A NW EnerNet News Service of Energy NewsData

NW FISHLETTER
Fish.Net Search NW Fishletter Fishletter Archives NW Fishletter Links

NWF.064/Aug.11.1998
[1] Policy Managers Hear Latest PATH Results
[2] NMFS Caves on Steelhead Harvest Reductions
[3] July Heat Tough on Salmon
[4] Senate Hearing on Three Sovereigns Amendment
[5] Slow Progress For Funding Framework Process
[6] Idaho Senator Wants $46 Million for Salmon Recovery
[7] Gorton Asks Corps to Drop Drawdown Survey
[8] Tacoma, Tribe Want Rehearing on Cushman Relicense
[9] Bodi Will Work for BPA
[10] Feds List Oregon Coastal Coho Under ESA

Fishletter Readers: Get automatic e-mail notification whenever a new issue comes up on line. Comments? Advice? Give feedback to the editor.


[1] POLICY MANAGERS HEAR LATEST PATH RESULTS

At last week's Implementation Team meeting in Portland, state and federal fish and water agency officials heard the latest update on the computer modeling effort called PATH, which is formulating and testing hypotheses and weighing evidence in an attempt to resolve major uncertainties about recovery strategies for Snake River salmon.

David Marmorek of Essa Technologies, who is facilitating the intensive effort, told the IT on Aug. 6 that PATH modelers have revised some preliminary conclusions of the BPA/UW salmon passage model (CRiSP). The revisions increase the probabilities of achieving jeopardy standards under current actions and under another scenario that calls for full transportation. Marmorek said the changes came from revised estimates of post-Bonneville dam survival for transported and non-transported fish. The revised estimates also helped the CRiSP model come up with much greater potential benefits for drawing down the lower Snake dams than reported in the preliminary conclusions released last March. In fact, the newest CRiSP runs show the drawdown scenario comes out a bit better than transporting fish.

The FLUSH model of state agencies and tribes, which uses survival estimates that include data from two years of high mortality in the 1970s, shows little benefit from the transport options and a much better chance of fish recovery by drawing down the dams. FLUSH is predicated on a strong flow/survival relationship that some believe hasn't been well documented.

But Marmorek cautioned that these results were achieved by weighing all hypotheses equally, and once evidence for salmon passage assumptions is judged by PATH modelers, the results are bound to change. So far, he said, the "unweighed point of view" shows that drawdown comes out better. But without looking at the reasonableness and viability of the options, one can't make a strong conclusion at this point. Idaho salmon manager Ed Bowles had pushed for a pro-drawdown response from Marmorek.

BPA's Jim Geiselman, who is also involved in the PATH effort, advised caution as well. He noted that the CRiSP model results show the full transport option close to the drawdown option. He said once the evidence is weighed, rankings could change easily.

CRiSP modelers say their model is a more accurate reflection of the evolution of the hydro system because evidence points to improvements in inriver survivals and transported fish since 1980. The CRiSP model also parts company with FLUSH on another big point. Salmon mortality that FLUSH modelers attribute to the hydro system has more to do with changes in ocean conditions, according to CRiSP.

PATH modelers are also investigating other "alternative hypotheses," including effects of hatcheries and harvest. But the exercise has developed key uncertainties that have significant effects on outcomes. Marmorek said one key parameter is the relative survival of transported and non-transported fish; another is the source of "extra-mortality."

According to the PATH update, the final report will include analysis of other possible management actions, including John Day drawdown, "and will endeavor to reach consensus to the maximum extent possible on the relative weights assigned to alternative hypotheses based on the strength of supporting evidence and our professional judgments. We anticipate, however, that lack of evidence will constrain our ability to reach consensus on the relative likelihood of some alternative hypotheses."

The two models have different views on the value of inriver survivals because FLUSH uses data from 1973 and 1977, years when there was heavy buildup of trash in front of Lower Granite Dam. In the spring of 1973, for instance, the problem was so bad that descaling and later mortality of juvenile salmon was estimated at 50 percent. Since the mortality was not related to long travel times that the FLUSH model identifies as the basis for mortality, the CRiSP modelers say it has skewed the parameter incorrectly. Furthermore, they say the data reflect hydro system conditions that no longer exist.

