NW Fishletter #354, February 1, 2016
  1. NRIC Sues Northwest Power And Conservation Council
  2. Wild Fish Conservancy Takes Legal Aim At Hatchery Funding
  3. Floodplains Key To Cold Water Refuges, Research On Willamette Shows
  4. 2016 Run Predictions: Columbia Basin Spring Chinook Good, Sockeye Not
  5. Water Supply Forecast Below Average: El Niño Neutral By Summer
  6. ISRP Okays Habitat Study Above Grand Coulee; Public Comment Taken
  7. Environmental Groups Sue Owners Of Electron Dam
  8. More Evidence Found For Salmon Geomagnetic And Chemical Homing
  9. Study: Warm Ocean Conditions No Good For Salmon
  10. Council Considers Additional Spending For Two Fish Projects

[1] NRIC Sues Northwest Power And Conservation Council

The Northwest Resource Information Center filed a brief in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 14 asking that the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's 2014 Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program be set aside and a new program developed to comply with the Northwest Power Act.

NRIC announced its intention to challenge the 2014 F&W program 60 days after the Council published its decision to adopt the program in March 2015. NRIC has litigated two other versions of the program.

Ed Chaney, NRIC's executive director and a longtime advocate for Columbia and Snake river salmon and steelhead, said, "The federal courts are the public's only hope of unraveling" what he called "the Northwest Big Short."

Represented by Earthjustice, the conservation group argues in its Jan. 14 filing that the Council has shirked its responsibilities under the regional act, deferring instead to "an Endangered Species Act Biological Opinion which has been serially rejected by the federal court," the petition says.

The NRIC petition compares the ESA and the regional act, stating the former's purpose is to prevent extinction, while the latter's is to "produce full restoration," as Chaney put it.

The complaint argues that no substantive measures for dam and reservoir operations are in the 2014 plan to protect ESA-listed salmon and steelhead. "For these species, the Council simply substitutes compliance with the ESA for compliance with the power act," the petition states.

The reliance on the BiOp was not because of a paucity of recommended hydro-system measures to help salmon, the brief maintains.

It quotes a 2013 Council staff summary of Columbia main-stem recommendations in which Oregon, the Nez Perce Tribe, the Pacific Fishery Management Council and others advocated for increased spill.

In the summary, some environmental groups suggested "de-linking the program from the Biological Opinion measures" and adding other actions including running John Day and other lower Columbia reservoirs at minimum operating pool and breaching the four lower Snake River dams.

Also in the Council summary was a recommended focus on ecosystem function to "assist in restoring more natural floodplain functions, hydrograph and habitat all along the main-stem through the estuary and plume."

The NRIC brief states that these and other main-stem measures were not incorporated in the 2014 program. (One of the fish and wildlife plan's emerging priorities is, however, the improvement of floodplain habitats.)

The Fish and Wildlife Program--which dates from 1982, two years after the Northwest Power Act's approval--has been amended by the Council 18 times in what are essentially seven different comprehensive programs. The power act calls for an updated plan at least every five years.

The 9th Circuit decided two other cases brought by NRIC against the Council's fish and wildlife plan, Northwest Resource Information Center, Inc. v. Northwest Power Planning Council and NRIC v. Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

According to NRIC's current lawsuit, in both of the preceding decisions, the federal court ruled that the Council "failed to explain why its measures [in the 1992 and 2009 programs] were adequate to meet the fish and wildlife protection requirements of the power act."

The 2014 program again fails to do so, the new filing contends.

Also, quoted in the current brief is the 9th Circuit's 2013 ruling that the 2009 program likely "underestimated the degree to which the region could accommodate fish and wildlife measures while maintaining an adequate power supply."

"The region has a surplus of energy," Chaney claims in a declaration filed with the Jan. 14 opening brief.

"BPA has given away [Federal Columbia River Power System] power to utilities and paid to shut down private wind generators, which produce far more power than the four lower Snake River dams at precisely the time of year listed Snake River salmon suffer the highest rate of mortality," Chaney wrote.

"Many of the fish-related lawsuits including this one against the Fish and Wildlife Program are collateral attacks," said Terry Flores, executive director of Northwest RiverPartners.

"Going after the hydro system is a means to an end, with that end being removal of four dams on the Snake River," she said. RiverPartners is one of the respondent-intervenors in the NRIC suit.

The Council is not commenting on the NRIC petition at this time, said Council spokesman John Harrison. The Council's response brief is due to the court on April 13.

