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Weekly Fish and Wildlife News

www.cbbulletin.com March 30, 2012 Issue No. 614

Table of Contents

* Columbia River High, Cold, Muddy; Spring Chinook Again Holding Back Surge Over Bonneville Dam

* WDFW Responsible For Dam Fish Counts For 28 Years; Regulation Requires Corps To Consider Others

* D.C. Judge Approves Sea Lion Litigators’ Request To Transfer Lethal Removal Case To Oregon Court

* Wet, Wet Weather Finally Moves Snake River Basin Water Supply Forecast Above Average

* Oregon’s Catherine Creek: Research Links Where ESA Spring Chinook Spend Time With Needed Habitat

* Oregon Shrimpers Using Bycatch Reduction Devices To Avoid Catching ESA-Listed Eulachon (Smelt)

* Leak Fixed In British Columbia Pipe That Spilled Over 1 Million Gallons Raw Sewage Into Columbia

* Dam Removal In Northern Pend Oreille County To Restore Stream, Fish Habitat

* BPA Wind Power Hits Record March 11; Over 4,000 MWs, More Than Coal, Gas, Nuclear

* NOAA Funds Studies On How ‘Community Supported Fisheries’ (Locavore) Could Benefit West Coast Fishermen


* Columbia River High, Cold, Muddy; Spring Chinook Again Holding Back Surge Over Bonneville Dam

For eight years and counting, the timing of the annual surge of spring chinook up the Columbia River has lagged behind previous experience.

And the hope this year for fishers and fish conservationists is that that trend is continuing, since the number of upriver spring chinook passing over Bonneville Dam through March 27 has totaled only 33 adult fish.

That’s the second lowest during this slow-start period that began in about 2005, when only 30 fish had passed the dam by that date. Fish totals through March 27 during this period have ranged between 14 and 274 springers.

In 2003, in comparison, a total of 634 spring chinook were counted passing Bonneville’s fish ladders on March 27 alone, with a cumulative count of 11,068 through that date.

The preseason forecast developed by federal, state and tribal officials anticipates a return to the mouth of the Columbia River of 314,200 adult upriver spring chinook this year. That would be the fourth-largest run on record. Upriver spring chinook are fish bound for spawning grounds and hatcheries upstream of Bonneville, which is located 146 river miles from the river’s mouth at the Pacific Ocean.

The actual returns of upriver spring chinook to the mouth of the river have from 2005 through 2011 have ranged from a high of 315,300 in 2010 to as few as 86,200 in 2007.

Hatchery-reared spring chinook returning to the Cowlitz, Lewis, Willamette and other tributaries below Bonneville Dam will also contribute to the number of fish available for harvest. Overall, the forecast return to the mouth of the Columbia is 414,500 spring chinook.

The slowest start to the upriver spring chinook return, at least in recent history, was in 2006 when only 14 fish had passed Bonneville through March 27.

During 2006-2010, the average peak counts and 50 percent (of the season’s total) passage dates at Bonneville Dam have been around 10-days later than the 1980-2005 average.

The 2011 return followed the late timing trend observed for six of the past seven years. The peak count occurred on May 1, followed six days later by 50 percent passage completion date on May 7 (compared to the historical average of April 29).

After a couple of months of slow fishing for spring chinook salmon, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon are set to decide whether to extend the initial season on the lower Columbia River beyond April 6.

The decision on whether to prolong the early-season spring chinook fishery is scheduled to be made during a scheduled April 5 joint-state hearing. The results will be reported on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website and on the department’s Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500).

“Like last year, the spring chinook run has been late to arrive – and for many of the same reasons,” said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.

“It’s a degree and a half cooler than normal,” Hymer said of lower Columbia water temperatures so far this year. Temperature is considered a key cue for fish preparing to make their run upriver to spawn. Last year a bountiful snowpack and above average spring precipitation kept the river running high and cold late into the season.

“Not only has the Columbia been running high and cold, but all that rain in recent weeks has muddied up the water below the Willamette and Cowlitz rivers,” Hymer said.

Another potential reason the run is slow to build momentum is that the bulk of this year’s return is expected to be 4-year-olds, which arrive a bit later, Hymer said.

Those conditions are clearly reflected in the catch. Through March 25, an estimated 42,600 anglers had caught only 1,176 of the spring chinook available for harvest through April 6. Of that number, about 800 were upriver salmon that count toward the 12,700-fish harvest guideline for the first leg of the fishery.

Despite what has been a relatively low catch rate, anglers have had some nice surprises.

“We’re seeing nice healthy fish, into the 30s,” Hymer said of husky, 5-year-old catches that have weighed in at 30 pounds or more.

To guard against overestimating this year’s run, the states are managing spring chinook fisheries to assure that no more than 70 percent of the overall non-tribal allocation of upriver fish is caught prior to the time that the run-size forecast is updated in late April or early May. Whatever they decide about extending the sport fishery in early April, they will also consider reopening the fishery after the run update.

