The Independent Scientific Advisory Board (ISAB) was established by the Northwest Power Planning Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service to provide independent scientific advice and recommendations on issues related to regional fish and wildlife recovery programs under the Northwest Power Act and the Endangered Species Act. The ISAB is designed to foster a scientific approach to fish and wildlife recovery and ensure the use of sound scientific methods in the planning and implementation of research and recovery strategies related to these programs.
Because this is the ISAB’s first annual report, summaries of the board’s appointment procedures, history, and primary tasks are included and precede the descriptions of the board’s activities in financial year 1997 (FY97).
Members of the ISAB are appointed by the chair of the Northwest Power Planning Council and the regional director of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). These appointments are based on a set of recommendations submitted by an ad hoc selection committee of senior academic scientists and the National Research Council. The recommendations are based on needed expertise, scientific accomplishment, and the ability to work independently as part of a multi-disciplinary group. The selection committee considers nominations submitted by regional agencies, the ISAB, fish and wildlife managers, tribes and interest groups. The selection committee also submits nominees.
The Council and NMFS require independent yet related review activities for the ISAB. The Council directs the ISAB to accomplish three major tasks that address issues related to fish and wildlife populations affected by operation and development of the hydroelectric system. These tasks include:
NMFS is primarily interested in anadromous fish conservation and management. Its tasks for the ISAB include:
Tribes, fish and wildlife agencies and others may submit questions to the ISAB through the Council and NMFS. The ISAB may also identify questions. The coordinators and the ISAB periodically review these questions and decide which are amenable to scientific analysis, are relevant to the Council and NMFS’s program, and fit within the ISAB’s schedule and budget.
In 1989, the fishery managers and the Bonneville Power Administration created the Scientific Review Group (SRG) to review and provide advice on the projects and strategies proposed for funding by Bonneville under the Council’s fish and wildlife program. The Council included in its December 1994 Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program a call for Bonneville to fund an Independent Scientific Group (ISG). The group was asked to provide a biennial review of the scientific merits of the Council’s program, identify critical scientific questions and oversee the development of an experimental design to test key hypotheses regarding salmon passage through the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.
Rather than create another group, similar to the SRG, the Council proposed to Bonneville and the fishery managers to use the SRG as the Independent Scientific Group. This was agreed to, and the ISG began carrying out its duties in January 1995. In May 1994, the Snake River Salmon Recovery Team convened to provide recommendations on recovery of fish populations listed under the Endangered Species Act and recommended the creation of a Salmon Oversight Committee (SOC) in its Proposed Recovery Plan for Snake River Salmon.
The rationale for the SRG, the ISG and the SOC was similar: to provide a source of independent, credible scientific information to regional decision-makers. Because of this similarity, the Council and NMFS agreed to create a single scientific body to address the needs of both agencies. In January 1996, the two agencies agreed to build on the Council’s existing ISG to create the Independent Scientific Advisory Board.
Because the ISAB evolved from and replaced the ISG, many ISG members were nominated to and became members of the ISAB. This enabled the members to continue their ongoing review of the science behind the Council’s program. NMFS submitted nominees selected from a previous solicitation for nominations to the SOC. In addition, NMFS and the Council asked a broad array of parties for nominations. From this pool of nominees, the Council and NMFS selected eleven independent scientists from a variety of disciplines. The Council and NMFS each designated a coordinator to act as liaison between the agencies and the ISAB.
From the ISAB’s inception in January 1996, the board was busy with reviews requested by the Council and NMFS, and as the year progressed the challenges and assignments increased. When the ISAB replaced the ISG, several ISAB members continued to be involved with the ISG task to complete a biennial review of the science underlying salmon and steelhead recovery efforts and Columbia River Basin ecosystem health. On September 10, 1996, the ISG presented its findings to the Council in a report entitled "Return to the River: Restoration of Salmonid Fishes in the Columbia River Ecosystem." This report and the board’s other reports and activities are described in the "Reviews" and "Other Activities" sections below.
NWPPC Report 96-6 by the Independent Scientific Group: Return to the River. Restoration of Salmonid Fishes in the Columbia River Ecosystem. Development of an Alternative Conceptual Foundation and Review and Synthesis of Science underlying the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program of the Northwest Power Planning Council. Prepublication Copy (September 10, 1996)
In the December 1994 amendments to the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program (Section 3.2B), the Northwest Power Planning Council called on the Bonneville Power Administration to fund the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) to conduct a biennial review of the science underlying salmon and steelhead recovery efforts and Columbia River Basin ecosystem health. The Council’s objective was to provide the region, to the greatest extent possible, clear and authoritative analysis conducted by impartial experts. The Council also asked the ISG to develop a conceptual foundation for the fish and wildlife program (Section 5.0F) to provide an overall set of scientific principles and assumptions on which the program and fish and wildlife management activities basinwide could be based and against which they could be evaluated.
On September 18, 1996, ISG delivered Return to the River to the Council. It contains the first biennial review and a proposed conceptual foundation for the Fish and Wildlife Program. The report was peer reviewed by additional scientists, whose comments are reflected in the report. The ISG’s charge was to analyze existing data and measures currently in the program, and draw conclusions based on that analysis. The report is not an implementation plan. Instead, the conceptual foundation proposed in the report was intended to provide the scientific foundation for public policy to be developed by the Council and other decision-making bodies. It can be used to guide salmon restoration activities in general, to enable fishery managers to focus research efforts on areas that are not thoroughly understood, and to aid in the future development of the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program.
