Council Hears Up And Downriver Perspectives On Fish Needs
 Lawsuit Over Dredging Plan Dredges Up Old Arguments
 DC District Court Ruling On NW ESA Fish Issues Expected Soon
 Scientists Say Hatchery Steelhead May Hurt Wild Chinook Recovery
 Environment, F&W VP Alex Smith Moves To BPA's Business Line
 Scientists To Start Another Study Of Fish And Flow Issues
 Judge Says Corps Complied With CWA Over Snake Dam Operations
 Conservation Groups To Petition For ESA Protection Of Lamprey
 Power Planning Council Calls Another Emergency Meeting
 COUNCIL HEARS UP AND DOWNRIVER PERSPECTIVES ON FISH NEEDS
Upriver and downriver Columbia Basin fish managers from four Northwest states presented their views to the Power Planning Council last Wednesday in Vancouver, WA, where council members accepted more input regarding their proposed amendments to mainstem hydro operations.
The big question is whether the council's preferred alternative, which Montana and Idaho members say would improve conditions for resident fish, has adverse effects on downriver stocks, principally salmon and steelhead. The council's alternative, which rejects BiOp flow targets and saves some of the region's water to help migrating fish later in the season, does provide a small power benefit: six million dollars' worth over BiOp operations, according to a staff analysis.
Some fish managers and other stakeholders have already testified at recent public meetings that the council alternative would be bad for juvenile salmon. Sierra Club spokesman Chace Davis has called Montana's support for the new alternative "boat ramp biology," but an analysis by the University of Washington's Columbia Basin Research group indicates the difference in survival between the two alternatives is negligible.
CBR's Chris Van Holmes said the survival analysis was performed with CRiSP, the BPA-funded salmon passage computer model, using low-, average- and high-flow scenarios to estimate the changes. The model says that overall inriver survival for all stocks, both from the Snake and upper Columbia, would be 0.08 percent less than from BiOp operations. The council alternative wouldn't have much effect on transported fish, either--adding them into the equation, the total difference in survival would only be 0.06 percent less than from current BiOp operations.
Upriver managers began with a lecture on the biological needs of burbot, a species of freshwater cod found in northern Idaho's Kootenai River. The burbot has been petitioned for listing under the ESA, while Canada has designated the species as "imperiled." Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologist Vaughn Paragamian said popular sports and commercial fisheries were closed in 1991 to protect the fish. "We need low flows in wintertime," said Paragamian, since the burbot spawn in January. He told the council that burbot need a minimum of 45 days of pre-Libby Dam flow conditions, but 90 days would be much better.
Brian Marotz, of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, told council members that flat flows from state reservoirs in summer months would help streamside habitat and improve conditions for resident fish like bull trout and white sturgeon, which are both listed under the ESA. One element of the council's preferred alternative calls for less disruptive water releases from federal projects in Montana.
"A big variation in low flows has a big impact on dewatering," Marotz said, but he told the council that the trout would not be driven to extinction by reservoir operations. However, he said native cutthroat were another issue. The native cutthroat were petitioned for ESA protection by several environmental groups, but in 2000, the US Fish and Wildlife Service determined that such drastic action was not warranted.
Washington council member Tom Karier pushed for more information, especially benefits that could be measured. "We've asked the salmon managers for quantitative evidence of flow augmentation--they're working on this," Karier said. "It would be useful for upriver as well."
Marotz agreed, noting there have been increases in bull trout redds since restoration activities have begun. BPA funds about half the cost of bull trout mitigation, Marotz said.
DeAnne Pavlik of the Spokane Tribe explained how reservoir fluctuations behind Grand Coulee affect kokanee and rainbow trout, important parts of that region's recreational fisheries and tribal economies. She cited several studies that related zooplankton production to water retention time, temperature and phytoplankton abundance. The Upper Columbia United Tribes support a mainstem amendment to reduce fluctuations in Lake Roosevelt.
