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NWF.034/MAY.13.1997
[1] Another El Nino Building in Tropical Pacific
[2] Fish Counters Keep Hopping at Dams
[3] Ultra-High Gas Levels At Dams Questioned
[4] US, Canada, Still Talking Treaty
[5] Removing Dam on White Salmon Could Cost $37 Million
[6] Groups Intend to Sue Feds Over Oregon Coho
[7] Oregon Public At Odds With Scientists Over Recovery
[8] Lawsuit Filed to Protect Umpqua Cutthroat
[9] Ore. Forestry Dept. Tests State's Coho Plan

[1] ANOTHER EL NINO BUILDS IN TROPICAL PACIFIC :: Next winter may be warmer and drier because of a new El Niņo event developing in the eastern part of the tropical Pacific Ocean. Regional scientists like the University of Washington's Nate Mantua took notice when sea surface temperatures rose 2.5 degrees C. in the past few weeks off the coast of Peru, pretty much convincing him that a "strong" El Niņo event is on the way. "All the signs are there," said Mantua, who noted that the trade winds are declining and ocean temperatures are going up in the eastern tropical Pacific.

An El Niņo event occurs when elevated sea surface temperatures begin a series of atmospheric changes that moves a rain area usually centered over Indonesia and the far western Pacific into the central Pacific, causing unseasonable weather over many sections of the globe. In temperate latitudes, effects show up most clearly during the winter, when milder temperatures prevail over western Canada and parts of the northern US, and more precipitation falls over the southern US, from Texas to Florida. El Niņos typically produce warmer ocean currents off the West Coast that change upwelling conditions, with drastic effects on the oceanic food web that adversely affect salmon populations.

Another UW scientist, atmospheric researcher Mike Wallace, says "we're in a gray area now," and much depends on how the atmosphere responds to the increase in ocean temperatures. A month from now, scientists should come up with a definite answer, Wallace said. As for now, if these temperatures persist beyond the next two to three weeks, "it looks more like the real thing."

NOAA's Vernon Kousky of the federal government's Climate Prediction Center said his agency is just beginning to assess the recent observations in preparation to draft an El Niņo advisory.

"The patterns of ocean temperature anomalies and atmospheric circulation anomalies (weaker than normal low-level easterlies, and higher than normal pressure over northern Australia and Indonesia) are typical of those observed during the early stages of a warm (El Nino/Southern) episode," Kousky wrote on May 7. Two days later, a new advisory was posted that echoed the new findings-"the oceanic heat content has increased throughout the western and central equatorial Pacific." The new advisory said that two other forecast methods also indicated a continued warming trend through the end of the year. "Collectively, this evolution indicates the early stages of a warm (ENSO) episode."

A month ago, the Climate Prediction Center found many areas in the equatorial Pacific warming from below average temperatures to more than 1 degree C. above average. At that time, they said "the evolution of atmospheric and oceanic conditions during the past few months is consistent with the demise of Pacific cold episode conditions and with the possible onset of warm episode conditions."

A team from the Australia Bureau of Meteorology has developed a coupled ocean-atmosphere model that went from "neutral conditions" to "mild El Niņo" in the past week. Researchers from the Maryland-based Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere (COLA) have run their model of the ocean-atmosphere system and found that it predicts a steady warming trend in the tropical Pacific through the summer and fall of 1997.

The UW's Mantua said El Niņo events typically affect winters in the Northwest more than other seasons. He said we may get a milder one next year and, though it could rain as much, there just wouldn't be as much snow. Typically, El Niņos have detrimental affects on the spring upwelling off the West Coast, reducing the nutrient base for juvenile salmon who will be migrating next spring. EL Nino conditions produce warmer ocean currents that sometimes bring predators up the coast, like the mackerel who devastated juvenile salmon populations in 1993 in both the US and Canada. -Bill Rudolph

[2] FISH COUNTERS KEEP HOPPING AT NORTHWEST DAMS :: This year's spring chinook runs have shown no signs of letting up. After a small drop in daily counts when flows increased, the fish began pouring over the dam again as soon as the water slowed a bit. By May 11 over 94,000 chinook had passed Bonneville Dam, up about 250 percent from last year at this time and 135 percent of the 10-year average.

