New Judge To Hear Arguments On Columbia River Dams And Salmon

The first powerhouse of the Bonneville Dam, 40 miles east of Portland, on the Columbia River.WikiCommons

The first powerhouse of the Bonneville Dam, 40 miles east of Portland, on the Columbia River.
WikiCommons

 

by Cassandra Profita, OPB/EarthFix

 

The longstanding legal battle over maintaining dams and salmon in the Columbia River is back in court this week. On Tuesday, a new judge will hear arguments on the Obama administration’s latest salmon plan.

Conservation groups along with the state of Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe have challenged the 2014 biological opinion, or BiOp, that guides dam operations. They’ll argue their case before Oregon U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon, who took over the case when Judge James Redden retired.

The question behind the case:  how to offset the impacts of Columbia River dams on threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead. That question has been subject to more than 20 years of legal conflict. Tuesday’s hearing is a continuation of a lawsuit that was filed in 2001.

Federal agencies that run the Columbia River hydropower system have submitted several salmon protection plans under the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, but they’ve all been challenged and ultimately rejected in court. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Bonneville Power Administration will defend their 2014 plan on Tuesday.

Supporters of the plan say strong salmon returns in recent years prove the latest plan is working. But opponents say it doesn’t do much more to protect salmon than previous plans already struck down by the courts.

Before retiring, Redden rejected the Obama administration’s 2011 salmon plan. After announcing he would step down from presiding over the case, he said in an interview that the four dams on the lower Snake River should be removed as a way to help struggling salmon runs. He also supported spilling more water over dams and increasing water flows to help young salmon and steelhead migrate to the ocean.

Joseph Bogaard, executive director of the plaintiff group Save Our Wild Salmon, said the administration’s new plan doesn’t consider Redden’s recommendations, and it actually allows the government to reduce the amount of water spilled over dams to help fish.

“So, they’re moving in the wrong direction,” he said. “In many ways this plan is simply just a recycled version of the plan that was invalidated by the court in 2011. Though, this plan actually allows for a reduction in spill. So, in that regard the new pan is actually weaker than the plan it seeks to replace.”

Terry Flores of Northwest RiverPartners represents commerce and industry groups that defend dams on the Columbia and lower Snake rivers. She said the current salmon plan does a lot to help salmon, including investing around $100 million a year in habitat restoration.  High rates of salmon survival show that the plan is working, she said, including the amount of water being spilled over dams to help fish.

“We’re seeing incredible results,” she said. “The federal agencies did look at the spill program and reached the conclusion that it’s working very well. It wasn’t like they didn’t look at it. They looked at it and said it is absolutely working.”

Flores said only Congress can address the removal of the lower Snake River dams.

Tracking Columbia River Salmon With Tiny Tags

By Courtney Flatt, NPR

 

Tracking salmon as they move past Columbia River dams just got a little easier. Scientists are using a new tag so small that researchers can inject it with a syringe into the fishes’ bellies.
Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Army Corps of Engineers have been working with tags since 2001. This newest version is the smallest yet, about the size of two grains of rice. The older tags are three times heavier.

The tags track how salmon travel through dams. Researchers hopes that the information they collect can help make dams more fish friendly.

“It really opens the door for letting us understand what these fish are doing and when so that we can make good, sound decisions,” said Brad Eppard, a fishery biologist with the Corps.

Daniel Deng, a scientist a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said the new batteries for the tags really helped decrease the overall size.

Each battery  is assembled by hand under a microscope. The batteries can now last from the Lower Granite to Bonneville dams — a 300-mile journey that typically takes a salmon two to three weeks to complete.

Before, researchers had to send out several groups of tagged fish to get that much information.

The tags emit high-frequency beeps every three seconds. At 417 kilohertz, the beeps are at such a high frequency that they can’t be heard by humans, marine mammals, or fish. The frequency travels through the water to multiple receivers that allow researchers to see in 3-D the salmon’s location in the river.

