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Weekly Fish and Wildlife News
November 18, 2011
Issue No. 599

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Table of Contents

* Sea Lion Task Force Summary Completed; NOAA Decision On Lethal Take Expected In February

* State, Tribal Coalitions, Feds Oppose Inserting Science Panel, Settlement Judge Into Salmon Plan Litigation

* Feds Outline Collaboration Approach To Be Used In Salmon BiOp Remand Focused On Habitat Projects

* Montana Redd Counts: Invasive Lake Trout Increase Leading To ESA-Listed Bull Trout Declines

* Research: Stream Warming Impacts On PNW Salmonids Require Prioritizing Conservation Efforts

* British Columbia Approves Law Protecting Flathead Drainage From Mining, Drilling

* Bureau, WDOE Release Draft EIS For Yakima Basin Water Resource Management Plan

* Research Addresses How To Separate Human-Caused Global Warming From Natural Climate Fluctuations

* New Book From Oregon Sea Grant Explores Resilience As Management Goal For Pacific Salmon


* Sea Lion Task Force Summary Completed; NOAA Decision On Lethal Take Expected In February

Consideration of a state request to lethally remove California sea lions from the lower Columbia River nudged forward this week with completion of a summary of discussions held Oct. 24 by the Pinniped Fishery Interaction Task Force.

NOAA Fisheries will now review the summary as well as other materials before deciding whether or not to approve lethal take authority for the states Idaho, Oregon and Washington under Section 120 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The Section 120 process requires the formation of the task force, which is to consider relevant information and recommend to NOAA Fisheries whether it should approve such Section 120 applications.

The federal agency has said it expects to complete the process sometime in February.

The summary report can be found at:

The states say they are concerned that unprecedented sea lion predation below Bonneville Dam may hamper efforts to recover salmon and steelhead stocks that are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Until the past decade few California sea lions wandered inland as far as Bonneville Dam, which is located 146 river miles upstream from the Columbia’s mouth. But in recent years as many as 100 big marine mammals have plied the river in springtime to feed on spawning salmon that are searching for the dam fish ladders.

When asked their positions on whether they support the lethal removal program requested in the states’ 2011 application, 14 of the 16 task force members assembled last month said yes.

The Humane Society of the United States’ Sharon Young again stressed her organization’s opposition to the proposal. Those objections were first expressed during the process leading up to NOAA Fisheries’ March 2008 letter of approval for sea lion removals and “finding of no significant impact” under the National Environmental Policy Act. The states had first filed an application under Section 120 in December 2006.

Joining Young this time was marine mammal research scientist Daryl Boness, who said during the meeting he was “leaning against” support for the removal program. Young was the lone dissenter noted in a November 2007 report on task force proceedings held that year to consider the 2006 application.

Boness said he did not believe based on the data available that efforts to kill California sea lions are going to solve the problem and therefore they should not continue under Section 120.

Overall sea lion consumption of salmon is increasing for a variety of factors, he said. Among them is the fact that Steller sea lions are taking up the slack for California sea lions removed in 2008-2010.

“The bottom line is that in conjunction with killing ca. 40 CSL there has been increased salmonid consumption by CSL, increased salmonid consumption by SSL, and greater numbers of SSL at the dam such that the combined abundance of CSL and SSL at the dam is unchanged over the past 4-5 years,” according to the summary of Boness’ comments made during the Oct. 24 meeting

“Acceptable methods for lethal removal under Section 120 will not get us there (including no ability to address SSLs and the fact that the biggest contributor to variation in percent of run size that is taken by sea lions is the size of the run, which has varied from ca. 85,000 to ca. 280,000),” Boness said. “The current data do not allow unambiguous evidence to support an interpretation that killing CSLs is working or will work to reduce salmonid predation.”

Young continued to stress that, not only is the removal program doomed to failure but that Section 120 is not the appropriate tool for dealing with predation at Bonneville Dam, and that other sections of the MMPA might be more appropriate, as suggested in the comments of the Marine Mammal Commission.

Section 120 was created to address a situation where a small number of animals were involved in a confined space, she said, while at Bonneville there are “new animals coming and going, and the confounding factor of SSL predation in the same area,” according to the summary. Young suggested that the states should consider a waiver under the MMPA or a transfer of management authority as a more appropriate tool in a situation like the Columbia River.

“She has repeatedly stated that the states and NMFS still have not adequately addressed other significant threats to recovery including from inadequacies in hatchery and harvest management and the stocking of non-native fish predators, many of which have been pointed out by outside experts; the agencies continue to permit much greater levels of mortality from other sources (e.g., dams and fisheries) and they need to further address non-lethal measures,” according to the summary.