In addition to Northwest RiverPartners, other respondent-intervenors are BPA; Kootenai Tribe of Idaho; Public Power Council; Spokane Tribe of Indians; State of Montana; and State of Idaho. Their briefs are due to the court on May 13. -Laura Berg

[2] Wild Fish Conservancy Takes Legal Aim At Hatchery Funding

The Wild Fish Conservancy believes continued funding of the Columbia River Basin's salmon and steelhead hatchery programs by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Department of Commerce violates the Endangered Species Act.

The conservancy filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue on Jan. 13, saying NMFS and DOC have continued to distribute money through the Mitchell Act to finance the hatchery program without proper consultation, as required in Section 7 of the ESA.

"DOC and NMFS have never consulted with NMFS on some of the hatchery programs at issue," the notice says. "For the others, NMFS did consult with itself many years ago."

The potential lawsuit could greatly impact tribal and sport fishing in the Columbia Basin, and drew a quick rebuke from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

"Carefully managed hatcheries play a critical role in Columbia Basin salmon recovery by rebuilding salmon populations while supporting fisheries," Paul Lumley, executive director of the CRITFC, said in a statement. "Lawsuits like these could hurt salmon recovery efforts and distract us from the bigger picture of working together to reform hatchery practices."

The Northwest Sportsfishing Industry Association (NSIA) said the region should be focused on getting more spill to help all fish, rather than bickering about the hatchery program.

"More spill would double the returns of wild spring Chinook back to Idaho, potentially taking them off of the ESA lists," Liz Hamilton, executive director of NSIA, said in a statement. "Instead they attack the hatcheries that were built to mitigate the construction of eight federal dams in a system of over 208 dams. The only effect wild fish would notice from WFC activities in the Columbia would be the loss of tens of millions in funding for conservation and recovery. Misguided, misinformed or ill intended, we all lose from these activities."

The notice says NMFS issued the Biological Opinion on Artificial Propagation in the Columbia River Basin on March 29, 1999, but since then "numerous actions and events have occurred ... that have triggered the obligation to reinitiate consultation.

"Indeed, NMFS issued a letter to several of the hatchery operators dated July 27, 1999, indicating that a new consultation was required and requesting that the agencies reinitiate consultation," the filing says.

NMFS and DOC violate the ESA, the filing says, by providing, authorizing, approving and/or disbursing funds for the operations and maintenance of, and improvements and upgrades to, hatchery programs under the Mitchell Act without complying with the procedural and substantive requirements of ESA's Section 7.

The hatchery program is funded by NMFS under the Mitchell Act, and according to the filing "adversely affects the ESA-listed species and their critical habits through a variety of mechanisms, including facility effects, fish removal activities, genetic and ecological interactions, harvest, and monitoring and evaluation.

Since 1999, NMFS has failed to initiate or reinitiate consultation for nearly all of the 62 hatchery programs in the basin, the notice of intent says.

The filing says that NMFS consultations prior to 1999 are outdated because several salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia Basin have since been listed under the ESA, and "considerable new scientific information regarding the adverse effects of hatchery salmon on wild, ESA-listed, salmon has become available. Both new listings and new scientific information required that previous consultations be reinitiated immediately."

The intent to sue cites studies dating back to 1999 from the Hatchery Review Group, Independent Scientific Advisory Board and the Recovery Science Review Panel, which showed the amount of incidental take by the hatcheries has exceeded the BiOp.

"These programs discharge over 60 million hatchery fish into the Columbia River Basin every year, knowingly causing harm to threatened and endangered salmon, steelhead and bull trout," Kurt Beardslee, executive director of the Wild Fish Conservancy, said in a prepared statement. -Steve Ernst

[3] Floodplains Key To Cold Water Refuges, Research On Willamette Shows

Over the last decade, the Willamette River--one of the Columbia River's largest tributaries--has exceeded maximum temperature standards for water quality each year during the summer.

Now two university researchers, Stan Gregory and David Hulse, have found floodplains are key to the presence of cold-water habitats, which are used by native fish during periods of high water temperature.

Gregory, an Oregon State University emeritus professor of fisheries and stream ecology, and Hulse, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Oregon, have worked together for more than a decade to understand river processes on the Willamette.

Between 2008 and 2015, Gregory and his OSU team sampled more than 100 sloughs, side channels and tributary mouths on the main stem Willamette to identify where cool-water habitats occur and whether fish were using them.

