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Weekly Fish and Wildlife News
www.cbbulletin.com October 30, 2009 Issue No. 506
All stories below are posted on the CBB's website at www.cbbulletin.com
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Table of Contents

* Plan To Evaluate Whether Salmon Passage Survival At Lower Columbia Dams Meets BiOp Targets

* Filings By Feds, Three States, Six Tribes Call BiOp Robust, Legal, Based On Best Science

* Big Snake River Numbers: Over 300,000 Steelhead Cross Lower Granite, Jacks and Coho Set Records

* Hells Canyon Steelhead Run Gives Opportunity For Trap-And-Truck Fishing Above Dams

* Kootenai Tribe's Efforts At Rebuilding Kokanee In Idaho Panhandle Showing Success

* Meetings Set On Columbia River Sturgeon, Spring Chinook Management For 2010

* Northwest Energy Grid Projects Receive $114 Million In Stimulus Grant Awards

* Analysis Focuses On Rapid Groundwater Declines, Northern Half Of Oregon 'Going Down Fast'

* Blasting Basalt From One-Mile Of Columbia River Bottom Will Close Out Channel Deepening

* Thousands Of Surplus Coho Being Processed For Oregon Food Bank Distribution

* USFWS Extends Comment Period On Whether To List Northern Leopard Frog


* Plan To Evaluate Whether Salmon Passage Survival At Lower Columbia Dams Meets BiOp Targets

The Independent Scientific Review Panel has given a thumbs-up to a research plan aimed at evaluating whether, and by how much, salmon survival at Columbia-Snake river dams is improved by actions called for in NOAA Fisheries' Federal Columbia River Power System biological opinion.

"The proposal is a thoughtfully prepared plan to evaluate how well the structural and operations improvements mandated for the Lower Columbia River (John Day, The Dalles, and Bonneville) projects are meeting the 2008 FCRP BiOp and Columbia River Fish Accords survival targets for yearling and subyearling Chinook and Steelhead," according to an Oct. 16 memorandum from ISRP Chair Eric Loudenslager to Northwest Power and Conservation Council Chair Bill Booth of Idaho.

The ISRP review can be found online at:

"The objectives are clearly stated, seem quite worthy of the investment, and are explicitly addressed in the proposal.

"The supporting material, providing details of the statistical design and analysis, is comprehensive and useful. The survival model is grounded in standard statistical methods and uses advances that have recently appeared in the literature," according to the ISRP. "The authors have sought outside advice, have done preliminary experiments, have learned from those experiments, and have adjusted the protocols to reflect that experience."

The study design will be implemented beginning in April in the form of the "Lower river BiOp performance testing" project funded through the Corps' Columbia River Fish Mitigation Program. Preliminary estimates are that the intricate study will cost $11.14 million in fiscal year 2010. The CRFMP is funded with congressional appropriations.

The study is scheduled to be carried out this year and during the 2011 migration season. The costs are greatest in fiscal 2010, largely because of the need to purchase electronic equipment that will be used again in 2011.

The ISRP review of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' "Statistical Design for the Lower Columbia River Acoustic-Tag Investigations of Dam Passage Survival and Associated Metrics" was requested by the Corps and Council.

The project's purpose is to develop a survival model and experimental design for estimating survival through the dams to determine if BiOp "performance standards" are being met. The standards aim for survival from the upstream face of each dam to a standardized reference point in the tailrace of at least 96 percent survival for spring stocks such as yearling chinook salmon and steelhead and at least 93 percent survival for summer stocks such as subyearling chinook salmon.

The BiOp judges whether the federal Columbia-Snake hydro system jeopardizes the survival of 13 basin salmon and steelhead stocks that are listed under the Endangered Species Act. The document outlines a variety of measures at the dams and off-site that can be made to improve survivals and avoid jeopardy.

The study design was more than a year in the making, according to project manager M. Brad Eppard of the Corps. It has been thoroughly vetted with federal, state and tribal fish management entities as well as with hydro managers.

An example of the data and survival improvement needs is The Dalles Dam, where survival was estimated to be only 91 percent in the spring of 2004 and 93 percent in the spring of 2005 and even lower during the summer each year. A "spillway wall" now under construction at the dam is expected to improve survivals.

"The thought is that the evaluation of the spillway will determine if survival is improved up to the biological opinion survival standards," Eppard said.

The BiOp requires "a modification of traditional release-recapture designs in order to isolate and validly estimate dam passage survival," according to the statistical design prepared for the Corps by James Skalski of the University of Washington's School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.

The new design is needed to alleviate potential statistical bias sometimes seen in data processed with the older models, Eppard said.

The document can be found at:

"A proposed release-recapture design based on a virtual release of fish known to have arrived at the dam face, coupled with a paired release downstream of the dam, is recommended as the best option for valid and precise estimates of dam passage survival," the Aug. 7 design document says.

The "virtual" releases are fish implanted with juvenile salmon acoustic tagging system (JSATS) tags that are released from below one dam and then detected by an acoustic signal detection array strung across the river just above the next dam downstream. The fish will be released near the head of each reservoir to allow them to proceed downstream at their own more natural pace.

Those virtual fish that survived down through the reservoir would next be detected a short distance, perhaps a couple kilometers, downstream of each dam.

