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[1] Power Council Gets Earful On Juvenile Fish Survival
[2] PATH Scientist Questions Dam Breaching Recommendation
[3] More Discussion Over Fish Stranding Policy
[4] New NWPPC Chair Elected
[5] Salmon Treaty Fix Offered By Conservation Group
[6] Precip Report: Wet and Wetter
[7] Oregon Science Panel Notes Problems With Hatcheries
[8] Locke Steps Up To Address Salmon Recovery
[9] Gorton Wants $310 Million For Fish
[10] Nez Perce Tribe Settles Fish Claim
[11] Judge Tells Feds to Respect MT's Drawdown Rule Curves

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NMFS scientists told the Power Planning Council last week that juvenile fish survival through the Snake and Columbia rivers is higher now than before most of the lower Snake dams were built. Their pronouncement came after Corps of Engineers senior planner Witt Anderson gave the Council a quick synopsis of major improvements to salmon passage in the hydro system over the last 20 years.

Anderson pointed out that it wasn't just physical improvements at dams that have helped fish. Unit loading at powerhouses is much different than it was 10 or 15 years ago, he pointed out, which helps adult passage; and spill patterns have been modified to aid juveniles.

Anderson took issue with the Council's own panel of independent scientists, the ISAB, whose members have been reviewing dam modifications and have raised questions about passage improvements like extended length screens at John Day Dam, which could benefit some species and not others, and have an overall effect of reducing biodiversity.

Anderson said the ISAB's "statement" that the Corps is using screens to the exclusion of other things is "not true" and his agency is looking at other ways to improve system survival as well. "The state of the art keeps changing." Anderson used the Council's own program as an example, since it has undergone continual change and evolved over the years from general to more particular measures.

The ISAB was scheduled to report on the third phase of its analysis of the Corps' capital spending, but the scientists had not completed that study in time for their Jan. 12 meeting in Vancouver, WA.

After Anderson's presentation, NMFS biologist Bill Muir told Council members that 1998 survival of inriver migrating spring chinook through the entire hydro system was estimated at 50 to 60 percent. He said survival of the spring fish is higher than the agency once thought, both in reservoirs and past hydro projects. The more accurate findings have come from using PIT tag technology to track the fish.

However, Muir pointed out that adult returns have not improved, which could have several possible causes, including factors outside the hydro system like changing ocean conditions.

Muir presented a graph that showed estimated juvenile survival since 1993 has been higher than any year between 1969 and 1980, when enough data was collected to make estimates. No research on juvenile survival was conducted from 1981 to 1992 because state and tribal biologists, who decided on research by committee, selected other priorities for study.

The Council heard that the NMFS scientists have found a strong and consistent relationship between flow and travel time for spring chinook, but in the reaches they tested, there were only weak and inconsistent statistical relationships between flow rates and actual fish survival.

Muir reported that a stronger relationship between flow and survival seemed to be evident for fall chinook. He said the juveniles looked like "little footballs" by the time they came through the lower dams, growing about 1.5 cm per day.

Fellow NMFS scientist Steve Smith said the results for fall chinook were difficult to interpret because other variables like temperature and turbidity were tied to changes in flows.

Some Council members seemed stunned by Muir's report, since augmenting flows to aid salmon is a cornerstone of the group's current fish and wildlife program. But the PIT-tag research has been reporting these high survivals since 1993, when the new research first began in earnest.

At that time, Council chair Ted Bottiger was unimpressed with the startling new results. He brushed them off as "just a single data point." Soon after, the Council passed its controversial 1994 fish and wildlife program that called for drawing down reservoirs behind Snake River dams every spring to aid salmon migration. Since then, the Corps has nixed that idea as too costly and having few biological benefits. A study on the value of breaching the dams permanently is still underway, with a decision due in about a year.

Council chair John Etchart asked if the high survivals were inconsistent with the NMFS/PATH recommendation that breaching the four lower Snake dams is the best option for recovering the fish. Smith said PATH assumptions about "delayed mortality" could still account for the low adult returns. Some PATH scientists have hypothesized that fish die from effects of dam passage after they leave the river, but no proof has ever been cited for the hypothesis.