Researchers can see how many fish go over dams’ spillways, pass through turbines, and bypass routes.

“This way we can have a better understanding of each passage route, so we can optimize dam operations to guide the fish through different routes,” Deng said.

These new tags are called active tags, which can provide more data than passive tags, also known as pit tags. Deng said the active tags can cover more area at dam sites. He said they help show where fish are injured at dams and how those injuries occur.

In 2013, researchers tested the 700 tags out on juvenile salmon migrating down the Snake River. Dang said initial tests have showed more fish survive with the injectable tags than with the older tags that required a two-minute surgery on the fish.

The Army Corps of Engineers said it would like to start using the tags next year. Researchers are working to design smaller tags that can be used in juvenile lamprey.

Going For Launch With The Salmon Cannon

Washington Deparment of Fish and Wildlife crews load 30-pound fall chinook salmon into the salmon cannon. The cannon sucks the fish up to a truck at 22 miles per hour. The fish will then be driven to a nearby hatchery. | credit: Courtney Flatt

Washington Deparment of Fish and Wildlife crews load 30-pound fall chinook salmon into the salmon cannon. The cannon sucks the fish up to a truck at 22 miles per hour. The fish will then be driven to a nearby hatchery. | credit: Courtney Flatt

 

By: Aaron Kunz, Northwest Public Radio

 

WASHOUGAL, Wash. — Salmon may soon have a faster way to make it around dams. There’s a new technology that’s helping to transport hatchery fish in Washington. It’s called the salmon cannon — yes, you read that right.

First, let’s set the record straight: there’s not really an explosion. But the salmon cannon does propel fish from one spot to another.

That was demonstrated Tuesday, when the salmon cannon transported fish from southwest Washington’s Washougal River to a nearby hatchery. The goal is to make the move easier on the fish, in three steps.

Watch the video: The Salmon Cannon In Action

 

 

First, the cannon: A long, flexible tube stretches out of the river. At one end, crew members wade into the river. They heave up a 30-pound fall chinook salmon and lift it into the tube.

The fish is sucked up the 110-foot tube at about 22 miles per hour. And then it plops out into a truck filled with water and swims around.

“It’s almost magical the way the fish will move through the system. It’s like a slip and slide, going uphill,” said Vince Bryan, the CEO of Seattle-based Whooshh Innovations, the company that’s engineering the salmon cannon.

After the truck is filled with about 100 fish, they’ll be driven to a nearby hatchery. These fall chinook salmon will be used to help breed next year’s hatchery runs for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Eric Kinne, the department’s hatchery reform coordinator for southwest Washington, said the fish are less stressed with the salmon cannon. Before this, salmon were transported with a forklift and tote container.

“We would have to fill it with water and put the fish in. Then we’d have to turn it around and haul it up to the landing area and then dump them into a truck. It was very hard on fish,” Kinne said.

The salmon cannon technology was first used as a way to transport fruit. Bryan said the hope is that it will one day transport fish up and over large dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

“We’ve actually had even early discussions with getting fish over dams like the Grand Coulee. We’re starting out much smaller than that, obviously,” Bryan said.

It’s also a way to keep hatchery fish out of the natural spawning grounds of wild fish, Kinne said.

The unit demonstrated Tuesday cost about $150,000, he said.

So does the salmon cannon hurt the salmon? Kinne said the state Department of Fish and Wildlife tested out the salmon cannon with steelhead before putting it into action. They compared fish transported with the cannon to fish transported by hand.

“We held them for six weeks to see if there was any difference in mortality, or difference in condition of fish, and no. Everything was really good,” Kinne said.

Every once in awhile, a small salmon will get stuck in the tube, which is designed to operate with fish 15 to 30 pounds. Crews can then send either a water-soaked sponge or a larger salmon to help move it up the tube.

Yakama Nation tribal fisheries are also testing out a salmon cannon in central Washington.

