NW Fishletter #372, August 7, 2017
  1. 9th Circuit Rejects Petition to Toss Council's 2014 Fish & Wildlife Program
  2. TMT Tries to Manage Dworshak Outflows to Cool Lower Snake River
  3. BPA Adopts Spill Surcharge to Customer Power Rates in FY 2018, 2019
  4. Report Says Modernized Columbia River Treaty Ups Value of Basin's Natural Assets
  5. Predictions for 2017 Columbia River Fall Chinook and Coho Released
  6. Northern Pike Now 40 Miles Farther Downstream in Lake Roosevelt
  7. Oregon Publics Ask Governor to Balance Energy and Salmon Recovery
  8. Legislation Proposed to Block Court Orders on BiOp and Spill
  9. Power Council Gets Update on Lower Columbia River Chum Recovery

[1] 9th Circuit Rejects Petition to Toss Council's 2014 Fish & Wildlife Program

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a petition from Northwest Resource Information Center and its Earthjustice attorneys calling for a rewrite of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's 2014 Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program.

The six-page unpublished order, issued July 19, made no sweeping statements about the 2014 program, but rather discarded the petitioner's five arguments with little more than a scant paragraph on each [15-71482].

First, the judges disagreed with Idaho-based NRIC claim that the Council mistakenly equated requirements of the Northwest Power Act and the Endangered Species Act.

The ruling said the F&W program had numerous measures distinct from those in the Federal Columbia River Power System BiOp, which is a requirement of the ESA. As examples, they cited the reintroduction of anadromous fish above Grand Coulee Dam and wildlife measures not included in the BiOp.

Also rejected was NRIC's claim that the program inappropriately relied on flow and passage measures from the BiOp. The judges said this was not improper because the regional act specifies that measures should complement other actions of federal and state agencies and tribes.

The ruling states that the petitioner's second contention--that the program lacks quantitative, measureable biological objectives--is not accurate.

"While NRIC may very well be correct that the program would be more effective in protecting wildlife [fish] with further specific quantitative measures . . . that does not mean that the Council's adoption of the program is arbitrary and capricious," the order states.

The assertion about measurable objectives, and the first claim regarding regional act and ESA equivalencies, were the main substance of {http://www.newsdata.com/fishletter/370/2story.html oral arguments} heard by the 9th Circuit in Seattle May 11.

The third claim the ruling rejected involved an argument that the Council improperly left out three important recommended measures--the Nez Perce Tribe's proposal to study dam removal on the lower Snake River; the proposal by the tribe and Oregon for experimental dam spill; and environmental groups' proposal to operate John Day Dam at minimum operating pool elevations.

The judges concluded the Council excluded these three recommendations for valid reasons under the regional act.

The order also ruled that the act has no requirement to adopt mitigation measures up until the point where the cost of such measures would threaten an economical and reliable power supply, as the petitioner argued.

The fifth NRIC argument, asserting that the Columbia Basin Fish Accords improperly influenced the fish and wildlife program, was also rejected as "a harmless misunderstanding" by some Council members that was corrected.

The Council's general counsel, John Shurts, said in an email that the judicial outcome was "excellent--the Ninth Circuit equivalent of basically 'nothing there.'"

Ed Chaney, NRIC director, told NW Fishletter: "[T]he Court held, in effect, that the Council is not required to do more than rubber stamp the agencies' actions in the BiOp.

"Notwithstanding that those actions have repeatedly been rejected by the courts as being insufficient to prevent jeopardizing Snake River salmon with extinction, to say nothing of falling far short of meeting the far greater Power Act standard of restoring salmon to formerly productive levels."

The petitioner and its attorneys have litigation pending against the Council's Seventh Power Plan, which was stayed until the 9th Circuit decided the case on the 2014 fish and wildlife program.

Chaney and Earthjustice attorney Todd True told NW Fishletter via email that they were reviewing their options regarding further actions. Chaney also offered that his organization may focus on federal agencies as, he said, courts have ruled the agencies have "the independent duty to fulfill the salmon restoration mandate of the power act if the council fails to do so.

