NUMBER 39 NOVEMBER 1998
TABLE OF CONTENTS
APPROPRIATIONS BILL PASSES
The final legislative duty of the 105th Congress was to pass appropriations legislation. Similar to 1995, when the infamous salvage logging amendment (or rider) was attached to the recisions bill, environmentally related amendments to this year’s spending bills caused concern in the conservation community. Initially, the Department of Interior and related agencies spending bill, S. 2237, contained numerous riders. Attempts to attach wetlands mitigation legislation and language incorporating S. 1180 (a bill to reauthorize the Endangered Species Act) failed. S. 1180 was opposed by conservation groups and supported by timber, mining, ranching, and agricultural groups (See Habitat Hotline Number 31).
Another issue at stake in the budget battle was over the removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and the dams in the Columbia and Snake River systems. Senator Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) had attached controversial language (in a rider) to the Interior appropriations bill. This language would have prohibited, unless authorized by Congress, federal or state agencies from taking actions that would remove, breach, or diminish the Congressionally authorized uses (i.e. flood control, electrical generation) of any dam on the Federal Columbia Power System or any dam on the Columbia or Snake Rivers or their tributaries licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This language was deleted from the final bill. As a consequence, however, Gorton also removed FY 1999 funds, which were earmarked for removal of the Elwha dam. This is important because Congress had already approved $29.5 million for the purchase of the Glines and Elwha dams. Expect this debate to continue next year.
In the end, the Interior appropriations bill was combined with six other spending bills in a $500 billion omnibus appropriations measure, H.R. 4328, which is 4,000 pages in length.
Many of the environmental riders objected to by conservation groups were removed in the final negotiations over the bill. H.R. 4328 was passed by votes of 333-95 on October 20 in the House, and 65-29 on October 21 in the Senate. President Clinton signed the bill into law on October 21.
Below are some elements contained in the final omnibus bill, as well as some of those dropped (Sources: Greenwire, Congressional Greensheets, Environment and Energy Weekly):
COUNCIL ADOPTS GROUNDFISH/PELAGICS EFH
At its September meeting in Sacramento, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC or Council) adopted amendments to include Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) recommendations to two of its Fishery Management Plans (FMPs): The Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP (Amendment 11), and the Coastal Pelagic Species FMP (Amendment 8).
BACKGROUND: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Act) was originally passed in 1976. The Act provided NMFS with legislative authority for fisheries regulation in the United States in the area between three miles to 200 miles offshore. It also established the eight regional fishery management councils (Councils) that manage the harvest of fish and shellfish resources in these waters.
The PFMC covers the area offshore of the states of California, Oregon, and Washington, while the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) manages fishery resources in federal waters off Alaska. Councils prepare FMPs to govern their management activities, which are then submitted to NMFS for approval.
In 1996, the Act was reauthorized and changed extensively. Among other changes, these amendments were intended to emphasize the importance of habitat protection to healthy fisheries and to strengthen the ability of the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Councils to protect the habitat needed by the fish they manage. This habitat is called "Essential Fish Habitat" (EFH) and is broadly defined to include "those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity."
The Act requires the Councils, after receiving recommendations from NMFS, to amend their FMPs by October 1998 to:
Fishing Gear Impacts
Last year the NMFS released the draft document, titled "Framework for the Description, Identification, Conservation, and Enhancement of Essential Fish Habitat." In that document, NMFS recommends the following options for managing adverse effects from fishing:
Fishery management options may include, but are not limited to:
NOW WHAT: Amendment 11 was submitted to the Secretary of Commerce for final approval. Amendment 8 will be submitted by mid-November. A decision is expected by early 1999.
The recently adopted Pacific Coast Groundfish FMP (Amendment 11) includes a discussion of the impacts of fishing gear, as well as the use of marine protected areas (no-fishing zones or refugia). However, in the groundfish amendment, the PFMC chose not to establish a specific timeline aimed at defining gear performance standards nor the establishment of harvest refugia for research purposes (as sought by the environmental groups). However, the Council will begin research on identifying existing marine reserves, as well as identifying de facto reserves (i.e. telecommunications cable areas) in the coming months. At its November meeting, the Council is expected to convene a "legal gear committee" to look at bycatch. This group may also address fishing gear impacts on habitat issues as well. (See related story on page 13).
For Further Information or for a copy of the groundfish and coastal pelagics documents, contact the Pacific Fishery Management Council at (503) 326-6352.
COUNCIL TO CONTINUE SALMON EFH DEBATE IN NOVEMBER
At its September meeting in Sacramento, the Pacific Fishery Management Council delayed action on amendments to its Salmon Fishery Management Plan (Amendment 14).
BACKGROUND: The first draft of the salmon EFH amendment language was presented to the PFMC in March of 1998. The draft contained descriptive language on the adverse impacts that activities such as mining, forestry, and aquaculture have on EFH. The document also proposed detailed measures for avoiding or minimizing those impacts (such as, for example, denying cattle access to streams while salmon are spawning).
However, the March draft received vociferous opposition from the non-fishing industry (including oyster growers, cattle ranchers, and property rights advocates) as well as some Congressional representatives. The non-fishing industry claimed that they were not sufficiently consulted during the drafting of the salmon EFH guidelines. Despite the fact that the EFH is non-regulatory, objections were also raised over the draft conservation and enhancement measures, which, they thought, were overly restrictive.
