NW Fishletter #380, April 2, 2018
  1. 9th Circuit Upholds Spill Order
  2. Judges Question Both Sides In 9th Circuit Spill Hearing
  3. Spring Spill: What's At Stake In The 9th Circuit Court Appeal?
  4. NOAA Scientist: The 'Blob' Will Continue To Impact Salmon For Years
  5. In Surprise Move, U.S. District Judge Dismisses U.S. V. Oregon Fishing Rights Case
  6. Another Rough Year Predicted For Salmon, Steelhead
  7. Groups Sue Feds, Alleging Harm To Fish From Failure To Follow Willamette Project BiOp
  8. Loss Of Snowpack Will Mean Rising Tensions For Columbia Basin Water
  9. Deschutes Water-Quality Lawsuit Against PGE Goes Forward; Tribe Joins Request For Dismissal
  10. Power Council To Begin Process To Amend Fish And Wildlife
  11. Council Makes Annual Report To Congress, Calls FY 2017 'Another Challenging Year'
  12. Agencies Update Columbia River EIS Process; Will Evaluate Snake Dams Breaching
  13. Tribal Plan To Release Salmon Above Grand Coulee Dam Discussed
  14. Gov. Inslee Orders New Protections For Orca, Chinook Salmon
  15. Chelan PUD Reaches Best-Ever Lamprey Passage
  16. Steelhead Anglers Seek Temporary Fishing Ban

[1] 9th Circuit Upholds Spill Order

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court's order to spill more water over eight federal dams, beginning April 3. A panel of judges determined that U.S. District Judge Michael Simon did not abuse his discretion in agreeing to order spill at levels up to the spill cap from April through mid-June this year.

In the published opinion, issued April 2, the court affirmed that Simon correctly considered the irreparable harm to ESA-listed salmon and steelhead.

The court heard oral arguments in an expedited hearing on March 20, and issued its decision one day before the court-ordered spill will begin.

In the opinion, written by Chief Judge Sidney Thomas, the appeals court systematically rejected all of the arguments that federal defendants and intervenor-defendant Northwest River-Partners made in appealing the spill order in National Wildlife Federation et al. v. National Marine Fisheries Service et al. [01-640]. "One of the ESA's central purposes is to conserve species," Thomas wrote.

He found that the lower court was not required to find "extinction-level" harm to the species in order to determine irreparable harm, and that it could find harm from FCRPS dam operations as a whole, instead of only the spill-related components.

Thomas also said the district court did not rely on the fact that species are listed, but had ample evidence that the species remain in a "precarious" and "perilous" state.

In addition, he found that the injunction was not overly broad, and that there is ample evidence that a limited injunction requiring increased spill will benefit salmon and steelhead.

Plaintiffs were thrilled by the ruling. In a news release, Tom France, regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation, noted that the ruling is just the most recent in many court orders to ensure federal agencies protect and restore wild salmon. "All these decisions have been clear--the status quo isn't working and the fish deserve better. The time is now for federal agencies to follow the law."

Terry Flores, executive director of NW RiverPartners, called the ruling "a huge disappointment, although not entirely unexpected."

"This was the same panel that backed up Judge Redden's 2005 summer spill order, so we all knew it was an uphill battle," she said in an email to NW Fishletter. "Yet, for the panel to agree with the district court that the species and the plaintiffs are suffering 'irreparable harm' warranting injunctive relief nine years into a 10-year BiOp and with a new BiOp nine months away--simply strains credulity. It also suggests that if ever there was a situation where Congress needs to step in to help, this is it".

The ruling means the spill surcharge approved as part of BPA's fiscal-year 2018 rate case will likely move forward. The surcharge would be set to recover "lost revenues" due to the extra spill if they exceed $5 million, based on a retrospective analysis.

"Given the recent appellate court decision, we are now evaluating how costs of the court-ordered increase in spill impact Bonneville's ratepayers and the region," BPA spokesman David Wilson said in emailed comments. -K.C. M.

[2] Judges Question Both Sides In 9th Circuit Spill Hearing

Judges for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asked lawyers some pointed questions during a hearing March 20, before upholding a court-ordered spring spill on April 2 at eight FCRPS dams from set for early April to mid-June.

The three-judge panel--Judges Sidney Thomas, Wallace Tashima and Richard Paez--posed questions as each side presented its case on whether the extra spill should proceed as ordered by U.S. District Judge Michael Simon, in National Wildlife Federation et al. v. National Marine Fisheries Service et al. [01-640]. Arguments took less than an hour, and came two weeks before the first four dams are scheduled to begin the new spill regime.

Ellen Durkee, attorney for NMFS, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and BuRec, told the court the spill will force "very substantial changes in operation, with uncertain benefits from it," She argued that it is not the court's proper role to take control of administrative matters or conduct experiments just because it could produce better results for fish.

"The district court committed legal errors and abused its discretion in granting plaintiff's request for an interim injunction requiring increased spill and earlier monitoring during the final year of implementation of a 10-year biological opinion that has substantially improved conditions for salmon," she said.

Todd True, lawyer for plaintiffs National Wildlife Federation and several other conservation groups, argued that without the extra spill, fish will face irreparable harm. He said that legally, Simon has discretion to find a likelihood of irreparable harm, and that he did not abuse that discretion in finding extra spill would reduce that harm.

"So this is not by any sense an experiment," True said. "What the district court did is find that spill to spill gas cap levels would reduce harm, period."

He also argued that the bar is not high for meeting irreparable harm for a species in jeopardy. "Where the ESA has been violated, as it has here, it should not be an onerous task to show harm to protect the species," he said.

The arguments are basically the same ones each side filed in briefs with the court in recent months. But this time, attorneys faced questioning from a panel of judges.

"What is this interim injunction? It's a different animal than I think we're used to seeing. It's not a preliminary injunction, so how do we review it?" Thomas, the chief judge, asked Carson Whitehead, attorney for the State of Oregon--also a plaintiff in the case.

"Isn't it tantamount to a final injunction for the 10-year period--remand period?" asked Tashima, who later added, "The problem with this case, it goes on at 10-year increments that could go on forever. So there'll never be a final judgment. That means ... nothing's ever final in this case."

Whitehead responded that the court has retained jurisdiction because federal agencies issued a BiOp that violates the ESA. The case will be final, he said, when the federal government issues a lawful BiOp. And, he replied, while the interim injunction is "its own creature," standards of review are the same as in a preliminary injunction order.