PATH participants have also tried to explain the mechanism that accounts for the supposed differences between mortalities of Snake River stocks and lower Columbia stocks. FLUSH modelers say it is related to additional time in the hydro system, but such an answer fails to account for the flip-flop in productivity between the Snake and Columbia evidenced in the past two years. -Bill Rudolph


[2] NMFS CAVES ON STEELHEAD HARVEST REDUCTIONS

This year, tribal fishers will have to cope with intercepting ESA-protected steelhead while they target the relatively bountiful fall chinook stocks heading for the Hanford Reach, Fishery agencies will have to cope as well, to find ways to get more steelhead past the nets. Last year, when upper and lower Columbia and Snake River steelhead were first listed, the action didn't take effect until the tribal fishery from Bonneville to McNary dams was finished in the early fall. Some say NMFS planned it that way.

Two distinct runs of summer steelhead migrate up the Columbia River past Bonneville Dam. Denoted as the A-run and the B-run, the B's run later and spawn in the Snake River basin in the Clearwater and Salmon rivers of Idaho. They are large steelhead and their run timing is similar to that of the fall chinook, so fisheries for fall chinook also harvest B-run steelhead.

Early this year, regional NMFS administrator Will Stelle sent a letter to the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission that said his agency would like to reduce the tribal harvest of the late running B-run steelhead from over 30 percent down to a range from five to seven percent. Such a drastic cut would have serious repercussions in the tribal harvest of Hanford Reach fall chinook. On the face of it, the cut could reduce the regular fishery by 75 percent.

The B-run steelhead harvest rate of 32 percent had been set more than ten years ago, when the Columbia River Fish Management Plan was adopted in 1987, the result of a court ordered agreement among the states and tribes. When wild runs were less than 75,500 as counted at Bonneville Dam, the agreement pegged the harvest rate on B-run steelhead at 32 percent.

Some believed this to be an extinction plan for B-run steelhead. In fact, the state of Idaho refused to sign the agreement. But signatories concluded that steelhead, especially B-run steelhead, could be sacrificed in order to meet the fall chinook harvest goals for the tribes.

To reduce interceptions this year, NMFS sought to use $500,000 from the Bonneville Power Administration to purchase 9-inch mesh gill nets for the tribal fishermen, but two tribes objected and the process became so protracted that time ran out on the net exchange strategy. Furthermore, ongoing negotiations among the fish agencies and tribes for a new management plan has caused NMFS to back down from its original requirement to hold harvest on threatened B-run steelhead at 5 to 7 percent. They will now allow a 15 to 20 percent harvest rate.

The federal agency's conservation goal for the B-run is to maintain a 15 percent harvest rate while allowing the tribes to catch their full fall chinook allocation, with a five percent margin that allows a harvest impact of 20 percent.

According to NMFS, the average harvest rate for B-run steelhead has been less than 25 percent over the last five years. However, the harvest rate in the 1997 tribal fishery was between 30 and 32 percent.

NMFS spokesman Rob Jones said, "In reality, the tribes will probably go higher than a 15 percent harvest rate on steelhead to get their fall chinook allocation. The 1998 agreement with the tribes is for only one year," said Jones, "so a plan will be negotiated through the Columbia River Fish Management Plan for 1999 to form a long-term conservation plan for listed steelhead."

The Joint Staff Report of July 1998 said, "The number of wild Group A steelhead was the greatest observed since 1992 but the number of wild Group B steelhead was the second lowest on record. Despite the elimination of wild steelhead target fisheries in the lower river and the absence of ocean steelhead fisheries, wild escapement goals at Bonneville Dam were not met for the ninth consecutive year for Group A and the fifth consecutive year for Group B steelhead."

The escapement goal for wild steelhead at Bonneville Dam is 75,500, of which 62,200 are to be Group A and 13,300 Group B steelhead, which translates into an escapement goal at Lower Granite Dam of 30,000 fish ( 20,000 A's, 10,000 B's).

