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Weekly Fish and Wildlife News
September 27, 2012
Issue No. 637

All stories below are posted on the CBB's website at www.cbbulletin.com
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Table of Contents

* Returning Salmon To Upper Yakima Basin; Biologists Monitor Spawning Of Re-Introduced Sockeye

* Last Legal Briefs Filed In Latest Sea Lion Lethal Removal Case; Oral Arguments Oct. 19

* Washington Eliminating Wolf Pack Targeting Livestock Rather Than Natural Prey

* Snake River Fall Chinook Return Looking Strong At Predicted 30,000 Fish; Wild Fish Usually About 25 Percent

* Compact Approves Tribal, Non-Tribal Commercial Fisheries; Steelhead Return Below 10-Year Average

* Fish Consumption Rate, Water Quality Standards: Should Idaho, Washington Follow Oregon’s Lead?

* Washington Begins Process For Adopting Fish Consumption Rate/Water Quality Standards For Toxics

* Study: Climate Change Could Shift Critical ‘North Pacific Transition Zone’ 600 Miles, Lose Diversity

* WSU 13-Year Study Leads To New WDFW Cougar Management Plan To Reduce Overharvesting

* Newport, Reedsport Chosen As Finalists For $8 Million Wave Energy Facility


* Returning Salmon To Upper Yakima Basin; Biologists Monitor Spawning Of Re-Introduced Sockeye

A motherload of sockeye salmon – 1,000 in all – is beginning to fan out into the many tributary fingers that feed central Washington’s Lake Cle Elum, with Yakama Nation biologists chasing them.

Many of the sockeye spawners, trapped at Priest Rapids Dam on the mid-Columbia River, were equipped with acoustic tags before being hauled by truck to the lake and released. The Yakama Nation developed an agreement with Grant County Public Utility District to use its Priest Rapids Dam off-ladder adult fish trap to collect sockeye for the reintroduction effort.

Now that the spawning season has arrived, the biologists can largely from boats monitor the tagged fishes movements to determine if they spawn, and where.

The monitoring effort has been ongoing for about two weeks and will continue into November, according to Yakama Nation biologist Brian Saluskin. The fish relocations are a part of the tribe’s efforts to reintroduce sockeye and other fish species to upper reaches of the Yakima River basin that have largely been blocked off to salmon for decades by a series of dams.

The Cle Elum River flows into the Yakima River and then the Columbia. The sockeye trapped at Priest Rapids were part of a record Columbia River sockeye run bound for the Wenatchee and Okanogan river basins upstream of the Yakima this year.

The program started with the capture and release of about 1,000 sockeye in 2009. Their offspring, an estimated 80,000 strong, emerged from the lake in 2011. And those that survive to adulthood are expected to start returning from the Pacific Ocean in 2013 as adults.

The juvenile fish escape downriver via a temporary passage device at the dam – a wooden flume in the spillway. Passage success is dependent on river conditions. High spill years are beneficial under the current passage scenario. Juvenile emergence is monitored at Roza Dam on the Yakima and a juvenile trap near Prosser, Wash.

The releases increased to 2,500 spawners in 2010 and then 4,500 last year, thanks to what has been a succession of strong sockeye returns. The agreement allows the trapping and relocation of up to 3 percent of the run.

Spawning takes place mid-September through November. Tribal officials say that from the “Bridge to Cooper” sockeye are easily visible. The Cooper River flows into the Cle Elum River just upstream of the head of the lake.

Salmon nests or redds can be seen further north in Salmon la Sac Creek.

The salmon to spawn in September-October are the Wenatchee stock and the Okanogan stock typically spawn from October-November. Saluskin said that last year, based on genetic tests, it is estimated that 15 percent of the transported sockeye were from the Wenatchee and 85 percent were from the Okanogan.

The Wenatchee fish seem to have a tendency to head farther up into the tributaries to spawn in scarcely covered gravels while the Okanogan fish stay lower in tributaries where there is 2-3 feet of water.

“Usually they’re hanging out closer to the lake,” Saluskin said of the Okanogan.

But with the flood of fish brought into the system this year, the dynamics could be changing.

“They’re all through the system already,” Saluskin said. Fish have been found spawning in a number of locations where they haven’t been seen in past years. Those spawning grounds can be in smaller tributaries and side channels as well as in rivers such as the Cle Elum and Cooper.

After the sockeye hatch out, the young fish swim downstream and spend about a year rearing in the lake before heading downstream toward the ocean. Typically they spend 2 years maturing in saltwater before heading back to freshwater to spawn.

The releases and spawning monitoring are part of a cooperative investigation involving the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Yakama Nation, Washington, other federal agencies and others to study the feasibility reintroducing sockeye and other species and, if warranted, providing fish passage at the five large storage dams that are part of the Bureau's Yakima irrigation project. Construction of the dams began in 1910.

The dam blocking the Cle Elum River, which is a tributary to the Yakima River and then the Columbia River, was built in 1933.

Fish that would be expected to benefit from improved passage include sockeye, coho and spring chinook salmon, and Pacific lamprey. The project also would benefit the Upper Middle Columbia River steelhead and bull trout, two species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.


* Last Legal Briefs Filed In Latest Sea Lion Lethal Removal Case; Oral Arguments Oct. 19

A legal argument over whether California sea lions should be sacrificed in order to stop their predation on Columbia River salmon and steelhead passed the penultimate stage, at least for the latest district court go-round, with the filing this month of the last of scheduled legal briefs.

