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[1] State, Tribes Air Views on Salmon Recovery
[2] Canadians Close All Coho Fishing in BC
[3] Analysis Finds Future Fish, Power Benefits from BPA
[4] Review of Corps Screen Project Down to Wire
[5] New Proposals for River Governance from NW Politicians
[6] Locke Names Members to Power Planning Council
[7] American Rivers v. NMFS Appealed to Ninth Circuit

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Public officials from throughout the Northwest got a taste of the complexity of salmon politics last week when they heard from water quality, growth management and fisheries experts as well as tribal spokesmen at a two-day session in Mount Vernon, WA billed "Salmon in the City."

The keynote address, delivered on May 20 by Lisa Pelley, chair of the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Commission, touched on many touchy issues. Pelley said impending ESA listings of chinook in Puget Sound have shown that the region's reliance on fish hatcheries for the past 100 years has not proved to be a lasting solution to dwindling salmon populations.

"And salmon," she said, "are the fabric of the community," and one more reason why state residents spend well over $2 billion on fish and wildlife recreation every year.

She said the wild salmon policy adopted by the state last year is the beginning of a local response to the cloud of potential ESA listings in the region. "If we do not come up with a solution, it will be imposed on us by others."

She told the audience of around 300 people that Washington state has taken the fish restoration challenge seriously, with top-level support from the Joint Natural Resource Cabinet and the passage in the last legislative session of HB 2514, which provides "significant" funding for watershed planning.

But Pelley cautioned that the state's role in salmon recovery is limited because it will take involvement at the local level to make it happen.

"I think we should sort of forget the ESA and take it upon ourselves," said Pelley. She warned the group that the feds will not be shy about taking control. She said NMFS recently indicated Puget Sound chinook will probably be listed as "threatened" next March, and she warned that such a listing could have significant impacts on everything from housing construction and road building to residential lawn watering.

But a listing could get the state to make more progress on other fronts, like dealing with storm water runoff, altering dikes and determining what the state could forgo in the way of more highways, strip malls and mini-mansions, and still be willing to pay more for electricity and water. But dams were not the big issue of the day. The focus in western Washington is on hatcheries, harvest and habitat.

Pelley emphasized that regulatory authority to make changes will really come at the local level, but holders of local and state permits that impact listed ESA stocks are liable and "can be dragged into federal court."

Karen Terwilleger, WDFW's assistant director for habitat management, stressed the need for more coordination between local authorities and the watershed planning process. She pointed out that the ESA may not "jibe" with the state's Growth Management Act, and that could have effects on future municipal water supplies. She said all cities have some concern about this state of affairs, and a new balance has to be reached that protects salmon and deals with growth issues at the same time.

Kurt Fresh of WDFW told the audience that up to now, salmon recovery efforts on the wet side of the mountains have focused mostly on timber management, with relatively insignificant effects on the population. But an ESA listing in Puget Sound would impact 3.5 million people--the 64 percent of the state's population who live on 19 percent of Washington's land area. And it's a population that's expected to grow another 25 percent by 2020, which could substantially affect the 11,000 stream miles in the region.

He said a cursory accounting exercise showed that major river systems aren't the only ones that play important roles in salmon recovery. Over a hundred minor basins are instrumental in rearing up to 50 percent of Puget Sound's coho, Fresh said; but he stressed the need for more knowledge. Though about 1.8 million hatchery and wild salmon are still spawning in the region, Fresh said the region needs a baseline condition to develop a "beltway report card" because we have a "poor idea of how many salmon are using Puget Sound streams."

What Does "Recovery" Mean?

"We don't know what's going on," he said candidly. He recommended development of an accessible salmon database on a basin-wide scale like is being done for the Columbia River. But he was equally candid about the federal effort. "NMFS isn't sure what recovery means."

With the region now in a growth spurt that's liable to go on for years to come, Les Eldridge of the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board said the ultimate effect of the state's Growth Management Act will be that "sprawl will just take longer."

