-year-olds.

The 2010 return boded well for the future, with those high numbers of 2-year-old jacks, 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds. Like most salmon return forecast methods, Hoffarth’s numbers rely on past returns to predict the future. As an example the broodmates of last year’s 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds should come back in strong numbers as 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds.

“We had three strong broods coming back” in 2010, Hoffarth said.

And strong counts and good fishing in the reach are proving the forecast to be correct. Already through Thursday 100,255 fall chinook have passed the mid-Columbia’s McNary Dam in southeast Washington. McNary ithe fourth and last hydro project the fish pass before the Columbia turns north and enters the Hanford. That only 88 percent of last year’s total through Sept. 22, but 116 percent of the 10-year average.

Fishery managers have a goal of assuring at least 60,000 fall chinook get past McNary to restock the hatchery, spawn in the wild and provide fisheries. The URB forecast for adults reaching the mouth of the Columbia is 323,400 adult fish. Sport and treaty and non-treaty commercial fisheries take a considerable toll downstream.

It’s also the last dam the fish pass before they enter the Hanford reach, and within a few miles of the Columbia’s confluence with Snake River. Through Wednesday a total of 22,122 fall chinook had turned right into the Snake and been counted at Ice Harbor Dam, the first dam upstream of the confluence.

Hoffarth said the dynamics have changed a bit in recent years with a larger return heading up the Snake River due to beefed up hatchery programs and an expanding population of natural spawners. Until recently about 50 percent, on average, of the fall chinook passing McNary were Hanford Reach fish, but that percentage has slipped to from 25 to 45 percent.

WDFW staff interviewed anglers on 353 boats last week in the Hanford Reach who had a total catch of 203 adult chinook, 33 jacks and 3 coho. Anglers averaged slightly better than a half a fish per boat. An estimated 845 adult chinook, 137 jacks, and 12 coho were harvested this past week.

Effort is spreading out throughout the Hanford Reach and the Tri-cities area, Hoffarth said. There were an estimated 3,408 angler trips taken this past week to the reach with more than 400 boats on the water each day on the weekend. For the season, 1,433 adult chinook, 249 jacks, and 12 coho have been harvested.


* Fall Chinook Return Uncertainty Puts Gill Netters On Hold; Snake River Return Holding High Numbers

Tribal commercial fishers have at least one more week of fishing for salmon in Columbia River mainstem reservoirs above Bonneville Dam this season despite shrinking overall harvest allocations, but the non-Indian gill-net fleet has been put on hold pending a clearer understanding of the size of the 2011 upriver bright fall chinook run.

The Technical Advisory Committee, made up of federal, state and tribal fishery officials, on Monday updated its forecast for the URB return as well as for steelhead and other fall chinook stocks. They now predict that the return to the mouth of the Columbia will total 323,400 URBs, which is down from the preseason forecast of 399,600 adult fish and from a 354,000-fish forecast made a week earlier.

Oregon and Washington department of fish and wildlife staff, and Columbia River Compact panelists, on Wednesday discussed the forecast and the catch in hand from both sport and commercial fisheries in determining how much fishing time is left. The Compact, comprised for representatives of the ODFW and WDFW directors, sets mainstem commercial fisheries. The non-tribal gill-net fleet fishes downstream of Bonneville, which is located at river mile 146.

The forecasts are based in large part on the counts at Columbia-Snake hydro projects, and Bonneville in particular. They also take into account fishing success in the river below Bonneville and factor in historical run timing data, the WDFW’s Robin Ehlke told the Compact.

The URBs, which are bound for the mid-Columbia’s Hanford Reach, as well as the Snake, Deschutes and Yakima rivers and other streams upriver of Bonneville.

Despite the shrinking forecast, the non-Indian and treaty shares of the URB harvest remain the same, 15 and 30 percent, respectively. That rate of harvest is allowed for returns that include at least 200,000 URBs and 8,000 B steelhead, a stock primarily returning to tributaries in the Salmon and Clearwater rivers in Idaho. Lower anticipated returns result in lower harvest rates, as outlined in a management agreement between states, tribes and the federal government.

