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Weekly Fish and Wildlife News

January 27, 2012 Issue No. 606

Table of Contents

* Agencies, Land Trust Complete Largest Estuary Habitat Purchase; Goal Is To Reconnect Wetlands With River

* Spring Chinook Return Expected To Be Large; Wild Component Predicted Above 10-Year Average

* Tribes, Idaho Urge Lower River Chinook Harvest Impacts Be Spread Out Over Full Season

* Compact Reduces White Sturgeon Harvest Third Straight Year; No Fishing For ESA-Listed Smelt

* Interior Report On Klamath Basin Dam Removal Assesses Positive, Negative Effects

* USDA $232 Million Loan Allows Expansion Of Oregon Biorefinery Along Columbia River

* Study Analyzes Effectiveness Of Wetlands Restoration Methods, Mitigation Strategies

* Northeast Oregon’s Traveling Gray Wolf Is Now California’s Sole, ESA-Protected Wolf

* Washington State University Establishes New Interdisciplinary ‘School Of Environment’

* NOAA Designates Critical Habitat Off Northwest Coast For Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtles

* Feedback: Dworshak Nutrient Supplementation Study


* Agencies, Land Trust Complete Largest Estuary Habitat Purchase; Goal Is To Reconnect Wetlands With River

The Columbia Land Trust, Bonneville Power Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday announced what they say is the largest purchase of fish and wildlife riverside habitat in the Columbia River estuary in nearly 40 years.

The acquisition, and an accompanying conservation easement, will permanently protect what is considered essential refuge for salmon, steelhead and other wildlife, the involve parties say. The major goal is to “reconnect” the river with the property’s lowlands and sloughs, which have long been shut off by a Corps levee aimed at preventing flooding.

The acquisition, which will benefit salmon from Idaho, Oregon and Washington that migrate down through the estuary on their journey toward the Pacific Ocean, is intended to mitigate in some degree for impacts to fish and wildlife caused by federal dams on the Columbia and Snake river systems.

The Columbia Land Trust on Monday completed the purchase of the 920-acre Columbia Stock Ranch on the south shore of the Columbia River near Goble, Ore., with $5.3 million in BPA funding from electric ratepayers. Bonneville markets power generated in the Columbia/Snake hydro system.

The purchase sets the stage for the Corps to restore hundreds of acres of historic wetlands in the next few years to provide food and shelter for salmon migrating to and from the ocean. About 550 acres of the property is in the river’s floodplain and has been used grazing and other agricultural purposes. The rest is upland that is partially wooded.

“Right now the wetlands, the ponds, are cut off from the river,” said the Corps’ Diana Fredlund.

The Land Trust, which will manage the property, will do a baseline assessment of the property and produce management goals. And the Corps, which is charged with restoration of the property to better accommodate fish and wildlife, is studying its options. A goal is to launch a public “environmental assessment” process under the National Environmental Policy Act that would involve choosing a preferred alternative.

“We don’t know yet how we’re going to do it,” Fredlund said of the primary goal of reconnecting the property’s wetlands with the Columbia to provide access for juvenile salmon.

The property is located about 75 river miles upstream from the Columbia mouth.

The Land Trust said the lush and diverse piece of land, a former cattle ranch and dairy farm, was entrusted to them by a family that had owned the property for six decades.

“After nearly 18 months of negotiations, the family decided that their legacy would be in the best of hands with Columbia Land Trust,” according to information posted on the Land Trust’s web page. “We are very excited about the potential to restore this as a feeding, rearing and sheltering wetlands for migrating salmon and other wetlands species.”

“This is the largest single acquisition we have completed, and we look forward to restoring it with the help of our partners, Bonneville Power Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers.”

The acquisition protects more estuary habitat for conservation than any other single purchase since the early 1970s.

“The size and ecological importance of this habitat set a new benchmark for habitat protection and is a key piece in an extensive fish refuge system in the lower Columbia River,” said Glenn Lamb, executive director of the Columbia Land Trust. “In the last 10 years we have worked with about 60 landowners to conserve 9,100 acres of estuarine and tributary spawning and rearing habitat. BPA has been an important partner in many of these projects. The estuary is a particularly vital nursery for young salmon, and this project is the best demonstration yet of conserving and restoring the lands that make the estuary so valuable.”

An independent panel of biologists identified the parcel as an especially valuable swath of historic tidal wetlands that if restored would boost survival of young salmon as they transition to saltwater. Some two-thirds of estuary wetlands have been lost over the last century, but recognition of their biological significance has encouraged restoration.

“Everything we learn tells us more and more that the estuary is very important to juvenile fish,” said Ron Thom, a Pacific Northwest Laboratory scientist specializing in ecosystem restoration who helps assess potential projects. “Restoration can create more habitat to support them. In general, the more opportunities for fish to access large, productive rearing and feeding habitats, the better the chances of young salmon gaining strength and ultimately surviving.”