NRIC and Earthjustice have until Aug. 2 to decide whether to proceed with the case against the regional power plan. -Laura Berg

[2] TMT Tries to Manage Dworshak Outflows to Cool Lower Snake River

Part 1

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began increasing outflow from Dworshak Dam July 6 to help cool the lower Snake River and aid adult salmon and steelhead migrating upstream to spawning areas.

The summer cooling operation is triggered at Dworshak when temperatures approach 68 degrees in Lower Granite Dam's tailwater and daily average water temperatures recently have hovered just above 67 degrees and reached 70 farther downstream at the temperature station at Anatone, Wash.

Salmon and steelhead don't like water temperatures much above 65.

With warm, dry weather forecast, the Corps models are showing river temperatures continuing to rise in coming days.

Meeting on July 5, the Technical Management Team agreed that the Corps should increase Dworshak outflow from 9 kcf to 10 kcf at beginning midnight July 5, which the Corps did.

The army agency and other TMT members are trying to maintain water temperatures at 67 degrees in the Lower Granite tailwater, and no higher than 68. The TMT guides hydro operations in the Snake and Columbia rivers.

With ample cool water behind Dworshak Dam this year, releasing it into the river sounds simple enough. But it's not so clear-cut. Confounding the operation is the need to release much of the water as spill.

Because Dworshak's Unit 3--the largest of three generating units--is down for repair, more water has to be released as spill, and more spill usually means higher levels of total dissolved gas (TDG) produced as water tumbles over the spillways and combines with air.

The Unit 3 remodel has experienced numerous delays and was slated for completion earlier this spring. Dam operators at the Corps' Walla Walla District obtained a short-term a waiver to release water that results in TDG as high as 120 percent, but not to exceed 121 percent. The normal limit is 110 percent TDG.

Both adult and juvenile fish are sensitive to spill levels. While spill aids juvenile salmon and steelhead passage through the Columbia/Snake system, too much can give them gas bubble trauma, a potentially fatal condition. Adult salmon and steelhead are also susceptible to gas bubble trauma.

Consequently, the salmon managers and other TMT members are attempting to balance cold water releases while maintaining spill TDG at no more than 120 percent.

The interagency TMT will hold a special meeting July 10, in case water temperatures or TDG levels rise, or if TDG or gas bubble trauma becomes a problem at the nearby Dworshak National Hatchery.

Jay Hesse, TMT member from the Nez Perce Tribe, said it wasn't simply a matter of prioritizing cold water or low TDG levels. The panel, he said, had to take into account all factors, including what's happening in the river with adults and juveniles and in the hatchery on a real time basis.

The current FCRPS BiOp and its required 2017 Water Management Plan require the cooling operation, referred to as summer flow augmentation, to protect Endangered Species Act fish originating in the Snake River.

Currently, endangered sockeye are migrating upstream and starting to pass lower Snake River projects. ESA-listed spring/summer Chinook and steelhead are continuing through the lower Snake on their way to spawning areas.

The returns of these Snake River summer salmon and steelhead are expected to be below 10-year averages this year.

As far as Snake River juvenile salmon and steelhead go, most have already passed lower Snake River dams on their way to ocean habitats. However, large numbers of sub-yearling Chinook migrants are still in the river as are the last of the juvenile steelhead.

Dworshak's troublesome Unit 3 is expected to return to service later this year. -Laura Berg


Efforts Continue to Cool Water in Lower Snake River--Part 2

With water temperatures above 68 degrees, dam and salmon managers continue searching for ways to cool water in the lower Snake River.

This time of the year, upstream migrating adult sockeye, spring/summer Chinook and summer steelhead are in the river, along with the last of the downriver migrating juvenile fall Chinook. Water temperatures above 68 degrees can be lethal to these coldwater fishes.

To protect the fish, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Walla Walla District has been releasing cold water from Dworshak Dam, most of it as spill because the dam's largest turbine is being reporpaired.