Prior to the June Council meeting, in response to the concerns raised, NMFS decided to scrap both the detailed descriptions of potential adverse effects and the specific conservation and enhancement language from the March draft. In its place, NMFS presented to the Council a "toned down" document typified by more generic conservation measures. However, NMFS’ June submittal to the PFMC caused dissatisfaction in the environmental community and some fishing groups. In response to these concerns raised, the PFMC’s Habitat Steering Group recommended that the Council reinstitute some of the more detailed descriptions and conservation and enhancement measures from the March draft. At the June meeting, the Council directed its staff, in cooperation with National Marine Fisheries Service, to redraft the document to include more specific conservation and enhancement measures, to make it more similar to the March 26 draft document.
At its September meeting, the rewritten EFH provisions were again presented to the Council. The latest EFH language in the document was well received by Council members. However, because of issues not related to EFH, the Council deferred action on Amendment 14 until its November meeting in Portland.
NOW WHAT: If the Council decides at its November 2-6 meeting in Portland, Oregon that the draft salmon amendments are ready for public comment, public hearings will most likely be held in February 1999, with the final amendment to be considered for adoption at the March 1999 meeting in Portland, Oregon.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: The Council is scheduled to take up the salmon EFH issue on Tuesday, November 3, 1998. Public comment will also be accepted. The Council meeting will take place at:
Columbia River DoubleTree Hotel
1401 North Hayden Island Drive
Portland, Oregon 97217
For a Copy of Salmon EFH documents and for further information contact the Pacific Fishery Management Council at (503) 326-6352.
COLUMBIA RIVER UPDATE
By late 1999, the Clinton Administration (National Marine Fisheries Service) has said that it will choose a long-term plan to restore Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead. The 1999 decision will include how many salmon and steelhead are to be left in-river versus transported by truck or barge. Variables to be considered could include dam removal, reservoir drawdown, dam modifications (including adult passage improvements), and juvenile bypass improvements (including spilling the fish over the dams).
Conservation groups contend that fish barging is a proven failure over the last 20 years, and the scientific consensus for restoring salmon is more natural river conditions. The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association (NSIA) endorsed dam removal on October 15, 1998. According to Buzz Ramsey of the Luhr Jensen and Sons fishing tackle company and NSIA President:
We can’t solve this problem with harvest restrictions alone. We need to reform the largest harvester of salmon and steelhead in the river, the federal dams, which kill up to 90% of young salmon and up to 40% of the adults.
On the other side of the issue, industries that depend on the Columbia River’s electricity and transportation system say that the spill program is doing more harm than good, that harvest rates on Idaho chinook are too high, and that the benefits of barging fish are underestimated.
Two events recently took place that may have significant effects on the future management of the river. They are the scientific justification for the removal of the Snake River dams, and the agreement by the Governors of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Montana to continue to pursue Columbia River management issues through a forum. Also, comments are now being accepted on the "Multi-Species Framework Process."
*PATH (The Plan for Analyzing and Testing Hypotheses): PATH tests hypotheses underlying key salmon management decisions in the Columbia River Basin with scientists/managers from BPA, NPPC, NMFS, IDFG, ODFW, WDFW, and the CRITFC and their member tribes, as well as independent peer reviewers. The PATH scientific review panel is composed of Carl Walters, University of British Columbia; Jeremy Collie and Saul Saila, University of Rhode Island; and Steve Carpenter, University of Wisconsin.
**Snake River Chinook were listed as "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act in 1992.
Conclusion: The review panel found that natural river drawdown has a much greater likelihood, under a 48-year time period, of recovering spawning stock, than either current management or maximizing transportation.
For a Copy of the Report Contact the Bonneville Power Administration at (503) 230-3000; or on the Internet go to http://www.efw.bpa.gov/cgi-bin /efw/FW/welcome.cgi.
Now What: On October 5, 1998, Governors Racicot, Batt, Locke, Kitzhaber (of Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon) met in Boise, Idaho and agreed that they would decide by year’s end whether to proceed with the process. If the process continues, the Governors may seek Congressional authority for the Forum. The four states are mulling over their options, including how to interface with the already existing Northwest Power Planning Council (Council)*.
*The Northwest Power Planning Council was created by Congress through the Northwest Power Act of 1980. It is composed of two representatives from each of its four member states and has a mandate to oversee electric power system planning and fish and wildlife recovery in the Columbia River Basin. Undermining the effectiveness of the Council has been its lack regulatory authority and lack of tribal representation.
The Northwest Power Planning Council, National Marine Fisheries Service and representatives of Columbia River Basin Indian tribes are beginning work on developing a Multi-species decision-making framework for fish and wildlife policy in the Columbia River Basin. Once it is developed, the framework will provide direction and specific strategies for fish and wildlife recovery, mitigation of economic impacts of recovery efforts and objectives for evaluating results.
The concept of a basinwide decision-making framework arose largely from two separate reports by groups of independent scientists—the 1996 report entitled Upstream: Salmon and Society in the Pacific Northwest, by the National Research Council, and the 1995 report entitled Return to the River by the Independent Scientific Group, which was a review of the Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. Both reports suggested current recovery efforts will fail if they are not grounded in a set of scientific principles and a decision-making framework based on those principles.
