Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission in an April 2 letter to two federal
agencies stresses the need to involve treaty tribes in processes to address
issues posed by a fractured mid-Columbia River dam that has the potential to
affect survival rates for migrating salmon and steelhead.
at the center of the challenge – public utility districts whose dam operations
are directly affected – say that they are making “extraordinary efforts to
operate in a transparent manner and seek input from key parties,” including the
member tribes “strongly urge that your agencies be proactive in requiring
monitoring and evaluation of adult and juvenile passage at these projects for
as long as the compromised passage conditions exist and until it is shown that
the permanent solution meets the passage need of the fish,” according to the
letter, signed by CRITFC’s executive director, Paul Lumley, sent to NOAA
Fisheries Service and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Fisheries is in charge with assuring protections for anadromous (freshwater-to-ocean-and
back again) species, including those listed under the Endangered Species Act,
such as salmon. FERC as part of its dam licensing authority requires that
non-federal hydro operators provide ESA fish protections.
dam in question is Wanapum, owned and operated by Grant County Public Utility
District, where a 65-foot-long crack across one of the dam spillway piers was
discovered Feb. 27. In order to avoid a potential failure of the structure,
Grant PUD drew down the reservoir behind the dam by as much as 26 feet in order
to reduce water pressure on the damaged spillway structure.
drawdown has numerous implications for salmon and steelhead that must pass
downstream through Wanapum on their way to the Pacific Ocean, and upstream on
their return as adults to spawn. The reservoir drawdown poses problems for fish
access at Wanapum and at Rock Island, a hydro project just upstream owned by
Chelan County PUD.
is the sixth hydro project the fish pass on their way upstream. Spring chinook
spawners are expected to begin arriving at the dam by mid-month. Steelhead,
summer and fall chinook salmon and sockeye will also be headed upstream over
the course of the spring, summer and fall, and juveniles of all species are
migrating downstream. Wild spring chinook and steelhead headed to the mid and
upper Columbia are ESA listed.
and bull trout too depend on up and downstream passage at federal and privately
owned hydro projects in the Columbia-Snake river hydro system. Bull trout are
tribes “strongly urge that your agencies be proactive in requiring monitoring
and evaluation of adult and juvenile passage at these projects for as long as
the compromised passage conditions exist and until it is shown that the permanent
solution meets the passage need of the fish,” CRITFC’s letter says.
letter reminds the agencies of federal treaty and trust obligations owed the
tribes, and asks that they be included in discussions about possible remedies.
CRITFC’s member tribes include the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and
action has created an unprecedented situation for migrating salmonids and
lamprey,” the CRITFC letter says. “Currently 100 percent of the adult upstream
passage of salmon and lamprey is blocked at Wanapum Dam and severely affected
at Rock Island Dam just upstream. Juvenile anadromous fish passage is also
compromised at both structures.
emergency efforts are under way, neither CRITFC nor its member tribes have been
formally contacted regarding your agencies’ efforts to address this situation,”
the letter says.
actions must be undertaken immediately and throughout the 2014 fish migration
season, we recommend that NOAA and FERC establish protocols for regular and
ongoing communications to address the fish passage conditions caused by the
pier nose failure at Wanapum Dam, and the resulting low water conditions
affecting passage at Rock Island Dam,” the CRITFC letter says. “The tribes
expect the responsible parties to take the responsibility to assess the damages
caused by the emergency situation and to collaborate with the tribes to protect
these valuable resources.”
CRITFC letter says that most of the planning effort has been focused on adult
salmon, which the member tribes acknowledge is a high priority. But lamprey
need to be added to the equation.
County must provide a plan for passing adult lamprey upstream. Lamprey requires
different passage conditions than salmon. While we are hopeful that the
proposed modifications at the Wanapum ladder will work for salmon; it is very
unlikely to work for adult lamprey, and this needs to be addressed,” the CRITFC
letter says. “We are willing to cooperate with Grant PUD and others to
implement lamprey passage measures that the tribes have pioneered with the
Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation.”
juvenile passage also needs to be accommodated, and monitored carefully, the
bypass is “likely to be compromised because of the design characteristics of
the Wanapum Fish Bypass,” according to technical comments submitted by CRITFC.
“The Bypass was designed to operate at a flow of 20,000 cfs [cubic feet per
second] to provide suitable forebay and tailrace egress conditions.
to expected forebay conditions operations, the Wanapum Bypass will operate at a
flow rate of approximately 5,000-6,000 cfs or roughly one-quarter of its
designed operation. In addition, the turbines at Wanapum Dam are likely to
operate far outside peak efficiency and near cavitation limits.
operations are known to cause high levels of juvenile salmon mortality. Grant
County’s emergency operations plan does not address juvenile fish passage
conditions for 2014. In addition, the Wanapum Dam forebay conditions are likely
to adversely affect juvenile passage conditions at Rock Island Dam, where the
spillway tailrace exits into a shallow basalt basin.”