Others casting votes included:

-- Bob DeLong, NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center, in favor of continuing the program;
-- Barry McPherson, American Fisheries Society, in favor of continuing the program, feels more strongly than before;
-- Paul Ward, Yakama Nation, supports continuing the program;
-- Joyce Casey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, supports the states’ application;
-- Chris Hathaway, Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, support the previous task force recommendation and the current States’ application;
-- Carl Scheeler, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, supports the application;
-- Jody Calica, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, strong support for the application;
-- Rob Walton, NOAA Fisheries, lukewarm support for continuing the program;
-- Bruce Buckmaster, Salmon For All, strongly support the application;
-- Joe Oatman, Nez Perce Tribe, support the application;
-- Dennis Richey, Oregon Anglers Association, strongly support the application;
-- Guy Norman, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, support the application;
-- Steve Williams, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, support the application;
-- Doug Hatch, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, support the application.

The states’ application asks for authority to lethally remove individually identifiable predatory California sea lions that are having a significant negative impact on ESA-listed salmonids. That language mirrors requirements of Section 120 that describes animals eligible for removal.

“We define such animals as having natural or applied features that allow them to be individually distinguished from other California sea lions and:
-- have been observed eating salmonids at Bonneville Dam, in the "observation area" below the dam, in the fish ladders, or above the dam, between January 1 and May 31 of any year;
-- have been observed at Bonneville Dam on a total of any 5 days (consecutive days, days within a single season, or days over multiple years) between January 1 and May 31 of any
year; and
-- are sighted at Bonneville Dam after they have been subjected to active non-lethal deterrence,” the application says

“The States will not lethally remove more than one percent of the potential biological removal (PBR) level annually and will continue to pursue non-lethal alternatives that reduce both sea lion predation on salmonids and the number of sea lions removed.” That amounts to about 86 California sea lions.

Due to court related activities and accidental sea lion deaths in 2008, the removal program was implemented for only a part of the spring season that year. The California sea lions typically begin arriving in the late winter, just in time to welcome the beginnings of a spring chinook salmon run that builds to a peak in late April or early May.

The removal program operated in full in 2009 and 2010 during the spring season, but stalled again in 2011 because of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s Nov. 2010 decision striking down NOAA Fisheries 2008 authorization decision. Since the 2008 authorization, a total of 37 California sea lions have been permanently removed from below the dam.

According to NOAAA Fisheries Garth Griffin the court invalidated NMFS’ March 2008 MMPA Section 120 authorization, but upheld the agency’s accompanying NEPA analysis. In 2011, after receiving a request from the states, the federal agency reissued the authorization at the end of the season but then revoked that authorization in July 2011. Thereafter, the states submitted a new application in August for the 2012-2016 period.

For background information see:

CBB, Oct. 28, 2011, “NOAA’s Sea Lion Task Force Again Discusses Lethal Removal Below Bonneville Dam” http://www.cbbulletin.com/413584.aspx

CBB, Oct. 14, 2011, “Report: ESA-Protected Steller Sea Lions Show Increased Presence, Salmon Take In Lower Columbia” http://www.cbbulletin.com/413277.aspx

CBB, Nov. 23, 2010, “Appeals Court Rejects Lethal Removal Of Salmon-Eating Sea Lions; Remands Issue Back To NMFS” http://www.cbbulletin.com/401918.aspx


* State, Tribal Coalitions, Feds Oppose Inserting Science Panel, Settlement Judge Into Salmon Plan Litigation

Judge James A. Redden in a recent e-mail invited the federal government to respond to an Oct. 25 request that a court-appointed panel of independent scientist and a settlement judge be added to an ongoing process aimed at shoring up the strategy for protecting Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead stocks listed under the Endangered Species Act.

He got more than he asked for.

The Columbia Snake River Irrigators Association, and two coalitions -- made up of the states of Idaho, Montana and Washington and of the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Colville Confederated Tribes-- all asked permission to respond to the Oct. 25 proposal.

And, in case the U.S. District judge says yes, all three also filed briefs Wednesday on the topic. Today Redden issued orders granting the “motions for leave” to file the comments from the irrigators, tribes and states.

So did the U.S. Justice Department, which had been given a Nov. 16 deadline by the judge to respond to the Oct. 25 requests from a coalition of fishing and conservation groups led by the National Wildlife Federation, the state of Oregon, and the Nez Perce Tribe.

Those requests said “... NWF respectfully asks the Court to take two steps, both within the context of the current remand, to bring sufficient accountability to the remand to ensure that it results in a scientifically sound and legally adequate revised biological opinion.” Those requested steps would involve the appointment of a settlement judge and the creation of an independent science panel to review the work being done to repair NOAA Fisheries Federal Columbia River Power System biological opinion.