A multi-species framework, developed cooperatively by state, tribal and federal governments, with the advice and participation of economic interests, environmentalists and others, will help focus decision-making throughout the basin no matter how river governance might be structured in the future. In the interim, while future governance structures are discussed and debated, such a framework would guide the Council’s fish and wildlife program implementation under the Northwest Power Act and also the National Marine Fisheries Service’s salmon recovery strategies under the Endangered Species Act.
The management panel will oversee a two-part process of developing the framework. The first step involves developing an analysis of ecological conditions.
At the same time, representatives [of] government and non-government interests will be invited to identify policy options in the form of alternative goals and operating constraints that could guide fish and wildlife recovery decisions.
Following further refinement, the final report of the scientists and policy experts should be completed by September 1999. After that, the report would be used by state, tribal and federal governments to establish policies for the future of fish and wildlife recovery programs. Collectively, these policy choices will create the Multi-species decision-making framework.
(**Source: Northwest Power Planning Council NeWs, September 15, 1998)
WHAT YOU CAN DO: The Multi-Species Framework project is soliciting concept papers describing general approaches to fish and wildlife recovery in the Columbia River Basin. Concept papers should be no more than five pages in length and must be submitted by November 6, 1998 to:
Mr. Roy Sampsel, Project Manager
Multi-Species Framework Project
851 S.W. Sixth Ave, Suite 1100
Portland, Oregon 97204
WORKSHOP: The Multi-Species Framework Project invites interested parties to attend a workshop on November 17-19, 1998, at the John Q. Hammons Trade Center at the Holiday Inn Portland Airport Hotel, 8439 NE Columbia Blvd., Portland, Oregon. The workshop will begin at 9 a.m. on October 17 and occupy all three days. The focus of the workshop is to assist groups and individuals in the development of alternatives describing approaches to fish and wildlife recovery in the Columbia River Basin, and to discuss the analytical methods that will be used to review those alternatives.
For Further Information Contact Roy Sampsel at (503) 820-2349. Framework information can also be obtained on the Internet at http://www.nw framework.org/
RESTORATION PROPOSALS EXTENDED TO 11/6
The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is requesting proposals for fishery restoration work throughout California. Emphasis for funding will be on proposals for restoration of salmon and steelhead. The deadline for submitting proposals has been extended to November 6, 1998.
For Further Information Contact Mary Brawner of DFG’s Coastal Watershed Restoration Program at (916) 654-5628; or visit their website at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/dfghome.html and click on "What’s New." Then follow the link to the "Salmon & Steelhead Restoration RFP."
MEASURE 66 SEEKS SALMON FUNDING
On November 3, Oregon voters will have an important opportunity to decide whether 15 percent of state lottery funds (or approximately $45 million per year) should go towards creation and restoration of state parks and salmon and watershed protection. Currently, lottery money may be used only for creating jobs, furthering economic development and financing public education in Oregon.
If passed, according to the its supporters, Measure 66, the "Parks and Salmon Initiative" would:
To support their position, the Measure’s sponsors point to the fact that over 30,000 miles of Oregon streams are listed as polluted, and that numerous fish species native to Oregon are listed under the Endangered Species Act.
REACTION: Supporters of Measure 66 include The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Lands, Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition, Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, Northwest Sportsfishing Industry Association, Oregon Forest Industries Council, and the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, among many others. Some views on the measure are provided below:
The Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, said:
Pacific salmon are a regional icon of environmental quality, and have been the focus of cultural, religious, and economic attention for centuries. Salmon link upland, aquatic, estuarine and marine environments, and the status of native salmon throughout much of western North American can best be described as precarious. The continued decline of Pacific salmon and other fish and wildlife resources in Oregon is a clear indication that Society’s stewardship of salmon and their ecosystems continue to fall short of the mark. This disappoints us as scientists, and saddens us as citizens. It should be clear that existing policies and institutions, however well intentioned, have not worked. Real, substantive changes are needed, not only to restore salmon abundance but also to restore the functioning of ecological systems which create and maintain habitats for all fish and wildlife species, and which provide irreplaceable ecological services to human society.
Consequently, the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society supports the concept of a constitutional amendment, to be voted upon by citizens in Oregon, to dedicate fifteen percent of net lottery revenues to beaches, parks, salmon, wildlife habitat and watershed protection.
This new funding can complement, but is inadequate to replace, the efforts that are already underway to restore Oregon’s watersheds and ecological systems by Oregon’s state agencies, cooperating federal and tribal agencies, and private landowners and organizations. We hope that the effect of this measure will be to increase funding for fish, wildlife and their habitats. However, its only guaranteed effect would be to establish a minimum level of funding for salmon restoration, and fish and wildlife habitat conservation at seven and a half percent of net lottery funds.
Geoff Pampush, Oregon Trout, Portland Oregon, commented:
The fund will provide—for the first time—a state-based capital source which is a critical component of any long term habitat protection and restoration program. Conservation easements and full-fee acquisition of key wetlands could be acquired, riparian buffers could be expanded, critical inventory and research related to conservation could be conducted, watershed protection and restoration plans could be implemented by watershed councils.