That Expert Regional Technical Group used criteria developed for assessing the level of benefits the restoration of particular properties might bring to both “ocean-type” salmon, such as Snake River fall chinook, and stream-type fish like upriver spring chinook. The fall chinook swim toward the ocean as subyearlings, for the most part, and use estuary habitats extensively to bolster themselves before entering the ocean. Stream types exit as yearlings.

A reconnected Columbia Stock Ranch wetland “will benefit both types of fish,” said BPA’s estuary habitat program lead, Ben Zelinski. “It’s a great location.” On the science group’s 5-point survival benefit rating scale, the property rated a 4.5.

“In the past I don’t think we have had any (properties) over 1,” Zelinski said. Such estuary, and tributary, habitat restoration is called for in NOAA Fisheries’ 2008/2010 biological opinion for the Federal Columbia River Power System. The goal is to improve survival of ocean-type salmon by 9 percent, and for stream-type by 6 percent, through estuary improvements implemented during the 10-year BiOp program. The expert panel was set by NOAA Fisheries, BPA and the Corps, as directed by the BiOp.

“I applaud the collaboration between the parties – the local landowners, the Estuary Partnership, the Land Trust and the federal agencies – in bringing this project into our Fish and Wildlife Program to help mitigate for the hydro system’s effects on salmon and steelhead. Estuary projects benefit multiple populations and increase the benefits for the ratepayer dollars spent,” said Joan Dukes, chair of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

“The Columbia Stock Ranch site offers a large area for contiguous restoration,” said Elvon Childs, the Corps’ Columbia Stock Ranch project manager. “We are designing the project so it maximizes benefits for salmonid habitat restoration with direct tidal connections to the Columbia River.”

“Not since the early 1970s when the two lower Columbia River wildlife refuges were established has there been a single purchase of this magnitude purely for conservation,” said Debrah Marriott, executive director of the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership. “The Deer Island area was once a rich network of forests, shrub scrub, wetlands, sloughs and floodplain lakes that provide critical shallow water areas for juvenile salmon resting and rearing as they make their way to the ocean.

“With this purchase and the restoration of this property, these essential habitats will once again become available to Endangered Species Act listed fish and other species,” Marriott said.

The 10-year BiOp, released in 2008 and supplemented in 2010, judges whether the dams jeopardize the survival of wild salmon and steelhead that are protected under the ESA. It prescribes measures, such as habitat restoration, needed to improve fish survival. The mitigation includes new technology ensuring more fish pass dams safely and has an increased focus on the estuary from Bonneville Dam 146 miles downstream to the mouth of the river.

“We’ve seen fish returning to other restored habitat within days, so large, contiguous properties such as this one should boost salmon survival even more,” said Lorri Bodi, BPA vice president of Environment, Fish and Wildlife. “Healthy estuary habitat is like a Head Start program for salmon that makes them that much more likely to return to the Northwest to spawn as adults.”

Management and restoration plans for the property will be developed with public input. Restoration work will also support the local economy and jobs. The restored habitat will benefit coho, chinook and chum salmon; steelhead; and cutthroat trout, as well as terrestrial wildlife such as black bear, elk and river otter.

When the transaction is complete the Columbia Land Trust will own and manage the property for fish and wildlife conservation purposes.

This land acquisition would satisfy some of BPA’s mitigation requirements for the Columbia River estuary as identified in the NOAA Fisheries BiOp.


* Spring Chinook Return Expected To Be Large; Wild Component Predicted Above 10-Year Average

There has been a salmon sighting.

The first two upriver spring chinook of the year were counted Wednesday crossing up and over the Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam. The counts at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ fish ladders included one adult fish and one early-maturing “jack,” that latter being a chinook that returned after one year in the ocean.

A day later, fishery managers and sport and commercial fishers sat in a Portland meeting room discussing how and when the harvest of the prized fish should be apportioned.

The anticipated return of 314,000 “upriver” adult spring chinook salmon to the mouth of the Columbia would be the fourth largest on a record dating back to 1938 when dam counts began. Upriver spring chinook are fish headed for tributary spawning areas and hatcheries above Bonneville Dam (located at river mile 146) in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon Thursday set sport fishing seasons for spring chinook and white sturgeon on the Columbia mainstem where the river is a shared border. The state officials also approved a plan for managing non-tribal commercial fishing this winter and spring from Bonneville Dam down to the Columbia’s mouth.

Most new fishing sport regulations adopted Thursday will take effect March 1, when fishing for spring chinook and sturgeon starts to heat up on the lower Columbia. The newly adopted season will include a 7-days-a-week boat fishery from Buoy 10 to Beacon Rock, about four miles downstream of Bonneville Dam, through April 6 with three Tuesday closures to allow, potentially, daytime commercial fisheries and reduce sport-commercial conflicts.

The new rule also includes additional opportunity beginning March 1 for bank fishing only from Beacon Rock to Bonneville Dam.

Until then, both fisheries are open on various sections of the river under rules approved last year.

The sport fishery approved Thursday is scheduled to run through April 6 if the catch stays within prescribed limits. It could also be extended if enough fish remain available for harvest within those limits.

