Friday, November 30, 2012

Reminder: May the Rivers Never Sleep, reading and book signing next week

Next Friday, December 7th Bill and John McMillan will be doing a reading and book signing for their new book titled May the Rivers Never Sleep at the Seattle REI. The father and son McMillan's bring a rich knowledge of our northwest rivers and the wild fish they support, forged through a lifetime of passion for angling, conservation and science. The book signing at REI is a rare opportunity to meet both men and hear some of their stories and insights gained from a life on the river. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ottawa Reaches New Low in Suppressing Science

The Canadian Federal Government has moved to strip the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island of it's credentials as an international reference laboratory for veterinary pathogens, including Infectious Salmon Anemia virus (ISAv). The lab which is run by internationally acclaimed expert Fred Kibenge, was the first to reveal the presence of an ISAv like virus o the West Coast of Canada, prompting backlash from the Canadain Federal Government and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in particular. Since that time Dr.Kibenge has continued to collaborate with independent researchers, screening tissue samples from salmon taken on the West Coast for diseases ranging from ISAv to Heart and Skeletal Inflammation (HSMI) and IHN. He also served as an expert witness for the Cohen commission, a judicial review that revealed deep flaws and conflicts of interest in management of wild salmon and the way that the federal government has balanced the development of salmon aquaculture with it's paramount duty of conserving wild salmon. The latest move by the CFIA is clearly intended to discredit Dr. Kibenge and silence their critics, a troubling continuation of the trend in Ottawa to suppress science in instances when it may challenge their economic agenda.

More information in the Globe and Mail:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Seattle Times Article on Snake River Sockeye

Last weekend the Seattle Times featured an excellent article on challenges facing Snake River sockeye and the political and economic realities hindering their recovery. Reporter Lynda Mapes offers a well rounded, insightful take on the issue that gives readers a realistic perspective on both the successes of recovery efforts on the Snake and the cost of these programs which are in some ways protecting the status quo in the Columbia Basin. In the 1990's Snake sockeye were critically endangered, and in 1992 only a single fish, dubbed Lonesome Larry, returned to Redfish Lake, a once prolific producer of sockeye on the western slope of the Idaho Rockies. Since that time, a federal program to rescue the nearly extinct populations of sockeye has managed to save the unique genetic legacy of snake river sockeye. However, recovery of Snake sockeye has reached a critical juncture. 

With as many as 1000 fish returning to the Snake in good years (around 250 returned this year), sockeye populations are no longer on critical life support, and it is time to phase out hatchery production and allow fish to spawn in the wild, maintaining the fitness and genetic diversity of these fragile stocks. Instead managers have opted to spend $14 million dollars on a new production hatchery, that will preserve the status quo allowing the BPA to continue operating the four lower Snake River dams that are the primary impediment to true recovery in the Snake basin. 

More from the Seattle Times: 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Crooked River Water Bill Could Sabotage Steelhead Recovery

A contentious bill on the future of water management in the Upper Deschutes is working its way through the US Congress. The bill, drafted by Senator Jeff Merkley would guarantee first fill priority in Crooked River (Prineville Reservoir) be allocated to irrigation regardless of water levels (ie. how much water is available for fish), squandering the opportunity afforded by a nearly $130 million dollar outlay by Portland General Electric to provide fish passage into the Upper Deschutes by creating conditions in the Crooked River that are inhospitable to steelhead and other anadromous fish. Flow regimes on the Crooked have been altered tremendously since the construction of Prineville Reservoir and with very little water left in the system to support fish, harming the productive potential of an otherwise potentially excellent spawning area for salmon and steelhead.

The proposed bill would make things even worse, and the ball is in the court of Oregon's other Senator Ron Wyden. Should he choose to support the bill, recovery of ESA listed steelhead and salmon in the Crooked will never even approach it's full potential. On the contrary, if this bill is scrapped, and legislators go back to the drawing board to adopt a plan based on credible scientific input which balances the needs of other users of the Crooked River (as well as ESA listed fish) with those of irrigators, the future is bright for wild fish in the Upper Deschutes.

