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NWF.040/Aug.05.1997
[1] Bonneville Fish Ladder Fix In the Works
[2] Etchart Tells CBFWA Money's Tight
[3] Washington F&W Commission Votes New Salmon Policy
[4] Canadian Scientists Claim Feds Suppress Science
[5] Court OKs NMFS' Use Of Oregon's Coho Plan
[6] Canadians Over-Escape Skeena Again

[1] BONNEVILLE FISH LADDER FIX IN THE WORKS :: Members of the Technical Management Team wrangled over flow issues at last Wednesday's meeting and finally agreed that boosting flows at McNary would only add to potential spill problems at Bonneville Dam, where the Corps of Engineers is trying to coax an unknown number of fish, trapped for days, out of an auxiliary water system.

Originally, fish managers had recommended that early August flows at McNary be increased to 210 Kcfs, 10 Kcfs above the BiOp target. Both Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation representatives said if flows went that high, there would probably be nothing left for augmentation before the month ended.

But Ron Boyce of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said it would be more beneficial early in the month because more fall chinook would be migrating at that time. When pressed as to how much benefit migrating fish would get, the fish managers could not put a number on it, and reminded the group that their request should be implemented because it's in the BiOp. But BPA's Robyn MacKay said that if the request was implemented now, the region's reservoirs would be fully drafted by the third week in August. Fish managers said they could live with that. NMFS sources said later that fewer fish would be migrating in late August, but more of them would be from wild stocks.

The flow request was withdrawn, however, after a discussion of the situation at Bonneville Dam, where an unknown number of salmon, steelhead and sturgeon are trapped in an auxiliary water system at Powerhouse 2's fish ladder.

Jim Neilsen of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department withdrew his request for the added flow after managers heard about the possible adverse effects of adding increased flow to proposed spills that would be necessary at Bonneville while the system is being repaired. The high spills were expected to cause illegal dissolved gas levels, but the Corps of Engineers was prepared to shut down Powerhouse 2 as soon as dissolved gas waivers were obtained from Washington and Oregon. As it turned out, Powerhouse 2 never even went on line on July 31, due to low demand and lower streamflows.

Passive Salvage Begins

The Corps began a passive salvage operation on July 31 to flush fish out of the dam. They were planning on dewatering the system as soon as the powerhouse was shut down so debris--estimated at thousands of cubic yards--could be removed. Debris buildup had created the problem in the first place by plugging gratings that were eventually dislodged by increased water pressure, allowing salmon and other species to enter the auxiliary water system.

"This is as dire as a flood control emergency," said Mitch Sanchotena of Idaho Steelhead & Salmon Unlimited, who was clearly unhappy that more hadn't been done to save the fish. Sanchotena, Boyce and Steve Petit of Idaho Fish and Game expressed concerns over the possibility of repairs taking eight weeks. "That's unacceptable to Idaho," said Petit. Boyce said he was concerned huge "delay problems" would be created for returning fish. "The fall chinook are on the way," said Boyce.
Fish problems at Powerhouse 2
may be less than anticipated

Corps of Engineers biologist Jim Athearn said the situation "doesn't get a higher priority" since it was already at the district commander's level. But Athearn said the Corps' operations and maintenance people in charge of repairs and fish rescue had not yet made an estimate of the ladder's downtime. Bob Heinith of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission said he didn't see a commitment from the Corps. "This is going to affect 80 percent of the fish coming back to Bonneville this year," he said.

By the end of the meeting, the group had gone back to square one, prepared to meet a flow target of 200 Kcfs by the week ending Aug. 10. Dworshak was being drafted at 22 Kcfs, and Brownlee was passing through part of the 427 thousand acre-feet of Idaho water called for in the BiOp.

A Montana request to operate its reservoirs according to integrated rule curves was dead because of declining flows in the system, but some relief for the state was coming from an Arrow/Libby water swap.

Only one salmonid was reported to exit the system by the weekend, and no salmon egress was reported for the next two days, said BPA biologist Bill Maslen. He reported that very few fish were picked up by hydroacoustic detectors, which were able to scan about 30 percent of the auxiliary water channel. More scanning was taking place early in the week. The Corps estimated that 600 fish at most may be trapped, and the "lion's share" were less than 15 inches long, according to the Corps' Gary Johnson.