Harvest guidelines adopted by the two states will allow anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam to catch and keep up to 14,500 hatchery-reared spring chinook before the run forecast is updated in early May. Fishery managers predict that anglers will take 105,300 salmon fishing trips to the lower river during the March 1-April 6 period.

The overall harvest guideline or allocation for all spring non-tribal sport and commercial would be up to 29,268 upriver chinook during the spring period that ends June 15 if the run comes in as predicted. The spring chinook run has in recent years reached peak numbers in late April or early May.

Upriver fish bound for rivers above the dam are expected to make up the majority of the catch, but salmon returning to the Cowlitz, Lewis, Willamette and other rivers below Bonneville also contribute to the fishery. The preseason forecast is for an overall spring chinook return to the river of 414,500 adult fish, including lower river returns to tributaries such as the Willamette, Sandy, Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis and so-called “select areas.”

The upriver run’s foundation is the Snake River spring/chinook stock. A total of 168,000 Snake River fish are expected to return to the mouth of the Columbia River. That estimate includes 39,000 wild spring/summer chinook, fish that are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. That would be the fourth highest return on record, behind only the glory years of 2001-2003 when a combination of forces in freshwater and the ocean enabled wild returns ranging from 51,000 to 63,000. The overall wild count had dipped as low as 3,339 in 1995; the stock was listed in 1992.

The forecast for adult Upper Columbia spring chinook adult return is 32,600 and includes 2,800 wild fish. The overall return is 166 percent of the recent 10-year average; the wild component represents 141 percent. The Upper Columbia wild fish are listed as endangered under the ESA. The wild count slipped to a low of 255 in 1995, prompting the ESA’s most protective designation in 1999.

As in years past, only hatchery-reared spring chinook marked with a clipped adipose fin may be retained by anglers. Any unmarked, potentially wild spring chinook must be released unharmed.

Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said this year’s spring chinook fishery looks promising, especially compared to last season.

"Not only is the run forecast well above average, but fishing conditions should be a lot better than last year when anglers had to contend with weeks of high, turbid water," LeFleur said.

Spring chinook fishing is currently open to boat and bank anglers on a daily basis from Buoy 10 near the mouth of the Columbia River upstream to the Interstate 5 bridge (river mile 106.5) at Portland.

Starting March 1, bank anglers will also be allowed to fish from Beacon Rock up to the fishing boundary below Bonneville Dam.

Above Bonneville Dam, the fishery will be open to boat and bank anglers on a daily basis from March 16 through May 2 between the Tower Island powerlines six miles below The Dalles Dam and the Washington/Oregon state line, 17 miles upriver from McNary Dam. Bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville Dam upriver to the powerlines during that time.

Starting March 1, anglers fishing downriver from Bonneville Dam may retain one marked, hatchery-reared adult spring chinook as part of their daily catch limit. Above the dam, anglers can keep two marked adult spring chinook per day effective March 16.

This year’s forecast of 314,200 upriver spring chinook is up significantly from 2011, when 198,400 upriver fish were projected to enter the Columbia River. Although last year’s run exceeded that forecast, extremely high water conditions put a damper on catch rates for much of the season.

To guard against overestimating this year’s run, the states will again manage the fisheries with a 30 percent buffer until the forecast is updated in late April or early May.

The Columbia River Compact, which sets mainstem commercial fisheries, on Thursday also approved a commercial management plan for 2012 on the lower river that could start as early as mid-February if test fishing shows the right mix of fish (relatively low presence of winter steelhead, which are also ESA protected, and reasonable numbers of salmon). Once the winter-spring season begins, managers expect to schedule commercial fisheries on Tuesdays, and possibly on Thursdays.

Under a management matrix that apportions harvest according to the size of the run, the commercial gill-net fleet would be allocated 5,900 spring chinook (kept catch plus post-release mortalities) prior to the early May run-size update. Commercial fishers must also release unmarked spring chinook. Certain mortalities are assumed among those released fish for both commercial and sport fishers.

Under the management agreement now in place non-tribal sport and commercial harvests are allowed up to a 2.2 percent impact on the upriver spring salmon given the predicted size of the run and tribal fishers are allowed 10.8 percent.

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon have already scheduled a meeting April 5 to review the catch and determine if the lower Columbia (below Bonneville) season can be extended. If the catch to that point has not reached the initial harvest guideline, the two states will consider an immediate extension, LeFleur said.

"We’ve agreed to take a conservative approach until May, when we typically know how many fish are actually returning," Le Fleur said. "If the fish return at or above expectations, we will look toward providing additional days of fishing on the river later in the spring."


* Tribes, Idaho Urge Lower River Chinook Harvest Impacts Be Spread Out Over Full Season

Representatives of upriver and downriver tribes, and of the state of Idaho, trooped to the microphone Thursday to express dissatisfaction with the way the states of Oregon and Washington manage fisheries in the lower Columbia River aimed at spring chinook salmon.