Paez questioned Durkee when she argued the district court made a "perfunctory analysis" and "relied on very conclusionary statements" to find irreparable harm. He asked, "Don't you have to place that statement in context of the entire litigation?" He continued, "How can you dismiss it as a summary conclusory statement? I mean, there was a basis for it."

Durkee replied that the district court didn't look at the current record, but relied on a record from almost 10 years ago. "It never makes any reference to the record as it exists now, and it never considers the significant improvement in juvenile survival under the current operations," she answered.

Paez also had questions for True, who had argued it's appropriate for the court to order the spill, even if it only reduces the harm that would occur under continued operations without the extra spill. "The district court expressed some uncertainty about how much benefit would be derived," Paez commented, questioning whether it's sufficient, with an adequate factual record, that there would be a benefit to fish.

True responded that, yes, when a species is in jeopardy, a court can order an injunction to reduce harm to the species, even without knowing precisely how many more juvenile fish will survive. However, he added, the record does offer information about the magnitude of benefit. True cited a Comparative Survival Study, done each year by the Fish Passage Center. The ongoing study, he said, basically demonstrates the increase in spill will "reduce by about a third the number of years when we get returns that are below the level needed for survival, and it will increase by about a half the number of years when we get returns that are at least at the bare minimum level needed for survival." True added that CSS is a very extensive study. "It is not a hypothesis. It's based on data, year after year after year, showing that juvenile salmon survive better if they pass dams by spill."

In her closing arguments, Durkee gave a different take on CSS. "The court had earlier said that is not the best scientific data, so now it's gone to being the best scientific data, and they're claiming certain and substantial benefits from this," she said, adding, "I really implore the court to look at what all the scientists have said about that and how you can actually say that. It's not enough to have one scientist say that." Durkee added that recovery measures already in place are showing substantial improvements, and metrics show there's a very low risk of extinction over the next 24 years.

She also appealed to the court by stressing that, despite unknown benefits of the spill order, there will be real consequences, in lost hydropower and in figuring out dams operations under this spill order. "The Corps has never operated these dams in the way that they're being asked to now. They're not sure how this is going to go," she said. Past spills have given operators an amount of water to spill. In this order, she said, they're asked to spill exactly enough water to reach the limits for total dissolved gas allowed under water-quality regulations without exceeding those limits along 500 miles of river.

Jason Morgan, attorney for intervenor-defendant Northwest RiverPartners, argued separately that the plaintiffs have not shown they, themselves, will be irreparably harmed, regardless of whether fish are harmed. He also noted that while seeking to uphold the injunction in the 9th Circuit, the plaintiffs have asked the district court to keep the 2014 BiOp in place through 2021. "These two things don't really work together," he told the court.

Before the hearing ended, Tashima asked Durkee if the government's reasons for seeking an expedited appeal hearing are still relevant, and if the agencies are seeking a decision before the April 3 spill program begins.

Durkee responded, "Yes," to both, and added that the Corps has been preparing to go forward with the spill, "but I can assure you, they can go back to doing it the way they have been doing it without as much difficulty as they will have doing this," she replied. "The spill continues to June 15, and each day this goes on is problematic for us."

Tashima clarified, "the sooner the better, for you," while Thomas concluded, "We'll see what we can do." -K.C. Mehaffey

[3] Spring Spill: What's At Stake In The 9th Circuit Court Appeal?

On March 20, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments, mostly about legal issues, for overturning or upholding the lower court's order to spill as much water as is allowed, night and day, under state water-quality laws at eight federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Their ruling on April 2 to uphold the court-ordered spill will have several impacts.

Some believe the U.S. District Court order to spill more water over the dams from April to mid-June will result in higher electric rates and less flexibility for dam managers at a time when the BPA is struggling to stay competitive. Others think the order, if upheld, would significantly aid the downstream migration of juvenile spring Chinook and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers, eventually resulting in higher adult returns--a much-needed boost to endangered and threatened wild runs.

BPA wouldn't discuss the potential for electric-rate increases because of the pending litigation. However, an estimate of lost revenue filed a year ago in the underlying district court case--National Wildlife Federation et al. v. National Marine Fisheries Service et al., [01-CV-00640]--said the increased spill this year could result in the loss of 815 aMW of generation and $40 million of revenue from reduced sales of surplus energy and the potential that Bonneville would have to purchase power to fulfill customer obligations.

The estimates--submitted Feb. 9, 2017, in a declaration by Kieran Connolly, VP of generation and asset management--also noted that 840,000 tons of carbon would be added to the environment when electric consumers turn to fossil fuels, mostly natural gas, for a larger portion of their electricity needs.

The methodology used to make the estimates served as the basis for BPA's spill surcharge, which was implemented in the agency's latest rate case. The surcharge will be triggered if lost revenues exceed $5 million.

Connolly's estimates won't necessarily apply if the surcharge is triggered, however. In rate-case testimony discussing the spill surcharge, BPA staff noted that while the two methodologies are similar, the costs calculated in the spill surcharge "will likely be different" than those used in Connolly's declaration because the federal generation assumptions and market prices will have changed [BP-18-E-BPA-55].

Proponents of hydropower say they're expecting Bonneville's rates to go up about 2 percent, possibly less, based on the loss of 815 aMW of power, and the BPA surcharge that will come into play when additional spill is required. That's on top of a recent 5.4-percent increase to hydropower customers over fiscal year 2018-2019.

It's not just the 2-percent hike that concerns them.

"We're worried that they're going to start to enter a spiral down which they can't stop," Terry Flores, executive director of Northwest RiverPartners told NW Fishletter. Flores said BPA's continuous rate increases, which have already gone up 30 percent since 2008, are unsustainable. "It's what I would call 'death by a thousand cuts,'" she said.

Flores said while this potential rate increase may seem small, it needs to be seen in context of BPA's current position in the wholesale energy market. In a Feb. 22 letter to Northwest senators and congressmen, RiverPartners stated, "BPA is facing a crisis: Its power rates are far above market rates, largely driven by uncertainty related to escalating fish and wildlife costs and related litigation, and projected to remain so indefinitely."

