To Breach Or Not, That Is Still The Question
 Region Gets 4,000 Pages Of Dam Studies, But No Answer
 Federal 'Family' Still Feuding Over Salmon Recovery Options
 Power Council Funds New Nez Perce Hatchery
 Pros And Cons Of Hatchery Supplementation
 New Paper Raises More Questions on Fish Fitness
 NMFS 'Incidental Take' Rules Out Soon
 Vernita Flow Agreement Kicks In To Protect Salmon Eggs
 NMFS OK's Corps' $197 Million Dredging Project
 TO BREACH OR NOT TO BREACH, THAT IS STILL THE QUESTION Federal agencies took their All-H paper on the road last week, beginning a series of meetings throughout the region to obtain public comment. About 75 people turned out in Spokane Dec. 15 to hear from NMFS, Corps and BPA officials about the state of salmon recovery planning, but the focus soon turned to the future of the four federal dams on the lower Snake.
Corps spokesman Witt Anderson said his agency would not announce a "preferred alternative" in its $20 million draft EIS on the future of lower Snake dams, scheduled for release Dec. 17. Instead, the Corps would pick a preferred option for their operation by late spring 2000.
Anderson said the federal NEPA statute doesn't require the Corps to name a preferred alternative. "We think the information is complex enough and contrary enough to engage the public," he said, adding that after taking public comment in February and March, the Corps would reissue another draft EIS with a preferred alternative, go through another round of public comment and have it ready by late spring, with an ultimate record of decision completed by late 2000.
Corps on dam removal: no concrete answers.
As an example of the "contrary" nature of the information, NMFS scientist Michelle McClure described her agency's newest analysis of the dam breaching scenario, which estimates that the strategy could boost threatened spring and summer chinook stocks in the Snake by 4 percent annually, when a 12 percent annual increase would be needed to recover the runs.
Sources both inside and outside the Corps of Engineers say the agency was prepared to choose a non-breaching alternative (along with maximum system improvements) for future dam operations on the lower Snake. The decision to delay selection of a preferred alternative was made recently, at a much higher level than the Corps, which points to a Cabinet-level decision with policy implications some say could be related to the upcoming Presidential election. The current delay could keep a final decision from being reached until after that.
"It's crazy to spend $20 million and not to come out with a preferred alternative," said Bruce Lovelin, executive director of the Columbia River Alliance.
With federal agencies poised to announce release of the draft EIS last Friday, environmental groups went on the offensive the day before, staging a press conference of their own. American Rivers said they had an advance copy of the monumental Corps document (with economic and social analyses included, it was reported to be about five feet high), and that "the document shows that dam removal must be the cornerstone of any salmon recovery plan."
But Doug Arndt, head of the Corps' salmon coordination office in Portland, disputed that perspective. "It may be a conclusion drawn by American Rivers, but it's not ours," Arndt said. "The draft EIS does not make any recommendation or conclusion anywhere like that...There is no clear-cut answer."
Arndt said the Corps was not directed by the Clinton Administration to buy time on a preferred alternative for dam operation. "It was strictly a Corps/Army decision." He said an alternative will be picked in the revised draft EIS, which should by out by late spring and which will incorporate more NMFS analyses and work from the Power Planning Council's EDT process that is attempting to gauge potential salmon productivity throughout the Columbia Basin.
The environmentalists point to the new NMFS analysis, which says that most improvement for fall chinook populations in the Snake would come from dam removal because it would increase "available" habitat by over 70 percent.
However, Arndt said that is very misleading because 90 percent of the fall chinook habitat was permanently blocked by the Hells Canyon complex of privately owned dams. The amount of suitable habitat opened by breaching the lower Snake dams would only amount to about 3 percent of the original spawning area.
Agriculturists, mainly wheat farmers, were open about their gripes at the Spokane meeting. One farmer who attended the day-long session said, "There will be a revolution in Whitman County if these dams are breached."
His feelings represented much of the audience, who also heard Donna Darm, head of NMFS' office of protected resources, describe basic options for salmon recovery in the other H's of harvest and hatcheries. "Nothing is sacred," Darm said, noting that although in some respects salmon are better off now--"even the status quo represents an improvement over the past"--it's still not enough. "The status quo will not recover the fish. We need dramatic improvements in survival."