Story and audio by Courtney Flatt. Video by Aaron Kunz and Courtney Flatt.

Relocation turns pests into assets: Beavers help salmon and ease the impacts of climate change

The beaver are paired up in traps before being transported to their new home. Photo/Niki Cleary

The beaver are paired up in traps before being transported to their new home.
Photo/Niki Cleary

 

By Niki Cleary, Tulalip News

 

Beaver are known for their industrious landscaping. They regularly use their skills to rearrange the world around them, much like humans, to build safe places to live and grow the plants they feed upon. Unfortunately, for businesses and homeowners, the beaver’s best-known talent is also one of its least charming attributes.

The solution? Move nuisance beaver from urban areas to Forest Service land in the mountains where their construction skills will both build salmon habitat, and mitigate the effects of climate change. A win-win that Tulalip Wildlife Biologist Jason Schilling is excited to share.

“Beavers are marvels of engineering, we’re hoping to tap into their ability to store water,” he explained. “This was a big vision of Terry Williams [Tulalip Natural Resources], he saw it as a way to restore degraded landscape.”

“Benjamin Dittbrenner [of the University of Washingon], is studying how beaver change water quality,” Schilling continued. “ Particularly he’s looking at stream flow before and after beaver relocation and water temperature, those are two very important things for salmon.”

Dittbrenner is a former Snohomish County employee. While at the County he worked with landowners to ensure that property was protected from beaver activity.

“Beavers have a lot of really great ecological benefits,” he explained. “They take water and slow it down so that it can infiltrate into subsurface soils, increase groundwater and recharge aquifers. This creates backwater habitat for specialist species, and there have been studies to show that beavers and Coho are closely linked, Coho use beaver habitat as juveniles. We suspect that part of the reason Coho numbers are dropping is lack of beaver habitat.”

Dittbrenner continued, “The climate shifts that are predicted in the mountains mean that we’re going to have a lot less snow. That snow directly provides water to streams in spring and early summer. If there’s less water that means there is warmer water, and warmer water means less dissolved oxygen and less successful spawning. We’ve been looking at solutions to cope with less and warmer water.”

The project will work, said Dittbrenner.

“We’re modeling the project after other projects, east of the Cascades, where it’s legal to relocate beavers. Ranchers who once were against beavers are seeing that when the beavers come in, the groundwater levels increase and their pastures stay greener much longer. We’re hoping to see the same great benefits that they’re seeing.”

In a nutshell, the beaver’s dam building creates ponds which helps increase the water table. Beavers slow down water during fast flow times and increase water during the dry season. All of which adds up to more, and better quality water, as well as rearing habitat for salmon. Lastly, as climate change causes the snowpack to decrease, beaver ponds are an effective and natural way to store water for the dry season.

Since it’s such a great solution, why isn’t everyone doing it? Because in Western Washington it’s illegal to transport beaver alive from where they are trapped. It’s still perfectly legal to kill them. Tribes, however, are not subject to state law.

“It really has to do with our management of wildlife, as part of our broader treaty rights in off-reservation resource management,” explained Tulalip Attorney Tim Brewer. “We have the right to manage these resources and we’re working with the feds on federal land and therefore state law is pre-empted.”

Tulalip biologists have 24 beaver friendly sites picked out, but only eight of the sites will be populated initially. The unused sites will be used to as a comparison to demonstrate how effective the project has been.

“We may use them as release sites next year,” said Schilling, “but that will give us some good baseline data for beavers we released.”

For more information about the project contact Jason Schilling via email jschilling@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov.

 

Molly Alves points out the recently nibbled branches, explaining that they will be placed on site with the beaver. The beaver are more likely to stay because they recognize their scent on the old branches.

Molly Alves, Assistant Wildlife Biologist at Tulalip, points out the recently nibbled branches, explaining that they will be placed on site with the beaver. The beaver are more likely to stay because they recognize their scent on the old branches.

