Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

Weekly Fish and Wildlife News
September 16, 2011
Issue No. 590

Follow the CBB on TWITTER at http://twitter.com/cbbulletin and on FACEBOOK at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Columbia-Basin-Bulletin/230954175071

All stories below are posted on the CBB's website at www.cbbulletin.com
Also available is a free RSS news feed.

Table of Contents

* NOAA To Reconvene Sea Lion Removal Task Force:‘We Must Address’ All Causes Of Salmon Decline

* A Record-Breaking Oddity: Why Are Pink Salmon (Humpies) Heading Up The Columbia River?

* Idaho Power Begins Operations To Get Ready For Fall Chinook Spawners In Hells Canyon

* Snake River Sockeye Return To Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley Second Largest Since 1950s

* Harvest Managers Downgrade A Still Strong Fall Chinook Return; Coho Numbers Good

* NW Power And Conservation Council Seeks Comments On Draft ‘State Of the Columbia Basin’ Report

* Appraisal Says Clearwater River, Not Tributaries, Best Option For Lewiston Area Irrigators, Steelhead

* NOAA Says La Nina Is Back; Colder, Wetter Than Normal Conditions For the Northwest

* PNNL Receives DOE Funding To Develop Next Generation Of ‘Sensor Fish’ Measuring Turbine Impacts

* Study: Salmon’s ‘Gut Capacity’ Gives Ability To Capitalize On Unpredictable Pulses Of Food

* USFWS Appoints New Coordinator For North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative


* NOAA To Reconvene Sea Lion Removal Task Force:‘We Must Address’ All Causes Of Salmon Decline

NOAA Fisheries Service on Monday announced it has accepted the states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington’s application for renewed authorization under Marine Mammal Protection Act to lethally remove individually identifiable California sea lions that are preying on protected salmon in the lower Columbia River.

“We determined that the Aug. 18 joint application from Idaho, Oregon, and Washington contains sufficient evidence to reconvene a task force for further investigation into the interaction between sea lions and Endangered Species Act-listed salmon and steelhead” in the lower Columbia River below Bonneville Dam, according to the federal agency.

That investigation begins with a public comment period. Comments on the application and other relevant information related to pinniped predation at Bonneville Dam must be submitted by Oct. 12.

Following a public comment period, NOAA Fisheries will convene a “pinniped-fishery interaction task force” to review the application, public comments and other information. A Sept. 12 Federal Register notice says that task force will meet in October.

The task force will, as required by the MMPA, be comprised of NOAA Fisheries staff, independent scientists, representatives from affected conservation and fishing communities, tribes, states and others. The task force will develop a recommendation about whether or not the Commerce Department/NOAA Fisheries should approve or deny the states’ application.

The states submitted the application under Section 120 of the MMPA to remove California sea lions known to prey on salmon stocks below the lower Columbia’s Bonneville Dam. The application is the second filed by the states, who say they want to reduce predation that hinders efforts to recover listed salmon and steelhead stocks.

An application submitted in November 2006 was approved by NOAA Fisheries in March 2008. Seventeen of the eighteen members of a task force convened in 2007 supported lethal removal of California sea lions while one member, representing the Humane Society of the United States, opposed the states’ application and any lethal removal.

But that authorization was deemed invalid late last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The HSUS and Wild Fish Conservancy were plaintiffs in the litigation.

NOAA Fisheries in May reissued the authorization, saying it had corrected legal flaws noted by the appeals court. But in July the federal agency revoked the authorization and invited the states to begin the Section 120 process anew.

A total of 40 California sea lions were removed from 2008-2010 when the authorization was in place.

“We recognize that there are many causes for the decline of Pacific salmon and steelhead, and we must address all of them,” according to NOAA Fisheries. A total of 13 wild Columbia-Snake river salmon and steelhead stocks are ESA-listed. NOAA Fisheries is charged with enforcing both the ESA and MMPA.

“We cannot ignore any of the limiting factors on our quest for recovery. We remain concerned about the impact of some California sea lions on ESA-listed fish, which is why it’s so important that we continue to address this problem,” NOAA Fisheries said in announcing its acceptance of the states’ application.

When it revoked the authorization the federal agency said that if it received a new application it would “immediately begin to fulfill the statutory requirements, with the goal of making a final decision no later than February 29, 2012.”

California sea lions have over the past 10 years have congregated in springtime below Bonneville Dam to feast on, primarily, spring chinook salmon spawners searching for the hydro project’s fish ladders. Among the prey are wild salmon and steelhead that are ESA protected, as well as lamprey, white sturgeon and other fish.

The states’ application says that the gathering of California sea lions below the dam each spring is a relatively new phenomenon. The pinnipeds, almost entirely male, swim north in search of food each fall following their breeding season off the coast of southern California and in Mexico. Until the turn of the century, few of the big pinnipeds wandered as far inland as Bonneville Dam, located about 146 river miles from the Pacific.

