Fish News
Reports on Fish Policy Development

[1] BPA MAY USE ITS EMERGENCY ESA FUND TO PUT JOHN DAY PIT TAG DETECTORS BACK ON TRACK :: Bonneville has tentatively agreed to bail out the Army Corps of Engineers and supply the $6 million needed to put installation of PIT tag detectors at John Day Dam back on track. In a joint letter to the Corps, the Northwest Power Planning Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service agreed to a one-time-only funding scheme that will enable completion of the $16 million detectors on schedule, by mid-1997. The Corps' decision to delay installation by one year--due to budget cuts--caused a firestorm of protest. Strongly worded letters from Idaho's two U.S. senators and from Gov. Phil Batt blasted the Corps for its "ill-advised decision." The smolt monitoring devices, known as passive integrated transponders, or PIT tags, are a key part of survival studies called for in the Northwest Power Planning Council's salmon plan and the National Marine Fisheries Service's Snake River Salmon Recovery Plan [Lynn Francisco].

[2] 180-DAY REVIEW WORKSHOP PRODUCES AGREEMENT ON NEED FOR ACCOUNTABILITY :: The familiar theme of "no one's in charge" echoed throughout the recent two-day fish governance workshop in Portland. Fish activists and agency managers alike agreed that lack of accountability may be the biggest obstacle to restoring endangered fish in the Columbia River basin. Nearly 50 participants debated numerous proposals to improve the way the Northwest manages fish recovery, reaching agreement on the broad principals outlined in a report from workshop facilitator David Getches. The workshop, held Feb. 1 and 2, was hosted by the Northwest Power Planning Council, which has been asked by Congress to recommend a new governance scheme that gives the region more control over salmon recovery. The council promised a draft proposal by late February, with a final report to Congress in May [Lynn Francisco].

[3] VOLUME RUNOFF FORECAST CLIMBS TO 121 MAF, EARLY FEBRUARY RAINS BOOST FLOWS TO FIVE TIMES NORMAL :: The latest volume runoff forecast calls for 121 million acre-feet at The Dalles on the Columbia River, a jump of 5 million acre-feet from last month's forecast. The January-through-July runoff is now predicted to total 114 percent of average. At Grand Coulee, runoff is expected to measure 74.2 MAF, or 117 percent of normal; at Lower Granite, 32.5 MAF, or 109 percent. January rainfall totaled 113 percent of normal above The Dalles, 106 percent above Coulee and 138 percent above Ice Harbor. The picture changed significantly in early February, however, when heavy rainfall caused extensive flooding throughout the Columbia basin. Precipitation through Feb. 13 measured 220 percent of normal at The Dalles, 216 percent at Coulee and 147 percent on the Snake River. January flows that averaged 150 percent of normal seemed high until the February deluge hit. On Feb. 10, flows at The Dalles were measured at 561 percent of normal, or 571,000 cubic feet-per-second. In spite of heavy drafts due to January's Arctic blast, reservoirs at the end of the month were at 62.5 percent of full. Flood operations in early Feb. caused an increase, filling reservoirs to 64 percent of full. [Lynn Francisco].

[4] SPILL NEWS: BEVAN ASKS FOR 1995 EFFECTS MEASUREMENT AND 1996 EVALUATION PLAN; GBD PANEL FINAL REPORT FORTHCOMING :: Snake River Salmon Recovery Team chair Don Bevan has written NMFS Regional Director Will Stelle a letter concurring with a NMFS paper by Stephen Smith that disagrees with the conclusion of a Steve Cramer study. The Cramer study showed a drop in 1995 smolt survival associated with high levels of gas saturation below Ice Harbor. Bevan's letter addressed "the more important question of spill and its effects" in adaptive management, noting there had been no measurement of 1995 spill effects and stating he had "not seen a plan to evaluate spill in 1996."

The final report of the nine-member NMFS panel of experts on gas bubble disease is due to be released within two weeks of the panel's meeting in Seattle February 1, 2 and 3 according to NMFS sources. The panel, chaired by Charles Coutant of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, was asked in line with a Terms of Reference document to make judgments on GBD monitoring and research [Cyrus NoŽ].

[5] NRDC CALLS SPILL IMPORTANT TOOL FOR SALMON RECOVERY :: A key environmental group is calling the federal program to spill fish and water over Columbia River dams "an important tool in salmon recovery." The Natural Resources Defense Council has compiled results of several federal and state agency studies on the 1995 spill program and says the documents show high smolt survival, in spite of potentially lethel levels of nitrogen gas in the river. The report also recommends river management changes that NRDC claims will increase salmon survival, including water releases that meet the hydro biological opinion flow targets, spilling to meet 80 percent fish passage efficiency goals, keeping reservoirs at minimum operating pool and minimizing barging. The report concludes with brief summaries of the studies it used to reach its conclusions [Lynn Francisco].

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Last modified: March 7, 1996