NW Fishletter #373, September 5, 2017
  1. Scientists: Toxics Undermining Columbia Habitat Restoration
  2. BPA Plans FY 2018 Fish and Wildlife Spending Closer to 2016, 2017 Levels
  3. Cool Water Still Needed From Dworshak as Fish Continue Migration
  4. Riverkeeper: No Sustained Hot Water Temps if Lower Snake Dams Go
  5. Smaller Columbia River Fish Returns Constrain Harvests; Blob Cited As Factor
  6. 9th Circuit Denies PGE's Request to Appeal CWA Decision
  7. Scientists Press for Columbia/Snake Spill Up to 125 Percent TDG
  8. Sediment Buildup Complicates Fish Care, Navigation at Lower Granite Dam
  9. Petitioners Decide Not to Challenge Seventh Power Plan
  10. Wild Fish Conservancy Sues Company Over Atlantic Salmon Escape
  11. Martin to Lead Washington Salmon Recovery Office

[1] Scientists: Toxics Undermining Columbia Habitat Restoration

Toxic contaminants are undermining habitat restoration efforts, highlighting the need for a more thorough understanding of how toxic substances--alone, cumulatively and synergistically--are affecting fish and wildlife in the Columbia Basin, according to a pair of NOAA scientists who briefed the Northwest Power and Conversation Council on Aug. 15.

Nat Scholz and Jessica Lundin told the Council that the Independent Science Advisory Board, which advises the Council and other fish and wildlife managers, and the Council's 2017 Research Plan identified the pollutants involved as pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides and fungicides; wastewater, including pharmaceuticals and personal care products; and petroleum-derived hydrocarbons from urban runoff, oil spills and industrial discharges.

The Council's research plan also calls for understanding how these pollutants are impacting the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program's restoration projects.

Citing numerous studies, Scholz said changes and depletions in the food web have affected salmon and steelhead, resulting in disrupted brain functioning, limits to juvenile growth, increased disease susceptibility, reduced migratory survival and, over time, decreased population productivity and abundance.

Most effects on salmon are sub-lethal and delayed in time, said the presentation by the Northwest Fisheries Science Center scientists.

And with a warming climate, higher surface water temperatures will increase the rate of uptake and the metabolic transformation of pollutants to more toxic compounds, Scholz said. To oversimplify, toxicity increases in warmer water.

Research is confirming the role of toxics as a limiting factor in the restoration of Columbia River salmon, he said.

The Council was told that strategies to improve water and sediment quality to reduce fish exposure to pollutants can be very effective. Many solutions to removing toxics are inexpensive and local rather than regulatory, Scholz said. He gave the examples of permeable pavement, rain gardens and soil mesocosms for infiltration.

USGS researches toxics in Columbia estuary food chain. Credit: LCREP.

It's unknown the extent to which these and other efforts to address toxics could better the chances for recovering ESA-listed species.

Scholz said NOAA's goal is to create a framework or life-cycle model in which improvements in water and sediment quality can be evaluated alongside other restoration actions in terms of increasing salmon population growth and abundance.

The day after the report, the Council considered a staff recommendation to use $30,000 of Council funds to develop a pilot toxic contaminants story map using data on one group of toxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Staff chose PAHs for the mapping project because they are ubiquitous in the environment and known to have an impact on salmon. An interagency work group, convened by the Council, has already compiled and standardized all available data on PAHs in the basin.

The main source of the PAH toxins in water come from storm water runoff.

The story map will be good public education and can guide habitat work, Tony Grover, Council fish and wildlife director, told the Council.

While the recommendation was ultimately passed by the four-state Council, its two Idaho members dissented.

Idaho's Bill Booth said the Northwest Power Act "did not envision the ratepayers paying for this in an area where other agencies have responsibility."

Bryan Mercier, BPA's executive manager for fish and wildlife, concurred. "There is not a ratepayer responsibility for this," he said.

Bonneville recognizes the problem and has done assessments of the toxics problem, he said. The agency "has walked away from land acquisitions because of contaminant problems," Mercier said.

Booth and Idaho's other member, Jim Yost, said they were worried that endorsing the mapping plan would be a slippery slope leading to other expenditures to remediate toxic pollution. Other Council members who supported the recommendation also expressed concern about mission creep.

Booth said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should pay for the mapping.