But, coincident with particularly large salmon returns in the early 2000s, the sea lions began trooping upriver. As many as 100 of the California sea lions have settled in below the dam in recent years to snatch salmon and steelhead below the dam.

Among the affected salmon and steelhead are listed wild Lower Columbia River, Middle Columbia River and Snake River steelhead and Upper Columbia River spring and Snake River spring/summer chinook.

The application says that while California sea lion numbers are robust, the salmonid stocks are still well short of recovery.

Monday’s Federal Register notice says that NOAA Fisheries is “also including, for the public’s consideration and comment, our proposed interpretation of the MMPA standard ‘significant negative impact’; a list of the factors we propose to consider in deciding whether that standard is met; and our proposed interpretation of what is meant by ‘individually identifiable pinnipeds’ that are having a significant negative impact.”

The HSUS in legal proceedings and during past task force discussions has said that the states, and NOAA Fisheries, are improperly scapegoating the pinnipeds and failing to adequately address other, larger causes of fish mortality such harvest and Columbia/Snake river hydro system operations. The Ninth Circuit, in rejecting NOAA Fisheries 2008 authorization decision, said that the agency did not adequately explain why it the sea lion impacts on salmon were judged to be “significant” in light of other, permitted salmon take.

The MMPA’s Section 120 specifies that lethal removal can only be granted for individually identifiable pinnipeds that are known to have a “significant negative impact on the decline or recovery of salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act.”

See the Fisheries Northwest Region website at http://go.usa.gov/0Ed
to view the application and historical information on this issue.


* A Record-Breaking Oddity: Why Are Pink Salmon (Humpies) Heading Up The Columbia River?

The number of pink salmon -- called humpback or humpies because spawning males develop humped backs -- surging up the Columbia River this late summer is small, in a relative sense, yet huge in a historical sense.

At a time when thousands of fall chinook and coho salmon and steelhead are moving upriver each day, a total of 1,806 of the “pinks” have been counted so far this year passing up and over Bonneville Dam, some 146 river miles from mouth of the Columbia at the Pacific Ocean.

That total could grow much bigger, since passage remains strong. Wednesday’s count at Bonneville was 155. Few of the pink salmon have been accounted for upriver, though a single fish has made it as far as Little Goose Dam on the lower Snake River in southeast Washington. That’s 70 river miles upstream from the confluence with the Columbia.

“Every day is a record,” the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Joe Hymer said of the pink salmon counts at Bonneville.

That fact in itself is an oddity for pink salmon, which in northwest Washington, British Columbia, Alaska and elsewhere around the Pacific Rim tend to spawn nearer a freshwater-saltwater nexus. Pink young forsake freshwater rearing, choosing instead to swim toward the ocean almost immediately after they emerge from their eggs.

The previous high count, on a record dating back to 1938, at Bonneville’s fish ladders was 637 in 2003. There have been only seven annual counts on that record of more than 100. Already this year there have been seven daily counts of more than 100 pink salmon at Bonneville Dam.

Primary spawning populations occur from the Puyallup River in Washington northward to Alaska. And while pink salmon have been counted during spawning surveys in lower Columbia River tributaries such as southwest Washington’s Cowlitz River, there is no known sustained pink spawning population in the Columbia River basin.

“It is an interesting part of the job when these sorts of curiosities happen, especially when they don't seem to be doing any harm,” said Stuart Ellis, a biologist with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakama tribal fishermen have caught a dozen or more pink salmon this year in commercial fisheries above Bonneville and that is unusual.

“Some of the fishers have said they were going to keep them and smoke them or eat them just for the novelty. A few have been sold to the buyers,” Ellis said.

Likewise pinks are being caught in the lower White Salmon River, which feeds into the Bonneville pool, according to Rod Engle of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The USFWS and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are working there to capture fall chinook before they spawn. Those fish will be transported above Condit Dam and released so that they can spawn upriver. Condit Dam is scheduled to be breached in late October, which will result in a downstream rush of sediment that would choke spawning beds.

Ellis theorized that the big pulse of pinks, as compared to the past, could be a unique merging of natural forces. Perhaps some of the fish could be strays from the Puget Sound, where a bumper crop of pinks was expected to return this late summer and fall. And/or some of the returning pinks could be returns from Columbia River basin spawning events that benefited from favorable ocean conditions.

“The number in the Columbia this year might be because of good ocean survival,” Ellis said. “There may be some factors like currents/temperature/ and food sources that just brought the run farther south this year which could have increased the straying into the Columbia.”

He acknowledged, however, that “most of this is just guesswork. Nobody I have spoken too has much of any real data to base anything on.” The existence of pink salmon, unlike other salmon species, is little studied in the Columbia basin because they have not, at least in modern times, had any sort of a footprint.

