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Wild Fish Runs, September 2002
News and updates from Washington Trout
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For more information on any of these topics, please check out our website at www.washingtontrout.org.
Wild Fish Runs is a bi-monthly publication for Washington Trout’s members and supporters to provide program updates and networking assistance. Washington Trout is a conservation-ecology organization dedicated to the preservation and recovery of Washington’s wild fish and the habitat they depend on. Since 1989, Washington Trout has sought to improve conditions for all of Washington’s wild fish through research, advocacy, and habitat-restoration. Washington Trout is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.
PO Box 402 * 15629 Main St NE * Duvall, WA 98019 * Phone 425-788-1167 * Fax 425-788-9634
WT has successfully acquired 23 acres of land along the Washougal River in southwest Washington and transferred it to the Columbia Land Trust for the Schoolhouse Creek Restoration Project. The acquisition would not have been possible without the invaluable assistance of WT Board-Secretary Hugh Lewis, who acted as WT’s attorney, representing our interests in the purchase and transfer transactions. Cherie Kearney and Ian Sinks of the Columbia Land Trust also provided critical support during the acquisition process.
We are moving forward on the design phase of this project to improve and increase salmon habitat in the wooded-wetlands upstream of Washougal River Road and reconnect the series of creeks that has been separated from the largest of those wetlands since the 1960s. In the weeks and months ahead, WT project staff will work with a private consultant to develop designs and apply for permits.
The Schoolhouse Creek Project offers an important opportunity to recover low-gradient rearing habitat and temperature refuges pools for salmon, features that are limited in the Washougal watershed because of its history of splash-damming, extensive wildfires, and bedrock geology.
Washington Trout is continuing biological and physical monitoring of Engineered Log Jams (ELJ) on the North Fork Stillaguamish River, critical habitat to many fish and wildlife species including ESA-listed summer chinook salmon and bull trout, coho, pink, chum, and chum salmon, sea-run cutthroat, steelhead, and resident rainbow and cutthroat trout. WT worked with a number of local, state, tribal, and federal agencies to design and install five ELJs in 1998, and three more log jams in 1999. The jams were constructed without using cabling to secure the wood, the first of this size in Snohomish County to rely solely upon the wood to hold the jam together.
The primary objective of this experimental project is to improve the quantity and quality of holding-pool habitat to increase chinook-spawning success, and to test ELJ technology and performance overall. Additional objectives include enhancing off-channel habitat, realigning the stream, increasing bank protection, and recruiting and maintaining wood in-channel. WT is currently in the second summer of a 5-year grant for monitoring the ELJs.
The results have been good. Of the 680-tagged logs used to construct the jams, only 4% have relocated from the jams. Over the monitoring period, the ELJs have recruited 117 logs, including tagged logs from other jams, and untagged logs from the river and its riparian zone. Holding-pool habitat has increased, the jams have remained secure, and snorkeling and underwater videography data have verified that juvenile and adult chinook are utilizing the wood cover and newly formed pools.
The City of Seattle and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have contracted WT to perform underwater videographic surveys in the Cedar River watershed. The goal of the City of Seattle study was to document fish density, distribution, and species composition in two Cedar River tributaries earmarked for pending fish-passage restoration projects. Cutthroat and rainbow trout were observed during this study, and because of the advantages of the video survey techniques, WT was able to document a unique spotting pattern on the cutthroat. The NMFS project in the Cedar River watershed is part of an ongoing project with NMFS to study how fish distribution and growth changes at tributary junctions.
WT has completed a separate underwater video survey of juvenile chinook in the Tolt River for the City of Seattle and was recently hired by the Stewardship Partners to use time-laps underwater video to document fish species composition on a Snoqualmie Oxbow, a habitat typically difficult to sample effectively. WT has also been using underwater video technology to assess the performance of Engineered Log Jams on the North Fork Stillaguamish and Elwha Rivers.
WT is exploring the concept of developing a classroom curriculum that would utilize a combination of video, field site visits, and classroom programs to provide students with a comprehensive, scientifically accurate, and ecologically sensitive method for studying wild fish and their habitat.
In Spring 2002, WT performed an intensive survey of freshwater mussel (Margaritifera falcata) bed size, density, physical channel characteristics, and population age structure at ten subsample locations on Bear Creek in the Lake Washington watershed. Live freshwater mussel densities were significantly greater in the upstream sample units than in the downstream units.
WT observed a scarcity of young mussels (<15 years old, or 55mm). Additional surveys yielding the same results, could indicate that the vast majority of the freshwater mussels observed are greater than 20 years old, and that the Bear Creek population may not be reproducing effectively. The study will provide a baseline characterization of the freshwater mussels in Bear Creek against which future surveys of bed size, density, and population age structure can be compared to document changes in the health of the Bear Creek mussel population.