The recently passed Columbia River Restoration Act authorized federal funds for toxics, but no funds have been allocated, Washington Council Member Guy Norman said.

Several Council members noted that while the Columbia River Basin is federally designated as a priority large aquatic ecosystem along with Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico and Puget Sound, the basin is the only one with no funding sources to protect and restore water quality.

Council Chairman Henry Lorenzen said the Council has identified toxics as an important issue. He supported the mapping project "pursuant to our previous decision to form the work group."

One of the 2014 Fish and Wildlife Program's emerging priorities "is to preserve program effectiveness by supporting mapping and determining hotspots for toxic contaminants."

Montana's Jennifer Anders, chair of the Council's Fish and Wildlife Committee, said threats such as predation and contaminants combine to limit our success. "We need to protect our investments," she said.

Preserving program effectiveness appeared to be the argument that carried the day. -Laura Berg

[2] BPA Plans FY 2018 Fish and Wildlife Spending Closer to 2016, 2017 Levels

Although $277 million is in BPA's fiscal year 2018 budget for the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, the agency will try to keep direct expenses closer to those in FY 2016 and 2017.

Bryan Mercier, BPA's executive manager for fish and wildlife, told the Northwest Power and Conservation Council Aug. 15 that the power agency would realize the savings through contracting.

Two large habitat research projects, ISEMP (Integrated Status and Effectiveness Monitoring Program) and CHaMP (Columbia Habitat and Monitoring Program), can expect 50-percent reductions, he said.

BPA's fiscal year runs Oct. 1-Sept. 30. This year's expenses are tracking closely to FY 2016's, even though $274 million is in the budget for 2017. Direct expenses in FY 2016 totaled $258.1 million.

The end-of-July totals were about $220 million for both years.

The two research projects being cut, ISEMP and CHaMP, together have cost BPA about $9 million to $10 million annually. ISEMP funding dates from 2003, while CHaMP started in 2011.

Columbia Basin F&W Program Expenditures. Credit: BPA.

ISEMP and CHaMP, along with BPA's own Intensively Monitored Watersheds, have not been popular with some Council members and have been criticized for not indicating the quantifiable results of their research.

Project defenders have argued that habitat restoration is a long-term endeavor that takes decades and longer to show results.

Mercier did not say what other projects might be on the chopping block.

He indicated that fish and wildlife projects could expect travel, training and conference attendance to be trimmed. The emphasis, he said, would be on-the-ground work with direct fish and wildlife benefits.

Mercier said the latest financial worries at BPA were prompted by falling revenues and low cash reserves.

In July Bonneville said it would raise wholesale power rates by 5.4 percent this fall.

The agency cited decreasing customer loads and lower market prices for its sales of spot market or surplus power.

BPA now has fewer sales over which to spread its costs, yet operating costs for the fish and wildlife program have increased from $108.2 million in 2000 to $258.1 million in 2016, Mercier said.

The agency will try to hold fish and wildlife program costs flat until financial competitiveness is restored, he said. -Laura Berg

[3] Cool Water Still Needed From Dworshak as Fish Continue Migration

With inflows to Dworshak Dam's reservoir decreasing--and no significant precipitation in sight--dam operators began reducing outflows in August both over the spillway and through generators.

Yet salmon and steelhead migrating in the lower Snake River still need cool water, and so far flows released from Dworshak have kept water temperatures at Lower Granite and Little Goose dams on the lower Snake River mostly below 70 degrees during the June 21-Aug. 31 summer fish passage season.

"We can't continue to release 11 kcfs through September because the reservoir would be drafted too low," Steve Hall told TMT members Aug. 9.

Cold water drawn from deep in the reservoir and pushed over the spillway helps lower river temperatures downstream of Dworshak. Water temperatures exceeding 68 degrees can stymie adult salmon and steelhead migrating upstream to spawning areas.

The 11-kcfs discharges--more than half of it spill--from Dworshak Dam helped lower water temperatures despite the soaring 100-degree-plus air temperatures in this area near Lewiston, Idaho.

Even though water temperatures downstream of Dworshak at Lower Granite and Little Goose dams have hovered around 69, they have been lower than temperatures farther downstream at Lower Monumental and Ice Harbor dams, the other two dams on the lower Snake River.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Nez Perce Tribe co-manage the hatchery. Credit: Dworshak Hatchery.