At Lower Granite Dam on the Snake the news was good as well. Nearly 6,500 springs were counted by May 11, more than 30 times the number of spring chinook that passed by the same time last year.

The overall Columbia-Snake run was upgraded to 90,000 fish by the middle of last week, but state fish managers were already getting ready to add another 10,000 fish to the count. Joe Hymer of the Washington Department of Fish and Game said some fish managers think "fallback" is accounting for the unusually high numbers.

Fallback occurs when adult salmon are counted twice after they "fall back" downstream via the spillway after passing a dam and have to swim through the fish ladder again. Most dams on the Columbia have a fallback rate around 5 percent, but at Bonneville it's much higher than that, at 10-20 percent. Until recently, the fallback rate at Bonneville was thought to rise linearly with flow, but new research with high-tech radio tags has shown the rate plateaus around 20 percent. Last year, NMFS pegged Bonneville fallback at 12 percent. With high flows this year it seems to be running around 18 percent.

But NMFS researchers say evidence from the radio-tagged adults indicates large numbers of chinook are still holding below Bonneville. Unofficially, some say this year's run could reach 120,000 fish.

So far, most of the action has focused on the Snake. Returns to the mainstem Columbia, though better than last year at this time, are still weak, running less than five percent of the 10-year average. By May 11, only 743 adults had been counted at Priest Rapids Dam on the mainstem Columbia. More than 14,000 salmon had entered the Snake by then.

Over 119 adults have shown up at Lower Granite Dam sporting PIT-tags implanted during the 1995 outmigration as part of NMFS' ongoing transportation study. So far, the benefits of transport are explicit; 60 percent more of the returning fish in the study were barged as juveniles.

With tens of thousands of adults still migrating, NMFS expects to get plenty of numbers to validate this year's study. And barging may prove even more effective by the end of the month. Traditionally, later barged fish have higher survivals than earlier transported ones. Eight wild PIT-tagged fish had been detected as well, about five percent of what researchers hope to see return this year. Six of them had taken a barge west as juveniles. Most of the wild run is made up of chinook that spend three years at sea, so NMFS expects a good return from the 1995 brood next year. -B.R.

[3] ULTRA-HIGH GAS LEVELS AT DAMS QUESTIONED :: At the April 30 Technical Management Team meeting of river and fish managers, Bolyvon Tanovan of the US Army Corps of Engineers told the group about recent research that could potentially change the whole direction of dam modification.

Though first made public last fall at a review of gas bubble research (See NW Fishletter 23 for related story), he reported that recent field studies by his agency's Waterways Experiment Station Team found that extremely high levels of total dissolved gas (TDG)--up to 165 percent--have been measured near the faces of dams, where the legal limit is 110 percent. Tanovan said that high flows have the potential of being "instantaneously lethal" for juvenile salmon in the immediate vicinity of dams. He also reported that the team found that spill reductions of only five percent can produce reductions in TDG of up to 20 percent close to dam faces, notably in the "stilling" basins where water falls from spillways.

Tanovan said the high gas levels were seen during a test last June at Ice Harbor Dam. When the 165 percent reading was taken in the stilling basin, the stationary monitor downstream read 135 percent. A test last May showed 148 percent in the basin, with 132 percent TDG at the stationary monitor.

Tests at Lower Monumental Dam produced similar results. When 159 percent TDG was found in the basin, 130 percent TDG was observed at the fixed monitor a short ways downstream. Tanovan said the Corps researchers believe that the TDG present in the stilling basins was actually higher than the observed readings. He said that gas abatement strategies should be focused on what he called the "near-field area," adding that past data gathering was hampered by limited instrumentation.
Spillway at Ice Harbor

Fellow TMT member Chris Ross from NMFS told the group that biological monitoring data does not bear out the hypothesis that the near-field TDG is a major problem for fish, but that cumulative exposure negatively impacted fish health.