Because freshwater mussels are fairly intolerant of changes in water quality, the relative health of freshwater mussel populations is a good indicator of the biological integrity of freshwater systems like Bear Creek. The density and age-structure trends suggested by this preliminary study could indicate a degradation of water quality in the lower Bear Creek Basin. WT is currently seeking matching funds to continue studying the freshwater mussels in the Bear Creek watershed and elsewhere in Washington.
Under Washington Trout’s Habitat Lost & Found program, our field crew has completed the identification and survey of a fish-passage barrier on Lake Joy Creek in the Snoqualmie River watershed that has been blocking salmon access to Lake Joy for decades. Efforts are now underway to have the barrier culvert removed. WT is working with the Lake Joy Community Club to organize community support and involvement in the project. We have applied for funding from the Trout and Salmon Foundation to work with an independent contractor to design and install an appropriate replacement for the culvert.
Washington Trout has continued to participate on the ISAG, a multi-entity taskforce made up of state and federal agencies, tribal representatives, and qualified stakeholders and NGOs, charged with developing and evaluating important forestry regulations and fish-habitat protection measures related to Washington State’s Forests and Fish Plan. The ISAG is currently developing a computer model that will attempt to predict the distribution of fish habitat statewide. Because of the enormous implications this model will have with regard to the identification of stream habitats that warrant protection from forest practices, Washington Trout has and will continue to participate in the ISAG.
Island County Stream-Typing Contract
Washington Trout recently won a competitive bid to perform watershed assessments on three of the largest salmon-bearing streams on Whidbey and Camano Islands. The project, which will occur between September 2002 and May 2004, will include comprehensive culvert inventories, assessments, and prioritizations; fish distribution and species composition surveys; instream and riparian habitat surveys; water quality sampling; and the identification and prioritization of potential restoration projects in the three watersheds. WT will also create a web-based GIS similar to that produced for the Vashon and Ludlow projects.
Washington Trout has won an agreement from the National Marine Fisheries Service that could ultimately help curb over-fishing, one of the three major factors in salmon declines. WT and the Fisheries Service have reached a settlement over a lawsuit challenging a plan for harvesting Puget Sound chinook salmon. Puget Sound chinook have been listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1999. Under the terms of the agreement, the Fisheries Service will put off final approval of the Puget Sound Joint Resource Management Plan, or RMP, until 2004 while the agency prepares an Environmental Impact Statement and a Biological Opinion on the salmon-harvest plan.
This will be the first time the Fisheries Service has ever voluntarily agreed to prepare a full EIS on a salmon-harvest plan. NMFS has agreed to study a specific list of alternatives to the RMP in the EIS, including no fishing at all, to compare the impacts of those alternatives against the potential impacts of the current salmon-harvest plan.
“This is a significant agreement,” said Ramon Vanden Brulle, Washington Trout Communications Director. “We expect that the EIS process will ultimately improve harvest management in Washington.”
On August 29, Washington Trout and the Native Fish Society filed a lawsuit against the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for violating the Endangered Species Act by harming and killing federally listed chinook salmon at 18 WDFW Puget Sound chinook hatcheries. The National Marine Fisheries Service, which enforces the ESA, has acknowledged that hatcheries have been a factor in wild-salmon declines, and that hatchery operations and facilities can harm and even kill listed salmon. In January 2001, NMFS enacted a 4(d) rule for Puget Sound chinook that makes it illegal to harm, harass, kill, or otherwise “take” the listed species.
Under the terms of the 4d rule, the state has had the opportunity to apply for exemption from ESA enforcement for any of its hatchery facilities. These applications, called Hatchery and Genetic Management Plans (HGMPs), would describe how WDFW would minimize or mitigate the harm hatcheries do to listed chinook, or attempt to describe how any benefits from the hatchery programs justify or outweigh any harm they cause. WDFW had still not submitted any HGMPs for its Puget Sound hatchery program by the time WT and NFS had filed our suit, even though the applications have been overdue since January 2001.
WDFW kills some wild Puget Sound chinook to collect their eggs and sperm during hatchery brood-stock collections, both unintentionally and intentionally. Hatchery chinook juveniles released into the wild compete with and in some cases actually prey on wild juveniles. Returning stray hatchery chinook often breed with wild chinook, passing on faulty genes, harming the wild population as a whole. At least ten of WDFW’s Puget Sound chinook hatcheries have artificial barriers at the facilities that block wild chinook from reaching important spawning and rearing habitats.
