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[1] Fish Managers Kill NMFS Chinook Survival Study
[2] Tribes Say No To Selective Fishing Methods
[3] Spring Chinook Run, One For the Record Books, Sort Of...
[4] Methow Irrigators Still Wrestling With NMFS
[5] Washington State Stumbles Over Spring Hatchery Surplus
[6] FERC Rejects Shortcut Relicensing For Priest Rapids Over Fish Issues
[7] Briefs: Hanford Hot New National Monument; Pikeminnow Program Reviewed

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Proposed NMFS research into passage survival of Snake River fall chinook died this week at the hands of regional fish managers who found fault with the proposal's design. At the eleventh hour, it looked likely the study had been saved by the intervention of NMFS regional administrator Will Stelle. But the proposal ultimately died after the Nez Perce tribe said NMFS failed to coordinate properly with them over the terms of the research.

After regional fish managers failed to give the thumbs-up to the proposal, a last-ditch effort by NMFS had the agency's head of Protected Resources Donna Darm on a June 6 conference call with NWPPC members during their monthly work session. Darm explained the research was critical to understanding the value of barging fall chinook--a key uncertainty in debate over breaching the lower Snake dams. With fall chinook numbers on the rise, she said, this is the first year there are enough fish available to do a valid study.

However, fish managers tried to hold the study hostage to their demand for summer spill at the collector projects. NWPPC Idaho member Mike Field called it "attempted blackmail" and said he would make sure his governor knew what was going on. Earlier this year, the Fish Passage Center tried to hijack the NMFS proposal, and developed an alternative for consideration by fish managers.

In a May 31 letter to NMFS regional administrator Will Stelle, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife head Jeff Koenings said the state would only provide fish for the study if summer spill was released at the collector projects--a strategy not called for in the current BiOp, but one Koenings said they assumed would be in the new one.

Koening's letter also pointed out that the US v. Oregon co-management framework requires consensus among all parties before research is performed, thus providing "insurance against the various fisheries agencies in the Basin conducting their enhancement or research activities unilaterally, a state of affairs that would be chaotic." He said WDFW needed agreement from the Production Advisory Committee before the agency approved use of fish from Lyons Ferry Hatchery, an agreement that would be based on a technical review by the Fish Passage Advisory Committee. "WDFW should seek with NMFS, the agreement of the PAC if the action agencies [BPA, BuRec, COE] commit to providing the necessary spill."

The letter pointed to a "parallel situation" with Chelan PUD, which has begun a PIT-tagging program to study fish survival in the mid-Columbia. Koenings' letter said significant disagreement over study design was overcome "and Chelan made revisions to accommodate these concerns."

But sources say that one particular fish manager had last-minute objections to Chelan's study unless the PUD committed to more spill at Rock Island Dam. Without a consensus of the mid-C coordinating committee to keep the study on track, it took personal intervention from Stelle himself to keep the proposal alive after the PUD said next year's spill will be adjusted depending on the results from this year's survival study. But sources say that there were no revisions of the study design itself, as Koenings' letter asserted.

Sources also said Stelle met last week with Koenings and explained how important the research is to the region, and that holding up the study was intolerable. Last Thursday afternoon, it seemed the study was back on track--with no summer spill included--but the feds said they would strive for a spill-on/spill-off condition to gauge relative survival in future years.

The agency was expected to PIT-tag about 75,000 fall chinook for the study and release them above Lower Granite Dam, where they would later either be barged past the dam or returned to the river. At present, little is known about how much survival might be improved by the barging, though Darm told Council members that the agency is sure for now that the more fish that migrate inriver, the higher the mortality will be. If water is spilled at dams where fish are collected for barging, a higher percentage would stay inriver. With no spill, the fish have only two passage routes past the dams--either the turbines or bypass systems--where screens guide them away from the blades.

Nez Perce tribal fish manager Si Whitman told the Council that his tribe would not support the NMFS study. He complained that federal agencies showed a lack of coordination and communication about the study to other parties.