Historically, the most important fish and wildlife habitats were in the lower reaches of our watersheds. The confluence of large rivers, broad floodplains, estuaries, wetlands, wet meadows and prairies are the most productive ecosystems in Oregon. The public lands, which we cherish as strongholds for fish and wildlife, are actually the leftovers after settlement and in general, not near the biological potential of the lower elevation, water related private lands. Today, most of the ecologically productive private land is developed for other uses—and the remnants, which may be the only strongholds for some aquatic species, are going fast. Coho reproduction, for example, takes place primarily in streams flowing through private land.
If our native fish and wildlife are to have a bright future, Oregon needs to have a source of capital that provides incentives to those who own and manage these lands and waters to either modify the management more compatibly, or to convey it outright to a land trust, state agency or other appropriate entity for the long term protection of these key habitats.
There hasn’t been a better time in Oregon in the past 20 years to establish a conservation capital fund.
On July 22, 1998, Willamette Week (a Portland, Oregon weekly newspaper) wrote:
Oregon’s elite must have a thing for greenery and gills. Nike boss Phil Knight forked over $50,000 for Measure 66, which requires 15 percent of all lottery proceeds to be dedicated to parks and salmon. Sixteen other donors each gave $5,000 or more to the signature-gathering effort. Overall, just 20 donors coughed up 89 percent of the total spending on the effort.
Though their plan to save parks and salmon may be noble, it rests on the backs of the poor: Lottery revenues come disproportionately from lower-income folks. Even more troubling is that schools and county governments rely on lottery proceeds for their funding. This measure could make a dent in their budgets.
According to Lloyd Marbet of the Oregon Conservancy Foundation (Source: Oregon Voters Pamphlet, Volume 1):
The goals of Measure 66 are noble, but do these noble ends justify the means? Measure 66 further legitimizes state run gambling. Not only does it provide added justification for preying on those addicted to gambling, but gambling revenue is becoming a major addiction for Oregon.
Regardless of whether Measure 66 passes or fails, we will still have state run gambling. But, if we are truly serious about repairing our parks and restoring fish and wildlife habitat, then financing must come from all Oregonians, not from Oregon’s gamblers.
What You Can Do: Election Day is November 3, 1998. Pre-election polls indicate the measure has a good chance of passage.
For Further Information Contact: Jeana Frazzini, The Campaign for Parks and Salmon at (503) 279-8343. The Campaign’s headquarters are located at 26 NW Second, Portland, Oregon, 97209.
Background: The Rogue River’s Savage Rapids Dam has come under severe criticism for killing both upstream and downstream migrating salmon and steelhead. Coho salmon in southern Oregon and northern California, including the Rogue River, are listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. It has been estimated that dam removal would increase salmon and steelhead production annually by 20,000 to 90,000 adult fish.
The federal government (e.g., the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Reclamation), Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, and numerous fish and environmental groups (e.g., WaterWatch and Trout Unlimited) want the dam removed.
In lieu of the dam, water would be provided to the Grants Pass Irrigation District (GPID) through the installation of pumps at the current dam site. However, some local interests, especially those living around the lake behind the dam, want to keep it in place. In the summertime, the dam is also a popular recreation area.
Two events recently occurred which could impact the Savage Rapids Dam, and are described below.
Oregon Senate President Brady Adams, (R-Grants Pass), who has been a Savage Rapids dam retention proponent, led the effort for the fish screen funding. He was quoted in The Oregonian (on 9/19/98) newspaper as saying that even though the GPID has agreed to remove the dam and replace it with pumps to help salmon, controversy over dam removal makes it likely that the dam will be standing next spring, when coho smolts migrate to the ocean, and that it is a good idea spend the money on new screens to keep the smolts out of the dam’s turbines (even though the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Oregon Water Resources Commission are pressing for removal of the dam). Adams was quoted as saying:
We do know the fish are going to come down next year. Rather than betting the dam will go out, it is better to provide protection for the fish.
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber lobbied against the expenditure. In a letter dated September 16 to state Representative Bob Montgomery (R-Cascade Locks), Chairman of the General Government Subcommittee of the Emergency Board, the Governor wrote that, given the pending negotiations between the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the GPID on how best to mitigate the dam’s damage to fish, building fish screens would be "unjustifiable." In his letter, the Governor also said:
Even if screens were needed as an interim measure, General Fund dollars should not be committed until appropriate designs and funding plans have been developed and approved as part of a broader settlement agreement. If such screens do not meet NMFS approval, they will be worthless to the district and will represent a waste of state money.
To receive the screening moneys, the GPID needs to apply through the Governors’ Watershed Enhancement Board. Before construction can begin, the GPID will need an Incidental Take Permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service, as required by the Endangered Species Act. As we go to press, the GPID has not yet applied for the funds from the State.
NOW WHAT: The next meeting of the Oregon Water Resources Commission is set for November 6 in Grants Pass, Oregon. The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. at:
Riverside Convention Center
971 SE Sixth Street
Grants Pass, Oregon
At that meeting, the Commission will be asked to take final action on the proposal to cancel GPID’s water withdrawal permit and deny its request for modifications.
What You Can Do: Public testimony will be accepted after the Commission decides on the GPID water right.
For Further Information Contact the Oregon Water Resources Department at (503) 378-8455; or WaterWatch at (503) 295-4039.
SALMON RECOVERY STRATEGY
On September 25, 1998, Washington State’s Joint Natural Resources Cabinet* produced its first working draft of a statewide salmon recovery strategy (Strategy), entitled "Extinction is Not an Option." For a listing of West Coast anadromous salmonid species protected under the Endangered Species Act including Washington species, please refer to Habitat Hotline Number 38 or on the Internet, go to http://www.nwr. noaa.gov/1protres/1pg989.pdf.