“An independent review of the agencies' implementation of the BiOp would inform the Court whether federal defendants are meeting the Court's expectations during this remand period,” according to comments filed by Oregon’s Attorney General’s Office. “And a settlement judge could bring all the parties together, and move them towards a biological opinion that satisfied each side, while also satisfying the expectations of the Court and the underlying requirements of the law.

The federal document filed this week asks that the judge “decline” the requests, insisting that the process in place for fortifying the BiOp is well on its way to satisfying the judge’s concerns about the government’s strategy for boosting salmon stocks. That plan is NOAA Fisheries’ 2008/2010 Federal Columbia River Power System biological opinion.

(For more information, see CBB, Oct. 28, 2011, “Salmon BiOp Challengers Request Court Appoint Settlement Judge, Science Panel For Remand” http://www.cbbulletin.com/413581.aspx)

Redden in an Aug. 2 opinion and order said federal defendants had failed “to identify specific mitigation plans to be implemented beyond 2013. Because the 2008/2010 BiOp’s no jeopardy conclusion is based on unidentified habitat mitigation measures, NOAA Fisheries’ opinion that the FCRPS operations after 2013 will not jeopardize listed species is arbitrary and capricious.”

“The ESA prohibits NOAA Fisheries from relying on the effects of uncertain and speculative actions that are not ‘reasonably certain to occur,’” Redden wrote.

The judge ordered a court-monitored remand with a Jan. 1, 2014, due date for delivery of “a new biological opinion that reevaluates the efficacy of the RPAs in avoiding jeopardy, identifies reasonably specific mitigation plans for the life of the biological opinion, and considers whether more aggressive action, such as dam removal and/or additional flow augmentation and reservoir modifications are necessary to avoid jeopardy.” RPAs (reasonable and prudent alternatives) are mitigation actions, such as changed hydro operations and habitat restoration, listed in the BiOp for implementation.

The judge says the BiOp is based on habitat mitigation measures for 2014 and beyond that have yet to be identified. He ordered the federal agencies to, in collaboration with sovereign states and tribes, identify mitigation actions through the term of the BiOp that assure sufficient fish benefits to avoid jeopardizing the species. Such actions are intended to improve survival of fish negatively impacted by the dams.

The BiOp, issued in May 2008 and supplemented in 2010, says that, when planned mitigation actions are factored in, federal Columbia-Snake hydro projects do not jeopardize the survival of salmon and steelhead stocks that are protected under the ESA. That conclusion was challenged by the state of Oregon and NWF, with the support of the Nez Perce Tribe.

The defendants in the lawsuit are NOAA Fisheries, which is responsible for protecting ESA listed species, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. The Corps and Bureau operated the dams in FCRPS hydo projects in the Columbia and Snake River basins. Also involved as an “action agency” is the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets power generated in the federal hydro system.

The federal brief filed Wednesday says the federal agencies are “fully committed to following the Court’s remand order.

“The agencies are aggressively implementing the RPA actions and obtaining scientific and technical data to support mitigation measures and the completion of a new or supplemental biological opinion by 2014. In particular, the agencies are continuing to work with local experts and through established forums to identify specific habitat restoration projects – in the estuary and tributary habitats – through 2018.” As now written the BiOp is scheduled to be in place through 2018.

“Consistent with the Court’s order, Federal Defendants will continue to collaborate with the States and Tribes in carrying out the remand, and the agencies are committed to ensuring transparency and that the remand is grounded in numerous points of independent scientific reviews,” the federal filing says. “The imposition of additional process on top of the already extensive and transparent processes functioning under the RPA and in the Region ensures only one thing: that time and resources will be diverted from administrative actions to implement the RPA and address those deficiencies identified by the Court in its Remand Order.”

“Now is the time to stay the course, capitalize on the momentum achieved, and take those remaining aggressive steps to improve and refine the holistic approach to salmon protection embodied in the FCRPS BiOp and RPA. For these reasons, we respectfully request that the Court decline Plaintiffs’ requested relief,” the federal brief concludes.

In a footnote to its Wednesday filing, the federal government explained that it had on Sept. 30 filed a notice of appeal of Judge Redden’s ruling but has not decided whether to pursue that appeal. It also noted that despite filing an appeal, federal defendants did not seek to stay the court’s remand order, which called for continued implementation of the existing BiOp through 2013, and fully intend to comply with the court’s direction.

