Flow Proponents Sound Off As Council Begins Hydro Analysis
 Idaho, Montana Present New Recommendations For Hydro Operations
 State Sends Mixed Messages To Methow Water Users
 Six Hundred Thousand Fall Chinook Heading Our Way
 Oregon's Brogoitti Hangs On At NW Power Planning Council
 National Wildlife Federation Holds Off On Suing Grant County PUD
 More Mitchell Act Hatcheries May Face The Budget Axe
 FLOW PROPONENTS SOUND OFF AS COUNCIL BEGINS HYDRO ANALYSIS
Idaho and Montana contingents have told the Northwest Power Planning Council that they favor changes in hydro operations in the mainstem Columbia and Snake rivers. The two states officially presented their recommendations to the council during its meeting last week in Helena, MT.
Montana has called for dumping the BiOp-mandated flow targets and augmented spring flows, and releasing water from its federal reservoirs more slowly and evenly over summer periods to help resident fish. Idaho wants to reduce flow objectives in the lower Snake River, and eliminate spring augmentation altogether when flows are above 85 kcfs. The state also recommends drafting Dworshak Reservoir over a longer summer period than called for in the current biological opinion for fish listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Council Chair Larry Cassidy was impressed with the states' recommendations. "It may be the first time, for me on the council, I'm witnessing some really hard work by the delegations from these two particular states...this is not 'let staff do it,' it's really hard work and really deserves some compliments. It's educated me in a lot of things."
Washington members said they would take the recommendations home with them and ask various state agencies and affected tribes for comments. The council staff was also directed to look at impacts to power and fish, both resident and anadromous. Staffer Bruce Suzumoto said fish impacts will include some analysis, some modeling, and much information gathering to try and pin down potential benefits to resident fish from the recommended changes in hydro operations.
"What I look for is a scientific basis for what we do and don't know," said Washington council member Tom Karier. He said the science is lacking in some areas of mainstem operation, but that's not a good enough reason to end them. Karier also said he wasn't yet prepared to go as far as Montana has with its recommendations.
Karier cited the Giorgi Report that was commissioned by the council to review the state of current research on flows and fish survival. The report itself cited the latest NMFS studies that have found few, if any, survival benefits to migrating salmon from spring flow augmentation.
More flows in summer seem to make a difference, but it's unclear just how big the difference is, Karier said. "In areas where the science is lacking, do you curtail them or subject them to a field test?"
Cassidy, also from Washington, said he was putting a lot of heat on agency people to get their comments in soon. "The sideboards to this discussion are the inputs from professional scientists," he said. Cassidy wouldn't make any predictions, but it seemed likely that the added analysis means the council won't be ready to vote on the mainstem amendments until October.
It may have been a coincidence, but a day after council members discussed the potential changes to hydro operations, the Fish Passage Center went public with a recent memo that supported current flow strategies. Though the Giorgi Report clearly stated that NMFS scientists have found little evidence supporting a flow-survival relationship for fish migrating in the spring, the Portland-based FPC waded in by posting two memos on its Web site that sent mixed messages about the value of flow augmentation.
"There is nothing in the adult return data, or the PIT tag data that weakens the NMFS scientific basis for migration flows or spill for fish passage for in-river migrants," FPC Director Michele DeHart told Rod Sando, head of the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority, in the memo.
DeHart's memo and another memo released by the FPC responded to questions from Sando and recommended caution when making predictions based on dam counts. DeHart failed to mention that state, tribal and federal harvest managers do that all the time.
According to the memos, Sando had inquired about recent jack counts and a NMFS memo, reported in a July 30 Oregonian story, that pointed out NMFS scientists had noted jack returns for Snake River spring chinook this year were higher than in 2001. The federal scientists suggested that the low flows in the mainstem from last year's drought may not have caused major mortality of the migrants as some had predicted, since most of the young chinook and steelhead had been barged.
