SHORTS: No Herbicides In Wallowa Lake; Lake Koocanusa Low Inflow; Willamette Reservoirs At 72 Percent; Emergency Reg On Pike Found In Montana Lake; Unsafe Natural Toxin Level At Rufus Wood Lake; Eradicating Flowering Rush; New Director Of OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute

— EPA, DEQ Find No Herbicides In Wallowa Lake Water Or Sediment

During the on-site investigation this month into reports of drums labeled with herbicides in Wallowa Lake, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality took 15 samples of lake water and eight samples of sediment from the lake bottom.

Lab results show no detections of any herbicides in these samples.

The 15 lake water samples include 11 samples of surface water, three samples from the City of Joseph’s drinking water plant, and one sample of water from inside the drum that had the herbicide label.

Find more information, pictures and data about the investigation and removal in EPA’s Wallowa Lake Drums Cleanup Story Map: http://bit.ly/wallowa-storymap

For background see EPA, DEQ CONCLUDE ON-SITE INVESTIGATION AT WALLOWA LAKE; FIND 74 DRUMS, ONE WITH HERBICIDE LABEL

— Montana’s Lake Koocanusa (Libby Dam) Fourth Lowest Inflow Since 1960

In one of the driest years recorded for the Kootenai River Basin, extremely low spring precipitation combined with well below average winter snowpack and runoff will keep Lake Koocanusa significantly lower than normal this summer.

Reservoir elevation is projected to peak between 2,432 to 2,437 feet – potentially as much as 22 feet below the typical targeted peak pool elevation of 2,454 feet – and expected to occur in the first two weeks of August rather than late July.

“It has been a dry year overall,” said Logan Osgood-Zimmerman, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ upper Columbia River senior water manager.  “We kept the reservoir nearly five feet higher at the end of December than in most years and then have been operating on minimum flows for much of winter and spring to try and conserve water.”

Currently, Lake Koocanusa is on track to have the fourth lowest inflow volume since 1960.

Water supply in the Kootenai basin has been very low all winter and spring:

◾Basin snowpack averaged about 70 percent of normal all winter

◾In February 2019, inflow into Lake Koocanusa was the lowest monthly inflow volume ever measured (between 1960-2019)

◾May precipitation was 36 percent of normal

◾June precipitation has been 45 percent of normal, thus far

The Corps’ swim platform at Souse Gulch will likely not be available for use because of low lake levels and access to private docks and marinas may be impacted.

Libby Dam discharge gradually decreased from 20,000 cubic feet per second to 7,000 cfs from June 20-25 and is expected to remain at that level through August before reducing to 6,000 cfs in September.

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— For Summer, Willamette Valley’s 13 Corps Reservoirs 72 Percent Full

The Willamette Valley Project had an interesting spring this year, with a significant snow and rainfall event. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District has since worked to refill the Willamette Valley’s 13 reservoirs to their maximum extent possible to prepare for the summer recreation season, while preparing the reservoirs for winter precipitation events.

In the span of two months, the Willamette Valley witnessed a snow storm and a high water event that increased inflows into the system. All that precipitation at once is great for the summer recreation season, right?

The short answer: no. The Willamette Valley is a rain-driven system, and uses snowpack to supplement water inflows throughout the summer. While the Valley’s snowpack continued to build into March, the April rain event melted a significant portion of that snowpack, which left little to be used for the late summer months.

Inflows from the April rain event required the Corps to release water from the Willamette Valley Project’s 13 dams to draft back down to meet our rule curve, or the authorized maximum water elevation on a given day. This rule curve sets guidelines for flood risk management and balancing project benefits.

Right now, the Willamette Valley Project’s 13 reservoirs are 72% full. Detroit and Fern Ridge reservoirs are 96% full. Cougar reservoir is currently at the lowest elevation, at 33% full, to augment for mainstem flows as well as low summer flows for U.S. Forest Service in-stream habitat restoration.

The Corps manages the Willamette Valley dams and reservoirs to work as a system to provide flood risk management, recreation, water quality and supply, and more to the region.

Weather and numerous other factors impact water levels in the Willamette Valley’s lakes and reservoirs throughout the summer and fall, including the Willamette Biological Opinion – which focuses on meeting target flows for fish downstream.