Testimony by the tribes and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game came during Thursday’s season-opening Columbia River Compact and a joint Oregon/Washington sport hearing in Portland. The Compact, which sets mainstem commercial fisheries, is comprised of representatives of the directors of Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife.

The tribes, and IDFG, say the current state management of sport and commercial fisheries in the lower river (below Bonneville Dam) focuses too much fishing on upriver fish during the early season. That emphasis, which results in wild fish mortality as well as hatchery harvest, can tilt the genetic scale and prevent an equitable sharing of the early harvest.

“The tribes would like to see lower river fishery impacts spread out over the season instead of being used primarily in the early season fisheries. This ensures that harvest impacts are spread out among the different stocks instead of just targeting early returning fish,” Herb Jackson told the Compact. He was speaking for four Columbia River treaty tribes – the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and the Yakama. Jackson is a member of the Nez Perce Fish and Wildlife Committee.

“Our management agreement contains the commitment of the states to ensure that they will not take more spring chinook than the tribal fisheries that will come later upstream,” said Bruce Jim, a member of the Fish and Wildlife Committee of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. “But if there is over harvest early in non-treaty fisheries, perhaps because the predicted numbers are too high, you cannot put fish back in the water or in our net to meet the catch balancing requirement.”

That management agreement is a 10-year plan constructed under the auspices the U.S. v Oregon lawsuit, which includes as primary parties the federal government, the states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington and the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Yakima and Shoshone-Bannock tribes. It outlines who gets what share of the returning fish, but it does not prescribe how individual fisheries might be timed within a harvest season.

It describes that equal share – mainstem non-treaty fishers cannot harvest more than the allowed treaty harvest.

“The management agreement also requires that non-treaty mainstem fisheries be managed to a ‘buffered’ run size of 30 percent less than the preseason forecast prior to the first TAC run-size update,” Jackson said. The state’s 2012 harvest management plan does contain a 30 percent buffer, meaning that the goal is to hold non-Indian harvest to 70 percent or less of their spring season allocation until the Technical Advisory Committee updates the run-size estimate at the midpoint of the run, which usually occurs in late April to early May.

“We see this as a minimum if you are to manage conservatively,” Jim said.

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes told the Compact that a 50 percent buffer would be more appropriate so that more wild fish from the early part of the run should be allowed to escape and help build depleted runs in the Salmon River basin headwaters and elsewhere. The Shoshone Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation is located is southeast Idaho and their hunting grounds include those Salmon River headwaters. A total of 10 tribal members and/or tribal employees made the 10-hour drive to Portland to testify to the Compact.

“The Tribes strongly urge the Compact to make an allocation decision that targets hatchery fish using space, time and gear constraints, including a minimum 50 percent impact buffer for ESA listed fish, at least until the forecast is validated or updated,” said Nathan Small, chairman of the Fort Hall Business Council for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.

“Past escapements of natural-origin fish in the Snake River basin still result in most of the populations being well below recovery thresholds and still within the 25 percent extinction risk threshold, developed by the Interior Columbia Basin Technical Recovery Team,” Small said.

“As such, you do not always have to harvest up to the last fish and efforts should be made to be conservative in all management of fish stocks protected under the Endangered Species Act,” Small said. Wild Snake River spring/summer chinook salmon that return to the Salmon River and elsewhere in Idaho are ESA-listed.

The tribal spokesmen, and Hassemer, noted most of the fish caught in the lower river comes from upriver production of both wild and hatchery fish.

Hassemer said that 53 percent of the fish caught during the spring season in the lower Columbia are of Snake River origin, and 28 percent come from Idaho hatcheries – three in the Clearwater and one in the Salmon.

“They’re providing at least half of the fish in those fisheries,” Hassemer said. About 40 percent of the upriver fish are past Bonneville by May 7, and 70 percent of that downriver harvest takes place before that date.

Like the tribes, the Idaho would like to see the harvests spread across the run so that no particular genetic stock takes a hard hit.

“The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is interested in a distribution of the fisheries across of the stocks,” Hassemer said. That would include a better distribution across the pre-update period.


* Compact Reduces White Sturgeon Harvest Third Straight Year; No Fishing For ESA-Listed Smelt

Tighter catch “guidelines” or allocations were confirmed Thursday for sport and commercial fisheries for white sturgeon on the lower river in actions taken by the Columbia River Compact and a joint Oregon/Washington sport fishing panel.

Representatives of the directors of the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife make up the Compact, which sets mainstem fishing seasons where the Columbia represents their state border.

Additionally the ODFW and WDFW officials, meeting in Portland, noted that there will be no commercial or sport fishing for eulachon, called smelt, in the Columbia River or its tributaries for the second year in a row. NOAA Fisheries Service in March 2010 list Pacific eulachon as protected under the Endangered Species Act due to depleted population.

The cutback will reduce fishing opportunities for white sturgeon for the third straight year. Responding to the continued decline in the number of harvestable size sturgeon in the waters from Bonneville Dam, located at river mile 146, down to the river mouth in recent years, the two states adopted fishing regulations designed to reduce the catch by another 38 percent this year.