Last September, a PATH review panel, whose findings have been disputed by BPA scientists and consultants, found the states' and tribes' computer model FLUSH more convincing
chart 1
than the BPA/UW CRiSP model, which is validated with the NMFS PIT tag data. According to a PATH document that outlined the review panel's weighing of evidence, the FLUSH model "assumes that these survival rates have remained relatively constant since the late 1970s, while the CRiSP model "assumes that these survival rates have generally improved since 1980," a state of affairs that seems to be corroborated by the NMFS presentation that showed survival of juveniles through the system is estimated to have doubled since then.

Etchart said the NMFS results suggested limited room for improvement of juvenile passage (NMFS estimated survival of spring chinook between the tailraces of Lower Granite and Little Goose dams at more than 95 percent). Muir said he tended to agree. Etchart was clearly puzzled by the PATH finding that, in his words, "is recommending a more natural river condition in the Snake."

In a press release the next day, Etchart said, "It appears from this research that the Snake River dams are less of a problem for the movement of juvenile fish than was believed previously.
chart 2
Click on chart for enlarged view
Source: NMFS
We hear a lot of criticism for failing to achieve results from our efforts to recover salmon and steelhead, and most recently for the ongoing work to improve passage conditions at the dams. But clearly the research is encouraging. While we still have a long way to go, there is definitely improvement."

Environmentalists and lower Columbia tribes have criticized recent dam improvements as "gold plating" and a waste of money if the region decides to breach some of them.

But as one council staffer said after the presentation, "It doesn't make much of a case for dam removal, does it?" -Bill Rudolph


University of Washington professor Jim Anderson went public last week with sharp criticism of recent PATH results and the four-member review panel that weighed the biological uncertainties associated with the process. PATH salmon passage modelers, with the aid of competing computer models, years of incomplete data sets, piles of assumptions and thousands of simulated salmon runs, cooked up an arcane statistical stew of Bayesian analysis and announced last December that breaching lower Snake dams would be the most effective way to recover weak salmon runs listed under the ESA.

Anderson, a BPA consultant to the PATH process, told legislative and business leaders in Boise last week that his personal view is that the results are deeply flawed. He spoke at a briefing sponsored by the Idaho Council on Industry and Environment, admitting that he is the first member of PATH to speak publicly about the discrepancies between the group's official results and a minority opinion that was completely unacknowledged in the PATH year-end report released last month.

Anderson said that as a university researcher, he had "more freedom to discuss the dysfunctionality of the PATH family." He confessed that the PATH work was very complex and difficult to understand even for the scientists involved and that a combination of the complexity and the way the results were announced created a false impression that the scientists involved had reached consensus. The reality, said Anderson, is that at least ten of the 32 scientists involved in the process had questions about the process and the results.

Anderson said PATH did not consider all the relevant information in its analyses, and furthermore, the scientific review panel (SRP) that weighed the evidence for different hypotheses was stacked with proponents of adaptive management, who went way beyond their original charge and developed an experimental management plan on their own. He pointed out that three of the four panel members had published together, noting that a whole range of reviewers was needed to adequately address PATH, including people with more experience in ocean processes and biology.

A Disconnect With Data?

Perhaps most important, Anderson claimed the PATH/SRP conclusions "simply do not comport with the recent data." He said there is a real disconnect between what we are seeing and what PATH is saying."

NMFS recently announced estimated juvenile passage through the hydro system at 50 percent to 60 percent for 1998, although it's not the first time agency officials went on the record with such numbers. Regional NMFS administrator Will Stelle was saying the same thing at public meetings a year ago.

Anderson, as chief architect of CRiSP, the BPA-funded $5 million salmon passage model, says that the other computer model used in PATH analyses, the states' and tribes' FLUSH model, which the review panel found more acceptable, is actually deeply flawed and has a much harder time explaining the 1998 survival data.

He said the FLUSH model predicted 1998 juvenile fish survival at only about half of the 40 percent figure that CRiSP produced, which is still below the 50 percent to 60 percent number that NMFS PIT tag research showed for last year.