Hall proposed to drop to 10 kcfs in mid August; then when temperatures at Lower Granite Dam fall to 68, drop water discharge to 9 kcfs.

While the cooler water from Dworshak spill benefits migrating adult and juvenile fish, total dissolved gas levels produced by the spill can be a hazard to fish in Dworshak National Fish Hatchery downstream of the dam.

The decrease in spill will reduce total dissolved gas levels at the propagation facility. In the hatchery setting, young salmon and steelhead are vulnerable to gas bubble disease because they are unable to dive deep in the hatchery's shallow water to avoid the gases that accumulate in the top of the water column.

This year's elevated TDG levels are a result of a higher outflow ratio of spill to generation because Dworshak's largest generator has been off line since September 2016, making a challenging situation for salmon and for dam managers trying to cool lower Snake River water while keeping total dissolved gas levels low.

Because Dworkshak Dam blocks upstream and downstream fish passage, the dam's spill does not aid juvenile salmon and steelhead by sweeping them over or around the dam generators as happens at eight of 31 Federal Columbia River Power System dams. Juvenile fish are, however, helped by the cooler water temperatures.

TMT members did not object to the change in operations at Dworshak Dam. Russ Keifer, representative for Idaho Department of Fish and Game, reported that virtually all the sockeye headed to the Salmon River basin had now passed Lower Granite and were starting to show up in the valley. As of Aug. 28, 227 Snake River sockeye were counted at the dam.

Dave Swank, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist and representative of the hatchery, said he welcomed the relief from lower discharges. Swank said tests at the hatchery showed some fish with bubbles in their gills, but there hadn't been elevated mortalities and all the young fish were eating normally.

At an earlier TMT meeting, Swank indicated TDG levels in the hatchery had reached as high as 104-105 percent.

TDG in the lower Snake has been at 115 percent and lower in recent weeks. According to a Clean Water Act waiver approved by the state of Idaho in conjunction with the Nez Perce Tribe, TDG mustn't exceed 121 percent. -Laura Berg

[4] Riverkeeper: No Sustained Hot Water Temps if Lower Snake Dams Go

If the lower four Snake River dams did not exist, the river would have been cool enough for salmon migration during summer 2015, according to a modeling performed by Columbia Riverkeeper.

However, that conclusion is questioned by others, including Northwest RiverPartners and NOAA Fisheries.

During summer 2015, several hundred thousand adult sockeye, steelhead and spring/summer Chinook--a small number of them endangered and threatened populations from the Snake River Basin--died during two months of consistently high water temperatures.

A record run of nearly 2,000 endangered sockeye were expected to pass Lower Granite Dam on the lower Snake River that year, but instead only 440 made it to the dam on their way to Idaho's Salmon River basin.

The Riverkeeper study said its modeling shows that the four lower Snake River dams caused the sustained warm water temperatures in July and August of 2015.

The model was created by the EPA in 2001 to study the temperature of the Columbia and Snake rivers. Called RBM-10, it considers water velocity, water depth and surface area, air temperatures, and numerous other factors to predict river temperatures under varying conditions.

Despite record-breaking air temperatures and low flows during the summer of 2015, the study concluded, a "free-flowing lower Snake River would have remained cool enough for salmon to migrate successfully."

In the debate about what to do about the river's high water temperatures, some experts have emphasized that even without dams, the lower Snake River would still exceed 68 degrees in the summer.

"Indeed, our modeling showed that a free-flowing lower Snake River would have briefly exceeded 68 degrees on two occasions in 2015, but would have returned to temperatures consistent with salmon migration within a few days; whereas the dammed lower Snake downstream of Lower Monumental Dam remained above 68 degrees from late June to early September," the study said.

Columbia Riverkeeper "supports removal of the Snake dams so it is no surprise that their analysis concludes the dams need to be removed to reduce water temperatures," said Terry Flores, Northwest RiverPartners executive director, in an email to NW Fishletter.

"Even they admit the model is simple and one-dimensional, which means it is highly reliant on the assumptions used," she said.

Michael Milstein, a spokesman from NOAA Fisheries, indicated that he, too, was skeptical. "Given the unprecedented air temperatures in 2015, many of the tributaries were feeding unusually warm water into the mainstem, warming it as it continued downstream," he said in his email to Fishletter.