"This year’s sturgeon fishery will be opening later or closing earlier on various sections of the river," Cindy LeFleur, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Columbia River policy manager said. "Anglers should check this year’s fishing rules carefully before they head out."

New harvest guidelines approved for sturgeon fisheries in the lower Columbia River will limit this year’s catch to 9,600. That action follows a 30 percent catch reduction in 2011 and a 40 percent reduction in 2010.

Monitoring data jointly collected by Washington and Oregon indicate that the abundance of legal-size white sturgeon has declined by nearly 50 percent since 2003. Factors often cited for the decline include increased predation by sea lions and a drop in the abundance of smelt and lamprey, which contribute to sturgeons’ diet.

To keep this year’s catch within the new harvest guideline, the sturgeon fishery will end 23 days earlier than last year in the estuary below the Wauna powerlines (about river mile 42) and start eight days later in the fall from the powerlines upriver to Bonneville Dam. Fishing seasons approved for 2012 in the lower Columbia River are as follows:

-- Buoy 10 to the Wauna powerlines: Retention of white sturgeon is allowed daily from Jan. 1 through April 30 and from May 12 through July 8. From Jan. 1 through April 30, sturgeon must measure between 38 inches and 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. From May 12 through the end of the season they must measure 41 inches to 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. Catch-and-release fishing is allowed on days when retention is prohibited.

-- Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam: Retention of white sturgeon is allowed three days per week (Thursday through Saturday) from Jan. 1 through July 31 and from Oct. 20 through Dec. 31. Sturgeon must measure between 38 inches and 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. Catch-and-release fishing is allowed on days when retention is prohibited.
All fishing for sturgeon will be closed from May 1 through Aug. 31 in the sturgeon sanctuary downriver from Bonneville Dam described in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet. Sand Island Slough near Rooster Rock also will be closed to fishing at least through April 30.

As in years past, 80 percent of the allowable catch will be allocated to the sport fishery and 20 percent to the commercial fishery. Under the new harvest rate, the portion of the catch available to recreational fisheries will be allocated as follows: up to 4,160 fish in the estuary, up to 2,080 above Wauna and between 1,768 and 2,022 in the Willamette River.

The harvest share between recreational fisheries upstream and downstream from the Wauna power lines will be flexible and may be adjusted in-season to meet the states’ expectations for fishing seasons and ensure the harvest rate does not exceed area catch guidelines.

Unlike the lower river, legal-size sturgeon populations appear to be growing above Bonneville Dam, said Brad James, a WDFW fish biologist. This year’s harvest guidelines for sturgeon fisheries above the dam have not yet been determined.

The Compact on Thursday approved three 24-hour non-Indian commercial white sturgeon fisheries in the five fishing zones downstream of Bonneville. They are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Jan. 30, Feb. 1 and Feb. 6. The allocation for the winter period is 280 sturgeon.

Under permanent regulations, a tribal winter set line fishery is open in the Zone 6 reservoirs above Bonneville during Jan. 1-31. Under permanent regulations, a winter gillnet fishery is open in Zone 6 from noon Feb. 1 to 6 p.m. March 31. Allowable sales include fish caught on platform/hook and line gear within the Zone 6 area.

Eulachon return annually to the Columbia River to spawn in the mainstem and several of its tributaries downstream of Bonneville Dam. They typically enter the Columbia in early to mid-January, though a small ‘pilot’ run often occurs in December. Eulachon return to fresh water at age three, four, and five, according to an annual joint state staff report released earlier this month. Peak tributary abundance is usually in February, with variable abundance through March, and an occasional late showing during April.

Commercial landings from 1938-1992 were in the millions of pounds annually. There have been ups, but mostly downs since.

The states are working with NOAA Fisheries to develop and expand research activities which would provide information on adult and juvenile eulachon abundances and distribution. That includes discussions on using catch-per-unit-effort data, produced through test fishing in the mainstem Columbia River, to help evaluate run strength

The 2012 run is forecasted to be improved over 2011, but is still expected to be at a low level, according to the staff report. In 2011, research activities included sampling the spatial and temporal distribution of eulachon larvae in coastal stream and Columbia River tributaries, and improving the monitoring of eulachon larvae densities.


* Interior Report On Klamath Basin Dam Removal Assesses Positive, Negative Effects

The federal process for removing four hydroelectric dams in the Klamath Basin advanced Tuesday with the release of draft report from the U.S. Department of Interior indicating benefits such as salmon recovery, more dependable irrigation water deliveries and job creation could outweigh disadvantages of removing the dams, including the projected $291 million cost, lost electrical production and increased flooding risks.

The report, titled the “Klamath Dam Removal Overview Report for the Secretary of the Interior: An Assessment of Science and Technical Information,” represents two years of scientific and technical studies conducted for Department of Interior to assess the positive and negative effects of removing the J.C Boyle Dam, COPCO 1 and COPCO 2 dams, and the Iron Gate hydroelectric dams, and transferring the non-hydro Keno Dam to the Department of Interior, according to reports from the department.