BPA's Lorri Bodi spoke about options for habitat improvement. "Scientific information is telling us that habitat is important to recovery," she said, pointing out three main objectives--preventing further degradation, preserving high-quality habitat, and restoring what's been degraded. She said federal authorities are working towards a more coordinated effort and she stressed the need for a regional plan that includes states and tribes. But private land owners in the audience complained about the personal costs incurred in restoring habitat and onerous standards being developed in regard to water temperatures and flows.
Bodi said the state is "way behind the times" when it comes to water issues, and pointed to "vibrant" water markets being developed elsewhere. She said the region needs to take another look at the "turn of the century" water rights system in Washington. She said the situation is changing. "It involves a different way of thinking about things."
It was clear that NMFS still has a long way to go before it can weigh the value of different options towards recovery, much less sell them to the public who will be most affected. Such feasibility studies have been promised in the near future, but results will likely come after the public comment period has ended, Darm admitted.
To put the uncertainties in perspective, NMFS biologist McClure gave the group a short lecture on the life cycle of wild spring chinook. It begins where 5,000 eggs are generated by a pair of spawning adults that result in approximately 250 fish that reach Lower Granite Dam. That's pared down to about 170 by the time they pass Bonneville Dam. At the end of their first year at sea, the number has dwindled down to 30. After another year in the ocean, when the fish are ready to migrate back, average mortality has cut the group down to about 5 individuals. Once they have swum back through the hydro system, the number has been reduced to only 2 or 3 fish by the time the fish have passed Lower Granite Dam.
McClure said the big question is to figure out how to much of the mortality is human-induced. "There's no answer yet."-Bill Rudolph
 REGION GETS 4,000 PAGES OF DAM STUDIES, BUT NO ANSWER
Though the Northwest has been getting bits and pieces of the Corps of Engineers' draft environmental impact statement on the lower Snake for the better part of a year, it wasn't prepared to have the more than 4,000 pages dropped on the region's doorstep all at one time.
The monumental work adds up to about $5,000 a page, or $20 million for the entire package--which includes extensive biological, economic, and social analyses of the four alternatives for the future operation of the four federal dams. But, as Corps spokespeople had warned, the document does not come to any conclusions about whether or not to breach the dams. They want more scientific analysis and a regional dialog over the alternatives before they pick one by late next spring.
NMFS regional administrator Will Stelle downplayed the lack of conclusions at the Dec. 17 Portland press conference. He stumped for a basin-wide vision that included endangered fish in the upper Columbia, which he said were in worse shape than the Snake River stocks.
"The important point about this is that this issue and the challenge that we face is therefore not just about the Snake River and not just about the Snake River stocks. And if you choose to put all of your marbles and all of your effort into Snake River issues alone, then you will be effectively writing off some of those Columbia River stocks, and that makes no sense as a matter of law and as a matter of good sense."
Stelle said if the region focuses on "one stock here and one stock there" it will fail to recover Northwest salmon and steelhead. What's needed, he stressed, was a comprehensive regional effort that's being developed by the federal agencies in the 'All-H' paper that he unveiled last month. He said the region needs to expand its economic analyses to embrace the options for salmon recovery throughout the basin "across the H's" of hydro, habitat, hatcheries, and harvest. The public has a chance to help make the decision after a "substantial" regional debate, he added, which could keep at bay the specter of a federal judge running the salmon recovery process.
"We need to make some tough choices here in the Pacific Northwest to be successful and we must be successful. We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to future generations. The idea that we're going to let these stocks go extinct is not acceptable. If we do not change what we are doing now, we will be letting those stocks go extinct."
But in that part of the region where people will have to live with its consequences, the federal announcement didn't generate much enthusiasm. "To be honest, I was pretty disappointed," said irrigation consultant Fred Ziari of Hermiston, OR. "As an engineer, I'm kind of appalled that we spent $20 million and we didn't put one brick on top of another."