The NMFS memo was originally reported July 19 in NW Fishletter. It's had proponents of flow augmentation up in arms ever since.
In her July 30 memo, DeHart said the jack return was not surprising, and compared it to jack returns in a large, ongoing study that is tracking survival of PIT-tagged hatchery fish. She said it was near the 10-year average (1991-2001), but "a considerable decrease" from the previous two years. Her memo neglected to mention that the hatchery releases that produced this year's jack returns were down considerably from the earlier years, a fact that NMFS scientists brought to light. Nearly 11 million Snake spring hatchery smolts were released in 1999, 7 million were released in 2000, and only 4 million were released in 2001.
The FPC memo told Sando that it was hard to understand the "gloomy forecasts" mentioned in The Oregonian, because no forecasts had been generated before the 2002 jacks had been counted. But DeHart herself made a forecast of sorts in February, in comments to NMFS on the federal analysis of spill survival during the drought, that were posted on the FPC Web site. "Despite the high proportion of Snake River fish transported from the 2001 out-migration," DeHart said, "it is unlikely that significant numbers of adults will return from this migration year because of the estuarine conditions."
Two weeks later, IDFG's anadromous fish manager Sharon Kiefer was quoted in an article posted on the Web site of conservation group Idaho Rivers United, saying, "One will only have to wait until the adult returns start coming back from this year's migration to be reminded how grave the situation is for the salmon stocks in the Snake River."
But Idaho has changed its tune. Since the jacks showed up, the state now predicts a spring run of 45,000 spring chinook next year, with the hatchery component (75 percent) about twice the 10-year average, according to a July 19 report by IDFG fisheries chief Virgil Moore to Idaho's Fish and Game Commission. Such a run should allow for a harvest of nearly 20,000 fish, he said.
The news may be good for Mid-Columbia spring runs as well, though only about one-third were transported from McNary Dam. A preliminary analysis of 2002 jack returns, based on the methodology used in the NMFS memo, shows that they returned at a rate similar to the 2000 return, when mainstem conditions were normal, rather than suffering huge mortalities while migrating during last year's drought conditions. -Bill Rudolph
 IDAHO, MONTANA PRESENT NEW RECOMMENDATIONS FOR HYDRO OPERATIONS
Northwest Power Planning Council members from Idaho and Montana are circulating proposed amendments to the Columbia Basin's mainstem fish program that call for making some wholesale changes to recovery priorities. The Idaho and Montana representatives have suggested that all strategies taken to improve fish passage through the hydro system should "provide the highest possible adult survivals as the first priority."
Such a shift in priorities would represent a huge sea change for the council's overall program. Back in 1994, when council members last voted on mainstem issues, the majority approved a partial-year drawdown strategy at dams on the lower Snake River, an approach that had never been demonstrated to provide juvenile fish benefits and would probably have had large adverse effects on migrating adults, according to members of NMFS' own early 1990's recovery team. One of Idaho's council members at the time, Jay Webb, resigned from the council after his refusal to support the program put him at odds with then Gov. Cecil Andrus. Only Montana's members voted against the program.
Other proposals from the two states are at odds with the flow augmentation strategy institutionalized in the latest hydro BiOp, finalized in December 2000, that spells out the current flow augmentation and spill strategy at federal dams in the Northwest.
"From our perspective," Montana council members Ed Bartlett and John Hines said in an Aug. 5 cover letter that accompanied their draft, "this proposal is consistent with the flexibility within the NMFS biological opinion whereby the specific measures for achieving the biological performance standards can be modified as new scientific information becomes available." They said it was critical for the council to recommend changes to hydro operations if the biological benefits to fish, both anadromous and resident, along with operational efficiencies, justify such changes.
"We recognize that all of these areas, particularly flow augmentation and spill, are politically sensitive migration tools," said the Montanans' letter. "Regardless, we feel that we can improve the implementation of both of these tools so that we have a more efficient and successful recovery effort."