The Strategy is being developed around these fundamental principles:
*The Joint Natural Resources Cabinet includes 10 state agency directors, including Public Lands Commissioner Jennifer Belcher and Northwest Power Planning Council Washington members Tom Karier, and Frank L. Cassidy, Jr.
Upon releasing the draft, Curt Smitch, special assistant to Governor Gary Locke, said
This draft truly is a work in progress. It is far from being complete or final, but it does represent our effort to initiate a collaborative process. These are our collective thoughts to date. As we continue building this strategy, we will improve upon it. We want feedback—What are the most important elements of a statewide strategy? What have we missed? With limited state financial resources, what are the highest priority areas for funding?
Said Kathy Fletcher, executive director of the conservation group People For Puget Sound, Seattle:
Governor Locke’s plan is a very rough first draft, and we recognize it will be substantially revised in the coming months. However, if the salmon could speak, they’d have to give Governor Locke’s plan a grade of ‘Needs Improvement.’
According to Tim Stearns, executive director of the Save Our Wild Salmon coalition:
Salmon will not be saved by drawn-out timelines, voluntary action, and more discussion filled with political compromises. The best salmon recovery plan in the world won’t save fish unless it moves beyond rhetoric and includes iron clad timelines and funding for implementation, which this plan is still lacking. We should learn from Oregon’s attempt to cut a deal to protect salmon, and make sure our state’s recovery plan reflects what scientists tell us salmon need, not arbitrary compromises and caveats typical of interest group politics.
NOW WHAT: Some of the upcoming key products and dates in formulating the Strategy include:
For a Copy of the Draft Strategy and for Further Information Contact Sandi Snell of the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office at (360) 902-2229. A copy of the draft strategy can also be accessed on the Internet at http://www.wa.gov/esa/.
VALDEZ SPILL UPDATE
Background: On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in northeastern Prince William Sound in Alaska spilling 42 million liters of Prudhoe Bay crude oil. Initially, the spill killed an estimated 300 harbor seals, 2,800 sea otters, and between 100,000 and 645,000 seabirds. Fish resources were also impacted. For example, the return of adult pink salmon to the southwestern Prince William Sound in 1990 was estimated to have been 1.9 million fish fewer than would have occurred without the effects of the spill. (Source: Proceedings of the 1993 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Symposium, American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD). In October 1991, an out-of-court settlement was reached between the Exxon Corporation and the state and federal governments for over $1 billion in damages.
Since the spill, there has been much debate over its long-term ecosystem damages. On October 4, 1998, Yereth Rosen of Reuters reported the following regarding a recent conference on the continuing effects of the Exxon Valdez disaster*:
Lingering oil from the 1989 grounding of the Exxon Valdez supertanker in Prince William Sound will kill or stunt Alaskan pink salmon for generations to come, government scientists say. "Those buried oil pockets are sort of like land mines," ready and able to release poison, said Jeffrey Short, a scientist with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). At a conference [in Anchorage on] Saturday [10/3/98], Short and other NMFS researchers presented their findings, which were promptly rejected as flawed by scientists hired by Exxon.
Federal researchers said despite a massive cleanup of the 10.1-million-gallon oil spill, the salmon is still in jeopardy and will be into the 21st Century.
They said long-lasting hydrocarbon components of the crude oil will cause chronic harm to successive salmon generations. NMFS scientist Ron Heintz said laboratory tests, which simulated the stream environments in Prince William Sound, showed oil pollution in concentrations as low as one part per billion stunted pink salmon growth and caused other chronic problems. "Obviously, the very low oil concentrations have a variety of effects over a long period of time," Heintz said.
Scientists hired by Exxon disputed the government findings. They insisted that there were few or no adverse effects to salmon from the 1989 disaster. Ernest Brannon, a University of Idaho scientist hired by the oil company, charged that the government scientists used poor techniques to collect salmon eggs in their research.
Brannon said the government researchers—not Exxon oil—killed the eggs by collecting them too soon after they were spawned. "This is not oil. This is physical abuse," Brannon said. "Regardless of how many streams they sampled, the cause of mortality was shock, not oil."
The NMFS scientists conducted their studies in cooperation with biologists for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The work was done for the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, the joint federal-state panel that administers the $900 million that Exxon has pledged to pay over 10 years to settle government civil claims over the 1989 oil disaster. Previous theories presented to the council suggested that the spilled oil caused genetic defects in salmon, which were passed on to subsequent generations.
But the new studies, Short said, show instead lingering oil itself is harming succeeding generations of fish. He said nearly a decade after the spill, small pools of weathered oil remain on stream banks, which release hydrocarbons as tides flush through them.
While the once-pristine Prince William Sound is well on its way to recovery, "it’s clearly not as clean as it was in 1988," Short said. He noted that oil toxicity had previously been blamed on oil’s quickly evaporating, simple chemical compounds, such as benzene and toluene. But laboratory and field tests suggested that the longer-lived polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are ultimately more toxic, Short said.
The concentration of one part per billion is one-tenth the amount of oil contamination allowed under current Alaska water-quality standards, he said. Heintz and Short said their findings may be used as justification for tightening state water-quality standards, already among the nation’s strictest.