But others aren't so sure about the Corps' high numbers and point out that accepting them as valid at this point could change the whole direction of the agency's gas abatement strategy. Brian D'Aoust of Common Sensing, Inc., who developed many of the gas monitors used at the region's dams, said he would be very hesitant to base any action upon the Corps' findings if these levels "were measured in a highly turbulent 'foam' or at least in a water environment where huge numbers of bubbles of a large range of sizes existed." He pointed out that gas trapped as bubbles in contact with the silicon rubber tubing of the instruments will produce measured gas levels at "some intermediate level between the actual dissolved gas pressure and the ambient hydrostatic pressure." The Corps measured gas levels at the base of spillways in highly turbulent water.

To make an accurate measurement, D'Aoust said bubbles had to be separated from the surface of the membrane of the instrument, a condition he said he doubted the Corps had satisfied.

Corps researcher Chris Pinney said repeat testing screened the probe where possible sources of air entrapment could occur, but D'Aoust pointed out that depending on the size of the screening, tiny bubbles could still affect the measurement. Pinney said since the probe's measurements "did trend as expected," his agency is highly confident that the measurements are valid.

"I've no doubt these measurements reflect very dangerous levels to fish," said D'Aoust. "But they must be considered for now as lacking the precision needed for design changes."

Dam Mods Could Top $1 Billion

State and tribal fishery agencies have been calling for the Corps to get on with its gas abatement modifications at dams. If these extremely high gas levels in spillways are valid, some say the agency may have to look at significantly more expensive modifications to reduce TDG, as mandated by the BiOp. One way is to construct low level openings in the dams to pass excess water, rather than moving the water over a spillway. Canada's Keenleyside Dam on the Columbia was built in this manner.

The costs for such changes to Northwest dams could easily top a billion dollars, according to one researcher. Others have pointed out that a cheaper way to reduce high gas levels would be to take out several turbines at each dam and use the openings for passing the water.

A March 6 Corps of Engineers' memo raised questions about the direction the agency was headed in reducing gas bubble trauma at dams by using raised tailraces in prototype development at Ice Harbor Dam. It cited the "extreme percent-TDG concentrations" that could cause fish mortalities within minutes; the possibility of physical injury to fish by the raised section; and increasing fish mortality because a raised section would force fish, whose gas bubble trauma may have been suppressed due to depth compensation, into shallower water.

The memo also pointed out that fliplips added to spillways to suppress TDG levels during episodes of high spill would at some voluntary or involuntary level of spill be "overtopped, resulting in conditions similar to not having fliplips at all...resulting in extreme-percent-TDG and greater probability of physical injury."

The memo recommended that the Corps' gas abatement effort should put greater effort in the design and model testing of submerged outlets and alternatives that "have a direct effect on reducing or eliminating TDG production at its source," but cautioned that concern over entrainment of smolts in the submerged outlets is the primary concern, "besides cost, of course." -B.R.

[4] US, CANADA STILL TALKING TREATY :: US and Canadian stakeholders met in Juneau April 21-25 to try and come to terms with renegotiating the Pacific Salmon Treaty between the two countries. Long-standing disagreements over fish interceptions and overall equity have already stymied professional diplomats from both countries for the past three years. An independent arbitrator, retired New Zealand diplomat Christopher Beebe, tried to break the stalemate, but his efforts failed as well.

The stakeholder process was pushed by the governors of Alaska, Washington, and Oregon as a new way to solve the roadblocks to renegotiation. At issue are major differences in the way the two countries want to go about equalizing past differences in catches of each other's salmon. When all was said and done, the consensus was that the discussions were helpful but not very fruitful. Although Canadians may now be more receptive to "abundance-based management" in the north, an idea strongly touted by Alaska, they are less receptive to giving the US any more Fraser River sockeye, a run that is expected to push 30 million fish this year.