The department issued a second report Tuesday called the “Klamath River Restoration Nonuse Value Survey Final Report,” which looks at tribal and economic issues.

“The science and analyses presented in these reports are vital to making an informed and sound decision,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a press statement.

Anticipated benefits of dam removal outlined in the reports include recovery of threatened or endangered salmon, and improved habitat for trout and other fish in the basin, the creation of 1,400 construction jobs for one year to tear down the downs and the prospect of adding 4,600 long-term jobs restoring the watershed, habitat and related work.

The report summaries conclude that those benefits outweigh the increased risk of flooding that may require relocation of at least six residences, the loss of power production and the $291 million cost of removing the four dams.

In addition to the Department of the Interior’s process for dam removal, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., have also introduced a bill authorizing the department to tear down the dams.

Public comment on the dam removal draft report opened Tuesday and must be submitted to the Department of Interior by Feb. 5, to be considered by Salazar. He is scheduled to make a recommendation supporting or opposing removal of the four dams by March 31, as required under the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement. Once Salazar makes a recommendation, the governors of Oregon and California will have 60 days to accept or reject Salazar’s recommendation.

“As we work toward strengthening the health and economic prosperity of all that depends on the Klamath — including our watersheds, fisheries, and forests — I encourage members of the public to offer their input on this draft overview report and perspectives on the opportunity that lies ahead,” Salazar said in the press release.

Full copies of the new reports and past studies on the dam removal plans are available online at www.KlamathRestoration.gov


* USDA $232 Million Loan Allows Expansion Of Oregon Biorefinery Along Columbia River

The ZeaChem biorefinery under development along the Columbia River in Boardman, Oregon got a boost Thursday from a $232.5 million USDA conditional loan guarantee announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Jim Imbler, president and CEO of ZeaChem, based in Lakewood, Colo., said in a Thursday statement the USDA conditional loan guarantee enables the financing and construction of the company’s first commercial-scale cellulosic biorefinery.

The USDA reported the total cost of the biorefinery is estimated to be $390.5 million. The loan guarantee represents 60 percent of the total cost estimate, and is the second loan guarantee made this month under the Biorefinery Assistance Program authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill.

When completed in 2014, the biorefinery is expected to produce 250 million gallons per year of biofuels made from woody biomass and agricultural residues such as straw and corn stalks. Imbler said the company uses leading technology that will produce more biofuels at the lowest cost and lowest carbon footprint in the industry.

“The USDA loan guarantee is a significant validation for ZeaChem’s highly efficient, economical and flexible biorefinery technology,” Imbler said in a press statement.

Vilsack’s announcement said the biorefinery is to be constructed on an industrial site in Boardman, along the Columbia River. About 70 percent of the biorefinery’s biofuel output will be made with woody biomass from existing popular plantings in the Boardman area, and 30 percent from wheat straw and corn stalks.

“This USDA loan guarantee is fantastic news for Boardman and Oregon,” Gov. John Kitzhaber said in a statement following the USDA announcement. “This project will support the long-term development of renewable energy and boost economic rural development.

“This facility has the potential to create nearly 250 construction jobs and 65 full time operations jobs, providing positive economic development in the rural Boardman community and boosting Oregon’s economy,” Kitzhaber said in a press statement.

Currently, ZeaChem operates a demonstration biorefinery in the Port of Morrow industrial park at Boardman that produces 250,000 gallons of biofuel annually. Carrie Atiyeh, ZeaChem’s director of public affairs, presented an update on the new biorefinery plans Wednesday during the Oregon Energy Forum breakfast in Portland.

Vilsack said the USDA’s loan guarantee to ZeaChem will help advance President Obama’s vision for a new era of “homegrown and alternative energy sources that will be designed and produced by American Workers.”

More information about ZeaChem and its biorefinery project is available online at www.zeachem.com


* Study Analyzes Effectiveness Of Wetlands Restoration Methods, Mitigation Strategies

Wetland restoration is a billion-dollar-a-year industry in the United States that aims to create ecosystems similar to those that disappeared over the past century. But a new analysis of restoration projects shows that restored wetlands seldom reach the quality of a natural wetland.

"Once you degrade a wetland, it doesn't recover its normal assemblage of plants or its rich stores of organic soil carbon, which both affect natural cycles of water and nutrients, for many years," said David Moreno-Mateos, a University of California, Berkeley, postdoctoral fellow. "Even after 100 years, the restored wetland is still different from what was there before, and it may never recover."

Moreno-Mateos's analysis calls into question a common mitigation strategy exploited by land developers: create a new wetland to replace a wetland that will be destroyed and the land put to other uses. At a time of accelerated climate change caused by increased carbon entering the atmosphere, carbon storage in wetlands is increasingly important, he said.

"Wetlands accumulate a lot of carbon, so when you dry up a wetland for agricultural use or to build houses, you are just pouring this carbon into the atmosphere," he said. "If we keep degrading or destroying wetlands, for example through the use of mitigation banks, it is going to take centuries to recover the carbon we are losing."