However, the high spill volume has created elevated levels of total dissolved gas downstream, which can be a problem for fish. The Corps had received a waiver to increase allowable TDG levels, but permissible levels have now been reached, so no more cooling water can be spilled from Dworshak.

Adding to the problem are current air temperatures along the lower Snake River, which are not expected to moderate any time soon. Both air temperature and the amount of daylight figure into river temperatures.

weir
How spillway weirs work. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Finding other ways to help cool the water was the main topic of discussion at the July 11 Technical Management Team meeting.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologist Russ Keifer said it was especially important because salmon and steelhead runs are depressed this year.

"Between 70 and 100 percent of the Snake River sockeye run has passed Bonneville Dam by now," he said. "About 400 fish is all we have. Spring/summer wild Chinook numbers are down. Wild B-run steelhead are also down. The adult end of the equation is not very promising this year."

These salmonids have been designated as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Keifer proposed removing surface weirs at Little Goose and Lower Granite dams earlier than usual. Because the weirs are close to the surface, juvenile fish usually have an easier time finding the spillway. But without surface weirs, water goes through deeper, cooler spillways. The resulting cooler water, he argued, would help the passage of both adult fish and the remaining juveniles.

Keifer said spillway weirs were already less effective because juveniles were now moving down the water column to avoid overheated surface waters.

Doug Baus, a Corps TMT member, reminded his colleagues that the 2017 Fish Passage Plan, which operates under the current BiOp, allows for this in-season adaptation, but specifies a flat spill pattern and no change in the amount of spill.

Nonetheless, Keifer's proposal garnered many questions and concerns from TMT members, including:

The robust TMT discussion indicated that answers to most of the questions were unknown.

It was noted, however, that next year's installation of surface PIT-tag detectors and the temperature data analysis anticipated this fall from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory would, in the near future, help fish managers develop better criteria for making decisions about when to retract the weirs.

Despite some skepticism, TMT members voted for, or didn't oppose, early removal of surface weirs at the two dams. -Laura Berg


Early August Update

Even though current water temperatures hovering around 69 degrees at Lower Granite and Little Goose dams are higher than is good for fish, they have been lower than temperatures further downstream at Lower Monumental and Ice Harbor dams. Surface weirs have come out for the season, but it's not possible to say if coming out early helped cool the river near Lower Granite and Little Goose. The 11 kcfs discharges--more than half of it spill--from Dworshak Dam are more certain to have contributed to lowering water temperatures despite the recent soaring 100 F plus air temperatures. Total dissolved gas from the spilling water is currently maintained at 119 percent. -L. B.

[3] BPA Adopts Spill Surcharge to Customer Power Rates in FY 2018, 2019

BPA adopted a spill surcharge for use in FYs 2018 and 2019 to recover costs associated with a recent court order requiring increased spill, according to the final record of decision released July 26 in the BP-18 rate case.

The ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon directed more spill for the 2018 spring fish passage season at eight Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) dams on the lower Columbia and Snake rivers.

The spill surcharge, first detailed in a supplemental draft record of decision (ROD) filing a week after the draft ROD release, is in addition to new power rates, but won't be triggered until there is sufficient information about the planned annual spill levels.

BPA will implement the surcharge in both fiscal years 2018 and 2019, and apply it to customer rates whenever "lost revenues" from additional court-ordered spill reach at least $5 million.

The surcharge applies only to non-Slice customers--Slicers will deal with the extra spill during their true-up process. The charge can be reduced if savings are made in programs used to set the BP-18 rates.

(A Slice purchaser pays a fixed percent of BPA's power costs in exchange for a fixed percent of the FCRPS generation and capabilities.)

The extra spill--to be set by a joint stakeholder process in coming months--was ordered March 27 in the long-lived litigation over federal dam operations, well after BPA had released the initial proposal of the BP-18 rate case last November.

Bonneville said the court's order had "created exigent circumstances, requiring BPA to revise the BP-18 procedural schedule to accommodate the parties' review."