Ziari said he didn't have much hope that more dialog among stakeholders would lead to any conclusion. "What they mean is more dialog between regional agencies," said Ziari. He thinks that talks will go nowhere until private landholders are included in a meaningful way, since they own between 65 percent and 80 percent of the salmon habitat in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Environmental groups and Columbia River tribes weren't too happy, either. "The DEIS released today by the Corps continues the agency's long and dismal record of ducking the key issue of partial removal of the four lower Snake dams, and of delaying vitally necessary actions to restore a healthy river ecosystem for endangered salmon and steelhead as well as the Pacific Northwest," said Sierra Club regional director Bill Arthur. "Meanwhile, after you peel away the rhetoric and caveats in the NMFS science paper about supposedly confusing science, you will find the inescapable conclusion that partial dam removal is a no-brainer."
The no-brainer line was also sounded by USFWS regional director Anne Badgely at the press conference, who said it was a "no-brainer" that a free flowing river was better than a dammed river for native fish and wildlife. Her agency recommended breaching the dams in one of the 21 appendices to the study, a F&W coordination act report that has been in the works for "a couple of years."
She said its purpose was to look at all the fish and wildlife values within the geographical area of the lower Snake, which means looking at other animals that inhabit the region, not just listed fish. She pointed out that her agency has taken no official policy position on breaching the dams, and stressed the difference between "preferred alternative" and "recommendation." Brig. Gen. Carl Strock of the Corps of Engineers said his agency was not surprised by the recommendation.
But large uncertainties still remain in the analysis of the biological benefits of dam breaching which are described in the first and perhaps most famous appendix to the study, the NMFS A-Fish Appendix, which has been extensively revised from an April draft.
Buried deep in an annex to the A-Fish Appendix, NMFS scientists explain, in excruciating detail, why they consider a state and tribal analysis of delayed mortality to be "fallacious." The states' and tribes' analysis estimated that for the 1994 migration year, transported fish survived at only 24 percent of the rate of inriver migrating fish. The NMFS analysis found that the rate was more than 80 percent, a number that has important implications for the value of the fish transportation system.
An earlier PATH analysis also used higher rates of delayed mortality for transported fish than NMFS has found to be reasonable, which may have cause PATH to overestimate the benefits of the dam breaching recovery strategy the group announced late last year. The newest NMFS report using their CRI analysis (Cumulative Risk Analysis) says that dam breaching, by itself, may still be inadequate to avoid extinction of some Snake spring/summer stocks.
The Corps' summary of the DEIS states, "If lower delayed transport mortality rates occur than were modeled in the PATH analysis and extra mortality resulting from the hydro system had been low, then dam breaching offers a slightly better chance of meeting the NMFS criteria for survival and recovery than any of the other alternatives."
But on the economic side, the Corps' analysis found that dam removal would cost the region $359 million annually, offset slightly by increases in recreation and salmon that were estimated at $113 million per year. Environmentalists called that insignificant compared to the $300 billion regional economy.
Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA) issued a statement after the Corps' press conference, noting that the report reflected "a turn away from dam removal and recognizes that significant reductions in harvest could provide enough population growth recovery of Snake River species." Gorton's remarks were sure to infuriate tribal harvesters on the Columbia, who are pushing for harvest opportunities through the All-H process that would keep their catches of listed fall chinook at 1999 harvest rates until abundance increases. Other harvest options are more severe, including one that would severely curtail tribal fishing opportunities for an unspecified number of years. -B. R.
 FEDERAL 'FAMILY' STILL FEUDING OVER FISH RECOVERY OPTIONS
Some federal agencies responsible for developing the list of options for fish recovery are still at odds over the process. The options were outlined last month by NMFS regional administrator Will Stelle when he went public with the "Four-H" paper at a Portland press conference.
After a flap with the 4-H Club, the feds are now calling their paper "All-H," and they were still hoping to have it fleshed out and presented to the public on Dec. 17, complete with a list of potential futures for hatcheries, hydro, habitat, and harvest operations. The latest version appeared nearly on schedule, but the Federal Caucus has still not started singing in nine-part harmony, as a report obtained by NW Fishletter clearly shows. In comments submitted to other federal agencies in late November, the US Fish and Wildlife Service strongly criticized elements of the working draft released by Stelle last month.