Idaho council members concurred. "The science has come in and it's time to move," said Judi Danielson, who agreed with the Montanans that adult fish survival deserves the highest priority. She cited the report completed by consultant Al Giorgi last winter that summarized current research on the value of flow augmentation, spill and barging of Columbia Basin fish stocks.
Danielson said Idaho supports the BiOp, but considers it a "work in progress" that should be modified as the region learns more about the costs and benefits of mainstem fish passage strategies. The state wants language added to the council's new program that expresses concern for some flow augmentation strategies in the 2000 BiOp, noting that, as the Giorgi Report found, neither NMFS nor the Fish Passage Center has estimated increases in flow velocity or decreases in temperature from augmented flows, or predicted changes in fish survival from such incremental changes.
The latest Montana recommendations expand on earlier proposals to the mainstem amendment process, made by the state's Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, calling for operating the dams consistent with flood control and rule curve concepts that would keep more water in reservoirs longer and benefit resident fish populations below Libby and Hungry Horse dams.
The new proposals call for managing the hydro system to approximate the shape, timing and fluctuation of a natural hydrograph, but also recommend shifting flow augmentation away from springtime and providing more water for fish migration from July through September "through a strategy that results in a high probability of refilling the storage reservoirs."
The Montana draft butts heads with current strategies. "Research has not validated the predicted benefits of flow augmentation from upstream storage reservoirs," the Montana members say, pointing out that change in water velocity in the mainstem Columbia from such releases "is minute."
The state calls for basing reservoir drawdown and inflow on local inflows, which would have more benefits for resident fish. Flow targets now in place hurt resident fish populations and don't offer any benefits for salmon and steelhead, the Montana members claim.
Montana also calls for managing spill at each project to be the most "biologically effective" and suggests that often the most "benign" spill discharge produces the greatest juvenile survival.
Idaho council members have proposed holding more water in Dworshak Reservoir through the spring in order to release more during the summer to cool the lower Snake for migrating steelhead and fall chinook, a strategy endorsed by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and the Nez Perce Tribe. They also want the NWPPC's economic board to review a recent study of the impact of Dworshak drawdowns on the economy of that region and ask the council to then make recommendations to BPA on any fish and wildlife mitigation responsibilities "deemed appropriate" under the NW Power Act.
Montana council member John Hines said more analysis of his state's recommendations is needed to understand potential impacts on power reliability and BPA revenue. A similar recommendation already submitted to the council by Columbia-Snake irrigators that called for shifting augmented flow volumes from spring to summer months was analyzed by council staffers last April. They found a savings of about 300 aMW annually, worth about $50 million. -B. R.
 STATE SENDS MIXED MESSAGES TO METHOW WATER USERS
Just when the region thought an agreement had finally been reached between a small group of eastern Washington water users and state, federal and tribal parties over longstanding issues in the Methow Valley, Washington's Department of Ecology has refused to pull in its horns over a notice of violation it issued to the small irrigation district at the center of the controversy. Instead, the state agency has decided to stick by its order requiring the district to cut its water withdrawals by nearly 50 percent.
Last December, the state Department of Ecology said the 250 members of the Methow Valley Irrigation District were wasting water, which reduced instream flows in nearby rivers. According to state statute, that's a form of pollution, the state agency maintained.
When DOE issued its December ruling, the agency did not say how much water the district should be taking. That determination came in April, a few days before a number of parties, including DOE, reached an agreement on ways to improve the district's system. NMFS had given the irrigation district and other interested parties two years to come up with such a plan to settle litigation the federal agency had filed about the district's alleged "take" of listed species. The rehab agreement was the culmination of months of discussion and a last-minute marathon meeting with state and federal agencies, irrigators, and tribes.
As the group was putting the finishing touches on the agreement, DOE ordered the district to limit its water withdrawals to almost half of its historic use, which amounted to a combined 90 cfs from the Twisp and Methow rivers. The irrigation district appealed, saying the order's "sole purpose" was to pressure and coerce them into reaching an agreement with the other parties that would reduce their vested water rights.
