U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week announced it has extended by 15 days the
public comment period on a draft plan detailing possible alternatives to reduce
predation by double-crested cormorants on juvenile salmon and steelhead that are
listed under the Endangered Species Act.
large number cormorants nests each spring and summer in the Columbia River
estuary. Their primary colony site is East Sand Island, which millions of
listed salmonids must pass on their way to the Pacific Ocean.
Corps’ draft Environmental Impact Statement on the predation plan was released
for public comment June 12.
are now due no later than Aug. 19.
more information about the process and the draft EIS, go to:
the proposed management alternatives considered in the draft is the
implementation of non-lethal and lethal actions to reduce the colony size on
East Sand Island and limit their dispersal within the Columbia River estuary.
methods considered include various hazing techniques to reduce colony size and
conducting hazing activities off East Sand Island if new colonies establish
throughout the Columbia River estuary.
methods considered include take of eggs and shooting individual double-crested
Corps’ “preferred” alternative involves the culling of individuals to achieve
target colony size of about 5,600 breeding pairs. Culling would occur over four
years, with the ability to achieve the target size in a shorter duration (3 or
2 years) under Adaptive Management,” the draft EIS says.
the 4-year strategy, 20.3 percent of the colony would be culled per year. In
total, 15,955 double-crested cormorants would be taken in all years (5,230,
4,270, 3,533, and 2,923 double-crested cormorants in years 1 to 4,
respectively). The Corps would submit an annual depredation permit application
to the USFWS for the proposed individual take levels and associated nest loss
from take of those individuals,” the plan says.
would occur on- and off-island within the foraging range (25km) of the East
Sand Island colony. Concurrent with culling, hazing supported with limited egg
take would occur to prevent colony expansion on the island, along with land-
and boat-based hazing and efforts to prevent double-crested cormorants from
relocating in the Columbia River estuary.
and implementation of a management plan is a requirement under the Corps’
Endangered Species Act consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service
of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the operation of the
hydropower dams that make up the Federal Columbia River Power System.
cormorants are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and are native to
the Columbia River estuary.
the past decade, a large colony nesting on East Sand Island near the mouth of
the Columbia River has consumed approximately 11 million juvenile salmonids per
year. In recent years (2011-2013) consumption has averaged 18.5 million per
year, according to the Corps.
Sand’s double-crested cormorant colony has grown to about 14,900 nesting pairs
in 2013, according to the Corps. That represents more than 40 percent of the
species “western” population and is the single largest such colony on the West
Coast. It is also likely the largest colony in North America.
Corps is the lead agency in developing the EIS under the National Environmental
Policy Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of
Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Oregon Department of
Fish and Wildlife and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are
cooperating agencies to the EIS
a part of long term management, once the target colony size is attained, the
Corps is proposing to modify the terrain of East Sand Island to inundate
nesting habitat for double-crested cormorants. This would occur by excavating
sand on the western portion of the island and placing rock armor along the
northern shore to ensure stabilization of the island.
Corps will host an additional public webinar/conference during the comment
webinar connection information, visit www.nwp.usace.army.mil/Missions/Currentprojects/CormorantEIS.aspx
click on the Public Meeting section. You
will find log in and telephone access information.
or written comments on the draft EIS should refer to public notice
CENWP-PM-E-14-08. Written comments are welcome through email, traditional mail
or at the open houses. The Corps will categorize, summarize, respond to and
consider comments to inform the decision-making process.
Ruckwardt, project manager
Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District