The 1998 run forecast for wild Group A steelhead is 31,000 and for Group B steelhead is 7,700 but even with no fisheries, neither group will meet escapement goals this year.

Excluding all other types of mortality, a 20 percent harvest rate means only 6,160 wild Group B steelhead will make it above Lower Granite Dam, which is 3,840 fish below the escapement goal agreed to by the fish agencies and tribes under the present Columbia River Fish Management Plan.

In the meantime, NMFS has acquiesced to tribal requests, so hatchery steelhead produced in their supplementation programs will not be fin-clipped or tagged, which means hatchery fish may be counted as wild fish. This will make them unavailable to the sport fishery for harvest and could inflate the numbers of wild steelhead in the basin.

The agencies and tribes use the term "natural steelhead" so they can include the offspring of hatchery spawners or unmarked hatchery fish as part of the wild steelhead escapement goal. According to some NMFS staff, the agency is giving up on conservation issues where they were trying to stand pat.

NMFS spokesman Jones said, "NMFS doesn't consider every fish to be the same, and, through their conservation policy, they are trying to preserve stock structure that has proven to be successful. But some tribes don't agree," said Jones "and fear that any distinction given a run of fish, such as calling them hatchery and wild, native or exotic, will place more pressure on the fishery and reduce fishery opportunities."

NMFS is very concerned about the tribal fishery, a point made in a recent letter from NOAA assistant secretary Terry Garcia to Ted Strong, Executive Director for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Garcia said, "we understand the importance of the federal government's efforts to allocate the conservation burden for salmonids listed under the ESA in such a way that, among other things, it does not discriminate against tribal fishing rights and is implemented in the least restrictive manner. Accordingly, the tribes may reasonably expect, as a matter of policy, that tribal fishing will be given priority over the interests of other entities, federal and non-federal, that do not stand in a trust relationship with the United States."

But, so far, NMFS has come up short on the numbers for setting a conservation policy for listed steelhead because the agency is faced with a critical lack of historical data on spawning abundance. A big problem for regional biologists has been the chore of simply counting adults returning to streams. Many steelhead, unlike salmon, spawn as water is rising in tributaries, so spawning redds are difficult, if not impossible to spot. This is especially true east of the Cascades. Biologists say privately that any numbers the agency comes up with are "wild-ass guesses." So far, NMFS has not established spawner abundance or escapement goals for any of the listed steelhead populations to help guide the fish agencies or tribes in their annual goal setting. -Bill Bakke


[3] JULY HEAT TAKES TOLL ON SALMON

40,000 juvenile fall chinook died near McNary Dam between July 11 and 14 when water temperatures rose to dangerous levels in the Columbia River. The water temperature there was recorded at more than 80 degrees F. on the afternoon of July 27. By that night it was back to 71 degrees, but the situation brought protests from fish managers and the Environmental Protection Agency, which is responsible for enforcing the federal temperature standard of 68 degrees.

But Mother Nature wasn't making things easy on fish. Eastern Washington's July turned out to be one of the hottest months on record. At Hanford, the average daily temperature of 82 degrees was just two-tenths of a degree short of tying the all-time record for that part of the state. Twenty-six days in July reached 90 degrees or more, compared to a normal 19 days.

By Aug. 5, the water at McNary was 73 degrees F. Up the Snake at Lower Granite, the water was five degrees cooler. Idaho's Dworshak reservoir with water as cool as 48 degrees was being drafted to cool the Snake.

Passage indices showed that most juveniles had passed Lower Granite before the hot weather hit, evidently migrating out after the heavy precipitation during the first part of July. According to Corps spokesman
Frasier River
Doug Arndt, with moderating air temperatures, the extreme heat problem for fish is over for now, with most fall migrants now below McNary. He said high temperatures weren't just a problem in the mainstem, with unofficial measurements hitting the Grande Ronde River at 75 degrees last week. Up on the Salmon River, the water was reported to be 71 degrees, and the Snake below Hells Canyon was up to 76 degrees.