A few days after DOE issued its order, a federal judge OK'd a consent decree in the NMFS litigation, paving the way for implementation of the agreement modernizing the district's system. A major element of the rehab agreement, under which the state and BPA were to split the costs of the improvements, is a reduction of water withdrawals from the Twisp in low flow years by pumping more from the Methow. Just how low a river flow would trigger this pump exchange was a major bone of contention during last winter's facilitation efforts. It was still unresolved when the decree was signed, as a level proposed earlier had been accepted by the district, but not by the Yakama Tribe, a major party in the facilitation effort. But NMFS has agreed to develop a trigger flow by the end of the year.
The agreement also says if the district chooses not to accept the NMFS determination by next April, it will replace existing fish screens to meet the feds' criteria. The district turned down NMFS' original plan to pipe its water because maintenance and operational costs were prohibitive compared to the economic value of crops grown by the district's members. The new agreement calls for BPA to fund such costs for 25 years. At this point, the power agency is on the hook for about $4.6 million.
Even though it's a party to the agreement, WA DOE says the Methow Valley Irrigation District's antiquated practices waste too much water, thereby reducing instream flows in the rivers--which they call a form of pollution--in rivers which are already designated as having limited water quality for flows and temperature. The irrigation district says the fact that the rivers are on the state's impaired water body list is irrelevant because its historic water rights take precedence. MVID attorney Richard Price pulled out all the stops in the district's appeal.
"Ecology's issuance of the Order referenced herein," Price wrote in the May appeal, "is erroneous, arbitrary and capricious, irrational or insidious, issued without due process of law, is in excess of any lawful authority imparted to Ecology, constitutes an unconstitutional deprivation of MVID's constitutionally protected water rights and constitutes a violation of the District and its members' due process rights under 42 USC § 1983."
Other attorneys have been watching the situation unfold with great interest. If the state succeeds, said Seattle attorney Galen Schuler, DOE's interpretation of the law crosses a "new threshold." In a June conference on clean water issues, Schuler said the state's interpretation of the law was "unprecedented, if not bold...to find that the diversion of water for an existing water right causes a violation of the statutory prohibition against discharge of pollutants."
Schuler told participants that the MVID's appeal is more than an enforcement dispute. "It raises a pivotal and far-reaching issue of whether pollution control authorities may be used to regulate water rights," he said. "This is an issue of first impression that has not been resolved by the tribunals and courts of Washington State. If it is resolved in Ecology's favor, it opens the door to a revolution in the management of water resources and regulation of water rights."
But the state has downplayed the potential impact of such an interpretation of the law. Bob Barwin, water resources manager for DOE's Yakima office, said the state chose to issue the order to formalize its position. "I don't think the MVID even understands it, to tell you the truth," Barwin told NW Fishletter last week. He said concerns that the state could go after more water users with this new interpretation of its pollution law are "pretty unfounded." The state is just using the law as one of its "enforcement tools,"Barwin said, to keep the district from diverting water in excess of a "beneficial" amount.
Vaughn Jolley, chair of the irrigation district's three-person board, said the DOE is trying to adjudicate water rights through its action, and that's not legal. The group's appeal also makes this point.
Jolley said DOE director Tom Fitzsimmons had recently told the district that he "had no intent to use that precedent on other water users," a position Jolley said "calls into question the selective prosecution that seems to be evident between MVID and WDOE." Jolley said the district had reduced its diversions by more than 50 percent by cutting boundaries, replacing lateral lines and completing other measures to boost efficiency--facts that Ecology seems not to acknowledge.
Jolley said before DOE issued its violation order, Barwin met with representatives of the Yakama Nation, who demanded that the state agency "do something" to get the district's surface diversion on the Twisp River removed. The tribe had earlier supported a trigger flow of 80 to 100 cfs on the Twisp, though in a March 26 letter to NWPPC chair Larry Cassidy, the Yakamas said the numbers would need verification.