Downriver biologists also spoke to the council, with Idaho, Oregon and Washington fish agencies supporting the status quo flow augmentation policy of the current BiOp. But when pressed by Karier, Idaho council member Jim Kempton and Montana's John Hines, the agencies could not produce much in the way of evidence for improved fish survival through the augmented flows.
Karier also took issue with some of the graphic presentations by state officials that lumped fish survivals from the nearly record low-flow year of 2001 with other recent years to produce a so-called flow/survival relationship.
Last month, NMFS scientist John Williams told the council that above some flow threshold, average survival seems to vary very little, "and does not correlate with flow." But below that threshold (around 75 kcfs in the Snake for chinook and 100 kcfs for steelhead), Williams said survival was lower.
Those lower survivals were evident in data from 2001. So Karier asked WDFW spokesman Bill Tweit if that year's data drove the graphs he had presented that tracked survival as a function of water transit time (in days).
"We're not implying it's a straight line," Tweit responded, although that's what the graphs showed. He also showed results of a flow/survival analysis of sockeye fry in the Cedar River near Seattle. Fish managers manipulated changes in water releases that ranged from 500 to 2,500 cfs. But Montana council member John Hines questioned the analysis.
"What's the regular flow in the Cedar?" he asked Tweit, who didn't know the answer. Then he asked if flow augmentation had "within-year" benefits. Tweit said biologists lacked the ability to test flow/survival benefits in a large system like the Columbia with so many variables, so their evidence was taken from smaller areas like the Cedar.
"The picture is not all that clear," said Idaho's Kempton. He said the council is looking for within-year benefits from flow augmentation, while fish managers are only able to see value from one year to the next. He accused them of "talking around the issue" and asked for evidence to show specific blocks of water could aid fish survival.
"I don't think of specific blocks of water," Tweit answered, "I think of specific levels of water we've decided to target." He told council members that it was extremely difficult to find incremental benefits to fish from added flows, but fish managers felt such additional flow was beneficial "when it's in the river, and the fish are experiencing it, and the ecosystem is experiencing it..."
Idaho's analysis was not immune to the criticism. When pressed by Hines, IDFW's Sharon Kiefer tried to downplay the NMFS studies, noting that they were reach survival studies, while her review was trying to relate the length of migration times to smolt-to-adult returns. She told council members that her department was working with other state agencies to complete comments on the council's alternative and would address the feds' inability to find much of a "within-year" benefit for flow augmentation.
US Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Bill Conner reported on his work with fall chinook in the lower Snake, which had also found a flow/survival relationship. But his analysis lumped survival data from 1998 through 2001 and also correlated fish benefits from lower temperatures. "Flow augmentation improves the rate of survival, especially in July and August," said Conner. He called for Dworshak reservoir releases in late June or early July, because water from that project "really drives temperature changes." Idaho council members are supporting a change in operations that would save some Dworshak water for fish migrating in September. Jim Kempton said there was no policy on shaping Dworshak flows now, but it was a "huge issue" for his constituents.
Ed Bowles, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's chief of research, batted cleanup for the fish managers. He told the council that flow augmentation and spill were "inadequate, but the only tools on the table to address juvenile migrating needs of the fish." When Hines asked Bowles if he had looked at upstream effects of these "tools," he said no.
The council has extended public comment on the mainstem amendments until Feb. 7, with a vote on the final package slated for their March meeting. Meanwhile, they have charged the panel of independent scientists who do review work for both NMFS and the council to look at flow augmentation issues and report on the various agencies' technical results by Jan. 31. The Columbia Basin Inter-Tribal Fish Commission added a few questions of their own which the panel will also address by the end of the month. -Bill Rudolph
 LAWSUIT OVER DREDGING PLAN DREDGES UP OLD ARGUMENTS
A Seattle judge dredged up some old Snake River issues last month when he ruled that a Corps of Engineers' plan to improve the river's navigation channel was inadequate, partly because the federal agency did not spend enough time investigating the possibility of using of a ten- to twenty-foot reservoir drawdown instead of relying on standard channel clearing methods that could harm critical fish habitat.