Anderson said that he's been unable to get a copy of the FLUSH model or the coefficients used in it, but figured that it pegged juvenile survival at about 20 percent through the hydro system this year, while the CRiSP model was around 40 percent. FLUSH posits a strong flow/survival relationship that NMFS PIT tag research over the past five years has been unable to substantiate; it also posits the hypothesis that juvenile fish die at a an increasingly higher rate the longer they remain in the hydro system.

Anderson said the two models had similar estimates for 1997 survivals--a high flow year when the fish spent less time in the system. But he said in low or average water years, FLUSH will show much higher mortality that's not been matched by recent NMFS data. He said the FLUSH model's exponential mortality function based on travel time means that just a few more days spent in the hydro system could nearly double mortality estimates.

But FLUSH modelers have never released their principal code or coefficients, said Anderson, so others could see exactly how it works. He said last October, NMFS requested 1997 and 1998 juvenile survival results from both models, but FLUSH hasn't yet produced an estimate for 1998.

Anderson advocated that both models be available to the public, noting that they won't truly be peer-reviewed until the public gets all the information. He said the CRiSP model is available on the web.

A couple of weeks ago, Anderson went so far as to ask NMFS policymaker Danny Consenstein to produce the model for his analysis. Consenstein told Idaho senators at a hearing last fall in Washington DC that all the information in the PATH process was available to everyone. So far, Anderson hasn't got a response.

Different Explanations for "Extra Mortality"

The models are polar opposites when it comes to explaining the hydro system. Anderson described other areas of disagreements between them, like the "extra mortality" factor both models need to explain the difference between high survivals in transported fish and low adult returns (.25 percent) in the Snake, currently about a tenth of what they were in the 1960s.

He said FLUSH hypothesizes that extra mortality is produced by the hydro system, while the CRiSP models hypothesizes that extra mortality was generated by the climate regime shift that occurred about the time the last dam was completed on the lower Snake.

Anderson said his model predicts that if the dams are breached, there will be little if any gain in fish numbers now achieved by transporting them downstream. He said the stocks need return rates improved by a factor of ten to recover and that only a shift in climate regime and ocean conditions can make that much difference. "If the ocean doesn't change, we're not going to get recovery."

Corps of Engineers biologist John McKern told the Boise groups that his agency has critical concerns about the PATH data as well. "There are serious flaws in the way some of that data is manipulated."

He said PATH modelers, especially in the FLUSH model, are averaging data taken from the "old hydro system" and adding it all up together with better survivals from later years, which mixes the poor survival years of the late 1970s when the system was tougher on fish and operated much differently. He said most of the data sets used in PATH ended in 1992, so results do not reflect more recent improvements to dam passage like extended length screens, bypass systems and flip lips at dams.

McKern said he had a serious problem with the way PATH has treated fish transportation data, noting that most survival studies--including the most recent NMFS work based on the 1995 outmigration-- show barged fish survived as adults at twice the rate of inriver migrants. He said PATH also hypothesized an extra 17 percent mortality factor for adults that were transported as juveniles after the fish had passed all eight dams. PATH has also hypothesized overall adult mortality in the lower Snake at a much higher rate than radio tagging research has shown, McKern said. "As a biologist, I can't see a latent effect on adults after one to three years in the ocean."

McKern said NMFS is now wrestling with the problem of reconciling PATH results with the new data. Corps spokesman Greg Graham, who is supervising his agency's feasibility study on the lower Snake dams, said the December 1999 milestone for a final EIS on the subject will be missed because of "snags and delays" in the anadromous fish appendix NMFS is preparing for the document. PATH results had come in more than a month late.

Graham said NMFS had requested an extension a month ago, but gave the Corps no idea when they would finish it. He said the final version of the EIS, which will include the pertinent biological, social and economic consequences of breaching the dams and other alternatives should be ready sometime in early 2000.

He said NMFS has to look at the PIT tag data and see if the PATH results fit. "They're going to draw their own conclusion." Both he and McKern were adamant about one thing--the Corps was charged to develop the best available science and its a commitment they will honor. -B. R.