The annual issue of whether the reservoirs are creating temperature problems on the mainstem rivers hit all the papers when the juvenile fish died. But a few hundred miles to the north, fish in BC's Fraser River were facing big problems. With no dams to deal with, adult sockeye migrating to their spawning grounds encountered 70 degree F. water at Hells Gate, the highest temperature ever recorded there, according to the Pacific Salmon Commission. By Aug. 6, the Fraser was around 65 degrees, but the commission reported that enroute mortalities had been observed, and pre-spawning mortality was averaging 36 percent for female sockeye. Canadian aurhotirites put ther commercial fisheries on hold to ensure escapements are adequate. -Bill Rudolph


[4] TESTIMONY HEARD ON STAKEHOLDER LEGISLATION

Pendleton, Oregon had its first Senate hearing last week when eastside Senator Gordon Smith heard testimony on his bill that would insure input from major economic interests before any Columbia River governance structure is created. Critics see its passage as a near death blow to the Three Sovereigns Process, in which states, federal agencies and 13 tribes are trying to hammer out a new model for governing the basin without giving up any autonomy. But Smith said his bill was neither an endorsement nor a rejection of the process, and noted that that it was already partially successful because language that outlines more opportunity for public involvement has been added to the latest draft of the river governance proposal.

Smith's bill calls for creation of a committee with representatives from local governments, BPA customers, ports, shippers, irrigators, environmentalists, forest land owners and livestock grazers to formalize their input to federal agencies before they can enter into any agreements with states, local governments, tribes or private entities.

Spokesman Danny Consenstein of the National Marine Fisheries Service said his agency was opposed to the bill because "it unnecessarily restricts the governments and other parties in the region from designing an effective regional forum to foster collaboration on fish and wildlife issues in the Columbia Basin." He said NMFS isn't convinced that a federally chartered advisory agency "is either the only way, or the best way, to meet the needs of the interested public in the Pacific Northwest." Consenstein pointed out that the latest Three Sovereigns draft MOU included a new section on public involvement and is under public review.

The Corps of Engineers was represented by Col. Eric Mogren who testified that the bill could "greatly restrict the Corps' flexibility and ability to effectively accomplish its missions." He told Smith that his agency routinely enters into multiple agreements with other federal agencies, tribes or other entities for everything from cultural resource protection to hatchery construction, to water releases, any one of which could fall within the scope of the proposed bill.

Former Idaho Senator James McClure represented a coalition of industrial electrical customers who supported Smith's bill. He said the proposal was an example of incremental change that would keep the federal power system intact, rather than enacting complex legislation that would put the system "up for grabs."

The proposal also received support from representatives of electrical coops, river ports, and wheat growers, Oregon legislator David Nelson. He said NMFS caused "dissension, strife and discord" among the users of the river. "Their policies will fail to sustain our natural resources because they do not have public support or confidence. The recent decision by Judge Stewart [rejecting NMFS' acceptance of Oregon's coho plan] strongly rebuked the NMFS for incomplete information and failure to even consider the 'foreseeable future' standard of the ESA. The entire case smacks of incompetence by NMFS."

But more opposition to Smith's bill came from sportsfishing industry spokesperson Liz Hamilton and Umatilla tribal leader Gary James, who both kept faith in the Three Sovereigns process. Hamilton said the committee called for in the Smith legislation appeared to be heavily weighted toward industrial river users and could continue to strangle the region with delay. She said regional consensus "can and must be worked out if we are to protect the public purposes provided to the citizens of the basin by the Columbia River system."

Grower Bud Mercer from Prosser, WA, said the bill raised real issues because it tries to deal with the exclusion of the direct stakeholders from the river governance process. The farmers who generate the $5-$7 billion annual household income from the irrigated agriculture industry. Mercer had harsh words for what he termed the "salmon recovery industry" of agency staffs and consultants, "as well as others preying on the recovery process."

Mercer said the salmon recovery industry hasn't produced more fish or even a recovery plan that most of the region could accept, and has spent billions in the meantime.

Along the way, he said the recovery industry has created needless regional conflicts and "has proposed unrealistic schemes to destroy the basic infrastructure of the Northwest, with little or no promise of providing meaningful results for salmon."