By Aug. 5, the Corps was nearly ready to propose a temporary remedy. Since few fish seemed to be trapped, they want to operate the north fish ladder without auxiliary flows and dewater the system to clean debris after the fall chinook migration. -Bill Rudolph

[2] ETCHART TELLS CBFWA MONEY'S TIGHT :: In remarks to members of the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority on July 28, Power Council chair John Etchart said there were two things he wanted to talk about: money and accountability.

He told the audience of fish and wildlife managers that the new competitive market for electricity could "cause Bonneville to lose so many customers that it would not be able to meet its obligations, including its obligation to fund fish and wildlife recovery." He said the utility had already lost about nine percent of its load.

Nobody should expect Congress to bail out BPA, Etchart said, nor should they believe that a stranded-cost recovery mechanism will pick up the fish bills. "The legal and political fallout from such a scenario--even under the most favorable circumstances--would take years to sort out."

Etchart said it was up to the region to devise solutions and "recognize that it is in everyone's best interest for Bonneville to remain financially viable." Controlling BPA costs is a key part of that, said the Power Council chair.

Then he shifted gears and told CBFWA "this may be the hard part to listen to."

"The region's agency and tribal directors must begin to give the fish and wildlife program the same policy and planning care they devote to their own budgets. My guess is none of you would submit the current amalgamation of projects to your own legislatures or tribal councils. My guess is you would want to tell a much tighter story when asking for money from your governors' budget offices.

"Agency and tribal directors and the Council must be accountable for the fact that we have been unable to articulate for the utility industry, the Congress and others, concise and clear management goals and objectives even after all this time. We also haven't convinced the public of our many achievements...All of us must be accountable for a level of program management that functions even if we are divided or stymied on mainstem issues."

"We must work together"

Etchart said the program must be accountable to independent science. "We can't just cry foul over pronouncements about hatcheries, for example. We must work together to demonstrate conclusively that the production facilities we invest in are state-of-the-art, and reform, cancel, or close those that no longer make sense."

Etchart told the fish and wildlife managers that with the fish cap and Gorton Amendment in place, the Council is now in the "default position for the region." He delivered a clear message that if the managers don't commit to a serious review of all these projects and make hard decisions, then the Council will.

"We likely have just one more year to get this right," Etchart said. "With Congress about to write legislation restructuring the electricity industry and Bonneville, the region could easily be left with a significantly diminished role in fish and wildlife recovery." He told tribal leaders and agency directors that if they think their role in project selection is worth preserving, then more management attention would be required. He said the Council was ready and willing to help. A recent report by the Council's scientific panel concluded that funding proposals for next year's fish and wildlife program did not contain enough information to prioritize them, a task required by the Gorton Amendment.

Etchart said that the open and honest dialog, recently begun, must be continued "to ensure that the projects we collectively recommend to the region meet our toughest critics' every test."

CBFWA executive director Brian Allee said Etchart did an excellent job. "We have compatible goals when it comes to accountability," said Allee. -B.R.

[3] WASHINGTON'S F&W COMMISSION VOTES ON NEW POLICY :: Washington state's Fish and Wildlife Commission unanimously approved a broad series of proposals that deal with wild salmon policy, but only because two new members with ties to agriculture and commercial fishing interests were assured the policy will remain open for changes.

Language was added to the proposal that stressed the importance of maintaining the state's forestry and agricultural economies while rebuilding wild salmon runs after Wash. Gov. Gary Locke appointed two new members to the commission: Bellingham attorney Will Roehl, who has ties to the commercial fishing community, and Bud Mercer, of Prosser, an agriculturist and president of the Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association.

Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Washington Trout, said Locke's new appointments were an intentional effort to keep the wild salmon policy from being adopted.

The tribes met with the commission earlier last month to voice concerns over the direction the state was headed. A tribal briefing paper stated that "maintaining the resource and providing harvest are equal and inseparable goals." Other issues were left open--like whether hatchery fish could be used in estimates of counting spawners to meet abundance goals. The state's proposed policy would definitely not count hatchery fish in counts of wild spawning abundance goals.

The vote does little but direct the Department of Fish and Wildlife to prepare a final EIS for a state wild salmonid policy, which the commission plans to vote on in September. The department has a preferred alternative, whose initial language said "harvest opportunity is clearly secondary to the stock and ecosystem health issues,"but several new amendments have been added in an attempt to allay the tribes' concerns.

One amendment adds the tribes to the list of local entities to be involved in local watershed planning, and another amendment would allow "locally-adapted hatchery-origin" fish to be counted toward meeting natural spawning escapement objectives.