They discovered that 72 percent of the river's floodplain sloughs and alcoves are likely to be colder than the mainstream Willamette. About 40 percent of these areas were more than 2 degrees Celsius. (3.6 F) cooler than the mainstream.

Only 25 percent of the river's side channels, on the other hand, were colder than the mainstream, and none was more than 2 degrees Celsius cooler.

A cold water refuge must be at least 2 degrees Celsius colder than "the daily maximum temperature of the adjacent well-mixed flow of the water body," as defined under Oregon regulation.

"The majority of the cold water sloughs had conductivity values that were similar to the mainstream river, indicating hyporheic flow as the major source of cold water rather than groundwater," Gregory wrote in briefing notes to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. He summarized his and Hulse's research at the Council's Jan. 12 meeting.

Hyporheic refers to flow through gravels at the river bottom and along riverbanks. These flows encourage biochemical processes important to water quality and aquatic habitat.

Salmonids and other native fish need not only cool water, but also adequate oxygen.

To find out whether cold-water habitats had enough dissolved oxygen concentrations, the researchers sampled these habitats and learned that 80 percent of the floodplain sloughs that were more than 2 degrees Celsius colder than the mainstream contained oxygen adequate to support salmonids and other native fish.

"One-third of the sloughs in the Willamette River meet the definition of cold water refuge and have adequate oxygen for native fish," Gregory said.

The research found that native fish, including salmonids, made up the majority of fish captured in cold-water sloughs. Gregory mentioned that salmonids were 10 times more abundant in cold-water sloughs than in warm-water sloughs.

Salmonids are considered cold-water species.

To actually help salmonids migrate through the increasingly warm waters of summer, cold-water refuges can't be too far apart.

In a 2007 study of the Willamette River, researcher Hulse reported there were "four contiguous river reaches in the study area that lack any observed or expected cold water refuge over a distance far exceeding even the most generous estimate of adult cutthroat trout and adult steelhead effective travel distance."

He estimated in the study that distances needed between refuges may be as short as one kilometer.

Hulse and Gregory say floodplain and river-restoration actions will be required to create the conditions that encourage the development of more cold-water habitats. Gregory explained that these habitats "are created by the performance of natural river dynamics."

Hulse and his research team at UO are mapping the information on the river's thermal patterns into what they call a SLICES database. The SLICES framework will provide a basis for designing river and floodplain restoration actions.

Meyer Memorial Trust, U.S. EPA and Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board funded this research on Willamette River cold-water refuges. -Laura Berg

[4] 2016 Run Predictions: Columbia Basin Spring Chinook Good, Sockeye Not

A run of about 188,000 adult spring Chinook is forecast to pass Bonneville Dam this year. If correct, this would be the 10th-highest since 1980 and 96 percent of the 10-year average (2006-2015).

Run predictions are published in late January each year by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Most runs of spring Chinook returning to the Columbia River are expected to return right around or above the 10-year average, including the wild returns.

Notable exceptions are the Snake River wild forecast of 23,700, which is 88 percent of the recent 10-year average (of 27,000), and the hatchery and wild returns to three Washington tributaries of the Columbia--the Lewis, Klickitat and Yakima rivers.

The 2016 sockeye return to the Columbia is forecast at only 35 percent of the 10-year average or about 101,600 adult fish. The 10-year average is 290,200 fish.

Of the 101,600 sockeye projected to return, 57,800 are Wenatchee River stock, 41,700 are Okanogan River stock, and 2,100 are Snake River stock. Most of the sockeye enter the Columbia in June and July.

Predictions are also in for the upper Columbia River summer Chinook. The 2016 forecast for these upriver summer Chinook, which typically come back to the Columbia River mouth from mid-June through July, is for 93,300 adult fish.

The Columbia River summer Chinook run consists only of the upper Columbia component, although Snake River summer Chinook are included in the upriver spring run.

If accurate, the upriver summer Chinook prediction would amount to the second-highest return since 1980 and 132 percent of the observed return of the past decade.

The 2016 forecast for summer steelhead runs, which come back to the river from June through October, will be published this spring, while fall Chinook, coho and chum projections will be published in summer.

The forecast can be found at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website. -Laura Berg

[5] Water Supply Forecast Below Average: El Niño Neutral By Summer

December 2015 saw lots of snow in the Pacific Northwest, but forecasters in January said that the overall water supply is expected to be below average for the 2016 water year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. The snowpack deficit, however, is not predicted to be as great as last year's.