The agency thinks NMFS, through its new Cumulative Risk Initiative (CRI) analysis, may have underestimated the risks of extinction to the Snake river stocks. It cites similar concerns raised by the independent science panel--the ISAB--which recently went public with a critique of its own.
USFWS didn't support the CRI analysis on the questionable value of dam breaching, either. The new analysis says that even with the lower Snake dams breached, other actions must be taken to keep the spring chinook from going extinct, but that other combinations of actions might achieve the same goal without breaching the dams.
But Fish and Wildlife didn't buy it. "Secondly, the presentation of theoretical improvements in survival in the non-hydro H's implies that they are feasible and again the reader is left with the impression that the federal agencies have concluded that dam removal will not be necessary to recover the Snake River spring/summer chinook when we have not come to that conclusion."
USFWS also said the CRI has presented no evidence to support the contention that short-term survival from habitat improvements could increase by 10 percent, that hatchery improvements could increase survival by 22 percent, and other unspecified actions in the estuary and near-ocean could boost it by another 10 percent.
"Five of the seven spring/summer chinook index stocks are located in pristine habitat and we question how the habitat measures in the Four H paper will translate into a 10 percent level of improvement in survival of these stocks...It is also not clear what actions will be implemented in the estuary and near-ocean area that could possibly result in a 10 percent improvement in survival of spring/summer salmon. These theoretical levels of improvement should be deleted from the Four H paper until the critical feasibility step is completed."
The agency also wanted to add another element to the four listed objectives for hatcheries--"Provide a sustainable harvest resource for tribal and non-Tribal fisheries." Its comments pointed out the uncertainties associated with making major changes at hatcheries, as outlined in some of the options announced by Stelle last month, changes that could be "masked or confounded" by the effects of changes in the other Hs.
Before decisions are made to use hatcheries to conserve populations or eliminate mitigation programs, the Fish and Wildlife Service said a full assessment of their impacts on wild fish via controlled studies would be required. USFWS said NMFS should provide such a plan in an appendix to the Federal Caucus paper.
The agency, which operates a number of federal hatcheries in the Columbia Basin, also suggested adding a section to the document to emphasize that effects of hatchery fish "on interspecific, naturally produced fish are largely unknown." They cited a report (Steward and Bjornn, 1990) that said available data are more consistent with an alternative hypothesis to one advanced in the draft Caucus paper, "that hatchery-produced smolts are at a competitive disadvantage relative to naturally produced fish." Two of the three options for future hatchery operations call for reductions in mitigation programs.
The agency said fish crowding problems at dam bypass systems may create conditions "not unlike those in hatcheries and may thus have a greater likelihood of increasing the incidence of disease among naturally produced fish because of stress than direct infection from hatchery fish." -B. R.
 POWER COUNCIL FUNDS NEW HATCHERY
At its meeting two weeks ago in Portland, the Power Planning Council OK'd funding for the controversial Nez Perce hatchery on the Clearwater River in Idaho. Money for the project has been a subject of debate for months, ever since a science panel that reviewed the fish and wildlife proposals twice recommended against funding the $20 million facility, already scaled down once from $32 million. The Council decided to scale down the project from its original plan and set aside $8 million for next year's construction work, with another $8 million to follow in FY 2001.
By overriding the scientists' recommendations, some said the Power Planning Council was defeating the purpose of the review, which began several years ago with passage of the Gorton Amendment to the NW Power Act.
But Montana Council member Stan Grace said the hatchery was something the Council had promised the tribe for a long time. "They've jumped through all the hoops," Grace said last week. "It wouldn't be fair now to take it away."
The funding comes with strings attached: certain performance standards must be achieved before additional funding will be OK'd. Council members decided the biological 'triggers' developed by the tribe were too low. Additional consultation is planned to reach a mutually agreeable plan for the future.
The science panel said the Nez Perce hatchery was based on optimistic projections for fish supplementation: using hatcheries to increase wild populations. They pointed out that the efforts are really experimental in nature, with unknown biological and economic benefits, and noted that results from the three experimental supplementation hatcheries already funded by the region should be evaluated before the Council commits to another expensive fish project. -B. R.
