Judge Hogan Wants More Time To Decide Coho Appeal
 Two More De-Listing Petitions Filed In Wake Of Hogan Decision
 Latest PIT Tag Study Finds "Modest" Benefits For Fish Transport
 Forecasters Hedge Bets For Normal Water Year
 PacifiCorp, Yakamas Start Competition For Priest Rapids License
 High Priority Fish Habitat Goes High And Dry
 Steelhead Season Opens On Upper Columbia
 BPA Faces Lawsuit Over This Year's Operations
 Respected Salmon Researcher Dr. Ted Bjornn Dies
 JUDGE HOGAN WANTS MORE TIME TO DECIDE COHO APPEAL
Federal judge Michael Hogan ruled last week that he will not put coastal Oregon coho back under ESA protection while appeals make their way through his court. Environmental groups, led by Seattle-based Earthjustice, had requested a stay of Hogan's decision to de-list the stock (Alsea Valley Alliance v. NMFS) while they try to gain intervenor status in the case.
The groups are afraid that the feds won't appeal Hogan's ruling, which has the potential of turning many West Coast listings upside down. Hogan said NMFS couldn't list only the wild component of the Oregon coho for protection if some hatchery fish were also included in that "environmentally significant unit," or ESU, which the feds have done with most ESUs on the West Coast.
"The judge denied a request for a stay of his order," said EJ attorney Kristen Boyles. But she said Hogan was giving them enough time to file another brief. "The judge had questions," she added. Earthjustice has until Nov. 9 to file another brief. The environmentalists have said they will go to the Ninth Circuit, if they have to, in order to gain intervenor status.
NMFS, which filed a memo opposing intervention by the environmental and fishing groups, has until Nov. 9 to decide whether it will appeal Hogan's ruling. The government argued that the intervenor motion is "untimely," because "it has been a year and a half that the listing of the Oregon Coastal coho has been at issue...". In a response to the motion to stay, Justice Department attorney Sam Rauch also argued that the motion for intervention should be resolved before the motion for stay was briefed.
NMFS hasn't tipped its hand, but the smart money is betting that the feds won't pursue an appeal. Instead, they will likely develop a fish protection plan that includes hatchery reforms and updated status reviews along with possible de-listings or revoked listings.
One possible signal came late last month when NMFS submitted Hogan's order in a DC lawsuit that disputes the agency's determination of critical habitat in 19 West Coast ESUs (National Association of Home Builders v. Evans), a suit that includes the Oregon coastal coho. NMFS told the judge that since the coho listing had been invalidated, the critical habitat designation for that ESU was no longer in place. Attorneys familiar with the case say it's not likely that the federal government would have gone to that much trouble if it were planning to appeal the Hogan ruling.
Attorneys in another lawsuit (Common Sense Salmon Recovery v. NMFS) that disputes the listing of Puget Sound chinook without counting hatchery fish met recently with new NMFS regional director Bob Lohn and are encouraged by the discussion, according to Olympia attorney James Johnson.
"Lohn said we will be advised by the Ninth if they appeal Alsea," Johnson said, "or, if they don't, how they apply the case in the future." Johnson has offered to settle his case, in light of the Alsea decision, by recommending that NMFS simply "withdraw" the listings of salmon and steelhead that fit the Hogan decision parameters.
Johnson noted that environmental groups were denied intervenor status in his case, which was filed in DC federal court. If the groups take their present motion to intervene all the way to the Ninth Circuit, he believes their chances of succeeding are "virtually zero." Johnson said the groups might get status if they could prove their interests were not adequately represented by the federal agency, but he thought the timely issue was more basic. The larger issue will soon be on the table when NMFS announces whether it will appeal.
Earthjustice had quoted NMFS spokesperson Brian Gorman in its original memo as evidence the agency may not appeal, noting Gorman "has been quoted in the media as saying that he agrees with the Court's decision--a statement that strongly suggests NMFS will not appeal."
In response, government attorneys said EJ is interpreting Gorman's remarks, but nowhere do they suggest their interests were "inadequately represented," nor "can Defendant-Intervenor Applicants point to any argument in support of the listing that the government failed to raise prior to judgment."