Abundant snow blanketed much of the higher elevations in December. As of Jan. 7, the northern Idaho and northwestern Montana portions of the Columbia River Basin had a snow/water equivalent of about 85 percent of average, while much of the upper Snake River Basin in southern Idaho had a snow/water equivalent above 100 percent of normal.

Going forward, precipitation is forecast to range from 60 to 80 percent of average in most places in the Pacific Northwest.

"The good times are over," said NOAA's Paul Wagner, referring to the recent switch from ample snow to concerns about less precipitation for the rest of the winter.

Wagner, a senior environmental scientist for NOAA, made his comment during a Jan. 6 meeting of the interagency Columbia Basin Technical Management Team, which makes recommendations for dam and reservoir operations.

While the region is currently in a strong El Niño, the National Weather Service noted that precipitation and temperature impacts in the U.S. "are typically most noticeable during the colder months, from late fall through winter."

The Weather Service cautioned that El Niño is not the only driver of weather, and no two are exactly alike. Yet, among the commonalities of the last five El Niños is a wet December in the Pacific Northwest, but a drier trend later in the winter and spring.

3-month precipitation and temperature charts.
3-month precipitation and temperature charts.

An El Niño weather pattern has other characteristics. It can split the jet stream. What might that do? Idaho Power Company's Brad Bowlin provided NW Fishletter with an example. "The Snake River plain is near the border where the southern half of the split jet stream passes from west to east, bringing moisture from the Pacific.

"A shift of just a few hundred miles can mean the difference between lots of precipitation being dropped in southern Idaho and western Wyoming versus passing it south," he said.

Temperature-wise, the regional outlook is for warmer than average conditions through March. The three-month outlook shows a band of the warmest temperatures occurring across most of Washington and the western half of Oregon and only somewhat warmer temperatures in southern Idaho.

When winter and spring temperatures are above normal, snowmelt can occur earlier than usual, resulting in lower flows later on in the season, a concern for both hydropower operations and fish. Last summer's higher temperatures, in combination with lower flows, complicated hydro operations and caused disaster for migrating fish in the Columbia and Snake rivers.

On the positive side for 2016 is news that El Niño, one culprit in last year's weather scenario in the Columbia River Basin, may wane by summer. When the Climate Prediction Center issued an El Niño advisory in December, it said that the very strong El Niño was "peaking and transitioning to ENSO-neutral by summer."

(ENSO--the El Niño Southern Oscillation--is an irregular, periodic variation in sea surface temperatures, which is important in predicting temperature and precipitation.)

Given the likelihood that El Niño is peaking, the Climate Prediction Center said that now "the relevant questions relate to how quickly the event decays and whether we see a transition to La Niña."

La Niña can mean cooler winter conditions in the Pacific Northwest and often follows an El Niño. The prediction center said there is a 79-percent chance of La Niña by next winter. -Laura Berg

[6] ISRP Okays Habitat Study Above Grand Coulee; Public Comment Taken

A proposal to study habitat suitability for salmonids above Grand Coulee Dam meets scientific criteria with two qualifications, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) announced Jan. 14.

The Council is scheduled to decide in April whether BPA should fund the project. Written public comments on the panel's review are due Feb. 12.

The habitat study's lead proponent, the Spokane Tribe of Indians, collaborated with other regional co-managers to develop the proposal.

Joining in the cooperative effort were the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Indians and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The U.S. Geological Survey Columbia River Research Laboratory and NOAA Fisheries would provide additional technical support. The project entities also plan to work with the U.S. Forest Service.

The proposal would study habitat potential for two salmonid species, Chinook and steelhead. "[H]undreds of kilometers may be available for recolonization," the independent science panel commented.

The ISRP's two qualifications involve assessing habitat suitability in the context of climate change and future land development, and a need for more details about using the intrinsic potential modeling tool. These caveats will be addressed in the Council's process, and in BPA contracting if the proposal is approved.

The reviewing scientists recommended using currently available information about climate change, including the Forest Service's NorWest database and its stream temperature modeling information.

The ISRP wants more discussion on the assumptions and limitations of an intrinsic potential assessment, particularly as the assessment would be modeling existing habitat studies for resident fish species. The ISRP asked for more details on how the data would apply to Chinook and steelhead.

Otherwise, the science panel concluded, the "key components for an effective assessment seem to be in place: cooperation and cost-sharing, workshops to compile expert opinion, remote sensing and GIS, modeling of intrinsic potential, analysis of migration barriers and [Ecosystem Diagnosis and Treatment method].