“We’ll know more when we start walking the rivers,” Hymer said of spawning ground surveys that will begin in the coming weeks that are designed to assess the status of wild tule fall chinook salmon in lower Columbia River tributaries. Pinks in the past have been identified in small numbers in or near the mouths of such rivers at the Toutle, Grays, Kalama, Cowlitz and Wind rivers.

Hymer said he would be curious to see genetic analysis of the pink salmon now exploring the Columbia to see how they compare with, as an example, Puget Sound populations. But he was not aware of any such plans.

“It would be a great year to do that” given the relatively high incidence of pinks in the Columbia, he said. Genetic analysis could potentially tell whether the fish are recent strays from northern populations, or are more distinct populations that have a more localized history.

“Usually there are just a few here and there” but, given the high numbers at Bonneville, Hymer said he suspected there are quite a few pinks in those lower Columbia River tributaries.

Pink salmon are known to seize on opportunities to colonize suitable habitat, such as in the Puget Sound’s Green River, Hymer said. The population there grew there from near zero to returns in excess of 2 million.

Nearly six million pink salmon overall were predicted to return to Puget Sound this year. That forecast is 3 million salmon below 2009’s record return but still an abundant run.

And the return just north of the border to British Columbia’s Fraser River was expected to total 17 million.

The pink salmon are the smallest of the Pacific salmon, averaging from 3 to 5 pounds, but also the most abundant. They can be found in spawning streams all around the Pacific Rim, including as far south as northern Japan. In North America, pink salmon populations regularly occur in marine waters as far south as northwest Washington state in streams that feed into Puget Sound and in the Olympic Peninsula.


* Idaho Power Begins Operations To Get Ready For Fall Chinook Spawners In Hells Canyon

With inflows expected to be higher than normal this year, the Idaho Power Company has begun a steep draft of the Hells Canyon Complex’s Brownlee Reservoir to set the stage for operations this fall and winter to protect what has become a growing annual community of salmon “redds.”

After Labor Day weekend, Idaho Power began drawing down the reservoir in preparation for its Fall Chinook Program which provides flat flows for salmon spawning in the Snake River below Hells Canyon Dam. Outflows in recent days have risen to more than 20,000 cubic feet per second after simmering in the teens for most of August.

Brownlee Reservoir – the primary “storage” project among Complex’s three dams on the Idaho-Oregon border -- elevation will continue to drop through the month of September. As of Monday the reservoir level was 2,047 feet, leaving the boat ramps at Hewitt and Woodhead parks the only usable ramps on Brownlee. The water level will drop below Hewitt’s boat ramp by this weekend.

The company anticipates all boat ramps will be out of the water during October. The water level is expected to fall to approximately 2,015 feet by the end of the month. To maintain flat flows during fall chinook spawning, Oct. 10 through Dec. 5, space must be made in Brownlee Reservoir prior. As the spawning period begins, the reservoir will begin to refill.

For updated Snake River flow and Brownlee elevation and boat ramp information, please visit http://www.idahopower.com/OurEnvironment/WaterInformation/default.cfm

The company anticipates the minimum flow set during the spawning period can be maintained until fry emergence (when the young fish leave the redds, or nests) in the spring without emptying Brownlee Reservoir.

The number of fall chinook salmon redds counted each year from Hells Canyon Dam, which blocks fish passage, down to Asotin, Wash., has been rapidly rising, particularly over the past decade. The count was 346 in 2000. The Snake River redd count last year totaled 2,944, which was the most since counts began in 1988.

The 2010 fall chinook return, as measured at Lower Granite Dam, streaming into the Snake and tributaries such as the Clearwater was 41,815, which more than doubled the previous high count of 16,624 in 2008. Lower Granite is located on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington downstream of Hells Canyon.

Many of the spawners are of natural origin. Some are fish acclimated by the Nez Perce Tribe at Pittsburg Landing, Captain Johns Landing and Big Canyon before their release. Still others are fin-clipped hatchery fish released below Hells Canyon Dam by Idaho Power.

This year’s return looks strong. A total of 8,510 adult fall chinook had been counted at Lower Granite through Wednesday. The run appears to be at its peak with a high count of 1,063 on Monday, followed by 656 Tuesday and 830 Wednesday.


* Snake River Sockeye Return To Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley Second Largest Since 1950s

A total of 1,071 Snake River sockeye salmon spawners have completed their journey from the Pacific Ocean to central Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley, making it the second largest return since at least the 1950s.

Idaho Fish and Game biologists have kept a tally at a weir on the Salmon River at Sawtooth Hatchery near Stanley and at a trap on Redfish Lake Creek, a tributary upstream of the hatchery.

Sockeye returns have grown in recent years in large part due to the Snake River Sockeye Salmon Captive Broodstock Program, which was started in 1991 in hopes of preserving the genetic stock of a species approaching extinction. Late in 1991 Snake River sockeye were declared endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Construction of the Sunbeam Dam on the Salmon River in 1913 blocked upstream fish passage. The dam was partially destroyed in 1934 reopening the upper Salmon River, but no one tried to restore the salmon runs, according to an IDFG fact sheet.

