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[1] PATH Modelers Report on Year-End Results
[2] Scientists Find Fault With Basin Hatcheries
[3] More Discussion on Hanford Reach Stranding
[4] Heat Generated by Temperature Workshop
[5] Salmon Recovery Scorecard; More Processes Than Ever
[6] Framework Committee Starts Cooking
[7] PGE Considers Removing Little Sandy Dam
[8] Tri-State Fish Commissions Meet
[9] Exotic Virus May Threaten Fish

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PATH modelers have wrapped up another year of wrestling with the demon uncertainties of salmon recovery. It's all documented in more than 200 pages of charts, bar graphs and tables that spell out what close to two million dollars' worth of salmon modeling buys in a year's time.

The region got an early taste of the latest PATH effort when the group's facilitator, Dave Marmorek of Essa Technologies, reported on progress at last week's IT meeting in Portland. Environmentalists had spread the word that the document would probably come out in support of breaching lower Snake dams, and the room was full when Marmorek's turn began.

In October, Marmorek reported on the work of an independent panel of scientists commissioned by PATH to weigh evidence for various hypotheses regarding salmon recovery (See related story in NW Fishletter 68). More PATH analysis that used the weighted evidence found that breaching lower Snake dams would create an 80 percent probability of reaching the NMFS 48-year recovery standard for spring and summer chinook stocks. BPA participants and their consultants took issue with the evidence process and said the panel needed more information before they could adequately judge the value of competing hypotheses. The panel felt that the flow/survival relationship used in the states' and tribes' passage model had a better empirical fit than BPA's more complicated model that was calibrated with more recent data on juvenile survival in the mainstem Columbia and Snake rivers.

Last week, Marmorek said that PATH (using the weighted evidence) has found that breaching the lower Snake dams would result in only a 48 percent probability of reaching all three NMFS jeopardy and survival standards, but that such a strategy is still about twice as effective for reaching those goals as transporting fish. Further analysis that included modeling a drawdown of John Day reservoir boosted the probability to 62 percent.

Marmorek also said preliminary work that modeled the value of using an extra one million acre-feet of Idaho water for augmenting flows in the Snake and ending the transport program wouldn't be any better than keeping a maximized fish barging program in place.

Some PATH analysis has been done with fall chinook stocks, Marmorek reported, and indicates that breaching the lower Snake dams would have a 100 percent chance of reaching all NMFS standards, whether John Day was breached or not. A maxed transport program only had a 15 percent chance of reaching recovery and jeopardy goals, according to the PATH analysis.

Marmorek said that the scientists were taking a closer look at assumptions regarding fall chinook. The PATH modelers now assume that drawdown of the Snake dams doubles the upstream survival of the stocks. He said they are scrutinizing data to see if the assumption is valid.

PATH's initial look at increased bird predation in the estuary found that salmon-eating Caspian terns living near Astoria could reduce 48-year recovery probability (under current conditions) by 23 percent.

PATH modelers haven't taken a close look at what would happen to fall chinook stocks by changing in-river harvest rates, but found that either increasing or decreasing ocean harvest rates would have little effect on changing probabilities for recovery.

Facilitator Marmorek also outlined scenarios for experimental management to learn more about key uncertainties, another recommendation that came from the evidence-weighing science panel. The work would aim to get a better idea of the effectiveness of transportation, estimates of in-river survival, hatchery impacts, post-hydro survival and other related issues. Some proposed options had several observers muttering under their breath, such as calling for a four-dam drawdown, reduced transport and increasing and decreasing hatchery production.

"He's in never-never land," said Idaho irrigator spokesman Dewitt Moss after hearing Marmorek outline the experimental management options.

Estimates of in-river survival may be coming sooner than some think. Earlier at the meeting, NMFS spokesman Bill Hevlin said his agency will rely on the PATH analyses in the discussion of salmon recovery alternatives in its appendix to the Corps of Engineers' upcoming feasibility study on the future of lower Snake dams. Corps spokesman Doug Arndt said his agency's study will include recent NMFS PIT-tag survival work.

NMFS scientists using a trawl net to record PIT-tagged fish had reported preliminary results of Lower Granite-to-below-Bonneville survival of spring chinook at a whopping 68 percent, much higher than either model used in the PATH analysis (BPA's CRiSP model predicted 40 percent, the states' and tribes' FLUSH around 30 percent). But further analysis found some problems with automatic PIT tag data collection at one or two dams, and NMFS has rescinded the 68 percent figure until the situation is straightened out, according to NMFS researcher John Williams. Williams said it looks like survival in the system is about double what it was in the early 1980s, a results of dam passage improvements.