NOAA's postmortem of the 2015 sockeye migration on the Columbia and Snake rivers pointed to these unprecedented conditions.

Milstein said a 2001 modeling study by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory looking at temperatures in the Snake River with and without dams concluded "that the impoundments kept water cooler later in the spring and that overall there were only relatively small differences in temperature between an impounded and unimpounded river."

Miles Johnson, a coauthor of the Riverkeeper study, said in an email that his research focused on "what dam removal might accomplish in terms of water temperature in the lower Snake River during an extremely hot, dry year--similar to conditions we expect to see more often as climate change intensifies."

The PNNL 2001 study and an EPA study in 2002 "were more general and not as focused on climate change," Johnson said.

The Riverkeeper RBM-10 model indicated that as water moved downstream through each of the four dams' reservoirs in the lower Snake, river temperatures increase about 2 degrees, the study said. This figure is consistent with EPA's previous findings of water temperatures in each lower Snake reservoir rising about 2-4 degrees.

The PNNL study, using a model called MASS1, indicated Snake River water temperatures would increase about 1 degree Celsius (or about 1.8 F).

While a free-flowing river would flush warm water downstream and cool the river, the reservoirs' slow-moving water retains heat, the Riverkeeper study said.

NOAA Fisheries' review of 2015 conditions said what was observed during that summer were prolonged periods of water above 68 degrees, causing fish migration delays and mortalities associated with delay.

But Milstein said the temperatures highlighted in the Riverkeeper study were taken in the tailrace, which is right below the dam.

"These are not the coolest temperatures in the reservoirs and likely not representative of where the sockeye migrate. They likely migrate in the cooler water in the reservoir, near the bottom, which exists because of the reservoirs," the NOAA spokesman said.

Milstein also pointed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' new temperature-control structure at Lower Granite Dam and a similar structure to be installed at Little Goose Dam that cool water in the fish ladders.

Regarding differing water temperatures in the Snake River system, study coauthor Johnson said, "some parts of the river are probably warmer than average (like fishways and forebays) while other parts may be cooler than average (deep spots)."

He also noted that the one-dimensional RBM10 model only looks at average river temperatures.

"It's my understanding that the Corps will publish some two-dimensional modeling of temperatures in the lower Snake River as part of the EIS for the new BiOp, so that that should shed more light on these issues," he said.

Flores characterized the Riverkeeper study as "hardly a convincing analysis to argue for Snake dam removal, a draconian action given the benefits these dams provide."

The lower Snake River modeling study was conducted by Johnson, a biologist and Columbia Riverkeeper's clean-water attorney, and Matthew Shultz, a former software engineer, now a Ph.D. student at Stanford University working on predictive water-quality modeling. -Laura Berg

[5] Smaller Columbia River Fish Returns Constrain Harvests; Blob Cited As Factor

Fall Chinook are once again expected to be one of the standouts of this year's salmon and steelhead returns, with 613,800 fish expected, or 84 percent of the 10-year average, according to a joint staff report of the Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife departments released Aug. 16.

The 2017 forecast estimates the returns at 613,800 fish, or 84 percent of the fall Chinook 10-year average.

The Bonneville Dam passage returns are predicted to total nearly 403,600 upriver fall Chinook.

However, the current return of fall Chinook at Bonneville Dam is around 50,000, or only about 60 percent, of the 10-year average, said NOAA Fisheries representative Paul Wagner at the Aug. 30 Technical Management Team meeting. Passage is usually 50-percent complete by Sept. 9.

The Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Yakama tribes began a truncated commercial fishery on upriver Chinook Aug. 21.

At the meeting, Kyle Dittmer of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission asked the federal action agencies to keep the three lower Columbia River pools within a 1.5-foot elevation band to facilitate the tribal fishery, which takes place in the reservoirs created by Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day dams.

In response, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Lisa Wright said the Corps was ready to implement the request.

The non-Indian commercial fishery in the lower Columbia River below Bonneville Dam began a short season on Aug. 20.

Whether it's tribal fisheries, the non-Indian commercial fishery, or many of the basin's sports fisheries, nearly all are constrained by this year's poor steelhead returns.