CRITFC letter has attached “Interim Technical Recommendations to Address
Juvenile and Adult Fish Passage Affected by Emergency Operations of Wanapum
PUDs say they and their partners continue to respond with intense problem
of this is anything we were prepared for, to be honest,” Chuck Berrie, Grant
PUD’s assistant general manager told the Northwest Power and Conservation
Council during a Wednesday presentation on the Wanapum situation.
was no instruction manual sitting on the shelf to direct the utilities’
response, said Keith Truscott, Chelan PUD’s Natural Resources director.
both Berrie and Truscott were optimistic that fish survival can be maintained
at or near recent high levels.
believe the fish passage will work quite well,” Berrie told the Council. And a
new juvenile bypass system in place since 2008 should be operational at
Wanapum. About 75 percent of the outmigrants use the facility, where direct
survival has in the past approached 100 percent.
think that drawdown survival will still be good,” he said.
“a tremendous amount of studies” are being developed to monitor survival,
two PUDs in an April 4 letter to FERC and NOAA Fisheries said that as part of
emergency ESA consultation, a work group was created that consists of the PUDs,
NOAA Fisheries, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Yakama Nation, the
Colville Tribes and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
work group collaboratively developed interim fish passage plans for the Wanapum
and Rock Island projects. Additional outreach and weekly updates have been provided
to other stakeholders that include Bonneville Power Administration, Bureau of
Reclamation, Washington Department of Ecology, the Fish Passage Center and
coordination and development of the plans has been, and will continue to be, focused
on supporting the overall goal of providing safe, timely, and effective
volitional adult and juvenile fish passage for the Wanapum and Rock Island
Project areas under the existing emergency condition,” the PUDs’ letter says.
in these rapidly evolving circumstances new thoughts may emerge that merit
consideration,” the PUD letter said.
believe that every effort should be made to use the collaborative process that
has served us so well for the past decade and particularly in the past month.
are both flaws and possibly some merit in CRITFC's recommendations. It is our
view that specific proposals like the ones provided by CRITFC should first be
vetted within the established process engaging representatives of all
stakeholders who have spent substantial portions of their careers studying and
understanding the fishery resources of the mid-Columbia region.”
to CRITFC’s Tom Lorz, adult passage problems could well mount as the numbers of
passing fish rises later in the season. High returns of fall chinook and
sockeye salmon are expected this year.
the metrics collected for adult passage, a trigger needs to be developed to
signal the need for trap and haul in the event adult passage efforts are not
working as planned,” the CRITFC letter says. “The criteria must account for the
realistic capacity of the trap and haul program at Priest Rapids Dam.
tribes expect Grant County PUD to make every effort to safely pass all upstream
adult migrants. The tribes have serious doubts about the ability of Grant
County PUD to trap and haul the projected high numbers of adult salmon fish
expected to be migrating in 2014.”
Grant and Chelan PUDs are at work on modifications to fish ladders at Wanapum
and Rock Island dams, respectively. The Wanapum work aims to pump water into
the ladder to help the fishes’ ascent and provide safe egress into the
reservoir, which is more than 20 feet lower than normal. The Rock Island
project aims to extend ladders into the lowered Wanapum reservoir.
ladder modifications are expected to be complete before salmon begin arriving.
Grant PUD has said that a Priest Rapids Dam adult trapping facility, typically
used for research purposes, will be used to corral some of the fish so that
they can be transported aboard trucks for release at points upstream of
Wanapum. Transportation will be used at the very least early in the season
until an assessment can be made regarding passage at the remodeled fish
are on the way. A total of 2,063 had been counted so far this year passing over
the lowermost dam in the Columbia River system, Bonneville, as of Wednesday.
The April 9 daily count was 346, the highest total to date. The spring chinook
run, which branches off into the Snake River or the mid- and upper Columbia,
typically reaches peak counts at Bonneville in late April or early May.
is about 260 river miles downstream of Wanapum. On the way upstream the fish
encounter The Dalles, John Day, McNary and then Priest Rapids dams. A total of
71 adult spring chinook had been counted crossing over McNary Dam as of
more information, see:
CBB, April 4, 2014, “Fish Passage Fixes At Wanapum Dam To Be Completed April
15; Trap/Truck First Weeks Of Spring Run” http://www.cbbulletin.com/430262.aspx
CBB, March 14, 2014, “Wanapum Dam Crack: With Spring Chinook On the Way
Upstream Fish Passage High Priority” http://www.cbbulletin.com/430013.aspx
CBB, March 7, 2014, “Crack In Wanapum Dam:Reservoir Drawn Down 26 Feet,
Officials Assess Options, Fish Passage Strategies” http://www.cbbulletin.com/429942.aspx