"With strong leadership, cooperation, and skilled analysts, this approach could provide a robust assessment to guide future decisions," the ISRP added.

Written comment on the ISRP review may be emailed to Kendra Coles at kcoles@nwcouncil.org. -Laura Berg

[7] Environmental Groups Sue Owners Of Electron Dam

American Rivers and American Whitewater filed suit Jan. 12 against the new owners and managers of Electron Dam in Washington, alleging unauthorized killing of ESA-listed Puget Sound Chinook, steelhead and bull trout. The complaint says Electron Hydro "is using the dam to generate revenue while ignoring its responsibility to comply with the Endangered Species Act and protect these species."

Defendants in the federal lawsuit are dam owners Electron Hydro, Tollhouse Energy Co. and investor-manager Thom Fischer. Fischer is also president, secretary, treasurer and chairman of Tollhouse Energy, according to the complaint.

Andrea Rodgers of the Western Environmental Law Center represents the plaintiffs.

The complaint describes the impact of the 25.5-MW-capacity Electron Dam as killing Chinook, steelhead and bull trout when the forebay is drained to remove debris and sediment and when the fish pass through the trash rack (at the powerhouse entrance) and become entrained in the penstocks or turbines.

To allow killing or "incidental take" of ESA-listed fish by the hydro facility, Section 10 of the ESA requires a Habitat Conservation Plan.

A 1984-published photo of the 10-mile-long wooden flume at Electron Dam.
A 1984-published photo of the 10-mile-long wooden flume at Electron Dam.

Puget Sound Energy, the owner of Electron Dam until 2014, started a conservation plan in 2008, but suspended its effort in 2011. The utility has a power purchase agreement with the new owners that runs through 2026, for 12.5 MW through November 2016 and 23.8 MW thereafter. The Puyallup River Chinook and bull trout were listed under the ESA in 1999, and the steelhead in 2007.

According to the complaint, "[i]n 2013, Thom A. Fischer met with NMFS staff, anticipating purchase of the project, to discuss effects of the project on ESA-listed fish.

"On December 4, 2014, NMFS [National Marine Fisheries Service, aka NOAA Fisheries] wrote Thom A. Fischer: 'The Electron project kills and harms ESA-listed Chinook salmon and steelhead.' NMFS wrote: 'We expect you will agree that the project needs to soon implement measures to avoid or greatly minimize ongoing take.'"

"Neither the federal government nor the company [Electron Hydro] have done anything to improve fish survival at the dam," Russ Ladley, resource project manager for the Puyallup Tribe, told NW Fishletter. "The new company spent $7.9 million on the flume that conveys water to the powerhouse, but nothing so far for fish passage."

Describing the tribe's work with previous owner PSE, he said they agreed in 1997 to increase fish numbers above the dam. This joint effort included the installation of a fish ladder, which was completed in 2000.

Asked what Electron Hydro could do to improve fish passage above the dam, Ladley responded, "Install proven screen technology. It's expensive, but not that hard."

NW Fishletter reached Electron Hydro, but no one there was made available for comment.

The plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment for violation of the ESA and an order requiring the dam to stop diverting water from the Puyallup River until it obtains immunity from take liability from NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [L. B.].

[8] More Evidence Found For Salmon Geomagnetic And Chemical Homing

Recent research at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center provides more evidence that the chemical composition of stream water and geomagnetic orientation are responsible for the homing instinct of salmon and steelhead.

The capacity to home after migrating hundreds, even thousands, of miles is what defines salmon, according to David Noakes, senior scientist and director of the research center, who presented the research findings at the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's Jan. 11 meeting.

The state-funded work may also help explain some key mechanisms that account for differences between wild and hatchery salmonids.

"Salmon imprint on the chemical nature of the particular water they are raised in," Noakes said.

Scientists at the center incubated fish in water from different sources, including well water, frequently used in hatcheries because it is often colder and cleaner than stream water.

Homing brings Chinook back from great distances.
Homing brings Chinook back from great distances. Credit: CRITFC.

When well water was used, fewer adults returned to the stream where they were released than when the stream itself was the water source.

Noakes said that incubating fish in well water leads to straying--and subsequently to fewer returns--because fish have not imprinted on the unique characteristics of a particular stream.

Researchers at the research center think dissolved amino acids give each stream its unique chemical profile.

Geomagnetic orientation is another possible explanation for the difference in rates of return between the progeny of wild and propagated fish.