 

Beavers await relocation at the Tulalip Hatchery

 

Assistant Wildlife Biologist Molly Alves helps take care of beaver while they await relocation. She feeds them, dropping bunches of vine maple and vegetation, into the chum raceways where they are living. The beaver are also offered commercial rat food, but don’t seem to care for it. They sleep in man-made lodges built out of cinder blocks.

“We have to rebuild their lodges every night,” she said. “We weren’t anticipating catching six, and they don’t fit very well in a single lodge. The lodges are built out of plywood and cinder blocks, we have to line the plywood with steel mesh or they will chew through it.”

Alves explained that beaver are highly social and prefer to sleep together. That is one of the reasons they’ll be relocated as a group. Other strategies to ensure the animals don’t leave include scent marking the locations.

“We take these,” she held up the vine maple from the previous day, it’s bark stripped and the wood notched with teeth marks, “we call them chew sticks, and we’ll put them at the release site. They’re more likely to stay there if their scent is already there.”

The family is made up of two adults, three sub-adults and one kit.

“We’ve been setting up camera traps as well, so we know there are two more at the site where we caught this family,” said Alves.

“There’s another kit and a sub-adult. We’ll go back and catch those two and release them [as a pair],” she continued. “We know the sub-adults stick around for a couple of years to take care of the kits, so we know the kit will be fine. They’ll be released as their own family and they’ll probably go to a different spot because by the time we get them, these ones will be established.”

While the cameras are useful, Alves said the biologists knew there were more beaver because the animals can’t stand a leaky dam.

“There were three dams where we caught these guys. We notched the dams, that means we pulled out sticks and mud so there was a trickle of water,” she described, “it drives them crazy. When we went back some of the dams were rebuilt.”

Beaver are nocturnal herbivores, although they don’t hibernate, their planning and construction ensure that they survive winters just fine.

“They eat leaves in the summer and bark year round,” Alves said. “They stay in their lodges all winter and they create caches of food under their lodges. Other animals like muskrats and mice will stay in their lodges too.”

Hatchery visitors can learn about the beaver through series of interpretive signs that describe the relocation project and it’s benefits.

 

Photo Niki Cleary

Photo Niki Cleary

 

Pollution From Columbia River Dams Must Be Disclosed

By: Associated Press; Source: OPB

 

The Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. A legal settlement requires the Army Corps of Engineers to disclose the pollution that its dams put into the river. | credit: Amelia Templeton

The Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. A legal settlement requires the Army Corps of Engineers to disclose the pollution that its dams put into the river. | credit: Amelia Templeton

 

For the first time in its history, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have to disclose the amount of pollutants its dams are sending into waterways in a groundbreaking legal settlement that could have broad implications for the Corps’ hundreds of dams nationwide.

The Corps announced in a settlement on Monday that it will immediately notify the conservation group that filed the lawsuit of any oil spills among its eight dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers in Oregon and Washington.

The Corps will also apply to the Environmental Protection Agency for pollution permits, something the Corps has never done for the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

The settlement filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon, ends the year-old consolidated lawsuit by the conservation group Columbia Riverkeeper, which said the Corps violated the Clean Water Act by unmonitored, unpermitted oil discharges from the eight hydroelectric dams.

The settlement reflects the recent tack of the EPA regulating the environmental impacts of energy. The agency has recently come up with regulations of mountaintop removal for coal and fracking for oil and gas.

As part of the settlement, the Corps admits no wrongdoing, but will pay $143,000 and the consolidated cases were dismissed.

When contacted by The Associated Press, the Corps’ Northwest and national offices requested questions via email Monday and did not immediately comment on the settlement.

The settlement will allow oversight of the dams by the EPA. The agency had the authority to regulate the dams’ pollution before the settlement, but it could not compel the corps to file for a pollution permit. The Corps will also be forced to switch to a biodegradable lubricant for its dam machinery if an internal study finds that it’s financially feasible.