Gillnetters in lower Columbia River fish 9 pm-6 am. Credit: Oregon Public Broadcasting

Wagner reported to TMT members that as of Aug. 30, steelhead runs are returning at about 30 percent of the decadal average.

Based on preseason and in-season monitoring, state and tribal fishery managers have taken actions to reduce harvest impacts on steelhead, said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Dan Rawding at an Aug. 14 meeting of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

"Additional actions to reduce steelhead impacts may be needed," he said.

The U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee, also meeting Aug. 14, downgraded the upriver steelhead return forecast. The season forecast for the combined A/B-Index steelhead return to Bonneville Dam is now 119,400 fish, including 41,500 unclipped, naturally spawning fish.

The 2008-2017 U.S. v Oregon Management Agreement, which is currently being renegotiated, spells out specific harvest management guidelines for fall Chinook, steelhead and coho.

Cumulative steelhead counts over Bonneville Dam were 75,539 on Aug. 30. Passage at Bonneville Dam, which occurs July through October, is typically 50-percent complete by Aug. 14.

The predicted returns over Bonneville would represent the lowest passage since 1943.

Sockeye, too, performed poorly this year. The annual passage over Bonneville Dam is virtually complete. This last week in August saw just 15 more sockeye cross the dam, bringing the 2017 total to almost 87,700, substantially below the 10-year average of 316,000.

A small portion of the Columbia Basin's sockeye returns is destined for the Sawtooth Valley in Idaho's Salmon River basin. As of Aug. 30, 227 of these endangered salmon have passed Lower Granite Dam on their way to both natural and hatchery locations.

The bright spot this fall may be the coho returns. The preseason forecast is for a run size of 319,300 coho, including 196,800 early stock and 122,500 late stock. If accurate, that would be 93 percent of the recent five-year average of 344,500 fish, according to the TAC.

However, the 2,545 coho counted through Aug. 31 amount to only about a third of the 10-year average.

At the Aug. 14 Council meeting, Rawding explained the difference in returns among the basin's salmon and steelhead runs.

These species have different temporal and spatial distribution in the ocean, he said which leads to different smolt-to-adult returns.

SARs were low for steelhead and sockeye out-migrants in 2015, he said.

The basin's sockeye run and portions of the steelhead run migrated to the Pacific in 2015 during an earlier-than-usual hot summer and during a low-water year making for less than optimal river conditions for young fish headed to the ocean.

Compounding this were conditions these juveniles found when they reached their marine habitats; an overly warm ocean, called the blob, which produced poor food sources for salmonids.

Some of the 2017 Chinook returns were also affected by poor ocean productivity.

Rawdling and Idaho Department of Fish and Game's Paul Kline noted that despite record and near-record air temperatures in August, salmon and steelhead mortalities are similar to last year and nothing like what happened in 2015. -Laura Berg

This story was modified Sept. 6 to correctly state the coho returns.

[6] 9th Circuit Denies PGE's Request to Appeal CWA Decision

Portland General Electric's attempts to have federal courts dismiss a lawsuit over its Deschutes River hydroelectric projects appear to have ended, at least for now.

Without comment, on Aug. 14 the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied PGE's request for an appeal.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon affirmed the right of the citizen's group Deschutes River Alliance to sue PGE under the Clean Water Act. PGE appealed Simon's decision.

The company argued that only FERC--not citizen groups--could enforce Section 401 certifications at licensed hydroelectric projects.

In Deschutes River Alliance v. Portland General Electric [16-1644], the conservation group seeks to enforce water-quality requirements at the utility's Pelton Round Butte complex of dams on the Deschutes River in central Oregon.

PGE spokeswoman Laurel Schmidt told NW Fishletter in an email, "The 9th's decision not to hear our motion only addresses a narrow procedural and jurisdictional question--not the substance of the allegations in the original lawsuit."

"We are always open and hopeful for a global settlement and are continuing to explore such opportunities," Schmidt said.

After the decision, the Deschutes River Alliance's website said, "[W]e are eager to present the merits of our case to Judge Simon."

However, in an email to Fishletter, DRA Executive Director Jonah Sandford added that its case before Simon in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon would proceed if negotiations with PGE were no longer productive.

The two parties have been in negotiations since June over the alleged CWA violations related to a select water-withdrawal facility above Round Butte Dam. The suit is stayed through Aug. 29 to allow parties time to discuss a potential settlement.

