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NWF.068/Oct.06.1998
[1] Gloves Come Off Over Salmon Models
[2] Terns Produce Database Bonanza in Estuary
[3] Twice Tagged Salmon Runs Out of Luck
[4] Panel Says Region Needs Unified Fish Plan
[5] Corps Spending Bubble Bursts
[6] Council Budget Approved at $131.4 Million
[7] WA Salmon Recovery Process Plan Revs Up
[8] McGinty To Leave Top Environmental Spot at White House

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[1] GLOVES COME OFF OVER SALMON MODELS

BPA scientists and other consultants involved in the PATH process complained loud and long about a report unveiled at last Thursday's IT meeting that provided little support for the agency's salmon passage model, CRiSP.

Their complaints brought to the surface of salmon recovery a long-simmering dissatisfaction with the PATH process. They told regional salmon policy makers that the review had left out much important information, notably research conducted over the past few years that has failed to show a relationship between increased river flows and improved survival of juvenile chinook in the Snake River.

Some regional scientists have been confounded since the word leaked out a week ago that the four independent reviewers who "weighed the evidence" over seven key certainties found the CRiSP model less convincing than the state and tribal model, FLUSH, which relies on a strong flow/survival relationship. The CRiSP model predicts higher system survival and better results from transporting fish than FLUSH, which assumes survival rates are pretty much the same as they were in the late 1970s when the dams on the Snake were completed. The reviewers decided that CRiSP results were too optimistic.

None of the reviewers gave the CRiSP model better than a 35 percent weight (out of 100 percent), while one gave the FLUSH model the nod by 90 percent. But both passage models were criticized for being too complicated, especially CRiSP, which has been developed to reflect the latest juvenile survival studies with PIT tags. These show little if any correlation between increased mainstem flows and improved fish survivals. The FLUSH model maintains that a relationship does exist and that the rate of fish mortality increases the longer a salmon takes to pass through the hydro system.

Newest Research Ignored by Review Panel

It was evident from the panel's written remarks that most were not even aware of PIT tag results from the past few years that show no correlation between flows and survival of spring chinook--results that were reviewed later by NMFS scientists at the same meeting. One earlier PATH reviewer, who had suggested using the most recent survival data in the deliberations, did not take part in the weighing of evidence exercise.

Panel members included Carl Walters from the University of British Columbia, Jeremy Collie and Saul Saila from the University of Rhode Island, and Steve Carpenter from the University of Wisconsin.

Salia said FLUSH had a stronger empirical basis because of evidence of a strong flow/survival relationship based on work with Atlantic salmon.

The panel also felt there was little evidence of periodic cycles in the ocean affecting productivity. And they felt that the benefits from removing predators was only a short-term answer. Walters wrote that "CRiSP needs a 'demon in the ocean' to explain decline in smolt adult returns (SARs), but declines in SARs of other stocks that live in the same place in the ocean are not as severe and start later than declines in the Columbia."

After PATH facilitator David Marmorek talked about the process that weighed the models' credibility, based on "evidence related to key uncertainties," he described modeling results from the weighted evidence to assess possible outcomes of three potential future strategies that PATH modelers looked at: the present BiOp, another option that maximizes transportation, and a third that would breach the four lower Snake dams.

Dam removal came out as the best chance for achieving the 100-year NMFS jeopardy standard. But both present BiOp and max transport strategies came out with about 70 percent of the model runs achieving the standard, compared to nearly 90 percent achieving the standard from dam removal.

None of the options quite reached the 24-year jeopardy standard, with dam removal slightly higher than the other options.

Both the present BiOp and maximum transport options failed to meet the 48-year recovery standard, but results were much better for the dam removal option, with about 80 percent of the model simulations passing the 48-year standard. Marmorek explained these results came about because the weighting process had downgraded the climate regime hypotheses, which in PATH modeling calls for good conditions between the years 2005 and 2035. He pointed out that the last eight years of the 48 would be in a "bad regime."

CRiSP modeler Jim Anderson of the University of Washington told the packed room that he agreed the models should be simpler, but he said the FLUSH model was not even available to all PATH participants. Though the panel did a "fairly good job," he charged that they were "misinformed on many elements of the process." He said he hoped comment would be allowed to address the inconsistencies in the panel's conclusions.

FLUSH modeler Howard Schaller of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife disagreed, saying the panel had been looking at different pieces of PATH information for the past two years.