“WDFW is currently breaking the law,” said Kurt Beardslee, Washington Trout’s Executive Director. “If they can’t figure out a way to operate the hatcheries without violating the ESA, then the facilities should be shut down.”
On June 10, Washington Trout and Washington Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a lawsuit in Seattle’s Federal District Court to force the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to fix the Tokul Creek Fish Hatchery. The groups are accusing the state agency of violating the Endangered Species Act at Tokul Creek by allowing their hatchery facility to harm and kill, or “take,” ESA-listed Puget Sound chinook. The hatchery diversion-dam blocks protected chinook salmon from reaching their spawning grounds. Its water-intake traps and kills juvenile and adult salmon, and other site impacts associated with the facility destroy naturally incubating chinook eggs, and damage salmon habitats in Tokul Creek, a critical chinook-spawning tributary of the Snoqualmie River.
WDFW acknowledges the problems, and for several years has said it is exploring ways to permanently fix the barrier and water intake, including most recently seeking funding from the Army Corps of Engineers. Washington Trout and PEER filed the lawsuit because WDFW had offered no firm timetable for fixing the problems at the hatchery, and because the agency has so far refused to prioritize the protection of Threatened chinook over hatchery-produced game fish. Washington Trout and PEER are currently involved in settlement negotiations with WDFW over the issues of the suit.
In early 2000, Washington and Oregon Departments of Fish and Wildlife approved a Lower Columbia River “Tangle Net” Demonstration Fishery, targeted at Willamette River Hatchery Spring chinook. “Tangle Nets,” in conjunction with “Recovery Box” live-wells, are part of an experiment to develop “selective” fishery techniques which would provide commercial fisheries a way to “select” and release unharmed threatened wild spring chinook and other listed non-target fish. Tangle-nets are supposed to catch fish by the teeth instead of the gills, thus avoiding lethal injury, and the recovery boxes are aerated, water-filled tanks where legally un-retainable fish can be temporarily placed to “recover” before release. A controlled study conducted by WDFW and ODFW in 2001 concluded that a 3½- to 4½-inch multistrand net had the lowest total mortality, yet still allowed acceptably efficient catch-rates, while a 5½-inch or larger net began to function as a gill net, significantly increasing mortalities. Nevertheless, managers approved the use of 5½-inch nets for the 2002 fishery.
While WT supports attempts to implement fishing techniques that would be non-lethal for listed fish, the demonstration fishery has fallen well short of its intended mark. Monitoring and evaluation results from the 2002 fishery lack credibility, but the available data strongly suggests that the fishery was spectacularly unsuccessful. In order to capture 15,000 hatchery chinook, the fishery encountered and released another 15,000 listed wild chinook, and over 20,000 listed steelhead. The mortality estimates issued on the 35,000 released fish only covers immediate mortality and WT believes that figure has been significantly underestimated. Furthermore, WDFW and ODFW have refused to calculate and add in short- and long-term mortality estimates for either listed fish.
In April 2002, WT, joined by Oregon Trout, the Native Fish Society, and the National Audubon Society, sent comments to Compact Managers expressing our concern over the fishery and requesting information and clarification regarding data on the fishery and initial mortality estimates. After reviewing 14 documents sent by Compact Managers in response to our April inquiry, we presented written comments critical of the managers’ methods and findings at a July 25th public meeting in Vancouver, WA, recommending that the fishery not be re-approved for the 2003 season. We have submitted duplicates of those comments to management and policy-officials at ODFW, WDFW, both state fish and wildlife commissions, the Northwest Power Planning Council, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, and NMFS. Washington Trout will continue to monitor and if necessary challenge decision processes relative to this fishery.
Last year in Oregon, Federal Judge Michael Hogan ruled that NMFS had acted illegally in the way it had made a listing distinction between hatchery and wild fish for the Oregon Coast Coho ESU (Evolutionary Significant Unit). Hogan ordered NMFS to de-list Oregon Coast coho, meaning it would no longer qualify for any protection under the Endangered Species Act. The ESA authorizes NMFS to list as threatened or endangered groupings of organisms in three ways: the entire species, a sub-species, or a Distinct Population Segment (NMFS uses ESUs instead of DPSs). NMFS included many hatchery populations in determining many ESUs, but when it made its listing decisions, it listed some hatchery populations with the wild fish and excluded others. Hogan ruled that once NMFS included the hatchery populations in the Oregon Coast ESU, it had no authority to make any further distinctions in its listing decision, and had therefore had acted illegally.