If PIT tag data from birds on Rice Island, where 48,000 detections have been recorded, backs up the trawl data, the PATH process may be in for some serious revision. The weight-of-evidence panel that looked at the competing passage models felt the CRiSP model survival predictions were overly optimistic. They thought FLUSH, which was based on data from the 1970s, fit the empirical data better.

The debate spilled into the public eye at the October IT meeting when BPA consultants and scientists said the evidence panel was given limited information to judge the models. Marmorek's year-end wrap up didn't mention the near mutiny. But the Corps' Doug Arndt alluded to it when he told other IT members that "the split in PATH has severely jeopardized our schedule for the 1999 EIS [on lower Snake dams]."

Corps spokesman Greg Graham announced that the draft EIS will already be a month late, because PATH analyses had been promised by the middle of November. Graham said the delay reduced the probability that the lower Snake feasibility study will be completed by December 1999.

The latest PATH results moved the Sierra Club to say that the only way to save endangered Snake River fish was to remove the four dams. "Nobody is talking about removal of all the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers," said Bill Arthur, the group's Northwest director. "The biologists are pointing at just these four fish-killers. Elected officials who say otherwise, who pander to the public's worst fears, who demand more analysis and delay, who defend these four dams no matter what, simply invite more political conflict and more dead salmon." -Bill Rudolph


The recent report that found many faults with Columbia Basin fish hatcheries has thrown state, federal and tribal fish agencies into a fit. The new report is part of a basinwide review on artificial production commissioned by the Power Planning Council and requested by Congress. It has found that salmonid hatcheries have generally failed to meet their objectives, hurt natural fish stocks, and haven’t been adequately evaluated.

Called the Review of Salmonid Artificial Production in the Columbia River Basin, it builds on findings from three other independent reports: the National Research Council's Upstream, the National Fish Hatchery Review Report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Independent Scientific Group's Return to the River. All three reports agreed with the latest assessment.

According to Power Council staffer Chip McConnaha, program manager for the report's Scientific Review Team, this is a literature review with recommendations for change. The next report will analyze the hatchery program by looking at the database on hatcheries. However, the database is poor and review is expected to be difficult. McConnaha said he hoped the second report will be completed by early next spring.

The current report makes 21 recommendations aimed at improving hatcheries and developing better ways to evaluate performance.

An abbreviated list of the arecommendations follows:

  1. Link hatchery supplementation with habitat improvements, monitor hatchery programs and increase hatchery research.
  2. Eliminate stock transfers in hatchery programs except when trying to restore an extinct run.
  3. Continue to develop hatchery programs that closely resemble natural incubation and rearing.
  4. Develop new hatcheries and programs to be complementary with wild fish in natural habitats.
  5. Adopt a plan for implementing and review of improved hatchery fish performance.
  6. Develop genetic and breeding protocols consistent with local stock structure.
  7. Use large breeding populations to control inbreeding while maintaining genetic diversity.
  8. Mimic natural populations in size and timing of juvenile migration and other factors.
  9. Hatcheries should use ambient natal stream temperatures so hatchery fish remain similar to wild fish.
  10. Use natal stream water for hatchery incubation and rearing so fish can imprint on their home stream.
  11. Hatchery releases should accommodate the natural carrying capacity of the stream where fish are released.
  12. Move to new hatcheries that are small and identified with specific streams and populations.
  13. Don't use strays in hatchery breeding.
  14. Follow genetic guidelines when restoring an extinct stock, and let natural selection work on the introduced population rather than constantly releasing hatchery fish.
  15. Create germ plasm repositories and gene banks to preserve genetic diversity.
  16. Collect and periodically review the physical and genetic status of all natural salmonids.
  17. Monitor hatchery fish to maintain wild stock genotype traits.
  18. Develop a monitoring program tracking hatchery fish performance from juvenile to adults.
  19. Determine the cost of monitoring hatchery fish performance and sources of funding.
  20. Conduct regular performance audits and when objectives are not achieved, conduct research to determine how to make improvements.
  21. The Power Council should appoint an independent peer review panel to keep the hatchery program on an ecological footing.

According to the Associated Press, Doug DeHart, Chief of Fisheries for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, called the report a disguised effort to unfairly blame hatcheries for depleted native salmon and steelhead runs.

Doug Dompier of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission complained as well. "This will be the document that will be used by the hatchery bashers." He also said there is no such thing as independent science.

Lee Helwig of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the report "is addressing the past practices of hatcheries that have been corrected or are being corrected." Helwig was upset because the USFWS’ name was being used to give weight to the report.

He said state and federal fish agencies should be given the courtesy of reviewing the report before it is released. "We were assured we could see and comment on any reports that might go to Congress," said Helwig. He said his agency may have to step out of the hatchery review process "if our comments are not taken into account by the Scientific Review Team."