Flores said it's a big financial hit to BPA at a time when they're clearly struggling. To her, it makes more sense to focus on ensuring more adults return to spawning grounds now, by putting more limitations on harvest. Ultimately, she said, by undermining BPA's stability, the spill order brings environmental groups one step closer to their goal of removing hydroelectric dams. She anticipates that if the spill is upheld, it would result in a lot more legal action, including attempts to keep the new spring spill in place until NOAA Fisheries completes an environmental impact statement in 2021 for operating the Federal Columbia River Power System.

Scott Corwin, executive director of the Public Power Council, said the 2-percent increase will be felt by homeowners and renters--especially people with lower incomes; and by businesses--especially those that require larger amounts of power. "There is an impact to the economy in the Northwest," he said.

One of the benefits of hydropower is its ability to fill the region's power needs when demand is high, or when other energy sources are unable to generate, Corwin noted. The spill order "takes away some of the flexibility that is one of the best aspects of hydropower," he said.

Corwin noted that, under NOAA Fisheries' 2014 BiOp, dam operators were already planning a tailored spill in the spring to help fish runs, although not the continuous spill that the court ordered. "The bottom line is, there's a clear economic hit, but very uncertain biological benefit to it. From a consumer standpoint, that's not a good equation."

Darryll Olsen, board representative for the Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association, said electricity is the highest variable operational cost for irrigators. But the increased spring spill will also add maintenance costs to an irrigation system. This level of spilling water stirs up a lot of debris in the river, he said. "That causes us to have to clean the intakes like crazy," Olsen said.

Also at stake, he said, is the hydro system's "spread-the-risk" policy that splits up the downstream migration methods for juvenile fish between those that remain in the river, and those that are transported around the dams. "Our concern is that the protocol just evaporates" with the spill order, he said. In low-water years, fish that are transported have higher returns than those that remain in-river. "This year, we're not going to have the low-water problems, but it locks [the spill program] in. That's the problem," he said.

But the biggest question is how the court-ordered spill would affect fish returns. Spilling more water pushes more juvenile spring Chinook and steelhead over the dams instead of through powerhouses on their way to the ocean. But scientists don't agree on the potential benefits.

"What's at stake for the fish is their very survival. These fish are in trouble," Jim Martin, retired chief of fisheries at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, told NW Fishletter. He said wild spring Chinook and steelhead runs are not rebuilding. "We think the science clearly suggests that more spill, particularly for spring Chinook and steelhead, will be beneficial." He said part of that science comes from looking back at years when the hydro system was forced to spill more water over dams because of extremely high runoff. "The fish came back overwhelmingly," he said.

Liz Hamilton, executive director of Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, said fishermen keep journals tracking river conditions and subsequent returns. "They noticed a long time ago that when we had big spills, we had corresponding big returns," she said. Hamilton said out-migration is the biggest limiting factor in terms of what people can control. The added spill order comes at a time when energy prices are usually low, she said. "With 200 dams, all going full tilt with all the rain and snow melt--that's the time of year when we could have a win-win for the fish." The win for fish could be huge, she said. "The models are suggesting we could more than double the returns of spring Chinook."

It turns out, however, that putting a number on potential adult returns under the court-ordered spill is not that simple.

"They think it's going to produce this massive increase, but other modeling shows very different results," said Michael Milstein, spokesman for NOAA Fisheries, which is appealing the court-ordered spill. Modeling done by NOAA Fisheries suggests that compared with adult returns under their 2014 BiOp plan, the gain in adult survival rates will be relatively small and could even be negative. "But again, that's modeling, and modeling is necessarily a type of informed speculation," he said.

Milstein pointed to several factors that can impact juvenile survival. With more spill, fewer fish will be collected above the dams and transported, he noted. "When you transport fewer fish, we know that in most years, particularly at certain times of the year, fish that were transported return at a significantly higher rate than fish in the river," he said.

Dynamics below each dam also change with more spill and can make juvenile fish more vulnerable to predators. There's also the potential to lose juveniles to gas bubble disease, caused by too much total dissolved gas (TDG) in the water. The fish will be closely monitored for signs of trauma, he said, adding, "We're going to be watching it, just like everybody else."

Michele DeHart, manager of the Fish Passage Center, which produces the annual Comparative Survival Study (CSS), said in an email to NW Fishletter that modeling indicates that spill, ocean conditions and flow are among the most important variables in determining how many adults return. Return rates go down among juveniles that pass through a powerhouse, while those that pass over the spillways have higher estuary and first-year ocean survival, she wrote.

"CSS analysis indicates that for each powerhouse passage smolt-to-adult return rate is decreased by a relative 9 percent-13 percent compared to juvenile migrants that pass over a spillway," she wrote. The benefits of spill, she added, are greater in years when runoff is lower.

The 2017 CSS report states, "In a fully impounded river, we predict a 2- to 2.5-fold increase in return abundance above BiOp spill levels when spill is increased to 125 percent (TDG)." The court's order, however, does not require spill at 125 percent TDG levels, as dams are limited by state water quality laws to what's known as gas cap spill levels, which are lower than the 125 percent TDG.

In her emailed response, DeHart pointed to a March 5 letter from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to the Independent Scientific Advisory Board for answers to questions about benefits to fish from the court-ordered spill levels. It states that "prospective simulations conducted by CSS predicts increasing spill from BiOp to gas cap spill levels will provide an approximate 20-percent increase in SARs [smolt-to-adult ratios] for Chinook salmon and steelhead."

Signed by Ed Bowles, the agency's fish division administrator, the letter also states, "CSS simulations indicate that neither BiOp nor current gas levels of spill are likely to provide survival benefits (i.e., in the form of SARs) necessary to achieve survival and recovery goals."

The letter suggests the ISAB should consider "whether spill increased to the biologically safe level of 125 percent TDG provides a pathway to achieve survival and recovery goals in practice." -K.C. Mehaffey

[4] NOAA Scientist: The 'Blob' Will Continue To Impact Salmon For Years

When a high-pressure ridge appeared off the coast of Washington and Oregon in the winter of 2013-2014, it was just that--a weather event that warmed the ocean and prevented the winter storms that mix the ocean's cold, nutrient-rich deep water with its warmer surface water.

As this "ridiculously resilient ridge"--its nickname among some researchers--stayed put for two years and continued to spread and warm the ocean, it came to be called the Blob. Four years later, scientists are still studying the impacts of these never-before-seen ocean conditions that eventually covered 3.5 million square miles in the Pacific Ocean from Mexico to Alaska.