The case is currently being appealed before the 9th Circuit, and Hogan’s ruling has been stayed while the case is pending. For the time being Oregon Coast coho still enjoy federal protection. Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, the Hogan Decision will likely reshape many salmon and steelhead listings in the Northwest. In response to the ruling NMFS is reevaluating all its status reviews and listing decisions, is reviewing petitions to de-list nearly every salmon and steelhead ESU, and is re-drafting its hatchery policies.
Washington Trout has been working with Oregon Trout, the Native Fish Society, the Western Conservation Office of Trout Unlimited, American Rivers and others to send petitions to NMFS to relist Oregon Coast Coho and the other 14 ESUs of salmon and steelhead made vulnerable by the Hogan Decision. With Oregon Trout and the Native Fish Society, WT sent NMFS a 60-Day Notice of Intent to Sue over failure to properly implement the ESA when they included hatchery fish in the relevant ESUs. We will also monitor, offer input, and if necessary challenge NMFS’ revised status reviews, listing decisions, and hatchery policies.
In January 2001, Washington Trout led a coalition of environmental organizations in submitting 60-Day notices of intent to sue Puget Sound Energy (PSE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) under the Endangered Species Act. The notices alleged that PSE’s hydroelectric operations on the Baker River violated the ESA by harming and killing federally listed bull trout and Chinook salmon, and that the FERC had not fulfilled its responsibilities to regulate PSE’s dams to comply with the ESA. In November 2000, PSE’s hydroelectric operations on the Baker River resulted in a severe drop in water levels on the Skagit River, likely dewatering chinook salmon redds and harming incubating eggs.
We simultaneously filed a petition with FERC, requesting that they initiate a Section-7 consultation with NMFS over the management of their ongoing hydro-license agreement with PSE for the Baker River Project. Under Section-7 of the ESA, a Federal Agency must consult with either NMFS or the US Fish and Wildlife Service if its actions are likely to impact a listed species.
While WT never sued FERC, we have been involved – with American Rivers and the Washington Environmental Council – in a series of administrative appeals since FERC denied our original petition. Through a quirk of Federal law, the process has led us to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. FERC claims that the mere holding of an ongoing license does not constitute an agency “action,” and therefore they have no Section-7 responsibility in this case. WT and its partners are arguing that managing an ongoing hydroelectric license in a listed ESU does trigger Section-7 requirements.
The consultation process would likely force improvements in the way the Baker Dam is operated, reducing its negative impacts on listed fish. A victory in this case will set an important precedent, with profound benefits for wild fish throughout the Northwest and across the country.
WT Resource Analyst Nick Gayeski and WT Consultant Sam Wright have been attending monthly meetings of the Cedar River Anadromous Fish Committee, representing Washington Trout’s resource-focused perspective and offering technical advice regarding implementation of the Cedar River Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). WT sits on the AFC under the terms of an agreement that settled WT’s 1999 challenge of the Cedar River HCP.
Recently the committee has been reviewing technical issues related to the construction of fish-passage facilities at Landsburg Dam on the Cedar River, and evaluating the scoping of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the construction and operation of a new sockeye hatchery on the lower Cedar River. WT is pushing for strong Adaptive Management provisions in the hatchery plan, to minimize its negative effects on listed chinook and other wild fish in the Cedar River and Lake Washington.
Channel migration zones (CMZs) are a regulatory creation of the Forest Practices Board (FPB) designed to reflect the scientific reality that rivers and streams move ("migrate") back and forth on their valley bottoms. Research by geomorphologists Dr. Tim Abbe, Dr. Dave Montgomery, and others shows that the presence of large woody debris (LWD) is a primary factor in these channel movements. LWD not only provides important riparian habitat structure, but also creates jams, causing stream channels to move vertically and laterally. There is a clear relationship between forest practices and these movements: clear cutting without buffers severely reduces LWD and tends to cause streams to downcut or “incise.” As stream buffers recover, LWD increases, jams reappear, stream channels aggrade, and streams migrate to “reoccupy" parts of the valley bottom that were abandoned. It was recognition of these processes that lead to the inclusion of CMZs in the 1999 Forests and Fish Report.
Washington Trout has taken a lead role to push for adequate implementation of the CMZ concept in the new forest practices rules. WT joined Washington Environmental Council in appealing a forest practices permit for Weyerhaeuser to log on the valley floor adjacent to the Greenwater River in Pierce County. After a five day hearing, the Forest Practices Appeals Board agreed with WT and WEC that the Department of Natural Resources and Weyerhaeuser had failed to consider the river's likely future aggradation and the impact of that vertical movement on channel migration. The Appeals Board sent the permit back to DNR and pointed out that the FPB’s Manual failed to give necessary guidance to DNR and landowners on vertical movement for purposes of CMZ delineation. WT and WEC recently petitioned the FPB to fix the Manual.
WT also appealed a similar Weyerhaeuser forest practices permit on the Clearwater River and has obtained an injunction preventing logging on the valley bottom near the river pending the hearing, scheduled for October. Hopefully, DNR's action in the Greenwater case and the FPB's Manual-rewriting process will make that hearing unnecessary.
Thursday, Sept. 19th – Sunday, Sept. 22nd – Washington Trout is having an educational exhibit at the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival. At our display, students and families will learn how the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery has been blocking salmon and steelhead from 21 miles of pristine habitat for over 60 years. Children will then get to participate in a Wild Salmon Homecoming Poster Contest where they will try to paint “How happy salmon will be when they can finally go home again.” Thursday/Friday is geared towards schools and school children, and Saturday/Sunday the festival is open to the public – so come out and join WT and other exhibitors there! To learn more about the overall event and to get directions, visit www.salmonfest.org.
Saturday, September 21st – is International Coastal Cleanup Day! World Earth Travelers (WET) is sponsoring a clean-up site at the Golden Gardens Park, 8498 Seaview Pl NW Seattle, WA, from 10-3 and a concert at the bathhouse following the event from 3-8:30. All volunteers should be onsite by 10 for orientation and job assignment. Volunteers will be combing the beach for debris; removing non-native plants such as: black locust, blackberry bushes, thistle, false bamboo, and sagebrush; and mulching around the "young" pines and setting them up for the winter. For more information, contact the WET Secretary Lindan Spromberg at email@example.com or (425) 772-0112.
Saturday, October 5th– Local Eagle Scout, Brian Robertson, is looking for volunteers to help him plant 2800 native plants in the Denny Creek wetland. Please contact him directly if you are interested in volunteering at firstname.lastname@example.org or (425) 788-6528.
Want to get more involved with Washington Trout? WT appreciates your support and can use your volunteer help in a number of ways including educational programs, mailing and office assistance, staffing booths at public events, the annual WT auction, and participating in membership campaigns and other special events. Check out the website for more information on the types of volunteer opportunities available and to fill out a form! We’ve also added a calendar to the website to list upcoming WT and other organizations’ events, meetings, classes, etc. that may be of interest to you! Please contact Leah Hausman if you have any events you would like mentioned in Wild Fish Runs or on the website!
Washington Trout has to say goodbye to Joanne Hedou and Frank Staller. Joanne was with us for nine months as WT’s Outreach Coordinator. She was our first Outreach Coordinator and her hard work to develop and further our public outreach and education campaigns was invaluable. Frank had been with WT as a Field Technician since 1996, and was also a forester and our primary naturalist. He is a specialist in all kinds of fieldwork, from water typing to habitat restoration to culvert assessments. Frank’s dedication to WT, his remarkable wealth of knowledge, and his camaraderie will be sorely missed. Frank has gone to work for WDFW in Olympia and Joanne is now at Bastyr University. Thank you both for all your work and commitment to Washington Trout and best of luck with your new jobs.
Two people have recently come on staff with Washington Trout – Leah Hausman and Micah Wait. Leah was hired in July to fill Joanne Hedou’s position as Outreach Coordinator. She will work to increase WT’s public visibility, conduct community outreach and education programs, raise membership, and staff the Washington Trout store most days. Leah is coming from New Jersey where she organized events, volunteer and membership drives, community and classroom education programs, and did community outreach and networking for NJ Community Water Watch. You can reach Leah at email@example.com or by calling (425) 788-1167.
Micah returned to Washington Trout in August to fill the newly created position of Ecologist. Micah was an intern last summer and has recently completed his Masters Degree in Environmental Management from Duke University in North Carolina. Micah contributed vital office and field assistance to several WT advocacy and research projects last summer, including Habitat Lost and Found, the Wild Salmon Recovery Initiative, and the Bear Creek Mussel project. He will conduct ecological research that will inform WT advocacy on both land-use and fisheries issues. You can reach Micah at (425) 788-1167 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last year, Mike Omlin of Carnation won a beautiful 14-foot mahogany and ash lap-strake canoe hand built by Fritz Gerd and donated to WT by he and the Clark/Skamania Flyfishers. Washington Trout is currently looking for an equally fantastic prize for this year’s Annual Benefit Raffle. While canoes have been a popular raffle prize in previous years, we are open to new ideas. If you have any suggestions or would like to donate an item, please contact Leah Hausman or call (425) 788-1167. We hope to be ready to start this year’s raffle soon and will keep you posted as events unfold!