The tribes were in favor of coordinating with Gov. Locke's Natural Resource cabinet at a government-to-government level to deal with habitat issues, while the state preferred planning based at the local watershed level.

The tribes' technical staff met with the state last week to begin hammering out a joint policy. A July 24 statement from the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission said state and tribal wild salmonid policies, though developed independently, are similar in content. Differences remain, though.

"...The state's draft policy would allow Washington fishermen to have only a maximum 10 percent impact on a wild salmon stock expected to return below its escapement goal. The tribal policy would call for a broader response to potential impacts contributing to the run's inability to meet its escapement goal, such as addressing loss of habitat and appropriate use of hatcheries."

Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission chair Billy Frank said he was encouraged by the Fish and Wildlife Commission's commitment. "By working together," said Frank, "I am confident that we can achieve the balance necessary to meet our goal of restoring wild salmon stocks."

WDFW director Bern Shanks said he was hopeful the state's policy would be adopted by the tribes as well. He said his department also needs the "enthusiastic support" of the governor and his Natural Resources Sub-Cabinet. A new salmon policy still would not give the Fish and Wildlife Department legal authority to enforce habitat measures, but other agencies may beef up their rulemaking in the next six months to provide the legal clout.

Other amendments to the "preferred alternative" would acknowledge the role of existing regulations, voluntary measures and individual landowner initiatives in developing watershed use plans; provide for flexible management of riparian areas, as long as stream protection is maintained; and provide technical assistance and other incentives to landowners as part of the watershed plan development.

The commission plans to have a final proposal ready for public comment by Aug. 15, with a vote planned for Sept. 20. -B.R.

[4] CANADIAN SCIENTISTS SAY FEDS HAVE SUPPRESSED SCIENCE :: An article in the May 1997 issue of the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences by three prominent fisheries scientists makes the claim that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has suppressed important scientific information that has had far ranging effects on both people and fish. Their indictment drew a quick response from the federal agency in the June issue of the same journal.

The three authors, Jeffrey Hutchings of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia; Carl Walters of the University of British Columbia and R.L. Haeddrich of Memorial University of Newfoundland, wrote that federal bureaucrats influenced important decisions regarding Atlantic cod stocks and settlement of a flow dispute on a tributary of the Fraser River that compromised scientific work in both cases.

"We contend that political and bureaucratic interference in government fisheries science compromises the DFO's efforts to sustain fish stocks, and, thereby, the socioeconomic well-being of fishing communities and fishing people. There is an urgent need for public scrutiny of senior-level bureaucrats in the management of Canada's natural resources."

The authors contend that scientific information was selectively excluded from stock status reports on east coast groundfish and the Nechako Settlement Agreement, where an aluminum company in BC wanted to use more water for expansion. This led to a years-long debate over the effects of reduced flows on salmon productivity and an out-of-court settlement in 1987.

"Failure to document and (or) failure to acknowledge fully scientific uncertainty and variability in scientific opinion on the status of cod stocks were features common to the attainment of the Nechako Settlement Agreement," wrote the three scientists.

The authors concluded that the present framework linking science and management has "led to abuses that threaten the ability of scientists to understand fully the causes of fish declines, to identify means of preventing fishery collapses from recurring, to incorporate scientific advice in management decisions, and to communicate research in a timely fashion to as wide an audience as possible." They called for a new way to do business; the formation of an independent organization of fisheries scientists to serve as the link between research and natural resource management.

In a June response, DFO authors W.G. Doubleday (director general of the federal agency), D.B. Atkinson, and J. Baird took issue with the accusations. "They [Hutchings et al] criticize statements that ignore uncertainty and variability in scientific opinion yet criticize the Department for asking a scientist to present a balanced view."

The DFO authors said that misrepresentation and selective quotation "gave a false impression of stock assessments of northern cod in the 1980s and 1990s, and of the peer review process in DFO." As for the Nechako dispute, they said that Hutchings et al. quoted selectively from public documents to build their case that DFO suppressed the differing views of its scientists.

Another response to the Hutchings piece, also published in the June issue, was penned by M.C. Healey of the University of British Columbia. He found that Hutchings et al. displayed the same lack of objectivity in their criticism of the DFO they accused the fisheries agency of showing.

Healey said the cod collapse and Nechako flow dispute were cases where "science has relatively little to offer and the minister may decide to go with his/her political instincts. Departmental scientists may find this situation frustrating but in the final analysis it is the minister, not the scientist, who is accountable to the public."