But Darm was clear about NMFS' position. "Inriver mortality of the fish is so high that leaving fish from spill inriver would kill too many." She said the study was not worth the effort if water was spilled.

The final word came Monday afternoon, after state agencies had OK'd the study without spill, but the Nez Perce tribe still refused to get on board, again citing issues of "lack of coordination." Without consensus, the US v. Oregon agreement clause kicked in and the research proposal was canned. It was reported that at one point, a NMFS tagging crew had showed up at the Lyons Ferry Hatchery, but was not given access to the fish.

On June 12, after word was trickling throughout the region that the proposal was nixed, NMFS policymaker Darm told NW Fishletter that her agency disagreed with the states' and tribes' interpretation of the agreement. "We don't feel that 'coordination' means 'consensus,'" said Darm. "But WDFW felt they needed consensus of all parties."

With the original fish management plan developed in the US v. Oregon process now expired, Darm admitted she wasn't aware that the parties had signed off on a one-year agreement over reaching consensus before using hatchery fish for research.

Some long-time members of the fish recovery community said the situation reminded them of the early 1990s, when state and tribal fish managers tried to stymie PIT-tag research into juvenile passage survival for spring chinook--an effort that has shown system survival twice as high as biologists once thought. -Bill Rudolph


A panel discussion last week on salmon harvest turned into a platform for bashing federal salmon policies and gave Columbia Basin tribes a chance to explain why they want to take over more of the region's hatcheries.

The panel took place in Portland at the NWPPC's monthly work session. It barely got rolling in the single hour allotted, but that was plenty of time for Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission spokesman Paul Lumley to explain his members' positions.

"Our goal is to get the ESA out of our backyard," Lumley said. With no overall agreement on harvest and hatchery policies, and with the US v. Oregon process at a standstill, Lumley said fisheries are now being managed on a case-by-case basis, with the mixed-stock harvest issue nowhere near resolution.

Panel member Rob Walton, assistant director of the Public Power Council, had little time to explain what's likely to happen next year, with a huge spring run likely to remain largely unharvested out of concern for ESA-listed wild stocks. Walton has been stumping for the idea of improving harvest opportunities in terminal areas--where ESA concerns are minimal--or developing harvest methods that release fish live, but that require mass marking of fish to tell the difference between wild and hatchery stocks.

Council chair Larry Cassidy wondered how stocks like Idaho's late run of wild steelhead could survive the tribal gillnet fishery that focuses on fall chinook without major changes in harvest methods. He mentioned some innovative work being done in British Columbia with fish weirs.

But Lumley wasn't too optimistic about changing harvest methods. "I don't think tribal members are likely to change the way they fish now," he told the Council. "Build new hatcheries or give us some--to rebuild wild stocks," he said.

The Council's own science panel says the jury's still out on the value of supplementation, and the group that reviewed hatchery funding proposals has gone on record calling supplementation hatcheries "experiments."

Misleading Sentence Colors Study Findings

But Lumley cited a 1990 study, funded by BPA and led by USFWS biologist Bill Miller, that looked at 316 fish enhancement projects and found evidence that using hatcheries to enhance wild runs has worked. "The report identified 26 supplementation programs and 25 were successful," said Lumley.

In part, the Miller report states: "We included 316 projects in our review of the unpublished and ongoing supplementation," but the authors said only 26 projects met the definition of supplementation as they defined it--"planting all life stages of hatchery fish to enhance wild/natural stocks of anadromous salmonids"--and they said only 18 of the 26 projects were quantitatively evaluated. The report's next sentence has become the most controversial part of the report: "Twenty-five of the 26 supplementation projects we evaluated were considered successful."

When Miller was questioned about this statement, he said the 25 projects were judged by the assessment of the supplementation project leader, not Miller's own evaluation team. Unfortunately, since Miller never made a formal revision, confusion over the issue has remained. The report's abstract states, "We reviewed 316 projects in the unpublished and ongoing work. Only 25 were successful for supplementing natural existing runs, although many were successful at returning adult fish. Successes from outplanting hatchery fish were primarily in harvest augmentation."