Hydro managers, policymakers and fish managers met last week in Seattle to hash out issues dealing with the problem of Hanford Reach fish stranding. But with important modeling yet unfinished, there was little for them to sink their teeth into--other than the fact that adding more constraints to the operation of the hydro system to reduce flow fluctuations in the Reach could make it harder to satisfy BiOp requirements already in place, especially in low or average water years.

Fish managers came with their wish list--two possible options for running the reach to minimize fish entrapment and stranding from March through June. Biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are calling for a "No Net Impact" arrangement with power managers and want them to "flat load," which would keep river levels steady. A study conducted last year showed 90 percent of the stranding occurred within the first three feet of river fluctuation.

Another option suggested by WDFW calls for limiting fluctuations in the Reach only when flows are above 150 kcfs. Research last spring showed that juvenile fish were unlikely to stray beyond the borders of vegetation in the Reach, a level attained at approximately the 150 kcfs flow level.

More than 31,000 chinook fry were sampled last year from entrapment areas--places that contained water after river levels declined, but were cut off from the main channel. About one-third of the fry died from stranding or heat stress. Researchers found that fish cut off from the main river for more than 12 hours suffered much greater mortality. While no estimate of total mortality has been determined, a fact sheet from WDFW said "the numbers of fish lost to direct and indirect mortality may prove to be staggering and perhaps on the order of many millions of fish." The 50-mile stretch in question is estimated to be a nursery for between 20 million and 60 million fry.

Record Year For Fall Smolts

Even with the stranding mortalities observed last year, the number of fall chinook smolts passing McNary Dam in 1998 was a "record high," said Roger Schiewe of BPA. He presented the group with some flow figures that pointed out the average flows at Priest Rapids for the first two weeks of April only reached 150 kcfs or more in four out of the last 50 years.

He said more water could be used for flow by moving it into April from May or June, but that would run contrary to present BiOp requirements. According to BPA modelers, manipulation of the reservoir behind Priest Rapids alone would not produce what the fish managers wanted.

NMFS spokesman Paul Wagner said his agency isn't interested in changing the present rule curve in the BiOp, but expressed the possibility of "exploring more flexibility."

A big unknown is just how many fish die from the fluctuating water levels that accompany the normal operation of the system. Modelers reported that no mortality estimate will be forthcoming, but their work should be able to produce an "entrapment index." According to Joe Lukas of Grant County PUD, the model will be able to predict how many entrapment areas will be created under different levels of flow.

WDFW's Paul Wagner (a different Wagner from NMFS'), who is leading the stranding study, reported that recent analysis has shown a three- to four-fold reduction of fall chinook entrapment above the 150 kcfs level. Responding to several questions, Wagner said less than four percent fish mortality was observed for fall chinook trapped less than 12 hours, but it rose to about 50 percent if the fish were stuck more than 12 hours.

Cary Feldmann of Puget Sound Energy said policy-makers have higher expectations of the data than it can produce, and that "we have leaped to conclusions from very preliminary data."

But WDFW's Keith Wolf countered, "That's why we're working on an interim plan." He pressed for the group to have a tentative plan in place before March.

Five different scenarios will be modeled, including one that calls for progressively increasing flat flows, others that allow for fluctuations above a threshold (e.g. 150 kcfs) and one that allows for fluctuations, but limits the time of low level discharge and provides periodic re-wetting peaks equal to the levels that created the entrapments.

Antendees had some questions about developing the model with one year's data. But Lukas said the physical model that would predict the amount of the Reach entrapments wouldn't be a problem.

BPA's Bruce McKay said Battelle scientists involved in the modeling effort said they don't have enough data to forecast entrapment and mortality. Questions were raised about Washington state's view that fish shouldn't be sacrificed if next year's hydro operations start killing fish. "Do we have the flexibility in an interim operating plan to provide it to gather more data?" McKay asked.

One interesting item was that 1998 was marked by a spring of more fluctuation in flows than normal because of drum gate repair work at Grand Coulee. This state of affairs caused hydro operators to give up on their coordination efforts to maximize power production. Consultant Al Wright, representing Grant PUD, said last year may have been tougher on fish than normal, pointing out that in previous years, the fish stranding issue had been looked at without much evidence of mortal effects.