The Corps isn’t just a polluter, however. It’s also a regulator of pollution under the Clean Water Act. The act grants the Corps the authority to issue permits for the discharge of materials excavated from or put into U.S. waterways.

“Under the letter of the law, they have been engaged in unpermitted discharge for years,” said Melissa Powers, an environmental law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. “They should have long ago said, ‘This is how much we’re discharging. Here are the environmental impacts.’ “

Monday’s settlement will force the Corps’ hand. To discharge pollutants into waterways, the polluters must obtain permission from state and federal governments. Before the settlement, the EPA knew about the unpermitted discharges from the dams, but the Corps said in letters to state agencies that it is not accountable to the EPA.

The Corps argued in the same letters that disclosing the mechanical workings of the dam as part of an oil-discharge summary could compromise the dams’ security.

In July 2013, Columbia Riverkeeper sued and demanded to know what the Corps was sending into the water and how much of it was going in.

“When you’re not regulated under a permit, you don’t have to say what the impact (of pollution) on water was,” Powers said.

Nationally, the settlement could force all unpermitted dams to obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits from the EPA.

Daniel Estrin, an environmental law professor at Pace Law School in White Plains, New York, said the settlement will make it impossible for the Corps to say that all of its pollutant-discharging dams don’t require discharge permits.

“The Corps’ acknowledgement of the need for permits in this settlement will make it difficult for other owners to successfully deny that permits are required in the face of citizen suits like the one brought (here),” Estrin said.

The eight dams affected by the settlement are the Bonneville, the John Day, The Dalles and McNary in Oregon and the Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite in Washington state.

Environmentalists will be closely watching the type of permit issued by the EPA, Powers said. A “site-specific” permit would likely include limits that the Corps would have to meet on the amount of oil discharged.

If the EPA instead issues a general permit, environmentalists would be less sanguine about its prospects, Powers said. General permits are less effective in compelling change because they are issued without specific metrics that must be met, she said.

In 2009, the EPA found a host of toxins in fish on the Columbia River, including polychlorinated biphenyl, a potentially carcinogenic synthetic that was banned for production in the U.S. in 1979.

The eight dams use turbines that have shafts and hubs filled with oil or other lubricants. The oil leaks to the surface, along with oil from drainage sumps, transformers and wickets that control water flow.

Federal Salmon Plan Heads Back To The Courtroom

 

By Courtney Flatt, Northwest Public Radion

It’s back to court for the federal government and salmon advocates. Conservationists Tuesday once again challenged the government’s plan to manage dams on the Columbia River to protect endangered salmon and steelhead.

In January, officials released a finalized plan, known as a biological opinion or BiOp, that guides dam operations. It’s been subject to more than 20 years of legal conflict between people who want to protect salmon and people who want to produce hydroelectricity and maintain shipping channels.

“Welcome to Groundhog Day,” said Todd True, lead attorney for the challengers and Earthjustice.

True said the latest plan is far too similar to previous plans already struck down by the courts.

“We will not let the government slow-walk our wild salmon into extinction and trample our environmental laws, just because they don’t want to change the way they run the Columbia River hydro system,” True said.

Fish advocates said the most recent plan also lessens the amount of water spilled over dams to help juvenile salmon migrate out to sea.

The groups are asking the court to require an environmental impact statement, which would require public comments for a new biological opinion.

“The best way to pursue a real solution for salmon would be to have a collaborative process,” said Sara Patton, executive director for NW Energy Coalition, a clean energy advocacy group.

In 2011, U.S. District Judge James A. Redden rejected the plan and asked the Obama administration to consider more ways to recover the endangered fish.

Redden’s suggestions included spilling more water over the dams to help juvenile salmon safely make it downriver to the ocean, changing reservoirs to help fish passage, and removing the lower Snake River dams altogether.

