A NW EnerNet News Service of Energy NewsData
NW FISHLETTER
NWF.012/Jun.28.96
***Fish News***
Reports on Fish Policy Development

[1] POWER COUNCIL MAY DECIDE IN AUGUST TO REOPEN F&W PROGRAM :: The Northwest Power Planning Council will consider reopening its fish and wildlife program for amendment at its August 6-7 meeting in Astoria. By that time the Council expects to have received the Independent Scientific Group's report on the scientific support for various fish and wildlife measures, and an update of the Council program may be appropriate.

The NWPPC's Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program was last amended in December 1994, after the election of Republican governors in Montana and Idaho, but before new appointments to the Council had been made. Portions of the resulting program--especially those having to do with the drawdown of Montana and Idaho reservoirs to speed up river velocity--have been opposed by half the four-state, eight-member Council ever since.

In response to those well recognized disagreements, the Council appointed the Independent Scientific Group to review the science that supports the many fish and wildlife mitigation measures proposed or being implemented on the Columbia-Snake system. The ISG's formal report is due later this month. In a summary of their findings presented in April, the scientists recommended returning the river to a more "normative state," but said they were not advocating returning the river to its pristine, pre-dam state.

"Lots of things have changed since 1994. There's new science in the region. The utility business and Bonneville's situation have changed in the form of salmon budgets. And there are at least three recovery plans and maybe more circulating in the region," said NWPPC chair John Etchart. "The Council has tried to be adaptive managers--our program has to be subject to change."

The three recovery plans Etchart refers to are the Council's own program, NMFS' Biological Opinion on the recovery of Snake River salmon runs, and the recovery plan developed by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. The Council in its 180-Day review of fish and wildlife recovery efforts heard many calls for unity among recovery plans and for more effective dispute resolution among contending policymakers [Pamela Russell].

[2] FEDERAL JUDGE ORDERS NMFS TO MAKE STEELHEAD LISTING DECISION BY JULY 31 :: On June 25, Federal District Court Judge Susan Illston ordered NMFS to decide by July 31 whether to list the steelhead trout as threatened or endangered in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California. In late May, NMFS proposed making the listing in December. NMFS' timetable was challenged in U.S. District Court in San Francisco by the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, on behalf of the coalition of environmental groups that sued to have steelhead listed.

"The court is troubled by the utter lack of any explanation why defendants failed to meet their mandatory duty to issue a proposed rule by February 16, 1995, the date it was due. The court is further troubled by the lack of any explanation why the defendants failed to meet their duty to issue the proposed rule between February 16, 1995, and January 26, 1996, the date on which their funding was curtailed," wrote Judge Illston [Pamela Russell].

[3] STATES AND TRIBES COME TO TERMS OVER ALASKA CHINOOK :: After years of bickering, Alaska fish managers have reached an historic agreement with Washington, Oregon and Northwest tribal officials over just how many chinook salmon Southeast Alaska trollers will be allowed to catch this season. But Canadian fish managers were howling mad over the accord, claiming that the new harvest was twice as high as it should be.

Canadian fisheries officials believe some of their own chinook stocks on Vancouver Island are in such bad shape that no commercial fishing for chinook will be allowed along the B.C. coastline. In 1993, an El Nino event caused heavy predation on young chinook by large schools of mackerel that migrated with warm water from California and devastated hatchery stocks at Robertson Creek on the west coast of Vancouver Island--a run that typically accounted for around 30 percent of Southeast Alaska's troll harvest every year. Other Canadian stocks make up another 25 percent of the Southeast chinook harvest.

Canadians have held that other wild stocks on Vancouver Island suffered as much, but a review in March by biologists from both sides of the border found little evidence for the extreme Canadian position.

"This issue reaches into the hearts of a lot of people," said U.S. commissioner Ron Allen, who represents the 24 sovereign Indian nations in Puget Sound and the Columbia Basin. "It gets us on a new track," said Allen, who added that it won't just be the Alaskans who are taking more harvest cuts this year. "The tribes will take the stringent measures necessary to preserve those stocks."