He doubted whether an independent group of scientists would improve accountability, but he had several recommendations. First, both scientists and policy makers should share responsibility for developing a better understanding of each others' needs and limitations. He also felt that DFO could make more of an effort to treat policy initiatives as experiments "in a program of adaptive assessment and management," and he called for fisheries scientists to "begin studying fisheries as complete systems rather than as disaggregated, discipline bits."

In a reply to the criticism, Hutchings and his co-authors said the DFO writers had misunderstood their scientific concerns. As for Healey's remarks, they said situations of high uncertainty are "occasions that science has potentially the most to offer," rather than the other way around. They cited the use of risk analysis, whereby uncertainties can be quantified to help assess potential consequences of different management options.

DFO director general Doubleday and another high-ranking federal fisheries official, Scott Parsons, initiated legal action against The Ottawa Citizen and another Canadian scientist, Ransom Myers, in late June over allegations of suppressing science that were made in a June 27 newspaper article. -B.R.

[5] COURT OKS NMFS' USE OF OREGON'S COHO PLAN :: On July 29, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service acted properly when it decided to consider Oregon's salmon conservation plan to protect coho salmon. NMFS decided to implement the state plan rather than listing central and northern coastal stocks under conditions of the Endangered Species Act. The case was brought by the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund (now EarthJustice Legal Defense Fund). When the decision was announced last April, NMFS regional director Will Stelle said it was the "biggest, most comprehensive conservation plan any state has ever offered to protect a species." As for the recent ruling, Stelle said it affirmed NMFS' approach for protecting fish.

"The decision demonstrates the enormous inherent flexibility of the Endangered Species Act," said Stelle, "and elevates the significance of steady implementation of Oregon's agreement to carry out its plan."

The court said it would now move the case to Portland where a federal court will decide if the Oregon plan meets ESA requirements for protecting the fish. -B.R.

[6] CANADIANS OVER-ESCAPE SKEENA AGAIN :: Since the recent blockade of the Alaska ferry in Prince Rupert, the fight over salmon between the U.S. and Canada has been mainly a war of words. The Seattle Times called BC premier Glen Clark "a colossal jerk." Clark called Alaska fishermen "pirates." Some of his own constituents have been fed up with rhetoric. The mayor of Dawson Creek sent him a bill for lost tourism revenue after Alaska pulled the plug on ferry service to Prince Rupert.

Evidently, the Alaska fish pirates were not fishing hard enough, since the Canadians admitted privately that too many fish were getting up the Skeena River again. While Canadian politicians have pointed to Alaska as the bad guy for intercepting too many sockeye bound for rivers near Prince Rupert, the main producer--the Skeena--already has too many sockeye in it, and resource managers have called for special Native fisheries to scoop them up. Spawning channels in the river produce far more sockeye than the system can handle naturally, and while harvesters are limited to protect coho and steelhead runs too many sockeye pass by their nets.

The Alaskans have caught more Canadian sockeye than last year at this time, but
SE Alaska fisherman with deckful of sockeye
according to a July 31 memo from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, "sockeye escapements in the Skeena river are now exceeding escapement requirements for this time of year. Accordingly, the Tsimshian Tribal Council and the Gitksan and Wet'Suwet'En Watershed Authority have been issued a licence to harvest surplus sockeye and will be conducting fisheries as noted below..." The memo calls for catching more than 120,000 sockeye in the river with beach seines, fishwheels and dipnets.

At the other end of the dispute, Canadian fisheries minister David Anderson met with governors Locke of Washington and Knowles of Alaska on July 30, continuing a semi-cordial agree-to-disagree posture, and the US has now named William Ruckelshaus as a special envoy to deal with the salmon issue. Head of EPA during the Nixon presidency, Rusckelshaus has been president of a large garbage company and runs a venture capital firm. His Canadian counterpart is a BC university president. Insiders have little hope for progress.

The Canadians said they would introduce measures "to reduce the likelihood of the US achieving their unilaterally established share of Fraser River sockeye," but warm ocean currents off the West Coast are sending most Fraser River fish down the inside of Vancouver Island anyway, where the US will never have a chance to intercept them. As a fish war, it's no contest, and while some senators are calling for the US Coast Guard to escort American boats up the Inside Passage, the fishermen themselves will soon be too busy to worry about politics.

And it looks like the Alaskans will be easing up on their take of Canadian sockeye, too, since most of the seine fleet has tied up in an unprecedented statewide protest over low prices offered by processors for pink salmon. -B.R.

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