The Humane Society of the United States on Sept. 7 pressed its case that NOAA Fisheries Service has failed to prove that sea lions are actually having a “significant negative impact on the decline or recovery” of listed salmonid stocks, a requirement spelled out by Congress in an amendment to Section 120 of 1972’s Marine Mammal Protection Act. Section 120 says pinnipeds can only be lethally removed if they are identified as having such a negative impact.

HSUS says that in making the decision to authorize sea lion removal under Section 120, NOAA Fisheries also failed to comply with requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The Humane Society has asked a federal judge to declare NOAA Fisheries’ March 2012 decision illegal.

The U.S. Department of Justice says that NOAA Fisheries’ decision earlier this year to grant the states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington authority to lethally remove predatory California sea lions is well reasoned and scientifically and legally defensible.

As an “expert” agency NOAA Fisheries is charged with interpreting ambiguous Section 120 language and deciding whether lethal removal should be allowed, the federal government says in a brief filed Sept. 21 with Oregon’s U.S. District Court in Portland. The federal government asks that NOAA Fisheries decision be upheld.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Simon has scheduled oral argument on the parties' motions and cross motions for summary judgment for Oct. 19 in Portland’s federal courthouse.

A legal decision would follow. Litigants hope that such decision would be forthcoming before the late winter and spring when spring chinook salmon and steelhead begin their spawning run up the Columbia River.

Fishery managers say that predation problems began to grow at the turn of the century when salmon returns ballooned for a few and sea lions began in increased numbers to follow the fish upstream. The area below Bonneville Dam (located at river mile 146) became a favorite hunting ground, with the big pinnipeds congregating to feast on salmon. The salmon and steelhead spawners include five stocks that are listed under the ESA.

Permission was first granted in March 2008 for the states to remove “identifiable” sea lions known to feed on salmon below Bonneville. That NOAA decision was initially upheld in federal district court. That authority, approved by the Commerce Department’s NOAA Fisheries, was revoked late in 2010 by a federal appeals court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said NOAA had “not offered a satisfactory explanation” for its decision. The court said the agency has not adequately explained its finding that sea lions are having a ‘significant negative impact’ on the decline or recovery of listed salmonid populations given earlier findings by NMFS that fisheries and dam operations that cause similar or greater salmon mortality were not judged as having significant negative impacts.

The states have since the spring of 2008 removed 50 California sea lions. The states’ efforts in April and May this year resulted in 12 of the animals being taken from the scene. Eleven were lethally removed and one shipped to a Midwest aquarium. A total of 38 California sea lions were removed, mostly from the area immediately below the dam, in 2008-2010 with 10 going to zoos or aquariums and the rest being euthanized.

The federal agency reissued the authorization in March, saying it had addressed the concerns expressed by the Ninth Circuit. The HSUS immediately responded with a complaint filed in U.S. District Court that says the new authorization contains the same flaws as the discredited decision from 2008.

In creating Section 120 in 1994 “Congress provided that the protection of healthy and abundant stocks of pinnipeds must yield in situations where they are having a significant negative impact on the decline or recovery of at-risk salmonids,”according to the federal brief filed Sept. 21. It left to NOAA Fisheries to decide what is and what is not a “significant” impact, according to the Justice Department.

“In applying this statute, the National Marine Fisheries Service (‘NMFS’) set forth through notice and comment procedures a reasonable interpretation of the ambiguities present in Section 120. It engaged in a careful and searching examination of the actual pinniped-salmonid conflict that exists at Bonneville Dam,” the federal filing says. “And NMFS heeded the instructions given by the Ninth Circuit in remanding its prior Section 120 authorization by providing a reasoned explanation on the interaction between its Section 120 finding and prior decisions issued under different statutes involving other, unrelated sources of mortality.”

“Judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act (‘APA’) does not require this Court to resolve whether NMFS’s resolution of the issues is better or worse than Plaintiffs’ proposed resolution,” federal attorneys say. “Rather, the APA provides that NMFS’s decisions may be overturned ‘only when the record plainly demonstrates that the [agency] made a clear error in judgment.’

“This high threshold needed to overturn NMFS’s decision is not present on this record.”

It’s not as simple as all that, according to the HSUS.

“In issuing its 2012 lethal removal authorization, NMFS has once again failed to provide a cogent explanation for its decision that sea lions ‘are having a significant negative impact on the recovery of [listed] salmonids’ as required by Section 120 of the MMPA, basic tenets of administrative law, and the Ninth Circuit’s remand order,” according to an HSUS brief filed Sept. 7.

“On remand, NMFS essentially re-issued the exact same decision, and the record on this decision offers no more of a cogent explanation than before. Instead, Defendants are attempting to defend the 2012 decision by re-characterizing NMFS’s prior factual determinations with regard to take by fisheries and dams, regurgitating arguments that failed in the prior litigation, and speculating as to what might happen in the future under a hypothetical, worst-case scenario,” the HSUS brief says. Defendants do not point to any evidence in the record to indicate sea lions are actually having a ‘significant negative impact on the decline or recovery’ of salmonid stocks.

