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Weekly Fish and Wildlife News
May 15, 2009
Issue No. 485

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Table of Contents:

* Tribes Get Go-Ahead To Move Forward On $40 Million Chief Joseph Hatchery

* Jack Count Huge This Year, But Still Reliable For Forecasting Next Year's Run?

* Low Spring Chinook Return To Date Crimps Salmon, Shad, Steelhead Fishing

* Record Numbers Of Caspian Terns Nesting At East Sand Island; Hazed At Rice Island

* Dworshak Compromise Uses Some Water For Spring Migration, Saves Some For Returning Adults

* UW Research: 20 Percent Snowpack Decline For Each Degree Of Temperature Increase

* Western Congressional Members, CRITFC Urge Restoration Of Pacific Salmon Fund

* Sea Lions Trapped At Astoria, Bonneville Dam, Three Euthanized For Health Reasons

* Stakeholders Gather To Discuss Ways To Reduce Columbia River Basin Toxins

* Oregon Senators Urge Another $9.8 Million In Salmon Fishing Disaster Funds

* Stimulus Funding Now Includes Funds To Complete Columbia River Channel Deepening

* Council Approves Spending For Mid-Willamette Valley Wildlife Habitat Mitigation

* Compact Approves Tribal Sales Of Salmon Caught Between Bonneville-McNary

* USFWS Proposes Changing Oregon Chub Listing From Endangered To Threatened

* State Budget Cuts Lead To WDFW Layoffs, Service Reductions

* Tidewater Barge, Tug Strike Dalles Dam; Officials Say No Fuel Spilled


* Tribes Get Go-Ahead To Move Forward On $40 Million Chief Joseph Hatchery

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation got the go-ahead Wednesday to complete final design for the construction of a salmon hatchery below central Washington's Grand Coulee Dam.

It's now estimated that construction of the new facility to produce spring and summer-fall chinook will cost $37 million. Construction of the Chief Joseph Hatchery is scheduled to begin in 2010 and be completed in 2011.

The project is being funded by the Bonneville Power Administration through the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. The goal is to increase the number of naturally spawning fish in the Okanogan River basin and across the Colville reservation, support tribal ceremonial and subsistence fisheries and provide increased recreational fishing opportunities for local citizens

"The Chief Joseph Hatchery will be an important tool in restoring salmon to the upper Columbia River watershed and providing new harvest opportunities for tribal and non-tribal fishers," Council Chair Bill Booth of Idaho said. "We are pleased to see this project moving ahead."

Total cost for all aspects of this proposed project, including planning and design, and construction costs, is estimated to be $40.8 million. Annual operation and maintenance costs after facilities are fully developed would approximate $2.1 million annually and monitoring and evaluation is estimated to cost about $735,000 each year.

One purpose of the hatchery is to assist in the conservation and recovery of summer/fall and spring chinook salmon in the Okanogan River basin and the Columbia River between the Okanogan River and Chief Joseph Dam.

Eggs will be gathered from wild Okanogan River summer-fall chinook salmon and propagated at the hatchery. The resulting juvenile fish would be released into six acclimation ponds for final rearing along the Okanogan River.

Those that survive their ocean sojourn, and the trips down and back up the Columbia River through nine hydro projects, would return to spawn in the wild and supplement the native population. Four of those ponds already exist, and the other two will be built. 
The new hatchery will facilitate the reintroduction of spring chinook in the Okanogan basin, where the stock was long ago extirpated. Spring chinook stocks now being raised at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery will be used initially to try to restore the Okanogan spring chinook run.

Salmon will also be released directly from the hatchery into the Columbia River. Over time, the hatchery production and outplanting should rebuild naturally spawning salmon runs and provide new opportunities for salmon harvest.

The hatchery will produce up to 2.9 million smolts per year.

In recent years the summer-fall stock has been supported with the release of up to 576,000 smolts annually. The new hatchery will allow an increase in production of juvenile summer/fall chinook for release at the acclimation sites by 400,000 early-arriving and 700,000 later-arriving fish.

To support the integrated harvest objectives, 500,000 early-arriving, and 400,000 later-arriving summer/fall chinook will be raised and released at Chief Joseph Hatchery.

The goal is to produce 900,000 yearling spring chinook smolts

The Council program is designed to address the impacts of hydropower dams on fish and wildlife. Bonneville sells the electricity generated at Chief Joseph Dam and other federal dams in the Columbia River basin.

The cost to Bonneville could be offset partially with funding provided by the three mid-Columbia public utility districts, Douglas, Chelan, and Grant, which operate a total of five dams on the Columbia downstream from Chief Joseph Dam. The public utilities have mitigation responsibilities as part of their federal dam-operating licenses, and by participating in the Chief Joseph Hatchery the utilities could meet some of their mitigation obligations.

The Chief Joseph Hatchery project has been a work-in-progress since 2001. Since then, the Colville Tribes have taken the project through the planning and initial-design phases and received favorable reviews from the Independent Scientific Review Panel, a group of 11 independent scientists that reviews all projects proposed for funding through the Council's program.

The new hatchery will be operated consistent with guidelines recommended by the Hatchery Scientific Review Group, a committee of scientists that recently completed a review of all salmon and steelhead hatcheries in the Columbia River Basin at the request of the U.S. Congress.

Funds to build the hatchery are guaranteed in a memorandum of agreement - called a fish accord - signed by the tribe with BPA. But the process requires a final review by the ISRP and Council once final designs are complete and final cost estimates are available.

"We anticipate coming back in the early or late fall," said the tribes' Joe Peone.

A Council staff memo on the Chief Joseph Hatchery is posted on the Council's website at this location: http://www.nwcouncil.org/news/2009/05/f6step.pdf


* Jack Count Huge This Year, But Still Reliable For Forecasting Next Year's Run?

All signs point toward a massive return of upriver spring chinook salmon to the Columbia-Snake river system next year.

Or do they?

By Monday a record upriver spring chinook "jack" count had already been compiled at Bonneville Dam's fish ladders. And there's more than a month left of counting to do. Jacks are 3-year-old chinook that spend only one year in the ocean and usually represent a relatively small portion of the overall return.

The jack run is beyond big, said Chris Kern of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The daily counts from May 6-13 each were higher that the previous daily count record - 2,035 on May 14, 2008. Kern checked the daily counts back to 1977.

Tuesday's count of 4,660 jacks was 2.3 times higher that that previous record.

The jacks are key variables in developing estimates of run-sizes for future years when 4 and 5 year olds from their brood make a spawning run.

"If you started playing with the (analytical) models we use now you might predict a million fish" will return next year based on this year's huge jack return, according to Stuart Ellis. "But that's just not realistic."

The record adult return, dating back to 1938, is 416,500 in 2001. Ellis is a Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission fishery biologist and chair of the Technical Advisory Committee. TAC's federal, state and tribal fishery experts each year compile and update run-size forecasts for Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead stocks.

The size of the adult upriver spring run has always been hard to predict but that distinction went off the charts last year when the actual run was only 66 percent of the preseason forecast, and this year the run is likely to be only about half as numerous as expected. Changes in the forecast modeling methods may be needed.