"This release group will be used to estimate survival through the dam and a segment of the river downstream based on the single release-recapture model," according to the study design. "The position of the downstream array will be located to minimize the prospect of false positive detections of fish that die during dam passage.

"A concurrent paired release below the dam will then be used to estimate the survival between the tailrace and this first downstream detection array. The quotient of the single-release estimate (S1) divided by the paired-release survival estimate (S2/S3) will provide an unbiased estimate of dam passage survival," according to the study plan.

At each of the three dams, releases of acoustic-tagged fish will be used to estimate (1) dam passage survival, (2) spill passage efficiency, (3) forebay residence time, (4) tailrace egress time, and (5) boat restricted zone (BRZ) to BRZ survival.

The ISRP likes the approach.

"The choice of the Juvenile Salmon Acoustic Telemetry System (JSATS) micro-acoustic transmitters is justified by noting the relatively small size of tags and the high detection probabilities of arrays of underwater listening devices," the ISRP says. "The study design involves estimating the survival of virtual releases of fish known to have passed through a dam and tailwater reach, relative to a paired-release-survival estimate for fish released at two locations in the downstream tailwater.

"The essence of the study is to use acoustic transmitters implanted in the smolts, tracked in great detail by large arrays of receivers deployed in strategic places, and allowing very close tracking of the fish," the ISRP wrote. "This information can be used to identify problem areas or conditions that might be improved to help meet BiOp performance standards."

The ISRP did caution that the assumption that 90 percent of the fish passing the arrays will be detected maybe be overly optimistic.

The ISRP also said that the study design may be underestimating potential "tagging effects" -- fish that die because of tag implantation.

"As acoustic tags become smaller, carrying them should become less of a burden, but handling and implantation will remain issues," the ISRP says. "This may require modification of the experimental design after the initial results are evaluated. The plans for regularly evaluating model assumptions as the study progresses are essential."

The ISRP said there is "legitimate debate" over whether the number of tagged fish scheduled for release -- the sample size -- is great enough.


* Filings By Feds, Three States, Six Tribes Call BiOp Robust, Legal, Based On Best Science

Upon further review, the plan of action for protecting imperiled Columbia-Snake river salmon and steelhead that migrate through the federal hydro system is the most robust ever developed and built on the best available science, according to legal briefs filed Oct. 23 by the government and supportive "sovereigns."

"We agree that regional and national consensus are not substitutes for ESA legal compliance," the federal brief said in reference to an adversarial filing earlier this month. "But the lengthy review process by the new Administration that included hearing the views of highly respected independent scientists and the fact that biologists from ten different sovereigns agree that the analyses and methodologies are reasonable, cannot be ignored."

An Obama Administration review, which stretched from the spring into the fall, confirmed that NOAA Fisheries' 2008 Federal Columbia River Power System biological opinion is legal under the Endangered Species Act, according to the brief filed by the U.S. Department of Justice. It and a coalition of three states and six tribes urged U.S. District Court Judge James A. Redden to add his blessing.

"These Tribes and States keenly look forward to the day in which all the parties to this lawsuit can move from argument to action," according to a brief filed by the states of Idaho, Montana and Washington and the Colville, Idaho Kootenai, Salish-Kootenai, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakima tribes. "Until that day arrives, however, the Tribes and States ask that the Court take the necessary actions to allow these parties to move forward in implementing a biological opinion that has survived the intense scrutiny of both the court and the new federal administration."

"Due in no small part to the Court's rulings, the FCRPS BiOp is the most comprehensive and robust BiOp ever issued on the FCRPS and includes the commitments to unprecedented funding that the Court had sought in 2003," the Oct. 23 federal brief says. "The substantial regional support, as a result of the collaboration encouraged by this Court, increases our confidence that the plan will succeed."

"The 2008 BiOP corrected the identified flaws in the 2004 BiOp, and now, the AMIP [Adaptive Management Implementation Plan] addresses many, if not all, of the Court's additional concerns by accelerating actions, building on the RPA's robust monitoring system, and providing a contingency plan with readily identifiable biological triggers and implementable actions if the unforeseen occurs and those triggers are tripped."

The new filings continue the prolonged legal debate over the validity of the 2008 BiOp, which says the dams and their operation do not jeopardize the survival of 13 listed Columbia-Snake river basin salmon and steelhead stocks. The BiOp describes hydro system actions to be carried out during the 10-year life of the plan that are intended to improve salmon survivals. It also includes a program of habitat restoration in the tributaries and estuary, predator management and other mitigation measures.

Redden has twice before, in 2001 and 2005, ruled FCRPS BiOps illegal. The 2008 document was built over a 2 -year period by NOAA in consultation with federal action agencies and in "collaboration" with the four states with acreage in the Columbia basin and with sovereign tribes. The new BiOp replaced a strategy adopted in 2004 and judged invalid the following year.

The 2008 BiOp was immediately challenged by a coalition of fishing and conservation groups led by the National Wildlife Federation and by the state of Oregon with support from the Nez Perce Tribe. They have argued that the document's biological "jeopardy" analysis is flawed and that the actions it describes fall well short of what is needed to improve the status of imperiled salmon populations.