The Corps encourages the public to check reservoir levels before heading out the door. Visit the teacup chart for up-to-date reservoir levels: http://www.nwd-wc.usace.army.mil/nwp/teacup/willamette/.

For additional information or questions regarding water levels, call the Willamette Valley Project ranger staff at 541-942-5631.

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— Anglers Required To Turn In Northern Pike From Lake Mary Ronan

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission on June 19 approved an emergency regulation change that requires anglers to turn in any Northern Pike caught in Lake Mary Ronan.

Effective immediately, all Northern Pike caught must be killed immediately, kept and the entire fish submitted to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Anglers who catch Northern Pike in Lake Mary Ronan are required to report the catch to FWP within 24 hours (406-752-5501). Anglers must turn in the whole Northern Pike to a FWP office within 10 days of capture. Edible portions of the fish may be returned to the angler upon request.

The regulation change is in response to the recent discovery of reproducing Northern Pike in the lake near Dayton. FWP biologists are concerned that pike could impact the valuable kokanee salmon and trout fishery. The population density of northern pike is currently unknown, but FWP believes there is a high risk of population expansion in the lake. The lake contains popular kokanee, largemouth bass, rainbow trout and yellow perch fisheries that would be negatively impacted by a sustaining northern pike population. Lake Mary Ronan is the sole source for eggs used for Kokanee aquaculture and stocking in the state. Pike are an extremely predacious gamefish that have impacted several lakes across the state due to unauthorized introductions.

Pike were first detected in Lake Mary Ronan in 2014. In 2018, an angler turned in a pike that was identified as the first confirmed reproduction of the fish in the lake.

Data collected from fish captured by anglers will help FWP further determine the source of the fish — reproduced in the lake or continued unauthorized introduction — and population size and viability.

“Lake Mary Ronan is a popular and high-quality fishery and Northern Pike pose a threat to that fishery,” said Kenneth Breidinger, FWP fisheries biologist. “We’re taking this very seriously and trying to learn as much as we can about the unauthorized introduction of pike to best inform our future management.”

Anyone who witnesses a fish and game violation, or property vandalism, anywhere in Montana can report the crime by calling 1-800-TIP-MONT (1-800-847-6668). Callers will remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.

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— Unsafe Toxin Detected In Algae Blooms On Rufus Woods Lake

An unsafe level of a naturally occurring toxin was detected in algae blooms at Rufus Woods Lake, prompting U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ officials to post Washington State Department of Health warnings against swimming, water skiing and other in-water activities at the lake near Bridgeport, Washington.

The toxin of concern is anatoxin-a, a nerve toxin produced by some blue-green algae blooms found in water bodies throughout the state.  Blue-green algae blooms often rise to the water’s surface forming a thin oily-looking surface scum that is often described as looking like pea soup or spilled green paint.  The toxin can be lethal to animals if ingested at high enough concentrations.

While it’s safe to eat properly cleaned and gutted fish, water should not be consumed and steps should be taken to keep livestock and pets away from the water.  Boaters are advised to avoid areas where floating algae blooms are present.

Samples of floating algae blooms were taken and forwarded to King County Environmental Laboratories for testing and analysis.  Test results indicate that concentrations of anatoxin-a in the floating algae were as high as 311 micrograms per liter.

The Washington Department of Health recommended guideline for anatoxin-a concentrations are one microgram per liter for recreational uses of the water.  Samples will continue to be taken and analyzed until anatoxin-a levels are determined to be below state recreational guidance values.

Access to Rufus Woods Lake remains open to the public.

For more information about toxic blooms, visit the Washington State Toxic Algae website at https://www.nwtoxicalgae.org/Default.aspx.

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— Walla Walla Corps Issues Draft EA For Flowering Rush Control

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Walla Walla District invites public comments on a Draft Environmental Assessment for flowering rush control in the states of Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana. Comments will be accepted June 24, 2019 through July 24, 2019.