"We're going to have to because clearly the historic relationship between adult returns and jacks is not holding up," Ellis said.

This year's spring chinook fishery management was designed to be conservative, due in large part to the unpredictability of the run in recent years, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Cindy LeFleur. The states of Oregon and Washington this week cut back planned fisheries, and delayed the opening of the Columbia mainstem steelhead fishing season, to avoid further impacting the upriver chinook run.

"Last year, we counted a high number of immature jack salmon, which suggested a strong return of adult fish this year. But the adult chinook just haven't materialized in the numbers expected," she said.

The jack count of 20,239 in 2007 was at the time the fourth highest on a record dating back to 1980. Last year the count was 22,354, the third highest on record.

Last year's 4-year-old returns and this year's 5-year-olds hatched out with those 2007 jacks, and this year's 4-year-olds shared the nest with last year's jacks.

But the big jack counts haven't been as strong a signal of those adult returns. Last year the preseason forecast was for an adult return of 269,300 fish; the actual return was 178,600. That was a relatively big return but much lower than expected.

This year's preseason forecast was 298,900. The forecast was updated this week to an expectation of from 120,000 to 150,000 adult upriver spring chinook to the mouth of the Columbia.

The cumulative jack count by Monday had already established a new record for a season. The jack count through Wednesday had climbed to 30,528. That number will continue to climb through June 15. The states count jacks passing the dam after that date as "summer" chinook.

The broken seasonal record was a count of 24,363 in 2001. That jack return was followed by the record adult return in 2001 and the second highest return ever, 295,100, in 2002.

The record daily count of 4,660 Tuesday was actually higher than the adults count (3,821).

Ellis said that one potential explanation for the high jack counts was that some of the fish are undersized 4-year-olds, not 3-year-olds. But scale samples taken from fish trapped at Bonneville showed that the jacks for the most part were indeed jacks.

And data collected from PIT tags implanted in the fish seems to verify that the jacks this year represent a much higher percentage of the overall run than the managers typically see.

The ratio of jacks to adult spring chinook is variable from year to year but this year's 29-71 percent split to-date is unprecedented. The jack proportion was also higher than normal in 2008 (14 percent) and 2007 (about 20 percent).

Unknown factors are causing the "high jacking rates," according the WDFW's Robin Ehlke. But she predicted that tide would turn.

"I don't think it's going to be normal" from now on to have such a high rate, Ehlke said.

Unfortunately, "the jacks aren't translating to adults for some reason," Ehlke said of the modest returns in 2008 and 2009.

"It's an enormous number. Things really line up for next year," said John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. He noted that the 2008 outmigrants, which includes this year's jacks, were greeted by some of the friendliest ocean "conditions" in years.

Physical and biological "indicators" measured off the coasts of Oregon and Washington last year were, as a whole, were the best they have been for fish survival over the course of a 11-year study led by NOAA Fisheries" Northwest Fishery Science Center. The scientists believe that bodes well for survival during the young fishes' first few months in the ocean and improve their chances of surviving to adulthood.

Those indicators include the most negative winter Pacific Decadal Oscillation climate index since 2000 and most negative summer PDO since 1955. The most negative index of El Niño activity existed since 1999 (This indicates La Niña, or cold equatorial ocean conditions in the eastern Pacific). Those negatives generally are positives for salmon.

There was also early and strong coastal upwelling of nutrients, with average upwelling strength during April-May (when juvenile salmon first enter the ocean) the fourth highest of 11 years, and the earliest biological spring transition - a wind shift that promotes upwelling -- of the past 13 years

"We expect spring Chinook runs in 2010 and 2011 to rival the high returns of this species seen in 2001 and 2002.," according to a January 2009 forecast produced the researchers from analysis of those "Ocean Ecosystem Indicators of Salmon Marine Survival in the Northern California Current."


* Low Spring Chinook Return To Date Crimps Salmon, Shad, Steelhead Fishing

For the second year in a row Oregon and Washington officials have been forced to stop, limit or not open fisheries because upriver spring chinook salmon returns to the Columbia River are much lower than expected.

The preseason forecast developed last winter predicted a return of 298,900 adult upriver spring chinook the mouth of the river this year. But with the run's passage at Bonneville Dam likely well past the halfway mark, only 94,545 has been accounted for -- 73,529 had been counted climbing up the dam's fish ladders through Tuesday and 20,707 had met a harvest-related end in the lower river.

A new forecast produced Monday and reconsidered Wednesday by the Technical Advisory Committee says that the return will likely be in the range of 120,000 to 150,000 fish, though some members felt that range should be a bit higher. TAC's membership includes representatives of federal, state and tribal fish management entities.

The downgraded forecast prompted state fishery managers to delay until further notice the opening of recreational fisheries for steelhead, jack chinook and sockeye salmon in the Columbia River mainsteam downstream from the Interstate 5 bridge at Portland.

That opener had been scheduled May 16 and would have required the release of chinook bycatch. But such a fishery would almost certainly have increased "impacts" on adult upriver spring chinook because managers assume 10 percent of those fish suffer post-release mortality.

The caps are imposed to limit impacts on naturally produced Upper Columbia and Snake River spring chinook that are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The combined upriver chinook kept and catch and release mortalities to-date would represent a 1.96 percent impact on a return of 150,000. The combined ESA limit for non-tribal sport and commercial fisheries is 1.9 percent.

The state managers on Wednesday sought to stop the bleeding. A sport fishery at Ringold Hatchery in southeast Washington will be closed as of Monday and the opening of a commercial shad fishery will be delayed until at least May 26 to avoid incidental impacts on the upriver chinook run -- stocks headed for hatcheries and spawning grounds above Bonneville.

Select area commercial fisheries in off channel areas in the lower estuary were shut down May 1 but will be reopened with reduced fishing area and hours May 18. Typically the select area fisheries are ongoing through mid-June.

"The reality is that everyone is being impacted," the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Steve Williams said at the end of a Wednesday hearing called to cut back fisheries.

Primary mainstem fisheries had already ended earlier than desired because of persistently low fish counts at Bonneville. The last of three commercial outings in the lower river (146 river miles from Bonneville down to the river mouth) was April 13. Sport fishing was ended April 23 below the dam and May 1 above.

In all the gill-net fleet harvested an estimated 4,579 upriver spring chinook and anglers harvested 16,128. Those totals include chinook caught and kept and post-release mortalities.

The steelhead closure could extend as late as June 16, unless returns of upriver spring chinook begin to pick up, said Cindy LeFleur, WDFW Columbia River policy coordinator. The closure will not affect the shad fishery, which will open downstream from Bonneville Dam on May 16 as scheduled.

"For the second straight year, returns of upriver spring chinook have fallen short of expectations," LeFleur said. "It's disappointing that we have to delay the steelhead fishery, but we need to do everything we can to conserve wild chinook salmon still in the river."

Last year the preseason forecast was for a return of 269,300 adult fish, but the actual return was178,600 or only 66 percent of the preseason forecast. By the time managers recognized that the run was smaller than forecast, the recreational fisheries had surpassed its allocation of ESA impacts. That is likely to be the case again unless the run surges over the next month, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's John North.