Legal arguments in the lawsuit appeared to be ended with oral arguments March 6, where the judge expressed a number of concerns about the BiOp.

The Obama administration on May 1 asked for the opportunity to review the BiOp, which was crafted by the previous administration, and to consider Redden's April 2 suggestion "that the parties confer with each other to explore whether further discussions regarding the BiOp might be productive." The parties met with the judge April 2 to discuss the issues raised by Redden at the conclusion of oral arguments.

Redden agreed not to rule in the case during the administration's review and in a May 18 letter elaborated on his concerns, saying more funding commitments, higher guaranteed river flows, more spill for fish passage, additional scientific analysis and another look the breaching of four dams on the lower Snake River were all likely necessary to make the BiOp legal. The letter also said the judge has "serious reservations about whether the 'trending toward recovery' standard complies with the Endangered Species Act, its implementing regulations, and the case law."

The administration responded Sept. 15 with its 42-page Adaptive Management Implementation Plan.

The addition of a new BiOp chapter triggered another round of briefing. The fishing and conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, Oregon and Nez Perce Tribe filed briefs Oct. 7 criticizing the AMIP. They said that the AMIP developed as a result of the administration's review neither fixes the BiOp nor responds adequately to the judge's concerns.

"The AMIP fails to mend the BiOp's flawed analysis, or to meaningfully address the consistently optimistic assumptions on which it relies," the Oregon brief concludes. "Even worse, the AMIP lowers the bar by which the BiOp measures success, and would allow species to fall near-extinction levels before requiring the federal defendants to respond."

"The 2008 BiOp is invalid with or without the improvements claimed in the AMIP," according to the state. "However, even if the provisions of the AMIP were sufficient to correct the numerous flaws of the BiOp, the Court could not consider it for that purpose. It is nothing more than a post hoc rationalization for NOAA's conclusions, which cannot be used in that manner."

The briefs filed last week by the Department of Justice and the states and tribes say the plaintiffs' criticisms of the scientific underpinnings of the BiOp and AMIP are off the mark.

"Predictably, Plaintiffs are dissatisfied with the AMIP and seek 'the start of a new day' with a BiOp fashioned according to their unilateral set of beliefs, but divorced from the statute, regulations, and case law," the Oct. 23 federal brief says.

"When the Plaintiffs lose the scientific debate among scientists in the appropriate forum, like the remand collaboration and now the Administration's review, they turn to this Court arguing that the views of four Federal agencies, three States, six Tribes, and now an entirely new Administration (which has recently withdrawn other inadequate environmental decisions), cannot be believed and that the biologists and scientists from these ten sovereigns should all be ignored."

"Because of intensive investment in time and resources by all the parties to this lawsuit, including the Federal Government and its new administration, a more trusting attitude is justified -- cautious optimism that the pieces are in place to bring the management and operation of federal hydropower in line with 21st Century technology and enviromental values," according to the joint-state-tribal brief.

"These Sovereigns, who at times have opposed each other in this litigation, seek to end it as allies to implement the 2008 Biological Opinion, to collaboratively supply the necessary oversight and rigor to the AMIP that will be necessary to not only protect salmon and steelhead from jeopardy, but to take unprecedented steps toward habitat restoration throughout their range."

Judge Redden on Oct. 23 scheduled an in-court conference for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17.

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


* Big Snake River Numbers: Over 300,000 Steelhead Cross Lower Granite, Jacks and Coho Set Records

The 2009 season's Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead runs are beginning to ebb but not before allowing fish counters to tally some remarkable numbers.

The Snake River steelhead count at southeastern Washington's Lower Granite Dam on Wednesday reached 301,711. That tally pushes up the record established earlier this month when the count passed the previous high, a total of 262,669 in 2001.

And a strong pulse of steelhead continues to flow over Lower Granite. The count Wednesday was 2,556. Counts began in 1975, the year construction of Lower Granite was completed. It is the eighth dam the fish pass on their way to hatcheries and spawning grounds in Washington, northwest Oregon and Idaho.

The Snake River steelhead run so far includes 70,588 unmarked steelhead, which is also a record. The previous high was 57,291, according to data posted online by the Fish Passage Center. That record only goes back to 1994. Most of those unmarked steelhead are naturally produced fish that are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Most of the hatchery fish passing Bonneville are marked with a clipped adipose fin.

The basin's 2009 steelhead return is the second highest overall on a record dating back to 1938 as measured by counts at the lower Columbia's Bonneville Dam. The 2009 total there through Wednesday was 601,990. The record is 630,200 in 2001.

Most of the returning steelhead have been so-called A stock returning to tributaries throughout the Columbia and Snake River basins. That stock is dominated by one-ocean fish.

The coho run has also been strong. The total at Lower Granite reached 4,113 on Wednesday. That's a relatively small number but does establish a modern day (since 1975) record. The wild coho run to the Snake and Clearwater had been nearly extirpated, but the return is now slowly rebuilding with the help of Nez Perce Tribe hatchery programs.

The Nez Perce coho program was jump-started in the mid-1990s with smolts and eggs from lower Columbia stocks. The Eagle Creek National Fish Hatchery in western Oregon still provides 550,000 smolts for release in the Clearwater and another 280,000 are reared at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery on the North Fork of the Clearwater.

