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NW Fishletter #251, September 4, 2008

[5] Deal Reached Over Flows For Kootenai Sturgeon

All parties in litigation over the USFWS' 2006 sturgeon BiOp have reached an agreement that calls for extending interim operations at Libby Dam to help the ESA-listed sturgeon spawn in the Kootenai River below the dam. If these attempts at mimicking spring flows and reducing temperatures don't work, the Corps of Engineers will then boost spillway flows to see if that helps the sturgeon to reproduce.

Successful spawning by the wild population hasn't been documented since the mid-1970's, when the Libby project was completed.

"The Kootenai River white sturgeon is on the brink of extinction," said Noah Greenwald, science director for the Center for Biological Diversity. "This historic agreement helps give the sturgeon a shot at survival."

The Center for Biological Diversity, the Kootenai Tribe, the state of Montana, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bonneville Power Administration submitted the agreement to the District Court of Montana on Sept. 2 for approval.

The Corps is also committed to considering modifications to the selective withdrawal system at Libby Dam to better manage temperatures of released water. With federal support, the Kootenai Tribe will begin a project to improve sturgeon habitat.

"Montana will do all it can to protect our fish and people above and below Libby Dam," said Bruce Measure, a Montana member of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. "This agreement provides a base to help the sturgeon, protect other resident fish in the process, and allow actions and operations to proceed that local biologists know have the best chance of benefiting endangered white sturgeon. I would like to personally thank Governor Schweitzer whose support and encouragement have been instrumental in helping us get to this point." -B. R.

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