"120,000 to 150,000 doesn't cover the impacts that have been taken," said Williams, who represented the ODFW director at Wednesday's Columbia River Compact and joint state sport fishery hearings. The Compact sets commercial fisheries. State staff estimated that it would take a return of about 160,000 adults to pull the impact percentage under the impact limit.

"In my mind it's still within the realm of possibility," said Guy Norman, the WDFW's director's representative at the meetings.

This year's highest daily counts at Bonneville occurred on May 2 (7,036) and May 3 (6,317) and since has been in the 3,000 to 5,000 range. Wednesday's count fell to 1,848.

The Bonneville counts generally build toward a peak that is typically at the point in time when about half of the run has passed the dam. Up until the past five years that halfway point has been in late April. But in recent years the upriver spring chinook return has been later timed than in the past.

Based on the 10-year average 69 percent of the run has passed Bonneville by May 12 but the run would only be 58 percent complete based on the 2006-2008 average.

The latest timed run dating back to at least 1980 was in 2006 when 51 percent of the run had passed the dam by May 13. The actual return that year turned out to be 132,140 adult fish to the mouth of the river.
The impacts issue festers with sport fishing interests, most of whom feel the gill-net fleet should be moves off the mainstem, and with commercial fishers, who feel they have an equal right to the returning fish.

"We're going to come out with clean hands in this deal," Jim Well testified Wednesday. The commercial fisherman and president of Salmon for All said that if the overall run size climbs to 130,000 the commercial harvest to-date would be within the fleet's impact allocation but the sport catch would still be above the ESA cap.

Because of last year's impact overrun the states tried to manage this spring's fisheries more conservatively by establishing buffer, i.e. allowing the sport and commercial fisheries to incur only a portion of their allocated impacts before the run-size forecast could be updated.

But this year's run appears to be much smaller than anyone could have expected.

"We are dealing with a completely different reality," the WDFW's Guy Norman said. In recent years the preseason forecasts have been less reliable than in the past, he said.


* Record Numbers Of Caspian Terns Nesting At East Sand Island; Hazed At Rice Island

It appears that an anticipated growth spurt in the East Sand Island Caspian tern colony has arrived.

Researchers stationed in blinds on Sunday counted roughly 22,000 terns at the lower Columbia River estuary nesting site. The count is the highest yet recorded at the colony over the course of a study that dates back to the late 1990s. The research was launched to evaluate what type of impact the avian predators have on migrating juvenile salmon.

Research leaders Ken Collis and Dan Roby caution, however, that the visual counts are, at best, estimates that are prone to error, plus or minus.

The counts are "very ballpark," Roby said. A truer measure of the colony size is that produced from low-altitude, high-resolution aerial photographs of the colony taken near the end of the egg incubation period. The photographs are used to estimate the number of breeding pairs.

Still, the overall population was expected to swell at a time when fish and wildlife managers are trying to reduce the colony size, and as a result salmon consumption, by drawing them to newly created or enhanced nesting sites outside of the estuary.

"This is a pretty good indicator that there are a lot of birds out there," Collis said of the recent count.

The birds fly north each spring to take up residence at the island and other sites. The East Sand Island tern colony is the largest known breeding colony of Caspian terns in the world.

From 2000-2007 the size of the East Sand Island Caspian tern colony has been relatively stable, averaging about 9,200 breeding pairs. But population estimates jumped to 9,623 breeding pairs in 2007 and to 10,668 a year ago.

It was estimated that Caspian terns nesting on East Sand Island in 2008 ate 6.7 million juvenile salmon and steelhead. That is a higher total than in any previous year when all terns in the estuary nested on East Sand Island.

The avian predators originally settled farther upriver at an island, Rice, created with the dumping of dredge spoils from the clearing of the Columbia shipping channel. Ultimately fish and wildlife managers decided to relocate the birds by scratching out desirable nesting habitat at East Sand and covering Rice Island nesting grounds with vegetation. The idea was to locate the birds nearer the Pacific Ocean where they would have a more diverse prey base that included marine species.

The plan worked. Since 2000, the average number of smolts consumed by terns nesting on East Sand Island was 5.2 million smolts per year. That is less than half the annual consumption of juvenile salmonids by Caspian terns in the Columbia River estuary prior to 2000, when the breeding colony was located on Rice Island in the upper estuary, according to the draft 2008 season summary of the ongoing research, "Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation of Avian Predation on Salmonid Smolts in the Lower and Mid-Columbia River."

The researchers have been awaiting a population increase. They had witnessed great reproductive success in 2001, 2002 and 2003 and had expected the birds produced in those years to mature into the breeding population in as soon as three years. Now, based on study observations, the researchers conclude that the age of first reproduction is more likely 5 years.

"We're starting to see them come to roost," Collis said of the maturing birds that hatched out in 2001-2003.

Meanwhile, terns are busy incubating eggs on specially prepared habitat at East Sand that has shrunk from about 6 acres to 3 ½ acres. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife completed an environmental impact statement, and record of decision, early in 2005 that calls for the development of habitat in Oregon and California where terns can be redistributed and a reduction in suitable habitat at East Sand from about 6 acres to 1.5 to 2 acres. It is estimated that ultimately East Sand would accommodate about 2,500 to 3,125 tern pairs. Two acres of suitable habitat is to be created elsewhere for every acre eliminated at East Sand.

"They're using areas outside of the area the Corps expressly prepared for them," Roby said. The Bonneville Power Administration; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the USFWS, NOAA Fisheries and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council are among those supporting the research and tern relocation project.

The research project is a joint, collaborative project between Oregon State University, Real Time Research Inc., and the USGS-Oregon Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. More information can be found at the Bird Research Northwest web site: http://www.birdresearchnw.org/default.aspx

With a more cramped space at East Sand terns were also trying to regain a foothold at Rice Island in vegetated habitat that has in the past been, generally, unacceptable to them. The Corps this week hired contractors to haze the terns off the site prior to egg-laying.

During the winter of 2007-2008 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built and/or rebuilt islands at Fern Ridge Reservoir near Eugene, Ore., and at Crump Lake in south-central Oregon. Each represents about one acre of suitable tern habitat.

Two projects were completed this past winter at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Summer Lake Wildlife Area in central Oregon about 10 miles southeast of Bend. A half-acre site in the East Link impoundment there was built complete and a floating half-acre island was assembled at nearby Dutchy Lake.

Prior to 2008, terns had not nested at Crump Lake since 2003, when a temporary wooden platform was constructed on the submerged island and equipped with Caspian tern decoys and audio playbacks to attract nesting terns. The platform hosted 49 successful breeding pairs that year.

In 2008 a total of 428 breeding pairs colonized the rebuilt island, the largest tern colony size ever recorded at Crump Lake.

A few birds have begun to show up at the Crump and Summer lake sites, which "tend to be the latest nesting colonies," Roby said.


* Dworshak Compromise Uses Some Water For Spring Migration, Saves Some For Returning Adults

Precious water behind west-central Idaho's Dworshak Dam has been at the center of a tug of war over the past two weeks between competing, though mutual, biological interests.