The Wednesday filing from the three tribes from the upper Columbia basin also asked the judge to reject the request from the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

“The KTOI, CSKT and CCT oppose plaintiffs' suggestion that the Court divert the parties from the current remand path to a settlement judge/expert panel path. Such a wholesale revision of the remand process and jettisoning of the Court's clear and careful remand Order is unwarranted, inappropriate, and undermines the comprehensive process of independent science review and adaptive management established by the 2008/2010 Biological Opinion,” the tribes’ brief says.

“The BiOp is not broken; rather, it must be given time to work,” according to the tribal brief. It noted that the Nez Perce Tribe and state of Oregon are a part of the ongoing remand process.

“It is puzzling that the Nez Perce Tribe and the State of Oregon take this position despite being sovereigns with whom the federal defendants have an undisputed obligation (and opportunity) to collaborate,” the upriver tribes’ brief says.

The states of Idaho, Montana and Washington also urged that the request be squashed.

“Plaintiffs' suggested modifications to the remand order reflect a desire to broaden the scope of the remand and add new layers of review,” the states’ Nov. 16 brief says. “The suggestions are based upon erroneous claims that the federal government and the collaborating sovereigns are unwilling and/or incapable of addressing this Court's unambiguous remand order requiring the federal government to identify useful mitigation measures that are specific and reasonably certain to occur.

“Because the Three States remain confident that the regional collaboration of sovereigns is committed to a scientifically and legally sound BiOp, and because Plaintiffs' suggestions would duplicate parts of the remand, would add unnecessary layers of review with attendant delay, and would be corrosive to the regional collaboration that has already developed, we oppose the suggested procedural modifications to the remand order,” the states’ brief concludes.

The brief filed for the Columbia Snake River Irrigators Association, amicus and intervenor-defendant in the lawsuit, didn’t weigh in either in favor, or opposed to the NWF proposal.

But… “to the extent the Court is disposed to appoint an expert panel to assess the RPA and its implementation, the Irrigators suggest that the panel be composed of industry and non-industry resource planners and resource economists,” the CSRIA brief said. “Such expertise, rather than fishery science, can provide valuable advice to the Court as to whether the current ‘collaborative process’ -- driven largely by representatives of those seeking and obtaining funding for particular projects -- is at all a coherent response to the judicial and statutory mandates to protect salmon.”

The NWF, Oregon and Nez Perce Tribe “have perhaps unwittingly drawn attention to the most substantive weakness underlying the federal defendants’ salmon management and recovery effort: their persistent failure to subject salmon mitigation and recovery measures to any form of cost-effectiveness analyses. Insofar as no other party appears prepared to demonstrate both why such an approach is legally required and how only sound management utilizing cost-effectiveness analyses can ensure that scarce recovery resources are employed to maximize biological benefits to the salmon…,” the irrigators brief says.

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


* Feds Outline Collaboration Approach To Be Used In Salmon BiOp Remand Focused On Habitat Projects

The federal government on Wednesday reiterated its intent to work with the region’s tribes and states to respond to U.S. District Court Judge James Redden’s Aug. 2 order requiring a bolstering of habitat actions in the federal plan to restore Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act.

“We will be using the same collaboration approach we used with the existing biological opinion,” said Will Stelle, regional director of NOAA Fisheries. “We will work issues through the regional workgroup of states and tribes that has been overseeing the implementation and share information with all the parties. The judge’s order directed us to work with the sovereigns.”

The federal agencies outlined their position in a brief Wednesday with Redden.

The Department of Justice brief responded to plaintiffs’ comments on the 2010 annual progress report on implementation of actions to mitigate for the harm to ESA-listed fish resulting from the operation of the federal hydropower dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Redden this summer declared illegal NOAA Fisheries’ 2008/2011 BiOp for the Federal Columbia River Power System and ordered a remand during which the strategies flaws could be corrected.

NOAA Fisheries, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation are defendants in the long-running lawsuit. The Corps and Bureau operate the FCRPS dams in the Columbia and Snake river basins. Also involved as a federal action agency is the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets the federal power.

NOAA is charged under the ESA with consulting with the action agencies in the development of a BiOp that judges whether the dams jeopardize the survival of listed salmon and steelhead stocks. The 10-year 2008/2010 BiOp outlines numerous off-site actions, such as habitat restoration, that are designed to mitigate for FCRPS impacts.

Redden’s order said the 2008/2010 BiOp relies, beyond 2013, on unidentified habitat mitigation to avoid jeopardy.

He told the federal agencies to produce a new BiOp by Jan. 1, 2014, that relies only on actions that are reasonably certain to occur, a requirement of the law.

The judge ordered the agencies to continue implementation of actions in the BiOp outlined through 2013 and to continue working with the involved sovereign states and tribes to identify new mitigation actions for implementation. He also advised collaboration in identifying the level of benefits to fish provided by the mitigation actions.