"The recommendations fit what we are already doing," commented Bob Foster of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Representatives of the fishing industry were concerned as well. "Those of us who rely on hatcheries have a big black eye right now," Liz Hamilton, director of the Northwest Sports Fishing Industry Association, told the scientific review team.

There is genuine concern among fish agencies and tribes that funding will disappear unless a unified approach towards hatchery production is developed. This issue has surfaced during re-negotiation of the Columbia River Fish Management Plan, according to remarks made at the hatchery review meeting.

WDFW’s Bob Foster told the group that "if the CRFMP and the Northwest Power Planning Council take different paths on hatcheries, then funding from the NPPC is in jeopardy." The same conclusion was reached regarding Congressional support for hatchery programs. Federal funding of hatchery programs, including the Council’s program, represents a substantial proportion of tribal, state and federal agency funding. The hatchery program represents 40 percent of the annual budget spent on the Columbia River salmon program by the Power Council and Bonneville Power Administration in support of fish projects designed by the state, tribal and federal fish agencies, around $50 million a year. -Bill Bakke


State and federal fish managers and representatives of mid-Columbia PUDs and BPA met on Dec. 2 in Seattle to kick off talks on the fish stranding issue in Hanford Reach.

With a field study only half completed, it's still not clear how much salmon mortality is caused by the vertical water fluctuations in the Reach from load following operations at upstream dams.

So far, the study shows that fish stranding is "a highly significant problem" at flows below 150 kcfs, said officials of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, with tens of millions of juvenile salmon at risk and probably several million lost over the past few years.

They said roughly 30 million to 60 million salmon fry inhabit the region during the April-through-June period before the juvenile fall chinook begin to migrate downstream. Preliminary results from the study show that 43 percent of the stranding occurs within the first foot of vertical fluctuation. The managers reported that some pools had 8,000 fish trapped in them.

No representatives of the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, or upriver or downriver tribes, attended the meeting, which kept discussion limited. WDFW biologist Keith Wolf said, "Pretty soon, everybody's going to want to be engaged."

Consultant Al Wright, representing Grant County PUD, said he was very concerned that neither the Corps nor the Bureau showed up. Discussion over fluctuations ensued, with the group agreeing that big fluctuations in flows occur from power operations, but that the Corps' flood control operations can be responsible for even bigger ones; it's difficult to plan very far ahead. "The flood control bubble varies with each forecast," said Oregon fish manager Ron Boyce.

Two Preliminary Options Floated

Fish managers floated two preliminary flow options for discussion. The first called for a flow regime of 150 kcfs beginning on April 1 and only going up from there; load following would only be allowed above 150 kcfs. The second option, for drier years, calls for a regime that would only ramp up flows through June if they began below 150 kcfs.

BPA representative Bruce McKay said such a default option would be a very dramatic difference from how the region has historically run the river. He questioned such a default position.

But NMFS spokesman Bob Dach said his agency supports a "no net loss" policy and a maximum protection scenario. However, others pointed out that sticking with a default position would be difficult, since hydro operations must account for water conditions that are always changing. They said changes upstream to keep flows steady at Hanford could have adverse effects on other spring migrants.

WDFW officials cautioned that 75 steelhead redds have been observed in the Reach, and if it's determined that the stock is related to the upper Columbia stocks now listed under the ESA, more protection will be necessary. They said the Hanford stock is "pretty darn healthy, but still the fluctuations have the potential for wiping out the whole population."

Dick Nason of Chelan PUD pointed out that these fall chinook have thrived under present hydro conditions in the Reach for the past 30 years. "I hope we don't do anything to reduce flows in the upper Columbia."

Doug Ancona from Grant PUD seconded that, saying, "maximum protection for these animals may not be for others."

BPA's Tim Smith, a generation supply supervisor, said other factors beside load following affected outflows from Grand Coulee; flood control and flows in the Snake all play roles. He said the target elevation for flood control at Grand Coulee on April 10 is a single point, both a maximum and a minimum. He said it is "assumed" that "we can reach that target and still provide slowly increasing flows." Nason and McKay both pointed out that the BiOp flow criteria has no flexibility in this area.

Fish manager Wolf said he is anxious to hear from the technical group and have other agency people and tribal representatives at the table to determine what can and can't happen, both from engineering and operational standpoints. The technical group met in Portland on Dec. 8.

All participants pledged to working out a mutually agreeable plan. "One of the reasons we're here is to establish our commitment to the goal--the health of the fish," Ancona said.

"That's not to imply it can't be healthier," WDFW's Wolf replied.