The surcharge was developed because of concerns raised last year during the spill litigation. In testimony submitted in the court case, Kieran Connolly, BPA VP of generation and asset management, said the generation reduction due to the extra spill would have two primary effects. First, Connolly said, it would reduce sales of Bonneville surplus energy on the wholesale market, which would require additional revenues from statutory preference customers to cover costs.

In addition, he said, the reduced generation could also lead to occasions where low streamflows and high power demand coincide and require Bonneville to purchase additional power from the open market, "at potentially high prices," to fulfill its preference-customer obligations.

Although future additional spill levels have not yet been established, Connolly, in his court testimony, said the lost revenue was estimated to total $80 million over FY 2018 and FY 2019, corresponding to 815 MW worth of lost sales during the April-June period of each year.

BPA staff first raised the possibility of a spill surcharge in supplemental testimony filed in April in the spill court case. The court order for more spill, said in the testimony, "created a new cost risk" that the surcharge would mitigate by allowing the agency to recover its total costs through rates.

The approved surcharge includes a discretionary "cost reduction component" that allows the BPA administrator to reduce the surcharge if program costs decrease, or are forecast to decrease, relative to spending levels used to set rates.

A further adjustment ensures it is applicable only to non-Slice customers, since the direct impact of the extra spill on Slice customers will be addressed by the existing annual cost and revenue true-up process.

The surcharge will be based on BP-18 forecast market prices, and on the average water-year impact of increased spill using 80 water years of data, Bonneville said.

During the BP-18 ROD process, Bonneville concluded it did not have to conduct a separate Section 7(i) hearing for the spill surcharge, as asserted by the Western Public Agency Group.

Such hearings are called for by the Northwest Power Act in developing wholesale power and transmission rates. However, BPA said, the surcharge was "like the implementation of other formula rates and adjustment clauses," which don't require hearings, as established by long precedent.

Even the "expedited" process also proposed by WPAG is not needed, Bonneville said, because it would be "impractical, unnecessary, costly, and inefficient."

BPA also declined to raise the spill-related lost revenue threshold for imposing the surcharge, from $5 million to $10 million, also requested by WPAG, as an inducement to find additional cost cuts to offset the surcharge.

Bonneville noted that extensive cuts had already been identified during the first and second Integrated Program Review processes and said, "it would be unwise to establish a non-discretionary minimum level of cost reductions" for the spill surcharge.

Bonneville also declined to implement two proposals by Idaho Rivers United that rely to some extent on actual flow and spill numbers after the spill-season end to determine lost revenues, rather than BPA's approach to use forecasted spill and flows relative to baseline water-year averages, which it says is based on "standard" ratemaking practices.

BPA characterized the IRU proposals as overly complex and burdensome.

"Staff provided an extensive list of unresolved complications associated with IRU's proposal," the agency noted earlier in a supplementary filing. "These remain unresolved and would by themselves be more than enough to reach the conclusion that IRU's proposal stretches well beyond inconvenience and is, as Staff describes, an unviable option."

In addition, BPA said, none of the IRU proposals resolve "rate volatility inherent" in the group's original proposal. -Rick Adair

[4] Report Says Modernized Columbia River Treaty Ups Value of Basin's Natural Assets

Addressing ecosystem functions in a modernized Columbia River Treaty would expand the value of the basin's natural assets by $1.5 billion annually, according to a new analysis by Earth Economics, although it would slightly diminish hydropower value.

The report compares and evaluates the value of Columbia River Basin resources under current conditions and their value under the conditions of a Columbia River Treaty that integrates ecosystem-based function.

The report--"The Value of Natural Capital in the Columbia River Basin: A Comprehensive Analysis"--was conducted by Earth Economics for the Upper Columbia United Tribes, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Pacific Rivers, WaterWatch of Oregon and Save Our Wild Salmon, and was made available online July 6.

To determine the benefits of shifting from the current management model to one based on ecosystem function, both scenarios assume Columbia River Treaty post-2024 situations without changes to flood risk management required by the CRT.

The Columbia River Treaty could be updated by 2024.

The scenario under current conditions limits ecosystem-based function to the 2008-2014 BiOp operations.

