Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lake Washington Sockeye off to a Strong Start

With almost two weeks to go before the peak of the run has historically passed through the Ballard Locks, the Lake Washington sockeye run is off to a strong start despite a poor preseason forecast. The Lake Washington sockeye fishery has an escapement goal of 350,000 fish and the lake hasn't been open to fishing since 2006. This years run was expected to be a mere 45,871 but as of Sunday 31,368 fish had passed through the fish ladder at the locks. With thousands more streaming into the lake each day the run appears certain to surpass the poor preseason forecast and Seattle area anglers are hopeful that there may even be a fishery. 

The article from the Seattle Times also features some discussion of the possibility of lowering the escapement goal to allow fisheries more frequently. Sockeye are not native to Lake Washington and are descended from Baker Lake sockeye in the Skagit Basin. 

More in this article from the Seattle Times:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wild Olympics Bill Introduced in Congress

Last week, Senator Patty Murray and Representative Norm Dicks introduced a scaled back version of the proposed Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers act. The plan had been a flashpoint of controversy in some of the communities on the Olympic Peninsula, where logging has traditionally been a major source of employment. Despite the less ambitious scope of the bill it would still be a major step forward towards permanent protection for many of the Peninsula's most treasured watersheds. The bill would protect more than 125,000 acres as wilderness including 90,000 acres of old growth and add Wild and Scenic designation to 19 new rivers. Despite the wealth of rivers in the state, Washington is home to woefully few Wild and Scenic Rivers and in recent years the states congressional delegation has vowed to increase the number of rivers in the state afforded protection under the act.

More information in an article from the Seattle Times:


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Action Needed: NMFS Accepting Comments on Sandy Hatchery Plans

The Sandy River just outside of Portland is beloved by residents of the region and supports important populations of wild winter steelhead, spring chinook and coho among other species. The river has benefitted from millions of dollars of investment in habitat restoration including the removal of both Marmot and Little Sandy Dams in 2008. Despite this tremendous progress, hatchery programs in the basin continue to depress the productivity of wild salmon and steelhead and wild populations Sandy remain severely depressed. The Sandy can and should be a success story, one where a commitment to recovering wild rivers yields great benefits to wild salmon. But until hatchery programs are either scaled back dramatically or discontinued altogether this cannot and will not happen.

Citing concerns over the impact these hatchery programs are having on ESA listed stocks in the Sandy River, the Native Fish Society has sued the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) in hopes of bringing about changes in the management of hatcheries in the Sandy watershed. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) - a department of NOAA - is currently considering hatchery plans for the Sandy put forth by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). If these plans are accepted by the federal government hatchery management will remain business as usual on the Sandy, wasting an opportunity to recover wild salmon and steelhead in the system.

NMFS is accepting comments on these hatchery plans until July 9th and the Native Fish Society has made an Action Alert, making it extremely easy to submit comments. Please take a minute to fill out the comment form and submit it and tell NMFS and ODFW that we cannot accept the status quo for the Sandy.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Meet Shannon McPhail,
Executive Director of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition,
at 6:30 PM on June 21 at 5700 Airport Way South Suite 265

Please join us on June 21 for a discussion with Shannon McPhail, Executive Director of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition (SWCC). Her organization is leading the local effort to protect some of the healthiest, most productive rivers on earth – the Skeena and her tributaries, including the famed Kispiox, Bulkley and Babine, home to the largest wild steelhead in the world.

Key to SWCC’s long-term effort is the prevention of massive coalbed methane development in the Sacred Headwaters, birthplace of the Skeena and two other great wild rivers of northern British Columbia, the Stikine and the Nass. SWCC helped secure a moratorium on this development in 2008. That moratorium expires this December. (See the links below for more information.)

This is a critically important time to take action to protect one of the most beautiful, most ecologically important landscapes on earth, and the three great rivers that rise from it. Your help is urgently needed.

Ms. McPhail will describe the history, work and accomplishments of the SWCC, and its effort to secure permanent protection for the Sacred Headwaters this year. An open discussion will follow her presentation.

This is your chance to learn about one of the most important – and most winnable – environmental protection campaigns underway in North America. You will leave with a clear understanding of the nature of the threat, the strategies for addressing it, the needs of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, and how you can help.

Imagine how good it would feel to celebrate one year from today your role in helping end one of the greatest threats ever to one of the greatest places left on Earth! Join us on June 21 to take the first step.

Please drop Lucasstclair12@gmail.com a quick reply to RSVP – and please pass this note along to others you believe will be interested.

Lucas St.Clair

Skeena River Watershed Conservation Coalition

Sacred Headwaters Campaign

Monday, June 18, 2012

Elwha River Hatchery Plan Open For Public Comment

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recently released a draft of the Hatchery Genetic Management Plan (HGMP) for the Elwha River. The document is supposed to outline the role of hatchery supplementation in the Elwha Watershed, discuss the risks and benefits of the program and outline a plan for minimizing the conservation risks posed to ESA listed Chinook Salmon by hatchery supplementation.

They'll be accepting public comments through August 5th on the plan. 