BPA's Smith sounded a final note. His agency would have to determine the cost of replacement power for such a flow strategy as the starting point before weighing the value of a plan for maximum fish protection over the status quo.

The group plans to meet again early in January, when they will have more data to discuss various options being examined by the technical team. By then, a survey may be completed that estimates the total area in the Reach that allows for stranding. In addition, a model is being developed to relate the size of such areas to different flows. When population estimates are complete, the potential number of fish that could be stranded under different flows will be determined.

Some at the meeting questioned the value of studying the stranding issue next year if a "no net loss" plan is in effect, since such a flow regime would not allow researchers in the field to determine the amount of mortality from fluctuating flows. -Bill Rudolph


A two-day workshop in early December on mainstem Columbia/Snake River water temperatures provided a forum for an ongoing debate over the effects of warm water on salmon populations. EPA is pushing for a 64-degree temperature standard for the basin, four degrees below the current federal standard.

Retired BPA biologist Gerry Bouck said EPA officials responsible for putting the workshop together reneged on a promise to let him deliver a paper that was critical of recent attempts to revive the temperature issue as an area of major concern. "I think it's clear that EPA is trying to control the scientific debate," said Bouck, who once worked for the agency.

But EPA officials said that Bouck was originally offered a position as moderator to the biological panel. Mary Lou Soscia, Columbia River coodinator for EPA, said she changed the agenda to allow room for the retired biologist after he told her he had written a paper and didn't want the moderator's spot.

Bouck said the ten minutes they finally offered him to speak wasn't enough to get his message across. But Soscia said Bouck was getting just as much time as other speakers at the workshop. He stuck to his guns, saying that he was dropped as a presenter because his paper didn't jibe with the EPA position.

Bouck contends that many studies over the past 30 years have found that temperatures in the basin posed little risk to fish compared to other factors. He also pointed out that free-flowing rivers such as the Fraser in BC had maximum temperatures similar to the low 70s seen in the Columbia last summer and that the observed warming in both the Fraser and the Columbia in late July could be more related to regional or global conditions than local ones.

At the workshop, EPA scientists reported on a computer model they have developed to predict temperature effects that showed significant cooling from removing dams. But Tom Miller of the Corps of Engineers said his studies on potential effects of lower Snake drawdowns show no improvement by removing dams. In fact, higher summer temperature peaks are predicted without dams in place.

Soscia reported to the IT policy managers last week in Portland that the EPA model shows the mainstem dams have the most significant impact, rather than warm water from tributaries to the Columbia and Snake. She said the workshop presentation that reported on serious problems with migrating adult salmon in the Fraser River from high temperatures--in an undammed river--shows the important role the issue plays throughout the region.

She mentioned the salmon mortality problems last summer at McNary Dam, another workshop focus, and reported that a group will soon convene to discuss ways to improve the decision process to minimize fish mortality.

Soscia said the EPA model will soon be peer-reviewed to meet her agency's strict requirements for scientific work. She issued an open invitation for regional input and said EPA would be sharing the model with the Corps of Engineers. She noted that Chuck Coutant would be working on the biological part of the model.

Steve Hays of Chelan PUD commented that the effects of water storage on increasing temperatures was "not news" because the effect of storage behind Grand Coulee "overshadowed everything." Hayes said all the other dams on the mainstem could come out without reducing temperatures overall. -B.R.


What follows is an update of some of the major processes dealing with fish and wildlife recovery in the Northwest. It isn't meant to be all-inclusive; more will be added to the next issue of NW Fishletter.

Some results haven't even surfaced yet, like a NMFS plan for the Columbia River that is being quietly developed far from the public stage where dam breaching advocates have taken the spotlight. It's a plan to help salmon that reflects political reality in the Northwest--the fact that no politician from the region supports taking out lower Snake dams, even if the action could be shown to have a lasting benefit for salmon and steelhead. NMFS sources won't confirm this activity, but other sources have said such a stealth plan is underway as a default position for the region, and most likely would look a lot like the present BiOp with "more of everything," said one source--more flow augmentation, more barging of fish, more spill and, no doubt, more contention among stakeholders.

Columbia Basin Multi-Species Framework

The process began as an exercise to develop a scientific foundation for revising the Power Planning Council's fish and wildlife program, but expanded after talks last April between the Council's fish and wildlife committee and NMFS policymakers Will Stelle and Donna Darm. Columbia Basin tribes were consulted, along with other federal agencies; and by August, the process was mapped out to create panels of scientists, policymakers, other advisors and a special group to consider social and economic issues.