Salmon and steelhead are born with the ability to navigate by following cues from the earth's magnetic field, which Noakes likened to an "internal GPS." This is important because when the fish are in saltwater, they are not navigating by detecting their natal freshwater streams.

Salmon of the same species swim to the same area of the ocean generation after generation to forage and grow. They get there, data show, by following the magnetic field.

Studies at the research center have compared fish reared in natural magnetic conditions with the distorted magnetic conditions typical of many hatcheries. The unnatural or distorted magnetic fields are the result of the concrete and metal infrastructure of hatcheries.

Being reared in a distorted magnetic field, researchers found, interfered at least temporarily with the homing instinct of the fish.

Noakes also noted that salmon and steelhead juveniles are sometimes transported in the steel hulls of barges. He acknowledged that the impact of that was unknown, given evidence that homing abilities are at least partially recovered.

Also presenting at the Council meeting was Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Bruce McIntosh, who emphasized that both hatchery and wild fish are needed for successful recovery.

These studies point to new challenges for improving hatchery management, said McIntosh, assistant administrator of ODFW's fish division.

The research center is a cooperative effort of ODFW and Oregon State University. Its mission includes developing hatchery management practices that contribute to the conservation and protection of wild fish. -Laura Berg

[9] Study: Warm Ocean Conditions No Good For Salmon

A recent study suggests that warm ocean conditions are tough on juvenile Chinook. The young salmon have to work harder for food, and their prey contain fewer calories.

The research--conducted by scientists at Oregon State University and NOAA--found that the result is "smaller and skinnier" fish, according to a Dec. 16 news release from OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center.

The researchers examined 19 years of data and found that ocean temperatures only 2 degrees Celsius warmer than average made a difference.

"Salmon populations may be able to handle one year of warm temperatures and sparse food," said NOAA's Richard Brodeur. "But two or three years in a row could be disastrous--especially for wild fish populations. They may have to travel much farther north to find any food."

Hatchery salmon do better in warm ocean waters, according to the researchers, because the juveniles are often larger when they reach saltwater.

Ten of the 19 years included in the research were warm-water years. The survey data was collected from 1981-1985 and 1998-2011.

Some of the warm-water years were the result of El Niño conditions, while in other years the warm conditions were caused by a lack of upwelling, the scientists noted. Upwelling occurs when deep, cold water rises toward the surface, bringing up nutrient-rich water from below.

For the past two years, an area of warm water--aka the "blob"--has persisted off the Pacific Northwest coast. The blob, although somewhat reduced, is expected to be accompanied by an El Niño warm-weather pattern this winter.

"Though recent spring Chinook salmon runs have been strong due to cooler ocean conditions in 2012-2013, the impact of the long stretch of warm water on juvenile fish may bode poorly for future runs," the scientists advised. -Laura Berg

[10] Council Considers Additional Spending For Two Fish Projects

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council will decide in February on proposed budget increases for two projects receiving financing through the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program.

NOAA Fisheries asked for $141,309 to study ocean survival of Columbia Basin juvenile salmonids. The project's findings will help explain what factors have the most potential to improve juvenile salmon and steelhead survival and productivity.

The requested funds would be used for additional ship time, analyses of parasites of yearling Chinook and steelhead, and comparison of juvenile Chinook size and time of marine entry and early growth in the ocean.

The project addresses the 2008 Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinion (RPA Actions 58 and 61) and several objectives identified in the 2014 Supplemental Biological Opinion.

The Spokane Tribe of Indians is requesting an additional $71,211 for the removal of northern pike from Lake Roosevelt.

In fiscal year 2015, the Council funded the tribe's $28,531 request for urgent multiagency action to begin removing northern pike. The Council conditioned additional funding on favorable Independent Scientific Review Panel project review, which is expected prior to the February meeting.

Fish managers are concerned about the continued growth of the non-native pike population in Lake Roosevelt. Anglers are increasingly catching this predatory, invasive species in shallow bays in the Columbia and Kettle rivers near Kettle Falls. Should northern pike expand its range to the Columbia River below Chief Joseph Dam, it would pose a serious threat to salmon and steelhead recovery efforts.

The NOAA Fisheries and Spokane tribal requests would draw on a within-year fund of $1 million for budget adjustments. The current fund balance for fiscal year 2016 is $750,000.

BPA and the Council established a within-year budget change protocol in 2004, and formed the Budget Oversight Group to decide whether a request is a budget and/or scope change and whether to place the request into a queue for further consideration. The group also tracks the process. -Laura Berg

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