Nowadays, however, coho returning to Idaho are being trapped and spawned to fuel hatchery production.

"We're in the process of developing local broodstock," Becky Johnson, deputy director of the tribe's production division.

The coho count at Bonneville through Wednesday reached 218,966, which is second only to the 2001 count of 259,756.

Historically, natural coho production areas above Bonneville included the Spokane, Yakima, Wenatchee, Entiat, Methow, and Snake rivers. The majority of coho now passing Bonneville Dam are from hatchery releases of lower river coho stocks in Washington's Yakima, Umatilla, Wenatchee and Methow rivers, Oregon's Umatilla
River and the Clearwater in Idaho.

The releases outside the Klickitat are primarily for restoring naturally producing coho to appropriate habitats above Bonneville Dam, most recently in the Snake, Yakama, Methow and Entiat rivers, according to the 2009 Fall Joint Staff Report prepared by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife. Coho destined for areas above Bonneville Dam have represented an increasing percentage of the total return in response to increased releases above Bonneville Dam.

Columbia basin chinook salmon jacks set a record as well. Overall, 218,631 spring, summer and fall chinook jacks had been counted passing Bonneville through Tuesday after having spent only one year in the Pacific. That beats a total of 200,114 in 1986.

At Lower Granite the jack total through Tuesday, 88,053, had obliterated the previous record, 26,246 in 2008. The Snake River fall chinook count through Wednesday was 40,701, nearly four times the previous record of 10,228 in 2008.


* Hells Canyon Steelhead Run Gives Opportunity For Trap-And-Truck Fishing Above Dams

This year's stellar Snake River steelhead spawning run includes a hatchery component that typically stalls at a dead-end along the Oregon-Idaho border that is called Hells Canyon Dam.

The fish are produced to feed a popular sport fishery below the dam, and to gather broodstock to produce the next generation of hatchery fish.

But some number of them, including a batch of more than 300 trapped this week, are destined for the Boise River.

"This has been 10 consecutive years that we've been able to do this," Idaho Power Company biologist Paul Abbott said of strategy of trapping and trucking "surplus" steelhead past the three Hells Canyon hydro projects to southeast Idaho's Boise River. Salmon and steelhead once made spawning runs to the Boise and other upper Snake River tributaries but their passage is now blocked by the dams.

The fish were released in the river from Glenwood Bridge to Barber Park on Thursday afternoon.

Should the run remain strong, additional fish may be released in subsequent weeks.

"We're hopeful that this year's hatchery steelhead run will easily allow Oxbow Hatchery personnel to fill their broodstock needs," said Sam Sharr, The Idaho Department of Fish and Game's anadromous fish coordinator.

The hatchery needs about 800 adult fish, half of which are females which have provided from 1.1 million to 1.4 million eggs annually. Those fish are spawned and the eggs fertilized at Oxbow Hatchery, which is run by the IDFG. It is located in Hells Canyon. The IPC owns the hatchery and funds the hatchery's operations as part of its operating license for Brownlee, Oxbow, and Hells Canyon dams on the Snake River. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requires the company to operate the facility to conserve fish runs that were impacted by the construction of the three dam complex.

The eggs are then transferred to Niagara Springs Hatchery, a IDFG facility near Idaho Falls, for rearing.

The program produces about 525,000 steelhead smolts each year that are released in the spring from near a boat ramp on the Oregon shore near the base of the dam.

About 75 percent of the broodstock needs are trapped in the fall, and the balance in the springtime.

Abbott said the autumn trapping effort will be under way on three weekdays for three or four weeks. A thousand or more could be shipped to the Boise River to provide angling opportunity there.

"They do have good success catching them," Abbott said. The adult steelhead seem to linger at least for a while near the area where they are released, he said.

Each year's steelhead surplus is divided among the program's co-managers -- the IDFG, the Nez Perce Tribe and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The tribe primarily uses the fish for subsistence and ceremonial purposes while the ODFW releases the fish in Oregon streams that drain into Hells Canyon Dam's reservoir.

Though required in other steelhead waters, barbless hooks are not required for Boise River steelhead angling. Besides a fishing license, anglers hoping to tangle with one of the 4- to 10-pound hatchery steelhead need a $12.75 steelhead permit, good for 40 fish.

All steelhead stocked in the Boise River will lack an adipose fin -- the small fin normally found immediately behind the dorsal fin. Boise River anglers catching a rainbow trout longer than 20 inches that lacks an adipose fin should consider the fish a steelhead. Any steelhead caught by an angler not holding a steelhead permit must immediately be returned to the water.

Steelhead limits on the Boise River are three fish per day, nine in possession, and 40 for the fall season.

"We are happy to collaborate with Idaho Fish and Game this year to bring steelhead to Treasure Valley anglers," Abbott. "The best thing about this program is that it eliminates the need for folks to travel to the Snake or Salmon rivers to catch steelhead. Boise anglers will have the opportunity to test their skills right in their own backyard."

The hatchery fish are popular targets for Oregon and Idaho anglers in the waters just down river from the dam.