Exxon scientist Al Maki charged that the finding of biological harm from pollution measured at one part per billion was an "artifact" of statistics. No other studies have found adverse effects from such small concentrations, he said.
*Copyright Reuters Limited 1998. Reprinted with permission.
FISH GEAR STUDY RELEASED
On August 17, 1998, the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) released the "Effects of Fishing Gear on the Sea Floor of New England." The CLF says that the 168-page book is the first compilation of information about New England’s sea floor and the impacts to it from fishing gear. It includes 28 papers by scientists and fishermen that describe and illustrate the sea floor, fishing gear, fish habitat, and fishing gear impacts. Illustrations include eight pages of full color plates. The book was edited by CLF Senior Scientist Eleanor Dorsey and by Judith Pederson, manager of the Center for Coastal Resources at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sea Grant College Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
According to the CLF document:
Fishing gear makes contact with thousands of square miles of sea floor in the region each year while targeting fish and shellfish that live on or near the bottom. The major bottom-tending gear types used in New England are bottom trawls, scallop dredges, lobster traps, bottom gillnets and bottom longlines. These gears catch a variety of seafood of importance to the region’s fishing economy: cod, haddock, flounder and other groundfish; scallops; lobsters; monkfish; shrimp; and dogfish sharks.
In the course of fishing operations, these gear types disturb the sea floor and remove many untargeted species of plants and animals that grow on the sea floor. Concerns have been raised that bottom fish habitat is being damaged by this disturbance and that marine biodiversity is being threatened. The concerns are strongest for gear types that are actively pulled over the bottom during fishing (bottom trawls and scallop dredges) because the area of sea floor affected is so much larger than for gear types that fish in fixed locations.
There is much that is not known about the effects of fishing gear on the sea bottom, and some shallow areas of the sea floor are subject to natural rates of disturbance that far exceed the disturbance caused by fishing. However, both scientists and fishermen report in the book evidence of substantial negative impacts in some places, impacts that could be contributing to the fish stock declines that the region has been suffering in recent years [emphasis added].
"One of the few general conclusions that can be drawn from the various studies to date is that mobile fishing gear reduces habitat complexity on the sea floor," states the book’s Introduction, which, along with a concluding discussion, was written by Dorsey and Pederson. "This effect has been documented on various substrates in New England, eastern Canada, and Europe, as well as in other parts of the world." A less complex sea floor probably provides less shelter and less food for bottom fish.
"We believe that information in this volume from fishermen and scientists justifies protecting more areas of the ocean bottom from fishing disturbance, both to maintain healthy fisheries and to protect marine biodiversity," state the editors, Dorsey and Pederson. "We do not find in this material, however, a blanket condemnation of trawling, because in some situations fishing gear appears to have negligible or perhaps even beneficial effects" [emphasis added]. Although the book does not focus on management implications, it contains two major recommendations: (1) the sea floor of New England should be mapped according to vulnerability to fishing gear disturbance, and (2) further research should be conducted on the effects of fishing gear on the sea floor and on the relationship between sea floor habitats and fish productivity.
Copies of the Book are Available for $25 (plus shipping and handling) from CLF, 62 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02110-1016, or call (617) 350-0990. The book also may be ordered on the Internet through CLF’s web site at http://www.clf.org.
BUZZ PLATT PASSES AWAY
California commercial fisherman and PSMFC advisor Charles "Buzz" Platt passed away unexpectedly on September 17, 1998, at the age of 64. He will be missed.
FUNDING COMPENDIUM RELEASED
In August, the coalition Restore America’s Estuaries released "Funding for Habitat Restoration Projects—A Compendium of Current Federal Program With Fiscal 1996-1998 Funding Levels, A Citizens Guide."
Restore America’s Estuaries is a coalition of 11 conservation groups working to restore and preserve estuaries. The coalition is composed of the American Littoral Society (Hudson-Raritan estuaries of N.Y and N.J.); Chesapeake Bay Foundation; Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana; Conservation Law Foundation (Gulf of Maine); Galveston Bay Foundation; North Carolina Coastal Federation; People for Puget Sound; Save San Francisco Bay Association; Save the Bay (Narragansett Bay); Save the Sound (Long Island Sound); and Tampa BAYWATCH.
According to the authors, the report provides a quick, comprehensive and accessible guide to how federal funds might help implement habitat restoration projects. This guide walks readers through the first, difficult steps by showing how agencies support habitat restoration and describing the programs that fund this work.
To Obtain a Copy of This Free Document Contact Peter Braasch of Restore America’s Estuaries at RAEcoalition@estuaries.org; or call (202) 289-2379; or visit their homepage at http://www.estuaries.org.
HOTLINE ON INTERNET
To help us save on paper and postage, the Habitat Hotline is available on our web site. Habitat Hotlines are posted onto our web page within 24 hours of being published. In addition to being available in HTML format, the newsletter is also posted in Adobe PDF format, which allows users to download it in its original printed form.
Past issues of the Habitat Hotline (from Issue #17 March 1995 to present) are available on the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission’s web site at http://www.psmfc.org under "Publications".
