NOAA Fisheries completed an environmental
review of potential options that will guide the final agreement for managing
salmon and steelhead fisheries in the Columbia River Basin for the next ten
Parties to the US v Oregon agreement, which
was entered as a court order in 2008 and is set to expire at the end of this
year, are near a new negotiated agreement that will take effect when the
existing 10-year agreement expires. The agreement guides Columbia River basin
salmon and steelhead harvest.
The next US v Oregon agreement will also be
for ten years, expiring December 31, 2027.
US v Oregon is the on-going federal court
proceeding that enforces and implements the treaty-reserved fishing rights of
the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Yakama, and Shoshone-Bannock tribes, the
draft EIS says.
The new agreement will include a list of
hatchery programs with stipulated production levels, and a list of tribal and
non-tribal salmon and steelhead fisheries in the basin, including designated
off-channel sites for commercial uses, which are intended to both 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 species listed under the federal Endangered Species
Act. Thirteen species of salmon and steelhead in the Columbia/Snake river basin
are listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Of the six alternatives or pathways to meeting
harvest goals evaluated in the Final Environmental Impact Statement of the
program, Alternative 1 – an extension of the current U.S. v Oregon agreement –
is the FEIS’s preferred alternative.
“We believe that the most appropriate balance
between harvest and conservation objectives, accounting for the status of the
affected stocks and nature of available information, would require a blend of
harvest policies including use of abundance-based management, escapement-based
management, and harvest rate management,” said NOAA spokesperson Michael
Milstein. “This blend of harvest policies is best represented in Alternative
The U.S. v Oregon agreement will include a
hatchery production component, NOAA says, but a NEPA analysis of Mitchell Act
hatchery production within the action area already has been completed in a
separate EIS That EIS will be incorporated by reference into this EIS.
Consequently, the Proposed Action in this EIS analysis focuses on harvest.
The federal BiOp on Mitchell Act hatcheries is
posted at: http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/publications/hatchery/mitchell-act/mitchell-act_opinion_011517.pdf
Additionally, 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. Like the Mitchell Act hatchery analysis, that too will
be incorporated by reference into this analysis. That work is not yet done.
Of the six pathways evaluated by the FEIS,
Alternative 1 – the preferred option – simply extends the current agreement out
for another 10 years. It would use a blend of harvest policies, including
abundance-based management, escapement-based management and harvest rate
management, depending on the specific salmon or steelhead stock. This
alternative recognizes that stocks vary in their conservation requirements,
with some providing abundant opportunity for harvest and others requiring more
protection from harvest encounters.
The other five options are:
Alternative 2 uses abundance-based management.
It establishes harvest levels based on the status of the fish stocks. It provides
more protection when the abundance of a given stock is low and the conservation
need greatest, and more harvest opportunity when abundance is high.
Alternative 3 uses a fixed harvest rate
management framework that would apply a fixed harvest rate to each fishery
regardless of abundance. Harvest rate is the ratio of fishery related mortality
for a group of fish over its abundance in a defined period of time.
Alternative 4 uses an escapement-based
management framework. Escapement refers to the number of fish surviving a given
fishery at the end of the fishing season and reaching a specified location
where the fish can be enumerated. In cases where the projected run size is
below the escapement goal, escapement goal harvest policies are sometimes coupled
with a de minimis level of harvest opportunity to meet minimal needs for tribal
fisheries and limited access to other harvestable stocks.
Alternative 5 uses voluntary fishery
curtailment. Under this alternative, the sovereign parties voluntarily curtail
harvest activities for an extended period of time. It may include some very
limited treaty fishing opportunity to meet base ceremonial needs of the tribes.
The parties may adopt a voluntary extreme harvest curtailment policy when the
continued viability of the stocks is at imminent risk. This alternative does
not meet the purpose and need for the action insofar as it does not provide for
meaningful tribal harvest as guaranteed by treaty and it provides no
opportunity for non-treaty harvest. This alternative provides the benchmark
required by NEPA in that it represents the alternative with the lowest fishing
Alternative 6 is a no action alternative with
uncoordinated harvest. Under this alternative, the existing agreement would
expire without a new agreement. While it is uncertain what would transpire
under this situation, NOAA Fisheries anticipates that the state and tribal
parties would implement harvest independently according to their own
Milstein said the parties are now completing a
final review of the 2018 – 2027 U.S. v Oregon agreement and the ROD and final
biological opinion (which includes the Incidental Take Statement) should be done
about the first of the year.
The FEIS was developed jointly by NOAA Fisheries,
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The FEIS is available at the NOAA Fisheries
website at http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/publications/fishery_management/salmon_steelhead/feis_usvoregon_nov_2017_with_cover_letter.pdf
The draft EIS and other documents are at http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/salmon_steelhead/united_states_v_oregon_DEIS.html
-- CBB, June 23, 2017, “Feds Release Draft EIS
For Guiding Columbia River Basin Harvest Actions 2018-2027,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439151.aspx
--CBB, May 12, 2017, “New Federal Requirements
Changes Columbia River Steelhead Production In Washington Hatcheries,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438898.aspx
-- CBB, Jan. 19, 2017, “NOAA Completes BiOp
For Mitchell Act Hatcheries, Proposes Reduction In Fall Chinook Releases” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438210.aspx
-- CBB, December 16, 2016, “NOAA Releases
Proposed Changes To Columbia Basin Mitchell Act Hatchery Programs,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438098.aspx
-- CBB, July 15, 2016, “Federal Agencies To
Prepare EIS To Help Guide Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Harvest Post-2017,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437138.aspx