"Things that got set in motion with the Blob haven't gone away," Laurie Weitkamp, a research fisheries biologist at NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center, told NW Fishletter. "It's like a pinball machine--things are still ricocheting around. The ball hasn't gotten ejected yet."

Weitkamp confirmed that ocean temperatures, in places, rose to 7 degrees higher than average, as reported in a September 2016 National Geographic article. "The warm water spread farther, went deeper, and lasted longer than at any other time in recorded history," the magazine reported. "Animals showed up in places they'd never been. A toxic bloom of algae, the biggest of its kind on record, shut down California's crab industry for months. Key portions of the food web crashed."

This unusual and unprecedented event affected different species in different ways, setting in motion an imbalance that's not likely to correct itself soon, Weitkamp said. "The Blob was great for hake. They do well in warm water conditions. But for cold-water species, like salmon and crab--we're holding our breath to see what will happen."

Weitkamp said there's a double impact with something as pervasive as the Blob. First, there's the immediate impact. Salmon and steelhead that migrated to the ocean in 2014 and 2015 arrived to find a desert in their search for food. Many likely starved. For these migrating fish, the time when they first enter the ocean is critical for survival and will have a huge impact on how many return to the Columbia and Snake rivers to spawn one to four years later.

Anadromous fish coming to the ocean from the Columbia River tend to go different places when they arrive in the Pacific, Weitkamp said. "Steelhead are unique. They head straight out, so they, in particular, were in the wrong place," she said. Steelhead quickly swim straight west, out into the cold ocean water, some traveling as far as Japan before returning to their home rivers.

"It was really different than what they're used to," she said of the ocean conditions that steelhead experienced.

Weitkamp said the direct biological effects of the warm ocean conditions will continue for several years, as fewer fish return to spawn. In addition to the concern for steelhead, Weitkamp said 2017 ocean surveys found very low numbers of juvenile Chinook and coho, which will likely mean low coho returns this year and low Chinook runs in 2019.

When the ocean's complex food web is so severely altered, it can prompt some species to change their habits. The conditions brought humpback whales into estuaries, while California sea lions and pelicans began traveling in large numbers to the freshwater Columbia River in search of food.

"They come into the estuaries and at some point, they realize this is actually a better neighborhood than what they left behind," Weitkamp said. Smarter species, especially, may adapt to their new habits and habitats rather than return to their old ones.

One question scientists are asking now is whether the Pacific Ocean will ever return to the way it was before the Blob came on the scene, Weitkamp said. "There are some reasons to think that we might be in a new normal, and a lot of hope that we're going to go back to the old normal." -K.C. Mehaffey

[5] In Surprise Move, U.S. District Judge Dismisses U.S. V. Oregon Fishing Rights Case

A U.S. District Court judge on March 19 suddenly dismissed U.S. v. Oregon [68-513], effectively ending the court's oversight of a case that's continued in Oregon's U.S. District Court for 50 years. The case ensures the fishing rights of American Indian treaty tribes and non-treaty fisheries in the Columbia River Basin while protecting ESA-listed and non-listed fish runs.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman signed an order dismissing the case, and simultaneously granted a joint motion by parties involved in the case for a new 10-year management agreement. The joint agreement follows an EIS analysis completed in December by NOAA Fisheries to allow for incidental take of ESA-listed species through harvest.

The judge's order adopting that new agreement states, "The Court terminates its continuing jurisdiction in this case. This matter is dismissed without prejudice to re-opening this matter in the event a dispute arises concerning the parties' Management Agreement that requires judicial review." Dismissing a case without prejudice means none of the rights of the parties involved are lost, and that another suit can be brought--or, apparently, this one reopened--based on the same grounds.

According to NOAA Fisheries, the case involved Washington and Oregon court decisions determining that Columbia River treaty tribes are "entitled to 50 percent of the harvestable runs destined to reach the tribes' usual and accustomed fishing grounds and stations."

A judicial assistant for Mosman said he would not make any statements about his decision.

Reaction to the case dismissal was sparse.

Sara Thompson, spokeswoman for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, said in a written statement, "The tribes are pleased that Judge Mosman approved the parties' ten-year management agreement but disappointed that the judge chose to dismiss the case without consulting any of the parties." She added that CRITFC is considering all options.

Michael Milstein, spokesman for NOAA Fisheries, said only, "This was unexpected, and we are trying to understand the implications."

Most other parties involved in the case either had no comment or did not respond to requests from NW Fishletter for comment.

The long list of parties involved includes the U.S. Department of Justice and NOAA Fisheries as plaintiffs, and the states of Oregon and Washington as defendants. The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation is a respondent.

Intervenors included Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Nation, Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho, State of Idaho and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe.

Filing as friends of the court in the case were the Northwest Gillnetters Association, Washington State Trollers Association, Columbia River Fisherman's Protective Union, Lummi Indian Nation, Quinault Indian Nation and Tulalip Tribes.

NOAA Fisheries states on its website that the U.S. v Oregon Management Agreement is a foundational agreement that supports salmon and steelhead fishing in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, ensures fair sharing of harvestable fish between tribal and non-tribal fisheries, and protects and conserves both ESA-listed and non-listed species.

The new agreement extends the prior 2008-2017 management agreement, which provides framework for managing 12 fisheries and hatchery programs in much of the Columbia River Basin. -K.C. Mehaffey

[6] Another Rough Year Predicted For Salmon, Steelhead

Washington, Idaho and NOAA Fisheries fish managers expect another year of poor salmon and steelhead returns in the Columbia and Snake rivers, although most species should fare somewhat better in 2018 compared with last year's low returns.

If predictions are accurate, overall, the Columbia River will host fewer adults returning compared to 2017, but the Snake River and Columbia above Bonneville Dam will record slightly more.

State and federal officials presented these forecasts on March 14 to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. In all, some 1.1 million salmon and steelhead are expected to return to the Columbia River, including 904,000 predicted to pass over Bonneville Dam.

That compares with 1.2 million returning to the Columbia River last year, with 856,000 passing Bonneville Dam. In the Snake River at Lower Granite Dam, managers are expecting more than 180,400 salmon and steelhead, up from the 128,837 returning last year.

Dan Rawding, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Columbia River policy and science coordinator, said there were good returns of fall Chinook in the late 1980s, and again in 2003 and 2004, and 2012 and 2013.

Now, he said, "We're on a downward trend for fall Chinook."