The study showed that wetlands tend to recover most slowly if they are in cold regions, if they are small – less than 100 contiguous hectares, or 250 acres, in area – or if they are disconnected from the ebb and flood of tides or river flows.

"These context dependencies aren't necessarily surprising, but this paper quantifies them in ways that could guide decisions about restoration, or about whether to damage wetlands in the first place," said coauthor Mary Power, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology.

Moreno-Mateos, Power and their colleagues published their analysis in the Jan. 24 issue of PLoS (Public Library of Science) Biology.

Wetlands provide many societal benefits, Moreno-Mateos noted, such as biodiversity conservation, fish production, water purification, erosion control and carbon storage.

He found, however, that restored wetlands contained about 23 percent less carbon than untouched wetlands, while the variety of native plants was 26 percent lower, on average, after 50 to 100 years of restoration. While restored wetlands may look superficially similar – and the animal and insect populations may be similar, too – the plants take much longer to return to normal and establish the carbon resources in the soil that make for a healthy ecosystem.

Moreno-Mateos noted that numerous studies have shown that specific wetlands recover slowly, but his meta-analysis "might be a proof that this is happening in most wetlands."

"To prevent this, preserve the wetland, don't degrade the wetland," he said.

Moreno-Mateos, who obtained his Ph.D. while studying wetland restoration in Spain, conducted a meta-analysis of 124 wetland studies monitoring work at 621 wetlands around the world and comparing them with natural wetlands. Nearly 80 percent were in the United States and some were restored more than 100 years ago, reflecting of a long-standing American interest in restoration and a common belief that it's possible to essentially recreate destroyed wetlands. Half of all wetlands in North America, Europe, China and Australia were lost during the 20th century, he said.

Though Moreno-Mateos found that, on average, restored wetlands are 25 percent less productive than natural wetlands, there was much variation. For example, wetlands in boreal and cold temperate forests tend to recover more slowly than do warm wetlands. One review of wetland restoration projects in New York state, for example, found that "after 55 years, barely 50 percent of the organic matter had accumulated on average in all these wetlands" compared to what was there before, he said.

"Current thinking holds that many ecosystems just reach an alternative state that is different, and you never will recover the original," he said.

In future studies, he will explore whether the slower carbon accumulation is due to a slow recovery of the native plant community or invasion by non-native plants.


* Northeast Oregon’s Traveling Gray Wolf Is Now California’s Sole, ESA-Protected Wolf

The gray wolf designated OR7 has remained in California since he crossed the state line from Oregon on Dec. 28.

The California Department of Fish and Game is closely monitoring the wolf’s position and progress, and will report on his status through a new website at www.dfg.ca.gov/wolf/.

While OR7 is the only documented wolf in California, any wild gray wolf that returns to California is protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The federal law generally prohibits the harassment, harm, pursuit, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capture or collection of wolves in California, or the attempt to engage in any such conduct. Penalties include fines up to $100,000 and one-year imprisonment.

Though many sightings have been reported, all other recent “wolf” sightings that have been investigated in California have been found to be something else, such as a coyote, a dog or a hybrid wolf-dog.

Despite reports to the contrary, DFG officials say the agency is not aware of confirmed sightings of other wolves in California since 1924.

OR7 is a 2½-year-old male formerly from a pack in northeast Oregon. He is being monitored through various means, including with a Global Positioning System device that periodically transmits its location.

DFG says it is not possible to predict his next movements, but he has remained in eastern Lassen County for approximately one week. DFG is notifying media, local officials and landowners of OR7’s general whereabouts.

DFG officials say they have been following the recovery and migration of gray wolves in western states with the expectation that at some point they will likely reach California.


* Washington State University Establishes New Interdisciplinary ‘School Of Environment’

Washington State University has established a new academic entity: the School of the Environment, an interdisciplinary teaching, research and extension enterprise intended to address complex, multidimensional environmental issues.

The school, created Jan. 1 by combining two complementary academic units, “will become a WSU centerpiece on global change and its effects.” In particular, the school will serve as a focal point for system-wide research and collaboration in the critical area of water resources. High-demand undergraduate and graduate degrees will be offered in a broad range of corresponding disciplines.

WSU officials says the school is uniquely positioned among state agencies and institutions to address the many facets of Earth’s natural resources. Environmentally focused faculty are located throughout WSU’s multi-campus system, and WSU Extension offices in every Washington county provide environmental education and sustainability outreach to learners of all ages.

"The School of the Environment places WSU at the forefront of environmental education and research and will help lead the way as our land grant mission adapts to meet the ever changing needs of the 21st century,” said Warwick Bayly, WSU provost.

The new school is expected to be greater than the sum of its two parts, the former Department of Natural Resource Sciences and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

By bringing earth sciences, ecosystem and natural resource ecology, sustainability sciences and social sciences under the same umbrella, the school will increase team-based research and scholarly output. Additionally, officials say the school will provide “cutting-edge training” for the next generation of scientists, resource managers, policy makers and well-informed global citizens.