Harvest limits are imposed as a means of holding down impacts on stocks protected under the Endangered Species Act. Those listed stocks include wild Snake River fall chinook, which are a part of the URB run, and Snake River summer steelhead. The URB impact limit is a surrogate for the Snake River stock.

The latest forecast for Group B hatchery steelhead is 42,800, compared to the pre-season forecast of 41,200. The new forecast for the protected fish, Group B wild steelhead is 9,700, which is down from the preseason forecast of 12,900. It is estimated that 18.6 percent of Group B hatchery fish are not ad-clipped. Anglers must release fish that are not ad-clipped because most are wild, listed fish.

The Monday forecast estimates that 318,300 Group A steelhead, including another 108,600 wild fish, will pass over Bonneville this year. That’s up from a preseason forecast of 312,700. The A steelhead are returning to tributaries above Bonneville throughout the Columbia and Snake basins.

Forecasts for other upriver (mostly originating above Bonneville) also slid a little bit. The forecast for pool upriver brights dropped to 46,400 from the preseason estimate of 62,600 and the forecast for Bonneville upriver brights is now 29,000, down slightly from the earlier estimate of 37,700. The forecast for Bonneville Pool Hatchery tules, most of which are bound for Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery is 70,000, down from 116,400.

Through Tuesday a total of 312,800 fall chinook, including 254,100 bright stock and 58,700 tule stock, had passed Bonneville. The bright stocks includes the URBs and most of the BUBs and PUBs.

“Even though it is a downgrade, it’s still a big number of fish,” the ODFW’s Chris Kern said of the URB forecast. A return of 324,600 would be just 300 less than the actual 2010 return. It would also be the fifth largest return dating back to at least 1985, according to the Fall Joint Staff report prepared by the ODFW and WDFW staffs.

The Snake River fall chinook count at the lower Snake River’s Little Granite Dam through Thursday was 14,363, which is already the fifth highest on a record dating back to 1975. There is a chance that the return past the eighth dam in the Columbia-Snake hydro system could rise to second on the list. Runner-up now is 16,628 fish in 2004. The record was set last year with a total of 41,815 adult fish.

Despite the protests of fishermen who said that much of the upriver run is delayed, the Compact decided Wednesday to rescind a commercial outing that had been scheduled overnight Thursday.

“The fish are moving through the system very slowly,” commercial fisherman Jack Marinkovich said. Some of the chinook are stalling in anticipation of cooling weather and rain, which has been sparse this late summer, he said.

Staff had estimated that, with the catch already in hand and estimated harvest totals in ongoing sport fisheries and from incidental catch of chinook in October coho fisheries, the non-Indian take is already within a fraction of a percentage point of its 15 percent allowed harvest on URBs.

“I’m not saying yet that we’re closing the door on the 2011 fall season” for the gill-netters, said the WDFW’s Cindy LeFleur, who represented the WDFW direct on the Compact. If the counts and forecast improves, there could be the possibility of an opening next week, she said.

The fleet in outings Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights netted an estimated 21,000 chinook (including tules and the various bright stocks), 6,400 coho and 466 white sturgeon. Based on the current forecasts, and the expected stock composition, the non-tribal fleet’s harvest share is 21,400 chinook.

The Compact on Wednesday approved a tribal gill-net commercial fishery upstream of Bonneville beginning at 6 a.m. Monday and extending through 6 p.m. Thursday.

It will be be the sixth multi-day fishery for the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakama tribes since mid-August. The tribes estimate they will have caught a total of 125,515 fall chinook by the end of next week’s fishery, including 76,144 URBs. It is also estimated that tribal fishers will have caught 23,729 steelhead by the end of next week, including 7,966 B fish.

“The tribes expect that by September 29, the tribal fishery will have reached an approximately 23.6 percent harvest rate on URB’s (out of an allowed 30 percent harvest rate) and a 15.5 percent harvest rate on B steelhead -- including some late season platform fishing (out of an allowed 20 percent harvest rate),” according to a tribal fact sheet prepared for the Compact meeting. “This may leave additional impacts available for a short commercial gillnet fishery during the week of October 3, but this will depend largely on the actual catches of B steelhead this week.