The accord marks a significant change in the U.S. position in regard to the Pacific Salmon Treaty, a document signed in 1985 to begin a rebuilding process of wild chinook in the rivers of both countries. The new accord calls for harvest levels to be based on seasonal abundance indicators rather than annual catch ceilings. The annual ceilings fail to reflect changes in ocean conditions such as El Ninos, which reduce coastal upwelling and ultimately reduce salmon survival. The Canadians, who up until last month didn't want to negotiate the issue until the Americans came up with a unified stand, are now complaining about being left out of the process.

The agreement sets a 1996 chinook harvest level in Southeast Alaska of between 140,000 and 155,000 fish, not counting Alaska's hatchery production. In past years, the Alaska harvest was capped at 263,000 chinook, with further reductions to aid endangered Snake River fall chinook.

Last year, the different U.S. factions squared off in federal court when tribal officials, joined by Washington and Oregon, filed an injunction to reduce the Alaska harvest. The injunction was upheld by Judge Barbara Rothstein, and the catch was capped at 175,000 fish. The new agreement will keep the U. S. factions out of court this year.

"This arrangement finally replaces ceiling management with an abundance-based approach that varies the catch with the annual abundance of chinook available to Southeast Alaska fisheries," said David Benton, Alaska's treaty commissioner. "This is something Alaska has wanted for a long time, because it is a far better way to manage salmon than fixed ceilings."

Bob Turner, director of the Washington State Department of Fisheries and chairman of the U.S. section,, said he was really encouraged about the turn of events. He said that none of the parties really wanted to go back before a federal judge this year.

"When you win in court, you really don't," said Turner after the announcement was made. He expressed the hope that Canadian officials would overcome political heat at home and come together to resolve the issues. However, a day after the announcement on June 26, Canadian Transport Minister, B.C.'s Dave Anderson, said court action was a possible route to head off the Alaska fishery, which was scheduled to open on July 1.

The Canadians could also direct heavy fishing pressure on Washington state coho stocks, some of which may be declared endangered later this year. But it is a risky strategy, because the tactic would also wreak havoc on their own distressed coho runs.

The new approach had the blessing of federal treaty commissioner James Pipkin, who called it a major breakthrough. "We've all been frustrated by fixed harvest limits, incorporated into the U.S./Canadian Pacific Salmon Treaty, that ignored the fact that abundance of fish can fluctuate dramatically over time. Fixed limits are not responsive to the needs of the resource," said Pipkin [Bill Rudolph].

[4] WHITE HOUSE ENVIRONMENTAL ADVISOR BRIEFED ON COLUMBIA-SNAKE AND ELWHA ISSUES :: Katie McGinty, head of the Council on Environmental Quality, an office of the Clinton Administration, toured the Northwest last week, receiving briefings on salmon recovery issues relating to the Columbia-Snake system and the Elwha River. On Wednesday, June 26, she traveled to Washington's Olympic Peninsula to discuss a proposal devised by the Elwha Citizens Advisory Committee for the federal government to acquire the two Elwha dams as a first step toward their removal.

On Thursday, McGinty and another CEQ aide, Tom Jensen, met in Portland with the NWPPC to discuss a wide variety of issues related to salmon recovery and the Bonneville Power Administration. The Council had a chance to explain its request that President Clinton issue an executive order requiring all federal fish agencies to act consistently with the Council's F&W program. McGinty was noncommittal, according to NWPPC chair John Etchart. "I think they were out here to figure out what people wanted rather than commit to anything," said Etchart.

McGinty and Jensen were also scheduled to meet on Thursday with tribal representatives and state and federal F&W staff to discuss the negotiations on a Memorandum of Agreement on administering BPA's F&W budget (see story below) [Pamela Russell].