With that as a warmup, Tulalip tribal member Terry Williams spoke from his own perspective on the topic: "We Can Stonewall NMFS: Why Should We Change?" But his message was not as belligerent as it may have sounded from the title. As for stalling NMFS--"It's not a question of don't we or do we," he told the group, "we are...it's the commission thing." He said the dilution and delegation of authority among the nearly 200 cities and 39 counties in the region has created no consistency of comprehensive plans from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but "a kaleidoscope of things happening."

Williams said the big question is how to get a common vision. For the tribes, he said the big picture is that their culture is the endangered species today. "The culture is dying out because the environment is dying out."

But Williams added the tribes are not afraid to stand up and speak out. "We've tried logic," he said, and have been told that "we've been hiding behind our treaties. We don't like that."

But Williams also said after getting nowhere by talking about the environment and future needs of the region's children, one thing that brings everybody together is the question of how much it costs the region to manage for flood control, aquifer pollution, road maintenance, planning, and recovery and restoration of fish.

With good, healthy riparian systems, Williams said the Northwest could save millions spent on flood costs and road damage. Instead, he said each group is trying to point its finger at somebody else for creating the problem. "It's kind of fun watching from the tribal perspective," he said.

"Leave the riparian alone...If the government could understand that, we could have a common starting point." Williams advocated buying out local farmers in nearby delta regions to put the area back into habitat.

To halt the downhill slide, Williams said more "backbone" is required. The funding mechanisms are there, the science is there--but the US doesn't have a vision.

"We do have a vision--our treaties." When the documents were signed, Williams said the signatories were thinking about cultural survival, which centered around fishing for salmon, hunting and subsistence gathering.

"What the states haven't figured out yet, or the federal government, is that the treaty is the supreme law of the land." Williams left it at that, and offered little hope for getting satisfaction from current state efforts. He called most such discussions "happy talk," and said Gov. Gary Locke is "a good businessman, but he doesn't know anything about the environment."

The second day of the conference was spent listening to experts discuss questions of whether wild fish runs are sustainable in rehabbed streams, and different aspects of sustainable and low impact development. University of Washington scientists Richard Horner and Christopher May told the participants that hydrology and stream structure begins to come apart when as little as five to 10 percent of a watershed is covered by impervious surfaces, such as roofs and roads--the level of settlement that happens with habitation of more than two homes per acre (To see how the region and the state are beginning to cope with potential ESA listings, check out King County's ESA web site and Washington's salmon restoration site.)

State Commissioner of Public Lands Jennifer Belcher recommended clamping a lid on population growth in the region. Tom Holz, of SCA Engineering, and the conference's coordinator, said such a drastic action may be necessary in the future, but "we're on red alert right now," and the region needs to take significant steps to buy up what's left of riparian habitat before it goes the way of development. "We simply don't have time to be depressed," Holz said after the conference. -Bill Rudolph


Canadian Fisheries Minister David Anderson announced last week that his country was taking drastic measures to keep some BC salmon stocks from going extinct. Wild coho stocks from both ends of the province are in bad shape, Anderson said on May 21.

"This is particularly the case for coho stocks from the upper Skeena and Thompson rivers, but there are also concerns for many coho stocks in British Columbia," Anderson said.Current ocean conditions are contributing to the urgency." The Skeena flows into the sea near Prince Rupert, near the Alaska/ BC boundary, and the Thompson is located in the southern part of the province, a large tributary of the Fraser River.

The minister acted after receiving a final report from the Coho Response Team, which concluded that despite recent conservation measures to aid coho, more cuts in harvests are necessary, possibly for years to come.

Anderson's announcement will affect both commercial and sports fishermen, but he said selective fisheries may occur where stocks at extreme risk are not prevalent.