“Nor can they deny that, in the absence of such evidence, NMFS has effectively declared that any ‘measurable’ impact on salmon numbers constitutes a ‘significant negative impact’ on recovery under Section 120 – a construction that impermissibly rewrites the MMPA to allow killing of sea lions for having any ‘impact on listed salmonids.’

“In short, Defendants have wholly failed to comply with the mandate of the Ninth Circuit and fundamental principles of administrative law, once again ‘rais[ing] questions as to whether the agency is fulfilling its statutory mandates impartially and competently.’

“Accordingly, this decision to kill marine mammals protected under the MMPA should be set aside under the standards already set forth by the Ninth Circuit,” HSUS says.


* Washington Eliminating Wolf Pack Targeting Livestock Rather Than Natural Prey

Two wolves from the so-called Wedge Pack in Northeast Washington were shot and killed Tuesday as the state Department of Fish and Wildlife continued its effort to put a stop to persistent attacks on livestock by eliminating the pack.

Three more members of the pack were killed Wednesday as a helicopter and WDFW marksman swooped in.

Since July, Wedge Pack wolves are believed to have killed or injured at least 17 cows and calves from the herd of the Diamond M Ranch of northern Stevens County.

Department Director Phil Anderson said a WDFW marksman shot the three wolves from a helicopter at about 8 a.m. Wednesday. The wolves were located about seven miles south of the Canadian border in the same area where two other wolves from the Wedge Pack were killed Tuesday.

Anderson said teams of marksmen and wildlife biologists went to an area known as the Wedge late last week, but had not killed any wolves after several days of around-the-clock activity on the ground.

Two WDFW teams had been dispatched to the area Friday with the goal of killing the members of the Wedge Pack, a group of at least eight wolves whose range includes a remote, roughly triangular area of northern Stevens County bordered by Canada and the Columbia and Kettle rivers.

Anderson had directed the pack’s removal last week in response to the wolves’ escalating pattern of predation on the livestock herd of the Diamond M Ranch despite non-lethal efforts to minimize wolf conflict by the rancher and department staff.

The rate of attacks on Diamond M livestock increased even after the department killed a non-breeding member of the pack on Aug. 7. Anderson said the wolves killed Tuesday were among six that were spotted about seven miles southeast of the ranch on the Diamond M grazing allotment. Another wolf was seen Tuesday morning at the Diamond M’s private livestock pasture.

“We decided to eliminate the Wedge Pack only after non-lethal measures were unsuccessful, and after the removal of one pack member failed to alter its behavior,” Anderson said. “We are committed to the recovery and sustainability of the gray wolf in Washington, and its numbers are increasing rapidly, but recovery won’t succeed if ranchers’ livelihoods are threatened by persistent wolf attacks on livestock.”

The Wedge Pack is one of eight confirmed and four suspected packs in the state, most of which are in Pend Oreille, Stevens, Ferry counties. Prior to taking lethal action, department estimated the size of the Wedge Pack at eight to 11 wolves.

Anderson said a department wildlife veterinarian would perform necropsies on the wolves later this week. He said the animals’ hides and skulls eventually would be used for educational purposes.

WDFW’s chief said the plan has the support of key conservation interests and livestock operators. Two organizations that participated in developing the state’s 2011 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan – Conservation Northwest and the Washington Cattlemen’s Association – joined the department in issuing a statement explaining their positions. The full statement is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/news/attach/sep2112a_01.pdf.

According to the WDFW, western U.S. wolf experts agree the pack is now targeting livestock over natural wild prey. WDFW is consulting with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services office, the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office and independent wildlife biologists with extensive experience with wolf management in other Western states.

“Once wolves become habituated to livestock as their primary food source, all of the wolf experts we’ve talked to agree that we have no alternative but to remove the entire pack,” Anderson said. “By doing that, we will preserve the opportunity for the recovery of gray wolves in balance with viable livestock operations.”

Jack Field, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association, said, “We understand that as wolves re-populate the state there will be conflicts with livestock. We also understand that we need to work with WDFW to find solutions, including the use of non-lethal measures, in order to minimize losses for producers, but we need everyone else to understand that managing and killing wolves that cause problems is an important part of a healthy co-existence.”

“As difficult as this situation with the Wedge Pack is to accept on a personal level, we understand and agree that pack removal is the right action at this point,” according to Mitch Friedman, Conservation Northwest executive director. “We have been strong advocates for exhausting all non-lethal means possible to avoid this situation and are extremely disappointed that it has come to this.”

Friedman expressed a strong desire for the department and ranchers in areas with wolves to work together to avoid a repeat of this situation.

“There has to be a commitment on the part of all sides to allow wolves to occupy the landscape while protecting the rancher’s livelihood and maintain their ability to raise cattle,” he said.

Field said the Cattlemen’s Association is encouraging landowners to enter into cooperative management agreements with WDFW that specify non-lethal measures that a livestock operator will use to minimize wolf-livestock conflict.

Anderson said the management agreements would provide cost-share funding for such measures and could include “caught in the act” kill permits to enable livestock operators in Eastern Washington to protect their livestock. The department will continue to offer compensation to ranchers for wolf-caused livestock losses, he said.

“These agreements are necessary to improve cooperation between the department and livestock operators to help address the problems caused by wolves,” said Field.

State law permits WDFW to “authorize the killing of wildlife that is destroying or injuring property.” That authority is also recognized by the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, adopted in 2011 by the Fish and Wildlife Commission after five years of development with a citizen advisory group and public comment.

