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

Weekly Fish and Wildlife News
December 16, 2011
Issue No. 602

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

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

Table of Contents

* Council Science Report: Salmon Recovery Efforts Need Better Tracking Of ‘Adults In’, ‘Smolts Out’

* Columbia River Fishery Managers Predict Strong Spring, Summer, Fall Chinook Returns For 2012

* Record 2012 Returns Predicted For Sockeye, 462,000; Upper Columbia Summer Chinook, 92, 100

* Washington Gears Up Efforts To Stop Non-Native Northern Pike From Invading Columbia Basin Salmon Country

* Oregon Attorney General Issues Modified Ballot Title Proposing Non-Tribal Gillnet Ban

* Washington Issues First Non-Interruptible Water Rights From Columbia River Since Salmon Listings

* Washington Salmon Recovery Board Announces $30 Million In Grants Based On Regional Recovery Plans

* Scientists Issue Recommendations For Monitoring, Tackling Pathogens, Diseases In Pacific Salmon

* Imnaha Wolf Pack Kills Yearling Heifer; ODFW Says Pack In ‘Pattern Of Chronic Depredation’

* Western State Representatives Meet To Discuss Strategies To Conserve Greater Sage-Grouse

* Study Details Extent Nitrogen From Human Activities Impacting West’s Remote Lakes, Ecosystems


* Council Science Report: Salmon Recovery Efforts Need Better Tracking Of ‘Adults In’, ‘Smolts Out’

Columbia River basin fish and wildlife project sponsors have learned a lot about how artificial production, fish passage and habit restoration actions affect fish populations, but putting that knowledge to work will require several more giant steps, according to the “Retrospective Report 2011” completed last week by the Independent Scientific Review Panel.

“The ISRP found that monitoring and evaluation has improved in all three major areas covered by this report. Nonetheless, lack of a comprehensive analysis of biological objective achievements for hatchery and habitat efforts impede the understanding of program effectiveness,” the report says. It can be found at:

“The Basin would benefit from an evaluation of management strategies and a structured decision approach for these categories, an approach that combines habitat, hatchery, passage, and full life-stage recruitment information,” the report says.

The 11-member ISRP was created by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council in response to a 1996 amendment to the Northwest Power Act. Under the amended Act, the ISRP provides the Council with independent scientific review of projects funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, most of which are implemented through the Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program.

The 2011 Retrospective Report expands upon the review of project implementation results that the ISRP conducted as part of its programmatic and individual review of projects in the recently completed Research, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Artificial Production Category Review.

As requested by the Council, the new report summarizes accomplishments of approximately 150 fish and wildlife program projects and the status of major basinwide programmatic issues in three key areas: 1) artificial production, 2) passage through mainstem dams, the river, and reservoirs, and 3) habitat restoration monitoring.

“The ISRP undertook this effort in response to the Council’s desire to increase the visibility of project and program results,” the report’s executive summary says.

“Although hatchery production has contributed to more adult fish, and in recent years harvest opportunities have increased, with some exceptions, supplementation experiments generally have not demonstrated improvement in the abundance of natural-origin salmon and steelhead.

“An analysis of abundance and productivity is urgently required for projects in the supplemented locations, especially for those tributaries where there is a conservation objective in the management plan,” the report says. Supplementation involves outplanting hatchery raised juvenile fish in rivers and streams so they home-in on those waterways to spawn naturally when they return as adults.

“Based on findings listed below, the ISRP concludes that there is an absence of empirical evidence from the ongoing projects to assign a conservation benefit to supplementation other than preventing extinction.

“The supplementation projects with high proportions of hatchery fish in the hatchery broodstock and on the natural spawning grounds are likely compromising the long-term viability of the wild populations,” the report says “Evaluation of most supplementation projects would benefit from a more thorough comparison with life-stage specific productivity and recruitment of salmon from un-supplemented reference streams. All programs should evaluate the potential influence of density-dependent effects.”

“Although managers using hatchery supplementation seem to be aware of ongoing habitat restoration efforts, there is a need to better integrate supplementation with habitat restoration because rebuilding natural populations will ultimately depend on improving habitat quality and quantity.”

The region also needs to improve its ability to assess the benefits gained from habitat improvements.

“In addition, major biological improvements have not been measured as a result of habitat restoration,” the executive summary says.

“… the ISRP recommends that Council should always view habitat action effectiveness monitoring and evaluation as a continuing work in progress, and while there is a need for an appropriate level of consistency to enable broad regional syntheses of status and trends, we doubt that a single standardized habitat monitoring approach is achievable, or even desirable.

“On the other hand, the ISRP does feel that improved standardization of measuring fish response to habitat restoration is needed,” according to the Retrospective Report “At the very least, we believe that more tributaries where restoration actions are taking place should be monitored for ‘adults in’ and ‘smolts out’ so that the ratio of smolt production to adult escapement can be established as a tracking metric for monitoring action effectiveness.

“The ISRP believes that it is important to consider how long it will take to measure the effects of habitat actions on focal species.”

“Although passage issues may seem largely addressed, several topic areas remain of concern, including contaminants, altered life histories (e.g., mini-jacks), and competition and predation from non-native species,” the report says.

The ISRP will present the report to the Council in Portland during its Jan. 10-11

The Council welcomes public comment on the ISRP's reports and recommendations. Unless otherwise indicated, the Council will accept comments on the ISRP report for 30 days following the date of the report.

For more information about the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and its role in Columbia Basin fish and wildlife restoration go to www.nwcouncil.org


* Columbia River Fishery Managers Predict Strong Spring, Summer, Fall Chinook Returns For 2012

Columbia River fishery managers are predicting strong returns in 2012, including a forecast return to the mouth of the river of 314,200 adult spring chinook salmon. Such a return would be the fourth largest return on a record dating back to 1938.

The upriver spring chinook return this year was 221,200. It followed a 2010 return that totaled 315,345 adults, the third strongest on record. The 2001 run marked a high of 440,300 adult upriver spring chinook and it was followed by the second largest estimated return -- 335,214 in 2002.

The upriver spring chinook run is comprised of stocks from several NOAA Fisheries-designated “environmentally significant units” and three geographically separate production areas above Bonneville Dam, which is located at river mile 146. Those areas are: 1) the Columbia River system upstream of the Yakima River (upper Columbia), 2) the Snake River system, and 3) Columbia River tributaries between Bonneville Dam and the Yakima River, excluding the Snake River (mid-Columbia).