"...When we consider the overall anadromous fish programs we reviewed," the study concluded, "examples of successes at rebuilding self-sustaining fish runs with hatchery fish are scarce. The success we recorded in the unpublished literature were mainly in harvest augmentation. We turned over scores of gray literature stones without finding any significant new evidence that supplementation can consistently enhance natural populations. Overall, conclusions from our review of supplementation show that there are many documented cases of introduced hatchery fish returning as adults to a specific area. However, little data were found on the capability or probability of supplemented hatchery fish building up and sustaining wild/natural production."

Miller also said the region "must make every effort to reduce the genetic consequences of large scale outplanting. We believe that in many instances anadromous fish could do a better job of rebuilding if we would place a moratorium on 'helping' them for several generations. We need to refocus our efforts to protect and enhance habitat. If hatchery production, as we know it today, could solve the production problem in the Columbia Basin, we would have doubled the runs 50 years ago."

Lumley and the tribes believe there is no difference between wild and hatchery salmon, with both equivalent in terms of reproductive success. In his view, the NMFS mandate for protecting ESA stocks had less to do with science and more to do with politics. Lumley said federal authorities' use of the Endangered Species Act came down to "issues of power and money," and to build up agencies like the National Marine Fisheries Service. He ridiculed the NMFS policy of trying to recover tiny remnants of existing natural stocks as "managing for molecules," and he called for making more wild fish. "We're not 'Johnny-Appleseeding' inappropriate stocks," he said.

But Lumley said most hatcheries are now used to produce fish for "constituent needs"--meaning for sports harvest. And he gave less than lukewarm support for mass marking. At one point, he even showed a graph that attempted to correlate mass marking of steelhead with decreasing numbers of wild fish over the years.

Cassidy asked him to explain the connection. Lumley said mass marking allows the sports fishery to catch and release wild fish, which ultimately reduces their numbers because it means they can be handled several times before they reach their spawning grounds.

NMFS' Double Bind

NMFS policy analyst Larry Rutter, from the agency's sustainable fisheries division, said the government's primary goal is to recover the fish, while "one of the biggest chores is to meet tribal treaty obligations."

He said the feds "do not believe that harvest ought to go to zero while we do other things," but there is an increased need for selective fisheries and mass marking to maintain fisheries benefits. He pointed out that beach seines, for instance, could be used to harvest hatchery fish while releasing wild fish alive. But mass marking is necessary to monitor and evaluate their efforts. "We need to make sure we're doing the right thing."

Rutter, who worked with Puget Sound tribes for many years, said he believes the Basin tribes would accept new fishing methods as more alternatives are developed. "The issue of selectivity is a no-brainer," Rutter said. "It won't be solved by who runs the hatcheries."

Walton said two forcing functions may instigate harvest changes soon, anyway. First, he said, fish managers will have to explain why they are clubbing excess hatchery fish in places like the Methow River, because certain members of the public have vowed to videotape the actions. Second, Walton said, it's likely that state and tribal fish mangers will be suing each other over the fall chinook allocation later this year.

Oregon Council member Erik Bloch tried to end the day on an optimistic note, saying he heard more commonality than differences in the discussion among panel members. But the statement clearly had many spectators puzzled. An informal exit poll revealed that many were wondering what he was talking about.

Power Council Chair Cassidy clearly recognized the split. "There is a fundamental disagreement between your view of natural production and the states' view," he told Lumley. -Bill Rudolph, Bill Bakke


The region's spring chinook have once again outsmarted fish managers. The run, which officially ended May 31, came to more than 30 percent above pre-season estimates. Just under 178,000 fish were counted at Bonneville Dam by the end of the month. With 21,000 jacks thrown in, the total count is the highest number of spring chinook seen headed for the upper river since 1938, when Bonneville Dam was completed.

There have been larger runs over the years--in 1972, 186,000 fish were counted at the dam--but heavy fishing pressure by commercial gillnetters in the lower river siphoned off nearly 113,000 fish that year. In those days, most fish were wild--another big difference from today's run, of which 90 percent or more are hatchery bred.