The case has been transferred to Judge Michael H. Simon. This most recent challenge is a continuation of a lawsuit filed in 2001.

Supporters of the 2014 plan called it the most comprehensive restoration plan in the country. Terry Flores’ group Northwest RiverPartners represents commerce and industry groups that defend dams on the Columbia and lower Snake rivers. For her part, Flores said the challenge is more of the same from conservation groups.

She said recent high salmon returns show that the current plan is working.

“Litigation doesn’t do anything for fish on the ground. It just drags time and energy away from those kinds of efforts that actually benefit fish and puts us all back into the courtroom,” Flores said.

Tribes talk salmon, dams as Columbia River Treaty renewal looms

 The Spokesman-Review

March 19, 2014

Northwest tribes and their Canadian counterparts are meeting in Spokane this week to discuss engineering solutions for getting salmon over Grand Coulee Dam.

Returning chinook, sockeye and steelhead to the upper Columbia River is a long-standing dream for indigenous people on both sides of the border. When the 550-foot-tall dam began operation in 1942 without fish ladders, it cut off access to hundreds of miles of upstream habitat, delivering the final blow to a fishery already weakened by overharvest on the lower river.

“We all know that our biggest challenge is Grand Coulee, because it’s such a big dam,” said Paul Lumley, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission in Portland.

But it’s a worthy challenge, Lumley told 120 people gathered for the three-day technical workshop at Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights, which kicked off Tuesday.

“I certainly hope to see (the salmon return) in my lifetime,” he said. “It’s not just about tribal culture, it’s for all citizens of the Columbia Basin. We all care about the fish.”

Renegotiation of the 1964 Columbia River Treaty between the U.S. and Canada created the opening for discussing fish passage over Grand Coulee. Federal agencies, Northwest states and 16 Indian tribes favor amending the treaty to address ecosystem functions, such as salmon and climate change.

The treaty, which governs flood control and hydropower generation on the Columbia, is up for possible renegotiation beginning this fall.

The tribes and Canada’s First Nations are pushing for fish passage at Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams on the Columbia, and at three Canadian dams: Hugh Keenleyside, Brilliant and Waneta.

They favor pilot-scale reintroductions of fish and said identifying funding for the work should be discussed by the U.S. and Canada during treaty negotiations.

Innovative engineering for getting salmon over high dams is already occurring in smaller watersheds in the basin, said D.R. Michel, executive director for the Upper Columbia United Tribes. Tuesday’s session featured discussions of trapping and transporting fish around dams, as well as methods for getting them safely through dams. Speakers also discussed where good salmon habitat remains upstream of Grand Coulee.

With the climate projected to warm, returning salmon to historical spawning grounds in British Columbia becomes critical, said Bill Green, director of the Canadian Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fisheries Commission.

Under climate change modeling, precipitation becomes more uncertain and stream temperatures are expected to warm, Green said. But British Columbia will continue to have glacier-fed streams that will provide cold water for spawning, he said.

The Upper Columbia River was once home to prolific salmon and steelhead runs, with some fish traveling 1,300 miles to spawn in the river’s headwaters. The annual harvest from the Upper Columbia once numbered between 980,000 and 1.6 million fish, said Sheri Sears, a policy analyst for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. Salmon was a daily part of tribal members’ diets and integral to culture and religion.

“Without an opportunity to catch salmon, tradition skills and knowledge associated with the harvest, preparation, and use of the fish … is being lost,” the tribes and First Nations wrote in a recent policy paper.

The potential for restoring salmon over Grand Coulee also raises the possibility of salmon returning to the Spokane River, said Matt Wynne, a Spokane tribal council member.

The Spokanes once trapped salmon at Little Falls by building rock barriers partway across the river and spearing fish caught in weirs. They also fished at the Spokane River’s confluence with the Little Spokane and Latah Creek. However, three dams owned by Avista Utilities blocked fish passage on the lower Spokane River even before Grand Coulee was built.