Flowering rush is an invasive aquatic weed species. The Corps proposes to share flowering rush treatment costs with the Pacific States Marine Fish Commission to treat infestations on non-federal lands. The goal of treatment is to prevent and/or minimize the impacts of flowering rush invasion on habitat, irrigation and recreation. The aim is to eradicate known and future flowering rush populations, and provide continued subsequent control at a much-reduced effort.

The Corps participation in this project is authorized under Section 1039(d) of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-121) and Section 1178 of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016 (Public Law 114-322).

The EA is available for viewing or downloading on the Walla Walla District website at www.nww.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environmental-Compliance.

The Corps will accept public input June 24, 2019 through July 24, 2019. All information and comments submitted will be included in the permanent public record.

Public comments may be submitted electronically to the Corps using the online comment form on the webpage, or via email NEPANWW@usace.army.mil — type “Flowering Rush EA” in the subject line. Written comments may also be sent via U.S. Postal Service, addressed to:

 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla District

 ATTN: CENWW-PPL-C (Flowering Rush EA)

 201 North 3rd Ave.

 Walla Walla, WA 99362-1876

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— OSU Names New Director Of Marine Mammal Institute

Lisa Ballance, an ecologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California, has been named director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University.

She succeeds Bruce Mate, who is retiring after serving as the director since its inception in 2006. She will start in the new position on Oct. 14.

Ballance is director of the Marine Mammal and Turtle Research Division at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center. She has been affiliated with the center in a variety of capacities since 1988 when she joined as a graduate research associate. She also is an adjunct professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

“Lisa Ballance is exceptionally gifted, both as a marine ecologist and an administrator,” said Alan Sams, dean of OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences, which is the academic home of the institute. “She has an international reputation for her scholarship on marine birds and mammals, and for her leadership of large science teams within NOAA.”

As a researcher, Ballance has served as principal investigator or co-PI on projects focused on cetacean and seabird ecology, drivers of species diversity patterns, and the extent to which top-down versus bottom-up forcing shapes marine ecosystems.

She has conducted research in Antarctica, Australia, the Philippines, Cambodia, the Maldives, the greater tropical Pacific and Indian oceans and, in our own backyard, the waters of the California Current.

The Marine Mammal and Turtle Research Division that she has directed since 2007 consists of about 70 scientists who conduct research on marine mammals and turtles. Their research focuses on assessment of the animals’ health, condition, population and ecosystems – and the identification and mitigation of anthropogenic threats.

Ballance has led a number of national-level teams within NOAA. She chaired the Protected Resources Science Investment team, which resulted in the Pacific Marine Assessment Program for protected species – a five-year partnership with NOAA Fisheries’ four Pacific Science Centers, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the U.S. Navy.

She also chaired NOAA’s National Seabird Program, a crosscutting group of managers and scientists working domestically and internationally to protect and conserve seabirds. And she was chief scientist of NOAA’s Eastern Tropical Pacific Research Program, known best for the research that provided the scientific basis for the “Dolphin Safe” label found on tuna cans in supermarkets nationwide.

As director of OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute, Ballance will oversee six scientists, more than 15 technical and administrative staff, and seven graduate students who study marine mammals in oceans around the world. The mission of the OSU institute is to advance conservation and understanding of marine mammal ecology, which incorporates habitat, food web, health and environmental issues.

The institute also works with industries (fisheries, shipping, oil and others) that have potential for endangering target species to help them save marine mammals while accomplishing their work.

Most of the scientists and programs at the Marine Mammal Institute are funded by OSU Foundation endowments that are supported by a network of donors and supporters. The OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Oregon Sea Grant also provide funds to support the program. The university’s Marine Studies Initiative will be a contributor to future positions within the institute.

Ballance is a 1981 graduate of the University of California, San Diego, and has a master’s degree in marine science from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in Moss Landing, California, and a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Bruce Mate, who Ballance is replacing, is a pioneer in using satellites to track tagged marine mammals. He founded the marine mammal program at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center and has served as its director since its inception. An internationally known researcher, he has been featured in several documentaries, including National Geographic’s “Kingdom of the Blue Whale.”

“We are all delighted that Lisa will be joining us as director of the MMI,” said Bob Cowen, director of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. “She will bring new energy, expertise and ideas to build upon the outstanding group of scientists and students that Bruce established over the years.”

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