salmon passage to long-blocked habitat in the upper Columbia River basin in the
United States and Canada should be investigated and implemented as a key
element of integrating ecosystem considerations into a new Columbia River
Treaty, according to a report developed by a coalition of 15 Columbia River
basin tribes and Canadian First Nations.
flooding in 1948 up and down the Columbia prompted discussions between the two
countries about how the river might be harnessed to provide flood control and
produce electricity for a growing region. The Columbia headwaters are in
British Columbia; it flows down through Washington and then heads west along
the Oregon-Washington border to the Pacific Ocean.
result of those discussions was the Columbia River Treaty, which was signed in
1961. Implementation of its terms began in 1964. The treaty primarily reduced
flood risk and supported hydropower generation, the two outstanding concerns of
the Treaty has no specified end date, it contains provisions that will change
its implementation in 2024. Either country may unilaterally terminate most
provisions of the Treaty in 2024. Each is expected to announce their intentions
later this year.
construction of four storage reservoirs on the Columbia River system remain the
most obvious result of the treaty. Together, the three dams built in Canada
(Duncan, Mica and Keenleyside -- also known as Arrow in the United States)
doubled the amount of water that could be stored, adding 15.5 million acre-feet
of capacity that can be used to absorb potential flood water and also control
the flow of water downstream for power generation and other uses. Libby Dam in
Montana created another large storage reservoir, Lake Koocanusa.
about possible treaty renewals have included requests from some parties that a
third treaty purpose be added – the consideration of water management on
ecosystem function throughout the system. Since the early 1990, 13 Columbia and
Snake river salmon and steelhead species have been listed under the Endangered
Species Act. The region’s system of dams, which in some cases block access to
historic habitat and otherwise change river dynamics, are considered one the
major reasons for the decline of such species.
Coulee and Chief Joseph dams in the central Washington and Keenleyside,
Brilliant and Waneta dams in British Columbia have long blocked fish passage
upstream. The first phase of Grand Coulee was completed in 1941 without passage
for either upstream or downstream migrants. Chief Joseph’s first 16 turbine
units were in place by 1961, effectively blocking fish 50 miles downstream from
bilateral damming and management of the upper Columbia River, initiated with
the construction of Grand Coulee Dam, is responsible for the loss of over 1,100
miles (1,770 km) of salmon and steelhead habitat above Chief Joseph Dam and the
loss of about 3 million salmon harvested and consumed by indigenous peoples
throughout the basin annually,” according to the report, “Fish Passage and
Reintroduction into the U.S. and Canadian Upper Columbia River,” which was
released Feb. 14. The interim joint paper of the U.S. Columbia Basin Tribes and
Canadian First Nations” was forwarded to the U.S. and Canadian “entities”
charged with evaluating the future of the treaty and, potentially, negotiating
any changes in the terms of the treaty.
report can be found at http://naiads.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/fish-passage-white-paper-2-14-14.pdf
to dam construction, an estimated 1.1 million sockeye, chinook, steelhead and
coho salmon returned to the rivers above Grand Coulee annually on average, of
which about 644,000 fish were harvested by tribal members. The paper says that
total salmon consumption by the Spokane, Kalispell, Coeur d’Alene, Kootenai and
Colville tribes in the United States ranged from 6.8 to 13.1 million pounds per
year in the Upper Columbia. Only the Colvilles now have direct access to
appears that salmon and steelhead populations arising from the blocked areas of
the upper Columbia River may have accounted for an average of about 2 million
fish harvested by tribes in the lower Columbia River,” the paper says.
Nations members historically caught as many as 746,000 salmon annually,
according to estimates.
paper “is meant to inform the U.S. Entity, the Canadian Entity, our respective
federal governments and other sovereigns of the elements of the tribes’ and
First Nations’ proposal for integrating fish passage as an essential element of
modernizing the Columbia River Treaty. This is a bilateral effort that will
require international actions under the Treaty.”
