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March 23, 2007 CB Bulletin

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council has asked for input on how it might update the guidance document it has used since 1997 in considering ocean conditions when making fish and wildlife project funding recommendations.

"It needs to be updated, clearly," Peter Paquet, acting director for the NPCC's Fish and Wildlife Division.

For more information and the 1997 ocean conditions issue paper go to http://www.nwcouncil.org/library/1997/97-6comment.htm

A wide variety of research has been carried out in recent years in an attempt to better understand the ocean's effects on fish and wildlife, and particularly Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead that spend their early months in freshwater but mature in the ocean before returning to spawn.

That new scientific knowledge should be tapped to update the Council's 1997 issue paper, Consideration of Ocean Conditions in the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, Paquet said.

The Council is asking for comments on how the paper should be revised to reflect new information. The updated paper would be used as the Council amends the program, a yearlong Northwest Power Act process that will likely be launched in October or November, and also in considering the design of future project funding processes.

In particular, the Council seeks comment on:

-- How any revision of this policy paper should incorporate the current state of scientific information about the influence of ocean conditions on fish and wildlife populations.

-- How the Council should incorporate ocean conditions in reviewing management actions funded through the program.

-- The emphasis the Council should place on proposals to improve estuary and near ocean conditions for fish and wildlife.

-- The emphasis the Council should place on research proposals for ocean, near ocean and estuary conditions.

-- How the Council should take into account and coordinate with other ocean and climatic programs addressing Columbia River salmon populations.

Comments should be sent by April 30 to:

Peter Paquet, acting Fish and Wildlfie Division director
Northwest Power and Conservation Council
851 SW Sixth Ave., Suite 1100
Portland, OR 97204-1348
Fax 503-820-2370

Or e-mail: ppaquet@nwcouncil.org

A 1996 amendment to 1980 Northwest Power Act says that "in making its recommendations" to the Bonneville Power Administration, the Council is to "consider the impact of ocean conditions on fish and wildlife populations."

Based on that limited congressional guidance, the Council developed an issue paper and has used it in subsequent project funding reviews and recommendations.

The Council was created at the power act's directive and it was charged with developing a fish and wildlife program to protect, mitigate and enhance fish and wildlife affected by the construction and operation of the federal Columbia basin hydrosystem. BPA, which markets the power generated in the system, was charged with providing funding in a manner consistent with the Council program, which itself is updated through that public amendment process.

The 1997 paper surmised that, "because the two primary ways fish and wildlife managers can influence salmon survival in the ocean are through preserving life-history diversity in salmon and improving estuarine and near-shore conditions, staff proposes to 'consider the impact of ocean conditions on fish and wildlife populations' by:

--Evaluating the impact of projects, strategies and the fish and wildlife program on salmon productivity and diversity; and

-- Evaluating the impact of projects, strategies and the fish and wildlife program on the conditions of estuarine and near-shore ocean habitats."

The NPCC staff-generated paper said that "there are three general ways in which oceans have been viewed over time."

"One view is that the production of adult salmon can be determined and manipulated in direct proportion to number of juvenile fish supplied to the ocean," according to the paper.

"Realization, over the last decade, of the variability in ocean survival of salmon has led to an alternative perspective that views the ocean as the ultimate governor of fish populations," the paper says.

"The first two ocean perspectives discussed above view the freshwater and marine environments as distinct and separable habitats. The perspectives differ in regard to the relative importance placed on either area. More recent thinking about ecosystems and their importance to species of interest, such as salmon, as well as a greater understanding of the ocean have led to a third view in which the ocean is seen as an integral ecosystem component.

"This third view of the ecosystem can be summarized in the following points:

-- The ocean cannot be viewed as being unlimited. Ocean conditions and capacity do vary and can be limiting.

-- Freshwater and marine environments are not independent. There is evidence that variation in the two environments are linked and that both are integral parts of the salmonid ecosystem.

-- The estuary is an important bridge between these two portions of the ecosystem. Conditions in the estuary can be an important determinant of early ocean survival of salmon.

-- Environmental variability is an inherent feature of the ecosystem of salmon. As a species, salmon accommodate this variability through a similar variety in physical and behavioral traits."

"These three different perspectives affect how management actions are shaped in freshwater, the estuary and the ocean," the 1997 paper says. "The shift of management focus toward the entire salmon ecosystem recognizes that even though the ocean is variable, management actions -- particularly those in freshwater systems -- are still relevant. Staff sees four major ways to reflect the impact of ocean conditions in salmon recovery actions:

-- Take no new actions

-- Modify actions in freshwater

-- Take direct steps to enhance the marine environment

-- Improve forecast and management ability.


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