Hymer reminds anglers that all 2011-2012 Washington state fishing licenses expire at midnight March 31. To keep fishing, anglers age 15 and older must purchase a 2012-13 license and a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement. Licenses and permits are available online, by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from sporting goods stores and other retail license dealers around the state.

Through April 6, anglers fishing downriver from Bonneville Dam may retain one marked, hatchery-reared adult spring chinook as part of their daily catch limit. Anglers should note that the sport fishery will be closed April 3 to accommodate a possible commercial fishery.

Above Bonneville Dam, the fishery is open to boat and bank anglers on a daily basis through May 2 between the Tower Island powerlines six miles below The Dalles Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville Dam upriver to the powerlines during that time.

Anglers fishing above Bonneville Dam can keep two marked adult spring chinook per day.

The mainstem Columbia River is also open for retention of shad through May 15 on days and in areas open for retention of adipose fin-clipped spring chinook.


* WDFW Responsible For Dam Fish Counts For 28 Years; Regulation Requires Corps To Consider Others

For 28 years the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has been responsible for counting adult salmon, steelhead and other fish that pass upstream through Columbia and Snake River hydro projects each year. But a change could be in the offing.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation, has launched a process aimed at assessing whether there are “small business” interests willing and able to take over the counting activities, which peak during the spring, summer and fall when chinook, coho, chum, sockeye and pink salmon, steelhead, shad, lamprey and anything else that passes by fish ladder viewing windows is identified and enumerated.

The counters also differentiate between marked and unmarked fish, and so-called jacks -- early maturing salmon that return after only one year in the ocean and fully mature adults. Most hatchery produced fish are now marked with a clipped adipose fish. Naturally produced fish have their adipose fin.

The Corps operates eight mainstem dams – four on the lower Columbia and four on the lower Snake -- where daily counts are taken. The counts are taken by eye from April 1 through Oct. 31 by seasonal employees hired by WDFW. Fall and winter tallies come from reviews of video monitoring of the fish ladders.

The counts, by all accounts, are critical in evaluating what sort of progress is being made toward reviving wild Columbia-Snake salmon and steelhead stocks, 13 in all, that are listed under the Endangered Species Act. The counts are also crucial for fishery managers, who decide how many fish can be harvested by sport and tribal and non-Indian commercial fishers.

The Corps’ exploration – called “market research” at this point – was not prompted by any inadequacy on WDFW’s part.

“They’ve done a good job,” Lt. Col. David Caldwell said of what have been consistently high marks given by evaluators of the WDFW work.

“We have to go through the process,” said the commander of the Corps’ Walla Walla District. Five of the eight hydro projects where counts are taken – McNary on the Columbia and Ice Harbor, Little Goose, Lower Monumental and Lower Granite – are in the Walla Walla District. Three on the lower Columbia – Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day – are in the Portland District.

The Corps realized prior to 2007 that they had not been in compliance with federal competitive procurement requirements as regards the fish counting contract. So they issued a “sources sought” notice requesting qualified businesses to notify the USACE of their ability of accomplish the work. The agency got two responses, one from a business categorized as small and one from the WDFW. The state of Washington and its agencies are considered a big business.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation says that “should two or more small businesses respond to a federal agency’s request for sources sought, and those businesses adequately demonstrate that they are capable of performing the work, the federal agency is required to set the requirement aside for small business participation.”

With no set aside in 2007, the WDFW was selected to continue the adult fish counting services under a five-year contract, which was extended by six months to the end of August, 2012.

This year the sources-sought notice produced two small business responses, and one from WDFW.

“All three responses to the sources sought notice have been deemed technically capable by the responsible fish biologist; therefore, in accordance with the FAR, the contract for adult fish counting services on the Snake and Columbia rivers has been set aside for small business participation,” according to a March 9 letter from the Corps’ Northwest Division commander, Brig. Gen. John R. McMahon to Phil Anderson, WDFW director. Copies of the letter were also sent to the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Bonneville Power Administration, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries Service.

“Let me assure you that the USACE understands the importance of adult fish counting in the Federal Columbia River Power System to the tribes, states and public,” McMahon’s letter says. “The federal acquisition process is designed to insure fairness and the best use of federal funds. We will follow that process and I am confident the results will provide the fish managers throughout the region with continued accurate and timely fish counts, regardless of the entity selected for the pending contract award.

“I encourage your agency to explore partnering or teaming opportunities with any small business capable of performing this requirement, as a means to continue involvement and share your department’s established skills in accomplishing this work.”

The process now moves into a second phase where more detailed information will be required, and assessed, about the interested parties’ technical capabilities, and financial requirements.

The initial phase “doesn’t guarantee that either of these two small businesses will get the contract,” Caldwell said. If the interested parties’ implementation plans are found wanting, or their financial requirements out of line, then the next step would be an open bidding process, as was done in 2007.

The Corps hopes to issue a contract by late July.

Regardless of the outcome, “nothing changes about how the data goes out to the agencies and the tribes,” Caldwell said. “We will make sure there aren’t any speed bumps.” Just as the WDFW has long experience insuring that the job gets done right, the Corps has tenured experts trained to assess the quality of the work and data dissemination, he said.