Fishing for adipose fin-clipped steelhead has opened on the Snake River and the fishing is very good below Hells Canyon Dam, according to the ODFW's Snake River Zone recreation report. Beginning Oct. 18, the bag limit in the lower Snake for steelhead increased to five adipose fin-clipped steelhead per day, with no more than three 32 inches in total length or greater.


* Kootenai Tribe's Efforts At Rebuilding Kokanee In Idaho Panhandle Showing Success

It isn't exactly on the fish recovery front burner, yet a Kootenai Tribe of Idaho effort to rekindle populations of kokanee in Idaho Panhandle streams is showing signs of success.

The outplanting of fertilized "eyed" eggs in several of those tributaries annually since 1997 has begun to return adult kokanee spawners, at first in handfuls and most recently in the hundreds.

That's a small start compared to the 200,000 or so landlocked sockeye salmon that returned annual prior to massive manmade changes to the ecosystem or even the several thousand counted each year in the early 1980s. But those hundreds of fish (actually 1,276 was the total peak count in 2008) and an upward trend is good news for a fish stock that was functionally extinct during the 1990s when counts of zero were most common.

"It's really wonderful to see the results we're getting," said Sue Ireland, director of the tribe's fish and wildlife department. The tribe has long been engaged in habitat restoration work and the bolstering of depleted stocks that it once relied on for subsistence. But the focus in recent years has been preventing the extinction of Kootenai River white sturgeon and rebuilding burbot stocks.

"That one we do as kind of a sideline," Ireland said of the spare hours used to outplant kokanee eggs, take river counts of spawners and do other related work.

Kokanee are native to the Kootenai River basin downstream from Kootenai Falls in Montana. The Kootenai flows south out of British Columbia, across the northwest corner of Montana into Idaho and then north into British Columbia and Kootenay Lake, which flows into the Columbia.

The Kootenai kokanee are born in rivers and streams in north Idaho and British Columbia but quickly exit and grow to adulthood in Kootenay Lake before returning to their natal spawning grounds.

Spawners generally begin arriving in September and the fry hatch out in February. They then ride the spring freshet down their creek to the Kootenai and the lake.

"They don't hang out in the tribs for very long," Ireland said.

The 1990s crash of two Kootenay Lake stocks, one from the North Arm of the lake and the other from the South Arm, had numerous potential causes. The introduction of the non-native crustacean Mysis shrimp likely resulted in competition for juvenile kokanee for food.

Pollution abatement, habitat changes and completion and operation of two large hydropower dams on major Kootenay Lake tributaries, Libby Dam, completed in 1972 near Libby Mont., on the Kootenai River, and Duncan Dam on the lower Duncan River in British Columbia, completed in 1967, and other factors have contributed to collapsing kokanee populations and underlying nutrient deficiency in the lake by the 1980s, according to the 2009 KTOI "Status of Kootenai Kokanee" report.

The reservoirs behind the dams began serving as nutrient "dumps" that prevented naturally occurring nutrients from flowing downstream and into the lake. A drop in lake nutrients also occurred when phosphate fertilizer plant that began discharging significant amounts of nutrients into the lake in about 1953 was closed in 1972.

"We really think nutrients were a huge issue. The kokanee just didn't have anything to eat," Ireland said.

Ultimately scientists monitoring the situation decided that it would be necessary to launch an experimental nutrient addition program in the North Arm. The program, begun in 1992, has been successful in restoring nutrient availability and in conjunction with spawning channels, kokanee production and fishery opportunities for kokanee and other native larger resident salmonids.

So, as part of an international effort to reintroduce kokanee to the South Arm and lower Kootenai River tributaries, fertilization efforts were undertaken on the South Arm beginning in 2004. The fertilization project on the South Arm, as well as one started by the tribe in 1995 on the Kootenai just downstream from the Idaho-Montana border, have been funded by the Bonneville Power Administration.

The tribe began making kokanee egg plants in Idaho tributaries in 1997. The eggs planted in various South Arm and Kootenai River tributaries within Idaho and British Columbia are intended to stimulate natural production. The eggs originate from Meadow Creek stock, North Arm Kootenay Lake.

About 100,000 to 500,000 eyed kokanee eggs were planted annually in three Idaho tributaries during the late 1990s compared to 150,0000 to 3 million eggs per stream in each of six streams during most years since 2003. In all, eight Idaho creeks have been planted - Boundary, Smith, Long Canyon, Parker, South Fork Trout, North Fork Trout, Myrtle and Ball.

The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC incubates the Meadow Creek kokanee eggs to the eyed stage at the Kootenay Trout Hatchery and transports them to stream sites for planting.

"The egg planting part of it is really easy to do," Ireland said in complimenting project partners from north of the border that include the province's Ministry of Environment.

The 2009 annual report says that peak spawner counts indicate a positive change in kokanee production in Idaho tributaries.

"The 2007 return was the first year expected from the larger eyed egg plants initiated in 2003, and likely benefited from South Arm and Kootenai River nutrient additions. In 2004, about twice as many eggs were planted in Idaho tributaries, and a corresponding increase in spawners was observed in 2008, according to the report prepared by Randy Ericksen and Paul Anders of Cramer Fish Sciences and the tribe's Chris Lewandowski and John Siple. "This pattern suggests that carrying capacity for the Idaho populations as a group has not yet been met."