“As our progress report shows, improvements to the dams have resulted in 95-99 percent per-dam survival rate for juvenile spring chinook and steelhead,” said Dave Ponganis, director of programs for the Corps. “The report also shows how our state and tribal partners are restoring streamside habitat, removing barriers to open up new tributary and estuary habitat, and putting water back in streams. As a result, salmon are coming back to places they haven’t been seen for decades.”

“This is important work, and we have made it our highest priority,” said Ponganis. “We will maintain a focus on implementation in the next two years as we work with local experts to respond to the court’s order.”

NOAA Fisheries and the action agencies say they are working with several watershed and expert-panel groups throughout the Columbia River basin and in the Columbia estuary to identify those projects.

“While the court’s order directs us to focus on habitat, the action agencies will continue to implement and adapt measures for dam operations and improvements, predator management and hatchery improvements,” said Stelle. “As the biological opinion calls for, they are addressing all the factors that affect fish survival.”

The agencies said that independent science reviews conducted by the Obama Administration and others have established that the federal plan is based on sound science. “In keeping with this, the habitat projects that are specified during the remand will be supported by independently developed scientific and technical information that will document their benefits to fish,” said the agencies.

(For more detailed information see CBB, August 5, 2011, “Redden Orders New Salmon BiOp By 2014; Says Post-2013 Mitigation, Benefits Unidentified” http://www.cbbulletin.com/411336.aspx)


* Montana Redd Counts: Invasive Lake Trout Increase Leading To ESA-Listed Bull Trout Declines

Recent stream surveys have revealed an alarming trend in declining bull trout reproduction in Montana's Swan River drainage, along with troubling numbers in the North Fork Flathead Basin and improving spawning in the Flathead’s Middle and South Fork drainages.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks continued long-running counts of “redds,” or distinctive streambed spawning nests, between Sept. 26 and Oct. 28 in water and weather conditions that were optimal for the surveys.

This was the 30th year for redd counts in the Swan drainage, focusing on index sections in four spawning streams. The basinwide count has averaged 651 redds over the last 16 years and this year’s count of 312 is 52 percent below that average.

The drainage’s counts peaked at more than 800 redds in 1998, but there have been substantial declines in years since then.

Non-native lake trout, which are bull trout competitors and predators, first were detected in Swan Lake in 1998.

“Although the exact mechanism causing the recent decline in bull trout redd numbers is unknown, it is likely that the increasing lake trout population could be a factor,” according to a press release explaining the recent stream surveys. “Lake trout have led to declines in bull trout populations in other waters similar to Swan Lake across the region.”

Fisheries biologist Clint Muhlfeld said the decline in bull trout is following a familiar pattern.

“The Swan counts are low because lake trout have invaded and become well established in that system,” said Muhlfeld, a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who is based in Glacier National Park. “That’s the classic patterns we’ve seen in all these lakes.”

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is three years into an experimental gill netting program aimed at suppressing lake trout numbers in Swan Lake, and that effort is important to conserving the remaining bull trout, Muhlfeld maintains.

After bull trout were listed as a threatened species in 1998, Swan Lake was one of few remaining places where anglers could catch and keep a bull trout.

Recently, however, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission shifted back to catch-and-release regulations for bull trout on Swan Lake, partly because of below-average redd counts in the drainage.

Elsewhere, the combined counts of redds in the Middle and North Fork Flathead River drainages account for bull trout spawners that migrate from Flathead Lake. Combined, this year’s count of 189 redds in eight stream index sections in the two drainages is about average for the past decade.

The Middle Fork index counts of 136 last year and 124 this year are considerably higher than the annual average of 86 redds over the previous 12 years, but counts in the North Fork index reaches of 54 and 65 redds last year and this year are well below the 12-year average of 107 redds.

“The bottom line is the North Fork counts aren’t that great,” Muhlfeld said, pointing to counts in Big, Coal and Trail creeks that have numbered fewer than a dozen over the last couple years, just a fraction of the numbers found in the 1980s and 1990s.

This year’s counts of 65 redds in the North Fork streams are nearly at the record low counts of 52 in 1997 and 44 in 1998.

Muhlfeld said it’s important for people not to over-generalize the Flathead Basin’s overall redd count numbers, which can appear somewhat stable.

“If we talk total numbers things look OK, but if you look at the local populations, the different pieces of the puzzle, those local populations dictate the viability of the bull trout metapopulation,” Muhlfeld said.

Of particular concern are the lakes on the west side of Glacier Park that have been invaded by lake trout from the North Fork Flathead River.