Higher outflows now, before the full onset of the spring freshet, would augment flows to help speed juvenile salmon and salmon toward the ocean. The result, fishery and hydro managers agree, would likely be higher survival.

On the other hand, lower outflows now would improve the chances that Dworshak's reservoir would refill by the end of June. The reservoir was drawn down deeply through April to evacuate flood control space for the snowpack runoff.

The North Fork of the Clearwater River's cool, cool water is called on in July, August and into September to cool the tepid water of the Snake River downstream. Again, all fishery and hydro managers say the reservoir water provides big benefits for fish in the summer that are, for the most part, adult spawners forging upstream.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the dam, was asked last week to increase outflow at Dworshak Dam to full powerhouse capacity (10,000 cubic feet per second) for up to a five-day period beginning immediately and tentatively continuing through Sunday, May 17, as needed to help achieve a Snake River flow at Lower Granite Dam of 100 Kcfs. NOAA's 2008 biological opinion for the federal hydro system set a 100 kcfs flow objective for this time of the year. The BiOp's fish prescriptions also include a Dworshak refill target date of June 30.

"Increased outflow at Dworshak Dam will aid in the passage of yearling Chinook and steelhead in the Lower Snake River," the System Operations Request says. "The passage indices of combined yearling Chinook and steelhead have been changing in response to changes in flow. The cumulative passage graphs indicate that based on historic data both the yearling Chinook and steelhead migrations are just past the midway point in their migration at Lower Granite Dam," the May 13 SOR says.

"As flow increased and decreased this past week, the yearling Chinook passage index dramatically increased and then decreased at Lower Granite Dam over the same period," the SOR says.

"We're concerned about the status of the migration," NOAA Fisheries' Paul Wagner said. The young fish are moving downstream in large numbers but without the aid of a big flush of water. Cooler-than-normal weather has slowed the advance of the annual meltdown.

He cited past research that showed "in half the years steelhead passing (the lower Snake River's Lower Granite Dam) after mid-May or so never return" as adults.

He said the two federal agencies and states knew the risks involved in tapping the finite water supply now but felt it would be valuable to use some of the water to bridge the gap into the weekend, when warm weather is forecast that will help push up streamflows.

The Corps' preference was to drop to minimum outflows, about 1.5 kcfs. Dam operations had been in that mode since May 7.

"We want to make sure we have the full volume of water to utilize in the months of July, August and into September," the Corps Jim Adams.

Ultimately the Corps proposed, and is implementing, a compromise. The daily average flows were increased to 7.9 kcfs Thursday and were to continue through Friday. Outflows are going to drop to 5.3 kcfs through one of the dam's large turbine units on Saturday and then to 4.6 kcfs Sunday and Monday through two small units.

Adams said the flow situation would re-evaluated Monday.

Flows were held at 10 kcfs during the first five days in May at the request of the state and federal fish managers, a time when inflows at Lower Granite sagged well below 100 kcfs. Those flows rose above the target for three days and then dropped again.


* UW Research: 20 Percent Snowpack Decline For Each Degree Of Temperature Increase

New research indicates that a warmer climate has a significant effect on the snowpack, as measured by water content on April 1, even if other factors keep year-to-year measurements close to normal for a period of years.

Water content can vary greatly depending on temperature and other conditions at the time of snowfall. Typically an inch of snow at temperatures near freezing will contain significantly more water than an inch of snow a colder temperatures.

"All things being equal, if you make it 1 degree Celsius warmer, then 20 percent of the snowpack goes away for the central Puget Sound basin, the area we looked at," said Joseph Casola, a University of Washington doctoral student in atmospheric sciences. 
That means that even in years with normal or above-normal snowfall, the snowfall probably would have been even greater except for climate warming. The finding has implications for various water-dependent resources, including drinking water supplies, fisheries, irrigation and hydropower, and it could be applicable to other areas of the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest.

Annual snowfall variability makes it difficult to plot a meaningful trend, Casola said. Starting in a year with high snow accumulation will imply a significant decrease over time, while starting in a year with average or low snow totals will imply little change or even an increase.

So, for example, measuring from 1944 to 2005 shows just a slight decline in snowpack but changing the starting year to 1950 more than triples the decline.

However, the measurements also show a slight increase in the last 30 years, a period of significant climate warming. That is probably because trend measurements include declines from climate warming as well as increases and decreases from other factors.

For example, several of the lowest-snow winters in the Puget Sound area were during El Niño years, while many of the highest-snow winters were during La Niña years. Those two climate phenomena in the South Pacific can have significant impact on Northwest weather. Likewise, the amount of snow can be affected by a long-term climate cycle in the North Pacific called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which changes between positive and negative phases on the order of every 20 years.

"Global warming can be reducing your snowpack over time, but other factors can mask the impact of the warming," Casola said. "Conversely, in a period of dry years global warming would tend to exacerbate the effects."

The new research used four different methods to examine decades-long records of water contained in Cascades snowpack in the central Puget Sound basin on April 1 of each year. Scientists used simple geometry to estimate temperature sensitivity of snowpack, made detailed analysis of seasonal snowpack and temperature data, used a hydrological model to examine the data, and analyzed daily temperature and precipitation measurements to estimate water content of snowpack on April 1.

"If you assume precipitation is the same every year and look at the effects of temperature alone, all the ways we examined the data converge at about a 20 percent decline in snowpack for each degree Celsius of temperature increase," said Casola.

He is lead author of a paper detailing the work, part of his doctoral thesis, which is was published online Thursday in Journal of Climate, published by the American Meteorological Society. Co-authors, all from the UW, are Lan Cuo, Ben Livneh, Dennis Lettenmaier, Mark Stoelinga, Philip Mote and John M. Wallace.

While there still is uncertainty in the trend data, people can expect to see lower spring snowpack more frequently in the future, with low-snow winters bringing low-flow summers, Casola said. Winter precipitation in the Cascades is likely to be similar to what is recorded now, but more of it will be rain.

Casola notes that businesses, resource manager, utilities and irrigators increasingly accept the notion of climate change, and many try to incorporate the information into long-term plans.

"Now they want to know, 'What does this mean for my operation?'" he said. "People are becoming more savvy to the issue of climate change. They want to be aware of changes that might be coming and to identify areas in their systems that perhaps need to be modified."

The work was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean at the UW.


* Western Congressional Members, CRITFC Urge Restoration Of Pacific Salmon Fund

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) led a delegation of West Coast congressional members in sending a letter to key Obama administration officials urging them to restore funding for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.
And on Tuesday, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission also sent a letter to the administration "expressing our concern over the president's Fiscal Year 2010 budget proposal to terminate the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF)."

The president's budget request eliminates the fund, a dedicated resource for Western states to restore salmon and steelhead populations. In past years, the fund has ranged from $60 million to $100 million.

Last week a NOAA spokesman stressed that overall, the proposed budget increases spending for Pacific salmon recovery.