The report estimates that today the basin's natural assets have an annual economic value of $198.8 billion. The current value of ecosystem services alone totals $189.9 billion annually, the study says.

Examples of ecosystem services include water quality, supply and storage, breathable air, food, stable atmospheric conditions, and disaster risk reduction.

Most of the basin's current economic benefits come from forests ($149 billion) and rivers ($11 billion). While forests cover more acres than rivers in the basin, rivers have a higher per-acre ecosystem value, the report said.

The analysis does not assign a monetary value to the tribes' deep connections to the Columbia Basin. Instead, the report provides a qualitative analysis of its spiritual and cultural components.

value
Total economic value of the basin under ecosystem-based function (EBF). 3EA refers to a new CRT. Credit: Earth Economics

"The tribes and other residents value the Columbia River Basin for far more than monetary value alone," the report says.

According to the study, the primary difference between the two scenarios "is the rebalancing of value between built capital and natural capital."

"In effect, the river wealth in historical tribal first foods that was lost to management and operation of built capital for flood risk and hydropower would be at least partially restored, enhancing tribal wealth and sustainable natural capital."

Under a Columbia River Treaty informed by ecosystem function, the only economic benefit that declines is hydroelectric production, according to the 150-page report.

The value of hydroelectricity would drop by $69 million annually from its current value of almost $3 billion, the analysis estimates.

In the new scenario, hydropower "is reduced to augment spring and early summer river flows with reservoir storage, thereby also stabilizing reservoirs and providing for restoration of fish populations to historical areas," the report states.

Other benefits are enhanced under this hypothetical approach.

The report says non-tribal commercial fishery value would increase by $7 million annually. Sport fishing would increase by $46 million, while general recreation would increase only slightly.

The analysis puts a value of $389 million for the increased spring and early-summer water flow and $31 million for nutrient enhancement, which is the dispersal of vital marine-derived nutrients created by more fish living and dying in the basin's rivers.

Values for flood risk management, agriculture and navigation stay the same under both the current and new management scenarios.

In the ecosystem-based function scenario, the existence value rises by $1 billion and represents the largest annual asset increase in the analysis.

Existence value is the benefit people place on knowing an area or feature continues to exist in a particular condition, according to a definition by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

With total salmon and steelhead populations rising as much as 51 percent--this figure includes reintroduction above Grand Coulee Dam--under the ecosystem function-based scenario, this increase in fish returns "yields a willingness-to-pay estimate of $404 per household per year. Given that the total number of households within the Columbia River Basin is about 2.8 million, the annual existence value benefit of increased salmon runs would be $1.1 billion," the analysis calculates.

The report goes on to postulate that integrating the ecosystem approach into other regional processes and throughout the basin would expand the natural capital value by $19 billion per year. This additional value assumes a 10-percent increase in the basin's ecosystem-based functions.

"Updating the Columbia River Treaty to include ecosystem-based function and improving dam management would benefit . . . our economy, our wildlife and our culture," D.R. Michel, Executive Director of the Upper Columbia United Tribes, said in a prepared statement. -Laura Berg

[5] Predictions for 2017 Columbia River Fall Chinook and Coho Released

The Columbia River 2017 fall Chinook and coho runs are forecast to come back in numbers close to their recent average returns, a stock status report issued July 26 said.

The forecast for the 2017 fall Chinook adult return to the Columbia River totals 613,800 fish, which is 84 percent of the 2007-2016 average return of 727,600 fish, according to the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission staff report to the Columbia River Compact, the Washington-Oregon harvest regulatory body.

Fall Chinook passage over Bonneville Dam, which starts in mid-August, is predicted to be just over 400,000 fish.

The 2017 coho forecast to the river is for a return of 319,300 adults, which includes 196,800 early stock and 122,500 late stock. That's 93 percent of the recent five-year average of 344,500 fish, the report said.

Passage at Bonneville Dam is anticipated to total 97,400 adult coho, which represents 79 percent of the total ocean abundance of Columbia River coho headed for areas upstream of Bonneville Dam. The goal for upriver coho passage at Bonneville is 50 percent of their ocean abundance.