It's a big document and we will be taking the next few days to wade through it and provide some talking points. In the meantime check out this news release from WDFW's website with a link to the HGMP.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Early Columbia Sockeye Returns Looking Promising

Fisheries managers are predicting more than 460,000 sockeye will return to the Columbia Basin this summer, a total which would eclipse the modern record set in 2010 of 387,858 fish. Nearly all of the predicted run (431,000) is bound for the Okanagan River Basin, but Wenatchee Lake and endangered Snake River Sockeye are expected to have banner years as well. Increased sockeye abundance in the Columbia is largely attributable to better flow management in the Okanagan system, as well as court mandated spill during the spring outmigration and improved ocean conditions. Whether or not the actual return of sockeye will match lofty preseason forecasts remains to be seen, but early returns have been promising with more than 26,000 sockeye already past Bonneville Dam. More information in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Spawning Methow Steelhead

photo courtesy of Bobby Foster

Check out these great photos of spawning wild steelhead taken by Bobby Foster in a high elevation tributary of the Methow River. Steelhead in the Upper Columbia are listed as threatened, yet a few thousand fish make the 500 plus mile journey from the sea and return each year to spawn. These fish provide a link to a time gone by, when the Upper Columbia supported a vast abundance of both steelhead and salmon, serving as a beacon of hope that wild salmon and steelhead can hang on in the face of the industrialization of the Columbia River watershed. Thanks for sharing Bobby!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Northwest Dam Removal Update

Last fall dam removal began on the Elwha and White Salmon Rivers, two places where aging dams had obstructed spawning salmon for a century. The dam removals were the culmination of decades of work by government, non-profit and tribal representatives, and mark a major turning point in the effort to recover wild salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest. On the heels of one of the most important and memorable years of dam removal and river restoration, recovery is proceeding more of less as expected with some exciting results.

Elwha Dam, the lower of the two dams on the Elwha is already gone, giving salmon and steelhead access to 8 miles of river and two crucial tributaries, the Little River and Indian Creek. Already just a few short weeks after the dam removal was completed biologists documented one the first natural colonists to the Little River, a 35 inch adult steelhead. By this time next year Glines Canyon Dam will also be gone, opening access to the rest of the Elwha watershed for the first time in 100 years. In the near-term tributaries such as the Little River and Indian Creek will provide important refugia for spawning fish, as large amounts of stored sediment works its way through the Elwha watershed and out to sea. While the lower and middle reaches of the mainstem may take several years to recover, the river is already on its way, and as the Elwha carves its new channel through the long trapped sediment, the first generation of riparian plants are recolonizing the floodplain. Large stumps and logs left from logging a century ago are also providing an unexpected benefit, stabilizing banks and providing crucial large woody debris. An article from last week in the Seattle Times reports on the progress of the recovery.

On the White Salmon, demolition of the dam is proceeding, even as the river runs beneath it. Last fall engineers on the White Salmon opted for a strategy of blasting a channel for the river under the dam allowing the river to transport stored sediment throughout the winter and spring high flow period. Engineers also recently removed an old crib dam that had been buried under water and sediment, from the river just above the dam. This years steelhead, chinook and coho will be the first generation of fish in the watershed to have natural access to the river above the dam.  More from the White Salmon Timelapse blog

Monday, June 4, 2012

Columbia Spring Chinook Run Falling Behind Preseason Forecasts

Last week fisheries managers downgraded estimates for the total run of spring Chinook returning to the Columbia and Snake Rivers, prompting a temporary closure of fisheries in the River. The preseason forecast for the Columbia had been extremely optimistic with managers predicting a run of more than 300,000 fish. But as of last week managers had revised their estimate to just over 200,000 fish, highlighting the vagaries of preseason forecasting salmon abundance. More information in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:


Also, visit the Columbia River DART website for daily updates on fish counts at dams throughout the watershed:


Sunday, June 3, 2012

BC Fish Farm Secrecy Bill Withdrawn

BC Liberals have dropped a bill that would have made disease outbreaks on British Columbia's fish farms secret and penalized individuals who brought disease information to the public. The proposed bill drew harsh criticism both from the public and from opposition NDP leadership who feared that it would limit the freedom of information regarding the potential impacts of the aquaculture industry on British Columbia's public resources. More information from the Watershed Sentinel:


Friday, June 1, 2012

Seattle Speaks out Against Pebble Mine

Yesterday a public hearing on the proposed Pebble Mine was held by the Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle. The hearing drew a large and diverse crowd of people from throughout the region. From commercial fishermen and native Alaskans, to fisheries biologists and anglers, EPA administrators heard about the risks posed to Bristol Bay by the proposed Pebble Mine. Bristol Bay is home to one of the largest commercial sockeye fisheries in the world, provides subsistence for local communities and supports healthy, intact aquatic ecosystems. The proposed mine would be situated directly in the heart of Bristol Bay's salmon bearing watersheds posing an existential threat to the ecological and economic engine of the region, sockeye salmon.

The EPA recently issued a draft study on the potential impacts of mining in the Bristol Bay region which highlighted the habitat destruction that would result from the mines normal operations and the tremendous long term risks posed by infrastructure failures, and toxic chemical spills often associated with mining.

More information in an article from the Seattle Times


and from Trout Unlimited