Federal judge Robert Lasnik of Seattle District Court granted a motion Dec. 13, 2002 for preliminary injunction by the National Wildlife Federation against NMFS and the Corps that will likely keep the federal agencies from implementing their plan, at least until deficiencies in the joint Corps/EPA EIS are addressed.
Environmental groups went to court in November seeking the injunction to stop this winter's proposed dredging. The groups said the four alternatives in the Corps' EIS were essentially the same, with the main difference simply changing locations for dredge spoils. The groups, which included the Washington Wildlife Federation, Idaho Rivers United, Idaho Wildlife Federation, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, and the Institute for Fisheries Resources, said the agency failed to look at alternatives to dredging such as using drawdown and high flows along with improving streamside habitat to reduce erosion.
"Given the significant environmental and economic concerns surrounding this project, we are asking the Corps to hold off on this winter's dredging plan until more research is available," said NWF attorney Jan Hasselman. "It simply doesn't make sense to dredge until these questions are resolved."
The judge agreed, though he gave the Corps' economic analysis the benefit of the doubt. Plaintiffs had cited a declaration by Idaho economist Anthony Jones, who said the agency's cost-benefit analysis was too optimistic. The Corps says that over $43 million is saved annually by using barges instead of trucks and rail to ship commodities downstream. Jones pegged the annual benefit at $31 million a year. He said that the easiest way to deal with continuing sedimentation is to light load barges. "As sedimentation gradually continues," Jones said, "increasingly light barges would be required to navigate the channel. Moreover, the Corps can control the operating levels of the dams to raise pool levels, permitting barge navigation even as sediment accumulates."
That's exactly what the Corps is doing now, said Dixon Shaver, vice president of the Shaver Transportation Co. To keep the channel deep enough for navigation, he said Lower Granite reservoir is held above minimum operating levels around the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake rivers where grain barges load at nearby inland ports.
As for light loading in the future, Shaver said that's not a viable option. "We operate on a very small profit margin," Shaver said. "It's all in the last couple of inches." He said barges must be full to take maximum advantage of the 14-foot draft at project locks. That's the same depth the Corps has been mandated by Congress to keep in the navigation channel in the lower Snake.
NMFS Taken To Task
"This is the third year the Corps' dredging has been stymied," said Shaver, noting that originally, it was NMFS who had concerns over the agency EIS, namely over potential affects on ESA-listed stocks of the channel clearing effort. But the federal fish agency has now approved the Corps' plan. But the NMFS biological opinion associated with the EIS was another sticking point for the court.
Judge Lasnik agreed with plaintiffs, who said the NMFS dredging BiOp was "arbitrary and capricious." Since the federal agency failed to explain how dredging in areas of critical habitat for fall chinook would adversely modify that habitat, Lasnik said plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their merits because the BiOp failed to ensure that the action would not result in the "destruction or adverse modification" of the fish's critical habitat.
The judge also took NMFS to task for not specifying numerical "take" of the listed species. Otherwise, the judge argued, how could the agency establish whether the proposed action would harm enough fish to cause NMFS to reconsider its jeopardy determination.
In its biological assessment attached to the EIS, NMFS said the winter dredging may affect some over-wintering juvenile fall chinook, and other listed stocks, but the agency couldn't specifically estimate the number of fall fish, embryos or eggs that might be lost from the operations, nor could they estimate the number of adult steelhead that might die from the proposed operations. They did estimate that incidental take of most listed stocks would be " at near zero."
The lower Snake drawdown issue was raised in the plaintiffs' declaration of Bob Heinith, fish biologist with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Heinith called for, in part, "...a partial drawdown of the dams during times of year when water flows are relatively high to naturally 'scour' accumulated sediment from the bottom of the river and navigation channel and move it downstream, obviating or reducing the need for dredging," Heinith said both his commission and WDFW recommended the Corps of Engineers undertake an analysis of the drawdown, citing the Corps' own response to WDFW comments in the EIS that said a 10- to 15-foot drawdown "has some potential."