NATIONWIDE WATER-USE DECLINES
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has compiled and reported national water-use statistics once every 5 years since 1950. On October 6, 1998, the latest water-use report "Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 1995" was released. The latest figures contain some GOOD NEWS, about water-use in the United States (please see graphic on page 15). According to the report:
NOW WHAT: In conclusion, the report says that future water-use projections are beyond the scope of the report. However, according to the report, it "seems likely" that:
For a Copy of the water use report, call the number below or, on the Internet go to http://water. usgs.gov/public/watuse/. The report contains water-use by watershed and county.
For Further Information Contact Wayne Solley of the U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Division at (703) 648-5670.
Source: http://water.usgs.gov/press_releases/98/oct/fw_pop.gif. (USGS Water science topics)
ISSU RECEIVES PSMFC AWARD
At its fifty-first Annual meeting in Sun Valley Idaho, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission gave its annual award to the sport angling group Idaho Steelhead and Salmon Unlimited for its work on behalf of salmon and steelhead. Accepting the award for ISSU was their executive coordinator, Mitch Sanchotena.
The draft USDA-EPA Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) is one of more than 100 actions President Clinton has directed to be taken as part of the Clean Water Action Plan. Its goal is for AFO owners and operators to take actions to minimize threats to water quality and public health caused by animal feeding operations, while ensuring the long-term sustainability of livestock production in the United States.
As part of the strategy, USDA and EPA estimate that 95 percent of the 450,000 animal feeding operations will be encouraged to voluntarily implement nutrient management plans. An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 livestock operations are considered Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), and will be required to develop nutrient management plans as part of permits under the Clean Water Act (currently about 2,000 permits have been issued). These CAFOs include facilities with 1,000 or more animal units (estimated 10,000 operations), as well as watersheds where a collection of operations is contributing to watershed impairment, site-specific water quality impacts from animal feeding operations, and facilities that have unacceptable conditions that pose significant water pollution risks.
To get a copy of the Draft Strategy, contact your USDA Service Center or EPA Regional Office; EPA’s Water Resource Center at (202) 260-7786, or on the Internet go to http://www.nhq. nrcs.usda.gov/cleanwater/afo, or http://www.epa.gov/owm/ afostrat.htm.
Send your comments on the AFO Draft Strategy to:
Denise C. Coleman, USDA, NRCS
P. O. Box 2890
Washington, DC 20013-2890
For further information contact Gayle Norman at (503) 414-3236. Comments are due January 19, 1999.
According to a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) press release dated 10/16/98:
In the past week, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) has taken enforcement action against the Pacific Lumber Company (PALCO) for illegal timber harvesting in northern Humboldt County. These violations are against existing forest practice standards, and are not related to the Headwaters purchase.
For the record, these violations involve a harvesting operation in which second growth redwood was cut from the stream protection zone along 500 feet of a Class II stream, and for more than 800 feet along Freshwater Creek, a Class I fish bearing stream. These violations occurred under an approved timber harvest plan, which contained restrictions to protect the stream courses. These violations have exposed the streams to degradation due to increased temperature and siltation, with possible damage to the fragile fish populations.
The CDF has issued a misdemeanor citation to Rounds Logging of Blue Lake California, the logging contractor, as well as Scotia Pacific Holding Company, a subsidiary of PALCO. Also, the Department has requested the Department of Fish and Game and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Board review the site and take any and all appropriate actions. The extent of the fine for the citations will be determined by Humboldt County Municipal Court.
For further information contact CDF Information Officer Karen Terrill at (916) 653-5123.
Claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) extension of the expired Potlatch pulp mill pollution discharge permit is a violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), conservation groups in Idaho and Washington sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue EPA Administrator Carol Browner on August 5.
The expired permit authorized the Potlatch pulp mill in Lewiston, Idaho to discharge up to 35 million gallons of 92° F wastewater per day into the Lower Granite Pool at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers. The effluent also contains dioxin and other toxic compounds from the chlorine process bleaching line. The five-year pollution permit expired in April, 1997. In the five years of the permit’s application, several fish species that must pass by or through the pollution plume—salmon, steelhead and bull trout—have been listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. EPA, following their national rule, extended the pollution permit until such time as a new permit could be adopted. The conservation groups...claim that EPA violated the ESA by extending the pollution permit without the required consultation with National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to ensure that the pollution did not harm threatened or endangered species.
Potlatch’s need for clean river water to dilute their pollution is yet another factor in the development of a salmon recovery plan due for completion by NMFS in 1999. Previous public discussions have focused on the effect removal of the four Lower Snake River dams might have on transportation, irrigated agriculture, and hydropower. Pollution, and Potlatch’s need for cold upriver water to cool their heated wastewater, has not been a part of that discussion.
"Potlatch’s pollution was the hidden wild card in the high stakes game of salmon recovery," said Mark Solomon of The Lands Council. "It’s not a salmon or jobs issue, it’s toxic pollution plain and simple," Solomon continued. "Pulp mills in Scandinavia have proven that technology exists to dramatically reduce polluted discharge and to eliminate dangerous chlorine compounds in the pulp process," said Scott Brown of the Idaho Conservation League. "We can have a pulp mill and salmon if Potlatch is willing to invest in the region’s future, their worker’s health, and an environmentally sound bottom line," Brown continued.
According to The Lands Council, the Environmental Protection Agency has said it will issue a draft permit in early November. This action would halt the threatened litigation.