Coho start entering the river now, and the upriver portion starts passing the dam in significant numbers by mid-August.

The report said the combined A/B-Index summer steelhead returns to Bonneville Dam, which pass the dam from April through October, are expected to total 119,400 fish, including 34,100 wild fish, which is lower than earlier predictions.

The A-index steelhead forecast is now 54 percent and the B-index forecast 25 percent of their respective five-year averages.

Counts of steelhead at Bonneville Dam from July 1 through July 25 have totaled almost 10,420 fish--about half what was anticipated and the lowest cumulative passage since 1943. The count of wild steelhead is the lowest cumulative count of unclipped fish since 1995.

Those passing during July are mostly A-index steelhead headed to tributaries throughout the Columbia system, while the B-index fish start passing the dam near the end of August and are destined primarily for Snake River tributaries in Idaho.

Most of the 2017 sockeye run has passed Bonneville Dam by now. Some 87,140 sockeye have been counted at the dam through July 26. This is also a smaller number than forecast. All the river's sockeye are destined for areas upstream of Bonneville.

So far this year, Snake River sockeye have numbered 225 at Lower Granite Dam. These sockeye probably constitute most of the Snake River run, Russ Keifer, biologist with Idaho Department of Fish and Game, told a July 26 meeting of the Technical Management Team. It's a poor return, as the 10-year average is 972 sockeye passing Lower Granite.

(The 2017 status of spring and summer Chinook and sockeye stocks were also discussed in the February, May, June and July editions of NW Fishletter.)

The Columbia River's only star this year is Pacific lamprey, NOAA Fisheries biologist Paul Wagner said at the TMT meeting. For instance, at Bonneville Dam, some 68,000 lamprey have passed this year, compared with a 10-year average of 16,060 fish.

The CRITFC report and one by Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife indicated that the first fishing for fall Chinook and coho will begin in the popular Buoy 10 area of the lower Columbia River Aug. 1.

Treaty Indian fisheries and non-Indian sport and commercial fisheries are managed based on actual run sizes, not only pre-season forecasts, the CRITFC report said.

Most of the river's fall Chinook stocks are not listed under the Endangered Species Act, but Snake River fall Chinook are. Also not listed are sockeye destined for the Wenatchee and Okanogan river basins and coho destined for areas above Bonneville Dam. All but one of the river's summer steelhead populations are listed, as are lower Columbia River coho. Pacific lamprey are not listed.

The allocation of harvestable fish and/or ESA impacts are subject to the U.S. v. Oregon Management Agreement, the 2008 BiOp, decisions by Oregon and Washington in the Columbia River Compact and in the Pacific Fishery Management Council processes, decisions by four Columbia River treaty tribes, and to the terms of the U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty process. -Laura Berg

[6] Northern Pike Now 40 Miles Farther Downstream in Lake Roosevelt

Northern pike have spread another 40 miles farther downstream in Lake Roosevelt, even though a program managed by the Spokane and Colville tribes and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has removed thousands of the invasive fish from the lake.

Representatives of the three Lake Roosevelt co-managers briefed the Northwest Power and Conservation Council July 12 on their work to suppress this predatory species. Lake Roosevelt is the reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam.

This year alone, over 1,080 northern pike have been removed from the reservoir.

That's almost the same number of adult northern pike captured from the lake in 2015 and 2016 combined, Holly McLellan, fish biologist with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, told NW Fishletter of the reason for the higher numbers this year is a bigger removal effort, with more nets deployed to capture the invasive fish.

The majority of captured northern pike have been taken near the Kettle River mouth, Singers Bay and the Colville River. The new downstream discovery occurred near Hunters, Wash.

Northern pike are a threat to the Columbia Basin's native fish species because they can prey on any fish that is less than 75 percent of their body size, McLellan told the Council. The only fish--native or nonnative--safe from pike predation are adult white sturgeon.

A 26-pound female northern pike was taken from Lake Roosevelt in June, the largest one caught since the removal program began, McLellan said.

pike
A 26 pound Northern Pike caught in 2017. Credit: Colville Tribes.