[5] TRIBES, FEDERAL FISH AGENCIES NEGOTIATE ON 13 ISSUES :: Representatives of Columbia basin tribes and state and federal agencies with fish and wildlife mitigation responsibilities have met frequently over the last two weeks. The F&W managers and policymakers have identified 13 issues concerning the Memorandum of Agreement on BPA's fish cap. Negotiating sessions have largely been conducted at the staff level, but the heads of the agencies and various tribes were scheduled to meet on Friday, June 28. Katie McGinty, head of the Clinton Administration's Council on Environmental Quality, was also scheduled to receive a briefing on the MOA discussions.

Two of the thirteen issues have significant financial impact, according to Bob Lohn, BPA F&W manager. The state agencies and tribes have requested that fish and wildlife programs have access to the $325 million contingency fund which was set up to cover unforeseen circumstances such as additional court-ordered fish and wildlife measures or to provide water in extremely low water years. The state agencies and tribes would like the contingency fund to be available to repair damage due to natural disasters, or to fund appropriations made by Congress that exceed those anticipated in the agreement.

Secondly, the Lower Columbia tribes would like additional flexibility in year-to-year water operations, such as added summer spill. Upper river tribes, on the other hand, worry that money to pay for spill may come at the expense of project funding. BPA promises in the MOA to fund $252 million a year of capital and program costs, plus hydro operations--water for flows, foregone power revenues, etc.--costing in the range of $90 million to $280 million a year, depending on the water year. Providing the flexibility the tribes have requested would erase both the stability and the certainty achieved in the fish cap agreement, Lohn said. While the issue has been identified, it has in no way been resolved.

By July 3, the negotiators hope to resolve as many of the list of 13 issues as possible, and to identify the hurdles they cannot resolve. When the series of negotiating sessions was embarked on early in June, the goal was to complete a final MOA by July 8 [Pamela Russell].

[6] HOUSE AND SENATE HEARINGS FOCUS ON CORPS OF ENGINEERS AND SALMON RECOVERY SCIENCE :: Two congressional subcommittees held hearings on facets of salmon recovery policy and implementation in the week of June 17. The first, a June 18 hearing of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power of the House Committee on Commerce, focused on Army Corps of Engineers operation of the hydro system, and in particular on the spill necessitated earlier this spring due to the installation of surface collectors at Lower Granite dam. The hearing was chaired by subcommittee member Rep. Michael Crapo (R-ID), and attended by Reps. Elizabeth Furse (D-OR) and Rick White (R-WA), both of whom sit on the full Commerce committee.

Testifying were Donna Darm, NMFS; John Velehradsky, Corps of Engineers; Doug DeHart, Oregon F&W; Edward Bowles, Idaho Fish and Game; Charles Ray, Idaho Rivers United; Sam Penney, Nez Perce Tribe; Bruce Lovelin, Columbia River Alliance. Darm, speaking for the federal agencies, reminded the Congress members that teams representing several agencies are responsible for salmon policy implementation. She spoke of the need for a better dispute resolution process and improved participation from states and tribes. She focused on the need for a long-term detailed work plan for research, capital improvements and system configuration.

Asked by Rep. Crapo whether the Corps should be in charge of fish management, Darm said the rivers are operated for a number of purposes, not solely for fish operations. Fish managers should work closely with the Corps, she said, but they cannot operate the dams.

Oregon's Doug DeHart told the hearing that the states and tribes had recommended against the surface collector test, but the federal agencies did not listen. Penney of the Nez Perce concurred, saying the tribes had disagreed with the installation of surface collectors. Ray, of Idaho Rivers United, accused the Corps of being heavily invested in the status quo, especially barging. Lovelin defended the Corps on barging and the installation of surface collectors, and stressed the need to address hatcheries and harvest in addition to harvest and habitat.

The following day, Wednesday, June 19, Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) convened a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Transportation, which is an arm of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Ron Wyden (D-OR) also attended the hearing. Some of the panelists who traveled from the Northwest to Washington, D.C., for Tuesday's hearing resurfaced on Wednesday. Testifying were Doug Hall, Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere, Department of Commerce; Dennis Lettenmaier, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Washington; Mark Reller, Montana office of the NWPPC; Jack Stanford, University of Montana; Doug DeHart and Bruce Lovelin.