“At these expected total catches, the tribal fishery would still be within its allowed harvest for URB run sizes as low as 254,000 and B steelhead run sizes as low as 39,900.”


* New Hatchery Chinook Fishery Opened In Tailrace Of Chelan PUD Powerhouse

Last Wednesday anglers got their first chance to catch summer chinook salmon in the tailrace of the hydroelectric powerhouse operated by the Chelan County Public Utility District in Chelan.

The new fishery, scheduled to run through Oct. 15, is restricted to the outfall area extending one-third of a mile downstream from the safety barrier near the powerhouse to the railroad bridge at the Columbia River.

No fishing will be allowed in the Chelan River between the tailrace and Lake Chelan, said Jeff Korth, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Signs will be posted there and in other areas off-limits to anglers.

"This opening will test whether we can conduct a fishery in such a small area," Korth said. "Starting this year, a lot of hatchery-reared fish will be moving through the tailrace, and we'd like to give anglers a chance to catch some."

This year's return of summer chinook to the tailrace area will be the second since the rearing operation was moved there from Turtle Rock on the Columbia River. Korth expects about 2,000 fish to move through to the tailrace area this year and up to 3,000 next year. Once Chelan PUD's new salmon hatchery is completed, the annual return could increase to 7,000 salmon per year, he said.

"Most of the summer chinook produced at the new hatchery will be caught in the Columbia River, but a fair number will make it back to the tailrace," Korth said. "This could be a great fishery if all goes well this year."

The daily catch limit will be six summer chinook salmon, including up to three adult fish -- of which only one may be a wild adult. The minimum size is 12 inches. Any chinook with an attached floy (anchor) tag and/or with one or more holes (round, approximately ¼ inch diameter) punched in the caudal (tail) fin must be released.

Because of the unique nature of the fishery several other rules will also be in effect:

-- No angling will be allowed from any floating devices, and a night closure and anti-snagging rule will be in effect, said Korth, noting that the fishable portion of the tailrace is relatively narrow and can be covered from the bank.
-- Fishing access along the southwest shoreline by the Chelan Powerhouse Park will be restricted to wading along the shoreline. This rule is designed to protect riparian vegetation along the shoreline, Korth said.
-- Anglers may not fish in the swimming area at the park, and must stay outside the buoy line around the net pen area to avoid hatchery construction activities along the shoreline.
-- Anglers seeking to reach the tailrace by wading across the Chelan River (where fishing is prohibited) must observe the signs limiting access to the upstream portions of the river.

To participate in the fishery, anglers must possess a valid Washington state fishing license and a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement. Revenue from the endorsement supports fisheries for salmon and steelhead on many rivers in the Columbia River system, including the new tailrace fishery below the powerhouse in Chelan.


* Montana Seeking Public Input On 28,000 Acre Stimson Forest Conservation Easement Project

Montana Fish, Wildlife And Parks will be sponsoring public open houses in both Libby and Troy to obtain preliminary public input on the proposed 28,000-acre Stimson Forest Conservation Easement project.

The meetings will run from 5-7:30 p.m. and will take place on Oct. 3 in Libby at the First Montana Bank meeting room and on Oct. 4 in the Troy High School library.

At the meetings, FWP, Stimson, and Trust For Public Land personnel will be on hand to discuss the proposed project, answer questions, and gather issues, concerns, or ideas raised by the public, adjoining landowners, and any other interested people. This input will then be used by FWP in developing their draft environmental analysis document for the proposed project.

The proposed 28,000 acre conservation easement would be purchased below appraised value by FWP using funding from a variety of sources including a recently awarded $4 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat Conservation Plan Program. Other potential funding sources include the Forest Legacy Program, and Bonneville Power Administration.

The preliminary estimated value of the conservation easement is about $16 million.

The landowner is willing to donate a portion of the conservation easement value as match to these grants. The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization, uses real estate expertise and a cooperative approach in partnership with landowners, community groups, and public agencies to protect lands for public use.