"This new interdisciplinary school unites nationally recognized research efforts at WSU and creates a much stronger and more comprehensive program that is poised for preeminence in addressing regional, national and global environmental problems,” said Stephen Bollens, inaugural director of the School of the Environment.

For example, the WSU Bear Center, the only facility in the world to house adult grizzlies for research, and the well-equipped GeoAnalytical Lab, which has been providing analyses of rocks and minerals to worldwide researchers since 1978, will both be part of the new school.

"The school is the outcome of a faculty-driven initiative that brought together colleagues from across the entire WSU system,” said Daryll DeWald, dean of the WSU College of Sciences, the academic home of the former SEES unit. "WSU faculty are dedicated to making a difference - not only through their research efforts, but also through the growing success of our students.”

At its inception, the School of the Environment includes 40 full-time faculty and staff, more than 300 undergraduate students and 130 graduate students. It spans three WSU campuses - Pullman, Tri-Cities and Vancouver.


* NOAA Designates Critical Habitat Off Northwest Coast For Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtles

NOAA has announced the designation of additional critical habitat to provide protection for endangered leatherback sea turtles along the U.S. West Coast. NOAA is designating 41,914 square miles of marine habitat in the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.

This designation will not directly affect recreational fishing, boating and other private activities in critical habitat. Critical habitat designations only affect federal projects that have the potential to adversely modify or destroy critical habitat. Critical habitat designations aid the recovery of endangered and threatened species by protecting habitat that the species rely on.

NOAA and FWS have already designated critical habitat for leatherback turtles along Sandy Point Beach at the western end of the island of St. Croix, U.S.V.I., and in adjacent Atlantic coastal waters.

NOAA is designating this additional critical habitat in the Pacific Ocean as a result of a petition to revise the existing critical habitat for leatherbacks to include important habitat off the U.S. West Coast. Once an Endangered Species Act petition is received, NOAA Fisheries must evaluate the petition and scientific information provided to determine if the petitioned action is warranted. If it is, the agency must make a determination on how to move forward.

The newly designated critical habitat is made up of two sections of marine habitat where leatherbacks are known to travel great distances across the Pacific to feed on jellyfish. The southern portion stretches along the California coast from Point Arena to Point Arguello east of the 3,000-meter depth contour, while the northern portion stretches from Cape Flattery, Wash. to Cape Blanco, Ore., east of the 2,000-meter depth contour.

The leatherback sea turtle, the largest marine turtle in the world, has been listed as endangered since 1970. Leatherbacks have the largest range of any living reptile and occur throughout the oceans of the world. They feed primarily on jellyfish and lay their eggs on tropical and subtropical beaches. Although very little is known about their lifespan, biologists estimate leatherbacks can live for 45 years or more. Leatherbacks face many dangers both in the marine environment and on land, including bycatch in fishing gear, habitat destruction and the harvest of eggs and adults on nesting beaches.


* Feedback: Dworshak Nutrient Supplementation Study

-- Re: “Corps Dworshak Nutrient Supplementation Study Aims To Boost Kokanee, Listed Bull Trout,” Jan. 20, 2012, http://www.cbbulletin.com/415679.aspx

-- From Mike Faler, Fisheries Biologist, Orofino, ID

In regards to the article about the Dworshak Nutrient Supplementation Project, I would like to point out just a few of the omissions, discrepancies, and inconsistencies I observed in the narrative:

1. The idea for this project was not generated by public input.

2. The kokanee in Dworshak Reservoir have not been “shrinking in size” in recent years. Their growth, like all kokanee populations, is related to population density. Large populations yield smaller fish, while small populations yield larger fish.

3. The two state record smallmouth bass that Mr. Pence refers to in the article were both caught BEFORE the nutrient supplementation project began: 10/14/1995 and 10/28/2006, respectively.

4. There have been large blue green algae blooms in 4 out of 5 years since the project was initiated. At a recent public meeting, the Corps was asked about the frequency of blooms prior to project implementation. They claimed they had a record of a blue green bloom in the early 70’s, but apparently none between then and 2008. The Corps still claims that that is there is no evidence that recent additions of nutrients have caused blue-green blooms. I would offer that there is no evidence that recent additions of nutrients have NOT caused blue-green blooms.

5. Public sentiment toward this project is not pleasant. In a recent online poll from the Lewiston Tribune, 60 percent of the respondents felt this project will result in toxic algae blooms. The poll results can be viewed at: http://lmtribune.com/poll_b71d641a-db5d-11e0-85e9-001a4bcf6878.html

The readers of the Columbia Basin Bulletin should be careful what they choose to believe in regards to this project.

Mike Faler, fisheries biologist
Orofino, ID

For more information about the CBB contact:
-- BILL CRAMPTON, Editor/Writer, bcrampton@cbbulletin.com, phone:
541-312-8860 or
-- BARRY ESPENSON, Senior Writer, bespenson@msn.com, phone: 360-696-4005; fax: 360-694-1530



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