This year's forecasts would bring 356,600 to the Columbia River, compared with last year's return of 475,900 adults. In the Snake River, fall Chinook numbers would drop to 18,126 adults this year, compared with 24,780 last year. "We're in our fourth year of being down for fall Chinook," Paul Kline, assistant chief of fisheries for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, told the Council.

The fish managers, however, raised more concerns about summer steelhead, although numbers are predicted to climb after last year's extremely low run.

Rawding said that last year, 116,841 summer steelhead crossed Bonneville Dam between April and October--the lowest return in 25 years, and one-third of the 10-year average.

This year, those numbers are forecast to jump to 190,350. In the Snake River, 69,568 summer steelhead returned, including both hatchery- and natural-origin fish, Kline said, adding, "Summer steelhead ... was one of the worst on record." This year, the forecast is for 96,080 returning adults, he said.

Rawding said the effects of the so-called Blob--a high-pressure ridge that sat off the coast of Washington and Oregon throughout 2014 and 2015--had the biggest impact on steelhead smolts headed out to sea those years, and those are the fish now returning as adults. Last year, fish agencies from Washington, Oregon and Idaho worked together to try to reduce impacts from recreational fishing--especially on Idaho's wild B-run, a larger and later-returning steelhead that returns mostly to the Clearwater and Salmon river drainages.

Last year's fishing restrictions included reduced limits on hatchery steelhead, rolling fishing closures in the main-stem Columbia, catch-and-release only requirements in the Snake, and no steelhead fishing in the upper Columbia, Rawding said. "We're looking at a much better return in 2018," he said, but "not quite back to where we were in the 20-year average." Kline said forecasters are predicting some 2,380 wild B-run fish to return this year.

Brian Burke, fishery biologist at NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center, told the Council he expects it will take another year or two before salmon returns are back to normal, even after two winters of La Niña conditions.

"The Blob and El Niño were record setting, and had really big impacts," he said. Also, he said, La Niña is now diminishing, and more neutral sea-surface temperatures have returned. "We do expect a little more time before something like salmon can get back to normal conditions," he said.

Burke said forecasts are based on different juvenile salmon and ecosystem surveys in the ocean. Rawding said spring Chinook tend to be the most difficult to forecast. Generally, the forecasts are within 25 percent about half the time for spring Chinook, and about two-thirds of the time for other species, he said, adding, "When we miss, we often miss big." -K.C. Mehaffey

[7] Groups Sue Feds, Alleging Harm To Fish From Failure To Follow Willamette Project BiOp

Three environmental groups are asking a federal judge to order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service to immediately reinitiate ESA consultations for the Willamette Project, which includes 13 dams on upper Willamette River tributaries.

On March 13, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, WildEarth Guardians and the Native Fish Society filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Portland claiming that both the Corps and NMFS are violating the ESA by failing to redo a BiOp currently in place through 2023. NMFS issued a BiOp in 2008 directing the Corps to take numerous actions to reduce the impacts of the dams on Chinook salmon and steelhead.

The suit makes good the group's promise in November to sue if the Corps and NMFS didn't take action "to develop a new plan to reform dam management in the basin before it is too late to save these iconic species."

In the suit, Northwest Environmental Defense Center et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers et al. [18-437], the groups said the Corps has failed to meet many of the BiOp's deadlines, and that new studies include information that should prompt the agencies to start the process over.

Chinook salmon and steelhead in the upper Willamette River and tributaries were listed as threatened under the ESA in 1999.

The plaintiffs say that historically, the upper Willamette supported hundreds of thousands of Chinook, but populations have declined dramatically. In 2016, only 11,600 wild Chinook entered the Columbia River mouth, and only 7,000 were counted at Willamette Falls, their lawsuit states. Wild Chinook counts in the Willamette have averaged fewer than 10,000 since 2010, it says.

Wild winter steelhead have also seen declines, and the population plummeted in 2017, the lawsuit claims. Numbers passing Willamette Falls have averaged about 5,600 over the last 10 years, and only 822 upper Willamette River steelhead passed the falls last year.

The principal purpose of the dams is flood control, although eight generate power, and the stored water is used for irrigation, recreation, and fish and wildlife. The lawsuit alleges several of the dams have no upstream passage for returning adults, and are also problematic for juvenile fish facing very tall dams on their migration downstream.

According to the suit, the dams cut off more than 90 percent of the spawning habitat in the Middle Fork Willamette, about 70 percent of the habitat in the North and South Santiam subbasins, and 16 percent in the McKenzie subbasin. For steelhead, the lawsuit claims, about 22 percent of the habitat above Willamette Falls is blocked.

To help mitigate for losses, the Corps funds five hatcheries operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. But, the groups contend, hatchery fish can hurt attempts to recover wild fish because they occupy limited spawning habitat, compete for resources and interbreed.

They claim deadlines have been missed on some BiOp mitigation measures, which include requirements for flow management, water quality, fish passage, irrigation contracts, hatcheries, habitat, and research and monitoring.

"The Corps' delays and failure to implement crucial Reasonable and Prudent Alternative measures--particularly those designed to address upstream and downstream fish passage and harmful water temperatures and dissolved gas levels--means Upper Willamette River Chinook and steelhead have not and will not receive the benefits that NMFS assumed would occur from successful implementation of the Reasonable and Prudent Alternative over the biological opinion's fifteen-year term," the lawsuit claims.

The groups also claim new research shows a higher mortality of pre-spawn adult Chinook in the upper Willamette than what scientists previously believed, and than in other river systems; sea lion predation is a larger problem than previously thought; and stray rates from trap-and-haul methods are higher than previously known. These changes should also prompt a new ESA consultation, the lawsuit claims.

Federal defendants have not yet responded to the complaint. -K.C. Mehaffey

[8] Loss Of Snowpack Will Mean Rising Tensions For Columbia Basin Water

Thirty-two kilometers cubed. Or, 26 million acre-feet. That's enough water to fill Lake Mead--the West's largest reservoir, held back by Hoover Dam, and used to irrigate farmland and provide wa-ter to some 20 million people in Arizona, California and Nevada.

It's also the water equivalent of spring snowpack that--on average compared to a century ago--is no longer being stored as snow on mountains and foothills across the Western U.S.

Since 1915, the West's total snowpack on April 1 has dropped by an average of 21 percent, ac-cording to an article published this month in the research journal npj (Nature Partner Jour-nals) Climate and Atmospheric Science.