 POWER COUNCIL HEARS PROS AND CONS OF HATCHERY SUPPLEMENTATION
As the century ends, hatchery supplementation is being applied as a basin-wide strategy before regional biologists have determined whether it really works. With even more projects in the planning pipeline, none have yet been in operation long enough to be evaluated. With that in mind, a group of scientists went before the Power Planning Council two weeks ago to explain the pros and cons of hatchery supplementation efforts. Canadian scientist Dr. Brian Riddell of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, a member of the Council's Independent Scientific Advisory Board, led the Dec. 8 discussion.
Riddell introduced the topic by saying five billion juvenile salmonids are released each year into streams of the North Pacific basin, yet both Canada and the West Coast are still faced with restricted and closed fisheries. He said we cannot just simply dump animals into the environment and expect them to survive and provide benefits.
USGS biologist Reg Reisenbichler, with 20 years of research on hatchery supplementation under his belt, said hatchery supplementation is appropriate where the risk of losing a wild salmon population is greater than the risk of losing life history, genetic diversity, and productivity of the treatment population. He said our knowledge of hatchery supplementation is insufficient to prevent loss of diversity and productivity of salmonids, and pointed out that supplementation itself is an unproven technology.
Reisenbichler also noted that using supplementation to "jump-start" a population is a false premise, and said it was extremely unlikely to occur. Instead, increasing the numbers of fish in a stream through hatchery supplementation without improving that stream's habitat will decrease production of the native fish the effort is aimed at helping, he said. The federal biologist also told the Council that hatchery supplementation causes a loss of life history and gene diversity in natural populations and leads to a loss of productivity. Supplementation goals can only be achieved if the productivity of the native population is maintained or increased, he said.
According to Reisenbichler, all studies that have compared wild and hatchery fish survival show that hatchery fish survive at a lesser rate. Perhaps most important, supplementing wild fish populations with hatchery fish can result in such a loss of productivity that the population can no longer replace itself.
Wild Hanford Stock Could Be At Risk
Idaho consultant Don Chapman provided information on the Hanford Reach fall chinook and the Priest Rapids hatchery program that uses the same stock. Chapman said up to 25 million fall chinook juveniles are leaving the Reach each year, including about 6 million hatchery fish. Based on spawning surveys, Chapman said about 240 spawners, or 25 percent of the total number in the Reach, are of hatchery origin. That's too high a number, according to Chapman, and could cause "genetic drift" of the natural population.
He noted that very few wild fall chinook are used in the Priest Rapids hatchery brood stock, and this must be corrected. Chapman told Council members not to allow adulteration of the natural fall chinook population in the Hanford Reach with hatchery fish. "Don't screw it up," he admonished, pointing out that the hatchery fish are there for one reason--to increase salmon catch in the fisheries.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife researcher Craig Busack told Council members that success from hatchery supplementation efforts means increasing natural recruits over pre-supplementation conditions. But he said there is no reason to believe hatchery supplementation will increase the productivity of natural populations. Supplementation will boost production (numbers of fish), but once stopped, he said the natural population will drop to its pre-supplementation condition. "This is a fact," said Busak.
The success of hatchery supplementation is heavily dependent on the reproductive success of hatchery fish in the wild. If hatchery supplementation is working, then hatchery fish plus wild fish productivity (adult progeny per spawner) has to be greater than the productivity of the wild population.
Busack said concerns about hatchery supplementation are genetic (loss of fitness for survival), ecological (competitive interactions between wild and hatchery fish), and demographic (mining the wild population for an egg supply). But he said it is hard to evaluate long-term supplementation efforts because of the problem of "false negatives and positives," the attempt to sort out the effects of the environment on hatchery fish to determine whether success or failure is due to environmental or project problems.
Busack also said the focus on genetics comes with a cost, that is, lack of a better understanding of ecological and demographic interactions between hatchery and wild salmonids. He said the region needs a better discussion about these interactions and their relationship to salmonid productivity.
Don Campton, a biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, used the South Fork Salmon River (Idaho) chinook population as a model for his discussion of hatchery supplementation. He defined hatchery supplementation as adding hatchery fish to the natural environment to achieve an increase in natural production without changing the genetic characteristics of the natural population.