The larger issue will soon be on the table when NMFS announces whether it will appeal. If it decides not to press the ruling, some observers think the agency will review the status of fish listings and may move to include hatchery fish in ESUs to satisfy the legal questions raised by Hogan's decision, which could lead to de-listings.
Although the judge was careful not to tread upon genetics arguments over the relative merit of hatchery and wild fish, those questions have already been raised in an affidavit from Earthjustice. The document contains the remarks of Northwest biologist Jim Lichatowich, long an advocate for wild fish.
"Over the past two decades," said Lichatowich, "a growing body of scientific evidence has documented the threats that hatchery fish pose to wild salmon populations. These threats fall broadly into three categories: (1) threats to genetic diversity and population fitness; (2) ecological threats; and (3) threats from fisheries that target mixed hatchery and wild stocks."
He pointed out other problems that hatcheries pose--reducing fitness of wild populations through interbreeding; shifting spawning times, and overcrowding streams that move wild fish into marginal habitats, along with increasing harvest rates to target hatchery fish at the expense of wild stocks.
On the other hand, hatchery proponents have been sharpening their knives lately. A paper on the role of hatcheries has been making the rounds, distributed by supporters of the Hogan decision. It was written by six retired biologists, including federal scientist Gary Wedemeyer, along with Jim Lannan, William McNeil, Don Amend, and Charlie Smith.
"The genetics arguments supporting wild fish are politicized science," Wedemeyer told NW Fishletter.
In the paper on the role of hatcheries, the biologists say that arguments over "fitness" are theoretical, and conveniently ignore the fact that both hatchery and wild fish "are acted upon by the same evolutionary forces during the majority of their life cycle in the ocean."
They also say that most of the criticism of hatchery salmon "is based on comparisons between divergent stocks of fish, which is not a true comparison between wild and hatchery fish from the same stock." The scientists say these old arguments are clouded by uncertainties, with too few well-designed studies to provide the hard data to test assumptions.
They point out that regardless of how the ESA legally defines a species, "the gene remains the fundamental unit of heredity," and when some genetic resources are lost, they cannot be restored. "It is now entirely possible," they say, "that there is greater genetic diversity in hatchery salmon populations than in some wild populations."
Some wild fish advocates admit privately that the push to overturn the Hogan decision may be based less on a love for wild stocks than an attempt to keep coastal timber harvests at a minimum level. In fact, after the judge refused to stay his decision, the BLM and Forest Service released more than a dozen timber sales that had been blocked by a federal judge in Seattle who ruled that the harvests would adversely threaten coho streams. -Bill Rudolph
 TWO MORE DE-LISTING PETITIONS FILED IN WAKE OF HOGAN DECISION
Two more de-listing petitions for listed fish stocks have been filed by perennial NMFS gadfly James Buchal. On Oct. 19, on behalf of seven individuals in the Klamath Basin, the Portland attorney filed to de-list Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast coho salmon and two species of sucker fish. A few days later, he filed to de-list Upper Willamette River chinook and steelhead for the Greenberry Irrigation District.
The petitions cite as their basis the recent court decision that threw out the ESA listing for Oregon coastal coho. In both situations, Buchal said, the facts are similar, with NMFS offering ESA protections to only wild stocks in the ESU, though some hatchery stocks are included in the populations. Federal Judge Michael Hogan ruled that NMFS couldn't put hatchery fish in the ESU without offering them the same ESA safety net, hence the listing was illegal.
Buchal has already filed petitions for several Northwest clients to de-list Puget Sound salmon, as well as most Columbia and Snake River stocks.
NMFS has said it will decide whether to appeal Hogan's decision by Nov. 9. Environmental and fishing groups are trying to gain intervenor status to appeal the de-listing decision themselves, a move that NMFS has objected to, according to documents filed with the court.
The groups have also sent letters to NMFS Northwest and Southwest regional administrators, and to Anne Badgely, regional USFWS director, that claim to point out fatal flaws in the petitions that Buchal has filed to de-list salmon, steelhead and the listed suckerfish. They say the petitions' use of the Hogan decision doesn't make up for required "substantial scientific or commercial information" needed to remove a species from the ESA. They call Buchal's reliance on the Alsea Valley case "a clear end run around of the specific ESA petitioning requirements."
