help cure what they say is certain harm to wild salmon and steelhead, fish
conservation groups last week asked a federal court to order the state of Oregon
to end releases of juvenile fish into the Sandy River, at least for now, and
enjoin NOAA Fisheries from dispersing federal funds that help hatchery
operations in the northwest Oregon river basin.
their Feb. 14 “Motion for Remedy and Injunctive Relief” and accompanying legal
memorandum the Native Fish Society and McKenzie Flyfishers ask Oregon U.S.
District Court Judge Ancer Haggerty to declare illegal NOAA Fisheries’
approvals of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife plans for Sandy Hatchery
"NFS respectfully moves
for an order vacating and setting aside NMFS’s approval of the four HGMPs
(“2012 HGMPs”) for the Sandy Hatchery and ordering NMFS to prepare an EIS
before approving the four new HGMPs (“2013 HGMPs”) for the Sandy Hatchery. The “Hatchery and Genetic
Management Plans” are for four species – spring chinook and coho salmon and
summer and winter steelhead -- produced at Sandy hatchery, " the motion says.
The “Environmental Assessment, Finding of No Significant Impact, and Biological
Opinion (“BiOP”) relied on for that decision, because they are arbitrary and
capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with law,” should
also be vacated the motion says.
EA and FONSI are National Environmental Policy Act assessments of planned
actions; BiOPs judge whether actions jeopardize the survival of species listed
under the ESA. The BiOp issued by NOAA Fisheries declared no jeopardy.
plaintiffs’ motion asks that the court order the federal agency produce a NEPA
“environmental impact statement” regarding future hatchery operations. The EIS
process is more rigorous than the EA process.
NFS wants the court to enjoin the ODFW from releasing any hatchery-produced juvenile
fish into the Sandy until an EIS and a new BiOp is produced, but require state
defendants to continue to operate weirs to sort hatchery origin spring chinook
from the naturally-spawning population and to conduct all monitoring required
under the existing HGMPs. The plaintiffs say that stray hatchery spawners
reduce the genetic fitness of the wild fish.
allege that illegal “take” of listed wild fish results for a number of reasons,
including competition from hatchery fish, introduction of disease, genetic
introgression, and the use of native spawners to supplement the hatchery's
previous request to have stopped hatchery salmon and steelhead releases into
northwest Oregon’s Sandy River basin was denied March 21, 2013 by Haggerty.
his ruling then did endorse an Oregon offer to reduce the number of spring
chinook smolts to be loosed that spring from the new primary acclimation site –
the tributary Bull Run River. At the time the NEPA-ESA approval process for
hatchery operations had not been completed.
those processes were completed, a complaint in the lawsuit was filed in August
by the Native Fish Society and McKenzie Flyfishers that claim approvals for the
ODFW-run Sandy Hatchery violate the ESA, as well as NEPA and the Administrative
Haggerty in a Jan. 16 opinion and order ruled in large part for the plaintiffs
and asked the parties involved to confer on potential “remedies” and/or a
suggest schedule for debating the issues.
CBB, Jan. 17, 2014, “Judge Rules NOAA Fisheries Violated ESA, NEPA In Approving
Oregon’s Sandy River Hatchery Management” http://www.cbbulletin.com/429521.aspx)
discussions took place, but failed, according to a “status report” filed by the
plaintiffs and the defendants, ODFW and NOAA Fisheries.
plaintiffs asked that the court set a briefing schedule that would allow a
resolution before a scheduled “first round of hatchery smolt releases” this
year. That happening occurred March 23 last year.
court then established a briefing schedule aimed at reaching “resolution of the
remedies disputes” – what the level of hatchery output might be and how the
straying of any hatchery fish to natural spawning areas might be controlled.
plaintiffs' opening brief on remedy and injunctive relief was delivered Feb.
14. State and federal defendants' response briefs are due Feb. 26. Plaintiffs'
reply is due March 7.
court will determine at a later date whether oral argument will be scheduled
and will issue an order regarding remedies by March 14,” Haggerty said.
Sandy River flows from its headwaters on the west side of northwest Oregon’s
Mt. Hood to the Columbia River east of Portland. The Sandy River's watershed
encompasses approximately 508 square miles and includes the Bull Run River, the
Salmon River, the Little Sandy River, Cedar Creek, and the Zigzag River among
2007 and 2008, the Marmot Dam on the Sandy River and the Little Sandy Dam on
the Little Sandy River were removed, opening up an estimated 50 miles of
habitat that had been blocked off to samon for 100 years. The Sandy River Basin
is divided between upper and lower basins delineated at the former site of the
Marmot Dam. The upper Sandy River Basin has been designated by ODFW as a wild
2005 and 2006, NMFS issued final ESA listing decisions designating four fish
species that use the Sandy River Basin as threatened: the Lower Columbia River
chinook Evolutionarily Significant Unit, the Lower Columbia River coho ESU, the
Columbia River chum ESU and Lower Columbia River steelhead Distinct Population
in California, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel at Mad
River Hatchery began allowing wild origin steelhead and hatchery origin
steelhead to enter the hatchery Feb. 4, to start spawning operations. The
hatchery action is based on an amended court-ordered stay, signed by Judge M.M.
Chesney, allowing hatchery operations to proceed with conditions agreed to by
CDFW and the plaintiff Environmental Protection Information Center.
court action allows Mad River Hatchery to collect, trap and spawn wild origin
steelhead for brood stock for one year. Two of the main conditions of the
action were the belief by National Marine Fisheries Service that progress was
made on the development of an HGMP and agreement on the collection of natural
origin steelhead trout in the coming year.
operations went very smoothly today,” said Shad Overton, Mad River hatchery manager.
“It is critical we include both wild and hatchery origin fish to ensure the
best genetic diversity of eggs possible for future releases. Our goal is to
release 150,000 yearlings next year.”
collection and egg take were delayed due to litigation. Spawning usually starts
in January and continues through March. This time window allows the hatchery to
spawn returning fish throughout the run. This year’s later start is not
expected to affect overall spawning operations.