The report notes, however, that spawning results are not consistent within creeks and between creeks. As an example no spawning kokanee were observed in Long Canyon Creek in 2008 while 150 were counted there in 2007, despite more eggs being planted in 2004 than in 2003. A recent one-day count (not necessarily the peak count) totaled 475 spawners in Long Canyon.

Special conditions, such as a rain on snow event that flushes eggs out of the nests, could explain low survival in particular locations.


* Meetings Set On Columbia River Sturgeon, Spring Chinook Management For 2010
Washington and Oregon fishery managers will seek public comments on issues affecting future fisheries for Columbia River white sturgeon and spring chinook salmon at meetings scheduled next month in Vancouver, Wash., and Astoria, Ore.

The two meetings, sponsored by the states' fish and wildlife departments, are designed to share information on developments that will affect management of those fisheries starting next year.

The meetings are scheduled at the following times and locations:

-- Vancouver: 6-9 p.m. Nov. 5, Water Resource Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way, sponsored by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
-- Astoria: 6-9 p.m. Nov. 10, The Loft at the Red Building, 20 Basin St., Suite F, sponsored by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

WDFW and ODFW scheduled the public meetings as part of their joint efforts to develop plans for white sturgeon and spring chinook fisheries. Final decisions, including catch guidelines for sport and commercial fisheries, are expected early next year.

"One of the key reasons for having these meetings is so the staff working on these issues can hear from the public," said Steve Williams, ODFW administrator for the Columbia River and Marine Resources Program.

Fishery managers for both states say new catch guidelines for sturgeon will likely reflect recent declines in the lower Columbia River sturgeon population. For spring chinook fisheries, new catch guidelines must account for a recent agreement to allow enough fish to pass upriver to meet treaty obligations established by the U.S. v. Oregon court decision.

"We have met with our Columbia River advisory groups about these issues, and we'd like to get additional input from the public," said Cindy LeFleur, WDFW Columbia River policy coordinator.


* Northwest Energy Grid Projects Receive $114 Million In Stimulus Grant Awards

President Barack Obama this week announced the largest single energy grid modernization investment in U.S. history, funding a broad range of technologies intended to spur the nation's transition to a more efficient and reliable electric system.

The $3.4 billion in grant awards are part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, and will be matched by industry funding for a total public-private investment worth more than $8 billion.

Grants for projects in Northwest states total $114.5 million:


--- Idaho Power Company: $47 million. Modernize the electric transmission and distribution infrastructure, including deploying a smart meter network for all 475,000 customers throughout the service area and implementing an outage management system and irrigation load control program that will reduce peak and overall energy use and improve system reliability. Will also benefit customers in Oregon. Total cost: $94 million.

--- M2M Communications of Boise: $2.2 million. Install smart grid-compatible irrigation load control systems in California's central valley agricultural area in order to reduce peak electric demand in the state. Total cost: $4.4 million.


-- Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative: $19.6 million. Implement a smart grid system, including more than 95,000 smart meters, substation equipment, and load management devices, that will integrate 15 electric cooperatives across 4 states using a central data collection software system hosted by the Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative. Will also benefit customers in Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Montana. Total cost: $39 million.

-- Central Lincoln People's Utility District, Newport: $9.9 million. Provide two-way communication between the utility and all of its 38,000 customers through a smart grid network and other in-home energy management tools. Deploy smart grid communication and control technology to optimize distribution system reliability and efficiency, restore energy quickly following outages, and empower consumers to reduce their energy use. Total cost: $19.7 million.


-- Avista Utilities, Spokane: $20 million. Implement a distribution management system, intelligent end devices, and a communication network to reduce distribution system loses, enable automatic restoration to customers during outages, and allow for the integration of on-site generating resources. Will also benefit customers in Idaho. Total cost: $40 million.

--- Snohomish County Public Utilities District: $15.8 million. Install a smart grid framework on the utility side, including a digital telecommunications network, substation automation and a robust distribution system infrastructure, that will allow enable the implementation of future smart grid technologies. Total cost: $31.7 million.

Full listings of the grant awards by state are available at http://cbb.c.topica.com/maanwyQabT4JyaRw3Lcb/

An analysis by the Electric Power Research Institute estimates that the implementation of smart grid technologies could reduce electricity use by more than 4 percent by 2030.

The administration divided the grants into these categories:

--- Empowering Consumers to Save Energy and Cut Utility Bills -- $1 billion. These investments will create the infrastructure and expand access to smart meters and customer systems so that consumers will be able to access dynamic pricing information and have the ability to save money by programming smart appliances and equipment to run when rates are lowest. This will help reduce energy bills for everyone by helping drive down "peak demand" and limiting the need for "stand-by" power plants -- the most expensive power generation.

--- Making Electricity Distribution and Transmission More Efficient -- $400 million. The Administration is funding several grid modernization projects across the country that will significantly reduce the amount of power that is wasted from the time it is produced at a power plant to the time it gets to your house. By deploying digital monitoring devices and increasing grid automation, these awards will increase the efficiency, reliability and security of the system, and will help link up renewable energy resources with the electric grid. This will make it easier for a wind farm in Montana to instantaneously pick up the slack when the wind stops blowing in Missouri or a cloud rolls over a solar array in Arizona.