Between 1991 and 1998, only 16 wild sockeye returned to Idaho. All 16 wild fish, along with several hundred Redfish Lake wild juvenile outmigrants, and several residual sockeye salmon adults (fish that spent their entire life cycle in freshwater) were captured and used to develop captive broodstock at the IDFG’s Eagle Fish Hatchery and a NOAA Fisheries Service facility in Washington state.

In 1999 the first anadromous returns from the program, seven in all, were trapped in the Sawtooth Valley. Between 2007, a total 355 hatchery produced adult sockeye salmon returned to Idaho. That included one banner year, 257 in 2000. Over the previous 14 years, only 77 natural-origin sockeye returned.

The 2008 adult return was 650 and was followed by a total of 833 in 2009. The modern-day record came in 2010. That 2010 return is the largest since the 1950s.

The pulse of the sockeye run is measured 400 miles downstream at the lower Snake River’s Lower Granite. It is the eighth and final hydro project the fish pass on their way up the Columbia, Snake and Salmon rivers.

The top sockeye count since Lower Granite was completed in 1975 was 2,201 in 2010. This year’s count is 1,502 with the last two sockeye counted Sept. 3. Most of the fish passed the dam in July. Only 55 have been recorded in August and September.

Of the fish counted at Sawtooth Hatchery and Redfish Lake Creek, most were captured and transported to Eagle Hatchery near Boise for holding and genetic sampling. This week they took a three-hour ride back up to Redfish Lake for release so they can spawn on their own. A portion of the returning fish were trapped and sampled at Redfish Lake Creek and then allowed to proceed to Redfish Lake.

In all 1,519 returned, according to Dan Baker, Eagle Hatchery manager. Some swam there directly (those passed through the Redfish Lake Creek trap). Others included the anadromous fish that were trapped and held at Eagle and still others were captive fish that were reared at Eagle and a NOAA Fisheries facility in eastern Washington.

Through Tuesday a total of 938 adult anadromous sockeye had been accounted for.

Of that total 134 are “natural” fish, meaning they were born in the wild. They are the product of anadromous (fish that have gone to the ocean and back) fish that spawned in Redfish Lake, residual sockeye or from fertilized eggs outplanted in two nearby lakes, Alturas and Pettit.

The vast majority of the return are from migration-ready smolts released two years ago into the Salmon River at Sawtooth Hatchery or into Redfish Lake Creek.

Actual returns have slowed. The Redfish Lake trap was shut down Sept. 9. The Sawtooth Hatchery trapping rate over the past week has been from five to 15 fish.

But on Wednesday biologists held their annual “sockeye roundup,” donning snorkeling equipment to herd stalled fish into the weir near Sawtooth Hatchery. The one day’s haul was 120 more sockeye. Baker said that hatchery officials told him they have seen perhaps as many as 28 fish still in the river so another roundup is planned near month’s end.


* Harvest Managers Downgrade A Still Strong Fall Chinook Return; Coho Numbers Good

With Bonneville Dam counts lagging a bit, fishery officials this week downsized their estimation of how many upriver fall chinook salmon would return this year to the mouth of the Columbia River.

The federal, state and tribal representatives on the Technical Advisory Committee on Monday, based on the count through Sept. 11, predicted that the “upriver bright” fall chinook run size would total 354,000 adults to the mouth of the river. That’s down from a preseason expectation of 390,900, which would have been the highest observed return since 1987 and the second highest since 1964.

The updated forecast would still be the biggest URB return since 2004 and the fourth largest back to at least 1985. The URBs are fish originating from hatcheries and spawning grounds above Bonneville Dam in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Bonneville is located 146 river miles upstream from the river mouth.

The Bonneville Hatchery Pool tule fall chinook forecast was also downgraded from a preseason forecast of 116,400, which would have been similar to the 10-year average, to 73,000. The BPH stock is composed primarily of fish from Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery.

Also downgraded was the pool upriver bright fall chinook stock from 62,600 to 56,000. The Bonneville upriver bright stock projection rose slightly from 36,600 to 36,650.

Chinook passaged at Bonneville through Sunday totaled 221,367 adult fish, including 176,979 bright stock and 44,151 tule stock. Based on the 10-year average, typically 59 percent of a year’s fall chinook bright run and 77 percent of the tule run will have passed Bonneville by Sept. 11. TAC estimated that this year’s run is 2-3 days later the recent 10-year average.

“But it’s still in the peak passage time at Bonneville so things still could be volatile,” with possible upswings or downswings in the daily tallies, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Cindy LeFleur told the Columbia River Compact Monday. The Compact sets mainstem commercial fisheries.

Counts Monday-Wednesday lifted the overall fall chinook total to 262,251.