But the Corps also noted that the juvenile bypass system at the dam would be unusable during this time and fish would pass through turbines or over the spillway at Lower Granite Dam. Also, large numbers of juveniles could be trapped in gatewells and die, unless special lift tanks were constructed "that may exceed the dredging costs for the 20-year course of action."
But Heinith pointed out that "gatewell dipping an truck transportation of juvenile salmon to below the dams has been routinely and successfully accomplished at Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams in the mid-Columbia River for over a decade with little fish mortality."
With the powerhouse inactive, an all-spillway route sets up a large eddy below the dam has the potential of creating a region of high predation, says the Corps, but Heinith claimed that dam operations could be modified to reduce eddy formation. He stated that some juvenile fish would be killed from the drawdown/flushing alternative, but some migrants are killed no matter how they pass dams. The alternative, he said, "is likely to yield substantially improved passage and habitat conditions both in the short and long term."
But the Corps said after a drawdown event, invertebrate species would be reduced, shrinking food sources for sturgeon, catfish and other predatory species, with the potential of negatively affecting salmonid smolts. They said shallow water rearing areas would be desiccated, providing "little to no benefit to fish rearing in the area either during drawdown or after water up."
Corps biologist Rudd Turner said for any small drawdown scenario to work, it would probably have to take place along with moderately high natural inflows, but by letting nature do the work there would be no opportunity to deal with contaminated sediments or organic compounds that could be the focus of removal in a standard dredging operation. Though admittedly speculating on the subject, Turner said that when high flows occurred in the river, that didn't necessarily mean the river was moving as fast in the navigation channel to help scour sediment from barge routes.
Feds Won't Appeal
Department of Justice attorney Fred Disheroon said the government will not appeal the ruling. He said he's waiting for the Corps to decide its next course of action. Meanwhile, Corps spokesperson Nola Conway, said her agency is putting together all the paperwork preparatory to dredging next year.
But questions raised by the suit have some stakeholders especially concerned. "The implication of the judge's ruling is that the Corps could draw down the reservoirs," said Glenn Vanselow, director of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association. "It's our belief that Congress has to make that decision." He said the Corps doesn't have the authority to implement an alternative such as a lower Snake drawdown to scour sediment from the navigation channel.
For now, the Corps is operating Lower Granite reservoir one foot above minimum operating pool to keep Dixon Shaver's barges from running aground, and with NMFS' blessing, plans to keep it that way in the foreseeable future. But the feisty towboater said every annual freshet adds more sediment to the channel and the situation cannot go on indefinitely. "Without the resumption of dredging, we will ultimately lose the ability to raise pools high enough to maintain channel depths," he said in his own comments to the Corps, noting that "if cargo volumes fall because pool depths become too shallow, it will appear that the Snake River projects are less valuable to the region, and the five-year review of breaching determination becomes more favorable to those agencies and eco-terrorists who advocate their removal."
The National Wildlife Federation, which is pushing a nationwide campaign called "Greening the Corps of Engineers," is involved in other ongoing litigation that focuses on the Snake River. They have sued the Corps over alleged violations of the Clean Water Act in the Lower Snake by dam operations, and are major plaintiffs in a lawsuit over the NMFS hydro BiOp, claiming that the document's reliance on unspecified offsite mitigation efforts should not get the hydro system off the hook for a jeopardy decision for listed fish stocks in the Columbia Basin. In December, the group helped sponsor a Portland workshop on "Reforming the Corps of Engineers on the Columbia and Snake Rivers." -B. R.
 DC DISTRICT COURT RULING ON NW ESA FISH ISSUES EXPECTED SOON
A DC federal court is expected to rule early this year on a case that could make big waves in Puget Sound. A group of business, utility and agricultural interests under the umbrella moniker "Common Sense Salmon Recovery" has worked to convince Judge Paul Friedman that NMFS' evolutionarily significant unit (ESU) policy is flawed with respect to several salmon stocks listed under the Endangered Species Act. If the judge agrees with the group, the court could invalidate the current protected status for Puget Sound chinook and possibly relieve the region of onerous restrictions on land and water use that have accompanied the ESA mandate.