Before the meeting broke up, the Corps of Engineers' Cindy Henriksen told the managers that adding more constraints to operation only made it more difficult to satisfy everyone. She said any time the fish managers had a weekly flow request along with a certain elevation to maintain at Grand Coulee "there was a potential conflict."

She told the group that in average or below-average water years like 1995 or 1998, flood control was less of an issue, but in higher water years, there was a better chance to meet BiOp flow targets and not reduce flows in spring. Henriksen expected 1999 to be an above-average water year and told the fish managers that "if you need more flows you can always draft below the flood control point." But she voiced caution as well, noting that April is a transition month, drier earlier and wetter later in the month.

"If the early bird forecast pans out, it looks pretty good," Henriksen said.

The group planned to meet again Feb. 5 after initial modeling results are completed. Power operators decided to get together on Feb. 4 to come up with an interim operation plan of their own to put on the table the next day. -B.R.


Todd Maddock, one of Idaho's two representatives to the Power Planning Council, has been elected chair of the four-state body that deals with energy and fish and wildlife issues in the Columbia Basin. Maddock has served on the council since 1995, when he was appointed by then-Idaho Gov. Phil Batt, and was vice-chair in 1998.

He worked in the forest products industry before joining the Council, mainly at Potlatch Corp., with management responsibilities in natural resources, sales, long-range planning and governmental affairs.

The new vice-chair is Larry Cassidy of Vancouver, WA, one of his state's new members. Cassidy owns Flo-Rite Products and was a longtime member of the Washington Game Commission, chairing the group at one time.

Cassidy has served as vice president of Trout Unlimited and president of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders and belongs to the Fly Fishing Federation. He also serves on the John Day/Snake River Regional Advisory Committee of the US Interior Department. -B.R.


A sports fishing group with strong ties to both Canada and the US has presented a proposal for solving the impasse over salmon between the two countries. In a Jan. 11 press release, representatives of Trout Unlimited said the inability to reauthorize the Pacific Salmon Treaty threatens the existence of salmon runs.

Tim Hamilton, chair of Trout Unlimited Canada, said it's time to fix the treaty. "If we don't, we will begin seeing the localized extinction of Pacific Salmon in the next few years."

The group's 10-point proposal includes a requirement that no fishing could occur on shared salmon stocks unless both countries "agree each year to realistic harvest levels based on current salmon populations." As things stand now, if no agreement is reached, the group says, the parties revert to domestic regulations.

Other elements of the proposal include creating a workable system that recognizes Alaska fishermen harvest too many fish of Canadian origin, while getting Canada to admit that it's impractical to hold out for a system that strictly accounts for every fish. Trout Unlimited calls for abandonment of fixed ceiling harvests and wants to manage on a year-by-year basis, using annual population estimates.

They called for de-politicizing the technical committees of the Pacific Salmon Commission and recommended their work be subject to independent peer review.

They also said both countries must enhance wild stocks, recognizing that hatchery production will not solve the "crisis" and could potentially damage the long-term viability of wild salmon.

The group also recommended that the US buy out at least 40 percent of the non-treaty harvest capacity for Fraser River sockeye and a good portion of Southeast Alaska fishermen, targeting non-Alaska fishermen. They point out that Alaskans hold less than half the seine permits in that part of the state.

Lastly, they call for mass-marking of hatchery fish and more selective fishing methods.

Alaska fish managers might not agree. Last year, they managed fisheries in the Southeast part of the state partly out of concern for weak northern BC coho and sockeye stocks, though they felt Canadians had overestimated the plight of the stocks. The Alaskans promised to respond to conservation concerns in-season if runs were weak. Canadians closed their commercial coho fishing along their entire Pacific coast.

But runs on the Skeena were much stronger than Canadians had forecast, said Phil Doherty, ADF&G fish biologist based in Ketchikan. He told the Alaska Fisherman's Journal that "It looks like total escapement to the Skeena was one of the best since the late 70s." But he said ocean conditions don't appear to be conducive to sockeye abundance right now. He also pointed out the Skeena sockeye overescaped five years ago, which led to a disease outbreak. Canada had augmented Skeena habitat by building spawning channels to increase the population, but restrictions on steelhead and coho harvest, especially in the river itself, have let more sockeye reach spawning areas.