They also pointed out that even if all that information is provided, a de-listing petition must demonstrate "either extinction, recovery, or an error in the original data for classification," and be based on several factors spelled out by federal law, that include habitat modification, disease or predation, or overutilization of the species, along with other natural or manmade factors.
Buchal said it's perfectly legal to use the Hogan decision to de-list the stocks because federal agencies must conform their conduct to law and that "officials must comply with the law whether citizens point out violations or not."
He also said that their duty "is immediate. That is why Judge Hogan set aside the coho listing, instead of sending the case back to the agency to decide if it wanted to follow the law or not. It is frankly absurd to argue that federal agencies are privileged to violate the law until citizens assemble reams of biological evidence that the agency deems sufficient.
"With respect to the ESA," Buchal added, "controlling federal regulations (50 C.F.R. 424.11(d)(3)) permit NMFS to set aside a listing when '[s]ubsequent investigations . . . show that the best scientific and commercial data available when the species was listed, or the interpretation of such data, were in error.' NMFS is privileged at any time, without reams of new data, to announce that it has simply misinterpreted prior data. For example, NMFS might determine in summary fashion that it failed properly to assess extinction risk including the (non-existent) risk of extinction to hatchery stocks." -B. R.
 LATEST PIT TAG STUDY FINDS "MODEST" BENEFITS FOR FISH TRANSPORT
The latest iteration of the long-running study that is analyzing results of tagging thousands of hatchery fish in the Snake and Columbia rivers says that transporting fish has provided "modest" benefits for fish survival. The study, begun several years ago by the Fish Passage Center, says an overall 60-percent benefit is evident for hatchery fish transported from Lower Granite Dam compared to juvenile salmon that migrated inriver from 1997 to 1999. The study says less overall benefit occurs when all collector projects are included.
The document, now available on the FPC's Website, also says little or no transport benefits were available for wild fish from 1994-1999, though sample sizes are not large.
Digging a little deeper than the executive summary, though, reveals more interesting news. Some individual Idaho hatchery stocks, like those at the McCall and Imnaha facilities, show much greater benefits from transport--about 100 percent or better when hauled from Lower Granite in 1999. Overall, in 14 out of 16 cases, transported hatchery stocks did better.
More good news that's downplayed in the study: some hatchery returns from the 1999 outmigration have reached close to 4 percent. Many regional biologists say that listed stocks need to return at 2 to 6 percent rates to achieve recovery. That stunning return rate for McCall fish was followed by 3 percent returns from Rapid River and Imnaha stocks, double their rates from 1997.
As for wild fish, the study says evidence is still "inconclusive" whether hatchery fish can be used as a surrogate for wild fish for survival studies.
The report did not yet compare results from returns to lower Columbia hatcheries, a major component of the proposal when it first began. In fact, two lower river hatcheries were scrubbed from the study after low returns, blamed on disease, left only fish from the Carson facility in the analysis. But the report says it's still too early to compare the upriver and downriver stocks, since three-ocean fish from 1999 haven't yet returned, nor have adjustments for harvests been made.
With the study's oversight committee made up of agency and tribal scientists who previously voiced support for arguments that claim differences in returns from upriver stocks is proof of latent effects of mortality from passing more dams, it isn't surprising that the subject is still being discussed, along with the infamous 'D' factor--supposed differences in survival between barged and inriver migrating fish. The study claims evidence for a D value for transported fish of .57 (which means that barged fish survive at 57 percent the rate of inriver fish).
"This 'D' value is considerably lower than the 'D' of 0.7 used in the NMFS' 2000 Biological Opinion," says the report, which averaged values from different years and hatchery releases.
It's an analysis that doesn't get into the level of detail of recent NMFS survival studies that show early hatchery releases typically show low 'D's and much higher ones later in the migration season, when survival seems to be better. But even the FPC report shows some groups of hatchery fish with 'D's of more than 1.0--which means they survive at a higher rate than inriver fish--though in recent years, fish from Rapid River and Imnaha have shown relative survival rates about 85 percent of inriver fish.