Anderson has in turn sent a letter to the colonel stressing his agency’s “interest in maintaining this contract,” according to Guy Norman, head of WDFW’s Southwest Region.

“There’s a certain element of trust that’s been developed through the years” with other fishery managers that rely on the accuracy, consistency and timeliness of the fish count data, Norman said.

Integral is the “experience of the counters themselves, particularly at the peak passage times when you have thousands of fish going through” on a daily basis, Norman said.

“The quality and the consistency of the information is the most important thing,” said CRITFC’s Mike Matylewich.

“WDFW has done a fine job,” said Matylewich. “I don’t think they should mess with a good thing.”

“It’s a critical piece of information for a lot of management actions,” said Michele DeHart, manager of the Fish Passage Center, which posts the counts and uses the data for a variety of analyses produced for fish managers. She too stressed that accuracy and timeliness is a key.

“You really want people to be well trained. It is a critical job,” she said.

Bruce Suzumoto, NOAA Fisheries assistant regional administrator for the Hydropower Division, said his agency too wants “consistent, accurate counts.” The process does not preclude long-experienced counters being used by WDFW, or someone else.

“I think the Corps will figure it out,” Suzumoto said.

The WDFW hopes to stay in the game.

“We just hope to compete for the job that we’ve been doing for 29 years” with strong positive ratings, said the WDFW’s Steve Richards.

The WDFW hires about 50 people in season to work two shifts, seven days a week at the five dams in the Walla Walla District. That total includes on-call substitutes.

“Most of our staff has been doing it for over 10 years,” said Richards, who heads the counting program in the Walla Walla District. Experience is a key.

“It takes about a year with an employee before I don’t lose sleep,” he said.

There are 18 full-time seasonal employees hired to do the counting at the three Portland District dams, again covering seven days per week, 16 hours per day.

“People that do the work are tested to see if they are accurate,” said the WDFW’s John Weinheimer, Southeast Region fish biologist. “It’s not something you just walk in and start doing and are accurate.”

Some of the lower river counters have as much as 25-30 years’ experience.

“Ten is not unusual,” said the WDFW’s Ann Stephenson, who guides the lower river counting. “A lot of it is just time and experience,” particularly at the lowermost dam in the system, Bonneville, where all of the spawners from the Columbia-Snake basin must pass.

At the peak of the run there can be “a thousand steelhead passing within an hour,” she said.

The two companies that responded to the sources-sought notice were FISHBIO and Normandeau Associates.

FISHBIO is a California-based company that employs research scientists, engineers and technicians that specialize in counting, tracking, and analyzing trends in fish and wildlife populations throughout the world.

Normandeau Associates, Inc. says it is one of the largest science-based environmental consulting firms in the United States serving both the private and public sectors. Normaneau employs field scientists, analysts, researchers, and permitting specialists to deliver technical information to help achieve project goals, meet regulatory requirements, and promotes sustainable economic development while protecting and restoring natural resources. The company, headquartered in Bedford, New Hampshire with offices nationwide, is 100 percent employee owned.


* D.C. Judge Approves Sea Lion Litigators’ Request To Transfer Lethal Removal Case To Oregon Court

The legal debate over whether salmon-eating California sea lions can be lethally removed from lower Columbia River waters should be moved to an Oregon-based court, according to a “joint stipulation and proposed order” filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The states last week asked to intervene in the lawsuit against the federal government and requested the litigation be shifted to the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. In the stipulation filed Thursday the federal defendants, states and Humane Society of the United States requested that the transfer be allowed in order to “expedite resolution of this matter….”

The D.C. court on Friday (today) approved the transfer.

The lawsuit was filed in the D.C. court March 19 by the HSUS and Wild Fish Conservancy. It alleges that a March 15 NOAA Fisheries Service decision authorizing sea lion removals violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The NOAA Fisheries’ letter of authorization would allow the states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington to remove up to 92 California sea lions per year for up to five years. Such removals would target marine mammals that are known of prey on salmon searching for an upriver passage route at the dam.

Wild steelhead and salmon spawners are protected under the Endangered Species Act. The states say that sea lion predation sets back expensive efforts to recover listed fish populations.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit asked the D.C. court for a temporary restraining order to prevent implementation of the sea lion removal plan but Judge James E. Boasberg on March 22 denied the request. He did, however, stipulate that “NMFS's authorization to the States is limited to the lethal removal this year of thirty (30) California sea lions, none of which may be killed by shooting.” The authorization would have allowed the animals to be trapped and chemically euthanized, or shot.

The judge said the limits would apply during the pendency of the lawsuit or until further order of the court.

His proposed order filed this week suggests that the plaintiffs file a motion for a preliminary injunction by April 6 with a response from the defendants due before April 20. Under the proposed briefing schedule the plaintiffs would then be allowed to respond no later than April 27.

The authorization was set to start March 20 according to the NOAA Fisheries order, but that start date was set back pending a March 22 hearing regarding the restraining order request.

The states were geared up, with four floating traps located below the dam, but since late last week business has been slow.