The state’s wolf plan is designed to re-establish a sustainable wolf population in Washington, but also recognizes that chronic depredation by wolves on livestock could undermine that goal – particularly if landowners begin killing wolves because of inaction by the state, according to the WDFW. The plan includes criteria for wolf recovery along with specific guidelines for the use of lethal measures to prevent attacks on livestock.

State law lists gray wolves as endangered throughout Washington, but this status does not preclude WDFW from taking actions necessary to protect human life or property. Wolves are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act in the western two-thirds of the state but are no longer federally listed in the eastern third, where the Wedge pack has been preying on cattle.

A population model developed by Washington State University in conjunction with Washington’s wolf plan found that removing wolves pose a very low risk to the statewide recovery objectives once pack numbers reach numbers currently documented in eastern Washington.

The alpha male of the Wedge pack is equipped with a GPS and radio collar so that its movements, along with the rest of the pack, can be tracked daily. The cattle depredations investigated have occurred in the proximity of this pack’s territory.

WDFW biologists, enforcement officers and other specialists who have investigated these and other attacks have extensive training in determining the cause of livestock deaths. The department also consults with wolf experts from other agencies before making a final determination.

Experts both inside and outside the department agreed that attack marks on cattle from the Diamond M Ranch were left by wolves. These marks are distinct from those left by cougars, bears, coyotes and other predators, according to WDFW. Tracks, scat and howling near the site also support that wolves were responsible for the attacks.

Wolves were once common throughout most of Washington, but declined rapidly from being aggressively killed during the expansion of ranching and farming between 1850 and 1900, according to WDFW. Wolves were eliminated as a breeding species from the state by the 1930s, although infrequent reports of animals continued in the following decades, suggesting that small numbers of individuals continued to disperse into Washington from neighboring states and British Columbia.

Reliable reports of wolves began increasing in Washington in about 2005 due in part to the recent recovery of wolf populations in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

For more information see: Frequently Asked Questions” Wedge Wolf Pack Lethal Removal Actions:


* Snake River Fall Chinook Return Looking Strong At Predicted 30,000 Fish; Wild Fish Usually About 25 Percent

The 2012 upriver bright fall chinook return looks to be somewhat below the preseason expectations but still well above recent 10-year average.

The Snake River portion of that “URB” is looking even better. Through Monday the adult fall chinook count at the lower Snake River’s Lower Granite Dam had reached 25,214, which would be the third highest annual total since counts began at the southeast Washington dam in 1975.

And the Snake River fall chinook count is likely to soon move up. Second place has been held by the 2011 total of 28,922. The count Monday was 1,304 fish.

“We’re predicting around 30,000 coming back this year, said Becky Johnson, Production Division director for the Nez Perce Tribe. Tribal hatchery programs have helped boost fall chinook returns, which include wild fish that are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species.

“Our fall chinook are still coming over Bonneville,” Johnson said of PIT-tagged fish that are identified as they pass up and over the dam. Bonneville, at river mile 146, is the first dam the fish encounter on their way up the Columbia and Snake rivers. Lower Granite is more than 400 miles upstream from the mouth of the Columbia.

The record count is 41,815 fish in 2010, according to data compiled by the Fish Passage Center. Prior to 2010 the high count at Lower Granite was 16,628. From 1975 through 1993 annual counts hovered below 1,000, and most often were well below 1,000.

The wild fish were listed in 1991. Since the 1990s, the impacts of a variety of actions (harvest, habitat, hydrosystem and hatchery) have seemed to help lift the overall returns, which include both wild and hatchery produced fish. In recent years the wild proportion of the run has averaged about 25 percent, according to Stuart Ellis, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission biologist.

The jack counts at Lower Granite have also been strong this year. The total through Monday was 12,320, which is already the fourth highest total on record and should soon sneak up to third (12,892 in 2010).

Jacks are smaller, early maturing fish that spend only one year in the ocean before returning to spawn. Their strength is one of the primary signals of future returns, when their broodmates return to spawn after two or more years in the ocean. Fish run forecasters also use reconstructions of age group returns. As an example, a strong 4-year-old return one year signals that the next year’s 5-year-old class should also be strong.

The record jack return was in 2009, a whopping 41,285. The high jack count from 1975 through 1998 was 2,002. The past five years, including this year, are the only five annual jack counts to exceed 10,000.

The Lower Granite adult fall chinook numbers through Sept. 24 this year is more than double the recent 10-year average of 11,692 through that date, according to Columbia River Data in Real Time (DART). The jack count of 12,320 is almost double the 10-year average of 7,064.

URB fall chinook are fish destined for the Hanford Reach area and to Priest Rapids Hatchery in central Washington’s mid-Columbia region and the Snake River. Smaller URB components are destined for the Deschutes River in central Oregon and to Washington’s Yakima River.


* Compact Approves Tribal, Non-Tribal Commercial Fisheries; Steelhead Return Below 10-Year Average

Columbia River mainstem commercial fishers, as well as anglers, are now chasing the tail end of an upriver fall chinook run that appears to be well above the 10-year average in terms of adult returns, though somewhat below expectations.

The Columbia River Compact, which sets mainstem commercial seasons where the river represents the Oregon-Washington border, on Tuesday approved outings for both treaty and non-tribal commercial fishers. The Compact is made up of representatives of the directors of the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife.

The Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakama got the go-ahead to deploy gill-nets from 6 a.m. Wednesday through 6 p.m. this Friday. Allowable sales include chinook and coho salmon, steelhead, shad, yellow perch, bass, walleye, catfish and carp in Zone 6 reservoirs upstream of Bonneville Dam.

The tribes’ gill-net fishery is the sixth scheduled since the beginning of the fall season Aug. 1. Through the first five weekly outings (mostly 3 ½ or 4 1/2 days) the tribes caught 81,619 adult chinook, including 45,386 “upriver brights,” as well as 12,909 steelhead. The chinook catch includes 10,247 “mid-Columbia brights” and 25,564 fall chinook “tules.”

The four treaty tribes, who fish in mainstem reservoirs above Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day dams, have had to watch carefully how many B summer they sweep into their nets. The A steelhead run and now the B steelhead run have come in in numbers well below expectations.

Wild portions of the B steelhead run and the Snake River upriver fall chinook run (part of the URB run) are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Harvests are held to certain levels in order to limit impacts on listed fish.

Through Sept. 21 the tribal catch had included 2,648 B steelhead, an estimate that includes 2,608 in hand and a 40-fish reserve for planned fishing this fall from streamside platforms. The total represents 12.6 percent of the B run, compared to a 15 percent allocation set aside for the tribes under a management agreement with the states.

The balance remaining under that allocation guideline is 502 B steelhead. The tribes estimate that at most this week’s harvest will land 500 steelhead.

“It just fits into the allowed catch” should 675 nets be deployed, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission’s Stuart Ellis told the Compact Tuesday. An effort totaling 675 nets is unlikely, given the fact fish numbers are declining. The 40 percent reserve would serve as a buffer if the gill-net fishery exceeds the B steelhead limit.

Summer steelhead return forecasts have ratcheted down as the season progressed. The preseason forecast developed by the Technical Advisory Committee predicted a return to the mouth of 380,300 upriver summer steelhead, which includes A and B and Skamania stocks. That initial forecast predicted 311,800 A (including 91,800 wild fish) and 52,800 B steelhead (13,400 wild). The upriver steelhead are fish bound for hatcheries and spawning grounds upstream of Bonneville in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. The B fish are mostly fish bound for the Salmon and Clearwater river basins in Idaho. Both of those Idaho rivers feed into the Snake River and then the Columbia.

The updated forecast produced Monday by TAC said 190,000 A (35 percent wild) and 21,000 B (20 percent wild) would return this year

Through Wednesday, the steelhead count at Bonneville was 218,808, as compared to the recent 10-year average through that date of 366,959, according to data compiled the Columbia River Data In Real Time (DART).

Annual steelhead passage at Bonneville has not been below 300,000 since 2000. Daily counts this week have been declining, with 1,326 tallied Wednesday.

State fishery managers have had to closely monitor the catch by non-tribal commercial fishers and anglers of “Lower River Hatchery” tule fall chinook, which are listed as protected by the ESA.

The LRH have been a primary limiting factor for non-tribal gill netters that do their fishing in the lower river, from Bonneville Dam to the mouth.

ODFW and WDFW staffs estimate that catches to date and catches from ongoing and planned fisheries total an 8.2 percent impact on the LRH stock, just shy of the 8.7 impact limit agreed to by the states and tribes. The 2012 catches of URBs is expected total 13.4 percent, as compared to the 15 percent limit, and non-tribal harvest of B steelhead is expected to total 1.44 percent (2 percent limit).

The Compact this week approved a 10-hour non-tribal commercial fishery from 7 p.m. Thursday through 5 a.m. Friday, Sept. 28, as well was 12-hour fisheries beginning at 7 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The non-tribal gill-net fleet caught 23,600 chinook during nine “early fall” fisheries in August. Tate staffs estimate that 16,000 chinook remained available for the late fall season which began Sept. 19. After fisheries last week and early this week, it was estimated that about 8,000 chinook were still available under the non-tribal commercial allotment. The newly scheduled fisheries are expected to yield a catch of about 4,500 fish.

The latest TAC forecast predicts a return of 299,200 URBs, 75,800 MCBs and 60,900 Bonneville Pool Hatchery tules. That compares to the preseason forecast of 353,000 URBs, 90,700 MCBs and 60,000 BPH.

The chinook count through Wednesday totaled 321,046 adults as compared to a 10-year average of 366,425 through that date.

The chinook jack count through Wednesday was 103,289, more than double the 10-year average of 45,091. Jacks are young male fish that return to freshwater after only one year in the Pacific.


* Fish Consumption Rate, Water Quality Standards: Should Idaho, Washington Follow Oregon’s Lead?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has rejected Idaho’s new and revised human health water criteria for toxic pollutants, notifying the state’s Department of Environmental Quality that it must use a higher fish consumption rate in determining new standards required by the Clean Water Act.

Meanwhile, tribal leaders attending the annual conference of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians in Pendleton on Thursday passed a resolution asking EPA to take a “regional approach” that would set Washington and Idaho in line with stricter rules established in 2011 by the state of Oregon. Oregon has the highest fish consumption rate in the United States.

Under the Clean Water Act, states are required to establish water quality standards and submit them to EPA for approval or disapproval. Likewise, revisions to a state’s water quality standards also must be submitted to EPA for approval or disapproval.