He said key economic stakeholders have been relegated to meaningless forums and Smith's bill would assure that they would get a key role in decision-making. Mercer said the region needs "a process that includes elected officials, tribal leaders, and the economic stakeholders--and downplays the influence of the salmon recovery industry," instead of deliberating over drastic measures the region will never support.

Oregon Power Council member John Brogoitti used his testimony time to stump for the Council's framework process that state tribal and federal entities would use to build a coherent set of goals "based on scientific principles that recognize the vital connection between the river and a whole range of species--including humans."

He spelled out the process that would use feedback between scientists and policymakers to develop the salmon recovery options "that best meet all the region's needs." Brogoitti said the framework won't change things overnight, "but it's the best chance we have." -Bill Rudolph


[5] SLOW PROGRESS FOR FUNDING FRAMEWORK PROCESS

A new Power Planning Council process designed to get the scientific framework for Columbia Basin fish and wildlife programs rolling has temporarily stalled over questions raised by tribal spokesmen.

On July 29, Council members met by phone to OK language that asks BPA for nearly $900,000 for the first phase of the process.

But representatives of tribal interests had concerns about the process, which were raised by Howard Funke, attorney for the Spokane and Coeur d'Alene Tribes, and John Platt of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

While Funke and Platt said issues must be added for serious consultation, neither mentioned anything very specific. Earlier, they had complained about the framework process as a duplicative effort, and pointed to the three-person panel as such an example.

Council member Stan Grace from Montana said the tribes had a week to clear up their concerns, but the Council's letter would be sent to BPA Aug. 5 whether they were on board or not.

"That's just noise as far as I'm concerned," said Grace after the call. "All the Council members said it's time to move."

Idaho Council member Mike Field called the wait "a zig," but said the Council had made forward progress.

The initial funding would expand the process from the three-person panel that now represents state, tribal and federal interests. States are represented by Oregon Power Council member John Brogoitti, the feds by NMFS policymaker Danny Consenstein, and interim tribal representation has been handled by consultant Roy Sampsel. Council members are ready to hire Sampsel full-time, although some questions have been raised about how his presence would represent the tribes.

The Council has decided that each panel member would be assisted by a four-person advisory group, and that seems to be where the tribes have a problem. It's been a thorny issue in the ongoing Three Sovereign deliberations--how to distill the presence of all 13 tribes in the Columbia Basin into a smaller group that would represent them all. Four individuals now represent tribes at Three Sovereigns deliberations, and they are concerned about how tribal representation would play out in the three-person panel, now handled by Sampsel in interim fashion.

Council member Grace was succinct. "No matter how many people they have to represent them, they still only get one vote."

The three-person panel would not really deal with fish and wildlife policy, said Field, but would oversee the framework process. At present, that would include several panels, one to do science, another to deal with social and economic implications, and a policy panel that would bring together the different parts and decide what the region can do, politically and economically.

Field said he thinks there is some confusion when in fact it is clear that the three-person panel will not decide policy. That will come later and form the basis for the latest update of the Basin's fish and wildlife program.

The July 22 draft of the letter to BPA from the Council emphasizes the cooperative nature of the process. "We intend the process to be managed collaboratively by tribal, state and federal governments in cooperation with other regional interests. We will continue to work with those governments to define the appropriate management structure and to address all other issues of concern. The framework will be a basis for regional decision-making, not a substitute for regional governance."

But others privy to the process say that the framework will only dilute any mandate for the slow-moving Three Sovereigns process, which is still struggling to develop a structure, or--as one player observed--"they're still talking about the shape of the table."

Meanwhile, Council members have said things must get moving if the work is to be completed before NMFS' early 1999 decision point for a judgment on long-term strategies for salmon recovery.

The letter to BPA was sent on Aug. 5 as planned, but not before more wrangling over issues. On Aug. 3 the parties met again and when pressed, Funke said he had problems with the proposed scientific principles expressed in a Council document because it was biased towards restoration of native species, rather than using substitute species in the resident fish program. Council staffer Chip McConnaha said the wording may have set off alarms, but it was not intentional. He said he would report at the end of the month on how the scientific principles were developed.