In November, a three-day workshop listened to many points of view in an attempt to build a consensus vision for the future. Several versions of the "vision statement" are now under review. Stakeholders presented 27 concept papers, which are now being distilled into five main alternatives. Next, these will be expanded to include particular actions designed to achieve those goals, with input from scientists to see if they track with present science and are doable. The ultimate goal of the process is to develop a region-wide plan for fish and wildlife recovery in time to provide input into the 1999 decision-making process for long-term strategies.

US/Canada Treaty Negotiations

US and Canadian negotiators trying to overcome the impasse at re-negotiating the Pacific Salmon Treaty suggested giving up stakeholder talks and getting affected states and the Canadian government to put together interim fishing agreements for 1997 and 1998. The two special envoys, the US' William Ruckelshaus and Canada's David Strangway, said agreement over long-term issues like fish "equity" between the two countries would take much longer. Washington Gov. Gary Locke and Canadian Minister of Fisheries David Anderson reached a tentative fishing agreement, but Alaska did not.

Meetings last week in Vancouver focused on the long term, said one insider, who added that Canadian concerns over their own weak coho stocks has put the equity issue on the back burner for now. A letter of agreement between Alaska and Lower 48 parties on chinook issues has another year to play out before it lapses, but upcoming listings for West Coast chinook intercepted by SE Alaska fishermen may sour the situation.

PATH Process

Two dozen regional scientists have been working on the Plan for Analyzing and Testing Hypotheses for several years now, using two salmon passage models to test assumptions about fish recovery. A recent panel of independent reviewers weighed evidence for and against key hypotheses. Using those weights, and certain assumptions, PATH analyses for spring and summer Snake River chinook found that breaching Lower Snake dams would give a 48 percent probability of meeting all three NMFS standards, with a 27 percent probability under current hydro operations, a 25 percent probability with maximized fish transportation and a 29 percent probability with maximum transport and surface bypass collectors. An option that called for an additional one million acre-feet of water from Idaho was predicted to have little effect.

Drawdown of John Day Pool to natural river level along with breaching lower Snake dams came up with a 62 percent probability of achieving the NMFS standards.

Fall chinook analyses have not been completed by PATH, but a year-end report showed NMFS standards could be achieved with 100 percent probability by breaching lower Snake dams with or without John Day at natural level. They found only a 23 percent probability of meeting the standards through current operations, along with maximum fish transport and surface bypass collectors at all dams. The year-end report also said that results for spring/summer chinook would apply to steelhead stocks as well.

The report failed to mention a minority opinion within PATH, mainly among BPA participants and consultants, who claim the weight of evidence process was flawed because more information should have been given to the review panel by facilitators who conducted the exercise.

Lower Snake River Feasibility Study

The Corps of Engineers is directing a huge study to look at the biological alternatives and economic consequences of breaching lower Snake dams. A draft EIS was scheduled to begin public review by April, but most likely will be at least another month late because PATH analyses of alternatives will not be available until next week. The PATH information will be incorporated into an appendix written by NMFS and focusing on biological effects of different salmon recovery strategies. Last week the Corps said the final EIS may not be ready until 2000; the current BiOp mandated a 1999 decision on long-term strategy.

Washington's Salmon Recovery Strategy

Washington state's salmon strategy, "Extinction is Not an Option," is still being drafted; the public comment period closed Dec. 11. The state's Joint Natural Resources Cabinet is developing the strategy based on a voluntary, cooperative approach, coupled with enhanced enforcement of existing environmental laws and regulations. Habitat will be the group's main focus, while harvest and hatchery issues will be addressed by the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife and tribes.

Later this month, Gov. Locke will announce budget and legislative priorities for salmon recovery. A complete draft of the plan is expected by mid-January 1999. By the end of March 1999 NMFS is expected to list more salmon stocks, including Puget Sound chinook. By then, it is expected every watershed in Washington will be home to at least one ESA-listed stock.

Oregon's Salmon Plan

Oregon's plan began as a coastal coho restoration effort with some funding from the state's timber industry. NMFS approved the effort, and rewarded the state by not listing its coastal stocks under the ESA. But environmentalists sued and won a decision that approval of the mainly voluntary effort was not a reason to keep NMFS from listing coastal coho. Though Oregon and NMFS have appealed, the state has expanded its plan to include all salmon and trout throughout the state.

The expanded plan has four main ingredients: Coordinated agency programs; community-based action through watershed councils, soil and water conservation districts and other grassroots efforts; a monitoring program to measure accomplishments; and an adaptive management process to make changes where necessary.