The proposed budget says the "Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund was established in FY 2000 to fund state, tribal and local conservation initiatives to help recover threatened and endangered Pacific salmon populations in the states of California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. NOAA proposes to terminate this fund in FY 2010."

However, " in keeping with the Obama administration's commitment to protecting America's natural resources, the 2010 budget funds $800 million for Pacific salmon, which is an overall increase of 11 percent above last year's enacted level across federal agencies," David Miller, NOAA's senior public affairs officer, said last week.

But 30 members of Congress -- 25 Democrats and 5 Republicans -- are asking that the program funding be restored.

"On the West Coast and especially in the Pacific Northwest, salmon are part of our heritage, our culture and our economy," the senators and representatives wrote in the letter to the Administration. "Recovering our salmon populations to continue our way of life, and put our fisherman back to work is a challenge that we on the West Coast take seriously, and we remain committed to its success. We look forward to working with you to correct this elimination and restore the program funding.

"Past program funding has resulted in impressive accomplishments in local and state salmon recovery efforts. Federal funding, together with state and local resources, has allowed local citizens and officials to initiate thousands of restoration and conservation projects, including hatchery reform, within our states. In 2008, every federal dollar spent on this program leveraged about two local and state dollars.

"The majority of these projects, developed using a "bottom up" approach, focus on direct improvements to habitat for salmon and steelhead, resulting in more than 500,000 acres of restored habitat, and approximately 3,575 opened stream miles. This form of citizen involvement is exactly the type of commitment needed to succeed in protecting and restoring these important species of fish that are so integral to the economic and ecological well-being of our states.

"Funds have also been used for on-the-ground restoration projects, ranging from culvert replacement at single sites to erosion control over large areas, and have generated hundreds of jobs for unemployed timber workers while producing additional economic benefits over time as they contribute to the recovery of commercially and recreationally important species. In particular, the jobs produced by road decommissioning, re-vegetation efforts and fish passage projects represent valuable employment opportunities in today's depressed job market."
For a full list of signers and the full text of the letter go to http://murray.senate.gov/news.cfm?id=312749

The CRITFC letter says, "We support a budget amendment to restore and fund the PCSRF program at $100 million for FY2010 in order to continue the successful efforts of the tribes and states to restore healthy populations of naturally spawning salmon. We would like to see the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund reauthorized at least through 2015, with similar funding levels, in order to capture another full life cycle of Chinook salmon under this program.

"This will also allow for a more complete, long-term evaluation of the success of projects that are implemented under the PCSRF. A permanent re-authorization however would be preferable.

"Under treaties negotiated with the United States in 1855, the Commission's tribes reserved to themselves sovereign rights; among these are rights to take fish at all our usual and accustomed fishing places. It was the expectation of our treaty negotiators then that the tribes would always have access to abundant runs of salmon; it is our expectation now that the United States will honor that commitment and support our efforts to take the steps necessary to protect this trust resource. This reserved right has not been diminished by time and its exercise has been upheld and affirmed in several U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The PCSRF supports our efforts - and the United States' obligation - to protect the salmon trust resource and allow the tribes to exercise their treaty reserved rights.

"Since FY 2000, the member tribes and CRITFC have successfully implemented 199 projects with funding provided through the PCSRF. Of those projects, 154 projects (77 percent) are completed and 45 projects are ongoing (23 percent). Project accomplishments include restoring approximately 700 miles of riparian habitat, acquiring 12,148 acres for critical fisheries habitat protection/enhancement, providing passage to 232 miles of additional spawning and rearing habitat, and the development of 34 state of the art propagation projects designed to restore naturally spawning salmon populations.

"Tribal projects under the PCSRF are most often developed with local partners and are one way to work collaboratively towards salmon restoration without adding additional unfunded burdens on local landowners. Importantly, for salmon restoration efforts in the Columbia River basin, the PCSRF allows the tribes and states to implement projects that are complimentary to those funded by the Bonneville Power Administration."

The letter was signed by N. Kathryn Brigham, Cchairwoman of CRITFC, and sent to the administration, Western governors, and congressional delegations for Idaho, Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada.


* Sea Lions Trapped At Astoria, Bonneville Dam, Three Euthanized For Health Reasons

State fish and game crews this week trapped two California sea lions in Astoria near the mouth of the Columbia River and captured three others 146 miles upstream at Bonneville as part of an effort to reduce the big marine mammals' predation on salmon spawners.

Animals trapped Monday and Wednesday at Astoria were euthanized, as was one of the three sea lions trapped Thursday below the dam. All three were on a list of identifiable animals that are eligible for removal.

The three pinnipeds underwent a health assessment and were found to be unacceptable for transfer to zoos or aquariums.

This week's action brought to 25 the number of California sea lions that have been removed from the area since the states received authority in March 2008 to lethally remove individually indentifiable animals that are preying on salmon and steelhead stocks that are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Last year seven sea lions were trapped intentionally and six were shipped off to zoos and aquariums. One died while under anesthesia during a post-trapping medical examination. Four others died of heat exhaustion when trap doors inadvertently, and inexplicably, were tripped and the animals were caged together overnight.

The three removals this week brings the 2009 total to 14. Four of the captured animals have been placed in zoos or aquariums and 10 have been euthanized.

Two of the animals trapped Thursday at Bonneville were unmarked and not on the list for removal. They were branded, fitted with acoustic tags and released

Operations are continuing at both Astoria and Bonneville Dam, but with California sea lions beginning their seasonal migration downriver biologists have shifted additional resources to Astoria. They began in early March and will wind down in the next week or so.

California sea lions have been routinely trapped and branded in Astoria since March 1 under authority granted by NOAA Fisheries.

Until this week, crews had not captured any sea lions since April 16.


* Stakeholders Gather To Discuss Ways To Reduce Columbia River Basin Toxins

Hoping to generate ideas from stakeholders, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday facilitated the first Columbia River Basin Toxics Reduction Workshop since releasing its State of the River Report in January.

About 90 people, representing agriculture and industry, watershed councils and conservation districts, as well as local, state, federal and tribal governments, gathered for the all-day workshop at Wildhorse Casino on the Umatilla Indian Reservation. In addition to the EPA, the workshop sponsors included the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Columbia River Toxics Reduction Working Group, and the Umatilla Soil and Water Conservation District.

During the day, attendees discussed the State of the River Report, successful efforts to reduce toxics and future plans, including a second workshop set for June 2 at White Salmon, to exchange information with local watershed groups about toxics reduction, and to share information about individual actions to reduce pollutants in the Columbia River Basin.

Mary Lou Soscia from EPA's Region 10 Seattle Office said it is imperative for bureaucrats to get out of the office and engage the Basin community.

"We can't sit in Portland," she said. "We have to get out into the watershed, bring people together to spur ideas and discuss resources."

Soscia said the first workshop was held on the Umatilla Indian Reservation to acknowledge the leadership of the Umatillas in efforts to reduce toxics, particularly the tribes' work with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality that has resulted in an increase in the state's fish consumption rate, which is used as a factor in determining how much pollution is allowed to be discharged into the state's waterways.

