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Council Approves Posting On Website Pilot Toxics Contaminant Map For Columbia River
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2018 (PST)

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council unanimously approved a pilot demonstration map for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), a toxic contaminant that impacts aquatic organisms and stream food webs, and could limit habitat restoration projects.


PAHs are just one of hundreds of toxic contaminants found in Northwest streams and the toxin chosen by a regional toxic contaminants workgroup to test out a story mapping concept that could include other contaminants in the future. The workgroup wants to raise awareness of toxic contaminant impacts on Columbia River basin fish and wildlife. PAHs have a known impact on salmon and are ubiquitous in the region.


The mapping project, a pilot effort, shows how mapping of other toxic contaminants could be done, and could provide education on toxic contaminant issues across a broad spectrum of audiences. See a Jan. 3, 2017 Council staff memorandum at The story map targets a lay audience.


Although the Council paid for the pilot PAH story map, costing $22,700, others will need to pay for further work on the project, according to Leslie Bach of the Council’s Fish and Wildlife staff, who demonstrated how the map will work at this week’s Council meeting in Portland, Jan. 10.


“This is a demonstration of a concept and we don’t plan on doing anything more with it or spend more money,” said Council Fish and Wildlife director Tony Grover. “It’s also an emerging priority in the Fish and Wildlife Program that was approved by all of you.


“Our expectation is that it will serve as a demonstration of what you can do” with mapping toxins. “Our request is to get the Council’s green light to put the map up on our website.”


“We need to be careful,” said Bill Booth, Idaho Council member. “This is not entirely our expertise and if using ratepayer dollars we need to provide a nexus (connection) to fish and wildlife.”


He added that with the Council’s name on the mapping product, it also needs to be fully and scientifically vetted.


Although he approved the story map at this week’s Council meeting, at the August 2017 Council meeting where up to $30,000 was approved to move ahead on the map’s development, Booth had said that he didn’t believe “the Act (NW Power Act) envisioned ratepayers would pay for enforcing statutes. Clearly this is the job of other agencies. The EPA has a big budget and they could afford this $30,000.”


Booth at this week’s meeting voted in favor of adding the story map to the Council website.


Council’s Fish and Wildlife staff have been hosting the toxic contaminants workgroup that also includes NOAA Fisheries, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, the Washington Department of Ecology, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Lower Columbia Estuary Project, The Upper Columbia United Tribes, Yakama Nation, U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency.


While completing the PAH story map, the workgroup compiled readily available data on PAHs in the Basin and organized the data into a standard template.


“The data have been incorporated into a story map that includes information on the effects of PAHs on native fish and wildlife, the potential sources of PAHs, and opportunities for reducing PAHs and their effects. The map provides a template and example for mapping and displaying data and information on other toxic contaminants that affect fish and wildlife in the Columbia River Basin,” the memo says.


The pilot map is similar to maps already developed by the Council, including maps for artificial production operation and maintenance ( and maps for fish screens (


Bach will make several small changes to the PAH story map before putting it up on the Council website (


Also see:


--CBB, August 25, 2017, “Council Approves Pilot Toxic Contaminant Mapping Project For Columbia River Basin,”


--CBB, December 16, 2016, “‘Columbia River Basin Restoration Act’ Passes Congress, Aims To Reduce Toxic Contaminants,”


--CBB, November 4, 2016, “Columbia Estuary Program Tracking, Mapping Marine Debris; Nets, Boats, Tires, Drums, Plastics, Etc.”

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