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


 October 27, 2006 Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Bulletin

A congressionally driven process is building momentum toward its goal of delicately balancing Columbia River Basin hatchery production so it provides desired harvest and, at the same time, protects threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.


Congress in 2005 directed NOAA Fisheries to conduct a collaborative, independent review of how harvest and hatcheries in the basin -- particularly federally-funded hatcheries -- affect the recovery of salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act.


The aim is to pattern the Columbia River Hatchery Reform Project after earlier work commissioned by Congress in the Puget Sound and Coastal Washington region.


After a few months of marshalling the forces and developing a strategic work plan and the tools to implement it, products have begun to fall off the assembly line.


The project's Hatchery Scientific Review Group conducted its first regional review in the Lower Columbia and estuary on the Washington side of the river in July, 2006.


That "pilot project" was deemed "successful because it provided solutions for the managers to implement reforms, while serving as a 'test' to help us determine if the overall approach to the review process would work," according to an Oct. 11 project progress report.


"We're kind of building this as we go to see how we can put it in the best context for decision makers," said consultant Jim Waldo who was hired to lead the two-year project.


The intent is to redesign hatchery programs to achieve two goals:

-- help conserve wild salmon and steelhead populations; and

-- support sustainable fisheries.


The basin holds about 300 populations of salmon and steelhead, including 100 that spawn naturally. Each of the remaining 200 populations has a hatchery component.


Most of the naturally spawning populations are part of 13 stocks that are ESA listed.


The purpose of the CRHRP is to "help put in place a management approach which allows Tribal, State and Federal managers to effectively manage hatcheries to meet conservation and harvest goals consistent with their respective legal responsibilities."


The project will not address legal issues or mitigation responsibilities, according to information posted on the hatchery reform web site, http://www.hatcheryreform.us


Waldo, of Gordon Thomas Honeywell, was hired to facilitate the scientific review, informed by the Hatchery Scientific Review Group and its results in the Puget Sound region. Lars Mobrand, of Mobrand, Jones & Stokes, is leading the Science Team. Waldo and Mobrand identified a team of policy and technical staff to organize the project work plan.


The reviews of 11 different regions within the basin are being carried out by an independent group of scientists in conjunction with a Steering Committee comprised of representatives from fisheries agencies in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; NOAA Fisheries; and tribal agencies in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.


It is intended that the review will lead to a series of decisions that are a) based on broad policy agreements, and b) supported by consistent technical information about hatcheries, habitat, and harvest, according to background information posted in the web page.


A few hints and signs of promise emerged from the pilot study.


"First, it appears that there is significant potential to reduce risks and increase benefits programmatically, by resizing hatchery programs and improving broodstock management (composition of hatchery and natural fish in the hatchery and on the spawning grounds), and operationally, by upgrading aging facilities to meet state and federal environmental requirements and accommodate best culture practices," according to the progress report.


"Second, since hatchery origin fish can support higher exploitation rates than wild populations, the ability to harvest hatchery fish at a higher rate than wild will both reduce the potential adverse effects of too many hatchery fish on the spawning grounds and increase the value of the hatchery production to fisheries.


"Finally, it is also abundantly clear that improvements in quality and quantity of habitat will both increase benefits and reduce risks associated with hatchery programs. Improvements of habitat in the lower Columbia is particularly important to allow recovery of listed stocks, while at the same time supporting harvest through large hatchery programs," the report says.


Waldo said that the final products from the reviews will likely include specific recommendations, potentially offering a list of options with the HSRG weighing in on its preferred path. Implementation would be left to the fish management entities.


"We're kind of experimenting with that too," Waldo said of the final form of recommendations from the process.


The process draws on other ongoing efforts, and established work, and aims to "contribute value to them," Waldo said.


The Columbia Basin effort is closely aligned with another NOAA project, an evaluation of hatcheries it funds through the Mitchell Act.


Waldo said he expects the information generated through the CRHRP "to feed into the alternatives that NOAA will put out next year."


A similar relationship is being developed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is amidst an evaluation of hatcheries it funds.


The Corps of Engineers too is doing a review and a Northwest Power and Conservation Council initiative to develop "provincial" objectives for its fish and wildlife program will also benefit from, and be an asset to, the CRHRP.


The data generated will also inform the remand process for NOAA's biological opinion on the Federal Columbia River Power System.


Assistance from state, federal, tribal and private hatchery managers is a key component. For each review region the HSRG will tour the facilities and programs, consider population and habitat information provided by the managers, consider the benefits and risks to all populations that result from each hatchery program, meet with the managers to discuss the findings, and then produce specific recommendations for reducing the risks and maximizing benefits from each program.


The project will consider all hatcheries within the U.S. portion of the basin. These programs are managed by federal agencies, state agencies, tribal agencies, and private entities.


The Facilitation Team is helping with policy development for the CRHRP with the assistance of the Steering Committee. The process envisions a transition from the scientific group’s recommendations into a performance-based management system that triggers management reforms.


Members of the Steering Committee include: Ed Bowles, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife; Kat Brigham, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (invited); Claudeo Broncho, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Fort Hall; Jody Calica, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs; Dan Diggs, USFWS; Steve Huffaker, Idaho Department of Fish and Game; Dave Johnson, Nez Perce Tribe (invited); Rob Jones, NOAA Fisheries and co-chair of the BiOp Remand Harvest and Hatchery Work Group; Jeff Koenings, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; Guy Norman, WDFW and co-chair of the BiOp Remand Harvest and Hatchery Work Group; Joe Peone, Confederated Tribes of the Colville and Phillip Rigdon, Yakama Indian Nation.


Unlike the Puget Sound and coastal Washington Hatchery Reform Project, the Columbia review includes recommendations related to harvest. 


The review schedule is as follows.

-- July 2006: Lower Columbia, Washington;

-- September 2006: Columbia Estuary, Washington;

-- November 2006: Lower Columbia – Sandy and Columbia Estuary, Oregon;

-- January 2007: Columbia Gorge, Washington and Mitchell Act Programs in Region 7;

-- April 2007: Columbia Gorge, Oregon;

-- May 2007: Willamette;

-- June 2007: Columbia Cascade;

-- August 2007: Columbia Plateau, Oregon;

-- October 2007: Columbia Plateau, Washington;

-- January 2008: Mountain Snake – Clearwater/Mountain Snake – Salmon;

-- March 2008: Blue Mountain.


The HSRG then looks at the current program to determine if it is managed on a scientifically sound basis.  It also considers whether or not the hatchery populations are affecting conservation goals for wild stocks, according to hatchery reform web page.  The HSRG may find a hatchery program is being properly managed, or find that reform is needed in order to meet conservation and/or harvest goals.  The HSRG may also recommend that a program be terminated.


Once the 11 regional reviews are completed, the HSRG will “roll up” the results in the entire Columbia River Basin to determine if additional reforms are needed in order to meet conservation goals, and harvest goals that are consistent with those conservation requirements.  The final HSRG report will be forwarded to Congress and be made available to governments, interested parties and the public.




Home Contact


Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2006, All Rights Reserved