The group's lawsuit contends that hatchery chinook--plentiful in places like Puget Sound--are genetically similar to wild fish and should be considered part of the same population because of extensive interbreeding between wild and hatchery stocks over the past 100 years. If the hatchery stocks had been included, according to the suit, the fish would never have been listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Friedman could easily overturn ESA listings for several other Northwest salmon stocks as well, which could lead to even more listed stocks losing ESA protection. And right now, plaintiffs' attorney Jim Johnson is feeling pretty good about his chances in court. He told NW Fishletter that the judge spent the last 20 minutes of an almost - three-hour November hearing discussing--with all sides involved in the litigation--the possible ramifications of invalidating some of the listings.
In reply briefs filed with the court last fall, federal attorneys staunchly defended their current ESU policy. They included a declaration from regional NMFS Administrator Bob Lohn that outlined the probable effects of a "temporary" suspension of the listings. NMFS calls it temporary because the agency is in the midst of a thorough status review for almost all listed salmon and steelhead stocks on the West Coast. The review was prompted by the 2001 "Hogan decision" in US District Court in Oregon, which NMFS did not appeal.
Judge Michael Hogan ruled in Alsea Valley Alliance v. NMFS that the feds couldn't put hatchery coho stocks in the same ESU as wild coastal coho without offering them the same protection under the ESA. He tossed out the ESA designation for Oregon coastal coho, but his ruling was stayed by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, where it is being appealed by environmental and fishing groups.
In many other ESA listings, NMFS included regional hatchery fish as part of listed ESUs, but those hatchery fish not deemed essential to recovery were not listed for protection. They were included in the listings in case they were needed to help recover a wild stock that had suffered a catastrophic crash.
In his Oct. 18 declaration, Lohn said if the listings were suspended for 18 months, or until June 2004--the time he expected it would take the agency to complete its status review updates and finish any final listing revisions--some fish protections would remain in place. But further progress to protect listed chinook "would likely be slowed," and consultations with NMFS over Section 7 compliance in places like Puget Sound would not apply while listings were suspended on the four stocks that are the focus of this lawsuit: chinook in Puget Sound, the upper and lower Columbia River and the upper Willamette River. He said recovery efforts "would lose a major incentive...and might lose momentum over time" as a result of the suspensions.
In October, federal attorneys also filed a motion requesting a partial stay, arguing that the court should stay any decision pending the NMFS review, which includes development of a new hatchery policy. The feds said the court should "decline to review these issues until NMFS--which has primary jurisdiction over these issues--has completed its review."
But the feds have also hedged their bets, saying if the court decides for the plaintiffs, it could still remand the listings without "vacating, even if the Ninth Circuit rules for the plaintiffs in the Alsea case," and arguing that the DC circuit court "appears to leave it to the district court's discretion to determine what steps to take if a rule is found to be flawed."
But plaintiffs' attorney Johnson, who filed the original lawsuit in 1999, said his clients shouldn't have to wait another 18 months for NMFS to finalize its listing updates. In his latest reply brief, filed Nov. 1, 2001, Johnson called for the Lohn declaration to be stricken because it included "facts" that are "false or at least misleading."
Johnson, who has wrangled with NMFS over genetics and finally got the agency to release its data, said it proves there's no difference between the hatchery and wild fish. He contends that if most hatchery fish were included in the fish counts NMFS gave to the court, the judge would see that recent total runs are among the largest ever recorded at Bonneville Dam.
His brief said it was important "that the court is not fooled by the Declaration of Mr. Lohn into believing that the salmon status or population trends are represented fairly within." -B. R.
 SCIENTISTS SAY HATCHERY STEELHEAD MAY HURT WILD CHINOOK RECOVERY
Two Northwest scientists say that large releases of hatchery steelhead From the Snake River Basin may hinder recovery of wild chinook salmon. Their analysis was published recently in Conservation Biology (Volume 16, No. 6, December 2002).