He pointed out that the Kalama River steelhead supplementation experiment in Washington shows that hatchery fish had a lower reproductive success than wild fish. But in the Salmon River, there has been an increase in redd counts. However, he said it's not known whether natural smolt production had increased as a result of the supplementation effort in the Salmon. Campton posed a question-- whether an increase in redd counts represented an increase in natural reproduction or crop cycles.
He said supplementation success is an increase in natural productivity, an increase in the number of redds, the number of smolts, natural spawners and number of redds in the next cycle. And from a genetic point of view, he said hatchery supplementation must maintain the genetic characteristics of the natural population and maintain or increase the effective breeding population size.
Andre Talbot, representing the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, said that he did not accept the need to maintain genetic structure of salmon populations. He used an example form his work in Quebec with Atlantic salmon.
Talbot said a certain stream there had an eight-foot waterfall that made it possible for only older and larger salmon to pass by on their migration, which put a constraint on production. But building a fish ladder around the falls, said Talbot, would allow salmon of all ages and size to ascend the falls. This eventually increased both the number of salmon in the steam and the sport catch, he said, noting that "only in the Northwest could we put a negative spin on this."
Talbot said that differences among fish is trivial information, but proving they are the same is much more difficult. He said if one cannot measure differences or their effect, then it is not science but philosophy or opinion. The inability to measure changes in fitness from the interbreeding of hatchery and wild fish is something that tribal biologists have often pointed out. Talbot admitted that domestication selection is inevitable in a hatchery program, and that a hatchery will select for traits that produce a fish that does better in the hatchery environment than in the natural stream. But he said the question is: "How long does this effect last and is it reversible?"
When a hatchery and wild population have diverged, as in run timing, Talbot said there is still an area where the two overlap. The part of the hatchery population that remains similar to the wild population can still be used to supplement the wild run.
In his closing comments, Canadian biologist Riddell told the Power Planning Council to pay attention to the terminology because it was important to define the terms and to reach agreement on their meaning. Using the terms "production" and "productivity" as examples, Riddell pointed out they are not the same and should not be used interchangeably. He said "production" refers to an increase in fish numbers, while "productivity" means the number of surviving fish per female spawner.
Value of Supplementation Debated For Years
Hatchery supplementation has been a long-standing issue with the Power Planning Council's fish and wildlife program. Back in June 1991, ODFW biologist Frank Young told the Council that the region did not have the life history and limiting factors information that would be useful to a supplementation program. A few months later, Council F&W head Rick Applegate called upon the tribes and agencies, along with a genetics panel, to develop criteria for hatchery/wild interactions, complete with an overall impact assessment of hatcheries.
That September, genetics panel member Ann Kapusinski said the Council's goal of doubling the salmon runs could not be reached unless the number two goal of maintaining genetic variability was carried out. "We can't rely on hatcheries to solve all the problems salmon face," said Kapusinski. "Historically, we have concentrated on release of smolts and have ignored the natural population affected by the hatchery."
Also in September 1991, Oregon Council member Angus Duncan stated that the biological goal presented to the Power Planning Council by the genetics panel was not acceptable to the tribes, and therefore not acceptable to him.
In 1994, ODFW's Doug DeHart told the Council that it was hard to protect wild populations when "we don't even know where they are." That March, NMFS policymaker Gary Smith told the council that hatchery supplementation "is largely experimental with lots of uncertainty and should not be used widespread. We feel it's prudent to proceed cautiously."
On a March 20, 1996 conference call, Council members approved funding for 15 additional supplementation hatcheries. The National Marine Fisheries Service had agreed with adopting six projects, finding them "critical to recovery of ESA listed salmon," but when the Council adopted all 15 projects, it came as a surprise. Council chair Stan Grace said they were approved on condition they be treated as experiments and include a monitoring and evaluation program.
Given this history of hatchery supplementation review and comment as background, the Council recently approved a scaled-down Nez Perce Hatchery for the Clearwater Basin in Idaho. The Council's decision was at odds with a recommendation by its scientific panel not to fund the project. If a monitoring and evaluation plan is approved by the Council and its science team next March, then the hatchery will be constructed.