"They are aware of different points of view of the different PATH participants," Schaller said.

But BPA's Jim Geiselman, another PATH member, said that additional information needed to be provided to the review panel. He said his agency objected to the weight of evidence process, partly because it failed to include effects of harvest, habitat or hatcheries.

He cited an earlier panel review of the PATH process, which called its focus on passage through the hydro system "shortsighted," because of a total preoccupation on a single life stage of the salmon.

Advice on Experimental Options Criticized

The weight of evidence panel also suggested options for experimental management actions that offered two directions--incrementally--either by removing dams, shutting down hatcheries and transporting fish, one strategy at a time, or by implementing what they called the "reverse staircase" alternative. This means breaching the dams, shutting hatcheries down and stopping transport now, "then turn dams, hatcheries, or transportation back on one at a time."

The panel said this was the more likely way to lead to stock recovery, but would have higher up-front costs.

Consultant John Pizzimenti of Harza Engineering told IT members about the projected costs and timelines of some options, like the fact that construction costs would run $967 million just to implement drawdown at John Day, while tearing out the embankments at the four lower Snake dams would run between $600 million and a billion dollars.

"This won't even pass the laugh test in the outside world," said Pizzimenti of the panel's recommendations. "What about changing hatchery practices, rather than closing them?" He asked, noting that some were successful, others not.

Marmorek replied that participants are facing tight deadlines; many are working on fall chinook issues and have no time to work on the weighting issues. But he flashed a hastily scribbled overhead that showed BPA consultants had literally weighed in with a pile of documents that weighed about as much as that of the FLUSH camp, around a pound a piece. He also said factors such as hatcheries and bird predation had already been considered as other mortality in the PATH process.

Geiselman pressed for another iteration before the report is finalized "to include our concerns," but others pointed out that PATH deadlines are designed to mesh with development on the Corps' draft EIS on the Snake River Drawdown Feasibility Study.

Marmorek agreed that there was disagreement over the weighting process, but he said he thought the overall process was "healthy."

Ironically, the next item on the IT's agenda was a presentation by NMFS statistician Steve Smith, who discussed preliminary results from the 1998 PIT tag work. These added to earlier results that go back to 1994 and show that within years, there is no correlation between flow and survival of spring chinook in the Snake River. He did add that there is a weak correlation among different years that is consistent with data from the 1970's. Smith said steelhead showed the same basic trends, but fall chinook showed a flow survival relationship in the Snake from their release point to Lower Granite Dam. But he said the fall chinook picture could be confounded by other variables, such as water temperature and turbidity. Below Lower Granite, he said the picture is less clear.

Smith's review was a perfect introduction for the next presentation. Consultants Darryll Olsen and Harza's Pizzimenti described various elements of their white paper on flow augmentation. Their report, also based on the new PIT tag information, says there is no biological benefit from augmenting spring flows, which cost between $50 million and $250 million a year. They suggested saving water for fall chinook may make more sense, although the biological benefits of that strategy are still unclear as well.

Pizzimenti reminded the group of the late Don Bevan's remarks, who as chair of the Snake salmon recovery team said, "If there's something we can do for salmon, it could be in the late summer or fall." The Bevan Team, in its own 1995 report, had found spring flow augmentation of dubious value.

Later, the PATH controversy flared up again. As part of Olsen's review, Anderson described the history of fish survival studies in the region and pointed out a number of reports, including Smith's, that had not been "looked at in any detail in the PATH process."

FLUSH modelers said they had received the new data, but when pressed, said they did not have the "within-year data."

NMFS' Smith said he had sent the FLUSH folks the new work, but had not included the within-year findings. After a bit of discussion, state and tribal modelers admitted their FLUSH model is constructed in such a way that it is unable to use data that breaks timelines down to lengths of less than a year.

NMFS policymaker Brian Brown seemed interested and called for a full review of all flow augmentation alternatives. The meeting ended with a report by Idaho water policy manager Karl Dreher, whose own study has found that augmenting spring flows in the Snake does little to actually speed up water particle travel time, something fish managers have long felt improves survival of chinook. Smith's earlier report showed PIT tag research has found a correlation between flow and travel time, but cannot relate it to actual survival of spring chinook. -Bill Rudolph


[2] TERNS PRODUCE DATABASE BONANZA IN COLUMBIA ESTUARY

A sudden bonanza of PIT-tag data has delighted researchers studying bird predation in the Columbia River estuary, where a huge colony of terns has taken up residence on an island created by dredging spoils. The avian predators eat millions of salmon smolts annually. Since many of those fish carried tiny PIT tags, the site has become a Treasure Island for passive integrated transponders.