"Our results suggest that the release of millions of steelhead from hatcheries in the Snake River Basin was not related to wild steelhead. In contrast, we observed a strong negative association between releases of hatchery steelhead and smolt-to-adult survival of wild chinook salmon," say authors Phil Levin and John Williams, NMFS researchers from Seattle.
The paper theorizes that hatchery steelhead, nearly 10 times bigger than migrating wild spring chinook, may have a competitive advantage. The authors cite a 1986 paper (Dawley et al) that found many chinook with empty stomachs during peak migration periods while steelhead did not.
They also suggest that being barged with steelhead may raise stress levels in chinook that later may increase their susceptibility to predators. Large colonies of Caspian terns and other avian predators feed mostly on hatchery steelhead during the spring. Levin and Williams say the high hatchery steelhead numbers "may help maintain higher populations of predators than would be possible in the absence of hatchery-reared fish. Consequently, chinook may suffer greater rates of predation than they would experience in the absence of hatchery steelhead."
The authors say that any effect hatchery steelhead may have on wild chinook is likely to occur in the river or estuary, rather than in the ocean because the two species have different ocean distributions. Since the negative association is maintained during EL Nino conditions offshore, they say large shifts in ocean productivity "do not dramatically affect the interaction."
The scientists suggest that conventional steelhead hatcheries "may actually exacerbate extinction risks in some cases," but whether such facilities can be reformed "to aide rather than hinder recovery remains unanswered." -B. R.
 ENVIRONMENT, F&W VP ALEX SMITH MOVES TO BPA'S BUSINESS LINE
Alex Smith, BPA's vice president of environment, fish and wildlife, has moved to a new position at the power agency. She will now serve as vice president for requirements marketing in BPA's Transmission Business Line. BPA fish policy advisor Therese Lamb will move into Smith's old job on an "acting" basis, the agency said.
BPA spokesperson Amy Schwarz said Smith's move had nothing to do with the accounting difficulties that have recently plagued BPA's fish and wildlife program. Schwarz said Smith requested the move some time ago. She is moving to a slot vacated by Allen Burns, who was named executive vice president for industry restructuring in November. -B. R.
 SCIENTISTS TO START ANOTHER STUDY OF FISH AND FLOW ISSUES
The National Research Council has appointed a group of scientists to review salmon survival rates in the mainstem Columbia. The study is part of a new water management initiative sponsored by the Washington State Department of Ecology.
According to a press release from the National Academies' Water Science and Technology Board, "the committee will also assess risks to salmonids at critical stages in salmon life cycles under a range of Columbia River system water management scenarios--under both historical and present hydrological conditions."
The committee is made up of 13 scientists from across the country, including several from the Northwest. Redmond, WA-based consultant Al Giorgi and Don Chapman of Boise, ID, will join the group, along with Richard Adams of Oregon State University and retired USGS scientist Stuart McKenzie of Gresham, OR.
The committee is slated to meet Feb. 3-4 in Richland, WA, with three more meetings scheduled this year and a final report to be prepared in the spring of 2004. Agendas and schedules will be posted at the NAS Website. -B. R.
 JUDGE SAYS CORPS COMPLIED WITH CWA OVER SNAKE DAM OPERATIONS
A long running lawsuit filed by the National Wildlife Federation and other environmental and fishing groups that accused the Corps of Engineers of Clean Water Act violations came to a close in early January when federal Judge Helen Frye ruled in favor of the federal agency. Plaintiffs had alleged that Corps' operations of lower Snake dams created illegally high water temperatures and dissolved gas levels.
On Feb. 2001, Judge Frye had granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, saying it was impossible to determine if the Corps complied with the CWA because earlier records of decision that governed operations did not "explicitly address" the agency's obligations under the CWA.
But the judge said Jan. 10 that the latest record of decision (2001) which governs dam operations under the newest BiOp takes into account such obligations. Frye said the BiOp calls for the Corps to develop water quality plans to help it comply with the CWA, therefore the agency did not act "arbitrary and capricious."