Also, in the 9th Circuit's Aug. 14 order, the judges granted a motion by the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon to appear as amicus curiae in the case. The tribe is co-owner with PGE of the Pelton Round Butte project. -L. B.

[7] Scientists Press for Columbia/Snake Spill Up to 125 Percent TDG

Saying the groundwork has been laid for increasing spill, 46 regional scientists urged Northwest policymakers to expand spring and summer water releases to levels that reach up to 125 percent total dissolved gas.

The scientists said in their Aug. 16 expansion of spill as called for in March by a U.S. District Court in Portland.

"Modeling the effects of increased spill levels up to 125 percent TDG predicted the potential for significant improvement in juvenile fish travel times, in-river survival, ocean/marine survival, smolt-to-adult returns, and life-cycle survival of Snake River spring/summer Chinook and steelhead," wrote the scientists.

The modeling analysis has been done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Fish Passage Center.

Spill over Columbia and Snake river dams helps juvenile salmon, steelhead and lamprey move more quickly through the hydro system with less mortality than if the fish pass through powerhouses or bypass mechanisms.

Currently, the State of Washington allows spill to 115 percent TDG in forebays and 120 percent in tailrace monitors, while the State of Oregon allows spill to 120 percent TDG in tailrace monitors.

Efforts are underway to align spill levels in time for the 2018 out-migration with a uniform 120-percent TDG limit, according to the scientists' letter.

The group also said a monitoring structure is already in place: "current fish marking/tagging levels appear sufficient to monitor the effects of experimental spill management on Snake River spring/summer Chinook and steelhead."

The letter said that regardless of future decisions about dam removal, "increased spill holds immediate potential to provide substantial survival benefits for Snake and Columbia river salmon." -L. B.

[8] Sediment Buildup Complicates Fish Care, Navigation at Lower Granite Dam

Higher-than-expected sediment buildup this summer on the lower Snake River near the Port of Clarkston, Wash., has led the port to request a one-foot increase of the Lower Granite reservoir's minimum operating pool (MOP) for 11 hours, from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Aug. 15, to accommodate the scheduled mooring of a deeper-draft cruise boat.

Port of Clarkston Manager Wanda Keefer made the pitch for the increase at the Technical Management Team meeting on Aug. 9, as a formal system operation request (SOR) to the action agencies and the multi-agency Technical Management Team. The Federal Columbia River Power System BiOp requires an SOR process for such a change to be made.

Possibly in anticipation of opposition, the port director made a case for the tourist traffic, saying cruise boats visiting the Lewis-Clark Valley bring some 27,000 foreign and domestic visitors and crew and about $2 million annually to the local economy.

Action agency representatives from both the BPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. however, and state, tribal and federal salmon managers seemed to want to figure out how to accommodate the change in MOP.

Rather than resistance, what was on display at the TMT meeting was on-the-fly, real-time adaptive management, even if more improvised than most members would have it.

Salmon manager representatives pressed dam operators for information about how the change would affect conditions for migrating salmon and steelhead now in the river.

Doug Baus, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' biologist and TMT convener, responded that higher pool elevation would reduce flows, which would result in less flow for electric generation and for spill.

Jay Hesse, research biologist and TMT member for the Nez Perce Tribe, emphasized the need to continue spill for the remaining juvenile fall Chinook making their way to the ocean. "There are," he said, "still a thousand juvenile fish a day, not an insignificant number."

Steamboat replica docked at Port of Clarkston. Credit: J. Harrison, NWPPC.

Noting the increasing number of adult Chinook and steelhead moving upstream, Hesse asked Baus about the effects changes in pool elevation would have on water temperatures in the dam's tailrace and in the stratification of river temperatures.

Baus said there would be very little change in water temperatures.

This time of year in the lower Snake River, juvenile fall Chinook and juvenile Pacific lamprey are migrating downstream to the ocean, while adult Chinook and steelhead are migrating upstream to spawning areas.

Returning to the need for spill, Hesse said that spill was particularly critical since the juvenile bypass system is no longer available at Lower Granite since the submersible screens (that block young fish from the turbines and divert them into a bypass route) have been removed for the season.

Charles Morrill, biologist and Washington's TMT representative, urged the Corps and BPA to make the operational MOP adjustment in a spill-neutral manner.