On Sunday, September 6, an intense localized rainstorm deluged the Slate Creek drainage southwest of Challis in central Idaho. The heavy rainfall rapidly caused MASSIVE STREAMBED EROSION to a confined portion of Slate Creek near the abandoned Hoodoo Mine.
Huge quantities of water moving at high velocity began washing out the channel. The presence of a road intensified the erosion in the area of the mine, creating channel depths in excess of 10 feet and widths of 30 feet or more.
The water from Slate Creek carried a heavy sediment load into the main Salmon River by Monday afternoon. River water turned black and visibility was less than one inch. By late afternoon, water temperatures in the Salmon River reached 75° F at McNabb Point about 8 miles downstream from Challis. Fortunately, cloud cover prevented further heating of the river, protecting resident fish from increasing temperatures.
Fish and Game biologists examined the immediate site as well as the river downstream to the city of Salmon. No dead fish were observed in the Salmon River, however, extensive habitat damage will greatly impact fish populations in Slate Creek. Also affected were three chinook salmon redds just below the confluence of Slate Creek and the Salmon River. Sediments settling out of the water will likely cover the redds and suffocate the developing eggs.
Restoration efforts recommended by biologists include the removal of the existing road from the floodplain to allow for slower water movement during intense storms. Mine tailings still present at the HOODOO MINE should be removed to prevent possible movement into Slate Creek, and the stream channels should be stabilized to reduce sediment loading into the Salmon River. Without restoration efforts, this drainage will continue to flush significant sediment loads into the Salmon River during these types of storms.
For further information contact the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at (208) 334-3700.
The state is concerned a mine tailings dam Redfern plans to build in a flood plain above spawning grounds could endanger salmon downstream. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a similar project would not be approved in the United States.
According to the article, ADFG Commissioner Frank Rue said Alaska wants the tailing pond moved and additional measures taken to protect water quality. Rue was quoted as saying:
Our ideal outcome would be to have these key issues resolved prior to the mine getting the go ahead. We’re not saying the mine can’t go ahead, we’re just saying there’s big enough issues that should be dealt with.
The Taku watershed is the largest unprotected river system on the West Coast of North America. The river supports one of the largest populations of salmon in southeast Alaska (about one million pink, 400,000 coho, 300,000 sockeye, 50,000 chum, and over 100,000 chinook salmon). The lower 25 miles of the river flow through Alaska’s Tongass National Forest and have been found eligible for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. In March 30, 1998, the conservation group American Rivers named the Taku one of its Most Endangered Rivers of 1998.
The mine still needs a permit from the Province of British Columbia before construction can begin. Reports are that the Province may soon issue a permit for roadwork into the site. The IJC does not have the authority to stop the project, only make recommendations. However, if the IJC does decide to review the project, the start-up of the project could be affected.
August 1998 was the warmest August on record globally...The average global temperature (land and sea) for the month was 61.4 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 1.3 degrees above the long term mean of 60.1 degrees for August. August 1998 broke the previous record of 61.1 degrees set in 1997. For the year to date, from January through August, the average global temperature of 58.5 degrees Fahrenheit was also 1.3 degrees above the long term mean of 57.2. The long term mean is based on data from 1880 to 1997.
A project to increase the STEELHEAD population in central Idaho came to life this week, as wildlife officials began stocking 50,000 steelhead smolts in a newly CONSTRUCTED ACCLIMATION POND.
According to Idaho Fish and Game Department biologists, it is the first project of its kind in Idaho, and may serve as a model for several similar ponds in the area. The facility was constructed last fall under a partnership agreement between Thompson Creek Mine and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The project is part of a state program designed to mitigate the loss of fisheries due to hydroelectric development. According to IDF&G, the Upper Salmon River program produces three million smolts and may contribute up to 30,000 adult steelhead annually to be harvested by Idaho sportsmen and tribal fisheries.
Located on land owned by Thompson Creek Mining Company, just below its molybendum mine, the pond uses the excellent quality clean, cold water from Squaw Creek. "The month or so these young hatchery-raised steelhead will spend in the pond provides time for them to adjust to a natural setting before they enter the Salmon River. This acclimation experience is really a benefit because it significantly increases the survivability of the smolts," said Mitch Sanchotena, Director of Idaho Steelhead and Salmon Unlimited.
According to Mike Larkin, Regional Fisheries Manager for the Idaho Fish and Game Department, "The acclimation pond is an important part of our regional plan to improve fisheries. It reduces impacts on wild fish by reducing competition with wild trout in the Salmon River. The returning adults will also provide an additional egg source to better manage steelhead brood stock."
For further information contact ISSU at (208) 345-4438; or the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at (208) 334-3700.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We welcome information on habitat news in your area. Information should pertain to habitat of marine, estuarine, or anadromous fish or shellfish. Feel free to fax us newspaper articles, copies of letters, public hearing notices, etc., to (503) 650-5426. Funding for this publication comes in part from Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration. If you have any questions regarding the contents of this publication, or about our habitat education program, please contact: Stephen Phillips, Editor, Habitat Hotline, 45 SE 82nd Drive, Suite 100, Gladstone, Oregon 97027-2522. Phone: (503) 650-5400, Fax: (503) 650-5426. Messages can also be E-mailed to Stephen_Phillips@psmfc.org. Editorial assistance and layout by Liza Bauman. Printed on 100% recycled post-consumer paper. Date of Issue: 10/28/98.