The old argument over upriver versus downriver stocks is far from settled, but should be closer to finality by next year. In fact, it was reported to NW Fishletter that the preliminary returns to Carson from the 1999 migration year (around 2 percent) do not show any increase in delayed hydro system mortality for upstream stocks.
But the region may have to wait at least another year for the official results. As the study says, "Comparison of upstream to downstream stock performance is a major objective of the CSS [Comparative Survival Study]. At the time this report was completed, too few broods have returned from downstream stocks to make these comparisons, and whether hatchery stocks are good surrogates for wild fish is unknown." -B. R.
 FORECASTERS HEDGE BETS FOR NORMAL WATER YEAR
It was a soggy October, but that doesn't mean the region is over the recent drought. A winter of average precip will still result in stream flows that are 10 percent less than average because of the dry soils throughout the region, according to climatologists. And another El Nino is brewing in the eastern tropical Pacific, although it's expected to have mild effects in the Northwest, according to UW researcher Nate Mantua.
Mantua, who has spent years studying the atmospheric and oceanic signals that suggest a 20- to 30- year oscillation [Pacific Decadal Oscillation] between overall wet, cooler conditions and drier, warmer circumstances, said, in effect, "The PDO took a year off."
The odds are about equal that the region will experience the "normal" range of climate as defined by the last 100 years of data, Mantua said. But with expected weak to moderate El Niño conditions for the coming fall and winter seasons, "there is little indication that remote factors favor a shift in the odds for experiencing unusual climate conditions," he said in a formal presentation available on the Climate Impact Group's website.
Mantua said that scientists don't understand how the PDO really works, which makes it tough to adjust the forecast to allow for its effects. "Last winter, for example, saw a mixed PDO signal (in terms of North Pacific sea surface temps) that suggested cool phase PDO conditions, yet the PNW experienced one of the worst droughts of the past century."
The latest forecast from NOAA calls for even odds of above-normal, normal and below-normal precipitation through next April, with a 5 percent to 10 percent chance that rainfall will be above normal for the coastal Northwest through July. The odds of more precip in the interior stay even throughout the period.
The recent rains are definitely above average. The Northwest River Forecast Center reported for the month of October (as of Oct. 23), precipitation above Coulee was 129 percent of average and 130 percent of average at The Dalles, and 109 percent of average above Ice Harbor on the Snake River.
The east slopes of the Cascades saw 2.51 inches of rain, about normal for the month. But up on the Clark Fork in northern Idaho, it rained 1.55 inches, or 190 percent of normal, and on the Clearwater, more than 3 inches came down--195 percent of average for that basin.
The northwest slope of the Washington Cascades saw 6.74 inches of precip, about 124 percent of normal. -B. R.
 PACIFICORP, YAKAMAS START COMPETITION FOR PRIEST RAPIDS LICENSE
PacifiCorp and the Yakama Nation made the competition for Grant County PUD's Priest Rapids project official last week. The investor owned utility and the tribe--through their newly-formed Yakama Hydroelectric Project LLC--submitted to FERC their initial consultation document (ICD) for a competing license application. The Oct. 29 document outlines the utility's and the tribe's joint plans to develop their license application for the Priest Rapids complex, which includes the 923-MW Priest Rapids and 1038-MW Wanapum facilities.
The ICD kicks off the licensing process and "frames the discussion over the next few years" that will determine what's included in the license application, said Toby Freeman of PacifiCorp's special projects section. PacifiCorp hopes to have the draft application ready by April of 2003; the final application must be sent to FERC by October of 2003. Grant's license for the Priest Rapids project expires in 2005.
The immediate next step for PacifiCorp and the Yakamas is to conduct a joint agency and public meeting, as required by FERC, within the next 60 days. "We'll make a presentation on our initial consultation document and solicit input on what it should include," Freeman said. "We expect a fair amount of attendance" at the meeting, which will probably be held in early December.
Specific recommendations and strategies, therefore, will come later in the process. For now, the initial consultation document outlines six themes that will guide development of the final application. These include sharing the economic benefits of the project more broadly, optimizing project operations, achieving greater efficiency in both energy and water use, extending project benefits to "new areas and peoples," protecting and enhancing fish and wildlife, and enhancing cultural, recreational and other resource values.