Senator Burns stressed the importance of basing salmon recovery policy on "sound science." He observed that BPA "may be spending the most money towards fish and wildlife in the world," yet salmon populations are still declining. He questioned the value of drawdowns, and said he is "concerned that science is not the major driver with regard to the amount of water that the NMFS requests to draw from Libby and Hungry Horse reservoirs in Montana during the summer."

Doug Hall said that even with good science, there are differences in opinion as to what activities most benefit salmon. He said he hopes the newly formed Independent Scientific Advisory Board will help to resolve differences over effective mitigation measures. Dennis Lettenmaier, a member of the National Research Council that produced the "Upstream" report, recommended adjusting the scope of salmon recovery to consider the entire watershed, but said there is insufficient data as yet on which to base scientific conclusions.

Jack Stanford of the University of Montana talked about the "normative" river, which would provide strong flows in the spring, but not in late summer, when NMFS' biological opinion calls for flows provided by drawdowns of Montana reservoirs. Asked how much salmon and river research is necessary, Stanford said no new money is need. But he recommended that 25 percent of the total fish mitigation budget be devoted to research [Pamela Russell].

[7] AMERICAN RIVERS FILES PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION IN BIO OP LAWSUIT :: American Rivers and its coalition of environmental and fisher groups have filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in the lawsuit against NMFS over the implementation of the 1995 biological opinion. While Mother Nature is caring for the salmon just now in the form of unusually high natural flows, the limitations NMFS has set on drafting of Idaho and Montana reservoirs will reduce the volume of water available for salmon in August, said plaintiffs' attorney Dan Rohlf.

"Hopefully there will be a hearing the last week in July on the preliminary injunction." Rohlf said. "On the flow issue, what Judge Marsh rules at that time could have an effect on August flow. But there are other issues, including the Lower Snake feasibility study, the John Day drawdown to minimum operating pool and gas abatement."

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announced last week that his state will file a friend-of-the-court brief, along with a notice that the state might join the lawsuit as a plaintiff. Montana, on the other hand, has petitioned to intervene for NMFS, the defendant.

The differing perspectives of the states persuaded the NWPPC last week to back away from its decision two weeks earlier to request amicus status in the lawsuit. "Our earlier decision was to enter on behalf of the states, [but] the states are entering on their own," said NWPPC chair John Etchart [Pamela Russell].

[8] SPECIAL REPORT--WILD CHINOOK DECLINE TRIGGERS CAPTIVE BROOD PROGRAMS :: The Idaho Story: Prior to 1970 most Snake River spring and summer chinook were wild stocks. In 1981 wild chinook were trapped to begin development of brood stocks to operate the Lower Snake River Compensation Hatcheries built to compensate for the four lower Snake River federal dams.

The wild chinook decline has been dramatic. In 1957 the redd count in the Salmon River for wild chinook in index streams was 2,123, but in 1995 these same streams contained only 11 wild chinook redds. From 1962 to 1971 the average run size for wild chinook at Lower Granite Dam was 59,900 adults; the 1994 run was 1,822 adults. The smolt yield from wild chinook has declined from 1.5 million in 1995 to an estimated 66,000 in 1997. Marsh Creek, a wild chinook index stream, had no spawners in 1995 for the first time in probably 10,000 years. The previous all time low smolt yield was in 1982 with 740,000. The expected adult chinook run size from 1998 to 2000 is 300 spring and summer chinook in each of three years.

The stock structure of Salmon River chinook is composed of 28 distinct populations, and sources agree that maintenance of this stock structure is the key to preservation of the wild chinook. According to Idaho Fish and Game, "Our immediate challenge becomes one of preserving the existing stock structure of Snake River populations, so future recovery actions are possible. Also, preserving the stock structure is consistent with NMFS' guidelines."