Snake River summer chinook are destined for areas upstream of Lower Granite Dam. Snake River wild spring/summer chinook and upper Columbia wild spring chinook are federally-listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The new Snake River spring/summer chinook forecast pegs the return at 168,000 adult fish, again as counted at the mouth of the Columbia. The Snake River joins the Columbia in southeast Washington.

The forecast for the Snake River spring/summer return is 168,000, which would be the fourth largest return dating back to at least 1980. The top returns were more than 261,000 in 2001, 171,000 in 2002 and just under 170,000 in 2010.

The “wild,” naturally produced portion of that Snake River spring/summer chinook run is forecast to number 39,000, which would be the third highest on a record dating back to at least 1980.

The strong forecast is based in large part on the fact that the second largest number of spring chinook jacks, on a record dating back to 1960, was counted this year at Bonneville Dam. The 50,946 jack total was second only to the 66,631 counted in 2009.

Jacks are young fish that return, generally, after only one year in the Pacific Ocean. The jack returns portend the strength of future year’s returns since most returning spawners spend two or more years in saltwater.

An early season “outlook” produced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for 2012 says the fall chinook return is likely to be similar to the actual 2011 return of about 600,000 adults.

The TAC forecast also includes a record return of Upper Columbia summer chinook (91,200 fish) and continued strong returns of summer steelhead and fall chinook. The only cloud in the 2012 forecast is coho salmon, where low jack counts this year suggest a weak return in 2012.

ODFW fishery managers this week predicted that the 2012 return of Willamette River spring chinook spawners to the Columbia would number 83,400 fish. The Willamette feeds into the Columbia River at Portland.

That forecast is slightly higher than this year’s return of 80,254 fish and should be high enough for a seven-day-a-week fishery and a two-fish bag limit when the fishing season in opens in January.

The 2012 fishing season for spring chinook on the Columbia will be set in January, according to Steve Williams, ODFW assistant administrator for Columbia River Fisheries.

“I anticipate some fishing days in April and hope we’ll be able to create the same kind of late season opportunity we enjoyed last year,” he said. “Once we’ve crunched the numbers and consulted with our Commission and our partners in Washington, we’ll have a better handle on the details.”

The final season will be set at a Jan. 26 meeting of the Columbia River Compact in Oregon City.

The Willamette River spring chinook run passes through the lower Columbia River from February through May, with peak abundance during mid-March to mid-April, according to joint state staff reports from the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife. Migration through the lower Willamette River varies with water conditions but typically occurs from mid-March through April. Passage through the Willamette Falls fishway occurs from mid-April to mid-June, with peak passage typically in mid-May.

NOAA Fisheries Service in May 1999 classified spring chinook destined for the Willamette River upstream of Willamette Falls in the Portland metropolitan area and the Clackamas River into a single “environmentally significant unit” and listed the wild component as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Accurate Willamette River spring chinook run size estimates prior to 1946 are not available. But prior to 1990, the 1953 run was generally believed to be the largest on record, at 125,000 fish, and that run was predominantly wild.

The 1953 run was eclipsed by a return of 130,600 spring chinook in 1990, comprised mainly of hatchery fish, according to the staff reports. A new record run was established in 2004 with a return of 144,400 fish, again comprised primarily of hatchery fish.


* Record 2012 Returns Predicted For Sockeye, 462,000; Upper Columbia Summer Chinook, 92, 100

Early forecasts by fishery officials predict strong Columbia-Snake river salmon returns almost across the board in 2012. And in the case of sockeye and summer chinook, record runs are predicted.

The 2010 sockeye return of nearly 388,000 adult fish was the largest on record since completion in 1938 of construction of Bonneville Dam, where fish are tallied as they climb over the fish ladders.

A Technical Advisory Committee forecast completed last week predicts that late next summer as many as 462,000 sockeye salmon spawners will return to the mouth on their way to, primarily, the Okanogan River drainage and its Oosyos Lake, which straddles the central Washington-British Columbia border.

“It’s hard for me to see how we’re not going to have a big run,” said Jeff Fryer, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission researcher who prepared the sockeye forecast. The 2012 prediction is for a return of 431,300 sockeye spawners to the Okanogan; 28,800 to central Washington’s Wenatchee River basin; and 1,900 to the Snake River. The Wenatchee, Okanogan and Snake all feed into the Columbia.

A record number of 2-year-old smolts, 8.7 million, headed down the Okanogan toward the ocean in 2010, according to Canadian estimates. That was four times the previous high from 2003-2010, Fryer said.

And a total of 32,900 sockeye “jacks” from that 2010 outmigration returned last year, according to Fryer’s estimates. That’s nearly double the previous high in 2008, which returned a then-record 308,000 Okanogan 4-year-olds in 2010. Jacks are 3-year-old fish that spent just one year in the ocean. The 2012 forecast is for a return of 421,500 two-ocean Okanogan sockeye salmon.

“Ocean conditions over the past two years have been in the average range so I see no reason why we should not have record returns of Okanogan two-ocean fish this year…, according to Fryer’s sockeye forecast memorandum. Two-ocean, 4-year-old sockeye typically make up about 80 percent of the Okanogan run.

“There seems to be a pretty good relationship between jacks and the two-ocean fish,” Fryer said of using jacks from one year as a primary indictor of the number of 4-year-olds that will return the following year.

“Although in recent years I have been reluctant to forecast runs as large as my data suggests, this year I am pretty comfortable with a high forecast in the 400,000-500,000 range.

TAC felt the same way about the Upper Columbia summer chinook stock, which also returned a strong jack class this year,

“We’re predicting a record return of summer chinook” to the mouth of the Columbia,” according to CRITFC biologist Stuart Ellis, who is a TAC member. TAC, made up of federal, state and tribal fisheries experts, produces salmon and steelhead forecasts during the preseason and in-season. “It’ll be a big run.”

The 2012 forecast is for a return of 91,200 Upper Columbia summer chinook. The previous high on a record dating back to 1980 was 80,600 this past summer.

Upper Columbia River summer chinook are destined for spawning areas and hatcheries upstream of Priest Rapids Dam. Upper Columbia summer chinook are not ESA-listed, and the population is currently considered healthy.

Hatchery supplementation programs and improved natural habitat have played a significant role in what have increased Upper Columbia summer chinook abundance trends observed since 1999 according the “2011 Joint Staff Report: Stock Status and Fisheries for Spring Chinook, Summer Chinook, Sockeye, Steelhead, and Other Species, and Miscellaneous Regulations,” which is produced by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife.