The proposed conservation easement to be held by FWP would help maintain current land uses on these private lands by restricting development and other activities not compatible with continued forest management. The conservation easement would ensure the public has the right to access these lands in perpetuity and would include management limitations within the corridors along major fish-bearing streams. FWP and Stimson would also develop a management plan as part of the conservation easement proposal that would clarify how land management and public recreation activities would continue to take place in a manner that ensures the overall fish and wildlife habitat values are maintained.

The proposed conservation easement and management plan would be similar to other forest conservation projects completed for private corporate timberlands in the Thompson, Fisher, and Swan River valleys.


* Study Details Timber Harvest Impacts On Stream Temperatures; Private Lands Warmer

One of the largest and longest studies done in Oregon on the impact of timber harvest on stream temperatures has found no average temperature increases on state forest lands, but a 1.3 degree increase on private timber lands.

Stream temperatures are a particular concern for cold-water fish such as trout and salmon, and the Oregon Department of Environment Quality mandates that forest management activities should not increase temperatures by more than 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

The research was done over the past nine years on 33 sites in the Oregon Coast Range by scientists from the Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon State University. It made no conclusions about whether the 1.3 degree temperature increase on private forest lands is a concern for fish health. The study was only designed to examine regulatory stream temperature compliance.

Although only the Coast Range was studied, researchers say the findings are probably applicable to many other regions with similar physical and biological characteristics, the researchers said, including other areas of the Pacific Northwest, California, Alaska and British Columbia.

Since broad forest management regulations were first implemented in the 1970s and then expanded in later decades, any increases in stream temperatures are far less than they used to be. According to past research, historic forest management practices sometimes left no buffer zone at all around streams and allowed temperature increases from 3 degrees to 21 degrees.

“One thing that’s clear is that forest management practices are now much, much better,” said Jeremy Groom, lead author on the study and a research associate in the OSU Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management. “On average, Coast Range state forest lands are being fully protected from temperature changes.

“Earlier in the 1900s, it was common to clear cut and burn forests right down to the stream edge, sometimes even dragging logs through the stream with heavy equipment,” Groom said. “State and federal regulations are now far more stringent about stream protection.”

This research, Groom said, was done largely to determine whether or not those regulations are having their intended effect. The work was a collaboration of the Oregon Department of Forestry with university, private industry, state and federal agencies, the EPA and other groups.

The study examined only private and state-owned timber lands, not those managed by the National Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. The private and state-owned lands actually operate under the same regulations, Groom said, but the state chooses to use larger buffers around streams and more partial timber harvests than are required by law. Many private landowners also leave more than required by law, but the study examined only those using minimum requirements.

There was considerable variability based on individual sites studied, but with current management approaches used by the state of Oregon, the streams had no change in temperature. The primary influence on stream temperature is shade provided by trees, the research made clear, although there are many other factors as well.

This was one of the larger studies of its type ever done, examining multiple sites for two years before harvest and five years afterward. All of the streams studied were fish-bearing, and the primary objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of forest practice rules in protecting stream temperatures and promoting riparian structure.


* Lower Columbia River White Sturgeon Season Opens Week Earlier Than Planned

The recreational white sturgeon retention season on the Columbia River between the Wauna Powerlines near Cathlamet, Wash., and Bonneville Dam will open one week earlier than expected, under rules adopted by fishery managers from Oregon and Washington late last week.

The season in that area from about river mile 42 up to river mile 146 was open from January through July, closed for the summer, and was scheduled to reopen on Oct 8. But under the rules adopted at a joint Oregon-Washington hearing Thursday, anglers will be allowed to begin this season one week earlier than expected.

The additional opportunity is available because catches in the first half of the year were less than expected. During the Jan 1-July 31 season (91 days), anglers during 16,806 trips to the river caught only 784 legal-size sturgeon, which is 23 percent of this year’s overall quota of 3,410 fish. That leaves a balance of 2,626 fish.

Oregon and Washington department of fish and wildlife staffs estimate that the catch from the scheduled Oct. 8 start through the end of the year would total 1,800-1,900. That would leave a total of 700-800 sturgeon available for the first week in October.