Canadians say that the imbalance in salmon interceptions has increased by 70 percent since 1985, when the treaty was signed, from 2.3 million fish in the US favor to 3.9 million fish in 1996.

Reduced US runs in the south have led to less Canadian interception of US stocks. Better Canadian runs in the north have led to greater US interceptions there of sockeye bound for northern BC rivers. But Canadians are concerned that Alaskans are catching too many chinook from weak stocks on Vancouver Island.

In the south, the Canadians want the US to catch less Fraser fish. In return, some US interests want Canadian fishermen on the west coast of Vancouver Island to reduce their take of Puget Sound coho, which is being considered for listing as an endangered species. On the other hand, Canadian trollers take half of the productive Hanford run of fall chinook in the Columbia River, and half of the endangered Snake River fall chinook as well.
Hope springs eternal over salmon talks.

The fact that both sides are still meeting at all is something of a triumph. NMFS officials praised the hard work by the US side, which has actually brought a "rock" to the table. "Rock" in diplomatese means a proposal, which the Canadians evidently have not brought forth. But details were sketchy at best.

Each country has two groups of stakeholders--made up of fishermen, processors, and others close to the industry--representing northern and southern interests. The US northern stakeholder chair is Jim Bacon, a commercial fisherman who represents the SE Alaska Purse Seine Association. The southern US chair is Rick Applegate, West Coast Conservation Director of Trout Unlimited. The eight members of the US southern stakeholders include five Native Americans representing the Columbia River, the coast and Puget Sound regions, and two representatives of non-Indian sports and commercial fisheries.

Each group met with its Canadian counterpart to wrestle with boundary issues that affect the fisheries of each country, culminating in a week-long face-off in Vancouver, BC. Canadians were calling it the "big finale," but US interests said privately that their own expectations were much more modest, and they would "assess things" after the five days of talks.

Commercial fisherman Bob Thorstenson, a member of the US northern stakeholder group said they were within hours of coming to an agreement with Canadian counterparts over harvest regimes in Southeast Alaska and northern BC pink, chum, and sockeye fisheries, a resolution that included a broader definition of "equity." Both sides were ready to sign off on the issue when, according to Thorstenson, the Canadian stakeholders balked on the last morning of the Vancouver talks. He speculated that the Canadian government found the agreement unacceptable because it moved away from the hard line Ottawa has maintained over the equity issue. And with a federal election coming up in a few weeks, he said the government would not want to be perceived as caving in to US interests.

Thorstenson said the northern stakeholder groups had agreed to a definition of equity that took into account Alaska's contribution as the "ocean pasture" for Canadian stocks as well as producing fish for northern BC processors, providing 38 million pounds of salmon last year alone.

As for agreement in the south, Thorstenson said Canada knew it could probably get a better deal with Washington's Department of Fish and Wildlife if the stakeholder process fizzled. Both sides had already made agreeable noises about trading a reduced coho catch off Vancouver Island for sockeye harvest reductions by US commercial fishermen. With a representative of US commercial interests involved in the southern stakeholder process, such an agreement was not likely.

When it was over, US State Department negotiator Mary Beth West said the aim of the Vancouver talks was to give stakeholders a chance to look at ways of solving problems "without being caught up in the theology in which the governments have been mired for a number of years." Her Canadian counterpart, Yves Fourtier said the stakeholders got further in three months than the two governments have in the past three years. Government-to-government talks will resume in Seattle on May 19.

Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles said he had faith in the process. "Salmon are near and dear to the people of the Pacific Northwest, both Canadians and Americans," he said during the Juneau talks. "First and foremost is our commitment to conserving the salmon resource itself, but we also need to sort out how we use and allocate this resource. I believe this process, with stakeholders sitting down together to iron out their differences, is the only way a lasting solution to the equity issue can be achieved." -B.R.