As of midweek researchers at the dam reported that as many as 5-6 California sea lions have been seen below the dam in recent days. And some had been seen on and off the traps and “rafting around them” late last week and early this week. But by Tuesday only Steller sea lions were being spotted on the traps.

Stellers, like California sea lions, tend to congregate below the dam in spring time, with their main target being white sturgeon. The states are not authorized to remove Steller sea lions, which are listed under the ESA.

Also absent, for the most part, have been salmon. Through Wednesday only 37 adult salmon had been counted passing the dam so far this year. A total of more than 314,000 upriver spring chinook salmon, fish bound for streams above Bonneville, are expected to enter the Columbia this year.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Robert Stansell said Thursday that chinook take is slowly increasing in recent days, even though few have passed the dam. Through March 21 15 chinook and 23 steelhead had been seen taken by California sea lions below the dam. Stansell leads research at the dam aimed at evaluating the effect of pinniped predation on salmon below the dam. Researchers in late winter and spring observe and chart predation activity in the area immediately below Bonneville.

For more information see CBB, March 23, 2012, “Judge Denies Stay For Sea Lion Killing; Limits Take To 30, With No Shooting Allowed” http://www.cbbulletin.com/418331.aspx


* Wet, Wet Weather Finally Moves Snake River Basin Water Supply Forecast Above Average

A recent surge of precipitation, and a forecast of more to come, the Snake River basin’s water supply forecast has become rosier, with the predicted April-August outflow pushing above 100 percent of average for the first time this season.

The Northwest River Forecast Center updates its Columbia-Snake river basin water supply forecasts at least once each week and has, pretty much since the start of the New Year, predicted that runoff from the upper Columbia would be well above the 30-year average (1971-2000) for the spring and summer months. That water, largely from accumulated snowpack, is vital during the dry months for salmon migrations, navigation, hydro power generation, irrigation, municipal water supplies and other uses.

But many of the earlier winter storms have skirted the south Idaho region that feeds and consumes the upper Snake River. Just two weeks ago, the forecast issued by the NWRFC pegged likely runoff down past the lower Snake River’s Lower Granite Dam would be at about 93 percent of normal for the April-August period.

The latest forecast, issued Tuesday and based on data through Monday, says that, in the most likely scenario, 101 percent – 23.15 million acre feet -- of the average runoff can be expected to flow through Lower Granite.

The forecasts take into account snow-water equivalents in snowpacks, overall precipitation, soil moisture, runoff to-date and other factors. And, particularly in the case of Lower Granite, other agencies and entities are consulted regarding potential irrigation needs and the state of the water storage.

In southern Idaho’s case, the snowpack SWE is generally subpar despite recent improvements. Most of the National Resources Conservation Service’s automated SNOTEL measuring sites in southern Idaho are in the 80-90 percent of average ranges. But most precipitation totals are nearer 100 percent.

“They’ve certainly been getting a lot of rain” in recent weeks in the middle Snake region, according to the NWRFC’s Harold Opitz. And water storage, primarily in Bureau of Reclamation reservoirs, is in great shape coming off a very wet 2010-2011 season.

As an example the Bureau and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Thursday that flows from Lucky Peak Dam on the Boise River will be increased today to help reduce the risk of flooding this spring which can occur with precipitation and rapidly melting snow. The increased flows are due to near normal snow pack and above normal reservoir carryover.

Current water storage in the Boise River reservoirs is about 76 percent of capacity. Flows will increase by 500 cubic-feet-per-second on March 30-31, and April 3; reaching approximately 6,500 cubic feet per second at the Glenwood Bridge gauging station.

Flows could potentially increase to higher levels in coming months as system inflows increase. A flow rate of 7,000 cfs is considered flood-stage level at the Glenwood Bridge gauge.

Precipitation in the Snake River basin above Ice Harbor Dam was at 155 percent of average March 1-26, and right at 100 percent for the season (Oct. 1-March 26). Ice Harbor is the lowermost dam on the river, located in southeast Washington just above the Snake’s confluence with the Columbia River. The Snake River plain in south Idaho’s midsection has had 126 percent of its average precipitation for March 1-26, according to data posted online by the NWRFC. The upper Snake has 108 percent of its average precipitation so far in March.

The Columbia-Snake water supply forecast as updated early this week is well above average overall. The March 27 forecast says that, in the most likely scenario, runoff past The Dalles Dam on the lower Columbia will be 109 percent of average – 101.39 MAF during the April-August period.

The forecast for the mid-Columbia’s Grand Coulee Dam is 111 percent of average, about 67 MAF.

The Kootenai River forecast, as measured at Northwest Montana’s Libby Dam, is 114 percent of average, a total of 7.1 MAF. The Kootenai flows north into British Columbia where it joins the Columbia.

The Dworshak Dam reservoir is expected to be provided 106 percent of its average water supply from April through September. West central Idaho’s Dworshak Dam blocks the North Fork of the Clearwater, which flows into the Clearwater and then the Snake.


