dam operating agencies released last week an annual evaluation of progress
toward meeting the conservation requirements of the federal power system’s 2008
biological opinion and the 2014 supplemental BiOp for Columbia/Snake river
salmon and steelhead.
2007 to 2015 Comprehensive Evaluation is a cumulative report of the operating
agencies’ progress in carrying out the salmon and steelhead conservation
actions of the Federal Columbia River Power System BiOps as they operate 14
dams in the Columbia River basin. It is a stretch of river where 13
evolutionary significant units of salmon and steelhead are listed under the
federal Endangered Species Act. The evaluation covers 2015, but draws on
accomplishments over the entire span of the report.
FCRPS BiOp reflects an extensive effort by the Action Agencies - The Bureau of
Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Bonneville Power
Administration, in partnership with regional federal agencies, states and
tribes - to protect and improve listed species of Columbia and Snake River
salmon and steelhead and their designated critical habitat,” the report says.
a result of the efforts of the Action Agencies and other stakeholders, most
populations that suffered severe declines in the past have stabilized and
agencies say they are on track to complete the improvements required by the
BiOps and that those improvements are increasing survival of the listed species,
as well as other species not on an ESA list.
to a statement by Lorri Bodi, vice president of Environment Fish and Wildlife
for BPA, in an Oregon Public Broadcasting story, the report “says we’re making
very good progress in bringing fish back to the rivers and improving the
numbers of fish in the Columbia River Basin. But we still have a ways to go to
achieve our goals.”
report also will be used in creating a court-ordered environmental impact
statement under a 5-year long National Environmental Policy Act review. The
NEPA process was put into motion by U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Simon
in May 2016 when he remanded the latest 2014 NOAA Fisheries’ biological opinion
governing river operations to protect salmon and steelhead throughout the
Columbia River basin.
CBB, March 3, 2017, “Agencies Receive Over 250,000 Comments On Scoping For
Upcoming EIS On Columbia/Snake Hydro System,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438422.aspx
described in the report include improvements made at dams to facilitate safe
adult and juvenile fish passage, increase fish survival, protect and enhance
important habitats, improve hatchery practices, manage and reduce predation,
and enhance river conditions for migrating fish.
of the improvements listed in the evaluation include:
report itself fulfills a Reasonable and Prudent Alternative (RPA) of the BiOps.
restoration work includes 3,000 miles of spawning and rearing habitat and 14
square miles of estuary habitat.
addition of surface passage systems which take advantage of juvenile salmon’s
surface-oriented migration behavior to safely pass fish at dams,
juvenile bypass systems that improve fish survival.
of habitat improvements in the basin tributaries and in the estuary.
the habitat restoration projects are reconnecting floodplain habitat and
protecting them with permanent conservation easements, as well as breaching
dikes and levees.
report also touts an extensive program of research, monitoring and evaluation
that allows for adaptive management.
it points to the Columbia Basin Fish Accords (2008 – 2018) to demonstrate the
regional nature of this effort. The agreements that provide funding over 10
years for fish and their habitats are the product of the three federal
agencies, six Northwest Indian tribes, the Columbia River Intertribal Fish
Commission, and three of the four Northwest states. The agencies call it “a sweeping
effort to protect and strengthen the basin’s threatened and endangered salmon
and steelhead populations.”
of all these actions is in the status of fish runs and the report points to
some progress. More than 2.27 million salmon and steelhead passed Bonneville
Dam in 2015, including natural-origin and hatchery produced fish. That’s the
second highest count since 1938 when counting began at the dam. Only the 2014
count was higher. The 10-year average is 1.643 million salmonids.
steelhead at 268,730 and coho at 42,267 were far below their 10-year averages.
For steelhead the average is 347,762 and for coho it is 133,262. Coho entered
the ocean in 2014 and encountered poor ocean conditions, the report says.
salmon had a good run year with 510,706 of the fish passing the dam (the
10-year average is 285,186). It was third highest run, exceeded only by 2014
and 2012, but in 2015 they had a tough time making it to their spawning grounds
due to high water temperatures.
the other hand chinook salmon had a banner year, the largest since 1938. That
was largely due to good ocean conditions as the juveniles entered the ocean in
2012 and 2013. The fall chinook run was the highest ever at 1,037,424 fish (the
10-year average is 587,736). Spring and summer runs were also among the highest
counts, the reports say. Some 233,794 spring chinook passed the dam (10-year
average is 171,288) and 179,465 summer chinook passed (10-year average is
number of Snake River fall chinook, listed as threatened in 1992, is on the
rise. The 10-year average is 10,609, but over the last four years the average
has climbed to 16,515.
overall abundance of Snake River spring and summer chinook, also listed as
threatened in 1992, has been rising as well. The 10-year average is 18,864, but
over the last four years the average has climbed to 22,966.
River sockeye, listed as endangered in 1991, had a rocky year in 2015 due to
extremely high temperatures in the lower Snake River. Some 4,069 sockeye passed
Bonneville, but just 1,052 passed Ice Harbor Dam, the lowest of the Snake River
dams, and 440 made it to Lower Granite Dam, the upper dam. Of those fish, 51
were transported from Lower Granite for the broodstock program and only 56 made
it on their own to the Sawtooth Valley.
River steelhead have seen a small uptick from a 10-year average of 30,452 to a
four-year average of 32,663.
four-year average (3,967) of upper Columbia River spring chinook, listed as
endangered in 1989, is higher than the 10-year average (2,354) as counted at
Rock Island Dam, but the report says that is not a statistically significant
trend in abundance.
Upper Columbia River steelhead, listed as endangered in 1997 and reclassified
as threatened in 2009, the10-year average is 4,209 and the most recent
four-year average is 4,792 fish.
10-year average for middle Columbia River steelhead, listed as threatened in
1999, is 4,511 and the four-year average is 5,117.
Comprehensive Evaluation is available at
Citizens guide is available at
report itself has two sections. Section 1 highlights implementation and
accomplishments that “will inform continued RPA action implementation and
provide the foundation for new proposals,” the report
2 is a detailed report of reasonable and prudent alternative implementation