Cohos returned in healthy numbers as well, according to Deborah Lyons, a member of the salmon treaty's northern panel. Lyons, a participant in a group called the Pacific Salmon Treaty Coalition's Public Relations and Education Committee, was quoted in the Journal as well. "In the end, we were right and they were wrong, but who cares. They scored all their points."

Alaska fish managers said Canada never produced data that substantiated any grave coho crisis for northern coho, but they promised to cut fishing if the fish failed to show up. The fish showed and Southeast commercial fishermen caught 2.8 million coho last year worth almost $13 million. Canadian fishermen had to release their coho, but test fishing in the Skeena in 1998 resulted in ten times higher catches than in 1997 and twice the levels from the brood years of last year's coho run. -Bill Rudolph


While Seattle veterinarians were noticing that the city's felines had developed the thickest fur in years, the region slogged into this winter's over-hyped La Niña with precipitation a mere 134 percent above normal for the Columbia Basin above The Dalles. Snowpack was at near-record levels on Mount Rainier, but further east, the Snake River Plain managed to get only 42 percent of its average rainfall for December.

Cindy Henriksen, head of the Corps of Engineers' Reservoir Control, said the January-to-July earlybird forecast calls for 10 percent more water than normal, but the sideboards on that forecast were plus or minus 25 percent--for a 95 percent confidence level. That translates into 117 MAF at The Dalles, plus or minus another 29 MAF.

The last week in December wetted down the region most thoroughly, with the east slopes of the Cascades ending up with 162 percent of average precipitation. On Dec. 22, the area was still a bit below average. The Clearwater Basin got a good soak as well, with 148 percent of normal rainfall, while the Snake Basin above Ice Harbor was slightly below normal at 94 percent by the end of the month.

November was wetter, with a 5.56 inch daily rainfall record set at Astoria on Nov. 25 and monthly records set at Astoria and Seattle. Precipitation that month was 139 percent of normal above Coulee, 133 percent of normal on the Snake above Ice Harbor and 142 percent of normal above The Dalles -B.R.


A scientific panel appointed by Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber to complete the first independent scientific review of his state's salmon hatcheries since 1878 has found significant problems with them.

The panel, called the Independent Multidisciplinary Science Team (IMST), was given the task to evaluate the state salmon recovery plan and its consistency with other recent scientific review reports from USFWS (the National Fish Hatchery Review Panel, 1994), the National Research Council ( Upstream, 1996) and the Independent Scientific Group (Return To The River, 1996).

The IMST made the following comments: 1) Oregon coastal coho salmon hatcheries do not adequately address hatchery effectiveness, 2) they do not evaluate the impact of hatchery fish on wild fish, 3) monitoring of hatchery programs is inadequate, and 4) fundamental change is needed before hatcheries can support recovery of wild salmon.

State agency officials admitted they can do better. "The first thing is, many of the issues, not all of them, are being treated in our on going review of hatcheries," said Doug DeHart, Chief of Fisheries for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. -Bill Bakke


Gov. Gary Locke took aim at his state's water users and put them squarely in his sights as he unveiled a Washington state salmon recovery strategy that will cost $200 million over the next two years. His Jan. 19 announcement came just a few days after Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber signed an executive order that expanded his own state's salmon recovery efforts and directed all Oregon state agencies to consider salmon recovery a top priority.

"We know the key to saving salmon and protecting our long-term economic vitality is to solve the water gridlock in this state," Locke said. "Salmon cannot survive in streams that are too polluted, too warm, or too shallow--and our communities cannot survive unless we find new sources of water to meet their long-term needs."

The governor's proposed legislation includes key provisions that call for improving agriculture irrigation systems, creating efficiency standards for water use and launching projects to re-use treated water where drinking-quality water is not needed.