US v. Oregon

Year-long negotiations between federal, state and tribal officials have resulted in a request for more time to complete an extension of the Columbia River Fish Management Plan slated to run through next July. The ten-year-old plan was adopted in 1988 in response to the US v. Oregon case that found treaty tribes had the right to half the salmon not needed for reproduction. It was created to govern inriver harvest and hatchery issues long before ESA concerns became an issue. Questions over hatchery interactions with listed wild stocks have not been answered, but NMFS said a BiOp on production would be ready by Feb. 1. Negotiations have been conducted in secret. Negotiators have agreed not to discuss their disagreements in public.

Columbia River Basin Forum

This forum, formerly the Three Sovereigns Process, has been underway since June 1997 to develop a new coordinating body among entities involved in fish and wildlife issues.

About half the basin's 13 tribes have said they would join, but so far, lower Columbia tribes have not given approval. Their tribal councils were meeting soon to take up the question.

At present, most federal agencies have given assent, but only one state, Oregon, has declared it will sign on. Washington is inclined to climb aboard, but has fiscal questions. Idaho said it wants to restrict the conversation to issues that deal only with the 1999 decision on long-term salmon strategy affecting its stocks. Montana, meanwhile, thinks the process should be placed under the umbrella of the current Power Planning Council before near-term policy discussions begin. Forum participants will meet in Portland Dec. 16 to tally up support, and decide whether the critical mass is there to proceed. -B.R.


More than two dozen concept papers developed by parties to the regional multi-species framework process have been distilled into five main alternatives, said framework committee chair Roy Sampsel at a meeting in Portland on Nov. 25. But some participants weren't happy with the results.

CRITFC legal counsel John Platt complained that "a lot of stuff" wasn't included. NMFS liaison John Palensky admitted the staff took "a lot of license" to develop the matrix of alternatives, but he added that they won't be properly distilled until the end of December. Platt also wondered how the different alternatives would be analyzed quantitatively.

NMFS representative Danny Consenstein said the first job for the framework group is to narrow the alternatives to a manageable level. Other discussion followed, with some questioning the value of the concepts that aren't expressed quantitatively.

Power Planning Council staffer Chip McConnaha reminded the group that there wasn't any clear-cut process to follow at this point. "This is not a cookbook," he said. "we're making this up as we go along."

Only seven of the 27 papers dealt with the big picture, while the rest focused primarily on salmon issues. For now, the visions differ mainly in the degree of natural productivity of "cold-water fish species" rather than artificial production, the amount of allowable harvest, and whether regional economic viability is simply maintained, increased, or maximized.

Other participants had misgivings about the way the framework process was headed, including questions about the makeup of the group of scientists who will judge proposals. Attorney James Buchal said he had concerns about biases on the panel, which includes Idaho biologist Cindy Deacon Williams, who signed a September 1997 letter to the Idaho Statesmen that endorsed breaching the four dams on the lower Snake. He also questioned using PATH analyses as part of the quantitative side of the framework analyses. Buchal said the PATH results that supported dam breaching are based on unsubstantiated assumptions. "To tack PATH results onto this doesn't make us very comfortable."

Buchal took issue with the dueling salmon passage models--CRiSP and FLUSH--used in the PATH analyses. "No one has the fortitude to say one is right and the other's wrong." He also pointed out the questionable value of flow augmentation.

Sampsel said the next step of the process would be to sit down with the implementers and discuss the points of their proposals.

But Brian Lipscomb of the Salish and Kootenai tribes thought the group should concentrate on producing a consensus vision before proceeding any further with process. Montana Power Council member Stan Grace told the group he thought discussing the proposals "will lead us to a vision."

Sampsel said a draft report (the fourth rewrite) had just been received by facilitator Ulysses Seal, who led the Nov. 17-19 workshop that tried to begin the conversation among different parties to reach such a regional "vision." So far, Sampsel said, there is not a common vision, but a series of talking points. He said Seal's executive summary would be available later in the week. By Friday, it was being circulated.

Seal's summary called the workshop results "an important first step taken in hearing the widely shared desire for change and for a new future for the basin."

The revised vision statement reported in Seal's summary is as follows:

After the meeting, one long-time participant in fish and wildlife affairs remarked sadly that it was clear to him the framework process was going nowhere--"it's got no wheels." He said if the facilitator was on his fourth rewrite, there must have been some difference of opinion about what the workshop accomplished.

Seal was unavailable for comment. He was in Seattle running a management facilitation workshop for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

At a meeting two weeks later, it was decided to keep moving--with presenters to meet with the scientific steering committee and ecological working group to flesh out alternatives and review the concepts for internal consistency and completeness. According to a first review, none of the 27 concept papers hit all four targets requested. Power Council staffer Chip McConnah said a very ambitious time frame has been developed to come out with an initial workplan by the middle of July and a work schedule to be finished by the end of next year.

It was also reported that federal agencies such as NMFS would like to interact with the framework's steering committee and science group.