As noted above, hatcheries were developed in the Snake Basin to compensate for the lost production and productivity of the salmon runs due to construction of the lower Snake River dams. It was assumed that the Lower Snake River Compensation Hatchery Program would produce enough hatchery adults to maintain the hatchery program. It was also assumed that the hatchery programs would not negatively affect wild chinook. But following the completion of the dams in the mid-1970s, the wild chinook declined abruptly. For one thing, after 1976 the ocean environment changed and became less productive and for another, the Snake Basin from 1984 to 1994 was in the grips of the region's worst drought since the 1930s.

Taken together habitat and ocean changes were too much for the wild chinook. The hatchery system could not stem the decline; survival rates were overestimated, and goals of the compensation program could not be met. In addition, using hatcheries to supplement wild populations also failed because not enough adults returned to maintain egg supplies. This rapid decline has forced Idaho into an unanticipated next phase of hatchery activity, a "captive brood" program used first on Snake River sockeye. This new stock preservation role for hatcheries is, according to Idaho Fish and Game, "largely unproven and experimental."

Idaho has requested permission from NMFS to collect 200 juveniles from three target chinook populations for a total of 600 salmon in 1996. These fish come from wild populations with 20 or fewer redds in 1994 and are expected to have annual escapements of less than 20 adult fish during the next few years. This program is estimated to cost $2.3 million from 1996 to 2000. Although admittedly experimental and risky, the captive brood program is Idaho's last-ditch effort to preserve the chinook stock structure in an attempt to keep wild chinook from going extinct.

The Oregon Story: In Northeast Oregon, the focus is on the Grande Ronde River, where three spring chinook populations, listed as endangered, are being included in a captive breeding program. From 1957 to 1995 the Catherine Creek redd count has gone from 374 to 14; upper Grande Ronde River from 478 to 6; and the Lostine River has declined from 893 to 11 redds.

The management objectives have changed from the 1980s. When the Lower Snake River Compensation Hatchery Program was initiated the goal was to mitigate for salmon losses due to dam operations and fishery enhancement; now the concern is to prevent extinction. The new management objectives are 1) to prevent extinction of native, wild chinook, 2) to maintain genetic diversity of indigenous artificially propagated chinook, and 3) to maintain genetic diversity in wild chinook populations.

But this has not always been the case. Under the Lower Snake River Compensation Hatchery Program, non-native chinook were released into the basin and all six of the native wild populations were largely ignored. This neglectful wild chinook policy began to change after Oregon adopted its wild fish management policy, and was even more transformed once the native chinook were listed for protection under the ESA.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department claims, "Even though non-local origin hatchery fish have been outplanted extensively in the basin and stray hatchery fish have comprised a significant proportion of the natural spawning populations, there remains a high degree of differentiation among populations." Consequently, Oregon has initiated a captive brood program for wild chinook where up to 500 juvenile chinook will be taken from each of the three wild populations per year from 1995 to 2000.

Summary and Comment: The captive brood program in both states will rear juveniles to the smolt stage and transport them to other hatcheries where the fish will be raised to maturity. The adult fish will be spawned and eggs transported back to the river of origin for rearing in a local hatchery to the smolt stage, then released into their river of origin. Planting of adults, eggs and presmolts are other variables of this strategy that could be used.

It is feared that a number of locally adapted wild spring chinook populations could go extinct before the year 2000. Older management objectives for mitigation and enhancement of chinook, which often used non-native chinook, have been changed to one of preserving the native chinook population structure represented by more than 38 distinct wild populations. This work is experimental and full of uncertainty, as these wild fish risk coming to the end of 10,000 years of evolutionary history [Bill Bakke].

(NOTE: NW Fishletter contributor Bill Bakke is president of the Native Fish Society.)

[9] STUDY REVIEW: HISTORY OF COLUMBIA RIVER SALMON MANAGEMENT POLICY :: The 120-year history of salmon management on the Columbia River and its role in the decline of chinook salmon is the subject of a new BPA-funded study by James A. Lichatowich and three colleagues. An historical analysis of management policy is a theme that has rarely been investigated. This work provides insight into human institutions and thought that have brought on a salmon crisis marked by decline of runs, Endangered Species Act protection and even extinction.