There are 12 lakes in the park connected to the Flathead Lake and river system, and all those lakes historically have had bull trout populations. Of the 12, nine have been invaded by lake trout and “eight of which the numbers [of bull trout] are so low they are on the brink of extinction,” Muhlfeld said.

Muhlfeld has led redd counts in streams above the Glacier lakes and has found minimal evidence of spawning activity.

Three redds were counted above Logging Lake this year and in previous years, none were found. There have been similar results for most of the other park lakes that have been invaded by lake trout.

The bright spot in this year’s stream surveys came from the South Fork Flathead drainage above Hungry Horse Dam, which has functioned as a barrier to lake trout invasion.

The count of 124 redds in South Fork spawning streams feeding into Hungry Horse Reservoir is about 46 percent above the 18-year average of 85 redds for the same stream sections. The 2011 South Fork basinwide total, including spawning streams in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, numbered 610 redds, the highest count on record.


* Research: Stream Warming Impacts On PNW Salmonids Require Prioritizing Conservation Efforts

According to a newly publish research paper, fisheries and habitat managers in the Pacific Northwest need to be proactive if they want to blunt the likely negative effects on salmon and steelhead of ever-warming streams.

“Continuation of warming trends this century will increasingly stress important regional salmon and trout resources and hamper efforts to recover these species, so comprehensive vulnerability assessments are needed to provide strategic frameworks for prioritizing conservation efforts,” according to “Climate change effects on stream and river temperatures across the northwest U.S. from 1980-2009 and implications for salmonid fishes.”

“Tactical responses are key, but needed conservation projects are likely to greatly exceed available resources, so strategic prioritization schemes are essential. Improving regional monitoring networks and new models capable of accurately downscaling climate change effects on stream thermal regimes and other attributes across broad areas can provide the information necessary to implement such schemes.”

The paper was authored by Daniel Isaak, Sherry Wollrab, Dona Horan and Gwynne. Chandler, all based in Boise at the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station. The researchers are part of Air, Water, and Aquatics Program staff at the Aquatic Sciences Lab.

The research paper was published online Nov. 4 in “Climatic Change, An Interdisciplinary, International Journal Devoted to the Description, Causes and Implications of Climatic Change.”

The article can be found at:

The researchers set out to evaluate how climate change might be affecting temperatures across a broad set of rivers. To do that they assembled 18 available temperature time-series from sites on regulated and unregulated streams in the Northwest to describe historical trends from 1980–2009, and assess thermal consistency between the two stream categories.

The 18 sites used in the assessment encompassed a wide range of stream sizes, elevations, and climatic conditions, but most drained mountainous watersheds and forested landscapes with various land-use histories and limited impacts from urbanization. The 18 river monitoring sites were in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

Key findings of the study, according to lead author Isaak, are that: 1) significant warming of the region's rivers and streams has occurred over the past several decades, with the fastest warming occurring during the summer; 2) warming trends on unregulated streams were very consistent across the region whereas those downstream of reservoirs/dams were not, suggesting the latter do not make good climate sentinel sites, 3) very few sites exist with long-term stream/river temperature monitoring data, 4) rates of stream/river temperature changes closely tracked those of air temperatures at nearby climate stations, suggesting air temperature might be a useful surrogate for local stream temperature trends until better monitoring data are available.

“The study is particularly relevant in two regards. First, it documents rates of warming based on historical monitoring data across multiple river/stream sites within a region,” Isaak said.

“Second, the study separates out potentially confounding factors like urbanization or reservoir effects to derive accurate estimates of the background rates of climatically induced warming that are likely affecting all streams.”

“Description and attribution of stream temperature changes are key to understanding how these ecosystems may be affected by climate change, but difficult given the rarity of long-term monitoring data,” the paper says.

“Statistically significant temperature trends were detected across seven sites on unregulated streams during all seasons of the year, with a cooling trend apparent during the spring and warming trends during the summer, fall, and winter,” the paper says.
Those unregulated stream monitoring sites were on the Snake River near Anatone, Wash., the North Fork Clearwater River in Idaho, the Missouri River in Montana and the South Fork Bull Run River, Fir Creek, North Fork Bull Run River and Bull Run River in Oregon.

“The amount of warming more than compensated for spring cooling to cause a net temperature increase, and rates of warming were highest during the summer (raw trend = 0.17°C/decade; reconstructed trend = 0.22°C/decade).

“Air temperature was the dominant factor explaining long-term stream temperature trends (82-94 percent of trends) and inter-annual variability (48-86 percent of variability), except during the summer when discharge accounted for approximately half (52 percent) of the inter-annual variation in stream temperatures.”