[5] REMOVING DAM ON WHITE SALMON COULD COST $37 MILLION :: A feasibility study recently completed by R. W. Beck says it could take from $14 million to $37 million to remove PacifiCorp's Condit Dam--depending on the method used. But the R. W. Beck study looks only at the engineering feasibility of dam removal, PacifiCorp says; and the costs are "still too high to be an economic option" for the company.

Condit, a 14.7 MW hydro project on the White Salmon River in Southwest Washington, was built in 1913. The project's 125-foot-high dam has no provision for fish passage; since the dam's construction, fish have been prevented from moving upstream on the White Salmon or downstream the 3.3 miles to where the White Salmon joins the Columbia River. The project has a "pretty long and adversarial history," according to PacifiCorp spokeswoman Terry Flores. Environmental groups have long called for its removal. Recently, American Rivers named the White Salmon the nation's third most endangered river, primarily because of Condit Dam.

"We would remove it if it fits within our economic constraints," said Flores. But the cost of replacement power, plus the loss of revenues the power from Condit generates, have to "be a part of the whole equation." Condit is the fourth lowest cost generating resource on PacifiCorp's system, he said.

But PacifiCorp has also said the $28 million in fish ladders and screens required in FERC's final environmental impact statement for Condit relicensing would make Condit uneconomic to operate. The company has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to temporarily halt licensing proceedings and not issue a new license for Condit. PacifiCorp's Bob French said the company would prefer to find an option between FERC's requirements and dam removal. "The [Beck] study is just a baseline. We want to come to some other arrangement, not reject the license."

A recent meeting involving PacifiCorp, American Rivers and other interested parties was postponed until the groups had a chance to review the engineering study. "This latest look was very narrow," said Katherine Ransel of American Rivers. "We weren't privy to scoping the work or choosing the consultant." She expects the meeting will be rescheduled in June and said it would be "a very initial look at a few options to see if the parties have anything to talk about."

While PacifiCorp hopes the discussions will turn up some new options for operating Condit, Ransel said American Rivers still wants the project removed. She doubted the costs associated with dam removal would outweigh the benefits of opening up the White Salmon River for fish migration.

No Word From FERC

The other player in the Condit controversy, FERC, hasn't spoken yet. While PacifiCorp has asked that the licensing process be put on hold, Flores said the utility hasn't heard back from FERC. If the agency issues a license based on its EIS and the $28 million in fish passage improvements, Flores said the utility would probably sue and operate Condit under an annual license in the interim. If PacifiCorp and interested parties come up with an alternative method of operating the project, that proposal would need FERC's blessing, too; as would a proposal to remove the dam.

Another, more remote possibility might be for PacifiCorp to essentially walk away from Condit; but no one has yet decommissioned a hydro project. "That whole legal arena is pretty murky," said Flores. "People don't really know what will happen." -Jude Noland

[6] GROUPS INTEND TO SUE FEDS OVER OREGON COHO :: Environmental groups announced on April 30 their intent to sue the Clinton administration over the decision not to list the coastal population of Oregon coho salmon as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

A last-minute deal between the feds and Oregon that kept most coho stocks off the ESA list riled environmentalists, who vowed to seek a listing in court. "You can't save the coho based on a promise to protect the species several years from now," said Ken Rait of the Oregon Natural Resources Council. "Many of these runs are dangerously close to extinction and need protection right now." He cited comments by the American Fisheries Society and other regional scientists who reviewed Oregon's plan and found the 2,700-page document inadequate. The state has committed $15 million over the next two years to pay for the start of a recovery plan.

But NMFS felt differently about coho stocks below Cape Blanco. Those fish are part of a population unit that includes coho runs from northern California that the federal agency has decided to list as threatened. The formal announcement was made on April 25 after 10 days of negotiations between NMFS and the state.