As a result of the rule change anglers will be allowed to retain white sturgeon three days a week – Thursday, Friday and Saturday – from Oct. 1, instead of beginning Oct. 8, through the end of the year, or until the annual harvest guideline for the area is achieved.

White sturgeon must be 38 to 54 inches fork length in order to be retained. The bag limit is one sturgeon per day, five per year.

White sturgeon fisheries in the Columbia and lower Willamette River are managed to remain within annual catch guidelines. Closures in the Columbia downstream of the Wauna powerlines and upstream of Bonneville Dam in the Bonneville, The Dalles, John Day and McNary dam pools remain in effect, as does the closure on the lower Willamette River downstream of Willamette Falls.

Catch and release fishing will be allowed throughout the remainder of the year in all four Columbia mainstem pools.

Anglers caught 6,117 white sturgeon in the area from Wauna down to the river mouth during 26,409 angler trips taken during the periods from Jan. 1-April 30 and from May 14-July 31. The total catch was 683 under the 6,800 guideline for that area.

A total of 2,690 white sturgeon were caught in the lower Willamette River in Oregon from Feb. 17-March 12 during 12,634 angler trips. That 140 fish over the 2,550-fish guideline.


* Corps Begins Lowering Lake Pend Oreille To Hit Levels Benefitting Kokanee Production

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District, is increasing outflows from Albeni Falls Dam and lowering Lake Pend Oreille with an elevation target of 2,060 feet above mean sea level by Sept. 30.

Outflows from Albeni Falls were increased from 15,000 cubic feet per second to 17 kcfs Monday morning. The current elevation of Lake Pend Oreille is 2,061.5 feet.

The lake is typically drafted from full to one to two feet from full each September and then down to the winter operating level by mid-November. Inflows are typically at their lowest levels in September and early October, but fall rains and other considerations may require some outflow adjustments to reach target elevations.

A recommendation for Lake Pend Oreille’s minimum winter lake level for the next two years was made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and Idaho Department of Fish and Game to benefit reproduction of the lake’s kokanee population.

Kokanee, which are small, lake-resident sockeye salmon, are not native to the lake, but their population has been in decline, and they serve as a food source for Lake Pend Oreille’s threatened native bull trout.

The Corps takes into consideration the interagency recommendation as to Lake Pend Orielle’s winter lake level when making operational decisions at Albeni Falls Dam.

IDFG and the USFWS plan to submit a formal request to the Corps through the interagency technical management team at a September 28 meeting.

They are expected to recommend that the Corps set the minimum winter lake level for this winter at 2,051 feet and for the winter of 2012-2013 at 2,055 feet. The Corps operates Albeni Falls Dam as a multiple-purpose project, providing flood risk management, power generation, navigation and recreation.

Information about Albeni Falls Dam and Lake Pend Oreille is available at: http://bit.ly/n0a0wx


* Interior Releases Klamath Dam Removal Studies; Cost Likely Under $450 Million Cost-Cap

The federal government has completed peer-reviewed scientific and technical studies providing new, detailed information about the environmental and economic impacts of removing four Klamath River hydroelectric dams -- fulfilling a major condition of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement.

The analysis and studies describe pluses and minuses to potential dam removal on the Klamath River. They reveal that, over the next few decades, dam removal and the implementation of a related watershed-wide restoration program could significantly increase salmon harvests in the river and ocean, eliminate the toxic algae blooms in reservoirs, and restore more normal water temperatures in the river, which is important for salmon.

Dam removal could also result in some small increases in long-term flood risks as well as a short-term impact on juvenile fish populations from the release of the sediment built up behind the dams. The studies also describe how these risks could be mitigated. The studies estimate that dam removal would result in the loss of some recreational opportunities on the Klamath River reservoirs, and some decrease in property values for landowners nearby.

Dam removal will not have any direct impact on water supplies in the basin as these facilities do not provide storage for irrigation uses.