* Oregon’s Catherine Creek: Research Links Where ESA Spring Chinook Spend Time With Needed Habitat

Research on northeast Oregon’s Catherine Creek is helping to focus habitat restoration efforts needed to recover the creek’s spring chinook, steelhead and bull trout populations, which are all listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Catherine Creek is part of the Grande Ronde River system, which flows through Oregon’s far northeastern corner before crossing into southeastern Washington and eventually joining the Snake River. The stream originates in the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area of the Wallowa Mountains.

Catherine Creek spring chinook and steelhead belong to larger populations of ESA-listed chinook salmon and steelhead that spawn and rear in the Snake River basin. The vast Snake River drainage extends over parts of Oregon, Idaho and Washington, and is the Columbia River’s largest tributary.

Efforts directed under the ESA to recover Snake River spring chinook target Catherine Creek as one of the highest priority areas for habitat restoration. Catherine Creek also provides critical habitat for summer steelhead and bull trout.

Most of the current research in Catherine Creek centers on gaining information to determine where and how best to restore habitat conditions to improve the creek’s severely depressed spring chinook population.

The research focuses on physical conditions and fish movement in a 55-mile reach of Catherine Creek that provides important habitat for spring chinook and steelhead. The study reach extends upstream from Catherine Creek’s confluence with the Grande Ronde River to where the North and South Forks of Catherine Creek join the stream.

Key participants in the research efforts include the Bureau of Reclamation, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Bonneville Power Administration, Grande Ronde Model Watershed, and Union Soil and Water Conservation District.

According to Jeff McLaughlin, subbasin coordinator with the Bureau of Reclamation’s Columbia/Snake River Salmon Recovery office, the research is providing information on where fish spend their time and what types of habitat they need.

The new scientific information is helping managers identify high priority project sites and frame restoration efforts so they can use limited resources wisely, he said. The information is a great tool for working with landowners, McLaughlin said, because it shows where fish are in creeks that borders their property.

It allows landowners and managers to design individual projects that will best address the factors limiting the fish, he said.

Investigations of juvenile spring chinook movement and “microhabitat” use are playing a critical role in the research assessment. Before the research began, fish managers knew the 55-mile reach served as important habitat for chinook and steelhead, but did not know which areas in the reach received the most fish use.

The investigations, conducted by ODFW’s northeast Oregon fish research team, are providing this information.

ODFW’s investigations show that a large number of spring chinook rear in the middle reach of Catherine Creek, especially during winter months. The investigations suggest that winter rearing habitat quality in this reach of Catherine Creek may be a particularly important factor limiting spring chinook smolt production in the creek.

About 80 percent of juvenile spring chinook in Catherine Creek are considered early migrants, and survival of these early migrants is typically lower than for other such populations in the Grande Ronde basin. Catherine Creek’s early migrant spring chinook leave natal upstream habitats above the town of Union in the fall and migrate to downstream areas where they spend the winter.

The creek’s other juvenile spring chinook, the late migrants, stay in natal upstream rearing areas of Catherine Creek through the winter. In the spring, both the early and late groups of spring chinook leave Catherine Creek and begin their migration toward the Pacific Ocean. Approximately one-third of Catherine Creek’s steelhead population also overwinters in downstream areas and are considered early migrants.

Since fall 2009, ODFW fish biologists have followed the early migrant spring chinook using radiotelemetry techniques. The technology has allowed them to identify primary overwintering locations. The biologist not only track tagged juvenile chinook, they also collect data on microhabitat use, including reach depth, velocity, dominant substrate, cover and distance from stream bank.

According to Scott Favrot, an ODFW fish biologist working on the project, results from the radiotelemetry studies show that many of the early migrant juvenile chinook overwinter in areas of Catherine Creek between Mill Creek and the town of Union. The fish seek overwintering habitats containing deep pools and slow currents near cover.

Favrot says that, “preliminary results from radio tagging suggest that most of the fish survive through the winter. The majority of fish mortality is occurring in this reach of Catherine Creek during the spring outmigration.”

He says, starting this year, they will conduct additional research during the spring to determine why the fish are dying.

A tributary habitat assessment by the Bureau of Reclamation is providing additional information to concentrate habitat restoration efforts on Catherine Creek.

An interdisciplinary team of experts in fisheries, vegetation and physical processes (hydraulics, hydrogeology, geomorphology and hydrology) are conducting the assessment studies. The studies are examining channel and floodplain processes that affect salmon habitat in the 55-mile reach. They focus on factors that could limit fish use of the habitat area, such as changes in hydrology, water quality, fluvial geomorphology, and stream hydraulics. They included groundwater thermo-profiling studies and fish habitat surveys.

Together, findings from the ODFW investigations and assessment studies indicate that improving habitat conditions in the lower 46 miles of Catherine Creek will provide the greatest benefits for spring chinook and steelhead. According to McLaughlin, improving habitat conditions in key overwintering areas near the town of Union will have an immediate impact on the fish.

Assessment findings on limiting factors for fish in the reaches of Catherine Creek suggest that habitat restoration focus on:

-- Improving habitat complexity and connectivity, especially pools;
-- Increasing large wood amounts and retention;
-- Improving riparian vegetative communities and functions;
-- Stabilizing stream banks;
-- Providing fish passage at diversions; and
-- Increasing summer flows.