The regulated sites are those with stream temperature data measured downstream of reservoirs that could alter thermal trends. Because the Snake River monitoring site is located 160 kilometers downstream of the nearest reservoir it was considered in the unregulated category. Also influencing that decision is the fact that two large unregulated tributaries, the Salmon River and the Grande Ronde River, enter the Snake River and double its size upstream of the Anatone temperature site to further dilute any remaining reservoir effects.

“Although most species have persisted through greater climatic perturbations in past millennia, modern climate change is happening especially rapidly, at the end of an already warm period, and is being imposed on populations that are often already depressed and fragmented from a century of intense human development (McIntosh et al. 2000; Hessburg and Agee 2003),” the paper concludes.

“To minimize the losses of biodiversity that could occur in the next half century, much needs to be learned in a relatively short period of time about changing stream and river thermal regimes and aquatic ecological responses (McCullough et al. 2009).”

“The apparent shift in recent years to cooler PDO conditions across the northwest U.S. may provide a brief respite before a warming trend is resumed that will become increasingly stressful for many salmonid fishes in the northwest U.S. This opportunity should be used to gain important information about stream temperature regimes and develop better tools, knowledge, and prioritization schemes for what may lie ahead.”


* British Columbia Approves Law Protecting Flathead Drainage From Mining, Drilling

After 30 years of Montana resistance against mining and drilling in the Canadian Flathead, the British Columbia provincial government has formally and finally approved a law protecting the drainage from development.

The Flathead Watershed Area Conservation Act, signed into law Tuesday, prohibits mining and energy extraction activities on nearly 400,000 acres in the drainage with the northernmost headwaters that flow into Montana’s North Fork Flathead drainage and on to Flathead Lake.
It is the culmination of a historic agreement reached in 2010 by then-British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

“The legislation passed and signed into law by British Columbia helps ensure the protection of the Flathead Basin and Glacier National Park for this generation and generations to come,” Schweitzer said in response to the law. “It is important that we continue to do our part to make the Memorandum of Understanding signed by former Premier Gordon Campbell and British Columbia a reality.”

For Montana’s part, there is a bill in Congress that would retire remaining federal lands in the North Fork from potentially being leased for mineral and energy development. About 80 percent of potential lease lands have already been retired.

“A generation of Canadians and Americans have been eagerly awaiting these protections for more than 30 years,” said Michael Jamison, Crown of the Continent program manager for the National Parks and Conservation Association.

“Together, with our neighbors to the north, we share a responsibility to protect the treasures of The North Fork Flathead River and Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Canada’s historic protection of these headwaters is an important reminder of our need for similar protections on Montana’s public lands, upstream from Glacier. Canada has acted, and now it’s our turn.”

The state of Montana owns about 17,000 acres of school trust land in the North Fork, including the Coal Creek State Forest.

None of the parcels is currently leased for mineral development. There also are no gravel permits on any of these parcels. The State Land Board agreed that a “no surface occupancy” stipulation would be applied to any potential mineral leases in the North Fork of the Flathead.

The board also agreed any future quarries or gravel operations are limited to 4.94 acres, with an annual production of no more than 20,000 tons of material.


* Bureau, WDOE Release Draft EIS For Yakima Basin Water Resource Management Plan

The Bureau of Reclamation and Washington State Department of Ecology this week released a draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan for public comment.

The draft PEIS evaluates two alternatives to meet the water supply and ecosystem restoration needs in the Yakima River basin identified as the No Action Alternative, and the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan Alternative.

A preferred alternative has not been identified.

The Integrated Plan's seven elements include: reservoir fish passage; structural and operational changes to existing facilities; surface water storage; groundwater storage; habitat/watershed protection and enhancement; enhanced water conservation; and market-based reallocation of water resources.

The Bureau and state say the draft PEIS satisfies National Environmental Policy Act and the Washington State Environmental Policy Act requirements.

The draft PEIS will be formally filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today, Nov. 18.

Oral comments may be presented at one of six public meetings from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., and 5 to 7 p.m. at the following locations:

-- Dec. 5, 2011 U.S. Forest Service Ranger Station, 803 W. 2nd St., Cle Elum, WA 98922

-- Dec. 6, 2011 Hal Holmes Center, 209 N. Ruby St., Ellensburg, WA 98926

-- Dec. 14, 2011 Yakima Arboretum, 1401 Arboretum Drive, Yakima, WA 98901

For more information see http://www.usbr.gov/pn/programs/yrbwep/2011integratedplan/index.html


* Research Addresses How To Separate Human-Caused Global Warming From Natural Climate Fluctuations

In order to separate human-caused global warming from the "noise" of purely natural climate fluctuations, temperature records must be at least 17 years long, according to climate scientists.