Promises may not be enough

But not listing the coastal coho on the basis of promises may not be enough. A federal court in Texas recently ruled against the Department of Interior in a case about an endangered salamander, stating that development of a recovery plan to recover the salamander "with no proven track record for effectiveness" was no reason to withdraw the species from listing (Save Our Springs v. Babbitt). The Secretary cannot use promises of proposed future actions as an excuse for not making a determination based on the existing record," the March 25, 1997 ruling said.

The Oregon Plan relies on local watershed councils and volunteer efforts by landowners, timber companies and regional officials to make the plan work. A team of independent scientists will be appointed to audit the plan, hatchery production of coho will be decreased, and fishing only allowed once weak stocks are thriving.

NMFS Regional Director Will Stelle said the agreement with Oregon showed the "largely untapped flexibility" of the ESA. Since California failed to match Oregon's efforts, it will now pay with a listing. Streams are in worse shape in California as well, federal officials said.

The Oregon Coast population had historic numbers that ranged from 1 million to 1.4 million coho. Most are now thought to be hatchery fish, with only 80,000 native, naturally producing fish. The range of their habitat runs from the Columbia River to Cape Blanco, OR (near Port Orford) and is comprised of 56 percent private land, 35 percent federal, nine percent state-owned.

The southern Oregon/Northern California population had an historic abundance of 150,000 to 400,000 fish. Today, the number is down to less than 30,000 naturally spawning coho, with only 10,000 of those fish actually native; the rest are from streams stocked with hatchery fish. The land affected by the listing is 53 percent federal, 46 percent private, and one percent state of California. NMFS admits it has not had time to review new information about abundance and distribution in northern California, supplied by the California Forestry Association, which suggests that recent abundance has increased, most likely due to improved ocean conditions and harvest restrictions. But the agency says the long-term decline has been substantial enough for concern to remain about the health of the stocks. Timber companies are working on habitat conservation plans and incidental take permits that will cover more than a million acres in northern California. -B.R.

[7] OREGON PUBLIC AT ODDS WITH SCIENTISTS OVER RECOVERY :: A survey by researchers from Oregon State University has found that coastal Oregon residents have their own ideas about what measures would best recover salmon populations in their own backyards.

The survey of 500 residents found that their views are out of synch with the state's salmon restoration plan, said Prof. Courtland Smith of OSU. Most felt that increasing hatchery production, reducing marine mammals and stopping ocean gillnetting were very important factors in improving coastal stocks. Only 20 percent felt that reducing hatchery production was important, and 38 percent felt that reductions in hatcheries was not important at all.

"The public apparently views the salmon decline mainly as a production problem," said Smith in the Oregon Sea Grant newsletter, Restoration. "They see hatcheries as at least part of the solution."

The survey found that most respondents favored having the state lead salmon restoration, rather than the federal government, and there was strong support for compensating private landowners for protecting and restoring salmon. Almost half said they would be willing to volunteer at least one-half day every month on salmon restoration work.

Forty percent of the respondents said their top priority was restoring and protecting environmental conditions even if negative economic consequences came with it. Sixteen percent favored the economy over the environment, and 44 percent gave the two an even priority.

The researchers said that follow-up calls to about two-thirds of the people who did not respond by mail found that despite a fair amount of media coverage, many residents were not "engaged" by the issue.

Oregon Sea Grant will publish an analysis of survey results this spring. To request a copy, call (541) 737-2716 or e-mail Sea Grant Communications at: seagrant@ccmail.orst.edu. -B. R.

[8] LAWSUIT FILED TO PROTECT UMPQUA CUTTHROAT:: A lawsuit was filed on May 7 in Seattle federal district court on behalf of endangered Umpqua cutthroat trout. The coalition of fishermen and environmentalists who filed the suit seek to strengthen protection for the fish in the Clinton administration's Northwest Forest Plan.

Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations said that critical habitat for the trout is being destroyed by clearcutting and roadbuilding under the forest plan. He said the situation "is simply unacceptable to commercial fishermen, whose jobs depend on recovery of all the salmon species in these same watersheds."