Environmental lawyer Todd True of Earthjustice said plaintiffs haven't decided whether to appeal. NWF attorney Jan Hasselman claimed the Corps did the "bare minimum to defend itself in court. Unfortunately, the court ruled that the Army Corps' bare minimum was good enough, but the salmon are still in hot water."
Portland attorney James Buchal, who represented defendant-intervenor Columbia River Alliance, said the case was based on "an incredible notion that Congress intended to regulate hydroelectric dams when it passed the Clean Water Act." -B. R.
 CONSERVATION GROUPS TO PETITION FOR ESA PROTECTION OF LAMPREY
Twelve West Coast conservation organizations plan to petition the US Fish & Wildlife Service for ESA protection of four species of lampreys, Pacific, western brook, river and Kern brook lamprey. Until now, the threat of a petition has been enough to fund some studies to collect basic information on their presence, abundance, and life history, but lamprey have always been ignored, the groups say, and it may take the Endangered Species Act to change their status and promote recovery.
The Pacific lamprey have declined throughout their range in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho, with the most precipitous documented declines in the upper Columbia, Snake and North Umpqua River basins. Pacific Lamprey spend most of their life in freshwater streams (six to seven years) before entering the ocean as adults.
Rich Nawa, ecologist for Siskiyou Regional Education Project, said, "Lamprey are vulnerable to habitat losses because of reduced river flows, water diversions, dredging, streambed scouring, channelization, inadequate protection of stream side vegetation, chemical pollution, and impeded passage due to dams and poorly designed road culverts. Introduction of exotic fish predators such as smallmouth bass has also been a factor in the decline of lamprey."
The groups say poor passage efficiency at lower Columbia River dams (Bonneville, The Dalles, and John Day dams) contributes to Pacific lamprey declines by limiting access to historical spawning locations. "Biologists have found juvenile lampreys impinged on the perforated plates of mainstem Columbia River dams in huge, but undocumented numbers," said Nawa. The salmon fingerling bypass facility at McNary dam traps young lamprey in the tail screens and switching gates causing significant mortality, according to a 1994 ODFW report. Nawa suggested that dam removal in some cases might be necessary.
Pacific Lamprey were listed as an Oregon state sensitive species in 1993 and were given further legal protected status by the state in 1996. Charlie Corrarino, fish conservation and recovery program manager for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the only place in Oregon where lamprey are harvested is Willamette Falls.
"It is closed to commercial harvest," he said, "but individuals and tribal members can obtain a permit to harvest them for personal use." The time allowed to harvest them is greatly reduced and biologists estimate the harvest has been reduced by 90 percent.
Anticipating a petition to list lamprey for federal protection has prompted some agencies and cities to begin collecting data on lamprey. Even though the species are experiencing a severe decline in abundance, it has not been an important priority for conservation, the groups say, but that is beginning to change as more attention is given to the concepts of ecosystem health and biological diversity. Lamprey are now identified as important indicators of stream health and are an important food source for seals as well as juvenile salmonids.
Jim Middaugh, leader of the Endangered Species Act Program for the City of Portland, Oregon, said the city wants to know about lamprey, "where they are found and how they live in urban streams. We want to be able to assess risk to this species, especially in setting standards for clean-up of Willamette River super-fund sites." The city has committed $50,000 over the last year to get more data on lamprey.
David Ward works for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and he has been busy inventorying streams in the Portland area. He has found a few streams with lots of lamprey as well as salmonids like cutthroat trout. "We are getting information on aquatic species in urban streams to help guide land-use planning," said Ward, who noted that most of the streams are in horrible condition and contain imperiled species.
Lamprey declines haven't been limited to urban streams. According to the petitioners, Pacific lamprey counts at Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River declined from 50.000 in the early 1960s to less than a thousand during the 1990s. At Winchester Dam on the North Umpqua River, lamprey have declined from 47,000 in 1966 to lest than 50 per year since 1995. Poor passage at lower Columbia River dams (Bonneville through John Day dams) contributes to their decline. According to a 2002 report by Kathryn Kostow, radio tagging showed that only 38 percent to 47 percent passage efficiency at Bonneville, 50 percent to 82 percent at The Dalles, and 3 percent at John Day dam. The lamprey were delayed at these dams from two to six days as they tried to find their way around them.
