Nez Perce Tribe proposes to capture and recondition spawned steelhead in the
Snake River to increase the steelhead return rate from 0.4 percent to at least
6 percent to meet a federal biological opinion reasonable and prudent
tribe proposes to do this by capturing steelhead heading back out to sea, known
as kelts, holding them in hatchery ponds until fall and then releasing them
back into the river, allowing them to migrate directly back to their spawning
grounds without having gone back to sea.
Hatch of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission told the Northwest
Power and Conservation Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee last week in Coeur
d’Alene, Idaho, that RPAs 33 and 42 of the 2008 Columbia River Hydro System
BiOp call for improving the B-run steelhead population in the Snake River to 6
percent by artificially reconditioning kelt steelhead and/or improving instream
passage through the hydro system.
was before the Committee to justify eventually spending nearly $2 million for a
kelt reconditioning facility at the Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery, located on the
Clearwater River in Idaho, but his initial request is to proceed with design of
the facility, a year-long process.
the meeting, Council staff recommended that the Fish and Wildlife Committee
approve the Snake River Basin Steelhead Kelt Reconditioning Facility Master
Plan, as long as the Tribe and CRITFC address four issues raised by the
Independent Scientific Review Panel in their review of September 27. The staff
description of the project is at http://www.nwcouncil.org/media/7150678/f3.pdf.
that review (http://www.nwcouncil.org/fw/isrp/isrp2016-12/), the ISRP agreed
that the Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery is the best option to locate the kelt
reconditioning facility, but added that the facility will need to alter its
current hatchery management plan.
also said the Tribal plan needs a monitoring and evaluation plan with an
adaptive management component, biologically-based escapement goals that account
for density dependence and more information on the level of effort it will take
to collect the natural run kelts and how they will be identified.
said that less than 50,000 steelhead on their way to the Snake River passed
Bonneville Dam this year, all listed under the federal endangered species act.
Of the Snake River steelhead, about 45 percent begin their trip to the ocean
after spawning. However, at Lower Granite Dam, the repeat spawner rate – those
that actually return back to spawning grounds – is less than one-half percent.
the other hand, the repeat spawner rate is 17 percent (the kelt rate is
unknown) on the Kalama River, 70 percent kelt rate in the Yakima River with a
repeat spawner rate of 3.4 percent, and 58 percent kelt rate for the Willamette
River system with a repeat spawner rate of 1.3 to 12.4 percent.
is a theme here,” Hatch said. “The higher in the river, the lower the kelt
stage steelhead are abundant in the Columbia River, but repeat spawners are
rare, Hatch said in his presentation to the Committee. “Abundant kelts are a
no-take opportunity to increase natural steelhead production,” meaning that no
damage is done to natural fish in the collection process.
process starts with collecting kelts at weirs or juvenile bypass systems at
Snake River dams on their downstream trip to the ocean in the spring after they
have spawned. Kelts are held in circular tanks and cared for by hatchery staff.
have found that fish collected that are in good condition survived well,” Hatch
said. “But those in poor condition on recapture died. Also, larger fish
survived 6.8 percent more than smaller fish.”
added that as many as 90 percent of kelts are female, that males stay in the
river and are “basically exhausted.”
in the facility are released back to the river in the fall where they will find
their way back to spawning grounds and spawn with the natural run the next
spring or they will wait in the river to the following spring to spawn.
potential benefits to the full steelhead runs are significant. For example,
early experiments on the Yakima River resulted in 14 times more kelts going
back to spawn than if the fish had been left in the river to migrate back to
the ocean. “For the Snake River, the benefit is more than 100 times,” Hatch said.
Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery will construct six circular tanks for the
reconditioning and other tanks for sorting.
asking for a recommendation from the Council to go to a final design,” Hatch
is an RPA in the BiOp that can provide survival benefits in the Snake River,”
said Bruce Suzumoto of NOAA Fisheries in supporting the Tribes’ proposal. “And
it increases the genetic diversity of the species as it reduces the risk by
providing a safety net at the facility.”
total construction budget for the proposed facility is $1,987,100. Capital and
expense funds include study implementation, planning and design, construction,
and operation and maintenance, totaling $16,261,613. The money is reserved in
the Accords budgets between the CRITFC and the FCRPS Action Agencies, Council
information says. Future costs for O&M at the kelt reconditioning facility
is estimated to be about $720,600 annually. Annual M&E expenses will be
developed as part of the next submittal and review.
Fish and Wildlife Committee approved moving the project forward. The next step
is approval by the full Council at its December 13 – 14 meeting in Portland.
July 22, 2016, “Repeat Spawners: Study Looks At How Improving Steelhead ‘Kelt’
Survival Could Aid At-Risk Populations,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437180.aspx
November 7, 2014, “Will Getting Some Steelhead To Spawn Twice Improve Numbers?
Yakama Nation Project Looks For Answers,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/432586.aspx