The article, titled "Dramatic declines in snowpack in the western U.S.," reports that despite higher elevations in the up-per Columbia River that will help shield the basin from immediate impacts of declining snowpack, hydropower will not be immune to the growing demand for dry-season water.

In interviews with NW Fishletter, Philip Mote, an Oregon State University professor and director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, and Dennis Lettenmaier, geology pro-fessor at UCLA, said water users in the Columbia River Basin should prepare for more runoff earlier in the year, and less in the late spring and summer.

The researchers found that in the Pacific Northwest, snowpack loss is likely caused by warmer temperatures, not less precipitation. "If you average it over the long term, precipitation hasn't changed that much. But the temperature has, and warmer temperatures mean less snowpack." Letten-maier said. He added, "The kind of temperature changes we've seen over the period of study is well less than 1 degree Celsius [1.8 degrees Fahrenheit], generally." That means sometimes, especially in lower elevations, what formerly came down as snow now falls as rain.

Impacts to the Columbia River Basin haven't been as severe, so far, because so much of the ba-sin is fed by snow accumulated at higher elevations. "The Columbia River is interesting," Lettenmaier said. "Something like 30 percent of the discharge comes from Canada, and that is mostly at pretty high elevation. It's somewhat less susceptible than the rest of the basin. But when you look farther downstream, there's a real mix."

Both Lettenmaier and Mote pointed to the Yakima River Basin as an example of a basin feeding into the Columbia River with characteristics that, even with small temperature changes, will experi-ence less snow and an earlier runoff.

Mote said snowpack losses are even greater than he anticipated when he and his colleagues set out to update their 2005 study. With the additional data, they found declining snowpack in 92 percent of the snow monitoring sites with long records, and one-third of them--232 of 699 sites--had signifi-cant losses.

Conversely, only 2.2 percent--or 16 sites--had significantly more snowpack, on average. The declines are greatest in the spring. In addition to long-term records and modeling, the study looked at satellite images, available since 1967, which show June has the biggest losses in snowpack.

Overall, the declines are largest in the Pacific states--Washington, Oregon and California. Most of the largest negative trends are in eastern Oregon and northern Nevada, but losses greater than 70 percent were also found to occur in California, Montana, Washington, Idaho and Ari-zona, the study said. And, the study found, locations with the largest snowpack losses tend to have mild, wet climates with mean winter temperatures above 30 degrees and more than 7.8 inches of pre-cipitation each month. But other locations that experienced large losses of snowpack are cooler, drier climates, where mean winter temperatures range from 23 to 32 degrees.

"Snow is an important part of the total hydrological story. It's a piece of the climate puzzle that hadn't really been looked at," Mote said. And in a basin like the Columbia River, where there are so many competing interests for water, the amount of naturally stored water can have big impacts. "When Dennis and I started doing this work 15 years ago, I thought some of the water policies would be farther along [by now]," he said.

Mote added that while the Columbia's vast system of reservoirs can help ameliorate the impacts, those reservoirs will become harder to manage because of competing interests. "You can make it a priority to drive the system for hydropower, or flood control, but in a changing climate the others are harder to manage. Can you manage it to meet all of the BiOp flows?" he asked.

The discussion portion of their article says building more reservoirs is not the an-swer. "The magnitude of these changes relative to the built storage (reservoirs), and the certainty with which continued warming will lead to continued declines at a similar or increasing rate, illustrates the immense challenge facing western water managers," the article says. "Solutions cannot consist solely of future infrastructure: new reservoirs cannot be built fast enough to offset the loss of snow storage, so solutions will have to lie primarily in the linked arenas of water policy (including reservoir operat-ing policies) and demand management."

Lettenmaier said new storage can't be built fast enough, considering the long environmental re-view necessary to create new reservoirs. But also, he said, "There's no place to put them. There are minor exceptions, but the good sites basically got used."

Lettenmaier noted that hydroelectric dams are already operated under the constraints of releas-ing water at certain times to aid in fish migration. "When runoff happens earlier in the year, it will be more difficult to keep enough water for fish later in the year," he said, adding, "That's the ten-sion."

But in addition to hydropower and fish, dam managers will also have to consider water storage for irrigation, municipal and industrial use, and flood control. He noted flooding was one of the pri-mary reasons dams were built on the Columbia River. "Before dams, floods did a lot of damage," he said. "And with warmer temperatures, you've got new issues with flood control."

Lettenmaier believes figuring out reservoir management will become a key question as the West's snowpack continues to diminish.

"All of this works into the discussion of how that reservoir system is operated--how much for flood control, versus water supply storage for irrigation, versus how the hydroelectric system is oper-ated, and a lot of that has to do with when the power gets generated," he said. "It's a very compli-cated situation. The way in which the reservoirs are operated in all likelihood will change as we go forward." -K.C. Me-haffey

[9] Deschutes Water-Quality Lawsuit Against PGE Goes Forward; Tribe Joins Request For Dismissal

After failing to convince U.S. District Judge Michael Simon last year to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Deschutes River Alliance, Portland General Electric is again seeking dismissal of the case alleging Clean Water Act violations, this time with tribal support.

The suit--which has been on hold while DRA and PGE attempted to mediate a settlement--is now back on the court's calendar, set for July 17 oral arguments on a motion for summary judgment.

In Deschutes River Alliance v. Portland General Electric [16-1644], DRA claims the utility is violating its water-quality certification for its Pelton Round Butte Hydroelectric Project, which includes three dams and a 273-foot selective water withdrawal tower, built in 2010 to aid fish passage. The group claims that since the tower was constructed, PGE's monitoring reports show the company has routinely violated clean-water requirements for pH, temperature and dissolved oxygen.

Last March, Simon denied PGE's first attempt to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that under the Clean Water Act, citizens may sue to force compliance with clean-water requirements. PGE had argued that only FERC had authority to enforce water-quality certification after the license had been issued. PGE sought a review by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the court denied its request.

Now, PGE and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon are both asking the court to dismiss the case based on the tribe's sovereign immunity, and the availability of another avenue to resolve the issue, outside the courts. PGE and the Warm Springs co-own the project, and jointly applied for and received a new 50-year license from FERC to operate the dams. Both parties filed motions on March 21 arguing that a special process for resolving disputes--including water-quality issues--is already in place through a fish committee established when FERC relicensed the dams in 2005.