As juveniles migrate to the ocean they encounter dams and have a difficult time finding safe passage. During the 1970s and 1980s biologists found that juvenile lamprey were getting impinged on screens. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a 2000 study at John Day Dam found that 70 percent to 97 percent of test fish became impinged on bar screens at velocities of 1.5 ft/sec. Even the salmon bypass facilities trap lamprey larva and new designs may not solve the problem.
Upstream migration can be blocked in small streams that are constrained by tide gates, hatchery weirs, diversion structures, and hanging culverts. These problems are added to the lack of information about lamprey distribution and life history.
Since 2001, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been funded by the Bonneville Power Administration to study lamprey dynamics in Cedar Creek, a tributary of the Lewis River in Washington state. It's a place where biologist Jennifer Stone has identified both Pacific and brook lamprey. The average density of lamprey larva in the creek is about 6 per square meter with a maximum of 32 per square meter. She has also found that the brook lamprey inhabit the tributaries to Cedar Creek and use finer gravels for spawning compared to Pacific lamprey, which use the mainstem of Cedar Creek and spawn in a coarser substrate. -Bill Bakke
 POWER PLANNING COUNCIL CALLS ANOTHER EMERGENCY MEETING
Members of the Power Planning Council have called for another emergency meeting to deal with the potential cuts in the FY 2003 fish and wildlife budget. It's the second time in recent months that the council has met this way. The next meeting is slated for Jan. 27 in Portland.
At their regular monthly meeting earlier this week, BPA vice president Paul Norman told the council that his power agency's financial deficit is still pretty murky.
"We're extremely worried about secondary sales," Norman said, referring to BPA's selling of surplus power. Facing a water year that may only be about 80 percent of average, Norman said the $625 million the agency was counting on in revenue from the secondary sales will be more likely $400 million or less for the fiscal year.
Norman said BPA is still working to make across-the-board cost reductions with the likelihood of lowering the FY 2003-2006 deficit from $1.2 billion to $860 million or less, depending on hydro supply changes. BPA could possibly even come out of 2006 on the positive side, he said, $345 million in the black, but that "assumes a whole lot of cost reductions we just don't have in place now."
Council members and staff spent a lot of time last week discussing how to cut fish and wildlife programs to help BPA deal with its financial crisis. BPA has told them about $40 million needs to be shaved from about $171 million already budgeted for the current fiscal year which began over two months ago.
Council staffer Doug Marker explained how changes in spending principles for land acquisitions could help, especially if such costs were capitalized, but other questions had members stumped as well, especially how to make sure that BiOp obligations for recovering ESA-listed stocks are satisfied while funding the entire program, whose basinwide scope lies beyond ESA considerations.
Rod Sando, executive director of the Columbia Basin fish and Wildlife Authority, told the council that fish and wildlife managers need certainty and "real numbers" from BPA before they can tackle the issue. He said BPA's latest report has only caused more uncertainty and creates more questions as to how much funding will be available for new projects.
The F&W budget is facing a tough problem as past contractual obligations have come due this fiscal year, creating a budget shortfall of around $40 million. The problem with contract accruals is a situation that's likely to be with managers for another couple of years, said BPA's Bob Austin after the meeting.
BPA wants the F&W budget whittled down by Feb. 21. "It isn't gonna happen," Sando told the council.
In written testimony, CBFWA members told the council in December that cutting the F&W budget would be "short-sighted and result in the need for greater expenditures in the future."
It's still not sure how the budget-cutting process will happen. Outgoing council chair Larry Cassidy wasn't too excited to let fish managers do their own trimming. Pointing out that they are principally resource stewards, "when it comes to cutting budgets, they don't have the same track record."
New council chair Idaho's Judi Danielson expressed concern over the projected deficit facing the fish and wildlife program. She said she was less convinced than a month ago that $41 million "is the right number." -B. R.
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