The drastic Canadian action means that the only place where coho may be retained on the entire West Coast of the US and Canada is off the northern Oregon (above Cape Falcon) and Washington coast, where extremely low abundances will keep the non-treaty catch down to 16,000 with a tribal catch of 10,000 coho. Father south, coho stocks are in such bad shape that no directed fishery will take place at all.

The Canadians expect Southeast Alaska fishermen will help bear the burden. Anderson said his patience was thin for "those who use self-serving arguments about science to stand in the way of responsible stewardship." He meant the Alaskans, who have felt that Canadian biologists have not made a case for the dire situation of Skeena coho, who swim through Southeast Alaska waters. They point to the fact that 70 percent of the coded-wire tags that are used to determine the harvest by fishermen from each country are not even counted because they are caught by Canadian offshore fishermen who freeze the fish onboard. And they say Canadians don't mention the huge increase in fishing effort neat the mouth of the Skeena River.

A panel of scientists from both countries has been meeting to reach agreement over the status of the northern coho, but they haven't finished their work.

Meanwhile, Anderson said no one has refuted the need for decisive conservation measures. "The Canadian evidence on coho is sound, and we are willing to have it analyzed by any group of international scientists or put it to any international body." He said even if Alaska stopped all fishing, he would still have to cut coho harvest in Canada. And he called for getting on with negotiations between the two countries over the Pacific Salmon Treaty.

Talks broke off on May 15 once again after nearly a week of meetings in Portland, Oregon failed to develop short-term fishing arrangements between the two countries. Alaska spokesman David Benton said his state offered substantial catch reductions over Skeena sockeye, because the 2.3 million fish forecast was expected to be the lowest return in more than 20 years. Alaskans point to the low return as a result of over-escapement in 1994, when too many fish reached spawning channels and caused a disease outbreak that killed many spawning fish. The Alaskans have pointed to the overescapement problems for years, but conservation concerns over coho and steelhead keep the extra sockeye from being netted. Alaskans say that too many sockeye are being reared in the man-made channels.

On May 21, Alaska officials said they would share fisheries information with Canada on a weekly basis, whether or not the countries reach agreement by the time fishing begins. NMFS officials in Seattle said if an interim agreement could be settled in the northern fisheries, reaching agreement in the south would probably happen as well, where for years, Washington fisheries managers have tried to get BC fishermen to reduce their catch of weak runs of Puget Sound coho. Canadian fishermen have traditionally caught about 60 percent of these stocks, and up until a couple of years ago, were still catching over a million coho a year off Vancouver Island. -Bill Rudolph


Except for periods of low market prices, the Bonneville Power Administration should continue to benefit its customers into the future. So concludes an analysis conducted for the Power Planning Council and released last week at the Power Council's meeting in Spokane.

"Under a wide range of conditions, Bonneville demonstrates significant value to customers even if called upon to bear relatively large additional fish and wildlife mitigation costs," reads the conclusion of the report's executive summary. "Only under combinations of persistent low market conditions and increased fish and wildlife costs and/or operational impacts does Bonneville experience significant negative net revenues for extended periods."

The analysis of BPA's potential future costs and market revenues used three ranges of market clearing price forecasts--high, medium and low--and matched these with a range of possible future fish and wildlife mitigation scenarios. While the Council's power division conducted the study, it was done with oversight from representatives of Indian tribes, BPA industrial customers, utilities, environmental groups and experts in fish and wildlife and energy policy.

The fish and wildlife scenarios, for example, used alternatives developed by NMFS, the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and others. They include the current Biological Opinion; a scenario with reduced flow augmentation; two scenarios with increased emphasis on transportation and reduced spill, with and without Clean Water Act measures; a scenario involving drawdown of the four lower Snake River dams; two involving drawdown of the four lower Snake dams and John Day, with and without Clean Water Act measures; and a scenario that combines drawdown of the five dams with increased flow augmentation and Clean Water Act measures.