Buchal, who represented an industry perspective, said the framework process was turning into "the same old stuff" where his groups were not getting a fair hearing. He criticized the prospective use of PATH [Plan for Analyzing Hypotheses] analyses to gauge the quantitative value of the proposals. PATH facilitator David Marmorek reported last week that the group of salmon modelers had predicted that Snake River salmon runs had twice the chance of recovering if the four dams on the lower river were breached.

Buchal called PATH "People Abusing the Truth Horribly" and suggested analyses be completed with the University of Washington/BPA salmon passage model CRiSP and using salmon meta-population models. He also called for other scientists to take part in judging proposals. But project manager Roy Sampsel said the names Buchal advanced were either too busy or unable to commit for other reasons. He said the process was trying for balanced analysis and told Buchal that they would see if his concerns could be accommodated.

Tribal spokesman Howard Funke told the group that he didn't know if they could get to a single vision or not, and maybe they would have to be content with two or three visions. "Many tribes feel they are not being part of the process," said Funke.

But it was almost back to square one. Montana Council member Stan Grace urged the framework staff to "talk to the people who wrote the concept papers--to let them know what we asked for in the first place."

Tribal spokesman Brian Lipscomb, who voiced concern at the previous meeting about the need for a unified vision, was conspicuous by his absence, causing some participants to question privately just how serious the tribes are about the framework process. -B.R.


Portland General Electric will be working with the city of Portland and NMFS to develop a coordinated, basin-wide effort to address ESA and Clean Water Act issues in the Bull Run/Little Sandy watershed. The three announced last month they've reached a commitment in principle to using an integrated, basin-wide approach to fish restoration in the watershed southeast of Portland. As part of that commitment, Portland General has agreed to consider removing its dam on the Little Sandy River.

"I think you take it one step at a time," said PGE senior vice president Walt Pollock. "We're willing to consider removing it if we can get compensation for lost power and money to remove it...We think we can work through these issues" with the city of Portland. Pollock pointed out that both PGE and the city of Portland have something to gain, since each could be faced with other, more costly mitigation requirements if they can't work together on removing the Little Sandy.

"We're very excited at the opportunity to have a positive response to the steelhead listing," said Bob Durston of Portland city commissioner Erik Sten's office. Durston was referring to NMFS' decision last March to label steelhead trout, which reside in the Bull Run/Little Sandy watershed, as a threatened species under the ESA. "What PGE and the city have agreed to is looking at the Bull Run/Little Sandy watershed as a unit, for the purposes of looking at Clean Water Act and ESA options," Durston added. The city of Portland relies on the Bull Run River for most of its municipal water supply.

The Costs of Going Natural

Removing the dam would essentially return the Little Sandy River to natural flows, which would in turn provide access to up to 13 miles of steelhead and salmon spawning and rearing habitat in the mainstem Little Sandy and up to another mile of habitat on the river's tributaries. Making it happen will involve renegotiating the utility's power contract with the city of Portland, Pollock said, to provide some economic offsets to the cost of removing the dam.

"There is a price tag associated with that," agreed Rosemary Menard of the Portland Bureau of Water Works. She said the city is working with PGE to "help us determine if NMFS would accept [dam removal] as mitigation" it may require in conjunction with its ESA ruling on steelhead. "It's only good if the action fits in with the larger mitigation package," she added.

Little Sandy is one of five dams in the Bull Run/Little Sandy watershed system, Pollock said. Both Bull Run River and Little Sandy are tributaries of the Sandy River. PGE diverts water from the upper Sandy at Marmot Dam, where it's directed into Little Sandy Dam and moved via sluiceway to Roslyn Lake. The artificial lake is used as the reservoir for the utility's Bull Run power plant, which Pollock said is on the lower reaches of the Bull Run River. Between the Bull Run plant and the Little Sandy dam are two city of Portland municipal water supply projects.

Removing Little Sandy would connect Marmot Dam directly to Roslyn Lake and the Bull Run power house. It would also eliminate the diversion of water from the upper Sandy to the Little Sandy, Pollock said--thus eliminating the diversion of Little Sandy flows into the sluiceway to Roslyn Lake, a practice that can leave the Little Sandy with little or no water at times. Removing Little Sandy Dam will return streamflows in the Little Sandy River to natural levels.

Removal will cost up to $6 million, and Pollock said PGE and the City of Portland will try to secure state or federal funding to help cover that cost. Dam removal will also reduce power output at Bull Run by about 11 aMW, or one-third to one-half the project's current output, Pollock said. The utility has not made an estimate of replacement power costs, he added.

Still, "we can do more for fish with less money if we do it together than if we act individually," Pollock said.