The average run size during the 2000s was 59,800 adults, which was three times greater than the average run size of the 1980s and four times greater than the average run size of the 1990s. Since 2002, the majority of the hatchery production has been mass-marked with an adipose fin clip. Natural-spawning populations also contribute significantly to the run.

The upper Columbia sockeye stocks (Okanogan and Wenatchee) are considered healthy populations and are not listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Historically, the Wenatchee return was similar in abundance to the Okanogan return. But since 2006, with unprecedented large returns, the Wenatchee stock has represented less than 20 percent of the upper Columbia return, according to the staff report.

A small remnant population of the Snake River sockeye returns to Redfish Lake in central Idaho after swimming up the Columbia, Snake and Salmon rivers. Production is maintained through a captive brood program and most returning adults are progeny of this program. The Snake River stock was federally-listed as endangered in November 1991.

During the 1990s the number of sockeye returning to the Snake River basin averaged 12 fish per year. During 2000-2007, Snake River sockeye returns improved, but remained severely depressed averaging less than 100 fish annually. Since 2008 the Snake River sockeye return has improved steadily, likely a result of improved passage conditions and increases in production

Sockeye salmon migrate through the lower Columbia River during June and July, with normal peak passage at Bonneville Dam around July 1.


* Washington Gears Up Efforts To Stop Non-Native Northern Pike From Invading Columbia Basin Salmon Country

Concerned about the spread of northern pike in Washington waters, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is gearing up for a spring campaign to halt the advance of the voracious, non-native fish toward the Columbia River.

In the coming months, state fishery managers plan to enlist anglers to remove as many northern pike as possible from the Pend Oreille River, a conduit for pike moving downstream from Idaho and Montana.

"Anglers can play a major role in this effort," said John Whalen, WDFW’s regional fish program manager in Spokane. "Come spring, we’re going to need their help to keep northern pike from invading the Columbia River."

A new webpage (http://wdfw.wa.gov/ais/esox_lucius/ ) on WDFW’s website outlines the rapid proliferation of northern pike in the Pend Oreille River since 2004 and the threat they pose to native fish species.

Biological surveys conducted in conjunction with the Kalispel Tribe and Eastern Washington University reveal a dramatic decline in native minnows, largemouth bass, yellow perch and other fish species that inhabit the 55-mile Box Canyon Reservoir.

"Non-native northern pike are high-impact predators of many other fish," Whalen said. "We’re increasingly concerned about future impacts to native trout and other species, including salmon and steelhead."

Fish managers have traced the movement of northern pike into the Pend Oreille River from rivers in Montana, where they were stocked illegally. Last spring, Canadian anglers reported catching them in the Columbia River near its confluence with the Pend Oreille, just north of the border between Washington state and British Columbia.

The current distribution of pike in Washington includes Box Canyon and Boundary dam reservoirs on the Pend Oreille River and the Spokane River from Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho to Lake Spokane (Long Lake) in Spokane County.

There have also been several pike caught on hook and line in the Columbia River upstream from Kettle Falls.

“In the last couple of years their movement has carried them further downstream into Boundary Reservoir and with the high water levels of 2011, into the Columbia River,” according to the WDFW. “Anglers reported catching pike in the Columbia River during the summer of 2011 just north of the border in British Columbia, near Northport in Washington and near China Bend, just upstream of Kettle Falls.”

Kettle Falls is near the head of Lake Roosevelt, the 150-mile-long reservoir held back by Grand Coulee Dam. Should the pike move past Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph Dam, located 51 miles downstream, they would be in salmon territory. Salmon passage to historic habitat is now blocked by the dams, but they inhabit the mainstem below the dam and nearby tributaries.

The immediate concern is increasing numbers and distribution to the point of impacting vulnerable native species of trout, other game fish and non-game fish and even salmon and steelhead further down the Columbia River system, according to WDFW.

"That’s a big concern," Whalen said. "If northern pike start spreading down the Columbia River, they could create significant ecological and economic damage."

Kalispel tribal officials believe the pike were moved downstream from Montana’s Clark Fork-Flathead system, where they were initially introduced illegally in the 1970s or 1980s. The pike were likely flushed down the Clark Fork River, into north Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille, and then into its outlet, the Pend Oreille River, during the flooding that resulted in 1997 during the meltdown of one of the biggest snowpacks on record.

Other states in the western United States, including Alaska, that have non-native populations of northern pike, are facing challenges similar to Washington. Although northern pike are native to much of Alaska, they are not native to the south-central part of the state where they have been illegally stocked and are considered invasive.

According to WDFW, pike have caused severe damage to native trout and salmon runs in several south-central Alaska watersheds and Washington is trying to learn from those events in order to prevent similar damage from occurring here.

Earlier this year, WDFW held public meetings in Spokane and Newport to discuss possible options for controlling northern pike. Regardless of what other methods are used, anglers represent a major line of defense, Whalen said.

"These fish average 2-3 pounds, but can run up to 30 pounds apiece," he said, noting that there are no daily catch limits or size limits on northern pike in Washington.

To help reduce the pike population, WDFW has proposed changing state fishing regulations to allow anglers to fish with two poles in the Pend Oreille River. The department has also proposed stripping the northern pike from its designation as a "game fish," while continuing to classify it as a "prohibited species" that cannot lawfully be transported to state waters.

"That change would help clarify our management goals," Whalen said. "Anglers could keep fishing for them, but the change in designation would signal that the priority is to control the spread of northern pike and their impact on native fish species."

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, which sets policy for WDFW, will hear public testimony on that and other proposed fishing rule changes during a public meeting scheduled Jan. 6-7 in Olympia.

WDFW will also accept written comments on those proposals through Dec. 30. The commission is scheduled to take action on those proposals at a public meeting Feb. 3-4 in Olympia.

For more information on the rule-making process, see the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/rule_proposals/ .


* Oregon Attorney General Issues Modified Ballot Title Proposing Non-Tribal Gillnet Ban

A proposed Oregon ballot initiative that would ban the use of non-Indian gillnets in the Columbia River mainstem reached a new stage this week with the issuing of a “modified” title and summary in answer to directions from the state Supreme Court.

Now, 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 was filed Thursday, Dec. 14 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 its Elections Division 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.

The state’s procedure for determining whether the measure qualifies for next year’s Nov. 6 general election ballot has been ongoing since the proposal was submitted to the state Elections Division July 18 by the Coastal Conservation Association, a non-profit organization made up in large part of 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 initiative proposal can be found at:


As required by state statute, the Oregon Attorney General’s Office crafted a draft ballot title and summary of the proposal that it delivered to the elections office July 26. That launched a comment period.