At the same time, the report points out that use of these scenarios in the analysis does not imply endorsement by the Council, the oversight group or any of its individual members. "This study did not address the biological merits of any of these scenarios," the summary notes. "The issue of biological effectiveness is being considered in other processes."

With that caveat, the analysis concludes that if market prices for electricity are high--over 6 cents/KWh by 2020--BPA "demonstrates significant benefit to customers under all the fish and wildlife mitigation scenarios considered." But that doesn't mean the scenarios are without cost. For example, the report says moving from the BiOp to the five-dam-drawdown scenario would involve an investment of $9 billion over 20 years for salmon mitigation. "The source of that investment would be reduced benefits to consumers of lower cost electricity."

With medium market prices--which the analysis sets at about 4 cents/KWh by 2020--BPA "demonstrates benefits to customers for the study period in all but the most costly of the fish and wildlife scenarios evaluated" and would have positive cash flows from 2002 through 2021, except under the scenario involving five dam drawdowns. As with high market prices, however, the scenarios would involve additional billions in investment that would reduce the benefits of lower cost electricity to customers.

If market prices are low--defined as "only slightly greater" than current prices of 2 cents/KWh--BPA would be presented with "significant financial challenges." Any fish and wildlife scenario that required reducing power production would generate negative net revenues. The most critical period would be from 2007 through 2011, before BPA's WPPSS debt service begins to decline.

While the analysis seems to be good news, Council Chair John Etchart of Montana cautioned that it applies strictly to BPA's costs and the agency's ability to bear them. While the region might be able to afford these investments, the report "doesn't say which of them are prudent," Etchart continued. "There was no attempt to judge the biological value of any of these scenarios."

Etchart also cautioned that saying the region can "afford" these costs means BPA would make its ratepayers contribute to those costs. "Because market prices are higher than BPA costs, you can make the ratepayer pay that amount."

The report also doesn't account for how the scenarios might impact "collateral or third-party costs"--the mid-Columbia PUDs, IOUs, irrigators and other river users. "These measures will also impact them," Etchart pointed out. The broader potential societal costs--and benefits--are not considered.

And although the analysis evaluates BPA's potential net revenue, or the revenue the agency would receive at market prices, minus its costs--it is not a recommendation that BPA sell at market prices. "It does, however, provide a reference to evaluate the competitiveness of Bonneville generation," the summary points out. If Bonneville sells all of its subscription power at cost, the revenue estimates would be the benefits relative to market that the customers would receive.

Etchart said the analysis provides valuable information to the region. All those participating in the study were pleased with the report; it gives BPA some credit for cost cutting; and it's "an example of the type of collaboration the region needs to have." -Jude Noland


The US Army Corps of Engineers is waiting to hear from an independent panel of scientists before they advertise for bids to build extended length screens at John Day Dam. But the review hasn't been completed on schedule and it may jeopardize the project's completion by next spring's migration season. The screens are designed to guide more migrating juvenile salmon away from turbines into a bypass system around the dam. Tests have shown an overall guidance improvement of about 20 percent.

Corps spokesman Witt Anderson said his agency wants to advertise for bids by June 15 so the screens can be in place by next spring. "We figure about a nine-month minimum lead time," Anderson said.

But the Power Council's science panel, the Independent Scientific Advisory Board (ISAB), which is undertaking a review of the Corps' capital spending at the dams, won't have a recommendation until June 10. Congress, in last year's appropriations, inserted language that called for a review to be completed by June 30 of this year.

But earlier this spring, panel members told the Power Council their heavy workload precluded them from completing the Corps review on time. The ISAB is reviewing the basin's hatchery program and prioritizing next year's fish and wildlife proposals. Members initially said they would provide a first installment at the May 20 Council meeting in Spokane, which would include their own views on the role of mainstem bypass measures "in an ecosystem approach," along with the John Day screens and a review of the juvenile outfall and bypass system at Bonneville Dam. But in late April, Council members were told the ISAB won't be ready to report on the screens and bypass measures until June.