Stretching out the changes in reservoir elevations would minimize the spill deferential, Baus said. This time of year, the challenge is low inflows and variable flows, he said.

"We'll need three days to get the water in," BPA's Tony Norris said, "and three days to get the water out." Norris is a BPA analyst and TMT member.

"The only way to do it is not to go above minimum generation," he said. "But if Idaho Power releases more water than planned, it could change the dates," he added.

In response to questions by Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission engineer Tom Lorz, Baus acknowledged that unit upgrades were occurring at Lower Granite. "Some units being off and on will happen," he said. Lorz represents the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation at TMT.

Anne Setter, Corps Walla Walla District biologist, indicated that unit availability became more complicated at the dam several days ago when the Unit 3 fish screen got stuck during attempts to remove it.

The expectation had been that Lower Granite's Unit 3 would be used during the modification in MOP because it operates at lower output than other units, thus leaving more water to exit the dam as spill.

Oregon's TMT representative, biologist Erick Van Dyke, said the work on generating units was a new development and that "unit priority was more problematic than 11 hours' change in MOP."

After more deliberation and a six-hour delay while Oregon made its decision on how to vote on the proposed system operation request, TMT members allowed the SOR to go forward with the caveat that action agencies would make the MOP change in as spill-neutral a manner as possible. Members voted to approve, did not object or abstained.

Not long after Oregon decided to abstain from voting, the Lower Granite Unit 3 screen was successfully removed. -Laura Berg

[9] Petitioners Decide Not to Challenge Seventh Power Plan

As of Aug. 23, there's one fewer lawsuit involving Columbia and Snake River salmon.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the Northwest Resource Information Center's motion to voluntarily dismiss a petition contesting the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's Seventh Power Plan.

The petitioner, Idaho-based NRIC, made the motion to the 9th Circuit on Aug. 22.

The appeals court had stayed NRIC v. Northwest Power and Conservation Council [16-72481] until Aug. 2, 2017, or until NRIC's related case challenging the 2014 Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program was resolved.

After hearing oral arguments in the case on the fish and wildlife program in May, the court denied the appeal in a six-page order July 19.

The Idaho conservation group brought the petition against the power plan because the court's intervention would be required "to develop a Fish and Wildlife Program and companion Power Plan that will restore Columbia River salmon, notably those produced in the Snake River Basin, while ensuring an adequate and reliable regional supply of power," the group said in its Jan. 26, 2017 petition on the 2014 F&W program.

When NRIC disputed the Sixth Power Plan in 2010, the 9th Circuit remanded the plan to the Council in 2013 to fix two procedural matters, but otherwise disagreed with the issues raised by NRIC. -L. B.

[10] Wild Fish Conservancy Sues Company Over Atlantic Salmon Escape

Following the collapse of a net pen and the escape of some 300,000 Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound, Wild Fish Conservancy served a 60-day notice Aug. 25 of its intent to sue Cooke Aquaculture Pacific under Section 505 of the Clean Water Act.

The company's net pen discharged farmed Atlantic salmon, dead fish carcasses and other debris Aug. 19-20, threatening "already imperiled wild fish populations, beloved marine mammal species, and the fragile Puget Sound ecosystem at large," a conservancy news release said. -L. B.

[11] Martin to Lead Washington Salmon Recovery Office

Steve Martin of Dayton, Wash., is going to lead the Washington Governor's Salmon Recovery Office. Gov. Jay Inslee announced the appointment of Martin, a biologist, to the statewide position Aug. 8. The recovery office coordinates 25 community watershed groups and seven regional organizations charged with implementing federally approved recovery plans for salmon, steelhead and bull trout. Martin has been the executive director of the Snake River Salmon Recovery Board since 2001.

The governor also reappointed Bob Bugert of Wenatchee to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board Aug. 8. Bugert is director of the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust's Partnerships, and has many years of experience working with mid-Columbia PUDs and others on salmon recovery efforts.

Subscriptions and Feedback
Subscribe to the Fishletter notification e-mail list.
Send e-mail comments to the editor.

THE ARCHIVE :: Previous NW Fishletter issues and supporting documents.

NW Fishletter is produced by Energy NewsData.
Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: Laura Berg
Phone: (206) 285-4848 Fax: (206) 281-8035