On the positive side, the coho salmon count at Bonneville had reached 63,882 fish through Sunday. The forecast is for total passage of 81,500 coho for the entire year. With daily counts averaging nearly 5,000 Monday-Wednesday the overall total had risen to 80,362.

“Things are looking good at Bonneville for coho,” the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s John North said.

The Compact, comprised for representatives of the ODFW and WDFW directors, met Monday and Thursday to consider mainstem Columbia for the non-Indian gill-net fleet in the lower river (below Bonneville) and four treaty tribes – the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakama – fishers in reservoirs above Bonneville.

The non-Indian commercial fishers in eight nine-hour outings in August netted 25,300 fall chinook, less than their 42,500-fish allocation for August. All but one of the fisheries were scheduled in fishing zones 4-5 in the upper part of the lower Columbia from Bonneville down to Warrior Rock near St. Helens, Ore., to avoid bycatch of lower Columbia River tule stock, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The Compact on Monday approve four fisheries of 9 to 10 hours beginning Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

The Compact on Thursday approved a 4 ½-day treaty commercial fishery that begins Monday morning in mainstem pools above Bonneville. The tribes estimate that they have caught 51,602 chinook, including 33,903 URBS, through Sept. 10 and will have caught a total of 106,702 fall chinook by the end of next week. The overall projections are for a fall season catch of 15,872 steelhead, including 6,984 so-called “B” stock, by the end of the day Sept. 23. B steelhead are later-running fish bound for, primarily, Idaho.

Those projected catch totals through next Friday would represent 20.8 percent of the URB run, as compared to a tribal allocation of 30 percent, and 13.2 percent of the B stelelhead run, compared to a 20 percent allocation. Among the URBs are wild Snake River fall chinook, which are ESA listed. Likewise the steelhead run includes wild fish that are listed.

Fishery managers from Oregon and Washington also announced this week that they will reopen some chinook salmon seasons in the lower Columbia River, effective today. The additional fishing opportunity is possible due to lower than expected catches of ESA-listed lower river wild tule fall chinook.

Under the rule change adopted at a joint state hearing Monday afternoon, chinook retention will be allowed from Buoy 10 upstream 19 miles to Tongue Point starting Sept. 16 and continuing through the end of the year. The daily bag limit from Sept. 16 through the end of the year will be two adult salmon/steelhead in combination.

Coho and steelhead must be adipose fin-clipped, but chinook can either be clipped or not. Retention of jacks is prohibited in this fishery until Oct.1.

Farther upstream, from Tongue Point approximately 69 miles upstream to the Warrior Rock/Lewis River line, chinook retention will be allowed Sept. 16, 17, and 18. Chinook retention (for adults and jacks) will close again effective Sept. 19 and reopen Oct. 1 through the end of the year. The daily bag limit is two adult salmon/steelhead in combination. Coho and steelhead much be adipose fin-clipped. When chinook retention is allowed, adult and jack chinook may be retained whether fin-clipped or not.

From the Warrior Rock/Lewis River line upstream to the Oregon/Washington border, chinook retention is currently open and will remain open until the end of the year with no changes from previously adopted seasons.


* NW Power And Conservation Council Seeks Comments On Draft ‘State Of the Columbia Basin’ Report

A draft annual report offered this week by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council for public takes a look back at everything from the effectiveness of its fish and wildlife program to power system happenings during fiscal year 2011, which ends at the end of the month.

The draft report, “State of the Columbia River Basin, provides an overview of the Council’s planning activities regarding electricity in the Pacific Northwest and fish and wildlife in the Columbia River basin in fiscal year 2011, as well as information about salmon and steelhead returns to the basin in calendar year 2010 and the effectiveness of the Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program.”

The Council’s approval of the draft during its meeting Wednesday in Astoria begins a 90-day comment period. Comments will help shape a final version of the annual report, which will be forwarded to Congress in January. The annual report is required by the Northwest Power Act of 1980, the federal law that authorized the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington to create the Council.

The report notes that fiscal year 2011 was cooler and damper than normal in the Pacific Northwest, which resulted in high snowpack and runoff to fuel the region’s Columbia/Snake River hydro system. An abundance of hydropower in spring and early summer led to controversy over the shutting down by the Bonneville Power Administration of wind
turbines to accommodate the geneneration. BPA markets power generated in the federal Columbia River System and controls most of the region’s power transmission system.
The draft report includes an update on salmon and steelhead returns to the Columbia River, which in 2010 continued the trend of recent years, with most runs equaling or surpassing average run sizes for the previous 10 years.

During 2011 the Council and staff completed a review process by recommending funding for a total of 143 research and monitoring projects, some new and some ongoing, to improve scientific knowledge about fish and wildlife throughout the Columbia River Basin. The estimated annual costs of the projects is $100 million. BPA funds the NPCC program with ratepayer revenues as mititation for impacts to fish and wildlife caused by the hydro system.