In a 1997 study done by Oregon State University and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, scientists found a thousand PIT tags on the island, which had passed through the birds' digestive systems and been deposited on the sand.

But a new wrinkle developed by federal scientists has suddenly provided researchers with 40 times more data than they had previously collected, and they say analysis of the PIT tags could provide a major step in developing accurate fish survival estimates to the estuary.

The problem is simple. In order to get survival estimates to below Bonneville Dam, researchers must detect fish at a point downstream from the dam. So far, a trawl net has been used, with limited, but increasing effectiveness.

The tiny transponders--about the size of a grain of rice--are injected into thousands of smolts and used to track smolt migration from the Snake River for passage survival studies of both hatchery and wild fish. The tag system has become an integral part of fish transportation studies. Each fish has a unique code that signals when it passes through a detector-until something eats it, like a bird.

Up until now, the tiny tags were found by eye or a laborious process of sifting sand. But NMFS technicians have developed a new method that makes use of a flat plate detector pulled by a jeep. It has worked beyond expectations, adding several thousand new detections to the Rice Island database every day since it was put into use.

The total number of new data detections is now over 40,000, according to NMFS scientist Dick Ledgerwood, who calls the PIT tag data boom "an absolute gold mine."

A study of avian predation that began in 1997 found over a thousand PIT tags in the tern colony and estimated that over 30,000 of them have been deposited there over the last nine years. The study figured that terns consumed six million to 25 million smolts in 1997, out of the approximately 100 million juvenile salmon that reached the estuary.

The work has spurred an effort to move the terns to another part of the estuary, where the birds' eating habits would be more diversified. Young salmon make up about 75 percent of the terns' diet from May through August. Cormorants are significant predators as well, with salmon making up about 24 percent of their diet. Gulls are far less dependent on salmon, which comprise about 11 percent of their diet.

With the new collection method, the NMFS researcher said most of the island has been about covered once, and plans call for covering the 6- to 12-acre site twice more, depending on the weather. By the first week in October, Ledgerwood said his jeep was ready to make a second pass over the island at a 90-degree angle to the first survey. So far, about 20 percent of the latest detections were in the "new" category.

About 9,600 PIT tags from the 1998 smolt migration had been recorded by Sept. 23. That's about double the 5,000 detections picked up by the net in the river this year. With about 30,000 fish detected at Bonneville Dam this year, the large number of detections downriver may be able to provide much more robust survival estimates of fish in the hydro system, said Ledgerwood.

As for the amount of salmon consumed by birds, NMFS biologist Herb Pollard thinks the 1997 study may have seriously underestimated the number. In remarks that address the 1997 draft annual report of the study, Pollard said nesting cormorants may eat more than six million smolts all by themselves. And during each May, gulls could pack away another 1.5 million smolts.

He figures the study's best estimate of tern predation accounting for the loss of about 12 million smolts may be discounting the effects of gulls and cormorants in the spring, when losses from avian predation could range from 24 percent to 70 percent.

If this is true, Pollard said, the birds are a "major" factor in the declining status of Columbia River fish runs, "and have effectively canceled millions of dollars in mitigation and restoration actions."

The NMFS biologist pointed out if the estimates are "anywhere close to correct," the cost to the region is in the tens of millions annually and "hundreds of thousands of adults lost to spawning escapements and fisheries." He said fishery agencies should not delay in reducing predation before next year's migration.

But Pollard cautioned against expecting too much from PIT tags. Samples could be biased if birds are targeting larger hatchery fish, for instance, to bring back to their nests, while consuming smaller fish, whose PIT tags would likely be deposited en route to the colony.

A pilot study by researchers from Oregon State University is investigating relocation of the 8,000 nesting pairs of terns, a population that represents the entire breeding population of terns along the coasts of Washington and Oregon, and a 600 percent increase in the colony's size since 1987. Decoy terns and speakers broadcasting a 24-hour bird call are being used to lure the terns some miles downriver to Miller Sands, a location with a more diverse prey base.