On Aug. 5, the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority sent a letter to BPA and the Power Council supporting the framework process with eight conditions, including support for the 12-person work group and adding one or two more spots to the science panel for more representation of "resident fish and resident fish substitution for anadromous fish loss (i.e., above blocked areas) issues, and tribal perspectives."

But the letter went to BPA without adding the CBFWA conditions, with its language indicating that the Power Council feels the framework process has considerable support throughout the region. "We, the National Marine Fisheries Service and others see the process as playing an important role in generating the kind of information and debate that will be needed as the region considers proposals for major change in the Columbia River system."

The Council has revised its projected costs for the framework exercise down to $2.5 million from $3.4 million. -B.R.


[6] KEMPTHORNE AMENDMENT WOULD ADD $46 MILLION TO SALMON RECOVERY

Sen. Dirk Kempthorne (R-ID) has pushed more dollars towards salmon recovery in an amendment to a spending bill that passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week. If it gets through Congress, the amendment to the Water Resources Development Act would add $46 million to the regional effort to save fish, with most of it going to the study and development of "fish-friendly" turbines.

Kempthorne has secured funding for turbine development in the past, and a prototype machine now waits at Bonneville Dam for installation and testing. Kempthorne staffer Jim Tate said some of the new funds will make that happen. "Right now the turbine is sitting at Bonneville on the floor," he said.

Kempthorne's amendment allocates $15 million in FY '99 and $20 million in FY '00 for prototype testing and new turbines. Tate said it makes more fiscal sense to replace old turbines as they age, so it would be a gradual process to retrofit the entire hydro system.

How much benefit do the new turbines hold for fish? According to Tate, initial tests have shown survival rates of up to 98 percent with the new design. If the bill is approved, he said $4 million would be appropriated this year for testing at Bonneville. Biologists say with new turbines at all eight dams, fish survival in the river could improve by 25 percent.

Over the past four years, the turbine design project has already cost a little over $4 million in research led by Voith Hydro, with funds provided through the Idaho Engineering and Environmental Laboratory of the Department of Energy.

Kempthorne's amendment also calls for $10 million to study juvenile salmon survival in spawning and near-ocean areas and impacts on salmon life cycles other than dams. In addition, it adds money to study development of a germ plasm repository for threatened and endangered fish. According to a fact sheet from Kempthorne's office, the repository "should be designed to be used at a later time should current stocks become extinct or domesticated to the point where they are no longer useful. Successful development of a gene bank will be less costly, and more likely to succeed than the current program of maintaining adult stock in captivity."

The bill would authorize spending a million dollars for the management of cormorant and tern populations to reduce predation on juvenile salmon near the mouth of the Columbia. The senator's office said the Corps of Engineers has recently determined that birds nesting in the estuary eat up to 50 percent of the salmon and steelhead migrating to the sea.

On another note, Kempthorne waded into the larger problem of Corps funding for next year. So far, the Senate has proposed $97 million for the Corps' salmon program. But the House, using the issue as a pawn in a larger game to pressure the Administration's budgeteers, has only offered the Corps $8 million for the next fiscal year. The final budget is expected to be hashed out by a conference committee after the summer congressional recess.

Kempthorne on July 29 sent a letter to fellow Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), chair of the Appropriations Committee, urging him to stand firm. In addition to the larger Corps reductions, the House version cuts in half the $4 million Kempthorne wants for turbine testing. The Idaho senator said the House cuts "will bring mitigation for all stocks to a halt, and severely affect the mandated recovery program for those stocks that are listed under the ESA." -B.R.


[7] GORTON WANTS CORPS DRAWDOWN SURVEY DROPPED

Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA) sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers last month, recommending the agency abandon a planned survey to gauge public attitudes toward drawing down reservoirs in the Columbia basin. The survey is part of an effort on the Corps' part to study social and economic effects of potential salmon recovery strategies.

In the July 28 letter, Gorton told Lt. General Joe N. Ballard, commander of the Corps in Washington DC, that he had "serious concerns" about the survey.

"In many instances," said Gorton, "I have expressed concern that the survey appears to mislead the respondent and asks questions that steer the respondent towards a specific conclusion: breaching or removing lower Snake River dams."