Elements of the agreement in principle include improving conditions for steelhead and other fish in the Bull Run, Sandy and Little Sandy rivers; identifying habitat restoration opportunities in the basin that will provide short- and long-term benefits for fish; and evaluating the ESA steelhead listing "as an opportunity to accelerate actions that make the most sense for fish, water supply and power generation and then reconfigure the operations in the watershed on this basis."

Pollock said the latter item is the next phase of the agreement. He said it might make more sense to build a new dam on the upper reaches of the Bull Run River, for example, and have three dams on that river rather than dams on the Little Sandy. Such a move would free up more habitat on the lower reaches of the rivers, he said.

PGE, Portland and NMFS hope to have a memorandum of agreement put together by the end of the year. "Discussions have been going very well," said Durston. Implementation of the agreement will also require development of a habitat conservation plan. And while the commitment in principle is not part of Oregon state's plan for salmon restoration, "we want to be sure we're consistent with and complementary to it," Pollock said. -Jude Noland


For the first time in perhaps 20 years, the fish and wildlife commissions of Oregon, Washington and Idaho sat down in the Oregon commission room and discussed common issues.

The three commissions agreed on Oct. 9 that removal of dams on the lower Snake was the key to salmon recovery in the Snake River basin. A proposal was made to develop a formal agreement that also included the tribes.

According to an ODFW source, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission brought the dam breaching issue up for approval, but commissioners made no decision. So far, only Idaho’s commission has adopted a pro-dam breaching position.

The three commissions expressed concern about the upcoming 1999 decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service on long-term salmon strategies in the Columbia. Idaho believed that the deadline will slip to 2005 and suggested that the three states put pressure on NMFS to meet the 1999 deadline.

As for on-going re-negotiation of the Columbia River Fish Management Plan, there was support for establishing escapement goals for coho and chinook for the first time and banning stock transfers between watersheds in Washington.

Oregon's Doug DeHart said tribes need to support selective fisheries, but they have opposed marking hatchery fish. It was also mentioned that the states need scientific operational procedures for hatcheries along with goals. The Columbia River Fish Management Plan, finalized in 1988, has failed to rebuild the runs, one of its requirements.

Idaho's Bert Boller said that it took four years to negotiate the first CRFMP, so it was unreasonable to expect re-negotiation to only take one year. He also said Idaho did not sign the first agreement because it contained a 32 percent harvest impact on B-run steelhead and a 15 percent impact on A-run steelhead. Idaho objected to this excessive harvest impact on its steelhead. Both runs are listed threatened under the ESA.

DeHart brought up the issue of eroding hatchery funding that the commissions must face. Bruce Crawford, of the Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife said the commissions should stand together and support funding for Mitchell Act hatcheries.

Oregon's DeHart said the tribes want lower Columbia River hatcheries reprogrammed to release fish in upriver harvest areas but he said there are concerns about the effect these releases would have on wild stocks. Releasing fish upriver lowers their survival and complicates harvest sharing and management. "We are a ways away from a common view," said DeHart.

DeHart and Crawford said without the hatchery programs, the states could not comply with court orders to provide fish for the tribes. As the Mitchell Act hatchery funding declines, tribal hatchery supplementation programs will increase production and dry up the lower Columbia River fisheries. -Bill Bakke


A virus that acts in fish like the dreaded Ebola virus in humans was found in wild stocks collected last spring in Puget Sound near Port Townsend, Wash.

Hemorrhagic septicemia virus was found in tomcod, Pacific cod and walleye pollock shipped to Oregon's Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station for behavioral studies.

Dr. Paul Reno, a microbiologist working for the station, saw the fish were sick and they were quickly diagnosed to have HSV. The fish were killed and 90 percent were found to have the virus.

The virus causes massive internal bleeding from weakened blood vessels Blood then seeps between organs, and the fish dies slowly from suffocation as blood is no longer supplying oxygen to vital organs.

A news release from Oregon State University announced that humans can't contract this virus.

According to Rich Holt, senior fish pathologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the virus is routinely found in Washington state. It was first identified in 1988 at the Makah National Fish Hatchery, near Neah Bay, where it killed fish at the hatchery and in an adjacent river. Some thought was given to disinfecting the river, but this was not done.

The virus has shown up from Washington through Alaska. Dr. Holt said, "I'm concerned about the virus, and I won't be surprised if it is found in Oregon's herring populations." There have been no documented cases of the virus in Oregon waters yet.

The virus may pose some threat to salmon because salmon eat herring that can be infected, but Holt says it’s an unknown. Apparently, Washington biologists routinely find the virus in chinook and coho spawners and in herring. -Bill Bakke

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