The authors say, "It could be argued that the existing (management)framework hasn't changed much in the last 120 years. The region is in the midst of transitions, though which way it will proceed is uncertain. If the changes, like in the past, are primarily superficial, the region can only expect that the present crisis will deepen." The study divides the 120-year time period into three distinct periods, describing the status of the chinook, responses of management agencies, and the type of management framework by which each period was defined.

The first period, 1866 to 1888, had an annual average harvest of 24 million pounds. There was a rapid increase in catch followed by a sharp decline from a peak in 1883. The management response was one of minimal regulation with salmon managers and the canning industry accepting artificial propagation as an alternative to conservation. The management framework was influenced by a laissez-faire doctrine on open access to natural resources and a belief that man must control and dominate nature. Salmon managers believed that artificial propagation would give them complete control over salmon production and provide an unlimited supply of fish.

The second period, 1889 to 1920, had an annual average harvest of 25 million pounds. The fishery intensified, followed by a significant depletion of chinook in the upper basin. With the decline of the spring run and catch, the fishery moved to the fall run, which the canning industry considered inferior. The response of the salmon managers was to continue in their belief that artificial propagation could overcome the effects of excessive harvest and habitat degradation. The management framework shifted from the belief that man should control nature to the progressive vision of conservation. That is, natural resources should be managed for maximum economic efficiency by technical experts. Hatcheries easily made the transition to this new set of values which promised that humans could simplify and again control salmon production.

The third period, 1921 to 1958, was a period of decline with an annual average harvest of 15 million pounds. The management response as the salmon declined was to place management on a scientific foundation. The first comprehensive surveys of salmon habitat in the basin were completed. Salmon restoration plans were developed. But salmon managers ignored scientific information on the stock structure of salmon and past failures of hatcheries to reverse the decline and turned to artificial propagation as the primary means of mitigation for mainstem dams. The management framework adopted the idea of the machine as the model of systems they would refine and manage. Hatcheries easily made the transition to the new machine model because, like previous frameworks, control and simplification of salmon production were key operating factors. Hatcheries allowed a grater degree of simplification by abbreviating most of the salmon's freshwater life history and releasing tank-reared smolts. The river became a conduit for hatchery fish to reach the sea.

In the fourth period, 1959 to the present, the average annual harvest dropped to five million pounds, not including the ocean harvest, and the Snake River sockeye and chinook were listed as endangered species. Habitat in most basins continued to decline. The management response to full development of the hydro system was a massive increase in hatchery propagation. Many fisheries were closed or reduced. Scientific research continued to show the importance of salmon stock structure and identified hatchery propagation as a contributing factor in the decline of natural production. The importance of maintaining biological diversity and natural production was adopted in the Power Planning Council fish & wildlife program. The management framework remained intact in spite of a long history of persistent decline and scientific evidence questioning the assumption that control of nature and simplification of the production system could restore salmon.

The authors say that the current status of Pacific salmon in the Columbia River is not what the salmon managers intended to achieve. Given their good intentions, they ask, "How did reality deviate so far from expectations?" They say a major part of the answer to that question is found in the management framework, the set of assumptions and principles that made up the foundation of management practices. The assumptions and principles were taken so much for granted that the management framework was rarely questioned. But it is the management framework that dominated this 120-year period of history that turned out to be a major determinant of the salmon's uncertain future [Bill Bakke].

SOURCE: A History of Frameworks Used in the Management of Columbia River Chinook Salmon. James A. Lichatowich, Lars E. Mobrand, Ronald J. Costello, and Tomas S.Vogel. May, 1996. Funded and published by Bonneville Power Administration.

***Document Annex***
Works Cited

DOCUMENTS FROM NW FISHLETTER 012 :: Below are listed available documents referred to in the text of NW Fishletter issue 012.

THE ARCHIVE :: Previous NW Fishletter issues and supporting documents.


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