Filing in this case as a friend of the court, the tribe claims it has sovereign immunity, "meaning that it cannot be compelled to join this action absent a valid waiver or Congressional abrogation of the Tribe's sovereign immunity," its motion states. Yet, because the tribe has substantial interests in the outcome, the case cannot proceed "in equity and good conscience" and should be dismissed, it says.

It also says a judgment against PGE could trigger re-initiation of ESA consultations with federal agencies, with the possible risk that the project's incidental take permit could be terminated.

The tribe's motion says a fish-passage plan to restore runs above the dams is a key feature of re-licensing. The process included a settlement agreement with several federal, state and tribal agencies, along with environmental groups including Trout Unlimited, American Rivers, Oregon Trout and the Native Fish Society, which are all represented in the fish committee.

The Warm Springs noted the settlement agreement was complex, with several "interrelated and delicately balanced components" and that "each element is essential to successful implementation." The tribe, its motion states, recognizes a healthy fishery and water quality are "inextricably intertwined."

PGE's motion agrees with the Warm Springs, stating that a major problem with the lawsuit is that DRA is seeking liability against PGE alone, when the tribe co-owns the withdrawal tower and the hydro project.

"In determining whether the case should proceed without the tribe, the court looks to a number of factors, including whether an alternative form exists to resolve these issues in a manner that would not prejudice the tribe," its motion states.

The fish committee, set up under the FERC license, has authority to hear and resolve issues raised in the lawsuit, or, if unresolved, bring the problem to FERC, the utility argues. "While DRA is not a member, it may present its concerns to DEQ and the Fish Committee, and may petition FERC to enforce DEQ water quality certification conditions," it says.

Meanwhile, DRA is seeking a partial summary judgment determining PGE is liable under the federal Clean Water Act.

In its motion filed March 5, DRA says that before the water withdrawal tower was built, cleaner and colder water was drawn from near the bottom of Lake Billy Chinook, and released below Round Butte Dam.

Almost immediately after construction of the tower--which draws water from the surface and from near the bottom of the reservoir--Deschutes River users began to notice changes in the lower river, their motions said, including "impacts to water color and odor, rampant proliferations of nuisance algae on the river's rocks, significant changes in aquatic insect populations, increased occurrences of fish diseases, and declines in bird populations."

The changes have had negative impacts on recreational experiences and the local business economy, the plaintiffs allege. -K.C. Mehaffey

[10] Power Council To Begin Process To Amend Fish And Wildlife

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council is gearing up to amend its 2014 Fish and Wildlife Program--a process required under the Northwest Power Act that will take more than a year to complete.

Amended every five years, the program is a framework used to help determine which projects are funded to help protect, mitigate and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by hydropower dams in the Columbia River Basin.

A tentative schedule for the process will be drawn up after the Council's Fish and Wildlife Committee receives a review by the Independent Scientific Advisory Board of its 2014 Fish and Wildlife Program, expected March 23. The committee will then consider the ISAB's report and draft a letter to the region to be adopted by the full Council, inviting recommendations for amendments to the program.

"This will be your life for the next year and a half," Tony Grover, the Council's Fish and Wildlife Division director, told the committee March 13. "About a year from now, you'll be doing consultations and public hearings around the basin," he told them.

Patty O'Toole, NWPCC's program implementation manager, outlined the process for the full Council on March 14. The formal letter calling for recommendations can include topics suggested by the Council, she said. Some recent developments that could be included in the letter include the federal court-ordered spring spill over eight federal dams, court decisions on the Federal Columbia River Power System BiOp, development of an environmental impact statement for mitigating impacts of the FCRPS, and BPA's five-year strategic plan.

O'Toole said after calling for recommendations, the Council generally gives the public--including government agencies, tribes, BPA customers and others--90 to 120 days to submit recommendations. Amendments to the Fish and Wildlife Program must be adopted within one year after closing the recommendation period, she said.

The process also includes a comment period for submitted recommendations, a draft amendment from the Council, and a comment period for the draft amendment before a final amendment is drafted and adopted by a supermajority of the Council. -K.C. M.

[11] Council Makes Annual Report To Congress, Calls FY 2017 'Another Challenging Year'

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council called fiscal year 2017 "another challenging year," in its annual report to Congress on the state of the Columbia River Basin.

The new report, posted March 23 on the Council's website, focuses on changes in Western energy markets due to rapid growth of wind and solar power and low-cost natural gas in explaining ongoing challenges faced by hydropower and BPA to find a secure niche.

"As inexpensive renewable power pours into the West Coast wholesale market, Bonneville finds itself in an increasingly competitive situation that may lead to difficult budgetary decisions," the report says. "Thus, sunshine in California could have a chilling effect on Bonneville's budget, with implications for fish and wildlife recovery if Bonneville has to reduce spending. Nevertheless, the Council is committed to work with Bonneville to ensure that the fish and wildlife program continues to be efficient and data-driven and to produce outcomes that can be measured and assessed."

The 48-page report on FY 2017 (covering Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017) discusses considerations of a West Coast power system, provides an overview of implementing the Seventh Northwest Power and Conservation Plan, looks at energy-efficiency investments, and considers the Northwest's energy demand and carbon footprint. It also looks at its progress in implementing 22 strategies laid out in its 2014 Fish & Wildlife Program, and reviews the Council's budget and its public outreach.

The annual report notes hydropower provides more than half of the Pacific Northwest's electricity. But numerous factors are changing the industry, including a stagnant load growth of less than 1 percent per year, government policies that mandate renewable resources, electrification of transportation, low-cost natural gas, distributed resources like rooftop solar panels, electric vehicles and smart thermostats that give consumers more control over their energy consumption, and large corporations acquiring their own electricity resources.

"What will the system look like in a decade or two?" the Council's letter to Congress and citizens of the Pacific Northwest asks. "We don't know yet, but we're willing to bet that it will continue to be low-cost, low-carbon, reliable and efficient." -K.C. M.

[12] Agencies Update Columbia River EIS Process; Will Evaluate Snake Dams Breaching

An environmental impact statement being developed by federal agencies on Columbia River System Operations will evaluate breaching the lower Snake River dams, according to a recent newsletter from agencies working to develop a draft EIS on the 14 hydroelectric projects on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

The EIS will also look at impacts of different operations on fish and wildlife as well as the impacts of climate change, the newsletter said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, BuRec and BPA began developing the EIS in 2016, and expect to issue a final decision in September 2021.