Salmon managers throughout the basin are worried that the predacious pike could invade the river system below Chief Joseph Dam, where anadromous salmon and steelhead spawn.

They have already disrupted ecosystems in Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Washington.

Northern pike eradicated native salmonids in Alaska's Sustina River watershed in the late 1990s, and eliminated multiple minnow species in Montana in the early 2000s, the managers told the Council. Currently, they added, northern pike are preying on west slope cutthroat trout and bull trout in Montana 's upper Flathead River.

Northern pike were first discovered in the upper reaches of the Columbia River in Lake Roosevelt in 2011. Prior to 2014, their numbers were thought to be few, but a 2015 pilot study showed an increasing population.

Since then, numerous parties--including the PUDs of Chelan and Grant counties, the Colville and Spokane tribes, and BPA--have been paying for efforts to reduce the quantity and distribution of the fish.

In June the Spokane Tribe asked the Council for $123,000 to expand its pike-removal work in the lake. BPA and the Council's Budget Oversight Group is considering the request.

An Independent Scientific Review Panel evaluation of the request said the scientists were not surprised that further suppression efforts were needed, as they had previously questioned whether the current removal program would be sufficient to control the spread of northern pike in Lake Roosevelt.

The ISRP called for the Spokane and Colville tribes, WDFW, BPA and the Council to develop a broader strategy to control northern pike in Lake Roosevelt. The July presentation to the Council by the tribal and state co-managers responded to that guidance, describing how the data they are collecting and the new tools they are developing will help inform longer-term strategy. -Laura Berg

[7] Oregon Publics Ask Governor to Balance Energy and Salmon Recovery

Executives of Oregon's electric cooperatives and other consumer-owned utilities asked Gov. Kate Brown for her personal leadership in formulating a 2018 spill plan to comply with a recent court order.

The July 6 letter to the governor from 36 co-op and PUD leaders cited the State of Oregon's request for an injunction from the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon requiring more spring spill at eight dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

The consequences of Oregon's decision, the letter said, would be to decrease hydropower generation in the spring and reduce revenues and/or increase power acquisition costs, which will cost the region about $40 million a year.

The "impact of additional spill will fall disproportionately on consumers in areas of the state with lower household incomes, particularly rural areas," the utility leaders said.

The leaders also said the loss of hydropower would be contrary to the state's carbon reduction goals, because it would lead to increased purchases of fossil-fueled generation.

They told the governor they were ready to help her develop a spill plan that "strikes an appropriate balance between energy production, the economy and our state's environment."

Officials of Eugene Water and Electric Board, Oregon Municipal Electric Utilities Association, Oregon PUD Association and Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association signed the letter. -L. B

[8] Legislation Proposed to Block Court Orders on BiOp and Spill

A bill introduced June 29 by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) would keep the current Federal Columbia River Power System BiOp until 2022.

The 2008-2014 biological opinion, or recovery plan, was due to expire at the end of year, but federal District Judge Michael Simon overturned the BiOp in May 2016 because, he said, it failed to protect Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead runs.

The judge gave the federal government an additional year--until Dec. 31, 2018--to replace the Endangered Species Act-required BiOp.

He also told federal action agencies--BPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and BuRec--to include the effects of removing some or all four lower Snake River dams in a new EIS.

McMorris Rodgers' legislation would prohibit "structural modification, action, study, or engineering plan that restricts electrical generation at any Federal Columbia River Power System hydroelectric dam, or that limits navigation on the Snake River" unless authorized by an act of Congress.

The bill was introduced by McMorris Rodgers and co-sponsored by Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Greg Walden (R-Ore.), and Kurt Schrader, (D-Ore.).

If it became law, it would also stop additional spring spill starting in 2018 as the court ordered in March of this year.