"We're hoping to better understand and accelerate reductions of toxics," she said. "We're dealing with legacy pollutants that were banned 30 years ago and now we have new pollutants emerging that we're concerned about. We can't wait 100 years to clean it up; the work has to start right now."

In January, EPA released the Columbia River Basin State of the River Report, which summarizes what currently is known about four main contaminants and the risks they pose to people, fish and wildlife. The report focuses on mercury, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), and its breakdown products, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants.

The report presents preliminary information on the presence of mercury, DDT, PCBs, and PBDEs in juvenile salmon, resident fish (sucker, bass and mountain whitefish), sturgeon, predatory birds (osprey and bald eagles), aquatic mammals (mink and otter), and sediment-dwelling shellfish (Asian clams).

Many other contaminants are found in the Basin, including arsenic, dioxins, radionuclides, lead, pesticides, industrial chemicals, and "emerging contaminants" such as pharmaceuticals found in wastewater. And although the State of the River Report did not focus on those contaminants, they are being discussed at the workshops so that stakeholders can better understand and work to reduce all pollutants.

Workshop participants , including speakers from the Oregon DEQ, Washington Ecology Department, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Washington Department of Health and Columbia Riverkeepers talked about technical assistance programs and what efforts currently are underway to reduce toxics in the Columbia River Basin.

Kevin Masterson from the Oregon DEQ, explaining the state's toxics reduction strategy, said voluntary management practices can be as simple as turning off a sprayer when a tractor turns a corner near streams. He said recent waste pesticide recycling efforts have generated 20,000 pounds in Umatilla County.

Oregon DEQ plans to expand its analysis and monitoring of pesticides from 12 to more than 100 with the intent of developing water quality standards that address other contaminants.

Elaine Brouillard from the Sunnyside Irrigation District near Yakima and Dave McBride from the Washington Department of Health related a "non-point success story" in the Yakima River, where in late April the state lifted a fish-consumption DDT advisory as a result of successful efforts to reduce pollutants in the river.

In 1996, the Yakima River was placed on the federal 303d list for sediment, turbidity and DDT. But Yakima Valley farming improvements have reduced DDT concentrations in fish by 30 percent to 85 percent.

Fish in the Yakima River had the "highest DDT levels in the United States," said Brouillard , who represents the 72,000-acre Roza Irrigation District and the 86,500-acre Sunnyside Irrigation District. However, she said, volunteer efforts and a variety of partnerships, guided by TMDL (total maximum daily loads) goals, significantly reduced DDT from about 50 nanograms per liter in 1988 to 1-2 nanograms per liter measured in the last two years.

Brouillard said the success can be credited to peer pressure from farmers who were successful in reducing toxics, and the districts' option of reducing the amount of water at a rate of .37 cfs per 40 acres for farmers who are not in compliance with TMDL goals.

"This was all volunteer," she said. "We thought it would take 20 years but took about half that time. Three-fourths of our drains are in compliance of our goals and we can now eat Yakima fish without worry."

McBride noted that nearly 60 advisories have been issued in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, primarily (61 percent) for mercury, PCBs (19 percent) and lead (7 percent.) In the last nine years, he said, the Yakima River advisory was the first one rescinded based on measured reduction of toxics. In 1993, he said, the public was advised to eat no more than one meal per week of Yakima River bottom fish. In 2006 and 2007, a Washington Department of Ecology study of eight species, including bass, kokanee, sucker, whitefish and pikeminnow, showed levels of DDT and PCBs low enough to remove the advisory.

A panel that included farmers and other agriculture experts shared information about new technology, new practices and common-sense conservation measures that have both cost more money and saved money while protecting the environment.

Kevin Hudson, who farms 5,000 acres for the Confederated Tribes' Farm Enterprise, said his efforts to save money have yielded benefits for the environment as well.

The Umatilla Tribes five years ago began "precision farming" that uses GPS units and automatic steering devices on tractors to more efficiently apply fertilizer.

"We did it to protect the bottom line with less overlap, lower fertilizer bills and less tractor time. We paid closer attention to lines in the field and by putting less chemicals on the ground, there is less chance to pollute the creeks and surface water," Hudson said. "The biggest reason was to save money; the other benefits are gravy."

Ron Brown, CEO of Earl Brown and Sons from Milton-Freewater, an ag producer that operates Blue Mountain Cider Company and Watermill Winery, represents one of more than two dozen vineyards certified through Salmon-Safe to accelerate salmon recovery in the Walla Walla Basin.

Salmon-Safe, an independent 501(C)3 nonprofit based in Portland, is devoted to restoring agricultural and urban watersheds so that salmon can spawn and thrive. It has become one of the nation's leading regional eco labels with more than 50,000 acres of farm and urban lands certified.

"Salmon Safe was the answer to meeting our needs, protecting the environment without compromising our future," Brown said. The program helped his company achieve three goals - protect the environment, be profitable and contribute socially and economically to the community.

Brown, whose company shipped 850,000 boxes of apples worldwide last year, said habitat restoration is a benefactor of efforts driven by consumers who want safe food, "from tribal members eating salmon to someone eating apples in Europe."

In addition to Salmon Safe's programs to decrease pesticide use, working with Tribe's to enable the reintroduction and eventual recovery of salmon, the Browns gave up 30 percent of their Walla Walla River surface water as in-stream flows for migrating salmon and steelhead. They have installed weather stations and neutron probes that trigger irrigation only when there is moisture deficit in the root zones of crops. Additionally, the company has changed to precision pest management.

"I'm a product of DDT," he said. "I remember when I was 10 years old my mother said to my father, 'Every time you spray it not only stinks but it kills everything.' It was applied once a year on apples and it killed everything. I remember her saying, 'Isn't there something else we could use?' I can't believe it's still hanging around. How did we ever let ourselves get into this predicament?"

Said Brown, "I believe we're on the cutting edge. We believe we're now the solution and not the problem."


* Oregon Senators Urge Another $9.8 Million In Salmon Fishing Disaster Funds

Oregon's U.S. Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley asked the Senate Appropriations Committee this week for an additional $9.8 million in federal disaster assistance for Oregon's salmon industry and coastal communities.

"This is the third year out of the last four years that commercial salmon fishing has been virtually eliminated along the Oregon coastline due to low salmon return numbers from one of the major salmon runs," Wyden and Merkley said in a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye and Ranking Member Thad Cochran. "The impact to our coastal communities has been devastating, and our fishermen and supporting businesses continue to struggle after the repeated fishery failures of recent years."

Wyden and Merkley are seeking the additional disaster relief funding as part of the emergency supplemental appropriations bill being considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

On April 30, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke extended the 2008 salmon disaster declaration for California and Oregon, which gave West Coast salmon fishermen access to $53 million in unspent relief funds from 2008, including $6.7 million for Oregon. However, the Oregon Governor's office has estimated that an additional $9.8 million is needed to further ease the impact of low salmon returns.