The fish consumption rate is a factor used by states to establish water quality standards, which set out the amount of pollutants allowed to be discharged into a state’s waterways. Increasing the fish consumption rate results in stricter limitations on pollutant discharges by industry and municipalities.

Although the decision has only recently surfaced, EPA in May “…disapproved Idaho’s revised human health criteria for 88 toxic pollutants applicable to all surface waters” in the state.

In a May letter to Barry Burnell, Idaho’s Water Quality Programs administrator, EPA’s Michael Bussell, director of the Office of Water and Watersheds, said the CWA requires that the state address the federal decision in a timely manner. EPA has consistently told states that they must make progress on revising water quality standards or it will step in to establish the new rules.

“The EPA prefers that Idaho address this disapproval under its regulatory development process. However, if the state does not adopt necessary changes, the EPA will promptly propose and promulgate appropriate human health criteria for Idaho,” Bussell wrote.

Bussell said Idaho did not consider several sources of information before submitting water quality standards that used the national default fish consumption rate of 17.5 grams per day (about the amount of fish that would sit on a saltine cracker).

EPA suggested Idaho use available and relevant information on fish consumption, including the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission survey, which Bussell described as “a well-designed survey … directly applicable to a population of people – i.e., the Nez Perce Tribe – fishing in state waters.”

EPA told Idaho it should evaluate how its revised human health criteria will protect other fish eaters because studies have shown that in addition to tribal subsistence fishers, recreational anglers in Idaho also consume fish at rates higher than the national default rate.

Tribal leaders advocated for the “regional approach” to a Northwest fish consumption rate so that Washington and Idaho, and ultimately Alaska, would provide the same human health protections in the Columbia River Basin.

It is not the first time such a regional approach has been mentioned. In August of 2005, Ronald A. Kreizenbeck, then acting administrator for EPA’s Region 10, outlined a plan that would “provide joint leadership in human health protection and toxics reduction in the Northwest” and “establish a regional and national model for use in guiding similar efforts.”

In his letter to state and tribal officials, Kreizenbeck said a higher fish consumption rate “may be appropriate for some waters in Oregon, Idaho and Washington” to “increase protection provided to subsistence fishing practices.”

Further, Kreizenbeck said EPA would work with the states of Washington, Idaho and Alaska to encourage regional consistency on water quality standards of toxics.

“Defining appropriate fish consumption rates are critical to rendering water quality standards decisions that ensure adequate human health protection,” Kreizenbeck wrote. “For shared waters such as the Columbia River, a regional approach will provide more opportunities for cross-boundary toxics reduction efforts.”

Speaking to tribal leaders Wednesday in Pendleton, Dennis McLerran, administrator for EPA Region 10, said Idaho and Washington should follow the lead of Oregon.

In 2006, the Umatilla Tribes asked the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to use a higher fish consumption rate based on studies that outlined health risks and the amount of fish eaten by Native Americans, as well as by Asian populations, and recreational anglers.

Over four years, the Umatilla Tribes, the Oregon DEQ and EPA, with industry, local governments, non-governmental organizations and local groups met to develop the new criteria with the intention of lowering the allowable amount of pollutants released to Oregon’s waters while, at the same time, considering variances and other actions that would provide affordable options to those that discharge those pollutants.

EPA in October of 2011 approved a new fish consumption rate in Oregon of 175 grams – 10 times higher than EPA’s national default rate of 17.5 grams per day. (At one time Oregon had a default rate of 6.5 grams per day, and many states still do.)

A rate of 175 grams per day (about 24 eight-ounce meals a month) is the amount of fish that, under EPA guidelines, could be eaten without risking the health of consumers.

McLerran told tribal leaders that higher fish consumption rates in Idaho and Washington will require some heavy lifting.

McLerran said Northwest tribes should “stand together” to encourage Washington and Idaho to increase their fish consumption rates. While EPA is prepared to “step in” if states do not make progress, defining that progress can be tricky.

“It’s a bit of a dance,” McLerran said. “It took Oregon multiple years to finish.”

Leaders from two Washington tribes told McLerran that they would not be involved in a process driven by stakeholders, demanding instead to deal with the state on a government-to-government basis.

“I get you guys are mad,” McLerran said, suggesting that state and tribal staffs might be able to work through some issues.

“My fear is that if you are not there in the process then it won’t reflect your point of view,” McLerran said. “The process will suffer if you are not there.”

Noting that Oregon has set the bar for fish consumption rates, McLerran said he would favor a regional approach, but noted that other Northwest states and Alaska present “much more of a different political lift.”

For more information, see CBB, Oct. 21, 2011, “EPA Approves Toughened Oregon Water Quality Standards Based On Higher ‘Fish Consumption Rate’’’ http://www.cbbulletin.com/413443.aspx


* Washington Begins Process For Adopting Fish Consumption Rate/Water Quality Standards For Toxics

The Washington Department of Ecology has begun formal rule-making activities to adopt new human health-based water quality standards for toxics.

The new standards will include updating assumptions about how much fish Washingtonians eat.

The state’s water quality standards guide how the state regulates water pollution. The human health-based standards are important, said WDOE in a press release, “because their goal is to keep Washington’s fish and shellfish the cleanest in the nation and protect people who eat them.”

