Thursday, April 30, 2009

New dam project on the Siletz River

Polk county in Western Oregon is currently considering building a dam on the Siletz River. The dam would inundate miles of prime Chinook, Coho and Steelhead habitat. The Siletz also supports one of the only native summer runs on the Oregon Coast and the dam project could threaten their already tenuous prospects for survival. You can find information on Oregon Public Broadcasting's website here. Write Polk county officials ASAP and tell them they're dam project is wrong and misguided.

Contact Commissioner Mike Propes and the other Polk County Commissioners, and let them know what you think of damming the most diverse anadromous salmonid river in Oregon.

Mike Propes: &

Tom Ritchey:

Ron Dodge:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Osprey, January edition

For those of you who are not regular readers of The Osprey we'd like to point out that the January edition was released several months ago. This edition includes articles regarding:

--Hoh River management (Dick Burge)
--Recommendations for a new WDFW director (Bill Redman)
--Trinity River recovery (Tom Weseloh)
--Idaho update (Greg Stahl)
--Historical accounts of steelhead in the Columbia Basin (Bill McMillan)

Enjoy the articles and we hope you look forward to the May edition.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fish Passage for Cle Elum Lake

The Bureau of Rec, WA dept of Ecology and the Yakama nation are in the process of creating a permanent fish passage facility past Cle Elum dam. The facility would provide access to some of the most pristine spawning habitat in the basin and could supportChinook, Sockeye, Coho, Steelhead and Bull Trout. up to 2000 pairs of adult Sockeye will be transplanted from the Preist Rapids dam to facilitate colonization, the Yakima was once one of the most productive Sockeye systems on the Columbia. Managers are considering using hatchery supplementation to restore other runs into the upper Cle Elum. While it may be the only option for Chinook and Coho given the lack of source populations, it would be a very bad choice to try to reestablish steelhead in the upper Yakima using hatcheries. You can submit your comments to the Bureau to David Kaumheimer, Bureau of Reclamation, Environmental Program manager, 1917 Marsh Road, Yakima Wash. 98901-2058 or

More coverage at CBB here

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Raging River conservation easement

King County and the State of Washington are set to place 4,000 acres of forest land on the Raging River into conservation easement. It is part of a 7,000 acre state purchase in the watershed. The Raging River, one of the most productive tributaries of the Snoqualmie River and supports Steelhead, Coho, Chinook, and Cutthroat trout. The conservation easement would protect the land in the Raging's headwaters for perpetuity. See the King County website for more info here.

Elwha removal scheduled to start 2011

One of the most promising watershed recovery projects ever is set to start a year earlier than expected. The project was scheduled to start 2012, however the federal government has allocated money to begin removing the two dams on the Elwha in 2011. The river system once supported all 5 species of Pacific salmon, strong runs of summer and winter steelhead, native dolly varden and bull trout and cutthroat trout. It is legendary for its massive Chinook salmon some of which are thought to be over 100 lbs.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Great news for Wind River steelhead

The Wind river was once one of Washington States most legendary summer steelhead streams. By the mid 1990s the rivers once strong runs of steelhead had been decimated. Over the last decade the runs have slowly been recovering and this summer the fish will get a major boost. A dam on Trout Creek one of the most important summer steelhead tributaries on the Wind will be removed providing fish with easier access to the upper watershed and restoring habitat connectivity and ecological function between the once fragmented stream reaches. See the coverage in the Columbian newspaper here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Editorial on Jane Lubchenco in the NY times

The Obama administration's appointment of Jane Lubchenco to head NOAA is a promising development. She is a bright and creative mind in fisheries science and is a welcome change from the last 8 years. A few important decisions are facing her agency and it will be interesting and exciting to see how things play out. An editorial in the NY times today discussed the issue.

Article here

Friday, April 10, 2009

America's most endangered rivers

The Sacramento tops the 2009 addition of American Rivers' most endangered list followed by the Snake River at number three. Both rivers are long overdue for dramatic changes in the way they are managed if we want to recover and sustain viable wild salmon populations. Check out the report at American Rivers' website:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

WDFW and Quinault Tribes release infected fish

In the last few weeks both WDFW and the Quinault tribe have released hatchery reared steelhead smolts infected with IHNV a viral disease which could potentially spread to wild fish populations. The disease stays with a fish for life and is highly contagious. This represents an extremely negligent act with very little ultimate benefit considering the potentially catastrophic impacts. Below are memos written by the Tulalip tribe protesting the decision to release infected smolts.