While the dam removal would result in the loss of hydroelectric power generation, which will have to be made up from other sources, and the loss of around 50 jobs from managing those facilities, it would also create a substantial number of jobs – varying in nature, duration, and location – estimated at approximately 1,400 during the short-term, say the studies.

Over the full period of analysis, the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement is estimated to support approximately 4,600 jobs.

While many factors can impact employment estimates over a 50-year economic study period, an estimated 450 jobs would be supported on average annually from the dam removal and as improvements to water quality and the fisheries occur.

A federal study also shows that the most probable cost of removing the four dams fall under the $450 million state cost-cap, negotiated in the KHSA.

The dams currently generate enough electricity to power roughly 70,000 homes, although if the dams are retained, the additional costs from construction of required fish passage facilities, which could be substantial, will likely be passed on to ratepayers. The KHSA also calls for the parties to pursue opportunities on development of replacement energy.

A summary of these studies is available at http://klamathrestoration.gov/

The Department of the Interior, in association with the California Department of Fish and Game, also released an environmental analysis known as a Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report. According to the terms of the KHSA, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar will make a final decision on dam removal based on a complete review of the scientific and technical data as well as the information in an environmental analysis, which includes input from the public.

“The reports issued today represent the most complete body of information to date on the science involved in Klamath River dam removal and the project’s potential for job creation,” said Salazar. “The science and analysis is vital to sound-decision making, but I also look forward to hearing from the people of the Klamath Basin who have endured a long cycle of irrigation shortages, fishing closures, poor water quality, fish disease and a large salmon die-off in 2002, and closure of the tribal fishery in Upper Klamath Lake for twenty-five years. Their input and perspectives will help shape the path we take toward strengthening the health and prosperity of all that depend on the Klamath for their way of life.”

The Draft EIS/EIR www.KlamathRestoration.gov identifies the effects of the proposed action – dam removal and implementation of the KBRA – as well as several other alternatives, including options for leaving all dams in place as well as options for leaving two dams in place. The KBRA is watershed-wide program to restore fisheries, improve water quality and provide water supply certainty to communities and water users in the basin.


* High Water Damages Bonneville Dam Fish Ladder; John Day Reservoir Level Range Highest Since 1995

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will repair erosion damage to a section of one of Bonneville Lock and Dam's fish ladders without delay, Corps officials said.

The damage is located near the spillway under the fish ladder that flows past the Bradford Island Visitor Center.

The erosion was caused by the record high flows experienced on the Columbia River this year, said Lt. Col. Glenn Pratt, Portland District deputy commander.

"Two sections of the fish ladder are not properly supported, so the fish ladder must be dewatered to decrease the weight on the sections," Pratt said.

There are fish ladders on both the north and south side of the Columbia River and the closure of one section should not significantly affect the migration, Pratt said.

"We are only closing one section of one fish ladder near the spillway," he said. "All others will remain open to provide safe passage for migrating fish."

In coordination with its regional partner agencies, the Corps decided to close the fish ladder Sept. 17. Next, engineers will inspect the dewatered section and prepare an action plan for repairs. The work is expected to be completed by mid-October.

Meanwhile, water levels may be up to three feet higher behind the John Day Dam from Oct. 1 to Oct. 31, when the Corps begins storing additional water for power generation.

Members of the public using Lake Umatilla between the John Day and McNary dams on the Columbia River should be aware of higher than normal reservoir levels during October.

Bonneville Power Administration has requested that the Corps allow additional water to be stored if necessary for power generation or water management purposes, as long as there is storage available that will not impact seasonal flood storage requirements. Higher water levels may also be seen on the nearby wetland areas of the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge.

The operating levels allowed during October are based on Corps operating documents, and are significantly higher than those between April and September, when reservoir levels are kept lower to help juvenile fish move down river.

In order to balance the needs of juvenile fish migration with the needs of power generation and its other missions, the Corps manages the John Day pool (Lake Umatilla) in a manner that allows flexibility within an operating range for October of between 262.5 feet to 268.0 feet. The Corps has coordinated this water level increase with its federal, tribal and local partners.

Water levels above 267 feet have not been seen in October since about 1995, Corps officials said.

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

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


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

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