Spain said it made no sense not to curtail logging in those watersheds while voluntary recovery efforts are going on downstream, and if logging wasn't stopped, more silt would "overwhelm" downstream recovery and lead to more biological and economic extinctions.

The groups are at odds with a biological opinion from the National Marine Fisheries Service that found the Clinton Plan adequate to protect all salmon and trout species in western Oregon. Environmentalists say the NMFS opinion did not look at distinct fish populations within certain river basins before it decided that there was an 80-percent chance that the fish habitat could be maintained on federal lands for the next 100 years.

Francis Eatherington of Umpqua Watersheds, based in Roseburg, said NMFS is ignoring it's own information that found timber sales could cause local extinctions of cutthroat. "The Clinton Plan is fatally flawed," said Eatherington. "It allows certain species to fall through the cracks and go extinct."

The groups say the federal forest plan will also be challenged because habitat for fish will still be degraded if loggers comply with the plan. Plaintiffs include Spain's group, the Institute for Fisheries Resources, Oregon Natural Resources Council, and Umpqua Watersheds and Headwaters. They are being represented in court by the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. -B. R.

[9] ORE. FORESTRY DEPT. TESTS STATE'S COHO PLAN :: The Oregon Department of Forestry is developing a rule to make timber harvest the primary use of state lands in areas like the vast Tillamook Forest on the northern Oregon coast.

During negotiations between NMFS Regional Director Will Stelle and Ore. Gov. John Kitzhaber over whether to list coho salmon under the ESA, the federal agency agreed to let the state develop its own salmon recovery plan, one that used forestry management as a major element.

Now the Oregon Department of Forestry has initiated rule making on the management of state land where the harvest of timber would be the primary use of the land, placing salmon and steelhead habitat protection in second place.

The 615,000-acre Tillamook State Forest includes six major northern Oregon watersheds, areas where coho salmon are the most imperiled. In the 1930s, this land was consumed in a huge wildfire, but now the trees are back and the watersheds are among the most healthy in the Oregon Coast Range.

Following the fire, the state took over ownership of the land because it was "worthless" and nearby counties didn't want the tax burden. Under state law these lands are to be managed to "secure the greatest permanent value of such lands to the state." There is no priority given to industrial forestry. But now that the trees are reaching harvestable age (many planted by school children in the 1940s and 1950s), the industrial timber lobby and the counties want this verdant landscape for tree cutting and seek to define the use of these lands through administrative rule.

The proposed rule states: "to secure the greatest permanent value to the state, the Board of Forestry and the State Forester shall plan and manage these lands...primarily for sustainable growing and harvest of forest tree species...and...secondarily for other benefits for the counties and the people of the state of Oregon." It also states that "any activity by and carried out under the plan is in the best interest of the state, and secures the greatest permanent value of the lands to the counties and the whole people of the state of Oregon."

Compromise Over Cohos?

This proposed rule appears to compromise the Governor's coho recovery plan and represents concerns already voiced by the National Marine Fisheries Service, since salmon, steelhead, and cutthroat trout protection and recovery would take a back seat to timber on these state lands. The Department of Forestry has established a task force to present the Board of Forestry with a consensus recommendation on this new rule.

A counter-measure calls for "coequal consideration of timber, fish, wildlife, water quality, and recreation" to define the use of the Tillamook State Forest. But some feel that "coequal consideration" is a weak rerun of the multiple use law that allowed overharvest of timber in national forests until the ESA listing of the spotted owl reduced harvest. Whichever version of the proposed rule is adopted by the Department of Forestry, it seems likely that the dominant use of the Tillamook State Forest will be cutting trees.

It is not unusual for agencies to develop administrative rules to define state law. If the Department of Forestry succeeds in making tree-cutting a primary use of state land, the National Marine Fisheries Service could stump the state's move by listing the coho salmon under emergency rule less than a month after letting the state try its hand at species recovery. -Bill Bakke

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