But the estuary isn't the only place in the Columbia River where birds have been a problem. About 3,000 PIT tags have been recovered from two islands below the confluence of the Walla Walla and the Columbia rivers, south of the Tri-Cities area.

An agreement has been signed among the Corps of Engineers, NMFS and US Fish and Wildlife to make the avian predation problem a top priority, according to Corps spokesman Doug Arndt. Idaho Republican Sen. Dirk Kempthorne will hold a hearing on the subject Oct. 8 in Washington, DC. -Bill Rudolph


[3] TWICE TAGGED CHINOOK RUNS OUT OF LUCK

NMFS Researcher Gene Matthews won the Columbia Basin’s equivalent of the lottery last August when he found an adult chinook on the banks of Bear Valley Creek on the spawning grounds in Idaho’s Sawtooth Range. The fish, which weighed close to 40 pounds, wore a metal tag that had been clipped to its jaw months earlier by the NMFS crew at Lower Granite Dam several hundred miles downstream. The fish had been tagged by the same crew that Matthews has worked with for years, a goup who have tagged and tracked salmon going both ways for the past 20 years. The odds of such a find are almost beyond comprehension.

Spring chinook "C 5025" was one of about fifty adult spring salmon tagged out of the nearly five thousand wild fish that passed the dam in the spring and early summer of 1998. It was singled out because the fish had been PIT tagged (#224F654D44) as a juvenile three years earlier. When the grown up salmon passed the detector in the fish ladder at Lower Granite, the transponder it still carried triggered a mechanical device that shunted the salmon into a trap where researchers could get a closer look at it.

The PIT tag had been injected into its body cavity on May 1, 1995 at Lower Granite Dam, where the fish was pumped aboard a barge and given a free ride to below Bonneville Dam, 40 hours away by towboat. From there, it survived the largest squawfish concentration in the river, swam past the biggest tern colony on the West Coast and finally hit the ocean, where it survived schools of mackerel and two more years of some of the hottest North Pacific temperatures ever recorded.

Three years later, almost to the day, the same fish tripped the trap at the same dam on May 22, 1998. The NMFS log filled out upon its return showed that it was a female, 98 centimeters long, and bore marks from an encounter with harbor seals, with no open wounds observable.

Then, last August, Matthews and co-worker Jerry Harmon found its body while they were taking part in a spawning survey, part of another crew PIT tagging juveniles at Idaho’s Bear Valley Creek, a stream that later turns into the middle fork of the Salmon River. The two scientists had scrambled down an embankment from where they had parked their vehicle when they spotted the dead fish, lying on the bank, practically at their feet.

The spawning area was of medium size and contained 30 to 40 adults. It was located nearly 6,300 feet above sea level, where the stream meanders through large alpine meadows and occasional clumps of trees.

Matthews saw a large puncture wound behind the gills of the tagged salmon and eggs were spewing out of the hole. The salmon could easily have carried 5,000 eggs, bringing them this far, only to die before it could spawn, victimized most probably by a gaff wielding poacher or escaped
NMFS researcher now sports recovered
jaw tag from spring chinook.
somehow from a ceremonial taking by a Shoshone-Bannock tribal fisherman. The fish had not yet dug a redd, for its tail showed no signs of wear.

The crew was 300 miles or so from Lower Granite Dam when they found "Steel Coffin Mary," as she was dubbed by the crew, part of a very special brood year that was being tagged extensively. The region has been watching its returns for the past two years, to examine the effectiveness of barging fish.

NMFS personnel had hoped the overall return rate for the stock would be as much as two percent—a number that most fish managers would agree could lead to recovery of the endangered stock. For awhile, biologists were optimistic about this year’s returns, pointing to the good number of springs returning last year, the two-years-at-sea wild fish that came back in 1997. They were hoping for another abundant year when the "three-ocean" fish returned.

But that component has turned out to be a major disappointment. The wild fish smolt-to adult return ratio only ended up at about .37 percent. That means less than four adults came back for every 1,000 juveniles that left Idaho rearing grounds Even hatchery fish from Idaho came back with a better percentage-- .53 percent

Another puzzling fact: the number of returning chinook jacks (precocious males that return a year early) from the previous year did not signal such a downturn. Idaho Fish and Game’s more conservative estimates of returning fish were not even reached half-way.