Other controversial provisions call for funding to purchase privately held water rights and place them in "water trusts" to improve stream flows, and authorizing private entities to hold water trust rights to augment salmon recovery efforts. The proposed legislation would establish a system to account for groundwater withdrawals by new wells and allow the Department of Ecology to process changes to water rights ahead of requests for new water rights, "thus making it easier to free up water for salmon recovery, economic development or other uses." Enforcement of water statutes would be beefed up and penalties for non-compliance would be raised from a maximum of $100 to $25,000.

Dean Boyer of the Washington Farm Bureau said he hadn't seen the full recovery document yet, but said the executive summary alone was 100 pages long. "It's clear that most of the burden will rest on the farmers," he said, noting that the focus of the governor's plan is re-writing the state's water use laws.

Boyer said he expected some legislative changes to water law are pretty much inevitable, even with the 49-49 split between Democrats and Republicans in the state House of Representatives. "Some form of legislation will be passed to forestall federal intervention," he predicted. He said proposed legislation has already been written to modify existing water law. "That's 66 pages by itself."

Expecting more sacrifice from the agricultural segment of the economy couldn't come at a worse time, according to Boyer. He pointed out that with the exception of grapes grown for wine, every major crop in the state was harvested at a loss last year.

"What good is pristine habitat going to be if all the fish are caught in the river?" Boyer added.

The state plan mandates $64 million in direct state spending, including $10 million designated to purchase water rights in 16 critical basins, and more than $6 million to hire more personnel to enforce fish and wildlife laws and water statutes. Another $280,000 is earmarked to help state biologists participate in hydro relicensing consultations.

Federal funds are expected to pay for $80 million for unspecified grants to local communities for water quality improvements and $3.5 million to fund most of a program to buy back commercial fishing licenses. But a section of the budget called "Ensuring Fish Hatcheries Management Meets the Needs of Wild Fish" had no funds mandated. Another $14 million in federal funds would be spent on timber/fish categories, with most going to fund grants to small landowners.

Locke's plan, put together by the state's salmon recovery office headed by Curt Smitch, will undoubtedly look a bit different by the time it works its way through the legislature, pushed by the specter of a draconian plan developed by federal authorities if the state doesn't get its act together.

But at some point, the effort will be submitted to NMFS for approval. If the federal agency accepts the plan, the state will have in place a series of measures designed to address recovery for salmon populations like Puget Sound chinook, expected to be listed under the ESA by March.

But it's still too early to say what the final product will be. Major fights over water issues are sure to take place. The Farm Bureau's Boyer complained that agricultural groups were not invited to the table when the plan was in its beginning stages. "We were asked for comments, but were not allowed to take an active part in the process," he said. His complaints echo tribal concerns last year when the state developed its wild salmon policy without their input. -Bill Rudolph


Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA) has asked President Clinton to set aside $310 million for West coast salmon restoration efforts--and earmark most of that money for local efforts rather than federally-directed programs.

In a Jan. 8 letter to President Clinton, Gorton--chair of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, which determines funding for Pacific Northwest salmon recovery--asks for $310 million in direct federal funding for "locally driven" salmon recovery efforts in Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska. Gorton also says Congress and the administration "must dramatically reform federal regulations and laws so that the people in the Northwest, subject to clear goals and objectives, and not federal agencies can decide on specific measures necessary to restore Northwest salmon recovery."

Gorton doesn’t get into specifics about how the money would be spent or how much would be devoted to recovery efforts in each state. The senator hasn’t started writing specific legislation, said assistant press secretary Heather Williams, and "won’t write up a whole bill unless the President appropriates the money." Williams said it’s possible some of the funding would be used to expand or extend local programs that received federal money under last year’s appropriations. Gorton also says in his letter that "we must also establish clear goals, priorities and standards to measure the success of specific salmon protection plans." While it may be difficult to set consistent standards to measure a variety of local salmon protection plans, Williams said the senator "sees a need for that to become more concrete…that’s something that needs to be talked about more." -Jude Noland


Avista Corp., formerly Washington Water Power, and the Nez Perce Tribe have announced a final settlement in seven-year-old litigation over tribal claims for damages for anadromous fish losses along the main stem and south fork of the Clearwater River.

Under the settlement, Avista will pay the tribe $2.5 million next month, followed by 44 annual payments of $835,498, for a total of $39.3 million. "This resolves not only the lawsuit but also settles issues concerning utility taxes, tribal employment rights fees and rights-of-way," the utility said.

