Jeremy Red Star Wolf, a Umatilla tribal leader, was elected as chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission for 2019-2020. He was sworn in at the commission's July meeting, replacing Ryan Smith of the Warm Springs Tribe, who is now CRITFC treasurer. Wolf also served as CRITFC chairman in 2016. The Portland-based commission coordinates tribal fish management and technical support for Columbia River fishery policies, representing the Umatilla, Warm Springs, Yakama and Nez Perce tribes. Leland Bill of the Yakama Tribe was elected vice chairman, and Ferris Paisano of the Nez Perce Tribe was elected secretary.

The Washington State Department of Ecology is accepting comments through Sept. 26 on a proposal to amend the total dissolved gas limits at eight lower Snake and Columbia river dams, allowing the maximum limit to increase to 125 percent during spring spill operations. Earlier this year, Ecology made a short-term change, increasing TDG standards at the dams to 120 percent to support the flexible spill agreement. The new proposal would become a permanent change. A schedule of public hearings and instructions on how to comment are on the agency's rulemaking website.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center says that current El Nino conditions will likely transition to neutral conditions over the next two months. The Center had been forecasting a weak El Nino to persist through the fall, and into the winter months. El Nino winters in the Pacific Northwest are more often warmer and drier than normal, while neutral conditions are generally closer to average. Latest modeling forecasts show "a rapid transition toward ENSO-neutral by the late Northern Hemisphere summer, remaining neutral through fall and winter," a July 11 advisory said. "Overall, oceanic and atmospheric conditions were consistent with a weakening El Nino," it said.

Coleman Oil agreed to pay a $189,000 fine for spilling about 3,840 gallons of biodiesel into the Columbia River at a bulk oil plant in Wenatchee in 2017, according to the Washington Department of Ecology. The penalty will be reduced to $170,000 if the company pays $65,000 for habitat restoration, and $105,000 to upgrade two other facilities, and incurs no spills over 25 gallons for five years. The Idaho-based company initially said it would appeal the fine, noting it has cooperated fully and already spent $2.6 million on response, monitoring and cleanup.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council agreed on July 17 to seek a review by the Independent Scientific Advisory Board of a report by the Upper Columbia United Tribes on salmon passage and reintroduction above Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams. Presented to the Council in June, the report found good potential at both dams for a fish passage system for summer/fall Chinook and sockeye salmon. The Council's letter to ISAB asks for an evaluation of the report's strengths, uncertainties and limitations, and whether it addresses the biological and physical elements of reintroducing fish into the upper Columbia River.

Washington state agencies announced plans on July 24 to spend more than $25 million to remove more than 50 fish passage barriers blocking salmon and steelhead in 20 counties. The most common barriers are culverts that may be too high or too small for fish to utilize. Projects are funded under the Brian Abbott Fish Barrier Removal Board created by the Legislature in 2014. Projects undergo a technical review which evaluates proposals based on coordination with other fish passage projects, benefits to listed salmon or steelhead and cost effectiveness. The program also evaluates the severity of barriers and prioritizes downstream barriers.

K.C. Mehaffey covers fish issues for Clearing Up, and is editor of the NW Fishletter. She joined the NewsData writing team in February 2018. From lawsuits to scientific studies, she is enjoying the deep dive into the Columbia Basin's many fish topics.