The tribe had originally filed a lawsuit in 1991 against the irrigation district for wasteful water practices, but put the litigation on hold after assurances that the state and the district would put together a comprehensive plan. When upper Columbia salmon and steelhead were listed under the ESA in March 1999, NMFS became a principal player in the ongoing discussion. In 2000, the agency gave the irrigation district two years to figure out acceptable ways to boost fish survival. The deadline came last spring, just before the agreement was reached and the consent decree issued.
The irrigation district had proposed a trigger flow for the pump exchange of 45 cfs, about twice the base flows in the Twisp at the end of August. Jolley said other water users in the Methow Valley are concerned about his district's support of such a number, because it may set a precedent for negotiations, but he said it's close to what the feds originally proposed. NMFS regional director Bob Lohn assured him that his agency will recommend a trigger flow based on the biological needs of the fish, and "not of the desires of others around the table."
Meanwhile, Jolley says the continuing legal hassles have drained the irrigation district coffers, especially since they have lost about half of their assessed acreage. The group is sponsoring a fundraising barbecue this weekend to fight Ecology's claim, raising the specter of a precedent-setting attack on all water users in the state if the agency wins.
The squabble has attracted the attention of property rights advocates and the Pacific Legal Foundation, which may help with the appeal, said PLF attorney Ben Wagner. "We're taking a hard look at it," Wagner told NW Fishletter last week. "The DOE has been dragging its feet on this issue for the past 10 years."
But the state maintains that irrigators turned down a settlement earlier this year. "The district walked away, though I'd shaken hands," said DOE's Barwin. "I don't know why."
Jolley said the district studied the earlier proposal and found that complicated questions arose over annual restrictions of acre-feet that could have limited their irrigation season to only 100 days. In a recent letter to DOE head Fitzsimmons, Jolley said the new agreement is better, because it provides for a test period "and engineers determining needs based on field observations, not a theory by DOE personnel that is neither based on law or fact."
Jolley said he hasn't gotten a response from Fitzsimmons himself, but received a letter from the state AG's office that proposes the parties go back to the original agreement. That's still not acceptable, said Jolley, because it sets limits without either party knowing what present and future system needs would be. A hearing on the irrigation district's appeal has been scheduled for next February before the state's Pollution Control Hearings Board.
DOE's Barwin says it's time to capitalize on the appropriation to improve the condition of the fish, but Jolley is afraid the state's action could undermine the entire deal, two years in the making. -B. R.
 SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND FALL CHINOOK HEADING OUR WAY
Harvest managers have OK'd fishing seasons for the upcoming bonanza of fall chinook that is expected on the Columbia River. Agency prognosticators have predicted nearly 659,000 fall chinook will enter the river over the next month or so, which would be the third largest return since 1948. Nearly 300,000 upriver brights are predicted to be a big element of that parade, which would be the highest number returning to that part of the river since 1988. Returns to Bonneville Pool hatcheries are expected to be the largest of the past 26 years (136,000) and upriver summer steelhead are expected to be nearly off the chart, managers are expecting close to half a million of them.
But coho runs are predicted to be much lower than last year's blockbuster return of more than one million fish to the Columbia, with only 172,000 expected to enter the river after ocean fisheries are taken into account. That would be the smallest number since 1998.
Sport fishing opened in the lower river Aug.1 and some commercial fishing has commenced that targeted net-pen raised chinook. The current salmon glut has kept dock prices down from California to Alaska. Lower Columbia gillnetters are only getting 50 cents a pound.
Tribal gillnetters, who fish with set nets upstream of Bonneville Dam are slated to begin soon; they have already begun harvesting the fall run with more traditional methods, hoop nets, dip nets and hook and line. They may catch close to 150,000 chinook this fall if predictions hold, which would eclipse their harvest record of 146,000 fish from the 1988 run. They should expect even lower wholesale prices, but many sell their catches over the bank to the general public.