The Nez Perce project would be added to the other supplementation test projects in the Yakima and Umatilla rivers, Johnson Creek, and the Imnaha , Grande Ronde, Clearwater, Salmon, Hood, and Snake rivers, part of the 202 hatchery projects for anadromous fish in the Columbia Basin counted in a recent report to Congress. -Bill Bakke
 NEW PAPER RAISES QUESTIONS OVER FISH FITNESS
The use of hatcheries to supplement wild salmon populations is spreading throughout the Northwest as fish agencies and tribes attempt to restore salmon and steelhead populations listed under the Endangered Species Act. But the ultimate value of this strategy is still hotly debated, and a recent paper on the subject looks at the genetic tradeoffs such efforts can bring about.
Published in a recent issue of the ICES Journal of Marine Science, authors R.R. Reisenbichler and S.P. Rubin say that hatchery supplementation will reduce the productivity of naturally reproducing salmon. Recognition of its negative aspects may lead to restricted use of supplementation strategies, better conservation, and better evaluation.
The authors focus on just one of the negative effects from artificial propagation: genetic changes that reduce population fitness or natural propagation. Fitness is a term used to describe those factors important for the survival of the fish throughout their life cycle. Reductions in fitness reduce the productivity and viability of a population for natural rearing, the authors say, but these "potential hazards have not been universally accepted as real or relevant to management of Pacific salmon."
The authors note that two published studies and three in progress have shown that the survival of hatchery fish was less than that for wild fish. When developing survival models, fish management agencies routinely factor in a reduced survival rate for hatchery fish, based on survival information that shows wild fish survive at twice the rate of hatchery fish.
"All five of the studies in natural streams," says the paper, "suggest that same conclusion: hatchery programs that rear steelhead or chinook salmon for one year or longer before release genetically change the population and thereby reduce reproductive success when these fish spawn in natural systems." These results are consistent and confirm eight other studies summarized in their report, the authors indicate.
"In view of this consistency, one conclusion seems obvious: substantial genetic change in fitness results from traditional artificial propagation of anadromous salmonids held in captivity for one-quarter or more of their life," say the authors. "These conclusions imply that (hatchery) supplementation (wherein wild fish interbreed with hatchery fish of reduced fitness) will reduce the productivity of naturally spawning populations, and often may compromise conservation objectives."
The authors note that evaluation of hatchery steelhead showed, with time, that juvenile hatchery fish survival continued to decline compared to wild steelhead, which suggests that the fitness of the next generation would be low even before hatchery and wild fish have a chance to interbreed; and "continuous supplementation should progressively diminish the productivity (adult progeny per female) of the naturally spawning population."
Continued supplementation may reduce productivity of a population to such a degree that it is dependent on supplementation and cannot replace itself. This could defeat the conservation purpose of hatchery supplementation--to increase natural production.
The authors note one chinook salmon population suffered reduction in fitness after four generations in the hatchery, despite continuous gene flow from the wild population, where the wild fish made up 38 percent of the hatchery brood stock. Fitness in steelhead was diminished after only two generations, and numerous studies are showing a substantial change in fitness in the first generation of hatchery rearing.
They recommend taking a number of actions to minimize or slow the loss of fitness in hatchery operations, but they conclude by saying, "The only responses known to substantially reduce the problem are restricting the number of hatchery fish and restricting the number of populations supplemented, i.e., designating a substantial proportion of the viable wild populations to remain completely wild." -B. B.
(Source: Reisenbichler, R.R. and S. P. Rubin. 1999. Genetic changes from artificial propagation of Pacific salmon affect the productivity and viability of supplemented populations. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 56:459-466).
 NMFS 'INCIDENTAL TAKE' RULES OUT SOON
NMFS regional administrator Will Stelle went public last week to tout the new proposed "4(d)" rules that would protect threatened salmon stocks while allowing local and state governments and private landowners to go about their business in ways friendlier to listed fish. Unfortunately, when he made the announcement Dec. 14, the proposals had not been signed off by OMB and were not available for scrutiny. The rules would allow incidental take of listed fish if certain provisions are followed by the parties that NMFS says would help fish. They should be available within the next two weeks.
