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Final EIS Issued On New Facility At Nez Perce Hatchery To ‘Recondition’ Steelhead (Spawned) Kelts
Posted on Friday, February 08, 2019 (PST)

The Bonneville Power Administration is funding a steelhead kelt reconditioning facility at the Nez Perce Fish Hatchery on the Clearwater River near Lewiston, Idaho.

 

The agency released Jan. 30 a description of its review process, as well as a final Environmental Assessment and a Finding of No Significant Impact, which were signed Jan. 16. The FONSI includes a mitigation action plan to help avoid or lesson potential impacts, according to BPA. The EA and FONSI are at https://www.bpa.gov/efw/Analysis/NEPADocuments/Pages/Nez-Perce-Tribal-Hatchery-Programs.aspx.

 

BPA said that project implementation is expected to begin in 2020, with construction of the reconditioning facility beginning in late spring and continuing into 2021.

 

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council had approved the kelt reconditioning facility December 14, 2016 at its meeting in Portland, suggesting that BPA include its costs in the agency’s fish and wildlife expenses.

 

The facility, proposed by the Tribes and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, is intended to recondition spawned Snake River steelhead, known as kelts. It will capture and recondition steelhead from the river to increase steelhead return rates from 0.4 percent to at least 6 percent to meet a federal biological opinion reasonable and prudent alternative.

 

The Tribes propose to do this by capturing the kelts heading back out to sea after spawning, treating the kelts with disease preventive medication, holding them in hatchery ponds until fall and then releasing those that are ready to spawn again back into the river. That allows them to migrate directly back to their spawning grounds without having gone back to sea.

 

(See CBB, December 22, 2016, “Council Approves Master Plan For Snake River Steelhead Kelt Reconditioning At Nez Perce Hatchery,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438121.aspx)

 

According to Council information, the overall cost of the facility is about $16 million, but most (about $14 million) has been spent since 2008 on study implementation, planning and design, construction, and operation and maintenance. The money is reserved in Columbia River Accords budgets in which the Bonneville Power Administration funds state and tribal fish and wildlife projects.

 

Annual operating and maintenance costs are estimated at $720,600, including an annual $70,600 of amortized costs anticipating asset replacements for such equipment as chiller and pumps.

 

Remaining funding is $1,987,100 which will pay for the installation of six twenty-foot circular tanks and a building to support the long-term reconditioning of up to 750 kelts, supporting the goal of an annual release of 180 reconditioned B-run kelts, according to the Council.

 

This program would expand an on-going, and successful, research program to production levels, BPA says. It also includes the construction of a kelt reconditioning facility at the Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery.

 

In addition, BPA proposes on-going funding to the Nez Perce Tribe for hatchery operations that will cover the production of spring/summer and fall chinook salmon, as well as to change the release locations of some of the reared fall chinook salmon smolts.

 

The EA analyzes the kelt reconditioning program, construction of a kelt reconditioning facility, and funding of ongoing chinook salmon production at the Nez Perce hatchery. It also evaluates a no-action alternative in which BPA would provide no funding for these actions and, for the purpose of analysis, presumes these actions would cease or not be initiated.

 

In addition, the EA describes anticipated impacts to natural and human resources and identifies mitigation measures to help avoid or minimize impacts. During this process, BPA worked with landowners, tribes, federal, state, and local agencies, and interest groups, the agency said.

 

The draft EA was released for public review and comment in October 2018; but just one comment was received and it was determined to be outside of the scope of the decision being made.

 

The final EA, FONSI, and mitigation action plan are available on BPA’s website at http://www.bpa.gov/goto/NezPerceHatchery.

 

A final Jan. 30, 2019 letter is at https://www.bpa.gov/efw/Analysis/NEPADocuments/nepa/Nez_Perce_Hatchery/NPTH_EA_4A_FONSI_Public_Letter.pdf

 

Also see:

 

--CBB, December 2, 2016, “Nez Perce Tribe Seeking Next Step For Steelhead Kelt Facility To Capture, Recondition Spawned Fish,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438041.aspx

 

--CBB, July 22, 2016, “Repeat Spawners: Study Looks At How Improving Steelhead ‘Kelt’ Survival Could Aid At-Risk Populations,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437180.aspx

 

--CBB, November 7, 2014, “Will Getting Some Steelhead To Spawn Twice Improve Numbers? Yakama Nation Project Looks For Answers,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/432586.aspx

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