Please call or email Senator Wyden's office and let him know how you feel about this bill.

Below is a letter drafted by a coalition of retired scientists to Senator Wyden:

The Honorable Ron Wyden
221 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C., 20510

Dear Senator Wyden:

We are writing to inform you that we represent a growing number of non-affiliated retired scientists who do not support the Crooked River Collaborative Water Security Act for the reasons stated below.

Fundamentally, this bill contains too many huge uncertainties with respect to obtaining the critical seasonal flows needed to support fish.  We therefore urge introduction of a modified alternative bill approving the City of Prineville request for 5,100 acre feet of water, the Portland General Electric request for constructing a hydroelectric plant at Bowman Dam and the McKay Creek exchange of 2,740 acre feet of water.  Our primary reasons for opposing the Crooked River Collaborative Water Security Act are stated below.

• Our most serious objection is that the bill mandates first-fill priority for the release of irrigation water regardless of Prineville Reservoir water levels.  Linked with this objection is the equally serious concern that the bill does not include a meaningful Drought Management Plan.  Historical river flows and reservoir water levels show that every 3 out of 4 years the reservoir has contained enough water to meet the needs of irrigation, the City of Prineville, downstream flows to support fish, and reservoir levels associated with fishing and other flat water recreational endeavors.  Unfortunately, what is overlooked in your bill (and the Walden bill) is that the primary future problem that needs to be addressed is how to allocate water for fish survival during those years when the reservoir does not contain enough water to meet all desired requests.  With multiple year droughts becoming more common as global warming continues a strong Drought Management Plan is needed to ensure the successful re-establishment of Chinook salmon and threatened Steelhead in the Crooked River and its tributaries. Clearly, in this high desert ecosystem a first order priority for a Crooked River bill needs to mandate preparation of a Drought Management Plan that requires that during periods of drought all water users shall receive proportional reductions in their water allocations. 
Unfortunately the evasive language presented in points 2 and 3 of the bill’s Dry-Year Management Plan (P-12) is clearly crafted to ensure that irrigators will not have to participate in a plan that mandates proportional reductions in water allocations during periods of drought.  The bill even states that if water needs to be released to meet ESA requirements for threatened fish it cannot be taken from irrigation allotments. 
The first-fill mandate for irrigation water during periods of drought will result in the worst case scenario for being able to receive instream water flows necessary to maintain the re-introduced anadromous fish, and to maintain adequate water in the reservoir to support fisheries and other flat water recreational activities.  When one or a series of low water years will be a certainty in the future, an Adaptive Drought Management Plan based on the best available science needs to be the strongest, not the weakest, part of an overall reservoir and stream water management plan.  Unfortunately, as the bill is written, when reservoir water levels decline to critical lows associated with periods of drought the first-fill mandate for irrigators will leave little or no water for fish below the irrigation diversions above the City of Prineville.

• Another key concern we have is that we see no evidence that the best available science was used in crafting this bill.  It seems apparent that the expertise of fisheries biologists from the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW), the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USF&WS), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) – those most qualified to make critical flow decisions – was not sought during the planning process.  Furthermore, the bill basically eliminates their participation in future decisions about flows released to support the survival of fish. Instead it is projected that such critical decisions are to be made by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (CTWS) and the State of Oregon (which aside from ODFW, will include representatives from the Oregon Department of Water Resources, the Department of Parks & Recreation, and the Department of Environmental Quality). As only the ODFW employs fisheries biologists knowledgeable about the needs of fish, we are aware of no rationale that supports the inclusion of individuals from the other State agencies to be involved in fish flow decisions.  The ODWR, in fact, has a long history of supporting irrigation interests – not those of fisheries. Contrary to what is stated in the bill we believe that reservoir fish flow decisions need to be made by a Commission of equals including members from ODFW, CTWS, USF&WS, NMFS and BOR, with all representatives having expertise in fisheries biology and ecology.  Such a commission could make yearly flow decisions, including during periods of droughts.