The title and summary drew criticisms from commercial fishermen, tribes and petitioners.

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 weighed in as “amicus curae,” a friend of the court.

The Supreme Court responded Dec. 8.

“Between them, they advance a host of arguments asserting various inadequacies of the ballot title,” the Supreme Court order said of comments it received on the ballot proposal. “We reject all but two of those arguments without discussion.”

“The first of the two arguments that require discussion pertains to the caption. The chief petitioners argue that the caption, as certified, ‘does not express the principal change that the measure proposes: to ban commercial fishing with gillnets in the Columbia River.’ According to the chief petitioners, the Attorney General ‘appears to be trying to capture as many concepts as possible within the caption, but that effort results in information that is too general to aid voters.’

“It simply states that the measure would change unspecified ‘fishing methods/procedures,’ when the actual subject of the measure is the prohibition of the only method that current law allows -- namely, gillnetting -- and the authorization of seine or fixed gear fishing in its place.

“We conclude that the caption, which fails to mention the actual major effect of the measure, fails to substantially comply with the requirements of ORS 5 250.035(2)(a). As a result, the ballot title must be referred to the Attorney General for modification,” the court’s Dec. 8 ruling says.

In its order the court cited legal precedent that requires that, “In all events, the information must pertain to an identified, actual ‘effect’ of enacting the measure; it is not permissible to ‘speculate about the possible effects of a proposed measure.’"

“In this case, the summary that the Attorney General certified runs afoul of that latter principle,” the court ruled. “In stating that the measure ‘may affect Columbia River Compact, tribal fishing rights, and fishing management agreements,’ it merely speculates that there is a possibility that the measure may affect the various laws and agreements listed in entirely unspecified ways.

“A possibility that enactment of a measure may produce unspecified consequences is not an ‘effect’ within the meaning of ORS 250.035(2)(d). The summary therefore does not substantially comply with the statutory requirement to state the ‘effect’ of the measure, and, for that additional reason, the ballot title must be referred to the Attorney General for modification.”

The Attorney General’s Office responded five days later by filing a modified title with the court. The modified title says:

“Prohibits commercial non-tribal fishing with gillnets in Oregon "inland waters," allows use of seine nets”

“Our primary concern with the title is that it didn’t say gillnet,” said Bryan Irwin, executive director of CCA’s Oregon Chapter. The previous title said “Specified commercial non-tribal fishing methods/procedures changes; recreational salmon fishers ensured minimum share of catch”

“It’s definitely the title we were seeking,” Irwin said of the modified title. “It’s much clearer and expresses exactly what the measure does.”

“We will not file an objection.”

Following is the modified initiative summary:

“Result of ‘Yes’ Vote: ‘Yes’ vote changes commercial non-tribal fishing in Oregon ‘inland waters’ (defined) by banning gillnets, adopting other regulatory changes; recreational salmon fishers ensured their recent share.

“Result of ‘No’ Vote: ‘No’ vote continues current commercial fishing practices, retains laws allowing gillnets, leaves other current regulations in place; continues annual adjustment of recreational salmon harvest share.

“Summary: Current law allows commercial salmon fishing in Columbia River only with gillnets; requires recreational salmon fishers' percentage share of overall salmon catch to be readjusted annually; allows issuing of gillnet permits within limit of 200; recognizes gillnet licenses as valid in Columbia River in both Oregon and Washington waters. Measure bans commercial gillnet fishing by nontribal fishers in Oregon "inland waters" (defined); requires Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to permit use of "seine nets" (defined) instead; ensures that recreational salmon fishers' percentage of overall salmon catch remains at 2007-2011 levels; prohibits purchase of salmon caught by gillnet by non-tribal fishers in Oregon inland waters; prohibits issuing of additional gillnet permits; repeals statute recognizing validity of gillnet licenses in Oregon and Washington waters. Other provisions.”

For more information see http://www.cbbulletin.com/414647.aspx


* Washington Issues First Non-Interruptible Water Rights From Columbia River Since Salmon Listings

The Washington Department of Ecology has approved the first water rights for municipal, domestic and industrial purposes from the Lake Roosevelt storage pool behind Grand Coulee Dam under the state’s Columbia River water development program.

And dozens more are being prepared for release in 2012.

The city of Pateros will receive 40 acre-feet (13 million gallons) of additional water per year to use for parks that will free up other city water rights and allow for new hookups supporting up to 80 new homes, the state agency announced Tuesday.

“We’ve had an application in since 1993 for additional water rights,” Gail Howe, mayor of Pateros, said. “This water will allow us to meet our needs now and in the future and also keep watering the parks that are an asset to our community. This is a win-win situation for the city of Pateros and our council is thrilled to have entered into a contract for this water.”

The Pateros water permit is just the first of a dozen new water rights to be issued this month in eastern Washington by Ecology’s Office of Columbia River. Totaling nearly 200 acre-feet of water, the permits are cued up to support housing developments in Lincoln County, a recreational park near the Beebe Bridge in Douglas County and a potato washing facility in Walla Walla County.

“It’s no question; water is the lifeblood of our communities in central and eastern Washington,” said Sen. Linda Parlette (R-Wenatchee). “Towns like Pateros, Brewster and Bridgeport have been working to improve their water situation for years and I’m thrilled to see that the Columbia River basin water management legislation we passed in 2006 is helping ensure that water will be available to them in the future.”

The water will be made available by tapping into water stored in Lake Roosevelt behind Grand Coulee Dam as part of OCR's Lake Roosevelt Incremental Storage Release Project. In total, the program being carried out in collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is making 25,000 acre-feet (8.1 billion gallons) of water per year available for new municipal and industrial uses. The Bureau owns and operates Grand Coulee.

Additionally, the Lake Roosevelt Incremental Storage Release Program is making available:

-- 30,000 acre-feet to support Odessa-area farmers, with water expected to be delivered starting in 2012.
-- 27,500 acre-feet of water for the OCR trust water program, which is to be released to increase in-stream flows at certain times of year salmon and steelhead need it most.

The program calls for another 50,000 acre-feet of water to be released during drought years, with 33,000 acre-feet of that providing relief for interruptible water right holders and 17,000 acre-feet supplementing in-stream flows.

Permits for the balance of that municipal and industrial water allocation water to be issued next year will benefit cities like Bridgeport, Pasco, Kennewick, Richland and West Richland, industrial users like Mercer Canyons, and small housing developments along the Columbia River in eastern Washington.

The WDOE announced Thursday that years of uncertainty surrounding water availability for Pasco, Kennewick, Richland and West Richland have been put to rest with the development of new water supplies through the OCR.

Final signatures sealed an agreement between the four cities and the state agency securing water for new domestic, municipal and industrial growth in the region.

The agreement ends a decade of legal disputes and provides a pathway for Ecology to deliver uninterruptible water rights to the four cities.

“We’re moving beyond past disagreements and looking to a bright future in the lower Columbia Basin where competition for water has been fierce for the last two decades,” said Derek Sandison, director of Ecology’s Office of Columbia River. “Cities can grow, industries can flourish and water can be available in the river when fish need it most.”

Sandison the agreement is the product of dozens of meetings, collaboration on new water permits, and funding of infrastructure projects that help improve regional water supply.

“The quad-cities and the Department of Ecology weren’t in a good place 10 years ago. Today, we see Ecology’s OCR as a willing partner helping us meet the city’s water supply needs,” said Pete Rogalsky, public works director for the city of Richland.

Under the new agreement, the Columbia River program will supply up to 4,014 acre-feet, or about 1.3 billion gallons of water a year, to offset new water use by the four cities.

When fully developed, the 4,014 acre-feet of water could lead to quad-cities development supporting 6,500 jobs across Washington, $485 million in new residential tax base, and $65.4 million in new commercial tax base, according to the WDOE.

“These water rights are jumpstarting the dreams that were put on hold while we were fighting over water,” said Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire. “Today, the farmer, fish biologist, environmental advocate, county commissioner and tribal member are sitting around the same table and helping us to find ways to meet the many water needs of eastern Washington. It’s a testament to the can-do spirit of our state.”

The Lake Roosevelt permits are the first non-interruptible water rights to be issued on the Columbia River since the listings of salmon and steelhead species began nearly two decades ago. The first stock to be listed under the Endangered Species Act was Snake River sockeye, which were given endangered states in 1991. The fish ride the Columbia up and down from its confluence with the Snake to the Pacific. A total of 13 salmon and steelhead stocks, including Upper Columbia spring chinook and steelhead, are now protected under the ESA.

Attempts to issue water rights have stymied in legal battles until the passage of a compromise bill produced by the Washington Legislature in 2006 that provided funding for new water projects in eastern Washington.

“Earlier this summer we dedicated a pipeline to deliver water to Odessa farmers, now we’re fulfilling the needs of small developers, rural towns and industries up and down the river,” said Rep. Judy Warnick (R-Moses Lake). “It’s very encouraging to see new water permits being issued, as it’s very important for economic development in Eastern Washington.”

The OCR has been developing access to water through projects that balance the water needs of irrigated agriculture, growing communities and streamflows for fish.

“We’re not just delivering water, we’re delivering on a promise that supports our state’s economy, environmental values and quality of life,” Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant said. “Legislators and leaders on both sides of the aisle took a risk that we could make this work. I can only hope we’ll continue to build on these successes in every corner of the state where water supply is contentious.”

Once the M&I water is fully allocated for residential and commercial use, it is projected to add 35,000 jobs and $3 billion in increased value to the economy.

The releases will lower Lake Roosevelt by an additional foot in normal water years and 1.8 feet during drought years.

In 2006, the Washington Legislature tasked the WDOE to aggressively seek out new water supplies for both in-stream and out-of-stream uses. The same legislation set up the Columbia River Basin Development Account and authorized $200 million to fund it. Ecology created the OCR to use these funds to develop new water supplies using storage, conservation, and voluntary regional water management agreements.

The Bureau on June 12, 2009, released its final environmental assessment and "Finding of No Significant Impact" for implementation of the Lake Roosevelt Incremental Storage Releases project. The document concluded that the drawing down of the reservoir by an additional 12 to 18 inches each year would not negatively affect the quality of the human environment or the natural resources in the affected area.

The EA analyzes the withdrawal of additional water beyond current operation from Lake Roosevelt to provide drought relief, boost municipal and industrial supply, provide a replacement for some of the groundwater used by irrigators in the Odessa Subarea and to improve in-stream flows below Grand Coulee Dam salmon and steelhead.

The goals are to provide more water in an area where the demand is much greater than the supply; provide a benefit for, particularly, migrating salmon and steelhead and take the pressure off a severely depleted Odessa aquifer. The plan was vetted by both the WDOE and Bureau.

More information is available online: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/cwp/crwmp.html


* Washington Salmon Recovery Board Announces $30 Million In Grants Based On Regional Recovery Plans

The Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board on Monday announced the award of nearly $30 million in grants to organizations around the state to help improve the lot of salmon.

“These grants do two things: They provide needed money for local organizations to help repair damaged rivers and streams and protect the most pristine areas,” said Don “Bud” Hover, chair of the state funding board. “They also create jobs. They will put people to work improving the environment and restoring something that is important to Washington’s economy: salmon.”

A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife study in 2006 pegged the economic impacts of commercial and recreational fishing in Washington as supporting an estimated 16,374 jobs and $540 million in personal income. This new round of grants is expected to provide more than 300 jobs during the next four years.

Grants were given to organizations in the following counties. See details on each grant at:

Okanogan County -- $656,287;
Pacific County -- $485,989;
Pend Oreille County -- $360,000;
Pierce County -- $2,970,987;
San Juan County -- $405,830;
Skagit County -- $2,298,337;
Skamania County -- $47,306;
Snohomish County -- $2,497,397;
Thurston County -- $473,714;
Wahkiakum County -- $361,505;
Walla Walla County -- $1,131,220;
Whatcom County -- $1,500,119;
Yakima County -- $508,887;
Multiple Counties -- $1,210,450;
Asotin County -- $132,160;
Chelan County -- $1,296,713;
Clallam County -- $2,447,641;
Clark County -- $925,383;
Columbia County -- $265,720;
Cowlitz County -- $1,080,806;
Grays Harbor County -- $787,869;
Island County -- $1,010,949;
Jefferson County -- $1,803,600;
King County -- $1,829,624;
Kitsap County -- $366,735;
Kittitas County -- $585,813;
Klickitat County -- $718,400;
Mason County -- $1,624,289.

The projects will reconnect rivers and streams, replace failing pipes that block fish passage and replant riverbanks with the goal of improving places salmon use to reproduce and grow on their way to and from to the ocean.

“Salmon recovery does more than just help salmon, it also helps the many businesses dependent on healthy fish populations,” said Hover, who also is an Okanogan County commissioner. “There are many families that rely on salmon, from your mom-and-pop tackle shops to your large commercial fishing fleets. They all need salmon and trout populations to be healthy and harvestable.”

Salmon populations in Washington have been declining for generations. In 1991, the federal government declared the first salmon, Snake River sockeye, as endangered and thus protected under the Endangered Species Act. By the end of that decade, populations had dwindled so much that salmon and bull trout were listed as threatened or endangered in three-quarters of the state. Those listings set off a series of activities including the formation of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board to oversee the investment of state and federal funds for salmon recovery.

Local watershed groups, called lead entities, are local consortiums that include tribes, local governments, nonprofits and citizens all working together to spearhead local salmon recovery efforts. They encourage and review project proposals and make decisions about which projects to forward to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for funding.

The projects are based on regional recovery plans, which are approved by the federal government. Individual projects are reviewed by regional salmon recovery organizations and the state’s technical review panel to make sure each project will help recover salmon in the most cost-effective manner.

In the Columbia-Snake river basin portion of the state, project sponsors from the estuary up to the borders with British Columbia and Idaho are planning good works.

As an example, The Tri-State Steelheaders will use its $476,234 grant to begin restoration of the upper one-third of a Walla Walla River reach near Lowden. The group will remove a half-mile of levee on property owned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife below McDonald Bridge. It will also place logs and tree root wads in the river. The logs will slow the river, creating pools and other types of habitat.

The work will create about 100 feet of off-channel habitat. Ultimately, the project will reduce confinement of the river, floodplain isolation and degraded habitat in the river and along its banks. The Walla Walla River is used by re-introduced spring chinook salmon. It also is used by summer steelhead and bull trout, all of which are listed as threatened. as well as sculpin, leopard dace and river lamprey. The Steelheaders will contribute $84,100 to the project project.

The Tri-State Steelheaders also won a $427,377 grant to complete final designs and construct fish passage improvements in a 285-foot-long section of what is known as reach type 6 on Mill Creek, near Walla Walla. In the 1940s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a concrete flume to house 2 miles of Mill Creek to reduce flooding in Walla Walla. Listed summer steelhead and bull trout have trouble passing through the flume.

Proposed passage improvements include modification of baffles to help fish get through, addition of resting pools to help tired fish make the journey and addition of surface roughness to slow the water during high flow. This will be the third of several projects to improve passage to high quality habitat in the upper Mill Creek watershed. Tri-State Steelheaders will contribute $75,500 in donations of cash.

The Methow Conservancy will use a $286,072 grant to buy conservation easements on nearly 60 acres along the upper Methow River, removing the possibility for development. Central Washington’s upper Methow River is a major spawning area for endangered spring chinook salmon and threatened steelhead, as well as being a core area for bull trout.

The first easement would cover about a half-mile of riverfront and a large side channel. A second easement would cover the floodplain, 980 feet of riverfront, a portion of Cold Creek and extensive wetlands. This project will add to other riverfront properties already conserved by the Methow Conservancy, protecting almost 24 miles of riverfront (including both sides of the river) along the 23-mile upper Methow River.

The easements would prohibit development permanently along the riverbanks, and habitat destruction by deeding development rights and habitat protection provisions to the conservancy. The conservancy will contribute $53,500 in donations of cash and land.

The Columbia Land Trust in partnership with the Yakama Nation Fisheries Program will use a $520,000 grant to remove fill and pull back a road to restore connectivity to the Klickitat River floodplain and soften the channel boundary along 1.7 miles of road. The partners also will replant the disturbed areas with native trees to improve the riverbank. This portion of the river has the greatest habitat complexity of any reach in the lower Klickitat River and provides critical spawning, migration and rearing habitat for listed winter and summer steelhead, as well as chinook and coho salmon. The project sponsors will contribute $92,175 from a grant.

In the Columbia River estuary, Columbia Land Trust will use a $150,000 grant to buy 420 acres of fish and wildlife habitat. All Columbia River salmon and steelhead, most of which are protected under the ESA, use the Columbia River estuary before migrating to the ocean.

The land is on Knappton Cove, between the Astoria-Megler Bridge and Naselle in Pacific County. The property consists of wetlands, tidelands, forest, three-quarters of a mile of Columbia River shoreline and eight small streams. The land is adjacent to 130 acres conserved by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, contributing to a conservation area totaling 550 acres with nearly two miles of Columbia River shoreline. The shoreline, streams, marsh and cove-sheltered tidelands provide places for salmon to feed and transition from freshwater to saltwater.

The forest and streams also provide cool water, nutrients, prey and large wood, which, when it falls in the river, creates places for salmon to rest and hide. The land trust will contribute $150,000 from a federal grant.

In the lower Columbia region, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe will use a $486,305 grant to remove an abandoned roadbed that inhibits full connectivity between Abernathy Creek and its floodplain, and place logjams in the creek to increase habitat. The tribe will excavate channel meanders through the former roadbed and place logjams in the main channel, allowing the river to meander, forming pools and riffles important to salmon and steelhead. This reach of Abernathy Creek is home coho, which are listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act, and winter steelhead. The tribe will contribute $85,819 in donations of cash, donations of labor, donations of materials, grant

“This local, state and federal partnership has made Washington a national model in salmon recovery,” Hover said. “This process ensures that we are funding the projects that the local citizens want and that scientists agree will do the most to recover salmon.”

Funding for the grants comes from the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund and from the sale of state bonds. In addition, nearly $11.6 million is dedicated to projects in Puget Sound, as part of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s initiative to restore the health of Puget Sound.

In 1999, the Washington Legislature created the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. The board provides grants to protect or restore salmon habitat and assist related activities. Composed of five citizens appointed by the governor, and five state agency directors, the board brings together the experiences and viewpoints of citizens and the major state natural resource agencies.

Established by citizen Initiative 215 in 1964, the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board helps finance recreation and conservation projects throughout the state. The eight-member board consists of five citizens appointed by the Governor, and three state agency directors.

More information about the two boards can be found online at www.rco.wa.gov


* Scientists Issue Recommendations For Monitoring, Tackling Pathogens, Diseases In Pacific Salmon

Despite all the recent controversial research headlining media these days about diseases, parasites and viruses depleting British Columbia salmon stocks, scientists still don’t have a true picture of what is going on.

Twenty-five scientists from around the world, including Simon Fraser University, came to that conclusion after meeting last week at a two-day invitational scientists’ think tank about pathogens and diseases in Pacific salmon. Sponsored by several interest groups, the session was part of the SFU Centre for Coastal Science and Management's Speaking for the Salmon series.

In a consensus statement issued after the session, the scientists note existing published research doesn’t address how key unexplored factors affect the extent to which salmon succumb to pathogens and diseases.

For example, salmon commonly host disease-causing bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites but remain disease free. Disease organism dynamics are so complex that the emergence and evolution of diseases in fish can’t be readily predicted.

“Critically and unfortunately, there is little information on disease organisms in, and their effects on, wild Pacific salmon,” says the report.

“We urgently need to integrate multiple scientific approaches in order to tackle the current concerns over disease in wild salmon… New technologies are providing means to discover and describe new disease organisms. However, it has proven more difficult to link specific disease organisms to health and disease, and even harder to link particular disease organisms to salmon population dynamics…

“It is time to develop new collaborative and independent infrastructures for addressing these challenges.”

In a separate document released by the think tank’s convenors, recommendations include:

-- A first priority is the establishment of a transparent monitoring program of wild and farmed salmon in British Columbia to determine both the presence and prevalence of a broad range of disease organisms and potential disease organisms.

-- Given that most national and international evidence indicates that salmon farms have a significant chance of harming wild salmon, from individuals to populations, we must look to explicitly manage them as a disease risk for Pacific salmon.

-- Canada urgently needs to create a separate entity for facilitating scientific research to provide for better management of wild fish and their habitat. This entity must be thoroughly separated from initiatives that promote economic activity.

Last month, in the United States, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco directed NOAA Fisheries to assemble a report on Infectious Salmon Anemia that will outline steps needed on surveillance, research and response, including contingency plans for handling the potential spread of the virus. That report is expected to be forthcoming soon.

(See, CBB, Nov. 11, 2011, “Canadian Officials Say ‘No Confirmed Cases’ Of Salmon Virus; NOAA Doing Research, Response Report” http://www.cbbulletin.com/413963.aspx)

Meanwhile, the first of three days of hearings on ISA ordered by the Canadian provincial Supreme Court began Thursday.

New York Times coverage of the first day can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/16/science/canada-begins-hearings-on-infectious-salmon-anemia-virus.html


* Imnaha Wolf Pack Kills Yearling Heifer; ODFW Says Pack In ‘Pattern Of Chronic Depredation’

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed this week that another cow was killed by wolves from the Imnaha pack over the weekend. The yearling heifer was found dead on private land in Wallowa County.

This brings the total number of confirmed livestock losses by Imnaha pack wolves to 19 since spring 2010.

It is the fifth confirmed livestock loss to wolves since an Oct. 5, 2011, court-ordered stay ended ODFW plans to kill two wolves from the Imnaha pack in an attempt to stop further livestock losses.

While the pack is continuing a pattern of chronic livestock depredation begun in spring 2010, ODFW wolf coordinator Russ Morgan characterizes the recent kills as a “significant” change in the pack’s behavior. Previously the pack killed mostly smaller calves, but now it has shifted to larger-sized yearling and adult cows. The timing is also new, as depredation by this pack has not been previously confirmed during the period October through December.

“The latest incident reaffirms that the pack is in a pattern of chronic depredation, which we expect to continue,” said Morgan. “While we believe the appropriate response is lethal removal of these problem wolves under the chronic depredation rule, that option is off the table due to litigation.”

The wolves targeted the ranch twice over two days. The cattle involved had recently been gathered and placed into a holding pasture near the main ranch house, as they were scheduled to be hauled on Monday. On Sunday morning, the landowner discovered that the cattle had been run through the fence and the yearling heifer was found dead a half mile away. The cattle were returned to the pasture, only to be scattered again by Monday morning. GPS radio-collar data shows that the alpha male of the Imnaha wolf pack was present at the site of the depredation and was also in the area when the cows were scattered the next day. Other wolves from the pack were likely with the alpha male, but their VHF radio-collars don’t allow such close location tracking.

The alpha male wolf was in remote country about five miles from the pasture the evening before the Sunday morning attack, yet by 2 a.m. he was only about 300 yards from the main ranch house, on the way to the pasture with cattle.

This rancher had taken a variety of non-lethal measures on different areas of his large ranch over the past two years. He had installed barrier fences with fladry (flagged fencing that can deter wolves) on parts of his ranch and has used a radio-activated guard device that makes noise when a radio-collared wolf approaches. The rancher had also increased monitoring of his livestock and has used a radio receiver to detect when a collared wolf was nearby.

“This is a good example of a situation where the landowner had done everything right,” said Morgan. “I don’t think there are other measures that could have been reasonably taken in this case, so it is a very frustrating situation for livestock producers and wildlife managers.”

ODFW continues to work with area landowners on non-lethal ways to avoid wolf-livestock problems. For example, ODFW sends twice-daily text messages about wolves’ locations to area livestock producers. A range rider funded by ODFW and Defenders of Wildlife has monitored the wolves’ location in relation to livestock.

Besides non-lethal measures, ODFW has also provided some ranchers with permits to kill a wolf they catch “in the act of biting, wounding or killing” livestock or with permits that allow them to haze wolves. The chance to use these permits is rare because wolves typically avoid people and usually attack livestock at night. None of these permits issued by ODFW has ever been used, again because it is very rare for a person to actually be present when a wolf is “in the act” of attacking livestock.

This landowner and others that have lost livestock animals to wolves are likely to be compensated for their losses. Earlier this year, the Oregon State Legislature and Gov. John Kitzhaber directed the Oregon Department of Agriculture to create a wolf compensation program. The program is expected to be in effect in early 2012. Ranchers that lost livestock since early September 2011 (when a compensation program funded by Defenders of Wildlife ended) will be eligible for retroactive compensation.


* Western State Representatives Meet To Discuss Strategies To Conserve Greater Sage-Grouse

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead on Monday convened a meeting with representatives from eight western states to discuss ongoing efforts to conserve the greater sage-grouse and identify next steps in implementing a landscape level strategy that will benefit the species while maintaining a robust economy in the West.

Participants discussed current strategies, challenges, and areas of collaboration for local, state, and federal governments to proactively address the needs of the species to ensure its long-term health and stability.

During the meeting, the attendees discussed developing a new working agreement that puts in place conservation actions and commitments to meaningfully address both the threats to the survival of the greater sage-grouse and the need of Westerners to enjoy multiple uses of their land and have reasonable predictability regarding regulatory requirements.

“Sagebrush habitat, with its open spaces, wildlife, and heritage, is iconic to the West and is at the root of many of our proud traditions,” Salazar said. “Protecting the health of this land and its wildlife, while also facilitating energy and other development in the right ways and the right places, is going to take strong, well-coordinated, comprehensive action by leaders at all levels. Today’s meeting is a milestone in our efforts to accelerate and expand the smart, landscape-scale approaches that are already underway in many places.”

From Wyoming’s Sage Grouse Initiative developed under the leadership of Gov. Mead to the Bureau of Land Management’s National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy (http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/more/sagegrouse.html), to the ongoing implementation of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Comprehensive Strategy, progress is being made to protect the species while ensuring that energy production, recreational access and other uses of federal lands continue, state and federal officials say.

“The goal of the Endangered Species Act is not to add to the list, but to protect the species so they never make it to the endangered species list,” Mead said. “Partnering with private industry, agriculture and the federal government has allowed us to balance conservation of the sage-grouse with development and job creation while keeping the bird from being listed.”

A large ground-dwelling bird predominantly found in the West, the decline of the sage-grouse population has been a result of primary threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation due to energy development, wildfire, and invasive plant species.

Based on a 12-month status review pursuant to the ESA, the USFWS announced in March 2010 that it had determined that the listing of the species was warranted, but precluded by higher priorities. The federal agency said that proposing the species for protection is precluded by the need to take action on other species facing more immediate and severe extinction threats.

Greater sage-grouse are found in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, eastern California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Greater sage-grouse occupy approximately 56 percent of their historical range.

The birds are found at elevations ranging from 4,000, to over 9,000 feet and are dependent on sagebrush for cover and food.

For a FWS fact sheet on the greater sage-grouse, please click here: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/birds/sagegrouse/GreaterSageGrouseFactSheet2011.pdf.

Meeting participants included: Bob Abbey, Bureau of Land Management director; Dan Ashe, USFWS director; Marlene Finley, U.S. Forest Service deputy regional forester; Dave White, Natural Resources Conservation Service chief, as well as senior representatives from the states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.


* Study Details Extent Nitrogen From Human Activities Impacting West’s Remote Lakes, Ecosystems

Nitrogen derived from human activities has polluted lakes throughout the Northern Hemisphere for more than a century and the fingerprint of these changes is evident even in remote lakes located thousands of miles from the nearest city, industrial area or farm.

The findings, published today in the journal Science, are based on historical changes in the chemical composition of bottom deposits in 36 lakes using an approach similar to aquatic archeology.

More than three quarters of the lakes, ranging from the U.S. Rocky Mountains to northern Europe, showed a distinctive signal of nitrogen released from human activities before the start of the 20th century, said Gordon Holtgrieve, a postdoctoral researcher at University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and lead author of the report. The UW and a dozen other research institutions contributed to the research.

"When it comes to nitrogen associated with humans, most studies have focused on local and regional effects of pollution and have missed the planetary scale changes," Holtgrieve said. "Our study is the first large-scale synthesis to demonstrate that biologically-active nitrogen associated with human society is being transported in the atmosphere to the most remote ecosystems on the planet."

Burning fossil fuel and using agricultural fertilizers are two key ways humans increase the amount of nitrogen entering the atmosphere. Once in the atmosphere, this nitrogen is distributed by atmospheric currents before being deposited back on Earth in rain and snow, often thousands of miles from the source.

"Turns out the world, for nitrogen, is a much smaller place than we'd assumed," said co-author Daniel Schindler, UW professor of aquatic and fishery sciences and the Harriet Bullitt Chair in conservation.

Although nitrogen is a vital nutrient for life – so much so that farmers apply fertilizers containing it to bolster food crops – too much nitrogen can be harmful. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says humans already have doubled the rate of nitrogen released to the biosphere since 1950. Humans now contribute more nitrogen to the biosphere than all natural processes combined. When produced in developed areas, this excess nitrogen can lead to smog, acid rain and water pollution.

The effects on remote forests, lands and lakes are largely unknown, Schindler said. An increasing body of evidence, however, shows that the biological composition of microscopic communities in Arctic lakes changed with the arrival of human-derived nitrogen. This global nitrogen pollution may interact with climate change to produce a "double whammy" that could alter remote lakes in ways not seen in the past 10,000 years, Schindler said.

Using statistical models to analyze nitrogen characteristics of lake sediments, the authors show that the chemical fingerprint of nitrogen pollution started about 115 years ago, shortly after the Industrial Revolution, and that the rate of chemical changes increased during the last 60 years with industrial production of nitrogen for fertilizers.

"This study also provides an explicit chronology for entry of the Earth into the 'Anthropocene' – a new geological era in which global biogeochemical cycles have been fundamentally altered by human activity," said co-author Peter Leavitt, professor of biology at the University of Regina and the Canada Research Chair in environmental change. "The signal will only get stronger in the future as we double fertilizer use in the next 40 years to feed 3 billion more people."

The authors conclude that climate, natural sources of nitrogen, and normal chemical processes on land and in water cannot account for the chemical signals they observe.

"Given the broad geographic distribution of our sites – and the range of temperate, alpine and arctic ecosystems – we believe the best explanation is that human-derived nitrogen was deposited from the atmosphere," Holtgrieve said.

"The global change debate is dominated by discussions of carbon emissions, whether among scientists, politicians or the lay public," said co-author Alexander Wolfe, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at the University of Alberta. "However, in a relative sense, the global nitrogen cycle has been far more perturbed by humanity than that of carbon."

Other co-authors are William Hobbs with Science Museum of Minnesota, Eric Ward with National Marine Fisheries Service, Lynda Bunting with University of Regina, Guangjie Chen with McGill University and Yunnan Normal University, Bruce Finney and Mark Shapley with Idaho State University, Irene Gregory-Eaves with McGill University, Sofia Holmgren with Lund University, Mark Lisac and Patrick Walsh with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Peter Lisi and Lauren Rogers with the University of Washington, Koren Nydick with Mountain Studies Institute, Colorado, Jasmine Saros with University of Maine, and Daniel Selbie with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Funding came from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alberta Water Research Institute, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the National Science Foundation and Canada Foundation for Innovation.
Home Contact


              Page Updated: Sunday December 18, 2011 03:13 AM  Pacific

             Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2001 - 2011, All Rights Reserved