The effort is part of Ecology’s job responsibilities as the agency delegated by the Environmental Protection Agency to carry out the Clean Water Act in Washington.

Ecology officials say the public process will include discussions of a broad array of issues, including what chemicals to address, new chemical toxicity factors, regional information on fish consumption, levels of acceptable risk, and implementation.

Ecology has compiled current fish consumption research in a draft technical document that evaluates available data on fish consumption by Washington residents called the “Fish Consumption Rates Technical Support Document." Ecology will use this document to inform risk management decisions associated with development of the new water quality standards.

“It’s our job to ensure that people can use our waters safely, whether they’re swimming or eating fish. This effort is an important step in doing that job and protecting our quality of life,” said Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant.

Ecology will begin this effort “by convening a wide array of interests for an extensive and inclusive public process. Ecology invited tribal governments, local government, business, environmental, and recreational interests to help the agency with this effort through a Policy Forum it is convening. The Policy Forum will work through difficult policy issues and it will be open to everybody.

“The Policy Forum will provide a structured dialog throughout the rule-making process. The Forum will help key interests understand issues, offer advice, and provide perspectives as Ecology addresses the complex science and public policy issues of adopting human health criteria.”

Ecology has begun two separate rule-making activities on different sections of Washington’s water quality rules. These rules implement state statutes and the federal Clean Water Act.

The first rule – the human health criteria rule – will allow the state to adopt new human health-based criteria into Washington’s water quality standards. The standards are important because they drive how much toxic pollution the state allows facilities to discharge. This is reflected in water quality discharge permits. They also protect people who eat fish and shellfish that pick up toxics from the environment.

Washington’s current water quality standards for toxics were issued by the EPA in 1992 through the National Toxics Rule and do not accurately reflect the amount of fish and shellfish consumed by individuals within the state, say Ecology officials.

The second rule – the implementation tools rule – supports the first rule. It addresses recent state legislation and water quality permit compliance challenges under the new standards. The goal of the implementation tools rule is to improve regulatory tools that keep water quality permit holders in compliance as they work to meet permit limits and control sources of pollution.

Ultimately, EPA will need to approve Washington’s new standards.

Ecology re-filed the implementation tools rule-making documents, which it previously filed in October 2011, to be in step with the new human health criteria rule-making.

Gov. Chris Gregoire issued Executive Orders 10-06 and 11-03, requiring agencies under certain circumstances to suspend non-critical rule making. Following these executive orders, Ecology’s director determined that the human health criteria rule-making was necessary to protect public health, safety, and welfare or necessary to avoid an immediate threat to the state's natural resources.

The agency director also approved moving forward with the implementation tools rule as provided under the executive orders because it was requested by the regulated entities to help them meet existing and new requirements.

For more information on the Governor’s Executive Orders (10-06 and 11-03) and the Ecology Director’s decisions related to the rule-making suspension go to www.ecy.wa.gov/laws-rules/rulemaking_suspension.html


* Study: Climate Change Could Shift Critical ‘North Pacific Transition Zone’ 600 Miles, Lose Diversity

A new study published in Nature Climate Change examines the distribution of various open ocean animals in the North Pacific and explores how that could change over the next century as global ocean temperatures increase and productivity levels shift.

The researchers conclude that some critical ocean habitats could undergo significant changes in location, moving more than 600 miles from where they are now, while other habitats could remain relatively unchanged.

Among large animals, loggerhead turtles, some sharks and blue whales may face the harshest impacts of climate change while some seabirds may actually benefit. Not only are species at risk, but also coastal communities and industries could feel the impact since top predator habitat shifts can result in the displacement of fisheries and ecotourism, such as whale watching.

"For species already stressed by overfishing or other human impacts, increased migration time and loss of habitat could be a heavy blow," said Elliott Hazen, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researcher on the project who is affiliated with the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford. "But if we can build some plausible scenarios of how marine ecosystems may change, this may help efforts to prioritize and proactively manage them."

In order to carry out their study, the authors employed complex mathematical models with data from the decade-long "Tagging of Pacific Predators" (TOPP) project, in which 4,300 electronic tags placed on 23 species from 2000 to 2009 created unprecedented insight into migration patterns and hotspots of predator species in the northern Pacific.

Satellite measurements of sea surface temperature and chlorophyll-a (used to estimate surface productivity) were combined with the tracking data to identify "key habitat areas" for a variety of different ocean predators. The researchers then used climate models of ocean temperature and productivity to ascertain how those key habitat areas might change in the face of ocean warming.

One of these key habitat areas, known as the North Pacific Transition Zone, marks the interface between cold, nutrient-rich polar water to the north and warmer, nutrient-poor water to the south. This region is used by a variety of ocean predators, including marine mammals, tunas and seabirds, as a corridor across the Pacific Ocean basin. The study suggests that this critical region could shift by as much as 600 miles, resulting in a 20 percent loss of species diversity in the region.

Other critical habitat areas, however, may experience little or no impact. The California Current, which runs along the west coast of North America, supports a variety of open ocean predators each year, when cold, nutrient-rich water creates regions of high productivity. This so-called upwelling cycle would likely continue despite ocean warming.

"The fact that tagging indicates this is the number one lunch stop in town along the most populous coast in the nation – and stabilizes in a warming world – increases our opportunity to consider how to protect these hot spots," said Barbara Block, the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Professor in Marine Sciences at Stanford, who is heavily involved in TOPP.