Corps spokesman Dutch Meier, of the Walla Walla District, said the survey is just one of the tools framed as part of the decision-making process, and hasn't been finalized; rather, it has about half a dozen iterations at the moment. Meier said questions focused on the recreational impacts of drawdowns, but the Corps was "taking stock" of Gorton's concerns.

"The survey has not been fielded," said Meier, adding that so far, all that has been completed is a test involving 150 individuals "to refine the product." He said a controversy was created when politicians found out that the Corps paid respondents. They received $2 for returning questions and were promised another $10 if they submitted to a lengthy phone interview. Meier said about 100 people responded originally and another 60 said they would be willing to be interviewed over the phone.

At that point, "the process froze in place," said the Corps spokesman. The survey was designed to cover a five-state region, including northern California. Meier said no plan has been finalized yet.

Gorton wants the agency to find other ways to assess impacts and told the Corps that many community leaders in the region felt the same way.

The July 28 letter was released a day before an op-ed piece appeared in the Seattle Times by Katie McGinty, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, that took Gorton to task for sponsoring an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill that would "micromanage" natural resources in the Northwest from Washington DC. Gorton's language would make sure Congress had to approve any major changes in the operation of the hydro system. -B.R.


[8] TACOMA, TRIBE WANT REHEARING OVER CUSHMAN RELICENSE

Both Tacoma Power and the Skokomish Indian Tribe will challenge the new license FERC issued two weeks ago for Tacoma Power's Cushman hydroelectric project. Superintendent Steve Klein said Tacoma Power will ask FERC for a re-hearing and a stay of the new license, which FERC staff estimated would generate a negative net benefit of $2.5 million per year for his utility. The Skokomish Tribe will ask for rehearing because the environmental safeguards FERC included in the relicense are "totally inadequate to protect the tribe and the general public," said tribal chairman Gordon James.

Tacoma's 124 MW Cushman project has been in relicensing for 24 years. When FERC issued its final environmental impact statement on the project in November 1996, Tacoma Power said the operating conditions called for in the FEIS would make the project uneconomic to operate. While FERC made some changes in its final relicense, Klein said Tacoma Power would lose a minimum of $2.5 million annually to meet the relicensing conditions. "How can you argue [over] one thing or the other if the patient is already dead?"

The FERC license would require Tacoma Power to develop and install upstream and downstream fish passage facilities at the two-dam Cushman project; maintain minimum annual instream flows of 240 cfs, or inflow--whichever is less--from Dam No. 2 into Lake Cushman; monitor fish habitat and populations in the North Fork of the Skokomish below the dam; develop wildlife and aquatic habitat plans; and obtain conservation easements on some parcels of land to protect habitat.

The license also grants requests from the Departments of Interior and Commerce to reserve their authority to require additional fish mitigation measures and recommends an "adaptive management approach" for determining future fishery and flow management activities, in the event of ESA listings for the Hood River summer run chum or Puget Sound chinook salmon.

Klein said such post-relicensing studies "open the door to add more [mitigation requirements]" beyond those included in the relicense order. But the bottom line is "the horse is already dead"--Tacoma cannot afford to operate Cushman under the requirements of FERC's relicense.

The Skokomish Indian Tribe will also challenge the license--but the tribe believes it doesn't do enough to mitigate the project's impact on the tribe, whose fishery on the North Fork Skokomish River was damaged by the project's construction in 1924. "FERC has always been more concerned about Tacoma's pocketbook than their fiduciary responsibility to protect the interests of the Skokomish," said tribal spokesman Victor Martino.

In a July 28 letter to FERC on the agency's 1996 Cushman final EIS, the tribe asked the commission to require Tacoma to convey some property to tribal ownership and provide a $15 million lump sum to a trust fund during the first year of the relicense and $850,000 annually, adjusted for inflation, for the next 50 years to cover the tribe's "high priority fish and wildlife mitigation measures." FERC rejected those requests as beyond the commission's authority. "The conditions the Skokomish Tribe seeks are, in essence, a request for assessment of damages," the commission said; and it "has no authority to adjudicate claims for, or require payment of, damages."

