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Federal Agencies To Prepare EIS To Help Guide Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Harvest Post-2017
Posted on Friday, July 15, 2016 (PST)

With the current 10-year federal court agreement – U.S. v. Oregon-- that guides Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead harvest set to expire next year, federal agencies have announced their intention to prepare a joint environment impact statement to help guide a new harvest agreement post-2017.

 

“Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),” say the federal agencies in a Federal Register notice, “this notice announces that NMFS and USFWS (together, the Services) intend to prepare a joint Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) conducting a programmatic review of harvest actions for salmon and steelhead in the action area, which is the Columbia River Basin (the Proposed Action), to inform the Services’ proposed signing of the post- 2017 U.S. v. Oregon Management Agreement and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7 consultation Process.”

 

“The Services provide this notice to advise other agencies and the public of their plans to analyze effects related to the action and to obtain suggestions and information that may be

useful to the scope of issues and alternatives to include in the EIS.”

 

Written or electronic comments must be received on or before August 1. For more information go to http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/#moved

 

The states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho; the Nez Perce Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation

of Oregon, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation,; the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes; and the United States are parties to U.S. v. Oregon.

 

A management agreement for managing and regulating fisheries in the Columbia River basin, entered as a federal court order in 2008, expires December 31, 2017.

 

The parties are negotiating a new agreement that would take effect when the existing agreement expires.

 

The new agreement, say the federal agencies, will include a list of hatchery programs with stipulated production levels, and a list of tribal and non-tribal salmonid fisheries in the Columbia River basin, including designated off-channel sites, which are intended to:

 

-- Ensure fair sharing of harvestable fish between tribal and non-tribal fisheries in accordance with treaty fishing rights standards and U.S. v. Oregon, and

 

-- Be responsive to the needs of ESA-listed species.

 

“While the agreement includes a hatchery production component, the NEPA analysis of hatchery production within the action area has been completed, or will be supplemented, in a separate EIS that will be incorporated by reference in this EIS,” say the agencies.

 

“Consequently, the Proposed Action in this EIS analysis focuses on harvest. Construction of new hatchery facilities to mitigate impacts to fisheries from The Dalles Dam and John Day Dam hydropower operations is being analyzed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a separate analysis, which will also be incorporated by reference into this analysis.”

 

NEPA requires that federal agencies conduct an environmental analysis of their “Proposed Actions” to determine if the actions may significantly affect the human environment. The Services have determined that an EIS should be prepared under NEPA for the purpose of informing the Services’ proposed signing of a new agreement.

 

The information and analysis in the EIS, says the agencies, will help to inform the subsequent “ESA Section 7 consultation” on the new agreement.

 

Thirteen species of salmon and steelhead in the Columbia/Snake river basin are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

 

The Services’ purpose and need for the “Proposed Action” is three-fold, say the agencies.

 

-- To meet the Federal government’s tribal treaty rights and trust and fiduciary responsibilities;

 

-- To support fishing opportunities to the states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, and the tribes;

 

-- To work collaboratively with co-managers to protect and conserve ESA- listed

and non-listed species.

 

The Services say they have preliminarily identified the “following six alternatives for the public to consider.”

 

-- No-action Alternative (status quo):

 

The Services would not sign a new agreement, and the parties would continue to manage salmonid fisheries in the Columbia River consistent with the terms of the 2008–2017 agreement. A No-action Alternative is required in the full range of analyzed alternatives.

 

-- Abundance-based Management Alternative:

 

The Services would sign a new agreement with the other parties, and salmonid fisheries in the Columbia River would be managed under an abundance-based management framework.

 

-- Fixed Exploitation Rate Management Alternative:

 

The Services would sign a new agreement with the other parties, and salmonid fisheries in the Columbia River would be managed under a fixed exploitation rate management framework.

 

-- Escapement-based Management

Alternative:

 

The Services would sign a new agreement with the other parties, and salmonid fisheries in the Columbia River would be managed under an escapement-based management framework.

 

-- Fixed Effort-based Management

Alternative:

 

The Services would sign a new agreement with the other parties, and salmonid fisheries in the Columbia River would be managed under a fixed effort management framework.

 

-- No Fisheries Alternative:

 

The Services would sign a new agreement with the other parties; however, the parties would decide that salmonid fisheries harvest would not be allowed in the Columbia River.

 

Although this alternative does not meet the purpose and need for the Proposed Action, agencies say it is included to provide a full range of alternatives for analysis.

 

In requesting information and views, the federal agencies are seeking data, comments, pertinent information, or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, tribes, the business community, or any other interested party.

 

 Agencies say they are seeking specific comments concerning:

 

-- The direct, indirect, and cumulative effects that implementation of any reasonable alternative could have on endangered and threatened species, and other non-ESA-listed species and their habitats;

 

-- Other reasonable alternatives (in addition to the initial alternatives presented in this notice), and their associated effects;

 

-- Measures that would minimize and mitigate potentially adverse effects of the proposed actions;

 

-- Other plans or projects that might be relevant to this project. The EIS will analyze the effects that the various alternatives would have on salmon and steelhead and other fish species in the Columbia River Basin as well as the other aspects of the human environment, including but not limited to, water quality, habitat, wildlife (ESA-listed and non-ESA-listed), vegetation,

socioeconomics (including fishery dependent communities and culture and economic impacts), environmental justice, cultural resources, transportation, and the cumulative impacts of the alternatives.

 

In 2008 U.S. District Court Judge Garr M. King put his stamp of approval on a new 10-year agreement guiding salmon harvest and hatchery production on the Columbia River with the goals of rebuilding weak fish populations and providing sustainable fisheries.

 

The agreement was developed through negotiations that spanned more than 10 years and involved Columbia Basin treaty tribes, the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho and the federal government.

 

King adopted the agreement as a court order under provisions of the U.S. v Oregon court judgment of 1969.

 

The agreement detailed harvest management guidelines and artificial production techniques that, working together with habitat protection authorities and other enhancement efforts, “will help to ensure that Columbia River fish runs continue to provide a broad range of benefits,” according to a joint state-tribal press release announcing the “milestone” at the time of the court ruling.

 

The 2008 U.S. v. Oregon fisheries agreement introduced a number of new approaches into the management of Columbia River fisheries. Under the 2008 agreement, all fisheries for upriver chinook salmon and steelhead runs on the Columbia River would be managed according to stock abundance, rather than at fixed harvest levels.

 

The 10-year agreement included provisions that allow changes to its production strategies if new information dictates it.

 

The 2008 U.S. v. Oregon fisheries agreement was the result of several legal decisions by federal courts that determined tribes have a treaty right to harvest a fair share (50 percent) of the harvestable fish destined to reach the tribes' usual and accustomed fishing places and established the tribes as co-managers of the fisheries.

 

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The Columbia Basin Bulletin, Bend, Oregon. For information or comments call 541-312-8860.
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