--- Integrating and Crosscutting Across Different "Smart" Components of a Smart Grid -- $2 billion. Much like electronic banking, the Smart Grid is not the sum total of its components but how those components work together. The Administration is funding a range of projects that will incorporate these various components into one system or cut across various project areas -- including smart meters, smart thermostats and appliances, syncrophasors, automated substations, plug in hybrid electric vehicles, renewable energy sources, etc.

--- Building a Smart Grid Manufacturing Industry -- $25 million. These investments will help expand the manufacturing base of companies that can produce the smart meters, smart appliances, synchrophasors, smart transformers, and other components for smart grid systems in the United States and around the world -- representing an export opportunity and new jobs.


* Analysis Focuses On Rapid Groundwater Declines, Northern Half Of Oregon 'Going Down Fast'

Although declining streamflows and half-full reservoirs have gotten most of the attention in water conflicts around the United States, some of the worst battles of the next century may be over groundwater, experts say -- a critical resource often taken for granted until it begins to run out.

Aquifers are being depleted much faster than they are being replenished in many places, wells are drying up, massive lawsuits are already erupting and the problems have barely begun. Aquifers that took thousands of years to fill are being drained in decades, placing both agricultural and urban uses in peril. Groundwater that supplies drinking water for half the world's population is now in jeopardy.

A new analysis by researchers at Oregon State University outlines the scope of this problem, but also points out that some tools may be available to help address it, in part by borrowing heavily from lessons learned the hard way by the oil industry.

"It's been said that groundwater is the oil of this century," said Todd Jarvis, associate director of the Institute for Water and Watersheds at OSU. "Part of the issue is it's running out, meaning we're now facing 'peak water' just the way the U.S. encountered 'peak oil' production in the 1970s. But there are also some techniques developed by the oil industry to help manage this crisis, and we could learn a lot from them."

Jarvis just presented an outline of some of these concepts, called "unitization," at a professional conference in Kyoto, Japan, and will also explore them in upcoming conference in Stevenson, Wash., and Xi'an, China. Other aspects of the issue have been analyzed in a new documentary film on the special problems facing the Umatilla Basin of eastern Oregon, a classic case of declining groundwater problems. DVD copies of the documentary are available free upon request, by calling 541-737-4032.

The problems are anything but simple, Jarvis said, and are just now starting to get the attention needed.

"In the northern half of Oregon from Pendleton to the Willamette Valley, an aquifer that took 20,000 years to fill is going down fast," Jarvis said. "Some places near Hermiston have seen water levels drop as much as 500 feet in the past 50-60 years, one of the largest and fastest declines in the world.

"I know of a well in Utah that lost its original capacity after a couple years," he said. "In Idaho people drawing groundwater are being ordered to work with other holders of stream water rights as the streams begin to dwindle. Mississippi has filed a $1 billion lawsuit against the City of Memphis because of declining groundwater. You're seeing land subsiding from Houston to the Imperial Valley of California. This issue is real and getting worse."

In the process, Jarvis said, underground aquifers can be irrevocably damaged -- not unlike what happened to oil reservoirs when that industry pumped them too rapidly. Tiny fractures in rock that can store water sometimes collapse when it's rapidly withdrawn, and then even if the aquifer had water to recharge it, there's no place for it to go.

"The unitization concept the oil industry developed is built around people unifying their rights and their goals, and working cooperatively to make a resource last as long as possible and not damaging it," Jarvis said. "That's similar to what we could do with groundwater, although it takes foresight and cooperation."

Water laws, Jarvis said, are often part of the problem instead of the solution. A "rule of capture" that dates to Roman times often gives people the right to pump and use anything beneath their land, whether it's oil or water. That's somewhat addressed by the "first in time, first in right" concept that forms the basis of most water law in the West, but proving that someone's well many miles away interferes with your aquifer or stream flow is often difficult or impossible. And there are 14 million wells just in the United States, tapping aquifers that routinely cross state and even national boundaries.

Regardless of what else takes place, Jarvis said, groundwater users must embrace one concept the oil industry learned years ago -- the "race to the pump" serves no one's best interest, whether the concern is depleted resources, rising costs of pumping or damaged aquifers.

One possible way out of the conundrum, experts say, is maximizing the economic value of the water and using it for its highest value purpose. But even that will take new perspectives and levels of cooperation that have not often been evident in these disputes. Government mandates may be necessary if some of the "unitization" concepts are to be implemented. Existing boundaries may need to be blurred, and ways to share the value of the remaining water identified.

"Like we did with peak oil, everyone knows were running out, and yet we're just now getting more commitment to alternative energy sources," Jarvis said. "Soon we'll be facing peak water, the only thing to really argue over is the date when that happens. So we will need new solutions, one way or the other."


* Blasting Basalt From One-Mile Of Columbia River Bottom Will Close Out Channel Deepening

Workers under contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin blasting basalt from the bottom of the Columbia River Nov. 1.

The work is taking place to complete the deepening of the Columbia River federal navigation channel from 40-feet to 43-feet. The blasting work will take place along a one-mile stretch of the river between River Miles 87 and 89 near St. Helens, Ore.