Among the Pacific's top predators, turtles, sharks and marine mammals such as whales appear to be most at risk from habitat shifts associated with Pacific warming. In some cases, predicted losses in essential habitat ranged as high as 35 percent.

But animals such as seabirds and tunas may benefit from climate-change-related shifts that could actually increase their potential habitat for foraging due to their broader tolerances to temperature.

"The differences from one species to another is their ability to adapt to temperatures and to use multiple ocean areas," said Hazen. "Having multiple sources of food, migration corridors and areas to call home provides a buffer against climate variability and change."

"Modeling of future scenarios is used in national security, financial investing and other critical areas," said Larry Crowder, the science director of the Center for Ocean Solutions, who was involved in the study.

"Here we use it to envision climate change impacts on large predators in the Pacific so that steps can be taken to better manage species that are important both commercially and for conservation goals," he said.

Based on these predictions, marine and coastal managers may alter fishing catches or revamp marine protected areas.


* WSU 13-Year Study Leads To New WDFW Cougar Management Plan To Reduce Overharvesting

Overharvest of cougars can increase negative encounters between the predator and humans, livestock and game, according to a 13-year Washington State University research project. Based on this, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is implementing a new cougar management plan.

Starting in January, Washington will employ equilibrium management - hunters will remove no more than the surplus of animals that would be generated through natural reproduction.

This means that each of the state’s game management units will have a quota allowing for harvest of no more than 14 percent of that area’s cougars. Once the limit is filled, cougar hunting will be suspended for the year in that unit. Hunters will be allowed to take their tags to other units that haven’t reached the limit.

For years, cougar management operated on the presumption that every cougar shot meant one cougar less to prey on livestock, game and pets. But the 13-year study headed by Rob Wielgus, director of WSU’s Large Carnivore Conservation Lab, has overturned that presumption.

After years of data collection, researchers made a surprising observation. Whether hunters killed 10 percent or 35 percent of cougars, the population remained the same. The old paradigm of wildlife management would explain this by saying the remaining population increased reproduction to make up for hunting. But this was not the case.

In fact, reproductive success actually decreased. Data showed that adult males, "toms,” are intolerant of adolescent males and will kill them to maintain their territory and breeding rights. Juvenile males can only survive by avoiding adult males. When hunting removes most adult males, the adolescent males survive and cause all sorts of trouble.

While adult cougars tend to avoid humans and livestock, juveniles are less cautious: "They’re teenagers,” explained Wielgus. "They’re sexually mature, but mentally they’re not all there.”

This is compounded by the fact that adolescent males have larger territories than mature toms, but don’t maintain exclusive territories as do adult males. Livestock and elk herds might have one mature tom in the area, but removing that tom could bring in three or four adolescents, multiplying troubles.

Without adult male protection of females and their litters, infanticide becomes a problem, as the young toms kill kits to bring the mother into heat and improve their breeding chances. The females try to protect their litters by moving higher in elevation, away from dangerous adolescent males, but also away from plentiful whitetail deer and into terrain occupied by less abundant prey such as mule deer, bighorn sheep and woodland caribou. Thus marginal game populations suffer.

Research methods included capturing cougars with hounds and attaching collars with global positioning system receivers and radio transmitters. The collars reported the cougars’ locations six times a day, allowing researchers to generate valuable data on cougar migration, reproduction, prey and mortality.


* Newport, Reedsport Chosen As Finalists For $8 Million Wave Energy Facility

The Oregon coastal communities of Newport and Reedsport have been chosen as the two finalists for the possible location of the Pacific Marine Energy Center, a planned $8 million, “grid-connected” wave energy testing facility in the Pacific Northwest.

Officials at the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Oregon State University said these locations offer advantages in cost, distance to shore and other factors over the two other sites that had also been considered, at Coos Bay and Camp Rilea near Warrenton.

Committees will now be formed in Newport and Reedsport to conduct more detailed local site analysis before a final decision is made.

After funding is complete and the site is established, this research facility will feature four test berths connected to a regional electrical grid, able to test individual, utility-scale or small arrays of wave energy devices. Completion is not expected for several years after funding is finalized. But when done, officials said it will provide jobs and economic growth while attracting researchers from all over the world who will use it to test their wave energy technologies.

“We’ve carefully weighed a number of factors and decided that Newport and Reedsport have the most advantages for this project,” said Belinda Batten, a professor at OSU and director of NNMREC.

Among the factors involved in the decision, Batten said, were distance to the ocean depth from shore, access to support services and onshore infrastructure, community support and overall costs.

Newport has some level of supporting infrastructure already in place, good transportation, a nearby electrical substation and strong community support, officials said. Reedsport has less existing infrastructure but deeper water nearer to shore than other sites, supportive community leaders and other advantages.

Alternate locations that were considered either lacked sufficient onshore infrastructure or the distance to offshore sites with sufficient depth were too distant.

The Oregon Wave Energy Trust collaborated with NNMREC in this selection process, which has included community forums and public outreach.

Those involved with the project anticipate that Oregon will be the leader of wave energy development in the United States, and the site of the first commercial generation of wave-produced electricity. Test facilities such as this will be a key factor in helping this evolving industry to move forward and develop optimum technologies for producing electricity from the largely untapped power of ocean waves.



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

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


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