Dave Geiger of the Corps' Salmon Coordination office said that after a couple of meetings with the science panel, it was apparent their earlier schedule would not be met.

"They realized there was a lot more to these issues than they originally thought," said Geiger. He said he didn't expect a recommendation from the panel on the Bonneville projects until sometime after the June 10 review.

Anderson said it was hard to second-guess what the panel would recommend, but he noted that the states of Oregon and Washington and the National Marine Fisheries Service strongly support the screen proposal, which is budgeted for around $36 million over the next two years. The project has taken criticism from some tribal and environmental groups, however, who called it "gold plating."

About $4 million has been spent developing a prototype, said Anderson, and the Corps still has some engineering and biological concerns to address. If all goes according to plan, he said a bid could be awarded by late July or early August. Eighteen screens are scheduled to be in place by next season's migration, and the rest by the spring of 2000.

The panel's final report on the Corps' capital spending is scheduled to be submitted by January 1999. -Bill Rudolph


Representative Rick White (R-WA) has proposed creation of a Northwest Rivers Commission to assume responsibility for regional salmon recovery efforts. While the Northwest Power Planning Council has traditionally been charged with that task, White said the Council lacks the authority it needs to get the job done. The Rivers Commission is designed to be a "souped-up Council," White added, that might not replace the Power Council, but would "add to what the Council is."

Oregon Senator Gordon Smith (R) has introduced legislation to establish a federal advisory committee that would play a major role in Northwest river governance. Smith said his legislation--introduced May 21--is an effort to make sure certain conditions are met if the Three Sovereigns agreement moves forward.

Power Council Chairman John Etchart of Montana said White's proposal "looks to me like a natural progression" that would give the Power Council--or its successor--a key role in river governance decisions. Etchart also endorsed White's inclusion of tribal representatives on the new panel.

Establishment of a Northwest Rivers Commission is one of the elements of White's outline for a Northwest Chapter of federal restructuring legislation, which the Congressman introduced during a May 14 meeting with members of a Seattle Chamber of Commerce study mission to DC. Others include setting BPA's transmission rates under provisions of the Federal Power Act, retaining Northwest utilities' preference rights to federal power and developing an emergency cost recovery mechanism to keep BPA from defaulting on any Treasury obligations.

White announced his outline as the Transition Board was getting ready for additional discussions on its development of a proposed Northwest Chapter, along with strawman proposals for FERC-equivalent regulation of BPA transmission and stranded cost recovery. At the same time, a group of regional aluminum companies circulated its version of a Northwest Chapter, both at the Transition Board meeting and in DC.

Other members of the Washington state delegation, who also attended the Seattle Chamber meeting, reportedly expressed support for White's proposal. Sen. Gorton addressed the group before White and indicated he was glad Rep. White was doing work compatible with Gorton's efforts on the Senate side. White spokesman Peter Schalestock pointed out that when Gorton announced his version of a Northwest chapter the Senator included a river governance section, but left it blank as a placeholder.

White said he also met privately with Washington Gov. Gary Locke, who was with the Chamber group, and received some good suggestions. "This is going to be a process that's going to take some time," White said, adding that he intends to solicit comments on the proposal over the next month.

White: More Tribal Representation

Under White's proposal, the Northwest Rivers Commission would consist of two members appointed by each Northwest governor, along with two Indian representatives selected from among the federally recognized tribes and appointed by the Secretary of the Interior.

The commission would have regional responsibility for developing a salmon restoration plan. To assist in this task, the commission would appoint an advisory committee, with five subcommittees: river operations, fisheries management, harvest regulation, agriculture and irrigation, and public land management.

The plan developed by the commission would have to be submitted to the President for approval. The commission would set performance standards and salmon recovery goals and would be required to report annually to Congress on progress toward meeting its goals.