Fish habitat managers are also using the information to target additional studies at a finer scale, including refocusing fish monitoring studies to get more data in areas where juvenile salmonids have high mortality.

Historically this reach of Catherine Creek provided important habitat for chinook spawning, incubation, rearing and outmigration.

Rearing and overwintering habitats were likely particularly abundant. The reach displayed complex habitats including large debris, substantial stream meandering, beaver complexes, diverse pools, and healthy riparian communities that created healthy rearing and overwintering conditions. Large-scale changes to the landscape and the creek altered these historic conditions and greatly reduced the complexity and availability of salmon habitat. The lower valley section experienced the most impact, followed by the middle valley section, and lastly the upper valley section.

Efforts to define and implement projects that will improve habitat conditions in Catherine Creek comply with direction identified under the Federal Columbia River Power System biological opinion. The BiOp calls for actions to protect and recover ESA-listed salmon and steelhead.

The current BiOp targets Catherine Creek as one of the highest priority areas for habitat restoration.

In February 2012, the Bureau released its final report describing the first phase in the assessment to identify channel and floodplain processes relevant to salmonid in Catherine Creek. The assessment gives resource managers and area stakeholders pertinent scientific information that will help them prioritize future work and fine-tuning individual projects. It also identifies data gaps that allow managers to target additional studies at a finer scale.

The Bureau is now conducting detailed follow-up assessments for several reaches, which are scheduled for release in 2012.


* Oregon Shrimpers Using Bycatch Reduction Devices To Avoid Catching ESA-Listed Eulachon (Smelt)

Bycatch reduction devices have been part of the Oregon pink shrimp fishery for more than a decade, but this season the entire Oregon shrimp fleet will use the cleanest, most effective BRDs yet when the season opens April 1.

The devices are aimed at preventing a small fish, called eulachon or smelt, from becoming bycatch in the Oregon pink shrimp fishery. Two years ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration listed the eulachon population off the California, Oregon and Washington coasts as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

(For more information, see CBB, Oct. 20, 2010, “NOAA To List Columbia River's Smelt As Threatened; Cites Climate Change As Biggest Threat” http://www.cbbulletin.com/Archive/03192010/400503.aspx)

A BRD, sometimes called an excluder, is a circular metal grate with evenly-spaced bars placed in the throat of a trawl net at an angle. The spacing of the bars is large enough to let pink shrimp through, but small enough to deflect fish – and pretty much everything else – up and out a V-shaped escape hole at the top of the net. Starting this season the spacing between the bars of the grate drops to just three-quarters of an inch, the smallest yet.

Bob Hannah, the pink shrimp project leader for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, says that many of the shrimp fleet already use the smaller spacing and have for the past few seasons, but this is the first season it is required by a rule set by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.

This trawl fishing method helped make Oregon pink shrimp the world’s first sustainable shrimp fishery certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. The certification was official in December 2007.

Eulachon once swarmed from the ocean up the Columbia, Cowlitz, Lewis and Sandy rivers in huge spring migrations. These runs were a mainstay of Northwest Native Americans, the fish became known as the savior fish because they provided a plentiful food source, rich in fat, during lean winters.

In some recent years, the eulachon’s numbers have dwindled to near historic lows, although run sizes in most rivers are not well known.

The smelt are small enough they can sometimes slip through larger excluder grates and become bycatch in the pink shrimp fishery. In fact, that is one of the threats to the fish NOAA listed – along with climate change, reduced water flows in spawning streams, predation by seals, sea lions and birds, water management and habitat changes in the Klamath and Columbia River basins.

“We don’t know why the eulachon population is in decline,” said biologist Hannah. Part of their life is in saltwater before returning to freshwater to spawn. “Like other fish that spend part of their life in the ocean and part in the rivers, ocean conditions and river conditions play a huge role. If one of them is out of whack, populations can drop. On the plus side though, they can also rebuild very quickly when conditions are right.”

Hannah and his co-worker Steve Jones have studied pink shrimp for ODFW for more than two decades. They started developing BRDs in collaboration with the industry in 1994, stepping up research after the Pacific Fisheries Management Council listed some species of Oregon rockfish as overfished around 2001. The grate virtually eliminated rockfish bycatch; recent research by the two show reducing the spacing between bars can do the same for eulachon.

In a 2010 study, Hannah and Jones showed a greater than 16 percent reduction of eulachon bycatch by going from a grate with one-inch spacing to one with three-quarters-inch spacing. Last summer the two captured video footage of eulachon escaping from a shrimp trawl. The good news is the fish looked to be in good shape when they made their exit, easily swimming in front of the grate and out the escape hole.

The other piece of good news is that the shrimp catch didn’t suffer either. Jones said that in ODFW studies the smaller grate size did not decrease the shrimp catch. He and Hannah are also looking at other changes to shrimp trawl gear – like changes in footrope configuration – which may result in reducing eulachon bycatch still further.