This work, along with dredging of a one-mile section near Longview, Wash., will close out the Columbia River Channel Improvement project, a two decade-long effort to deepen the 103-mile navigation channel allowing larger, deeper draft ships and heavier-loaded vessels access to inland ports throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The Columbia River moves $18 billion of commerce annually, and is the single largest wheat and barley export gateway in the nation.

The contractor will drill holes into the basalt from a barge-mounted rig and detonate blasting agent to fracture the rock before removing the rock with an excavator. Blasting will take place twice each day, once after sunrise and again before sunset. The contractor must complete blasting operations by Feb. 28.

A 1,500-foot safety zone is planned for both upstream and downstream from blasting operations. When a vessel approaches these signs, the drill boat must be contacted on Marine VHF Channel 16 for permission to navigate through. Paddlers and recreational boaters without marine radios can call the Marine Transportation Coordinator cell phone on the drill boat (503) 396-9893. This cell number will be posted at local boat launches and marinas. The project site will be patrolled by security guards and the US Coast Guard. Fines may be imposed on boaters entering the safety zone during restricted times.

Additional information about the blasting work is available on the contractor's website at www.crci-project.info


* Thousands Of Surplus Coho Being Processed For Oregon Food Bank Distribution
Thousands of surplus coho are being processed at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fish hatcheries along the North Coast and Columbia River in preparation for distribution to the hungry through food banks around the state.

"These huge runs of coho couldn't have come at a better time, with a down economy and Oregon facing historically high unemployment rates," said Bill Otto, manager of ODFW's North Fish Hatchery Group.

For the past two weeks, ODFW staff, American Canadian Fisheries employees and volunteers at six hatcheries have been putting up to 2,000 fish a day on ice in plastic containers known as totes and turning them over to the Oregon Food Bank.

"This is a lot of fish, and there are a lot more on the way," said Ken Bourne, manager of ODFW's Sandy fish hatchery. "What would we do with these surplus fish if we didn't have the Oregon Food Bank?"

The totes are taken from the hatcheries by semi-truck to American Canadian Fisheries' processing plant in Bellingham, Wash., where the fish are filleted and flash frozen for free in preparation for distribution to 20 regional food banks around the state next March.

"It's not often that we have the opportunity to get this kind of premium protein for the families we serve," said Dan Crunican, food resource developer for the Oregon Food Bank.

No one knows for sure how much salmon will be processed this year -- that depends on the coho, but everyone agrees it will be considerably more than the 22,000 pounds of fillets that were donated and distributed last year.

This year's coho run is on track to be one of the largest salmon returns in the Columbia basin over the past decade, with 703,000 coho forecast to enter the Columbia at Astoria. That compares to an actual run size of 472,000 coho last year. This year's run was large enough that fishery managers increased the bag limit to three fish a day and extended the season in many areas. Despite these measures, several ODFW hatcheries have been inundated with fish.

"We've expanded opportunities for sport fishermen, achieved our hatchery production goals and met our tribal obligations," said Otto, who oversees 11 hatcheries in ODFW's Northwest Region. "We are fortunate that we are able to help feed a lot of people who are hurting right now."

The Oregon Food Bank Network is seeing a substantial increase in the number of people needing help, according to Jean Kempe-Ware, Oregon Food Bank public relations manager.

"The number of people seeking emergency food through the OFB Network is unprecedented," she said.

The food bank and its affiliates across the state are currently feeding about 240,000 people a month, up from approximately 200,000 last year. More than a third of the recipients are children, according to Kempe-Ware.


* USFWS Extends Comment Period On Whether To List Northern Leopard Frog

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has extended the period during which it will accept information on whether the western population of the northern leopard frog is warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

Comments will be accepted through Nov. 27.

On June 30, the federal agency announced that its review of a petition seeking to add the western population of the northern leopard frog to the list of animals protected under the Endangered Species Act indicated that the frog population may warrant federal protection as a threatened or endangered species.

The petition seeks protection for the northern leopard frog in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

The northern leopard frog is now considered uncommon in a large portion of its range in the western United States, and declines of the species have been documented in most western states. The range of the western population extends into the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, southern Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and western Ontario.

The USFWS' finding triggered a more detailed status assessment of the frog population to determine whether protection of the northern leopard frog throughout its 19 western states range is needed. USFWS officials appealed to land managers, states, tribes and researchers for information about the northern leopard frog to inform its status assessment and listing determination. Information is again being requested.

The status assessment will inform the agency's determination as to whether the population warrants protection under the Act. If warranted, the USFWS will propose listing or may defer listing while it works on listing proposals for other species that are at greater risk.

The agency is seeking scientific information on the historical and current status and distribution of the northern leopard frog; its biology and ecology; its taxonomy (particularly genetics of western United States, Wisconsin and Canada populations); ongoing conservation measures for the species and its habitat; and threats to the species and its habitat.

If listing the northern leopard frog is warranted in all or a portion of its range, the USFWS intends to propose critical habitat to the extent prudent and determinable and therefore also requests information on what may constitute physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species; where these features are currently found; whether any of these features may require special management considerations or protection; and whether there are areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species that are essential to the conservation of the species.

Additional information regarding the frog and status assessment, including the June finding, news release, range map and FAQs are available at: http://cbb.c.topica.com/maanwyQabT4JzaRw3Lcb/


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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