By the early 1980s, when hatcheries were going full bore and churning out nearly 400 million smolts a year, Bonneville counts of spring chinook (including jacks) never climbed above 123,000, the mark set in 1986 and including a lower river fishery that harvested only 1,000 fish.

The spring run will be tallied until June 18 at Lower Granite. As of June 12, the count stood at more than 32,000 fish--still about three times the 10-year average. Jacks were counted at 9,583--about five times the number at this time last year. The situation for ESA-listed spring stocks seems much better than last year and may beat--or could even double--Idaho fish managers' estimates of around 2,500 returning fish. Last year, it was estimated that only about 652 wild springers made it to the spawning grounds, with a combined hatchery and wild count of 3,472 fish at Lower Granite.

In light of the huge jack returns--in part the result of Idaho hatcheries maxing out production last year and releasing four times as many fish as 1998--managers are leery of predicting what's in store for 2001. However, some optimistic back-of-the-envelope forecasters are quietly saying the Bonneville count could go as high as 700,000 fish, a truly astonishing number, with 100,000 or more possibly making it to Idaho. -B. R.


The Methow Valley Irrigation District last week approved a consent decree with NMFS over methods to prevent killing ESA-listed chinook and steelhead while watering Methow land--mostly hobby farms and small parcels in the valley. A federal judge gave NMFS lawyers 10 days to review the decree.

The feds had hauled the irrigators into court when they earlier failed to sign the decree. Bob Turner, NMFS policy lead for Washington state, said the agency found lots of dead fish in the district's ditch last year. They want the district to build a pressurized pipe system in lieu of the leaky old ditch now used to move water.

But Methow Valley resident Dick Ewing, volunteer lead in the local watershed planning unit, questioned the worth of a $6 million system that would improve flows in the river by only 3 cfs. He said the district is committed to better screening, but that fish killed last year died accidentally. He said operators weren't notified when flows were ramped down. "Normally, when that happens, we're out there in our rubber boots, chasing the fish away from the screen," he added. Ewing said the screen is actually legal according to state standards and was approved by the Fish and Wildlife Department. Meanwhile, the district is liable for a $55,000 fine for violating the ESA, which could be waived if NMFS accepts the decree.

Ewing said a three-year, $1.5 million study is underway to examine the complicated hydrology of the Methow, where leaky ditches may actually improve flows downstream from diversions and where water usage may be only one-sixth of the amount identified in state permits.

Omak attorney Richard Price, who is representing the district, said NMFS' own brief said the feds only "believed" the smolts killed in the ditch were listed under the ESA, but had not proved it. Four chinook smolts and 36 steelhead smolts were found in the de-watered ditch last fall. Price said the fish could have entered the ditch from other diversions that begin above where the the district's screen is located and drain into the ditch below it.-B. R.


With many of Washington state's fish hatcheries about to spill over with returning spring chinook, its Fish and Wildlife Department is in a big pickle over how to keep the hatchery returns off the turf of endangered wild fish on the eastern slopes of the Cascades. To avoid a public relations debacle, the extra fish may even show up on the menu at state prisons.

The state agency's plan to keep hatchery fish from spawning in the wild has been blessed by federal fish managers but has drawn fire from PUDs, sportsmen, farmers and tribes. Those groups believe NMFS' notions about genetic diversity are mistaken, and its assumption that wild fish are hardier by nature and more adaptable is flawed. Critics of the state plan say excess hatchery fish should be allowed to spawn in the wild, regardless of their origin.

Washington fish managers met with federal fish folks in April to develop the plan, which calls for separating stocks at two hatcheries on the Methow River in northeast Washington and for phasing out fish whose lineage can be traced back to those raised at the Carson hatchery on the lower Columbia River--bright fish nabbed at the Bonneville fish ladders, which were thought to be representative of upriver spring runs. Fish from both the Columbia and Snake are likely part of this mongrel broodstock, and their progeny were raised at Carson (on the Wind River, just upstream from Bonneville Dam) and seeded liberally throughout the basin thereafter.