The Yakama Indian Nation has experience in environmental management and cultural sensitivity, said Preston Harrison, director of Yakama Power and economic development for the tribe. "Our demonstrated ability to manage resources on the reservation can be expanded" to the project area--which is actually part of the Yakamas' original homeland, ceded to the United States under an 1855 treaty agreement.
In addition, Harrison said there are significant opportunities for water conservation in the Columbia Basin, including facilities enhancements at the project itself and capturing irrigation water through buy-backs. And "from an energy efficiency standpoint, PacifiCorp is committed to conservation programs, and the Yakamas are pursuing these on the reservation," he said.
Yakama Hydroelectric Project LLC intends to expand the project's benefits from the geographical areas of Grant County to the other six nearby counties, Harrison said. One strategy involves facilities enhancements at the dams themselves, which would mean construction jobs, as well as employment opportunities at the hydro facilities. The Yakama reservation--with a large percentage of its population under the age of 21--is "not that separate or distinct a community in how we envision our future," Harrison said. "We want safe neighborhoods and employment opportunities."
Another part of that strategy involves "broader regional allocation" of the power output from the project, the ICD indicates. "Yakama Hydroelectric proposes to reserve some power for Grant PUD customers while also spreading power benefits of the project to consumers throughout the Pacific Northwest," the ICD executive summary reads. "In part, this will be accomplished by sale of the project's power output on a cost basis under contracts for the length of the new license with options for renewal to public and investor-owned utilities in the region."
How the project's 1900-plus megawatts are divvied up is no doubt the real driver behind the competing license application. Grant PUD, which has operated Priest Rapids since it was built in 1956, currently receives 36.5 percent of the output. The PUD sells the other 63.5 percent under long-term contracts to the Grant Purchasers Group, whose 12 members include the region's four investor-owned utilities, the cities of Seattle and Tacoma, Eugene Water and Electric Board, Cowlitz and Kittitas PUDs and three small Oregon munis.
But those long-term contracts expire when the current license expires, and under an October 1999 DC Appeals Court ruling, the PUD will have title to 70 percent of the project's output upon relicensing. FERC allocated the other 30 percent to a group of regional utilities that also included four Idaho co-ops and ruled the PUD could sell that power under market-based principles once the project is relicensed.
In addition, FERC told Grant to submit a marketing plan for that allocation as part of its Priest Rapids relicensing application. PUD GM Don Godard told NW Fishletter this summer that Grant had created an offer that complies with FERC's order but tries to meet the current purchasers' needs at the same time. While Grant would sell the 30 percent portion of Priest Rapids' output at market rates, the PUD would keep only what it costs to generate the power sold. "The rest of the money goes to the purchasers," he said at the time. "They can take that money and buy replacement power."
Godard also told NW Fishletter that Grant would offer the utilities whatever portion of its 70 percent entitlement the PUD doesn't need to meet incumbent demand. Some of that power would be sold at cost-based rates, while some of it would be priced based on BPA's rates, which went up by 46 percent last month.
The PUD had asked utilities to decide by Sept. 7 whether they'd sign new contracts with Grant. But several of the purchasers, including Puget Sound Energy and PacifiCorp, challenged that deadline in King County Superior court, claiming violation of the right of first refusal clause in their original contracts with Grant.
While the court refused to issue a preliminary injunction, the PUD lifted the Sept. 7 deadline anyway, with the intention of signing new contracts by Dec. 31. Parties are now waiting for the court to decide if it will rule on the merits of the case.
Meanwhile, the PUD has reached agreements in principle with a number of the current purchasers. The parties are still talking, said Grant spokeswoman Christine Stallard, and trying to work out the final details. "We need to meet the needs of our county and people," Stallard said. "Our goal beyond that is to continue to share the output with the region. That's what the contract negotiations are all about."
Grant filed its initial consultation document for Priest Rapids in July 2000 and faces the same October 2003 deadline for filing a final application with FERC. The PUD has already held its required public/agency meeting, conducted site tours and formed solution groups. "Our process is not changing," said Grant licensing manager Linda Jones. "We are still holding stakeholder meetings. They are helping us craft solutions." With the release of the Yakama Hydroelectric Project consultation document, "we will have to be watching their process as well, and they are going to be watching ours."