But that didn't stop Stelle from calling the proposed regulations "a major innovation in the ESA program." He pointed to the agreement between the Washington state forest industry, feds and state officials that spells out a 50-year plan that cuts fewer trees in return for significant fish protections as an example of the new regime. And he suggested Oregon had better develop something similar real soon.
Plans are still being developed by the three main counties in Puget Sound, where wild chinook stocks are now listened as a threatened stock. With NMFS' input and ultimate blessing, they should be finalized by next April. The rules would spell out future growth boundaries, buffer zones for streams, stormwater runoff practices, and other activities that affect fish. Another plan is being finalized that deals with listed stocks in the Portland area.
Other rules are proposed that deal with harvest and tribal fish restoration plans, hatchery operations, habitat restoration in watershed plans and irrigation practices. Talks just began two weeks ago with agricultural interests, NMFS, and environmental groups in hopes of reaching an arrangement similar to the plan hashed out with timber interests over the past two years. At his announcement, Stelle neglected to mention that environmental groups eventually walked out of the timber talks and plan to sue over the agreement, which they said doesn't do enough to protect fish.
Meanwhile, The Columbia River Alliance said the innovative rules are "nothing more than a back door, hidden expansion of the "take prohibition" under the Endangered Species Act." They said the new rules would put in place take prohibitions regarding threatened fish stocks that section 9 of the ESA applies to endangered salmonids. -Bill Rudolph
 VERNITA FLOW AGREEMENT KICKS IN TO PROTECT SALMON EGGS
Grant PUD announced Dec. 8 that it will coordinate the effort to maintain flows in the Hanford Reach to protect eggs left by spawning salmon in the 1.5 mile-long stretch known as Vernita Bar. After examining the spawning beds, state and federal biologists, along with observers from BPA, determined that a minimum flow of 60,000 cfs will be optimum for keeping redds covered all winter.
Grant County will now work with other Mid-Columbia hydro operators to ensure those minimum flows are maintained until the eggs hatch next spring. The agreement has been in place since 1988. On average, fall chinook returns have doubled (to 48,000) since then from the 20-year-average return before the agreement was reached.
Also, hydro operators and biologists have begun discussing next spring's operations to reduce daily fluctuations in river flows through the Reach to keep young fish from stranding after they hatch. -B. R.
 NMFS OK'S CORPS' $197 MILLION DREDGING PROJECT
The National Marine Fisheries Service announced last week that it would OK a Corps of Engineers' dredging project in the lower Columbia River because the engineers have agreed to restore more than five thousand acres of salmon-friendly habitat as part of the deal. The $197 million project would allow newer, larger container ships to reach Portland from the Pacific Ocean. NMFS signed a biological opinion that asserted that benefits from the restoration activities would "likely exceed habitat values that may be lost to due to channel deepening…"
Dredging would impact prime fishing areas in the lower river.
"When this habitat restoration project is completed," said regional NMFS administrator Will Stelle; "the lower Columbia will be more salmon-friendly than it was before the dredging started. That's good news for all the fish that spend time at the river's mouth."
But according to Astoria-based fishermen, it's bad news for the Dungeness crab living in the nearby ocean. The Corps plans to dump its dredging spoils on top of some of the crabs' prime habitat. It's expected to remove 23 million cubic yards from the 100-mile channel in order to deepen the shipping lane. Others are worried that the activity could stir up contaminated sediments.
The Corps has already heard from citizens concerned about the project, who had until Nov. 22 to comment on the agency's 2,000-page environmental impact study. Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality has been collecting public testimony on the proposal as well. The DEQ is charged with enforcing Clean Water Act standards and must issue a permit before dredging begins. - B.R.
LINKS/DOCUMENTS FROM NW FISHLETTER 094:: Below are listed links and documents referred to in the text of NW Fishletter issue 094.
- Federal Caucus Home Page, Products, Dec. 17, 1999
- Draft Feasibility and Environmental Impact Statement, Corps of Engineers, Dec. 17 1999
THE ARCHIVE :: Previous NW Fishletter issues and supporting documents.
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