The Carson-based stock will be phased out at the Winthrop National Fish Hatchery to make room for only Methow-based "composite" fish, which are estimated to make up about 54 percent of the returning fish at Wells Dam. These fish can be traced back to trapping efforts begun in 1939 at Rock Island Dam. They were used to seed regional hatcheries as part of the plan to mitigate for the adverse effects of building Grand Coulee Dam.

But the only way to tell the difference between the two stocks is by reading the coded wire tag implanted in the head of each chinook, which is especially hard on the fish. As the draft plan says, the tag must be excised, and "Of course, the fish dies in the process."

More Methow-based fish are needed than will be available at Wells Dam, so several hundred more will be taken from the Methow State Fish Hatchery and transferred to Winthrop, where about 1,000 adults will be retained for broodstock. These fish will be given antibiotics before spawning to reduce transmission of bacterial kidney disease in eggs, so they are unfit for human consumption.

Since most of the fish at the Winthrop hatchery are of the Carson stock, the plan calls for giving the surplus to the tribes in the area once the 1,000-fish goal is reached for the Methow broodstock. Carson fish will only be included in the broodstock if the goal cannot be reached without them. If a surplus of Methow fish is available, then hatchery managers plan to raise more eggs and scatter-plant them in under-seeded areas of the Methow Basin. However, the plan also calls for destroying any Carson gametes identified as surplus.

Douglas County PUD Commissioners expressed their concern about the plan in an April letter to NMFS regional administrator Will Stelle. "The run forecast for 2000 in the Upper Columbia River is expected to be the highest return in recent years and may reach over four thousand fish," he wrote. "Douglas PUD is concerned that all returning fish be fully utilized and not wastefully destroyed as they were last year."

Further down the Columbia, the Carson stock makes up all of the returning fish at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery on Icicle Creek--a tributary of the Wenatchee River. A whopping surplus of 13,000 to 17,000 spring chinook is expected there.

Since only 1,200 fish are needed for broodstock purposes, the state has opened fishing below the hatchery through July 22. Plans for distributing excess fish that make it to the hatchery include giving more to tribes, non-profits, and possibly even the federal prison system. Surplus fish may also come from the Entiat hatchery, where only 300 of the 3,000 expected returns are needed.

Fishing has been expanded near other hatcheries as well, at the Lewis River in the lower Columbia basin and further upriver along the Klickitat and White salmon rivers, where strong hatchery returns have allowed for a boost in the bag limit to two hatchery adults and four jacks. Previously, only jacks could be retained.

Plant Hatchery Fish, Irrigators And Indians Agree

But the bountiful returns have complicated things to such a degree that irrigators have ended up on the same side of the issue as the basin's tribes. In a May 24 letter to Washington and Oregon politicians, irrigator groups said they "concur with tribal representatives who have questioned why a hatchery-reared fish should not be allowed to spawn in river system tributaries (given the current abundance of hatchery fish returns). We understand the 'genetic purity' issue raised by some NMFS and state biologists, but we are skeptical of the need to keep any fish away from natural spawning areas, given the biological history of the region. More spawning fish are simply more spawning fish, and should be recognized as such."

Tribal representatives said they appreciated the irrigators' remarks. In a May 24 letter from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission back to the water users, CRITFC executive director Don Sampson thanked them for supporting tribal recommendations about salmon spawning, hatchery and harvest practices.

With more than 30,000 fish returning to Columbia River hatcheries, Sampson said the region has "the opportunity to greatly increase natural spawning in tributaries above Bonneville Dam.

"The National Marine Fisheries Service and the state agencies are attempting to remove hatchery-reared salmon from the run and prevent them from spawning," the CRITFC letter said. "From a scientific standpoint, until proven otherwise, all of these fish are useful for recovery. Thus, we believe this is a short-sighted policy that does not serve the purpose of salmon recovery and restoration." Sampson said that NMFS' own genetic analysis has failed to find any meaningful differences between hatchery and wild stocks in the basin.

Columbia Basin tribes scheduled a press conference at Wells Dam on June 13 to publicize their opposition to killing the surplus salmon. They were expected to be joined by local residents and agricultural groups.