In fact, the two consultation processes will involve the same resource agencies and many of the same interest groups. Just how that will work out isn't clear to either side at this point. "We are hoping we can find opportunities to cooperate together" and to make the process less burdensome, PacifiCorp's Freeman said. "We are concerned about the potential burden the competing license processes will place on other participants." At the same time, we "don't want to be careless and jeopardize the competition."
"I think it's important that the public and any interested stakeholders participate to the extent they can," said Grant's Jones. But "this fight over who controls the dams is a waste of millions of dollars and could ultimately affect ratepayers and not add any power to the system. We believe this is a time we should be working together to solve the energy problems of the Northwest rather than fighting over who controls the dams."
FERC regulations give the incumbent licensee some preference in the relicensing process, and Section 15 of the Federal Power Act outlines the standards under which competing license applications are to be evaluated to determine which proposal "is better adapted to the public interest." These include "other factors considered relevant by the commission, except that an applicant's plans concerning fish and wildlife shall not be compared." The section also states that "insignificant differences with regard to [these factors] shall not result in the transfer of a project" from the incumbent licensee.
This would be the first time, however, that FERC receives a competing license application from an applicant that includes a tribal nation. "FERC has no idea how to deal with this and they don't want to deal with it," said one FERC watcher. That may improve the possibility for some sort of settlement outside of the licensing process, as the federal agency may put some pressure on the competing applicants to solve their differences.
"There is always room for compromise," said Grant's Jones. "But the process will have to play out for awhile." -Jude Noland
 HIGH PRIORITY FISH HABITAT GOES HIGH AND DRY
Washington state's upper Methow River has dried up along a stretch of habitat recently purchased as part of a "high priority" BPA funding effort, another sign of the lingering effects of this year's drought conditions and fish crisis mentality.
BPA contributed $2.5 million towards the purchase of conservation easements to the Arrowleaf resort property, a proposal coordinated by the Trust For Public Land, pushed hard by both federal and state agencies, and supported by the state's two representatives to the Power Planning Council.
Methow valley resident Dick Ewing, who heads the local watershed planning unit, said the Methow is dry from Lost River to several miles south of the resort property, "Lost River and Early Winters Creek are flowing," Ewing said, "but the creek goes underground where it goes into the Methow." He said it went dry up there last year as well. "It's been pretty much the same every year," he added, noting that some years redds that are dug in that part of the Methow may remain viable from seepage unless anchor ice freezes the eggs.
The Methow River at Mazama, below the Arrowleaf property.
Photo courtesy Steve Devin.
Ewing said the dry riverbed is well above any irrigation diversions in the basin. This fact was noted in a report on the region by fisheries biologists in 1992, headed by USFWS scientist James Mullan. The report included a photograph of a 10-mile-long stretch of the dewatered upper Methow during the dry summer of 1988. It's a hydraulic characteristic of regions wherever a stream surface lies higher than the adjacent groundwater table.
After touring the area and seeing the dry riverbed firsthand, Rick Williams, one the one of the independent scientists who originally OK'd the project for funding, said he is now dismayed at the way the proposal was presented.
"Arrowleaf was presented as having significant fisheries benefits," Williams told NW Fishletter. In its first review Feb. 1, the science panel was unanimous in supporting the proposal. "The proposers clearly describe the importance of the property," said the panel, "its near pristine condition, its position as a link between upper and lower habitats (particularly salmon habitats), and the negative ecological consequences of not obtaining the property."
"Had it been reviewed in the normal context of provincial review," said Williams, "the ISRP would have probably been favorable towards it," though he noted that it would probably have not been rated as highly as the panel put it last March, when it gave the Arrowleaf proposal a B rating in its recommendations. The panel said funding the proposal was likely to provide important benefits to ESA stocks, but lack of information precluded a technical review.
"It's still a valuable piece of property," Williams said, "and still has significant wildlife benefits."
Back in March when the proposal was discussed by the Power Planning Council, the price tag was a lot higher--about $3.75 million to pay for conservation easements as part of the $17 million cost for the defunct development in the upper Methow Basin.