The study will include a range of alternatives for long-term operations of the projects, and evaluate environmental and economic impacts on flood risk management, irrigation, power generation, navigation, fish and wildlife, cultural resources, water quality and recreation.

The newsletter provides a link to its public scoping report, completed in October, which summarizes more than 400,000 comments received during the scoping period. The agencies are using those comments to develop alternatives for inclusion in a draft EIS, expected to be released by March 2020.

So far, the agencies have developed eight preliminary focus alternatives, which were developed to focus on specific objectives--like improving juvenile salmon survival. This year, they expect to release two quarterly newsletters--including the one released on March 12--and host two public update sessions, one this spring or summer, and another next winter. -K.C. M.

[13] Tribal Plan To Release Salmon Above Grand Coulee Dam Discussed

After a 70-year absence, salmon may soon be swimming in the Columbia River Basin above Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams.

Cody Desautel, natural resource director for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, told a reporter the tribe is planning to trap and haul salmon from the tribe's hatchery, and release them above both of the upper Columbia River dams that have blocked anadromous fish since they were built.

Meghan Francis, a spokeswoman for the tribe, said in an email to NW Fishletter that the news got out when a radio correspondent attended a recent event in Canada, where Desautel and Colville Tribal Chairman Michael Marchand briefly discussed the proposal. The tribe is declining interviews until more details are available, she said in the email.

The story, reported March 16 on public radio's Northwest News Network, said the tribe is waiting for one final permit.

The Colvilles have long sought fish passage above both Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams, which have largely prevented salmon from making their way to most of the Colville Indian Reservation. Tribal officials have said that up to 4 million fish were once harvested and consumed every year by native people in the region.

Two years ago, the Colvilles announced a renewed effort to bring salmon back to more than 1,100 miles of rivers and streams in the upper Columbia where they once spawned. Five inland tribes formed the Upper Columbia United Tribes, which has been pushing to include fish passage in a new Columbia River Treaty. -K.C. M.

[14] Gov. Inslee Orders New Protections For Orca, Chinook Salmon

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order March 14 that attempts to protect killer whales off the coast of Washington and their main source of food--Chinook salmon.

A news release from Inslee's office says Washington has two iconic animals, "orcas and salmon, whose destinies are both intertwined and in peril." The Puget Sound population of orcas has dropped to 76 animals, and their main diet--Chinook salmon--is listed on federal and state endangered species lists.

The executive order notes that the health of orcas and Chinook salmon are tightly linked, and that both orcas and Chinook are hurt by warming oceans and ocean acidification. Inslee's action sets up a task force to propose funding and legislation to help the orcas, and is expected to address three primary threats: lack of prey, toxic contaminants, and vessel traffic and noise.

It also seeks immediate help from state agencies, "within existing resources." Regarding requested actions that would help salmon, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is asked to identify, by July 31, the highest priority areas and watersheds for orca prey "in order to focus or adjust, as needed, restoration, protection, incentives, hatcheries, harvest levels, and passage policies and programs."

The agency is also asked to review and amend 2018 recreational and commercial fishing regulations, "prioritizing protection of key areas and fish runs" that could aid in orca recovery.

The current threats to Chinook salmon, raised by the governor's news release, include habitat loss, toxic pollutants (particularly those in stormwater runoff), streams blocked by development, predators and newly arriving invasive fish. -K.C. M.

[15] Chelan PUD Reaches Best-Ever Lamprey Passage

The Chelan County PUD achieved a 98-percent successful adult passage rate for Pacific lamprey at Rocky Reach Dam--the best ever measured at any dam, PUD officials say.

Steve Hemstrom, the PUD's senior fisheries biologist, told Chelan PUD commissioners on March 5 that changes to the dam's fish ladder enabled the utility to basically double its adult lamprey passage rate in 2016 and 2017 compared to 2004, when less than half of the adult lamprey that started up its ladders made it past the dam.

Those changes included adding ramps to connect concrete steps in the fish ladder and putting grates over small gaps in the water intakes to keep lamprey from slipping through in places where they aren't strong enough to swim out.

Pacific lamprey are eel-like fish, a native and ancient Columbia River species that dates back 450 million years.

Brian McIlraith, Pacific lamprey project leader for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, said lamprey are culturally important to the tribes that are members of the Commission, which has pushed for many years for recovery of the non-listed species. He said when the Commission started seeing declines in lamprey returns in the Columbia River main stem and then its tributaries, it sounded an alarm.

Tribes also believe lamprey are a very important biological component of the Columbia River's ecology, he said.

McIlraith said restoring adult passage is a very important piece of the overall lamprey recovery and applauded Chelan PUD's achievement. "The 98 percent--that is a very high number, and a really positive step for lamprey restoration," he said.

However, he said, some other mid-Columbia River dams still show 50-percent adult survival passage rates, which basically halves the number of adults at each barrier. In addition, large numbers of lamprey drop out of the system somewhere in the reservoirs between dams.

McIlraith said other dams have installed the same lamprey passage equipment as those built at Rocky Reach, but each dam is different. He added that he's not aware of any other dams that have reached a 98-percent passage rate. -K.C. M.

[16] Steelhead Anglers Seek Temporary Fishing Ban

An Edmonds, Wash.-based fishing group has asked authorities in Washington, Oregon and Idaho to take emergency action to close steelhead fishing in the lower Columbia and Snake rivers for the rest of the 2018 spawning season due to low returns.

The Conservation Angler sent letters to the state wildlife commissions and fish and wildlife departments on March 1, noting the forecasts for low numbers of B-run wild steelhead returning this year. B-run steelhead are larger, return later and mostly return to the Clearwater River, a tributary of the Snake River.

"We believe there's so few fish, it's a complete risk to those wild fish that do make it to their spawning rivers, even if people catch and release them," Conservation Angler's executive director David Moskowitz told NW Fishletter.

He said while forecasts have improved recently, there are too few steelhead to risk losing any. As a catch-and-release fisherman, Moskovitz said he knows that regardless of how careful an angler is, some fish that are caught and released will die or will stop migrating upstream. "It reduces spawning success," he said.

Only 750 steelhead were forecast to make it over Bonneville Dam, and by the first week in March, only 362 had passed the Lower Granite Dam.

Moskowitz said Washington state officials responded that they will attempt to coordinate the season with other states, but Idaho appears unwilling, and he's had no response from Oregon. -K.C. M.

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