The use of extra hatchery fish to supplement wild runs became a public issue last year after a videotape made by a rural Oregonian showed officials clubbing to death several thousand hatchery coho to keep them from spawning with wild fish in the Alsea River Basin. Since then, politicians have picked up the beat.

Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA) questioned regional NMFS administrator Will Stelle at a DC hearing in April about government agencies destroying thousands of hatchery fish. In 1999, his own state's hatchery managers killed nearly 180,000 surplus hatchery fish. Stelle was blunt about it as he defended NMFS' wild fish policy at the hearing. "If it's [clubbing] a public relations problem, then we should shut down the production hatcheries."

NMFS is trying to implement a policy that keeps less than five percent strays in a native population. But just what kind of native gene pool still exists in the mid-Columbia is not well-documented. Most upper Columbia chinook runs were trashed long before mainstem dams were built, according to a 1987 USFWS study by federal biologist James Mullan.

Mullan, who worked for years out of an office at the Leavenworth Hatchery, acknowledged the uncertainty of the situation. "Was the trapping of returning adult chinook at Rock Island Dam for release in other streams a salvage operation which in the long run salvaged nothing (Ricker 1972)? In the short term, the salvage operation expedited restoration of runs in tributaries below Grand Coulee Dam. In the long term, the genetic diversity that characterized runs was presumably maintained to some unknown extent."

But in another study completed a few years later, Mullan said a later phase of hatchery propagation in the region, which began in 1969, used mostly the Carson stock, along with eggs from the Cowlitz River and the Little White Salmon and Spring Creek hatcheries in the lower Columbia, to maintain a continuing egg supply. Mullan reported that there was so much mixing at mid-Columbia hatcheries, "the original gene pool may have been significantly altered." -B. R.


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has rejected Grant PUD's request to use the alternative hydro licensing process (ALP) to develop its relicense application for the 1945-MW, two-dam Priest Rapids project. The commission's policy "requires an applicant to demonstrate that a consensus exists that the use of alternative procedures is appropriate," wrote J. Mark Robinson, director of FERC's division of environmental and engineering review, in a May 18 letter to the PUD. In denying Grant's request, he cited the fact that five out of nine parties commenting on Grant's proposal opposed use of the collaborative process, and concluded that "there remains no consensus" in the Priest Rapids relicensing.

FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller said the rejection of Grant's request is not the first time the commission has refused use of the ALP. But relicensing experts agree it has been a rare occurrence, and Miller could not provide an estimate of how frequently FERC has denied such requests since officially adopting the process in October 1997.

The commission has touted the ALP as a time-saver because it allows pre-consultation, NEPA review and conflict resolution to occur earlier in the process than under the traditional procedure. According to a February estimate, about 30 percent of the hydro projects currently undergoing relicensing are using the ALP.

Parties opposing Grant's December 1999 request to use the alternative method included NMFS, the Dept. of Interior, CRITFC, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Nation and American Rivers. While Interior took a somewhat more diplomatic tack, citing as primary reasons a lack of staff resources and the general lack of consensus, the other four dissenters sounded a similar theme: Grant's withdrawal from negotiations on the Mid-Columbia Habitat Conservation Plan, which was signed by Douglas and Chelan PUDs, and the parties' continued inability to reach agreement for a Priest Rapids summer spill program.

"Grant County PUD has had numerous opportunities in the past to resolve anadromous fish issues...and, on many extremely important issues, has chosen not to collaborate or follow the recommendations of the fisheries managers," wrote CRITFC director Don Sampson in a Feb. 10 letter. "These previous and ongoing failed attempts to collaborate with Grant County PUD illustrate that the [ALP] is inappropriate for the Priest Rapids project..." Added American Rivers' Brett Swift, "we believe that previous attempts to collaborate [with Grant] have failed and are not likely to be successful in the future."

Grant natural resources and regulatory affairs manager Doug Ancona rebutted a number of the parties' claims in a March 9 letter to FERC, describing the opposition as "an attempt to use the ALP request to enhance objectors' positions in ongoing salmon negotiations with Grant PUD," and labeling a number of their assertions "at best, inaccurate."

