dam operating agencies and advocates for more spill for fish are making
progress on devising a 2018 spill plan at federal dams on the lower Snake and
lower Columbia rivers, according to a status review submitted to U.S. District
Court of Oregon last week.
an April 3 amended order, District Court Judge Michael H. Simon ordered the
opposing sides to work together to create a plan for spill intended to aid
juvenile salmon/steelhead passage through the federal hydrosystem and to check
in periodically with status reviews and conferences to update the court. The
schedule for those reviews were agreed to in May.
while federal agencies and plaintiffs in the case are working together, the
Columbia Snake River Irrigators Association is opposing the 521 page
preliminary plan that was submitted to the court June 15 because the joint plan
doesn’t account for barging of the juvenile fish during warm water and low flow
conditions, such as conditions during the summer of 2015.
rational spill program must take account of the extraordinary benefits of smolt
transportation in warmer, low-flow years by
curtailing spill under such conditions,” according to a separate statement of
the CSRIA that it filed with the court on the same day as the federal agencies
filed their status review.
have previously briefed the Court on the disaster in 2015 when the Fish Passage
Center resisted NOAA Fisheries efforts to increase transport,” the statement
continues. “The results have already been seen in this year’s spring chinook
and steelhead returns, which are far below projected levels. Unfortunately, the
joint status report confirms that the agencies continue to willfully ignore the
adverse survival impacts of increased spill through reduced smolt transportation.”
request for injunctive relief for more spill was enjoined with an earlier case
argued in Simon’s court that resulted in a remand in May 2016 of the Columbia
River hydropower system’s 2014 biological opinion for salmon and steelhead.
request, which was brought to Simon in January 2017 by the National Wildlife
Foundation and the State of Oregon, with the support of the Nez Perce Tribe,
asked the court to begin ordering spill to maximum total dissolved gas levels
beginning April 3 this year and to continue for each year of the BiOp remand.
agreed with the plaintiffs that spill earlier in the year at the dams would
benefit Endangered Species Act salmon and steelhead, but held off on ordering
that spill until next year, saying it was “too rushed,” giving federal agencies
time to plan for operational changes at the dams resulting from the earlier
other requirements, Simon’s April 3 opinion called for periodic status updates
and conferences regarding the spill and planning for the spill.
decision ordering more spill was appealed by the federal agencies and Northwest
River Partners in early June to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. However,
the appeal is more of a pre-emptive strategy awaiting the outcome of this
process to develop study designs and spill protocols for each of the eight
dams, according to NOAA Fisheries. In a footnote of the status review, the
federal agencies say that they “fully intend to comply with the Court’s
direction” spelled out in the April 3 order.
CBB, June 9, 2017, “Federal Agencies Give Notice Of Possible Appeal Of Court
Ruling Providing Earlier Spill For Fish,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439055.aspx)
process for developing spill protocols at the four lower Snake River dams and
the four lower Columbia River dams call on sovereign parties that are a part of
the “Regional Implementation Oversight Group” to identify teams of technical
people, including representatives from Oregon and from the Nez Perce Tribe.
RIOG met May 3 to discuss the technical teams, which the status review says
developing recommended spill levels at each of the eight dams that avoid
unintended negative consequences;
developing spill patterns for each dam;
addressing PIT-tag monitoring for March 2018;
addressing in-season adaptive management of fish passage spill operations; and
identifying biological monitoring for the 2018 spring fish passage spill
spill operations team met May 10, 17 and 30, and on June 5 and is continuing
through June to address spill levels.
its last meeting, the team developed an initial assessment of spill levels and
potential constraints and other considerations. They had not identified any
known biological constraints that would warrant modifying the spill cap (120
percent) at The Dalles, McNary Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental or Lower Granite
dams, but there may be biological constraints warranting a modification of the
spill cap at Bonneville, John Day and Little Goose dams, the status review
spill pattern development team has yet to meet, but still may begin before the
end of June to address spill patterns. Its charge is to develop project by
project spill pattern tables based on the spring fish passage spill levels
identified by the spill operations team.
Operations and Maintenance group met May 11 and June 8 to discuss PIT-tag
monitoring planned to begin on March 1, 2018.
members and the technical teams have made substantive progress in identifying
some of the tasks to be accomplished and the schedule for completing some of
those Tasks,” the status review concludes. “At this point, however, neither the
technical teams nor RIOG members have recommended spill levels or spill
patterns at any of the eight lower Snake River and lower Columbia River dams.”
May 19, 2017, “Spill Advocates, Federal Agencies Agree To Status Conference
Schedule, Protocol In Salmon BiOp Case,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438950.aspx
CBB, April 7, 2017, “Court Order Requires Earlier Spill For Salmon In 2018;
Orders Design Study, Monitoring,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438675.aspx
CBB, May 6, 2016, “Federal Court Again Rejects Columbia Basin Salmon/Steelhead
Recovery Plan; Orders New BiOp By 2018,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436667