"As a result of the continuation of last year's disaster declaration, our fishermen will be able to access $6.7 million of remaining disaster assistance funds appropriated for Oregon and Washington last year. However, the Governor's office estimates this will leave a shortfall in Oregon's disaster needs of $9.8 million.," says the letter. "It is critical to include this funding at this time so that funds can be distributed as quickly as possible to commercial fisherman and dependent businesses. Such timely assistance is essential to keep our coastal communities afloat, helping prevent credit problems and dangerous delays in the upkeep and maintenance of fishing vessels. Appropriating these disaster funds is an urgent priority for our constituents."


* Stimulus Funding Now Includes Funds To Complete Columbia River Channel Deepening

U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, announced this week that the Columbia River Channel Deepening project will receive $26.6 million to complete work to deepen the Columbia River navigation channel under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The funding, which will go to the Army Corps of Engineers, was not included in the administration's original list of ARRA projects that would receive funding, which was released on April 28.

However, following that announcement, Murray said she spoke with Obama administration officials about the economic impact completion of the project will have, including more than 40,000 jobs in the region that depend on maritime commerce and the overall economic impact the thoroughfare has in the Northwest.

"This is a big victory for our state and the entire Northwest," said Murray. "After years and years of work, we are now on the verge of ensuring the Columbia River remains the economic engine of the Northwest. A deeper channel will enable us to accommodate the modern fleet of larger ships which will help save jobs and keep our state's goods moving. Funding the completion of this efforts is exactly the kind of project the Economic Recovery Act was designed to support."

The funding announced this week is expected to be enough to complete the project. The majority of the funding will got to blasting to remove basalt rock near St. Helens, OR, at river mile 88.

Many of today's trade vessels are larger ships that are constrained by the current authorized depth of 40-feet in the Columbia River navigation channel. In order to better accommodate those vessels, the navigation channel needs to be deepened from 40 to 43 feet. This will enable ships to access and serve the regions ports, businesses, farmers, and other critical markets.

The Columbia River Channel Coalition said, "The sooner the channel is deepened, the more quickly our region's businesses and farmers will realize $18.8 million in annual transportation savings. A 43-foot deep channel will enable 6,000 tons more cargo to be loaded per ship than the current 40-foot deep channel. By allowing these deep-draft vessels to fully load Northwest cargo, local jobs will be protected and created and our region's economy will be enhanced."

The Pacific Northwest Waterways Association said completion of the deepening will provide significant economic benefits to the nation and the region:

--- $16 billion in exports and imports are transported via the Columbia River each year.
--- The Columbia River is the single largest wheat and barley export gateway in the nation.
--- The Columbia is the third largest grain (wheat, corn, soybeans and barley) export gateway in the world.
--- An additional 6,000 tons of wheat worth $1 million can be loaded on each ship in a deeper channel.
--- Similarly, a container ship could carry 6,000 tons of additional cargo worth $10 million (e.g. exported frozen potatoes, vegetables and paper products and imported footwear and apparel).
--- Approximately 40,000 jobs, each with an average annual wage of $46,000, depend upon Columbia River maritime activity. An additional 59,000 jobs are positively influenced.
--- Regional exporters save $68 million a year by shipping their containerized cargo through the Port of Portland as opposed to more distant ports.


* Council Approves Spending For Mid-Willamette Valley Wildlife Habitat Mitigation

Within-year budget adjustments totaling nearly $2.3 million for six fish and wildlife projects were approved Tuesday by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

The recommendation now goes the Bonneville Power Administration, which issues contracts and funds fish and wildlife work channeled through the Council's Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. BPA, which markets power generated in the federal Columbia-Snake river hydro system, funds the program as mitigation for impacts to fish and wildlife from the construction and operation of the dams.

A $1.97 million grant goes to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to purchase conservation easements on three parcels in the mid-Willamette Valley for wildlife mitigation. The proposed easements link to adjacent or nearby aggregations of conservation properties including EE Wilson Wildlife Area, Bower's Rock State Park, Truax Island, Riverside Landings, Camp Adair, and Luckiamute Natural Areas, according to a memo prepared by the NPCC's project implementation manager, Mark Fritsch. The Council made the recommendations during its meeting in Walla Walla, Wash.

The purchase will protect a minimum of 380 "habitat units" and help fulfill Bonneville's obligation to mitigate for federal dams in the Willamette River basin. The Oregon river flows into the Columbia at Portland.

"All three of the properties include a mix of habitat types that will benefit a variety of species and will help BPA to advance its wildlife mitigation goals," according to the federal agency. "In addition, the properties provide benefits to listed fish species and will help BPA work towards the habitat restoration/protection goals outlined in the 2008 Biological Opinion for the Willamette Projects (2 completed projects by the end of 2010).

"Finally, habitat enhancement cost share has already been identified for the Rust property near the mainstem of the Willamette." BPA noted the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board has committed to providing restoration funding if BPA provides funding for the easement acquisition.

The Council also recommended approving:

--a $50,000 increase in expense funding for Fiscal Year 2009 for the Montana Water Trust to coordinate stakeholder involvement and synthesize the information developed by the technical advisory committee and subcommittees into a final Bitterroot Watershed subbasin management plan. The funding adds to the existing $50,000 2009 budget;

-- a $100,000 request from the Bureau of Reclamation to supplement the Yakima Phase II Fish Screens Operations and Maintenance project's $104,877 budget. The money will be used for design work to correct issues associated with the Naches-Cowiche fish screen bypass outfall. It has been determined that annual maintenance is not sufficient to ensure operating criteria is being met. This need not only addresses the outfall, but also reduces the potential for entrainment into the canal;

-- an Idaho Department of Fish and Game request for $44,000 to monitor and evaluate the effects of nutrient supplementation on Dworshak Reservoir water quality and biological response. The additional funds will allow IDFG to continue bi-monthly water sampling, instead of monthly, to ensure application levels of fertilizer are made for the desired ecological response. The project's base budget for 2009 is $160,000.

-- a Jefferson County, Ore., request to change the scope of Trout Creek Watershed Restoration project with additional work elements to allow them to continue implementing projects in Fiscal Year 2009. Sponsors completed all the work associated with the contract developed from the reviewed and recommended project proposal. No additional funding was requested.

-- a request for $115,729 for its Habitat Evaluation Project to ensure that baseline and follow-up Habitat Evaluation Procedures surveys and reports are completed in a timely manner and other HEP crediting tasks and requests for HEP-related information/data are addressed. The reviewed and recommended purpose of this project is to conduct evaluations of existing and new mitigation project lands and to provide technical oversight, review, and audits of current and past HEP data. In addition, there is a need to complete the Combined Habitat Assessment Protocols pilot study initiated to determine the efficacy of using CHAP to estimate HU credits in the Willamette Valley. The funding adds to the existing $267,000 budget for 2009.


* Compact Approves Tribal Sales Of Salmon Caught Between Bonneville-McNary

The Columbia River Compact on Thursday approved the commercial sale of salmon caught by tribal members with hoop nets, dip nets and hook and line in the mainstem reservoirs between Bonneville and McNary dams.

Four treaty tribes -- the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakama -- have been fishing this spring with gill nets and from riverside platforms with hook and line to satisfy ceremonial needs and for subsistence purposes. They have caught 8,523 upriver spring chinook in the permit gill-net fisheries, which were ended May 9.