According to an Avista press release, Samuel N. Penney, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal executive committee, said the settlement "is particularly important to us because it builds upon the interest of both parties and reflects what can be made possible when good will is used to resolve differences." The chairman also said the agreement "reflects the deep interest the Nez Perce Tribe has in the anadromous fish resources in our area and goes even farther to insure that we have a positive relationship with Avista Corp. in the future."

Tom Matthews, Avista Corp. board chair and CEO, said the agreement is "a foundation for a long-term positive, mutually beneficial relationship between the company and the Nez Perce Tribe, in addition to avoiding lengthy and costly litigation."

The case began in December 1991 when the tribe filed in US District Court for the District of Idaho, alleging that two dams once operated by Avista did not provide adequate passage to migrating anadromous fish in violation of rights granted in treaties the US and the Tribe signed in 1855 and 1863. Allegations of actual losses under different assumptions ranged between $425 million and $650 million, together with $100 million in punitive damages, according to a December 1997 Avista (WWP) 10K filing.

The Lewiston dam on the Clearwater River was built in 1927 and the Grangeville dam in 1903 on the South Fork. Both were built by electric companies acquired in 1937 by Avista. Both dams were later dismantled and removed: Lewiston in 1973 and Grangeville in 1963.

Avista denied the tribe's claims and won a summary judgment motion from Judge B. Lynn Winmill in March, 1996. The tribe appealed to the Ninth Circuit: several months later the parties entered mediation, where they "spent considerable time in exploring each others' interests and in identifying overlapping interests," according to Avista. -Ben Tansey


A federal judge in Montana has ruled that the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation violated dictates of the Northwest Power Act in 1996 and 1997 when Montana reservoirs were drafted for more water than called for under provisions dictated by the so-called Integrated Rule Curves in the 1995 BiOp. The IRCs are measures designed to protect fish and wildlife by prohibiting deep reservoir drawdowns. Flows were augmented beyond BiOp levels when fish managers voted to adopt weekly flow targets at McNary Dam rather than the "seasonal" target called for in the BiOp.

Federal judge Leif Erickson of the Montana District Court granted partial summary judgment for the state of Montana when he found that the federal agencies "chose to go beyond the BiOp's seasonal average flow targets in order to provide more downstream water. It was an abuse of their discretion to do so without taking into account the clear mandate of the NPA [Northwest Power Act]. That Defendants' operations were pursuant to the BiOp's RPA [Reasonable, Prudent Alternative], and thus protected by the incidental take provisions of the ESA, does not obviate Defendant's duty to also comply with the NPA."

The judge said the ESA, in effect, trumps the NPA, but "once compliance with the BiOp and Defendants' ESA obligations have been met, defendants must consider and implement, to the fullest extent practicable, the IRCs."

Montana assistant attorney general Tim Hall said Governor Racicot withdrew Montana from the NMFS process several years ago because he felt Montana's interests in the basin were not being treated fairly. He said the judge's ruling confirms that.

"Flow augmentation was being pursued at the expense of Montana's reservoirs, rivers and resident fish," said Hall, "and the Corps' and the Bureau's decision in the big water years of 1996 and 1997 to not implement Integrated Rule Curves at Libby Dam and Hungry Horse Dam were found by the federal court to be in violation of the Northwest Power Act as Montana maintained. The federal court affirmed that the Integrated Rule Curves for Libby Dam and Hungry Horse Dam found in the Northwest Power Planning Council's Fish and Wildlife Plan need to be reckoned with, as Montana has been saying all along."

Cindy Henriksen, a Corps of Engineers representative at the weekly TMT meetings of hydro and fish managers, said the decision was so new that "we don't know exactly what it means yet."

Montana has not said whether the ruling means it will rejoin the TMT process, but it's clear that state officials feel they finally got some respect.

"Montana is elated that the federal court ordered that the Corps and Bureau from now on must try during their weekly in-season management meetings to implement Integrated Rule Curves to the fullest extent practicable," said state attorney Hall. -Bill Rudolph

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