In recommending the projects to Bonneville, the Council emphasized that some are experimental and funding beyond the first year will depend on demonstrated effectiveness. Information about the projects is on the Council website at: www.nwcouncil.

The report also includes specific information about the Council’s activities, organized around the Council’s major responsibilities. The report concludes with information about the Council’s budget and administration.

The draft report can be found at:


* Appraisal Says Clearwater River, Not Tributaries, Best Option For Lewiston Area Irrigators, Steelhead

A proposal to pump water from central Idaho’s Clearwater River rather than from a set of its tributaries is the best choice for irrigators and imperiled steelhead, according to a draft “appraisal study” prepared for Lower Clearwater Exchange Project stakeholders.

Those stakeholders include the Lewiston Orchards Irrigation District, Nez Perce Tribe, Lewiston Chamber of Commerce, City of Lewiston, and Nez Perce County. They hope to create a reliable water supply for the district that does not drain those tributary streams, and would thus leave a precious cool water refuge for wild steelhead that are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The district’s service area covers about 4,000 acres on a plateau overlooking the northern portion of the city of Lewiston, Idaho. To feed the system, the district taps the Lapwai-Sweetwater drainage.

“At this level of analysis, the Clearwater River appears to provide a reliable surface water source for LOID,” the report says. “As thoroughly vetted in Chapter 4, the alternative warrants further consideration and study within a feasibility analysis.”

“It should be noted that the Clearwater River Action Alternatives were the most favored of the alternatives recommend for feasibility study by the key stakeholder group,” says the report.

The Bureau of Reclamation will now prepare a final report and recommendations based on the draft study and input received from the public. Comments on the draft may be sent to the Lewiston Orchards Irrigation District until Nov. 18.

The draft study was completed J-U-B Engineers, Inc., of Lewiston. Reclamation representatives participated in the study alongside LCEP partners in an advisory capacity, and the study was funded and authorized under Reclamation's Rural Water Supply Program.

The Lewiston Orchards Project was originally constructed by private interests, beginning in 1906. Most of the project features have been rehabilitated or rebuilt by Reclamation. The project facilities include four diversion structures (Webb Creek, Sweetwater, West Fork, and Captain John) feeder canals, three small storage reservoirs (Soldiers Meadow, Reservoir A, and Lake Waha) a domestic water system including a water filtration plant which is no longer in use, and a system for distribution of irrigation water.

In 2010, Reclamation's Rural Water Supply Program provided $228,784 to prepare the draft study. LCEP stakeholders intend to apply for continued assistance to complete a feasibility study and environmental documentation necessary to select a preferred alternative, and design and construct a water supply to replace the existing LOID system, according to the Bureau.

The LCEP is a regional, collaborative partnership; formalized in 2009, aimed at permanently resolving three recurring federal-interest problems in the lower Clearwater basin: (1) adverse impacts on ESA-listed steelhead and designated critical habitat resulting from Reclamation's existing LOID project location within the lower Lapwai/Sweetwater Creek watershed; (2) inadequate water quantity, quality and reliability provided to LOID under the existing project; and (3) adverse impacts on the Nez Perce Tribe and its people, including impacts to natural resources and cultural/religious water uses, resulting from the predominant location of the existing project on the Nez Perce Reservation.

The LCEP concept is at its core a water exchange: the development of a high-efficiency piping system from a mainstem water source, conceived to date by the LCEP as the lower Clearwater River, and the simultaneous protection of upstream flows in the lower Lapwai/Sweetwater Creek tributary system.

The LCEP says that implementing that plan would resolve all three problems described above by terminating unreliable, inefficient water diversions from tributary streams, ending ESA impacts in the Sweetwater area of critical habitat, and ending impacts to the Nez Perce Reservation and Nez Perce people resulting from the existing canal system and water diversions.

The exchange would result in direct increased flows for steelhead and multiple fish species. It would also provide fish passage above the existing Sweetwater Dam to historic, high-quality steelhead habitat that is fed by the largest year-round coolwater spring in the lower Clearwater subbasin, Sweetwater Springs.

This aspect of the project is additionally significant, considering the impacts of climate change, the stakeholders say. Forty-three miles of stream habitat presently impaired or blocked by the existing LOID system would be restored. The total watershed acreage presently drained by Reclamation's existing LOID project is 61,325 acres.

The Bureau of Reclamation’s report, due in about 90 days, could recommend a feasibility study of at least one the appraised alternatives. The study's alternatives include replacement water sources where water is presently available for appropriation: the lower Clearwater River, the lower Snake River and Lewiston-area groundwater sources.

"The tribe, Reclamation, and NOAA Fisheries agreed to set aside the third round of litigation in five years based on an agreement that provides interim flows in Webb and Sweetwater creeks and focuses our energy on the Lower Clearwater Exchange Project," McCoy Oatman, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe's Natural Resources Subcommittee, said of a long-running lawsuit over the water withdrawals.