Ancona said Grant had "taken a different approach to resolve salmon issues in part to avoid delaying the HCP contemplated for Chelan and Douglas PUDs," and added that the PUD has forgone, "at considerable replacement cost," about 200 MW of annual generation in order to provide spill for fish. "This is equivalent to more than half our retail load. Over the past ten years, electric rates to our customers have doubled," he pointed out.

On March 24, the PUD also asked FERC to delay its decision on use of the ALP until April 21, to allow the utility to "clarify the basis of comments objecting" to the collaborative process. But the April deadline came and went without Grant making any additional filings. "During that time, we continued to work with parties that opposed it," said PUD licensing manager Linda Jones, "but we came to the conclusion that we were spending more time on process than substance. We decided that wasn't worth any of the parties' time."

And Grant's arguments ultimately proved insufficient to sway FERC. While leaving the door open to ALP approval "if circumstances change during the course of consultation," Robinson, in his May 18 letter, advised the PUD to "focus on completing the commission's standard, three-stage consultation process in time for filing the final application in 2003."

The PUD is now stressing the fact its Priest Rapids relicensing will remain collaborative in spirit, despite FERC's rejection of its request to officially use the alternative process. "We are firmly committed to an open, inclusive and solution-oriented 'traditional' relicensing process," Jones said. "Our goal remains the same--to achieve an acceptable outcome by entering into settlement agreements with a wide range of interests..."

She also said Grant has received no indication from FERC on when it will act on a declaratory petition--filed earlier this spring by a consortium of utilities that currently purchase a large portion of Priest Rapids' output--asking the commission to rule on whether other entities can file to relicense the project.

The Yakama Nation has already expressed interest in entering a competing claim for Priest Rapids. -Angela Becker-Dippmann


The Hanford Reach was designated as a national monument last week-part of series of proclamations by President Clinton to protect nearly half a million acres of federal lands in Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Vice President Al Gore toured the Reach last Thursday and promised a salmon summit if he is elected President to help resolve issues such as breaching dams on the lower Snake River.

Earlier in the week, scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Department of Energy briefed the Power Planning Council on contaminated groundwater from the nuclear reservation along the Reach. They said several major contaminants have entered the river, including chromium and nitrates, along with two radioactive elements, strontium-90 and tritium.

They said contaminants from the tank farms at Hanford have entered the groundwater in one area, but have not reached the Columbia River. Risk estimates do not point to any salmon spawning habitat receiving radiation doses from all contaminates above the appropriate standard for aquatic protection of 1.0 rad per day.

The scientists also took issue with reports from the Government Accountability Project, a national whistleblower group, noting that analytical methods used by the group to identify and measure radioactivity in vegetation were not valid and its shoreline studies had not undergone peer review prior to making their claims public.

GAP had charged last December that high levels of strontium-90 were leaking into the Columbia River after finding 2.4 picocuries of the element in dried mulberry leaves picked on the shore. A picocurie is one-trillionth of a curie, the equivalent radioactivity of one-trillionth of a gram of radium.

Scientists told the Power Planning Council last week that BPA could be over-estimating the benefits of one of BPA's most expensive fish and wildlife programs-the northern pikeminnow, aka squawfish, reduction effort that costs ratepayers more than $3 million annually. The program pays a bounty to anglers for turning in pikeminnow, known to be voracious predators of juvenile salmon.

The scientists suggested the agency come up with more accurate estimates of the predators' abundance. They also concluded that dam angling and site-specific fisheries by tribes, which accounted for only 6,000 fish annually had a negligible effect on reducing pikeminnow numbers because sports anglers caught 114,000 a year. Pikeminnow caught by tribes cost over $70 per fish, while sports-caught fish cost BPA about $20 each.

The reviewers also suggested offering reward money for smaller fish as well, and saving money now spent on promoting the fishery.

BPA's pikeminnow project manager John Skidmore said several of the recommendations were already being implemented. -Bill Rudolph

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