DATE: 4/2/2009
The Tulalip Tribes are very concerned that the steelhead releases from Lake Aberdeen Hatchery
could pose a significant risk of contributing to the establishment of the M-D strain of IHNV to
coastal steelhead populations. We appreciated receiving the March 30, 2009 (10:02 AM) email
from John Kerwin to Bruce Stewart containing the notification regarding the intended releases of
steelhead smolts and sub adult rainbow trout that have had past or ongoing problems with the MD
subclade of infectious hematopoietic necrosis (IHN) virus. The Tribe also valued the viral
sampling and detection activities and operational steps taken by your Department to control the
spread of infection. We also appreciated getting the Risk Assessment on March 30th in
accordance with the Co-manager Guidelines to Prevent the Establishment of the M-D Strain of
IHN Virus in Washington State River Basins Outside of the Columbia River. While we
appreciated getting this information, it was unclear from your notification and risk assessment
what dates were intended for any of the releases, or how many fish were involved.
However, we regret your decisions to release the brood year 2008 yearling winter- and summerrun
steelhead and rainbow trout from the Lake Aberdeen Hatchery that have tested positive in
the past for M-D IHNV. We now come to find out that the steelhead releases were initiated
within a day after the notification was made, and were completed yesterday, April 2, 2009,
which does not meet the minimum five days pre-notification as agreed upon in the abovementioned
Guidelines. We believe these releases are a mistake and pose much more risk than
you have determined. Without even knowing the numbers of fish involved and other important
details, we still believe these risks are unacceptably high. Our concern is that the planned
releases have a high probability of spreading the virus to other brood years of your hatchery
production while exposing other natural- and hatchery-origin fish in the Chehalis basin and other
unexposed basins and lakes. The risk of further spreading and amplifying IHN disease could
have devastating effects to other natural-origin steelhead populations and other hatchery
programs. This virus has already spread through several watersheds, and we are greatly
concerned that, if these release practices are not halted, they will continue to spread this

pathogen throughout the State. We make a few key points in the bullets below and follow these
with a more detailed discussion of the risk assessment and management actions taken.
• We believe these releases pose much more risk than was determined, because we think
there is a relatively high probability of spreading the virus to other natural- and hatcheryorigin
fish in the Chehalis and other unexposed basins, further spreading the virus.
• There has been a disturbing trend toward the relatively new practice of retaining hatchery
fish actively infected with IHN disease, particularly fish carrying the M-D strain, and
knowingly releasing them in Washington State outside of the Columbia basin, which
goes against many years of strict eradication efforts.
• Standards for proving the virus has cleared a stock in question have not been developed
or put into any policy and no real input from other comanagers is incorporated into the
current management decision-making process.
• The March 30, 2009 notification and risk assessment lacked key information such as
dates for intended releases, locations for trout releases, numbers of fish being released,
and tissues assayed for virus.
• The testing appeared inadequate (low numbers of asymptomatic fish, tested infrequently,
found negative on only one occasion in tissues that are less likely to detect virus in).
• The releases occurred within a day after the notification was made, which does not meet
the minimum five days pre-notification in the above-mentioned Guidelines.
• While the current agreed-to Guidelines intended to prevent the spread of the virus are
better than none, we disagree with the language currently adopted, which enables releases
of infected fish if any comanager facility determines that the benefits outweigh the risks.
• Given the apparent failure to control the spread of this strain of IHNV and the release
practices that have occurred in the past year, we continue to advocate for much stricter
control measures, that would still enable some flexibility for certain rare exceptions.
• We believe adequate control measures will first include standards for testing fish and
reporting results, followed by providing adequate time for written responses and then
inclusive meetings between all comanagers when eradication is not proposed to explain
the rare, extenuating circumstances and that will ultimately require a consensus to be
reached among comanager’s fish health specialists if alternative actions are proposed.
• We are first requesting a convening of the Treaty Tribes to re-address this matter, to be
followed up with a comanagers meeting, with the ultimate intent of adding new,
specifically clear restrictions to the Comanagers Salmonid Disease Control Policy
regarding the rearing and release of fish known to be infected with regulated pathogens.
• We are aware that there are gray areas and difficult details to be resolved on different
aspects of the relevant issues, but at the same time, if the virus continues to spread and
the comanagers cannot resolve these issues and develop an effective policy that results in
effective change, we will continue to build support for taking whatever actions are
necessary to prevent this problem from continuing to worsen.

We think that the appearance of this virus in Grays Harbor tributaries should have been expected,
given the long history of this disease and numerous releases from Idaho and other Oregon and
Washington hatcheries of the adjacent Columbia River basin. We are not surprised that it has
now spread to the adjacent Quinault basin and see a likely, direct relationship between the
steelhead releases last March that exhibited elevated mortality at Humptulips and the first
detections in the Quinault system three months later in June of 2008. Similar to this current
situation, we objected to those releases in writing immediately after we were informed of the
intent. We were not surprised that there were 15 new detections of this strain of IHNV between
2007 and 2008 in adult and juvenile steelhead, rainbow, and coho from Lake Aberdeen as well as
the Skookumchuck, Wynoochee, Satsop, and Humptulips Rivers, we will not be surprised when
it continues to spread further and/or to persist in the already infected watersheds because we
believe it is these release practices that are continuing to cause the spread of this virus. Besides
the diseased hatchery fish that directly contribute to the dissemination of IHN, we believe these
releases create numerous additional opportunities for viral transmission, which endangers wild
and hatchery fish throughout the state and burdens all of us who depend on these resources.
While we appreciated receiving the Risk Assessment, we feel it is critical at this juncture to
clarify some of the points made. We think the analysis made some good points and explained
some of the new actions your agency has taken to control the spread of the virus, which we
applaud. However, we disagree with the level of risk assessed and the conclusions drawn and
feel we need to add some clarifications to a few key points made. Therefore, the remainder of
this letter will mainly address some of the specific points made in the March 30, 2009
notification and attached Risk Assessment. Again, we offer the following comments not as
criticism but to add additional points to the analysis for the overall purposes of improving how
we tackle this problem in the hope that our collective efforts will eventually eliminate the virus
from spreading and causing any more major losses to wild and hatchery steelhead.
First, addressing the body of the March 30 email and also as mentioned in several parts of the
Risk Assessment, you stated that while the juvenile steelhead were found to be positive in the
past, recent testing has been negative and mortality rates low or typical of what is expected of
steelhead at this stage in their life. However, this is also consistent with a low incidence and
level of infection typical in juvenile O. mykiss undergoing subclinical IHN infection.
We agree with the concern expressed by your fish health staff “that the virus may be present at
very low levels in the stocks planned for release. If that is true then it is likely that these fish will
expose other fish to the virus as they migrate out of the Chehalis River Basin.” Even at very low
incidence and intensity in host trout, past studies have shown that a small number of juvenile
rainbow trout, sub-clinically infected only in gill tissues, still shed large amounts of virus. Also,
in a past study we are aware of, exposure of O. mykiss to low waterborne levels (<>

Monday, April 6, 2009

Columbia Basin Bulletin

For those who haven't seen the CBB, it is a fantastic resource for any and all issues facing the fish in the Columbia Basin. It is unique in its thoroughness and in the fact that it is published weekly. You can view the bulletin and subscribe online at their website.

Kelt and Juvenile passage at Bonneville

Interesting and positive news from Bonneville dam. A 50 million dollar retrofitted side gate designed to facilitate easier passage for down stream kelts went into operation on April 3rd. The project comes as scientists are increasingly acknowledging the importance of repeat spawning in steelhead and the complete lack of passage accomodations for spawned out fish in the Columbia hydrosystem. See the CBB article here

Hatchery Review for Columbia Basin

The HSRG (Hatchery Scientific Review Group) issued a long anticipated report last month which highlights necessary changes to the current hatchery and harvest practices in the Columbia basin. The report hopes sought ways to meet the Columbia's harvest goals while encouraging hatchery practices that emphasize conservation, protecting locally adapted populations, and minimizing interactions between hatchery and wild salmon. See the Seattle Times coverage here.
Columbia Basin Bulletin here .
Access to the full 1000 page document at the hatchery review groups website here

Thursday, April 2, 2009

HB 5127 reincarnated as HB 1778

Senator Ken Jacobsen's HB 5127 which proposed a reduction in commission size and would weaken the commissions ability to provide unpartisan oversight of our states fish and wildlife management died in committee last week. Jacobsen appears determined to gut the fish and wildlife commission and this bill is behaving like a bit of a three headed hydra. It has resurfaced as HB 1778. Please email all the members of the Senate's Natural Resources, Ocean Recreation committee or call their offices and voice your opposition to the bill.

Sen. Ken Jacobsen
Sen. Kevin Ranker
Sen. Bob Morton
Sen. Karen Fraser
Sen. Jim Hargrove
Sen. Brian Hatfield
Sen. Val Stevens
Sen. Dan Swecker

Additionally, there will be a public hearing regarding the appointment of Miranda Wecker to be the chair of the fish and wildlife commission tomorrow in Olympia. (4/3/2008). The meeting will be held in the J A Cherbery Bldg Hearing Room 2 at 8am. Attendance of this hearing is critical. Mrs. Wecker is a bright, concerned commission member who has the interests of wild fish and game at heart and would bring a throughtful, science based type of leadership which is essential to any recovery effort. Please show her your support by attending this meeting and showing Senator Jacobsen that we will not tolerate these types of political games and witch hunts.