While the commission would assume responsibility for consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, the authority to make listing decisions under the ESA would remain with existing federal agencies.

Smith: Public Input In Three Sovereigns Would Be Formalized

Sen. Gordon Smith's proposal sets up a 15-member committee with representatives of local governments, BPA customers, ports, shippers, irrigators, environmentalists, forest land owners and grazers. Its purpose is to formalize the public input to federal agencies involved in the Three Sovereigns river governance concept.

"If Three Sovereigns is the process we use, this legislation will make sure everyone is included in the process," said Smith spokesperson Mary Healy. "It legislates that they have to be." Healy said Smith has received complaints that the Three Sovereigns public sessions haven't been very successful at spreading information about the process. At some meetings there were no note takers nor minutes, she said.

Smith's legislation doesn't impose any conditions on the states or tribes, but prohibits federal agencies from entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with non-federal entities over management of the Columbia and Snake River basins unless conditions set forth in the legislation are met. The bill requires each federal agency that signed the Three Sovereigns agreement to publish and make available to the public all scientific data used to formulate recommendations and all methodologies used to prepare cost-benefit analyses. In addition, Smith's legislation provides a mechanism for resolving disputes among federal agencies involved in the Three Sovereigns agreement. -Jude Noland


Washington Governor Gary Locke last week appointed Tom Karier of Spokane and Larry Cassidy of Vancouver to take over the state's representation on the Northwest Power Planning Council. They will replace Ken Casavant, who last December expressed his desire not to be re-appointed, and Mike Kriedler, who in early April announced his plan to resign as of Oct. 1.

Both men are subject to Senate approval but are eligible to begin service prior to a confirmation hearing. They will both be paid an annual salary of $77,446.

Locke's office said the governor took the opportunity of appointing two members simultaneously to create a "solid and effective team" with complementary strengths.

"Between them," Locke said, the appointees "have experience in fish and wildlife issues, business, academic analysis of energy and natural resources, and labor negotiations. They also bring geographic breadth and understanding to a set of issues that affect the whole Northwestern region."

Karier, 41, will take over Casavant's spot July 1. His term will run through Jan 15, 2001. He is currently an associate dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences and a professor of economics at Eastern Washington University, where he teaches classes in energy, natural resources and environmental economics. He was a labor negotiator for the faculty at EWU. He has a masters and doctorate in economics from UC Berkeley, where he studied energy and natural resources.

Cassidy, 58, will come on board Oct. 1 with a term that expires Jan. 15, 2002. He is the owner and president of Flo-Rite Products Co., a Vancouver-based international distributor of plumbing and hardware products. Cassidy is said to be close to the governor and "will have his ear."

Cassidy, who was graduated in 1962 from the University of Washington with a BA in marketing, currently serves on the John Day Snake River Regional Advisory Committee with the Department of the Interior and is a member of Trout Unlimited, Fly Fishing Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Northwest Steelheaders.

Cassidy also served as a member of the Washington State Game Commission from 1973 to 1985, including four years as chairman. He was president of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders and national vice president of Trout Unlimited. He was a member of the National Marine Fisheries Commission during the Nixon administration from 1970 to 1971, where he worked on the original draft documents for the Offshore 200-Mile Management Authority. -Ben Tansey


The long-lived American Rivers v. NMFS lawsuit that challenged the 1995 Biological Opinion on operation of the Columbia River hydro system has been appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund lawyer Todd True said his group filed a brief on May 8 that takes issue with Oregon District Court Judge Malcolm Marsh's decision last year, which ended the challenge by fishing and environmental groups over the '95 BiOp.

The new brief argues that the district court failed to apply the proper standard of review to NMFS jeopardy analysis, that the BiOp's version of the jeopardy standard is inconsistent with the regulatory definition of jeopardy, and that NMFS' selection of a recovery threshold is inconsistent with the evidence. True said he expects the government to file its brief in a couple of weeks. -Bill Rudolph

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