The Skokomish also claim the Cushman project caused $5.7 billion in economic damages to the tribe between 1926 and 1997. Martino said the tribe will file claims against both the city of Tacoma and the federal government for recovery of those damages. "Both parties are culpable," Martino said. "The federal government admits they never licensed any Cushman hydro facilities"--thus allowing damages to the tribe--and "Tacoma knew it had no license."

But Martino also said the tribe's goal is to get a settlement. "We've always compromised and said we want water back in the river," Martino asserted, when what the tribe would prefer is decommissioning of the Cushman project.

They may eventually get what they want. While Tacoma doesn't have to accept or reject the license until its request for an appeal has been decided, attorney Mike Swiger said the city has always said it would decommission the project "rather than accept a grossly uneconomic license." But such a decision is still several years away. If FERC rejects the request for rehearing, both Tacoma and the Skokomish can take the issue to federal district court and, ultimately, the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, still pending is a US District Court civil suit, filed by the US Department of Justice in 1996, alleging the city of Tacoma illegally condemned and trespassed on Skokomish Tribal lands when it built the Cushman project. That case was originally set for trial Sept. 21, 1998, but has been postponed. A round of briefs is due Sept. 10 on liability only; if there is a liability determination, the court will schedule a second proceeding on damages. -Jude Noland


[9] AMERICAN RIVERS' BODI WILL WORK FOR BPA

American Rivers' Lori Bodi says she has agreed to accept BPA's job offer for a senior management position dealing with fish issues, but details of the arrangement are still being worked out. "I've accepted it," Bodi said. "I think we have a meeting of the minds and we are now trying to execute it."

Bodi, who previously worked for NMFS, will provide advice to Administrator Judi Johansen. She said she will work with Alex Smith, BPA VP of environment/F&W; Bob Lohn, BPA F&W manager; Mark Maher, VP of generation supply and others on the Bonneville staff "to try to have a common approach." She said she feels she and Johansen have "a good sense of common purpose. We'd both like to get a plan so that we can start having greater accountability and predictability." -Ben Tansey


[10] FEDS LIST OREGON COASTAL COHO UNDER ESA

The National Marine Fisheries Service on Aug. 3 said coho on the Oregon coast would be listed as threatened under terms of the Endangered Species Act. The listing came after a federal judge in Portland ruled in June that NMFS' acceptance of Oregon's plan to recover the stocks was no reason not to list the fish because it was based on promises and volunteer efforts. The judge gave the feds until Aug. 3 to come up with a decision. The ruling came after environmental groups sued; both NMFS and Oregon have appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court.

NMFS regional administrator Will Stelle said the Oregon plan is still the right thing to do. "It was good for the fish last year and it remains good for the fish today." NMFS hopes the Oregon plan will serve as a prototype for recovery of weak fish stocks along the entire West Coast.

The plan was pushed hard by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and used a mix of voluntary efforts, habitat restoration and harvest reforms. It had the unusual feature of being half-funded ($14 million) through a tax on the state's timber industry, which promised to pay its share as long as the fish weren't listed--a condition that was written into law. Industry spokesmen said they will stick with the plan and change the law to keep the tax alive. Such a change will require a special session of the state legislature. -B.R.

***Subscriptions and Feedback***
Subscribe to the Fishletter notification e-mail list.
Send e-mail comments to the editor.

***Link/Document Annex***
Works Cited

LINKS/DOCUMENTS FROM NW FISHLETTER 064:: Below are listed links and documents referred to in the text of NW Fishletter issue 064.

THE ARCHIVE :: Previous NW Fishletter issues and supporting documents.



NW Fishletter is produced by Energy NewsData.
Publisher: Cyrus Noë, Editor: Bill Rudolph,
Phone: (206) 285-4848 Fax: (206) 281-8035
Contributing Editors: Bill Bakke and Jude Noland

If you would like to be notified when the next NW Fishletter is published online, send an e-mail message to webmaster.com with "Subscribe NW Fishletter" in the subject line and your name and e-mail address in the body.


Home

Please contact webmaster.com,
with questions or comments on this site
.

Copyright ©2002 Energy NewsData Corporation