Tribes will be allowed to harvest 23 percent of the upriver bright fall run, with a little more than 8 percent allotted for non-Indian fishers, split nearly equally between sport and commercial fishermen.
Harvest managers consider ESA-listed Snake River wild fall chinook as a subset of the upriver bright run which spawns principally in the Hanford Reach of the mainstem Columbia, but they've been having hard time counting the run. According to the joint staff report released July 18 by Washington and Oregon fisheries managers, no determination has yet been made for wild fall returns to the Snake from last year's run, nor has a projection been made for this year's return to Lower Granite Dam.
In the case of Snake River fall chinook, the issue is complicated by difficulties in simply keeping track of wild populations, where recovery goals, at first glance, may have been surpassed last year. NMFS had estimated that about 2,700 wild fish returned to the Snake last year, about 200 more than the agency's interim recovery goal. However, WDFW official Glen Mendel told NW Fishletter that the feds had failed to account for the large numbers of unmarked fall chinook that were released by the Nez Perce tribe in 1999. About 600,000 subyearling chinook were released from sites above Lower Granite Dam without having their adipose fins clipped, though about one-third of them had been coded-wire-tagged.
Fish managers announced Aug. 21 they were cutting the sport limit at the mouth of the Columbia from two chinook to one, based on an analysis of the return that shows more wild ESA-listed fish are mixed in with hatchery stocks than they had anticipated. -B. R.
 OREGON'S BROGOITTI HANGS ON AT NW POWER PLANNING COUNCIL
Despite being fired over two weeks ago by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, Northwest Power Planning Council member John Brogoitti is still representing his state. "The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated," he told NW Fishletter after attending last week's NWPPC meeting in Helena, MT.
After refusing to resign following his open criticism of Kitzhaber's fish and wildlife policy, Brogoitti received a letter from the governor telling him he was fired. Still, Brogoitti refused to go and requested a public hearing with his boss to air the reasons for his dismissal. Brogoitti said he shouldn't be fired for representing the views of agricultural interests in eastern Oregon. A hearing has been scheduled Aug. 30 in Salem.
Brogoitti said his lawyers tell him he is still a council member until the Oregon Senate confirms a new appointee. He also said "he has been told" that the Republican-controlled Senate would not confirm any Kitzhaber appointee. The lame-duck governor, who leaves office in January, has named eastern Oregon attorney and viticulturist Melinda Eden to the post. Her confirmation hearing is scheduled for Sept. 4.
"This is an amusing side game," said Kitzhaber spokesperson Tom Towslee. "We'll have to wait and see what happens Sept. 4."
Towslee said Brogoitti "continues to serve until someone else is confirmed," a change in the governor's position. Kitzhaber's office had earlier claimed that the recalcitrant rancher had lost his seat in January because he had never been re-confirmed for his second three-year term.
Brogoitti may serve as a council member through the end of the year or longer. He said he hopes to be around to vote on the mainstem amendments to the fish and wildlife program that will likely be considered in October. Brogoitti also said he would support changes to flow augmentation policies recommended to the council last week by Idaho and Montana members, a position not likely shared by Oregon's other council representative, west-sider Eric Bloch.
Brogoitti, a rancher and wheat farmer, has garnered support from his constituents and kudos from Washington residents as well. Vaughn Jolley, board chair of the Methow Valley Irrigation District says Brogoitti was the first Council member who took an interest and volunteered to help in his group's ongoing battle with NMFS over water issues and ESA fish concerns that has culminated in a plan to modernize the district's delivery system. -B. R.
 NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION HOLDS OFF ON SUING GRANT COUNTY PUD
The National Wildlife Federation has decided to hold off on a threatened lawsuit against Grant County PUD over alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act at the utility's Priest Rapids hydro project. On April 30 the NWF--joined by the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, the Institute for Fisheries Resources and the Western Watersheds Project--sent Grant a 60-day notice of intent to sue, saying the PUD is violating the endangered Species Act because it does not have a NMFS incidental take permit for Priest Rapids. The groups also said Grant County is mismanaging the project and contributing to the demise of chinook salmon and steelhead.