• Another key concern we have is that there is no evidence that those who crafted the bill had the knowledge to assess and understand the flow models developed by the ODFW fisheries biologists or the Reservoir Management Model developed by BOR scientists. Both of these flow models were prepared by scientists who used the best available scientific data to model minimum flows needed to support fish in the Crooked River under a variety of scenarios.  Instead of using these models in making decisions reflected in the bill the writers relied on a Excel spread sheet scheme proposed by an ODWR retired Watermaster employed by the irrigators.  This simplified spread sheet proposal sets back science about 50 years.  In the present century plans and decisions should be made on the basis of the best available science.  For example, if the ODFW flow model for the Crooked River had been used people now learning about the contents of the bill from newspaper articles would have few or no concerns about seasonal flow levels for fish being inadequate or the reservoir being drained to support fish flows in the river. The ODFW flow model illustrates how flows from the reservoir can be managed to provide water for all needs when the reservoir contains various amounts of water.

• Up to the present time there has been no opportunity for impartial review of either your bill or the Walden bill by scientists with expertise in fisheries biology. We hope you will be agreeable to delaying movement of your bill in the Senate until after you are able to appoint a committee of independent scientists with expertise in fisheries biology to review and provide comments on it.  The other alternative is to introduce a minimal bill like that described on page 1 of this letter.  In any event we encourage a review process similar to that associated with the recent Sage Grouse Conservation Objectives team appointed by Ken Salazar of the Department of the Interior.  This is a standard process for identifying scientific solutions that was lacking in the preparation of your bill.  Nearly 100 million dollars have thus far been invested to re-establish anadromous fish in the Crooked River and certain tributaries, and no water for fish during periods of drought would be disastrous for this program.

Thank you for considering our remarks.


John R. Anderson, Emeritus Professor and Associate Dear for Research, College of Natural Resources, University of California, Berkeley, California
William D. Davies, Emeritus Professor, Dept. of Fisheries and Allied Aquatics, Auburn
University, Alabama
H. Tom Davis, Retired Hydrologist, Montgomery Watson Consulting Engineers
Phil Havens, Retired Biologist, Bonneville Power Administration
Clair Kunkel, Retired Fisheries Biologist and Manager, Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife
Bill Merrill, Retired Fishing Guide & Past President, SunRiver Anglers
Max Johnson, Retired Fisheries Biologist, Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources
William L. Robinson, Retired Regional Director, NOAA Natl. Marine Fisheries
William Seitz, Retired Director of the Alaska Integrated Science Center, and Deputy Regional Director of USGS in Alaska.
Gene Silovsky, Retired Fisheries/Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Forest Service
Marv Yoshinaka, Retired Fisheries Biologist, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

* (The above scientists have resided in Central Oregon for 10 to 20+ years and are particularly knowledgeable about the Crooked River). 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Condit Dam All the Way Out, White Salmon Flows Free Again

Condit Dam is now completely gone

The restoration of the White Salmon River started with a blast last fall when engineers blew a hole out of the base of Condit Dam, and will continue for the next several years, but recovery of the White Salmon reached an important, if mostly symbolic milestone last week. The last remnants of the dam were removed, meaning for the first time in more than 100 years the river is completely free of the dam which once obstructed salmon passage. Fish have been naturally migrating above the dam since last spring and good numbers of chinook and steelhead are thought to have migrated into the upper river this year, filling more than 30 miles of habitat that had been vacant for a century. While the rebuilding of salmon populations in the White Salmon will take a few generations, the dam removal project is expected to have major benefits for chinook and coho as well as winter and summer steelhead.

More from the Seattle Times:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Kinder Morgan Pipeline Expansion, Public Meetings in Vancouver

Kinder Morgan, a US based energy giant, is  proposing to twin their Transmountain pipeline doubling the amount of oil shipped from Edmonton with the Port of Vancouver and will be holding public town hall style meetings on the proposal over the next couple of weeks around Southern BC. Communities along the pipeline's route have voice serious concerns about the potential impacts and limited benefits of the expansion to local economies and ecosystems, prompting calls for the company to abandon the proposed twinning. Chief among the concerns are the possibility of a pipeline rupture or spill along the pipeline route, which parallels much of the Fraser River watershed, and a doubling of oil tanker traffic out of the port of Vancouver, increasing the likelihood that a catastrophic spill could occur in the Georgia Strait. While the company and the Canadian federal government have so far been dismissive of concerns over oil spills, the fact is spills have already occurred along the route, including one last year at the company's Sumas terminal, and local communities will bear the brunt of the impacts in the event of a spill. 