They had also caught an estimated 1,080 chinook from platforms.

Based on the current run-size estimate -- a return of from 120,000 to 150,000 upriver spring chinook adults to the mouth of the river -- the tribes can catch from 357 to 4,047 more chinook between now and June 15. They estimate they will catch no more than 1,020 from the platforms.

The tribal and non-tribal harvests are limited to avoid having too big of an impact on upriver spring chinook - Upper Columbia and Snake river wild fish - that are listed under the Endangered Species Act. They make their spawning journey alongside unprotected hatchery fish.

Under the management guidelines the four tribes can harvest up to 8.3 percent of the upriver run if the return is between 109,000 and 141,000. Their share is higher, 9.1 percent, for runs numbering between 141,000 and 217,000.

The Yakama Nation in particular wanted the option of selling fish caught from Columbia mainstem platforms. They will also be allow to sell fish caught in the Wind, Big White, Klicktat rivers and at Drano Lake/Little White Salmon river and from there fishing site below Bonneville Dm, a 600-foot strip on Washington shoreline.

The Compact, which sets mainstem commercial fisheries, approved the sale of chinook and sockeye salmon, steelhead, walleye, carp and shad. The Compact is made up of representatives of the directors of the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife.


* USFWS Proposes Changing Oregon Chub Listing From Endangered To Threatened

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to change the Endangered Species Act classification of the Oregon chub from endangered to threatened.

Findings from a recently completed five-year review indicate that the status of the Oregon chub has improved substantially and that existing threats are not likely to put the chub in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.

During the next 60 days the Service is seeking information, data and comments from the public regarding this proposal. Comments must be received by July 14.

Notice of this proposal will be published in the Federal Register today (May 15).

The Oregon chub is now abundant and well-distributed throughout most of its historical range, which spans the Willamette Valley. Populations are currently found from the North Santiam River in the north to the Middle Fork Willamette River in the south.

The Fish and Wildlife Service listed the chub as endangered in 1993 after receiving a petition with conclusive data that cited a 98 percent reduction in the range of the species. Critical habitat was not designated at the time of listing, but a proposal is currently being developed.

The decline of the chub came about at a time when the environment of the Willamette River was undergoing large-scale changes. Extensive alteration of the Willamette and its tributaries resulted in the loss of the sloughs and side channels that provide important chub habitat. Non-native fishes have become established throughout the Willamette basin and are considered to be the greatest threat to the chub's survival.

A recovery plan for Oregon chub established criteria for changing its status to threatened (downlisting) and for removing it from the list of endangered and threatened species (delisting). The plan recommended specific recovery actions that would protect existing sites, establish new populations, research the chub's ecology and increase public involvement.

The recovery plan determined that the species should be considered for reclassification to threatened when 10 large populations were distributed throughout the species' range, with a stable or increasing trend for at least five years.

Along with implementing the recovery actions, a team of state and federal agencies joined together and funded extensive surveys for Oregon chub. The surveys led to the discovery of many new populations. In addition, successful reintroductions established nine new populations of chub within its historical range. These actions have contributed to a dramatic improvement in the status of the chub and, currently, there are 35 populations of Oregon chub distributed throughout the Willamette Valley. Of these, 19 have more than 500 individuals.

The Oregon chub is a small minnow, less than 3.5 inches long, and is endemic (unique to a specific place) to the Willamette River Basin in western Oregon. The chub has an olive-colored back, grading to silver on the sides and white on the belly. Oregon chub thrive in slack water habitats such as beaver ponds, oxbows, side channels, backwater sloughs, low gradient tributaries and flooded marshes, which provide abundant aquatic vegetation for hiding and spawning cover. In wild populations, adult Oregon chub live up to nine years.


* State Budget Cuts Lead To WDFW Layoffs, Service Reductions

A $21 million reduction in state and other funding over the next two years will require the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to lay off 76 employees and curtail some public services.

The layoffs, along with elimination of dozens of vacant positions, will be effective at the close of the current fiscal year June 30.

WDFW executive managers have been planning for a significant budget reduction for months, and in the meantime have been pursuing a number of savings and efficiency efforts to reduce current spending.

As much as possible, reductions were structured to preserve core department missions of conserving fish and wildlife, providing sustainable fishing, hunting and wildlife-viewing opportunities and maintaining field operations, said WDFW Deputy Director Joe Stohr.

Despite those efforts, there will be reductions in basic services, he said.

Hatchery fish production, wildlife species recovery activities, technical assistance for habitat protection, wildlife area maintenance, fish and wildlife population monitoring, customer service and outreach and education are among the activities that will be reduced under the 2009-11 operating budget approved by the state Legislature this year.

Under that budget, WDFW will receive $81.2 million in support from the State General Fund, a reduction of about $30 million from the current budget period. But other measures approved by the Legislature this year are expected to partially offset that reduction by generating more than $9 million in new revenues for the department.

"While these budget cuts are deep and painful, we recognize they could have been far worse without the support the department received from legislators," said WDFW Director Phil Anderson.

One new measure, House Bill 1778, allows WDFW to collect a temporary two-year, 10 percent surcharge on sales of fishing and hunting licenses and permits, and is expected to generate about $6 million in revenue. The bill also allows the department to offer fishing with two poles on designated lakes, generating about $2 million over two years. Another new law, Senate Bill 5421, is expected to generate about $1.75 million over two years through a new stamp for recreational salmon and steelhead fishing in the Columbia River and some of its tributaries.

To mitigate the anticipated budget shortfall, the department has made ongoing efforts to increase efficiency, pursue outside partnerships and funding sources, and boost recreational license sales. Sales of recreational fishing licenses are up slightly so far this year, currently about $450,000 above 2008 sales for the same period, according to WDFW licensing managers.

More information about impending budget reductions at WDFW is available on the department's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/budget/


* Tidewater Barge, Tug Strike Dalles Dam; Officials Say No Fuel Spilled

The Washington Department of Ecology, the U.S. Coast Guard and Tidewater Barge Lines were at the scene at The Dalles Dam this morning where a Tidewater barge and tug struck the dam at just after midnight Friday (May 15). 
The double-hulled barge is carrying two million gallons of gasoline. The barge and tug struck the "long wall" at the entrance to the locks, breaching the outer hull of the barge about three feet above the water line. The accident caused a four-foot by four-foot gash but did not damage the cargo tanks.

No fuel has spilled and no water is getting inside the barge. The structural integrity of the barge has not been compromised. According to a Tidewater spokesman the double-hull performed as designed, limiting the damage to the outer hull, while protecting the cargo tanks.

The Coast Guard has conducted a helicopter over flight and responders saw no gasoline sheen on the water. The river has been closed to boat traffic both upriver and downriver of the dam until the site is cleared.

The Coast Guard is waiting for a marine chemist to inspect the barge holds to make sure the barge can be safely inspected. The Coast Guard then will determine if the vessel can continue down the river or if the gasoline must be off-loaded on site. 
Ecology and Coast Guard will continue monitoring the situation for any leakage. 


MESSAGE TO READERS: The CBB will not be published next Friday. We will return May 29.

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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