To see a video of eulachon escaping from a shrimp trawl, go to: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/shellfish/commercial/shrimp/BRDs.asp


* Leak Fixed In British Columbia Pipe That Spilled Over 1 Million Gallons Raw Sewage Into Columbia

A leak was repaired Tuesday in a sewage pipe in Trail, British Columbia, where a coupler broke, spilling raw sewage into the Columbia River. The estimate of raw sewage spilled to the river was estimated at about 1.15 million gallons.

According to the British Columbia Ministry of Environment, the pipe has been repaired below an old, decommissioned bridge near Trail and sewage is flowing normally to the wastewater treatment plant.

As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, no more sewage was flowing to the river and health officials in Stevens County, Wash. rescinded the warning to be extra cautious near or on the Columbia River.

“This kind of flow moves through the system very quickly,” said Matt Schanz of the Northeast Tri-County Health District in Colville. “We don’t anticipate people would come into contact with any sewage now.”

The Columbia River enters Washington state and Stevens County approximately six miles north of the community of Northport. The Washington Department of Ecology, the health district, the Stevens County Sheriff’s Department and the B.C. Ministry of the Environment closely monitored the situation during the day today.

Ecology also reported Tuesday that a failure at the East Wenatchee wastewater treatment plant resulted in a spill of some 500,000 gallons of sewage to the Columbia River overnight Sunday, March 25. That spill was stopped Monday, March 26.

Ecology is working with East Wenatchee to identify the cause of the spill and to prevent further releases from the plant.


* Dam Removal In Northern Pend Oreille County To Restore Stream, Fish Habitat

The Washington Department of Ecology has issued a permit that means the Mill Pond Dam in Pend Oreille County can come down, restoring Sullivan Creek to the mountain stream it once was.

The permit is called a “401 Certification,” after section 401 in the federal Clean Water Act, and it means work can commence to remove the dam. The permit certifies that water quality will be protected in Sullivan Creek and Outlet Creek while the work is being done.

The Mill Pond Dam is part of the Sullivan Creek Hydroelectric Project, located on Sullivan Lake, Sullivan Creek and Outlet Creek within the Colville National Forest in northern Pend Oreille County. The project is managed by the Public Utility District No. 1 of Pend Oreille County.

In 2011, the PUD asked Ecology to certify that the proposed removal of the Mill Pond Dam and associated structures and the installation of a cold-water release facility at Sullivan Lake will be done in a way that is safe for the environment.

“This work is planned to improve the environment by restoring the area to its natural state,” said Sara Hunt, who manages Ecology’s Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program in eastern Washington. “But we need to ensure we’re protecting that same environment while we’re doing the work.”

The decision to remove Mill Pond Dam was made by many local, state and federal agencies with the involvement of many people and groups. Taking the dam out will restore Sullivan Creek to much as it was before structures were placed there in the early 1900s.

“The outlook for fish in the stream will be much improved, and people will be able to enjoy the natural mountain stream the way it used to be,” Hunt said.

Removing Mill Pond Dam will eliminate the man-made barrier to upstream fish passage, which may help give fish access to 16 miles of new habitat in Sullivan Creek. It also will allow natural sediment to move downstream and improve water quality by cooling the water off substantially. In addition, the removal will enhance natural wetlands. Wetlands are important because they filter and purify water, supply wildlife habitat and control erosion.

The Sullivan Creek Project was built in 1909 by the Inland Portland Cement Co. to supply electricity to Metaline Falls. It consisted of Sullivan Lake Dam, Sullivan Lake, Mill Pond Dam, Mill Pond, an intake structure on Mill Pond, a wooden flume, a canal, a tunnel, and powerhouse. The project was decommissioned in 1956 after a portion of the wooden flume collapsed. Without the flume, water could no longer get to the power house to generate power. Box Canyon Hydroelectric Project was completed in 1956, making repairs at Mill Pond project unnecessary.

The cement company created Mill Pond when it built a log crib dam as part of the project. The concrete Mill Pond Dam, which is 134 feet long and about 55 feet high, was built in 1921 just below the log crib dam. It maintained the water level of Mill Pond at approximately 2,520 feet and changed the stream into a pond.

Mill Pond Dam also altered the natural sediment transport processes in Sullivan Creek by trapping it behind the dam. This means the sediments are depleted in Sullivan Creek, downstream of Mill Pond Dam, removing important spawning gravel for local trout populations.

The dam also raised the water temperatures so it was too warm for a healthy eco-system. Impounding the water in the pond increased by more than 4 ºF the temperature of the water discharged from Mill Pond Dam and flowing towards the mouth of Sullivan Creek. During the summer months, water temperatures can exceed 61 ºF, which is too warm for local species of fish.

Removing Mill Pond Dam will help keep the water cool, but studies also have concluded that a cold-water release facility at Sullivan Lake Dam consisting of a 48-inch-diameter pipe with fish screening at the intake would also help lower temperatures in Outlet and Sullivan creeks during the summer and fall. The 401 Certification concludes that installing this pipe will be done in a way that protects water quality – including fish populations in Sullivan Lake and Outlet and Sullivan creeks.