The Northwest RiverPartners have denounced the federal court's 2016 and 2017 decisions as threatening the region's economy and power system and harming fish, while members and supporters of the Save Our Wild Salmon coalition applauded the orders as holding the best promise for rebuilding endangered salmon and steelhead populations. -Laura Berg

[9] Power Council Gets Update on Lower Columbia River Chum Recovery

Upswings in the number of lower Columbia River chum in 2015 and 2016, and a strategic focus on restoration, hold promise for the threatened species, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council learned at its July 11 meeting.

Historically, a half-million to a million Columbia River chum salmon returned to the river annually to spawn as far upstream as Celilo Falls, biologist Todd Hillson told the Council. Hillson is chum project leader for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

That began to change in the 1940s, he said. Now chum returns range from 1,000 to 10,000 each year.

Hillson said reasons for the enormous reduction in chum abundance include overfishing; the 1938 completion of Bonneville Dam that flooded chum spawning habitat; and the loss of off-channel and braided habitats, particularly in the lowest portions of rivers where towns were built and agriculture prevails.

His July 11 update described the status of four Columbia River chum populations--Grays River, Lower Gorge, Washougal River and the Upper Gorge.

These chum and other mostly smaller lower Columbia River populations were listed as one evolutionarily significant unit under the Endangered Species Act in 1999.

The strongest population is in Grays River, a Washington stream about 15 miles upstream of the Columbia River mouth. The Grays' returns have been above the delisting goal of 1,600 fish for the past 15 years. Last year's total run size back to the Grays was about 12,300 fish, the highest level recorded in the past 15 years.

This rebound in spawner abundance prompted NOAA Fisheries in a 2016 status review to declare the population at low risk of extinction.

creek
Hamilton Creek spawning channel. Credit: Federal Caucus

Hillson said that for the Lower Gorge population, eight of the past 15 years have brought runs above the delisting goal of 2,000 adult chum, while about 3,400 chum spawned near Bonneville Dam in 2016. Most of the Lower Gorge population spawns in areas between the Interstate 205 Bridge near Portland and Washougal, Wash., upstream.

The Washougal River population had a 2016 return of 3,120 adult chum. The delisting goal of 1,300 chum has been exceeded in nine of the last 15 years.

NOAA Fisheries' 2016 review said Lower Gorge and Washougal River populations are each "maintaining moderate numbers and appear to be relatively stable." Over 1,000 are returning annually to the two areas.

For the Upper Gorge population, it's a different story. Hillson said that even in 2016, when overall chum returns were good, only 115 made it back to this area, which extends from Bonneville Dam upstream as far as the Hood River.

The spawning goal for delisting Upper Gorge chum is 900 fish. Since 2002, returns have been in the range of 100 adult chum. The population includes the Big White Salmon River drainage in Washington and the Hood River drainage in Oregon.

The recovery approach, Hillson said, emphasizes habitat restoration and creation, supplementation and reintroduction, and monitoring.

Habitat creation, said Hillson, refers to building spawning channels until natural processes re-establish "high quality off-channel habitats."

Spawning channels are being used at Duncan and Hamilton creeks downstream of Bonneville Dam. Two in Skamokawa Creek, which is one drainage east of Grays River, are expected to be completed this summer. Other spawning channels are planned in the North Fork Lewis River, the Elochoman River and in Oregon's Sandy River basin.

Grays River hatchery stock provides a means to jump-start populations in Duncan, Skamokawa and Elochoman creeks through reintroduction and supplementation, and to supply eggs to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for a hatchery program that will reintroduce the species in Oregon.

To jump-start chum restoration in the Lewis River, WDFW will use fish from the Lower Gorge population near I-205.

http://www.newsdata.com/fishletter/363/3story.html"> Operations at Bonneville Dam have also been adjusted to protect vital spawning and incubation areas below the dam. Starting annually in November, the project is managed to minimize tailwater fluctuations to enable main-stem spawning and avoid dewatering chum eggs nestled in the rocky gravels called redds.

In addition, Hillson said, the incidental harvest of chum is set at less than 5 percent annually.

BPA, several NOAA Fisheries programs and the Washington Department of Ecology fund chum restoration. -Laura Berg

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NW Fishletter is produced by Energy NewsData.
Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: Laura Berg
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