Matthews is convinced something devastated the run, but whatever it was wiped the fish out as adults. Overfishing is one of the usual suspects, but high seas driftnetting for salmon by foreign fleets is now illegal, and there is little evidence of much pirating taking place. Disease is another possibility—high ocean temperatures can lead to mortalities from bacteria that are harmless when the sea is cooler. The recent El Niño event and generally high ocean temperatures may have played a role. But the puzzle gets even tougher. Usually, the wild fish returns are at least three times higher than from hatchery fish. This year, the wild run was less productive.

But even under these conditions, the wild transported spring chinook returned at 2.2 times the rate of wild fish that migrated inriver. Still, better returns are needed to rebuild stocks, although there is some evidence that there are now more salmon in streams like Bear Valley Creek than there were in the 1940s. A 1941 survey by the US Fish and Wildlife Service counted 17 live salmon on the spawning beds and six redds, nearly 40 years before any dams were constructed on the lower Snake River.

The survey reported that the creek "formerly supported a large run of chinook salmon," but like other nearby streams, "in the last 20 years, particularly in the decade preceding 1940, the run had been almost exterminated by the former unrestricted practice of spearing salmon on the spawning beds." -Bill Rudolph


[4] PANEL SAYS REGION NEEDS UNIFIED FISH PLAN

The Northwest needs a single, unified, basin-wide, scientifically-based and politically sustainable plan to recover salmon, according to panelists speaking at BPA's Columbia River Power and Benefits conference last week. The need for such a plan may not be news, but that fact that so many interests are calling for one "is a major step," according to Alexandra Smith, BPA VP for environment, fish and wildlife. She said the current situation reflects a "change in paradigm" compared to four years ago, when many interests wanted a plan--so long as it was their own. And a unified plan, she added, is one of the fundamental things the new BPA administrator has said must be achieved.

The call for a specific plan of action came in a discussion of the future fish funding principles BPA has adopted as part of its federal power subscription proposal. The principles are designed to enable BPA to continue providing low-cost power, while at same time being prepared to cover potential annual fish costs ranging from $438 million to $721 million during the 2002-2006 rate period. The spread is based on 13 scenarios that range from the status quo to dam removal.

"[Having] one plan will solve a lot of problems we have," said Dave Geiger, chief of the Army Corps' Pacific Salmon Coordination Office. Up to now, he said, "we've been pulled pillar to post" with a stream of plans that at times "literally change daily. One plan would facilitate action," he said, though warning it would be "naive" to presume that some of the proposed solutions will be accepted.

"Obviously, we need a unified plan," agreed the Sierra Club's Jim Baker. He said BPA's future fish funding principles are "a historic first step," but implored BPA to re-analyze the 13 cost scenarios it utilized to come up with the range of potential costs. BPA is looking at a likely cost of $525 million per year, he said, and that may not be enough to meet the need. "If we get to 2003 and find $525 million wasn't enough, the nation won't accept 'whoops'" as an excuse, he said. The fish principles are great, he added; "now show me the money."

Despite the consensus for a unified plan--and BPA's assertion that it intends now to focus on implementing, not modifying the future fish funding principles--there is still some doubt about the adequacy of the principles. The Public Power Council's Rob Walton said he's "concerned we may have made some mistakes in this new round of fish funding tools that culminated in the principles, and frustrated that we seem to have painted ourselves into a corner" of having to choose between a "renewable, solar-powered, non-polluting inexpensive source of electricity and the creature that is the symbol of our region"--the salmon.

Walton said more work needs to be done to determine how much BPA can spend on fish. "The power industry would be willing to spend more on salmon, but there's a major obstacle," he said, namely, "a program perceived as being fraught with contradictions, internal inconsistencies and a lack of accountability..."

Among the tribes, state and federal agencies, there are some 19 fish managers out there, Walton noted, "and each has a rational approach from their own perspective, but taken as a whole they don't have a plan that passes muster." The fish managers "have been part of the problem," he added. "They lack the discipline to construct a basin-wide program free of major inconsistencies and to demonstrate to the people they serve that they have a responsible plan to spend citizens' money that isn't just a mosaic of separate agencies trying to survive.

"We have made it too easy for them to avoid making difficult decisions, and what they have done is focus on getting more money." Walton said difficult decisions need to be made, involving both the role of artificial production and balancing treaty rights and commercial fishing with the Endangered Species Act.