The PUD will have two years to finish design plans for the work, and the removal can begin after that plan is approved by Ecology, the U.S. Forest Service and the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission.

For information about Sullivan Lake water storage project: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/cwp/sullivan.html


* BPA Wind Power Hits Record March 11; Over 4,000 MWs, More Than Coal, Gas, Nuclear

Wind turbines in the Bonneville Power Administration’s transmission grid generated over 4,000 megawatts for the first time on Sunday, March 11, producing nearly twice as much energy as that generated by coal, gas and nuclear plants connected to BPA’s system at that time.

Wind generation on BPA’s system surpassed the 4,000 megawatt milestone at 3:22 p.m., reaching a new all-time peak of 4,039 megawatts about an hour and a half later. BPA expects to have 5,000 megawatts of this clean, emission-free, renewable resource connected to its system by 2013, several years ahead of earlier estimates.

The growth of wind power on BPA’s grid continues to exceed expectations by adding almost 1,000 megawatts in just the last 12 months.

BPA officials say efforts continue in expanding and reinforcing the agency’s transmission system to support wind integration. Here are some examples:

-- BPA recently completed a 79-mile-long, 500-kilovolt power line and is constructing another high voltage line. When the second is complete BPA will be able to offer approximately 3,000 megawatts of firm transmission service to wind facilities that have requested it.

-- Like a freeway interchange BPA recently put into service another large substation to enable wind to get to the power grid. The Central Ferry Substation, located in Garfield County in southeast Washington, feeds energy from Puget Sound Energy’s new Lower Snake River Wind Project into BPA’s massive transmission system. The Snake River project is now providing 343 megawatts of wind power.

-- BPA has developed a “state of the art” wind speed and wind generation forecasting system that forecasts up to three days in advance as opposed to the previous system that provided information only one hour ahead.

-- BPA says it continues to expand a pilot program that allows customers to adjust schedules every 30 minutes. Traditionally, utilities schedule electricity generation on an hourly basis. But wind generation changes much more rapidly. This enables utilities and wind plant operators to save money by finding places to sell energy when they are producing more than they schedule. It also provides them the opportunity to find other resources to replace the energy if they are producing less than they have scheduled.


* NOAA Funds Studies On How ‘Community Supported Fisheries’ (Locavore) Could Benefit West Coast Fishermen

Two new NOAA Sea Grant studies will look at how new business models, based on the success of community supported agriculture, could benefit fishing communities in Washington, Oregon, and California.

"I am very excited about these projects because they get to the heart of what coastal seafood lovers want – delicious, fresh, local and sustainably caught seafood on their dinner plates," said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco.

"California Sea Grant is pleased to partner with the three other West Coast Sea Grant programs to support a portfolio of social science research with region-wide significance to coastal communities, fishermen and the natural resources upon which they rely," California Sea Grant Director James Eckman said.

The four West Coast Sea Grant programs selected these two projects, totaling $500,000, through an independent peer-review process. NOAA provided funding through its National Sea Grant College Program.

Community supported fisheries are a hot trend in seafood marketing. Fishermen in some areas are finding that they can get better prices for fresh, locally caught fish sold directly to consumers through CSFs. Patterned after community supported agriculture, the CSF business model is the subject of a new California Sea Grant study.

Barbara Walker, a cultural geographer at the University of California, Santa Barbara, will lead a study of community-supported fisheries and other direct-marketing programs in Washington, as well as North Carolina and South Carolina. The emphasis will be on helping fishermen learn about direct marketing and identify approaches that might be appropriate for the local fisheries and consumer base.

"With the Sea Grant award, we will be able to systematically investigate the upsides and downsides of direct marketing of seafood and tailor the results specifically to West Coast fisheries and fishing communities," Walker said. "There are a lot of successes with community-supported fisheries, and, on the other side, there are programs that are struggling."

Project co-investigator Caroline Pomeroy, a California Sea Grant Advisor, said that the scientists "want to objectively evaluate the actual benefits and costs, and what it takes for such programs to succeed."

"Our goal, ultimately, is to provide fishermen and fishing communities with scientifically sound information they can use to make decisions that give them the best possible chance of success," she said.

Besides direct sales, another avenue for increasing revenue from fishing is to develop higher-value product lines, for example, by delivering fish live, or by smoking, freezing, or otherwise processing product. The second Sea Grant-funded project looks at this approach.

Ana Pitchon, an assistant professor of anthropology at California State University, Dominguez Hills in Los Angeles County, and James Hilger, a fisheries resource economist at NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center in San Diego, will explore what can be done to add value to fish and shellfish landed locally, using four fisheries – Pacific sardine, Dungeness crab, near-shore live finfish, and spot prawn – as case studies.

Findings from the project will be presented at workshops and town hall meetings and developed into a set of recommendations to be shared with coastal communities and managers.

Josh Fisher, vice president of the California Lobster and Trap Fishermen’s Association, called the research "vital to the survival of West Coast fisheries."

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

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


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

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




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