The tribe in February agreed to stay its lawsuit against the irrigation for three years while the parties seek and alternative water source.

"The appraisal study illustrates that there is a way to permanently solve ESA, tribal-trust, and LOID water quantity, quality, and reliability issues,” Oatman said. “The tribe and our LCEP partners are one step closer to making this solution a reality. Our efforts to find a win-win result have received widespread political support at the state and federal level."

The LCEP partners say they have engaged a broad range of entities for public support and potential funding. The LCEP has received initial funding to date from Reclamation and NOAA Fisheries; and public support from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, the University of ldaho's Waters of the West Program, Trout Unlimited, Clearwater Power Company, Avista Power, and the Clearwater Basin Collaborative.

The LCEP effort has also received public support from Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, the Idaho congressional delegation, and all Idaho state legislators in the project area.

A review copy of the draft Study is available in LOID's office and online at http://www.loid.net/uploads/PDFs/LCEP-Appraisal-Study.pdf


* NOAA Says La Nina Is Back; Colder, Wetter Than Normal Conditions For the Northwest

La Niña, which contributed to extreme weather around the globe during the first half of 2011, has re-emerged in the tropical Pacific Ocean and is forecast to gradually strengthen and continue into winter.

Forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center have upgraded last month’s La Niña Watch to a La Niña Advisory.

NOAA will issue its official winter outlook in mid-October, but La Niña winters often see drier than normal conditions across the southern tier of the United States and wetter than normal conditions in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley.

“This means drought is likely to continue in the drought-stricken states of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center. “La Niña also often brings colder winters to the Pacific Northwest and the northern Plains, and warmer temperatures to the southern states.”

Climate forecasts from NOAA’s National Weather Service are intended to give communities advance notice of what to expect in the coming months so they can prepare for potential impacts.

Seasonal hurricane forecasters factored the potential return of La Niña into NOAA’s updated 2011 Atlantic hurricane season outlook, issued in August, which called for an active hurricane season. With the development of tropical storm Nate last week, the number of tropical cyclones entered the predicted range of 14-19 named storms.

The strong 2010-11 La Niña contributed to record winter snowfall, spring flooding and drought across the United States, as well as other extreme weather events throughout the world, such as heavy rain in Australia and an extremely dry equatorial eastern Africa.

Average sea surface temperature anomalies for the week centered on Aug. 31, indicate the re-emergence of La Niña in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

La Niña is a naturally occurring climate phenomenon located over the tropical Pacific Ocean and results from interactions between the ocean surface and the atmosphere. During La Niña, cooler-than-average Pacific Ocean temperatures influence global weather patterns. La Niña typically occurs every three-to-five years, and back-to-back episodes occur about 50 percent of the time. Current conditions reflect a re-development of the June 2010-May 2011 La Niña episode.


* PNNL Receives DOE Funding To Develop Next Generation Of ‘Sensor Fish’ Measuring Turbine Impacts

The Department of Energy has awarded the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory nearly $300,000 to develop the next generation of PNNL’s “Sensor Fish,” which measure the hydraulic forces and physical contacts with structures that fish may experience as they pass through hydropower dam turbines.

Dam operators have used data collected by the device to help develop fish-friendly turbines, which can increase hydropower generation, decrease licensing costs and improve a dam’s environmental performance.

This funding allows PNNL researchers to design a smaller, less expensive Sensor Fish that can be used in more places.

Until now, the Sensor Fish has primarily been used to study U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-operated dams in the Columbia and Snake rivers. Broader use has been limited due to the device’s size and other aspects.

This project’s goal is to design an improved Sensor Fish that can be sent through a wider variety of turbines (including full-scale dams that are already operating, as well as models and scaled prototypes). The new design could also work with tidal and pumped-storage power projects.

The new design will make the device self-navigating, meaning it would automatically rise to the river’s surface for retrieval after passing through a turbine.

The current design relies on externally attached balloons to do this, but the balloons are expensive and can be cumbersome. The end-goal is to license the new design to a private company so that more institutions and scientists can use the Sensor Fish in their own research.

The Corps’ Portland District also expects to use the new Sensor Fish at their dams as part of the Anadromous Fish Evaluation Program.

DOE’s Sensor Fish award was announced as part of a larger round of funding for advanced hydropower technologies research.


* Study: Salmon’s ‘Gut Capacity’ Gives Ability To Capitalize On Unpredictable Pulses Of Food

Salmon and other fish predators take the adage ‘no guts, no glory’ literally, by having up to three times the "gut" capacity they need on a daily basis just so they can "glory" when prey is abundant, University of Washington researchers have discovered.

It's a previously unrecognized survival tactic that might apply to other top predators, such as wolves, lions and bears, according to Jonathan Armstrong, a UW doctoral student in aquatic and fishery sciences and lead author of a letter published recently in the journal Nature.

"The predatory fish we examined have the guts to consume two- to three-times the amount of food that they regularly encounter. This much excess capacity suggests predator-prey encounters are far patchier – or random – than assumed in biology and that binge-feeding enables predators to survive despite regular periods of famine," Armstrong said. Co-author on the paper is Daniel Schindler, UW professor of aquatic and fishery sciences.

"Guts are really expensive organs in terms of metabolism," Armstrong said. For instance, maintaining a gut can require 30 to 40 percent of the blood pumped by an animal's heart.

Some animals have some capacity to grow or shrink their guts in response to changing conditions. For example, the digestive organs of birds that are about to migrate expand so they can eat more and fatten up. This is followed by a period when their guts atrophy and then, freed of the baggage of heavy guts, the birds take off.

That and results from lab studies led some scientists to assume that predators eliminate excess digestive capacity to save energy in times of famine. But the UW findings show that many fish species maintain a huge gut, which enables them to capitalize on unpredictable pulses of food.

"For predator fish, the world is a slot machine – sometimes they stumble upon small meals and other times they hit the jackpot. It's just not as predictable as some have thought," Armstrong said.

"Unlike some other animals, fish can't just hoard their food behind a rock in the stream and eat it later. They need to binge during the good times so that they can grow and build energy reserves to survive the bad times."

Armstrong and Schindler hope that their results can help with ecological models used in conservation and management.

"Ecosystem models typically assume relatively constant interactions between predator and prey but our results suggest such interactions are extremely patchy. We're excited to see if including this ecological realism might improve the predictions of these models."

Abstract Nature letter http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v476/n7358/full/nature10240.html?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20110804


* USFWS Appoints New Coordinator For North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative

John Mankowski has been appointed to be the new coordinator of the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today.

As coordinator of the cooperative, Mankowski will lead a partnership effort to obtain the science needed to respond to climate change and other threats to fish and wildlife and their habitats and to support large, landscape-scale conservation.

The cooperative is a partnership among state and federal agencies, tribes, nongovernmental organizations, universities and others stretching from southeast Alaska to northern California, including coastal ecosystems. It is designed to inform natural resource management needs to address climate change and other environmental stressors within and across large connected natural areas. Learn more about the cooperative
at: http://www.fws.gov/pacific/Climatechange/nplcc/

For the past five years, Mankowski has served as Natural Resources Advisor to Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire.

“John Mankowski is a seasoned collaborator in natural resource management and brings extraordinary skills in consensus building and partnership approaches,” said Robyn Thorson, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region. “He has expertise working at all levels of government and he has a strong background in policies and laws related to endangered species, forestry, water management, environmental protection, agriculture, energy, fish and wildlife.”

Lisa Graumlich, dean of the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, which is helping support the coordinator position, says Mankowski will provide an important connection between UW and other university and agency scientists at the forefront of climate science and partners throughout the northwest who need this information to manage natural resources.

Landscape Conservation Cooperatives are self-directed conservation partnerships supported by the Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies to address the challenges of climate change in an integrated fashion across broad areas. The 21 LCCs across the nation provide scientific information and technical support to better understand species and habitat responses to climate change and other ecological changes (such as changing fire regimes and spread of invasive species). These cooperatives provide the scientific basis needed to help inform the development of strategic, landscape-scale conservation efforts on the ground.

Mankowski has worked in various capacities for the state of Washington for more than 20 years. Before becoming Gregoire’s principal adviser on natural resource and environmental issues in 2006, he was the Environmental Policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. He also served in a variety of science and management positions for natural resource agencies in Idaho, Alaska and Arizona before moving to Washington.

He earned a bachelor of science degree in Renewable Natural Resources with an extended major in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Arizona. He completed graduate studies in Wildlife Resources Management at the University of Idaho.

Mankowski begins his new position Sept. 19. He replaces Michael Carrier, who left the position last May to become the assistant regional director for Fisheries in the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region.

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

The stories in this e-mail newsletter are posted on the Columbia Basin Bulletin website at www.cbbulletin.com. If you would like access to the CBB archives, please consider becoming a Member of the CBB website for as little as $5 a month. Your membership will help support maintenance of the 10-year (1998-2008) news database and the production of trustworthy, timely news and information about Columbia Basin fish and wildlife issues.


Feedback comments should be sent by e-mail to the Editor at bcrampton@cbbulletin.com. Please put "feedback"in the subject line. We encourage comments about particular stories, complaints about inaccuracies or omissions; additional information; general views about the topic covered; or opinions that counterbalance statements reported.

The Columbia Basin Bulletin e-mail newsletter is produced by Intermountain Communications of Bend, Oregon and supported with Bonneville Power Administration fish and wildlife funds through the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program.

Home Contact


              Page Updated: Saturday September 17, 2011 03:25 AM  Pacific

             Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2001 - 2011, All Rights Reserved