Walton also laid blame on Bonneville and its customers, for a "lack of focus and convincing vision of how the river could be made fish friendly;" and on environmentalists, who he said have found it "too easy to target BPA's deep pocket without calling for the choices that are too easy to duck."

More doubts about the principles came from DSI consultant Steve Waddington, who said the negotiations leading up to the fish principles raised expectations too high, because it is merely an assemblage of plans to cover all options. "We need a goal, a plan and an adequate amount of money," he said, advising against holding all options open until there is a single plan.

Still, many regard BPA's future fish principles as a good first step to an actual plan of action for recovery. But there is still no precise process to develop such a plan.

"There are a variety of places where steps are being taken," noted BPA's Smith, "but I'm not sure we've come together on a pathway." The various places where steps are being taken, she said, include NMFS' decision--due in late 1999--on major mitigation issues; the Power Planning Council-led multi-species framework project--aimed, according to a draft document, at creating "a scientifically based framework that policy makers could use to make future decisions addressing the ongoing conflict between human activities and fish and wildlife;" and the Columbia River Basin Forum (formerly, the Three Sovereigns process), which is currently awaiting word from Northwest governors on a proposed river governance document.

"It will take everyone in the region," including the Northwest congressional delegation and the Clinton Administration, to get the plan put into place, Smith said. "The regional leadership needs to come together and figure out how this is going to work."-Ben Tansey


[5] CORPS’ SALMON SPENDING BUBBLE BURSTS

The Corps of Engineers is reeling from the huge budget cut it faces next year, down over $35 million in funding for capital improvements for salmon passage at mainstem dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. A House/Senate conference committee agreed to a compromise on mainstem capital spending that put the final figure at $60 million for next year.

The entire Northwest congressional delegation was united for more Corps spending, but that had little effect on the final outcome. The House, which played politics with the budget, had voted only $8 million for the Corps, while the Senate had voted $95 million. The Clinton Administration had asked for $112 million.

Corps spokesman Dough Arndt said his agency is already meeting with NMFS to talk about the implications for meeting conditions of the BiOp. It looks as if only about two-thirds of the "reasonable, prudent alternatives" called for in the BiOp will be funded next year.

"Any change will require a re-consultation on the 1995 BiOp," said Arndt, "because it would mean changes in the operation of the hydro system." Asked if that could mean the federal fish agency asking for more system-wide flows and spill, he said that was certainly a possibility.

Arndt said his agency is moving down another track as well, meeting with agency fish managers through the System Configuration Team to prioritize projects.

The hostile House action earlier in the budget process reflected concerns from politicians in other parts of the country about the high costs and few apparent benefits of the Corps' capital spending at mainstem dams. "For all its reliance on technological fixes and fish barging, there is no clear evidence that the salmon recovery efforts in the Pacific Northwest are, or will become successful," said a committee report that accompanied passage of the $21 billion energy and water appropriations bill.

The Corps' original 1999 fish mitigation budget called for spending more than $47 million at Bonneville Dam alone, with over $23 million slated for juvenile bypass improvements. The Corps projected nearly $7 million in spending for the surface bypass program at Lower Granite; almost $7 million for flow deflectors at Ice Harbor; $4.3 million for screens at McNary; $2.4 million to finish construction of the monitoring facility at John Day; $4.2 million in studies at The Dalles, and $19 million in other systemwide studies, testing and evaluation. Another $18 million for screens at John Day Dam will likely be put on hold this year, after a recent report by the Power Council's science board said the project has few benefits.

At last Thursday's IT meeting in Portland, Power Council staffer Jim Ruff said the SCT would be meeting Oct. 5 to deal with the issue, which he called the most difficult they've ever had to face--"trying to fit $100 million worth of stuff in a $60 million straightjacket." -Bill Rudolph


[6] BASIN FISH BUDGET SET AT $131.4 MILLION

The Power Council approved $131.4 million in spending for next year's Columbia Basin fish and wildlife efforts. That's up $5 million from the year before, with the extra money coming out of a contingency reserve and previously unspent funds.

On Sept. 23 council members voted the lion's share, more than $92 million, for salmon restoration, but drew the line at some things like new captive broodstock proposals, law enforcement and more money for lamprey research. They deferred $900,000 in funding for biological studies of gas supersaturation and questioned continued funding for coded wire tagging efforts.

Sixteen million dollars will go to fund resident fish proposals, $15 million for wildlife projects, and $8 million for assorted administrative expenses.