To address criticism of the reliability of thermometer records of surface warming, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists analyzed satellite measurements of the temperature of the lower troposphere (the region of the atmosphere from the surface to roughly five miles above) and saw a clear signal of human-induced warming of the planet.

Satellite measurements of atmospheric temperature are made with microwave radiometers, and are completely independent of surface thermometer measurements. The satellite data indicate that the lower troposphere has warmed by roughly 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit since the beginning of satellite temperature records in 1979. This increase is entirely consistent with the warming of Earth's surface estimated from thermometer records.

Recently, a number of global warming critics have focused attention on the behavior of Earth's temperature since 1998. They have argued that there has been little or no warming over the last 10 to 12 years, and that computer models of the climate system are not capable of simulating such short "hiatus periods" when models are run with human-caused changes in greenhouse gases.

"Looking at a single, noisy 10-year period is cherry picking, and does not provide reliable information about the presence or absence of human effects on climate," said Benjamin Santer, a climate scientist and lead author on an article in the Nov. 17 online edition of the Journal of Geophysical Research (Atmospheres) titled "Separating signal and noise in atmospheric temperature changes: The Importance of Time Scale."

Many scientific studies have identified a human "fingerprint" in observations of surface and lower tropospheric temperature changes. These detection and attribution studies look at long, multi-decade observational temperature records. Shorter periods generally have small signal to noise ratios, making it difficult to identify an anthropogenic signal with high statistical confidence, Santer said.

"In fingerprinting, we analyze longer, multi-decadal temperature records, and we beat down the large year-to-year temperature variability caused by purely natural phenomena (like El Nino and La Nina). This makes it easier to identify a slowly-emerging signal arising from gradual, human-caused changes in atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases," Santer said.

The LLNL-led research shows that climate models can and do simulate short, 10- to 12-year "hiatus periods" with minimal warming, even when the models are run with historical increases in greenhouse gases and sulfate aerosol particles. They find that tropospheric temperature records must be at least 17 years long to discriminate between internal climate noise and the signal of human-caused changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere.

"One individual short-term trend doesn't tell you much about long-term climate change," Santer said. "A single decade of observational temperature data is inadequate for identifying a slowly evolving human-caused warming signal. In both the satellite observations and in computer models, short, 10-year tropospheric temperature trends are strongly influenced by the large noise of year-to-year climate variability."

The research team is made up of Santer and Livermore colleagues Charles Doutriaux, Peter Caldwell, Peter Gleckler, Detelina Ivanova and Karl Taylor, and includes collaborators from Remote Sensing Systems, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Colorado, the Canadian Centre for Climate Modeling and Analysis, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.K. Meteorology Office Hadley Centre, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.


* New Book From Oregon Sea Grant Explores Resilience As Management Goal For Pacific Salmon

A new book from the Oregon State University-based Oregon Sea Grant program, “Pathways to Resilience: Sustaining Pacific Salmon in a Changing World,” explores the issue of strengthening salmon resilience.

“Strengthening salmon resilience will require expanding habitat opportunities for salmon populations to express their maximum life-history variation,” said Dan Bottom, a NOAA Fisheries researcher and one of the book’s authors and editors.

Salmon exhibit a wide variety of life history traits, Bottom says, including differences in migration timing, duration of estuary rearing and size at ocean entry. “The habitat connections that sustain diverse salmon life histories also provide diverse social and economic opportunities for people, whose life styles and livelihoods depend on healthy watersheds.”

Joe Cone, assistant director of Oregon Sea Grant, says the book’s 11 peer-reviewed articles “represent the most-forward thinking about resilience and Pacific salmon collected to date.” Cone, author of a 1995 book on salmon decline, “A Common Fate,” believes the new book “points to new ways we may consider and interact with this iconic fish.”

“Pathways to Resilience” will be of interest to those active in fisheries, Cone said, as well as to policymakers and anyone interested in the resilience of other ecological and social systems.

Jim Lichatowich, onetime Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife salmon official and author of “Salmon without Rivers: A History of the Pacific Salmon Crisis,” said the “ideas in ‘Pathways to Resilience’ are important guides toward a different and sustainable relationship between salmon and humans.”

The 392-page, full-color book features a prologue by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber. The book was edited by Bottom, Kim Jones of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Charles Simenstad of the University of Washington, Court Smith of Oregon State University and Rick Cooper of Oregon Sea Grant.

Copies of Pathways to Resilience may be ordered for $34.95 each (plus shipping and handling) online at marketplace.oregonstate.edu or by calling Sea Grant Communications at 541-737-4849.

Pathways to Resilience was published by Oregon Sea Grant and printed with assistance from the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center and the U.S. Geological Survey.

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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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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