The cost to remove invasive northern pike in
Lake Roosevelt will likely rise to more than $1 million per year beginning next
fiscal year and much of that will be funded by the Bonneville Power
The voracious fish was initially discovered in
2009 in the upper reaches of the lake that backs up behind Grand Coulee Dam and,
by 2015, anglers were catching the fish in the shallow bays near Kettle Falls
and the Kettle Falls River.
Today biologists and policymakers worry they
will spread into the lower reaches of the lake and, eventually, downstream into
the mainstem Columbia River where they would pose a threat to the recovery of
salmon and steelhead listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.
To illustrate a pike’s predation abilities,
one 21.6 pound Northern Pike female caught during suppression efforts in the lake
had two undigested fish in its belly – a 19-inch burbot and a 16 inch walleye –
according to Holly McLellan of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville
Reservation, one of three co-managers participating in a pike suppression
effort. The other two managers are the Spokane Tribe of Indians and the
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
McLellan spoke to the Northwest Power and
Conservation Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee in Boise, Tuesday, May 8.
“Fish can’t escape pike, but they can escape bass
and walleye,” McLellan said, explaining why pike are far worse than other
predators in the lake.
The tribes took extraordinary measures this
year to keep suppression funding up at 2017 levels by repurposing BPA funds
initially awarded for redband trout and white sturgeon research into their pike
Some 4,771 pike were removed as a result of
the pike suppression program in 2017: 100 were removed by Fyke netting, 102
with beach seines, 633 through electrofishing, 1,095 through an angler rewards
program and 2,841 with gillnets. Some 701 pike have been removed so far in 2018.
In fiscal year 2018, the budget for pike
suppression in the lake is about $630,000, just a little higher than FY2017.
Some 82 percent of that budget goes directly to suppression, while 17 percent
goes to research and monitoring and 1 percent to public outreach. Funding in
2015 was about $100,000 and about $150,000 in 2016, according to information
provided by McLellan.
Beginning next year, the co-managers’ budget,
if approved and funded, will rise to about $1.3 million and will remain at that
level through 2022. The proposed five-year budget, including FY2018, is
$4,505,442 with an average annual budget of $901,088. Nearly two-thirds of next
year’s funding would come either directly through BPA, or through BPA funds
going to the Colville Tribes or through WDFW.
A recent Independent Scientific Review Panel
review of the co-managers’ proposal for FY2018 – 2022 found that the proposal
meets scientific review criteria with qualifications. However, the ISRP also
noted that it has doubts the efforts to suppress northern pike in the Columbia
River basin could ever be fully successful, especially given current efforts.
The ISRP performs scientific reviews of
projects and proposals related to the Northwest Power and Conservation
Council’s Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program.
The ISRP review, completed April 23, 2018 (https://www.nwcouncil.org/media/7491656/isrp-2018-03-npikelkrsvltresprev23april.pdf), said of the Lake Roosevelt suppression project that by its
design, it “could quickly and significantly change the abundance of northern
pike, as well as our knowledge of their status.
At this week’s meeting, the Fish and Wildlife
Committee agreed to support the co-managers’ 2018 – 2022 proposal, pending
“Based on the ISRP review and history
surrounding the urgent need to get a better understanding of the control and
suppression of northern pike in Lake Roosevelt, Council staff recommends that
the Fish and Wildlife Committee support this project for implementation,” a
Council memorandum said (https://www.nwcouncil.org/media/7491677/f3.pdf). “This recommendation is conditioned on funds being secured from
the region to meet the proposal goals and objectives.”
“In some ways we have the cart and horse not
lined up,” Tony Grover, director of the Council’s Fish and Wildlife group, said
of the funding situation. Although he and staff support the co-managers’
suppression proposal, the funding package has yet to be put in place. He said
one of the decisions still to be made is how much funding for the suppression
project would come from cost savings.
He continued saying that the mid-Columbia
River public utility districts know this is a shared problem and may also have
“The PUD’s license with FERC (Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission) calls for no-net impact on fish, so they can’t have
excessive predation,” Grover said. “If that happens they have a huge problem.”
The Colville Tribes already have contracts
with Grant and Chelan PUDs, McLellan said.
Pike would have a drastic impact if they get
into the “anadromous zone” downstream and the cost would increase significantly,
Washington Council Member Guy Norman said. He compared the pike situation in
Lake Roosevelt with the pinniped problem downstream of Bonneville Dam. Action
moved slowly, he said, and the costs increased over time.
--CBB, April 27, 2018, “Scientists Express
Skepticism About Stopping Lake Roosevelt Northern Pike From Spreading
--CBB, February 16, 2018, “Scientists Want
More Detailed Information On Northern Pike Suppression Plan In Lake Roosevelt,”
--CBB, July 21, 2017, “Lake Roosevelt Northern
Pike Numbers Rise; ‘Chronic Recruitment, Exponential Growth’,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439314.aspx
-- CBB, June 23, 2017, “Invasive Northern Pike
Spreading In Lake Roosevelt; Tribe Seeks Funds To Expand Removal Efforts,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439148.aspx
--CBB, September 23, 2016, “Council OKs More
Funds For Fighting Pike Invasion: ‘Pike Pose Enormous Threat To Salmon,
-- CBB, January 15, 2016, “Council Considers
More Money For Pike Removal: ‘An Alarming Increase In Pike Abundance,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/435860.aspx
-- CBB, Nov. 19, 2015, “A Northern Pike Caught
In John Day Reservoir: For Salmon, Canary In The Coal Mine?” http://www.cbbulletin.com/435580.aspx
-- CBB, July 17, 2015, “Invasive Northern Pike
Spreading Further, Reproducing; Council Hears Information On States’ Policies,”