Council chair John Etchart said the money will be spent wisely. "The breadth and depth of the annual selection process shows the Council is determined to bring the most rigorous review to the project-selection process...The public demands it, and we are pleased to provide it."

This year's funding process marks the first time proposals have undergone scrutiny by a panel of independent scientists. Last year, the panel said time constraints and lack of proper information made it impossible to consider each one. This year, the panel considered them in depth and found about 40 percent of them "inadequate," including about 20 percent of the projects that the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority had recommended for funding. To help remedy the situation, the Power Council directed BPA and its contractors to address the science panel's concerns when implementing Council-approved proposals, but it was not ready to commit to the idea of not funding proposals next year because the panel deemed them technically inadequate.

Nine projects the scientists recommended for funding that basin fish and wildlife managers didn't like were not approved by the Council. The reason: they need more guidance from the science panel regarding the importance of such projects and how they help to meet key needs in the program.

The Council also recommended that watershed restoration projects include statements that address concerns raised by the scientists. The panel said many of those proposals failed to contain enough information to judge their value.

Montana council member Stan Grace said the process went a lot more smoothly this year, but one thing was clear. "We need more formal communication with CBFWA."

The Council was still wrestling with funding for its new framework process as the rest of the budget process came to a close. BPA wants the $849,000 to come out of the direct program, but CBFWA representatives took the opposite view. Funding it through the direct program would likely mean deferring other projects in the FY '99 workplan. -B.R.


[7] WA BEGINS TO WRITE FISH RECOVERY PLAN

A state-wide salmon recovery effort for Washington state has begun in earnest with the circulation of a working draft to collect feedback from the region. It's called "Extinction is Not an Option" and is based on four fundamental principles, according to an introduction from the state's Joint Natural Resources Cabinet, a group of eleven department heads, both of the state's representatives to the Power Planning Council, and Curt Smith, special assistant to Gov. Gary Locke for natural resources.

The four main tenets are:

The draft is organized by the four H's of the salmon apocalypse--harvest, hatcheries, habitat and hydropower with a final product expected by the end of the year.

The state will be creating its own independent science panel to review the work and has asked the American Fisheries Society to help with the process.

With nine stocks of salmon and trout proposed for listing under the ESA, including Puget Sound chinook,
Sockeye spawning a few miles from Microsoft
headquarters, east of Seattle
and others already listed, the final product will hopefully become a federally approved recovery plan. In less than 18 months, says the document, "more than 75 percent of the state will likely be learning to live with nearly 20 ESA listings scattered across the state."

The state's Wild Salmonid Policy will be incorporated into the new plan, according to the draft, with goals for hatchery and harvest practices "To ensure that wild salmonid populations are healthy and productive at levels that permit fisheries..."

The conservation burden will be shared among tribal and non-tribal fishers, it says, using co-manager forums and processes already in place, like the Pacific Salmon Commission, the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the North of Falcon process.

Another important element will be integration of ESA and Clean Water Act standards to give landowners "a predictable, practical and coordinated process to meet the needs of both laws."

The Governor's Salmon Recovery Office would like comments on this working draft by Oct. 16. They can be e-mailed to: salmon@esa.wa.gov or go by post to this address: Governor's Salmon Recovery Office, PO Box 43113, Olympia, WA 98504-3113. -B.R.


[8] McGINTY LEAVING WHITE HOUSE CEQ

Katie McGinty, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and an active figure in Northwest fish and wildlife policy matters, will step down from her post shortly. The Washington Post "In the Loop" column by Al Kamen said the inside track to succeed McGinty is held by George Frampton Jr., former assistant secretary at the Interior Department.

McGinty, a former congressional aide to Vice President Al Gore, is resigning so she can accompany her husband, Karl Hausker, to India, where he as taken an assignment with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. No official announcement has been made on the impending resignation.

Frampton, currently a lawyer in private practice in DC, is a former Assistant Secretary of the Interior with authority over the Park Service and the US Fish & Wildlife Service. He was also involved in creating the Clinton Administration's Northwest forestry policy.

McGinty was active in NW energy policy development as it related to salmon restoration and, sources say, in the selection of a Bonneville administrator--although the sources add that her opinions on selection did not finally prevail. She had many regional contacts within the environmental and fish activist community, but sources said she did not communicate much if at all with NW power interests. -Cyrus Noë

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