Columbia Basin tribes and First Nations believe this comprehensive approach
would right many historical wrongs that Columbia River development imposed on
indigenous peoples by separating us from our salmon and other fishery resources
integral to our culture, subsistence, health and economic well being,”
according to the paper’s cover letter to the U.S. Entity (made up of top
officials from the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of
of salmon and other species is proposed through a pragmatic and phased approach
to fish passage planning, research, testing, and design/construction and would
be followed by monitoring, evaluation, and adaptive management,” according to
the tribal paper.
phase of this ecosystem recovery program would be pursued based on the
knowledge gained and successful outcomes from previous phases. With recent and
significant advancements in transboundary collaboration and legal and technical
knowledge, Columbia River Treaty reconsideration is the appropriate opportunity
to reconcile the consequences of past, narrowly focused decisions on river
development and operations.”
tribal proposals says that “fish reintroduction should proceed initially with
passage planning and experimental trials with sockeye and chinook salmon, the
species that were once numerous in the upper Columbia and essential to
indigenous subsistence and cultures.
species are also more likely to successfully propagate and migrate from the
streams and reservoirs in the blocked areas. Donor populations for experimental
trials, passage testing, and initial reintroduction would be from stocks not
listed under the Endangered Species Act to avoid regulatory hurdles and
conflicts with current land and water uses. Reintroduction of coho salmon,
steelhead trout, lamprey and passage for resident fish species could be
subsequently considered,” the paper says.
would include upstream and downstream passage options and design experimental
reintroduction past upper Columbia River dams and reservoirs, incuding:
options for adults at Chief Joseph, Grand Coulee, and Canadian dams.
Alternative technologies for guiding and transporting smolts through Lake
Roosevelt and around Grand Coulee Dam (and other projects).
should also evaluate the socio-economic benefits of returning salmon to the
Upper Columbia basin, for tribes and First Nations, and non-native peoples,
including recreational, subsistence and commercial fishers.
options exist for funding the planning, testing, construction, and
implementation of fish passage facilities and reintroduction actions. Funding
avenues should be the subject of negotiations between the United States and
Canada during treaty reconsideration,” the paper says.
construction and operation of fish passage facilities could 1) follow normal mitigation
practices of each country at its own projects, or 2) proceed through a new,
bilateral arrangement that recognizes a holistic approach to water and fish
management, the paper says.
the current mitigation practice in the U.S., project beneficiaries have been
identified and cost allocation formulas emplaced for Chief Joseph and Grand
Coulee dams that could apply to fish passage mitigation,” the paper says. “The
U.S. also has flexibility with funding, i.e. via congressional funding or regional
payment procedures for fish mitigation facilities per the Northwest Power Act.”
more information see:
CBB, Nov. 27, 2013, “Columbia River Treaty Prompts Discussion Of Restoring
Salmon Passage To Canadian Headwaters” http://www.cbbulletin.com/429144.aspx
CBB, Nov. 1, 2013, “Columbia River Treaty Negotiations Will Impact Libby Dam
Operations, Reservoir Drafting/Refill” http://www.cbbulletin.com/428897.aspx
CBB, Oct. 18, 2013, “B.C. Releases Draft Columbia River Treaty Recommendations,
Wants Full Accounting Of U.S. Benefits” http://www.cbbulletin.com/428719.aspx
CBB, Sept. 27, 2013, “U.S. Releases Draft Recommendations For ‘Modernizing’
Columbia River Treaty” http://www.cbbulletin.com/428444.aspx
CBB, Aug. 16, 2013, “Environmentalists Say Columbia River Treaty Needs To Expand
To Include ‘Ecosystem-Based Functions”’ http://www.cbbulletin.com/427918.aspx
CBB, Aug. 9, 2013, “Utilities Group Expresses Concern With Columbia River
Treaty Draft Recommendations, Process, Scope” http://www.cbbulletin.com/427854.aspx