An option to purchase the property had been picked up by the Trust For Public Lands. It was supported heavily by the two Washington council members, who trotted out supporters who lauded the conservation and riparian value that would be maintained by the purchase. Otherwise, the land could be developed into at least 70 lots.
But Montana Council member Stan Grace had argued against the purchase. He said it only preserved the land on one side of the river and therefore didn't deserve a high priority for funding. CBFWA managers, however, rated the proposal highly. The science panel unanimously supported it, but questioned the cost "relative to other purchases." BPA had ranked it below a high priority because the property was already being purchased. In the end, the Council whittled $1.25 million off BPA's prospective share before they voted it on their high priority recommendation list, Montana notwithstanding.
In April, NMFS weighed in with more support for Arrowleaf in comments sent to BPA. "This project would permanently protect currently productive habitat in a critical area," said the fish agency in its April 20 document. "Very little of this sort of floodplain remains in the Methow. Chinook spawning occurs in the immediate area and upstream. Acquiring the Arrowhead property would tangibly benefit two listed ESUs. The project is time-sensitive and features an enormous cost share ($13.5 million). The project applicant has described the urgency of securing this land now. On the basis of the permanence of protecting currently productive non-Federal habitat for two endangered ESUs, this project rates as a very high priority."
Back in February, in its first recommendations to the Power Planning Council, NMFS had placed the Arrowleaf proposal in a lower priority. The original proposal, as submitted by the Trust for Public Land and WDFW, pegged the total cost of the proposal at nearly $19 million, with BPA asked to pony up $3.75 million for conservation easements on 600 acres of the 1,020-acre property. Private grants were to total over $4 million, and some lot sales more than $5 million, along with $3 million from the state of Washington, and almost $2 million from the Trust for Public Land.
"NMFS gave this a very high priority," said Doug Marker, acting head of the Council's fish and wildlife division, who pointed to the difference between the crisis mode of this year's review of high priority proposals and the more deliberative process that is used to recommend funding the Columbia Basin's fish and wildlife program.
So, it's likely the river will be dry until spring, said Methow resident Ewing. ESA-listed spring chinook may have spawned in tributaries above the empty riverbed or in it, but their future is as uncertain as the weather. However, spawning surveys have shown that most spring chinook spawn below the Arrowleaf property. -Bill Rudolph
 STEELHEAD SEASON OPENS ON UPPER COLUMBIA
Federal and state officials have agreed to open parts of the upper Columbia River to steelhead fishing this fall. They are hoping to reduce the number of hatchery fish that biologists are afraid will overrun natural spawning grounds, especially in the upper tributaries. The season opened after NMFS wrestled with legal ramifications of the opening, since the hatchery stock, raised at the Wells facility, is listed as "endangered" along with the wild stock in the region.
According to NMFS biologist Lance Krusic, the agency modified an existing ESA section 10 permit that governs the Wells hatchery program to allow for the fishery. "The Methow, Wenatchee and Entiat are still closed," Krusic said. "We want to protect the wild fish."
The big run has given fish managers extra large headaches this year as gobs of hatchery fish have returned with their wild brethren, along with more than 8,000 returning supplemented steelhead, which are of wild/hatchery parentage. The latter are unmarked, so fishermen must treat them as wild fish.
Fishing will be open in the mainstem Columbia near Ringold hatchery in the Pasco area and in the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers in the northeastern part of the basin. The bag limit will be two marked steelhead a day.
Most of the upper Columbia run is past Priest Rapids Dam, according to Krusic, who said 5,700 wild steelhead, 8,100 supplemented fish and 16,100 marked hatchery fish were now estimated to return as part of the massive run counted at Bonneville Dam on the lower river, where more than 600,000 steelhead have been counted this year.
"We are pleased we could work with the new regional NMFS administration to craft a sound fishery that allows anglers to benefit from an unexpectedly large returning run without impacting wild steelhead recovery," said WDFW director Jeff Koenings. The two agencies are working on a long-term plan to manage the fish. -B. R.
 BPA FACES LAWSUIT OVER THIS YEAR'S OPERATIONS
Several environmental and fishing groups filed a lawsuit in Ninth Circuit Court alleging that BPA violated the NW Power Act by operating dams this year to the detriment of salmon runs.
"BPA had choices this year--salmon-friendly alternatives to cope with the drought, many of which we and fishery agencies recommended during the season," said Dan Rohlf of the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center and lead attorney in the case.
The agency declared a power emergency in early spring. As the weeks progressed, hydro managers found they were dealing with the second worst water year on record. A nominal amount of water was spilled at dams to aid fish passage, while fish barging efforts were maximized--an effort that kept more than 90 percent of the Snake spring runs and about half of the spring fish from the upper Columbia out of the slow moving hydro system.
But the Sierra Club's Bill Arthur said these efforts weren't good enough. He said the Power Act, enacted 20 years ago, "was passed to prevent what happened this year, when juvenile salmon took the full brunt of our water shortage and were slaughtered in record numbers. BPA treated salmon as expendable, rather than treating them equitably, violating both the spirit and the law."
The groups cited "biological data" from the Fish Passage Center "that shows 2001 was the worst juvenile salmon migration on record," according to a Nov. 5 press release. "The data concludes, among other things, that in-river juvenile steelhead traveling from Lower Granite Dam to Bonneville Dam had a horrifying survival rate of 4 percent and juvenile chinook traveling the same stretch had a disturbing survival rate of 30 percent."
A Sept. 10 NMFS memo on preliminary survival estimates tracked closely (24 percent spring chinook survival, 2.6 percent steelhead survival) with the FPC numbers, but pointed out that "the estimated survival of chinook salmon was substantially higher than was estimated in 1973 and 1977 when spring flows were slightly higher and slightly lower, respectively. The estimated steelhead survival was not much different from those estimated in 1973 and 1977." The memo said major modifications at dams over the past 20 years "improved yearling chinook salmon survival significantly, as noted earlier, compared to the low flow years in the 1970s."
The memo suggested that the low flows may have caused the steelhead to lose their urge to migrate and to remain or "residualize" in lower river reservoirs. "Although many of the residualized steelhead may not have died," the memo says, "in past years only a small proportion of residualized PIT-tagged steelhead have survived and successfully migrated the following spring."
The NMFS document said 2001 results were the lowest survival rates since PIT tag studies began in 1993. "We believe this was primarily a consequence of low flow and lack of spill. Because both conditions occurred simultaneously, determining how much each factor contributed to the decreased survival will be difficult."
But the groups say BPA-mandated low river flows killed so many fish that runs will be driven closer to extinction, "undoing years of work to restore them and perpetuating economic hardship in fishing dependent communities all along the coast." Earthjustice also represents plaintiffs Sierra Club, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources and Idaho Rivers United. -B. R.
 RESPECTED SALMON RESEARCHER DR. TED BJORNN DIES
Dr. Ted Bjornn, died last week in Salt Lake City, after being hospitalized for a short time. Bjornn, from Moscow, Idaho, had been a research scientist at the Idaho Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit for the past 35 years and was an expert in the ecology and management of cutthroat trout, salmon and steelhead, particularly adult migrations. Bjornn authored more than 150 technical articles during that time.
Bjornn served on the Snake River Salmon Recovery Team in the early 1990s, working alongside the late Don Bevan to help guide efforts to restore weak salmon stocks in the Columbia Basin. During that time, he underwent a heart transplant and came back to lead a small group of researchers studying adult salmon and steelhead migrations using radio tracking devices, groundbreaking studies that found adult fish survived the trip past hydroelectric dams at a much higher rate than previously accepted.
Lately, he had been appointed to the technical team put together by NMFS to guide recovery efforts for many of the fish runs he had studied most of his life.
"Ted was one of the most respected scientists who worked in the Basin," said biologist Al Giorgi. "He had a real level, unbiased way of representing information. He was very objective and his shoes will be tough to fill." -B. R.
LINKS/DOCUMENTS FROM NW FISHLETTER 133:: Below are listed links and documents referred to in the text of NW Fishletter issue 133.
- Fish Passage Center Website
- Climate Impact Group Presentation
- 2001/2002 Season Upper Columbia River Steelhead Fisheries
- Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife, November 5, 2001
THE ARCHIVE :: Previous NW Fishletter issues and supporting documents.
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