The tribe is starting to analyze what it would take to restore salmon to the Spokane River system, Wynne said. The Little Spokane River in particular still has good habitat, he said.

Pink Salmon Broodstock Spawned to Protect Elwha Run

Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe hatchery technician Keith Lauderback sorts through pink salmon eggs at the tribe’s hatchery.

Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe hatchery technician Keith Lauderback sorts through pink salmon eggs at the tribe’s hatchery.

Source: Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Pink salmon are the most abundant salmon species in the Northwest, but the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe didn’t want to risk losing the Elwha River pink population with the current removal of the river’s two fish-blocking dams.

The deconstruction of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams are part of the massive project to restore the Elwha River after nearly 100 years of blocked flows and degraded salmon habitat. One result of the project is that high levels of sediment once trapped trapped behind the dams are now flowing downriver.

“We weren’t sure how the pinks were going to be affected by the dam deconstruction activity, so we wanted to take precautions to protect them,” said Larry Ward, the tribe’s hatchery manager. “The historical population of pinks in the Elwha River was 400,000 to 600,000. The current run is 200, making it a chronically depressed stock of fish.”

While pinks have a lower commercial value, they play an important role in a properly functioning ecosystem by providing food for other animals and contributing nutrients to the watershed.

“The habitat in the lower river for pinks wasn’t great when the dams were in place, but they were using it,” Ward said.

Pinks returning to the Elwha River in 2011 were collected and spawned. The fertilized eggs were incubated at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) Hurd Creek Hatchery, then sent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Manchester Research Station, where they were reared to adults. The fish, 300 males and 132 females, were then brought back to Elwha in August for spawning.

A portion of the fertilized eggs from this fall’s spawning will go back into the pink salmon broodstock program, while the rest will be reared to smolts and released from the Elwha Hatchery into the river in spring 2014. The broodstock program is expected to continue through the 2015 pink salmon cycle.

The tribe’s partners in this program are NOAA, WDFW, Olympic National Park, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and citizen volunteers.

Pink Salmon Broodstock Spawned to Protect Elwha Run

Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe hatchery technician Keith Lauderback sorts through pink salmon eggs at the tribe’s hatchery.

Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe hatchery technician Keith Lauderback sorts through pink salmon eggs at the tribe’s hatchery.

Source: Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Pink salmon are the most abundant salmon species in the Northwest, but the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe didn’t want to risk losing the Elwha River pink population with the current removal of the river’s two fish-blocking dams.

The deconstruction of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams are part of the massive project to restore the Elwha River after nearly 100 years of blocked flows and degraded salmon habitat. One result of the project is that high levels of sediment once trapped trapped behind the dams are now flowing downriver.

“We weren’t sure how the pinks were going to be affected by the dam deconstruction activity, so we wanted to take precautions to protect them,” said Larry Ward, the tribe’s hatchery manager. “The historical population of pinks in the Elwha River was 400,000 to 600,000. The current run is 200, making it a chronically depressed stock of fish.”

While pinks have a lower commercial value, they play an important role in a properly functioning ecosystem by providing food for other animals and contributing nutrients to the watershed.

“The habitat in the lower river for pinks wasn’t great when the dams were in place, but they were using it,” Ward said.

Pinks returning to the Elwha River in 2011 were collected and spawned. The fertilized eggs were incubated at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) Hurd Creek Hatchery, then sent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Manchester Research Station, where they were reared to adults. The fish, 300 males and 132 females, were then brought back to Elwha in August for spawning.

A portion of the fertilized eggs from this fall’s spawning will go back into the pink salmon broodstock program, while the rest will be reared to smolts and released from the Elwha Hatchery into the river in spring 2014. The broodstock program is expected to continue through the 2015 pink salmon cycle.

The tribe’s partners in this program are NOAA, WDFW, Olympic National Park, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and citizen volunteers.