Although the 60-day deadline for action has passed, the groups have not filed suit. NWF attorney Jan Hasselman said Grant PUD and NMFS have since come up with a plan to complete the federal agency's interim biological opinion on the Priest Rapids project, which could include an incidental take statement that could insulate Grant from legal claims the NWF would have pursued. "We've reached agreement to hold off until we see the biological opinion," Hasselman told NW Fishletter. "At the same time, we've been talking to Grant. They've made an effort to include the National Wildlife Federation in the salmon recovery plans" for Priest Rapids.
Grant has initiated FERC relicensing of its Priest Rapids project; its current license expires in 2005. NMFS biologist Scott Carlon said the interim BiOp is intended to set out a course for short-term actions to improve fish passage conditions at the project. While NMFS had hoped to have a draft BiOp ready this month, Carlon now expects it will be ready for action agency review in early September. -Jude Noland
 MORE MITCHELL ACT HATCHERIES MAY FACE THE BUDGET AXE
Three or more Northwest fish hatcheries could be closed soon unless there's an increase in federal money for Columbia River Mitchell Act hatcheries in 2003. This year's funding for Mitchell Act hatcheries amounted to $16.7 million, said R.Z Smith of NOAA Fisheries.
Discussions are underway to determine which hatcheries should be closed if funding is not increased. The preliminary list calls for closing Elochoman River Hatchery, Skamania Hatchery and Carson Hatchery, all in Washington.
Private groups such as the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association are lobbying Congress to increase the 2003 budget to nearly $21 million. Smith said a funding level of $40 to $50 million is justified, but out of reach. However, a grass roots effort is underway to develop regional consensus for a "bottom-up" budget plan by the state, federal, and tribal fish agencies for the 2005 budget.
The Senate didn't support the budget boost for federal hatcheries, so lobbying efforts are now aimed at the House. Mary Gautreaux, spokesperson for Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), said her boss tried to get more funding, but there simply isn't any money available. Back in April, fourteen members of the House and six members of the Senate requested an increase for next year's Mitchell Act hatchery funding.
Since the 1930s, when the Mitchell Act was passed to fund hatcheries as a form of compensation for dam construction on the Columbia River, the budget has been based on information provided by lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Since federal agencies are not allowed to lobby for a specific funding amount, they must be invited by Congress to provide a budget proposal. Fish agencies and tribes hope for a consensus this fall on a budget built from the "bottom-up" by the agencies and the public. With this regional consensus, it's then possible to request an invitation from Congress for NOAA Fisheries to provide a budget request that meets the needs of the hatchery program. The plan is to begin discussions in September for this new budget.
Fish supporters have had to remind the federal government of its obligation. In an April letter to Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) , the Pacific Fisheries Management Council didn't beat around the bush.
"Continuous level funding for Mitchell Act hatcheries represents a broken federal promise to mitigate for salmon losses due to federally sanctioned development projects not otherwise covered in mitigation agreements," said the council. "Nearly a decade of level funding has caused the closure of seven hatchery facilities, and together with reductions in others, a 40-percent reduction in the number of juvenile salmon released."
Level funding cannot support all existing programs under the Mitchell Act umbrella, said Smith.
The bottom-up budget under development would provide adequate funding for hatchery operations and maintenance, fish marking, hatchery improvements and rehabilitation, research, and new initiatives, but some fish advocates support only part of that menu.
Oregon Trout's Jim Myron and Tom Wolf of Trout Unlimited said their organizations support increased funding for fish marking and research, but don't advocate increased hatchery production. "We don't need to increase hatchery production, we need to decrease conflicts between wild and hatchery fish in the Columbia River and the ocean," Myron said. -Bill Bakke
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