Town hall style meetings will be held in a number of venues throughout Vancouver and on Vancouver Island over the next couple weeks, here's the schedule:

7 Nov. - West Vancouver Kay Meek Centre, 1700 Mathers Ave., 4 – 7 pm
10 Nov. - Bowen Island, Bowen Island Community School 1041 Mt Gardner Rd., 2:30 – 4:30 pm
13 Nov. - East Vancouver Pacific National Exhibition (PNE), Hastings Room 2901 East Hastings Street, 5 – 8 pm
15 Nov. - Downtown Vancouver Harbour Centre, Segal Hall 515 West Hastings Street, 5 – 8 pm
17 Nov. - West Point Grey Aberthau Mansion, 4397 West 2nd Ave., 5 – 8 pm
03 Dec - Victoria - Location, Date & Time to be confirmed
03 Dec - Saanich - Location, Date & Time to be confirmed
03 Dec - Nanaimo - Location, Date & Time to be confirmed 

More information from the Georgia Strait Alliance:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Suit Challenges Suction Dredging in Oregon

A coalition of three environmental groups, Cascadia Wildlands, Rouge Riverkeepers and the Klamath-Siskyou Wildlands Center have filed suit against the Rogue River-Siskyou National forest for failing to protect ESA listed coho from the impacts of suction dredge mining.  In recent years, the rising price of gold has created an explosion of small scale suction dredge mining in southern Oregon and northern California, prompting major concerns over the impact of the industry, and it's legality given the consequences for  ESA listed coho salmon and other anadromous fish. The three groups, as well as other concerned organizations and citizens are argue that  the government must conduct reviews of proposed suction dredging operations to evaluate their impact on listed salmon, and in the meantime have asked them to suspend all ongoing operations. Ultimately though, the practice is fundamentally inconsistent with society's values. Having spent millions of dollars on recovery and restoration of wild salmon in the region it is ridiculous to allow a few individuals benefit from a practices that can result in severe harm to salmon populations.

More information from Cascadia Wildlands:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Burke Museum, Wild Steelhead Coalition partner to raise awareness of “The Magnificent Steelhead”

A press release from the Wild Steelhead Coalition, about their new Burke Museum exhibit and upcoming event  

SEATTLE – Anglers know it as the “fish of a thousand casts." Washingtonians know it as their state fish, symbolizing the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. And through November 15th, the steelhead will be celebrated in an exhibit at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum to raise awareness and support for this iconic, and threatened, fish.

Titled “The Magnificent Steelhead,” the display will culminate with a reception and art sale on November 8, with all proceeds benefiting the Wild Steelhead Coalition, an organization dedicated to increasing the return of wild steelhead to the rivers and streams of the Pacific Northwest.

Works in the Burke exhibit include photographs printed on canvas, as well as mixed media pieces from individuals in the angling community, including Andy Anderson, Jeff Bright, Keith Douglas, Brian Huskey, Brian O’Keefe, Jonathan Marquardt, Dave McCoy, Ken Moorish, Tim Pask, Steve Perih, Mike Savlen, and Bob White.

Visitors can also learn more about steelhead, as well as conservation efforts being taken by the Wild Steelhead Coalition to support the species through hatchery reform, scientific research and policy changes on behalf of wild fish.

The event runs from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. and includes hors d’oeuvres from the Steelhead Diner and beverages from Precept Wine.

Burke Museum Exhibit Reception & Sale: A Benefit for the Wild Steelhead Coalition
November 8, 2012 | 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. | Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture

On the UW Campus - 17th Ave NE & NE 45th St

Burke Museum Exhibit Info: