The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has issued for public review 17 updated lower Columbia River hatchery management plans aimed at assessing the affects those programs might have on wild salmon and steelhead that are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The state agency will accept public comments through Oct. 5 on the 17 draft “hatchery and genetic management plans.” The plans focus on 15 artificial production programs for steelhead and two for chinook salmon.
The plans describe the operation of those hatchery programs in the lower Columbia River and the potential effects on listed fish.
The draft plans are available for review on WDFW's website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/hatcheries/hgmp/ ) or at the department's office in Olympia.
Public comments, WDFW's response and any resulting modifications to the draft HGMPs will be posted on the department's website.
Finalized HGMPs will be forwarded to NOAA Fisheries, a federal agency responsible for implementing the ESA. The ESA’s 4(d) rule describes the development of such mechanism to address "take" of ESA-listed species that may occur as a result of artificial propagation activities. NOAA Fisheries Service uses the information provided by HGMPs to evaluate impacts on listed salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act.
HGMPs for hatchery programs across the Columbia-Snake river basin are being developed and/or refined in answer to directives, among other places, in NOAA Fisheries’ 2008 ESA biological opinion for the Federal Columbia River Power System. The BiOp judges whether the FCRPS dams jeopardize the survival of listed fish, and outlines strategies and actions aimed at boosting fish survival.
“We’re at all levels of completion,” NOAA Fisheries Robert Bayley said of HGMP development and refinement process across the basin.
WDFW has updated the draft HGMPs for the lower Columbia River to better reflect current efforts to protect and restore wild salmon and steelhead populations, said Heather Bartlett, hatchery division manager for WDFW.
Draft HGMPs available for public comment include the Deep River Net Pen Fall Chinook program, Kalama River spring chinook, Beaver Creek summer steelhead, Drano Lake summer steelhead; Drano Lake summer steelhead (Skamania Hatchery outplant), East Fork Lewis Rivewr Skamania Hatchery summer steelhead outplant; Kamama River Hatchery summer steelhead – Skamania Hatchery transfer to Fallert Creek Hatchery; North Toutle Hatchery summer steelhead; South Fork Toutle River Cowlitz Game and Anglers Acclimation Pond; Skamania Summer Steelhead on-station release and outplants; Beaver Creek winter (early) steelhead program; Coweeman winter (early) hatchery steelhead; East Fork Lewis River – Skamania Hatchery winter steelhead outplant; Grays River winter (early) steelhead program; Kalama River winter (early) steelhead program; Rock Creek winter steelhead (Skamania Hatchery outplant); Salmon Creek (Klineline Pond) winter steelhead), and Skamania Hatchery winter steelhead on-station release.
The hatchery programs evaluated in the 17 draft HGMPs send fish into tributaries downstream of Bonneville and into Bonneville pool. All are “segregated” programs aimed at aimed at fueling harvests, not aiding the conservation of wild fish. Management is aimed at preventing negative impacts on wild fish. The straying of hatchery fish on to spawning grounds, as an example, raises concerns about interbreeding and resulting reductions in the reproductive fitness of naturally produced stocks.
“Integrated” programs in Washington, which use local broodstock in attempts to boost wild fish recovery, will be judged in “subsequent HGMPs,” Bartlett said.
In the coming weeks, WDFW will be seeking public comment on updated and revised draft HGMPs for hatchery programs in Puget Sound. Those draft plans also will be posted on WDFW's website.
NOAA Fisheries is currently working to produce a final environmental impact statement on the effect of hatchery programs on protected salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River and Puget Sound.