The ISG founded its conceptual foundation on the premise that an ecosystem with a mix of natural and cultural features can still sustain a broad diversity of salmon populations in the Columbia River Basin. The ISG named this ecosystem "normative," which means an ecosystem where specific functional norms or standards that are essential to maintain diverse and productive populations are provided. In developing the definition of normative, the ISG looked at what conditions lead to high levels of salmon productivity in less-constrained river systems, as well as in the historic Columbia River Basin.
Key among the conditions the ISG defined as normative is the availability of a continuum of high-quality habitat throughout the salmon life cycle, from freshwater streams along the entire migratory path, into and back out of the Pacific Ocean. The ISG assumed this habitat is dynamic, responding to daily, seasonal, annual or longer temporal changes. They also assumed that a diverse array of salmon populations and other occupants of this habitat have adapted over time to the majority of these natural changes. Under some circumstances, salmon in mainstem reaches and adjacent subbasins of the Columbia formed groups of interconnected populations, which are referred to as metapopulations.
Development of the Columbia River for hydropower, irrigation, navigation and other purposes has led to a reduction in both the quantity and quality of salmon habitat, and most critical, a disruption in the continuum of that habitat. Depleted salmon populations cannot rebuild if any habitat that is critical during any of their life stages is seriously compromised. Consequently, the ISG wrote that the most promising way to help salmon populations rebuild is to reduce or remove conditions that limit the restoration of high-quality salmon habitat at each of their life history stages. The ISG’s intent in describing a normative ecosystem for salmon was to point out key characteristics that are critical to salmon survival and productivity. The ISG’s description was necessarily general. Specific prescriptions, such as flow regimes, levels of stock diversity, etc., need to be developed through a process that includes policy development and trade-offs between the natural and cultural elements of the ecosystem.
The report includes chapters on:
The scientists invited other scientists to comment on this prepublication version of the report. The board is expected to incorporate these comments and finalize the report by the end of 1997 with publication to follow. The report’s findings will provide one of the underpinnings for a new regional framework that can unite the various salmon recovery programs in the region.
ISAB 97-1: Review of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s "1996 Annual Report to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality" related to Waiver of Dissolved Gas Standard (January 6, 1997)
On November 14, 1996 NMFS’s Environmental and Technical Services Division (Portland, Oregon) requested that the ISAB review its draft report to the Oregon Department of Environment Quality. The draft report presented results of 1996 monitoring and evaluation related to the department’s 1996 waiver of state water quality standards for total dissolved gas saturation in the Columbia and Snake rivers to facilitate salmonid outmigration with spill.
The ISAB review included detailed comments that addressed each section of the draft report. Overall, the ISAB commended the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and NMFS for their agreement to identify topics of concern regarding modifications of the total dissolved gas saturation standard and to present the relevant information for the benefit of their agencies and others in the basin. The ISAB also found that aided by peer review and revisions, this strategy should enhance mutual understanding of both what is known about total dissolved gas saturation effects and what still needs to be learned, with the ultimate benefit of reasonable and effective regulations.
ISAB 97-2: Report of the Independent Scientific Advisory Board Regarding a Research Proposal for Inclusion in the 1997 Smolt Monitoring Program. Proposal Reviewed: Comparative Survival Rate Study of Hatchery PIT Tagged Chinook (January 13, 1997)
On November 24, 1996 the Council delivered the Fish Passage Center’s 1997 PIT Tag Study Proposal titled "Comparative Survival Rate Study of PIT Tagged Chinook" to the ISAB. The Council requested the ISAB to review the scientific basis of the proposal. This review was to aid the Council in its review and approval decision process regarding the proposal. The proposal listed four objectives:
For 1997 study requirements, time was of the essence in this review because PIT tags needed to be applied to a large number of juveniles before they were moved to holding facilities where tagging was not feasible. Information from the PIT tag study was needed for implementation of the Council’s fish and wildlife plan and NMFS’s biological opinion.
The ISAB focused its recommendation and review to two primary issues: immediate tagging implementation and long-term operational plan formation. The ISAB recommended that the proposed 1997 tagging implementation be funded to proceed immediately. However, the ISAB recommended that funding for the balance of the proposal be deferred until the proposal is revised to include a multidisciplinary operational plan on juvenile survival estimation. The ISAB also recommended that a technical team be impaneled to assist in the preparation of the operation plan and experimental design for analysis and for planning for future tagging.
ISAB 97-3: Ecological impacts of the flow provisions of the Biological Opinion for endangered Snake River salmon on resident fishes in Hungry Horse and Libby systems in Montana, Idaho, and British Columbia (March 4, 1997)
On March 27, 1996 NMFS requested the ISAB to address two questions.
Although the ISAB found the questions too narrow, the ISAB made several observations and conclusions including:
On April 19, 1997 the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife submitted comments to the ISAB regarding the ISAB’s review of Hungry Horse and Libby operations. These comments addressed the ISAB’s review point by point. On July 17, the ISAB formally responded to the comments.
ISAB 97-4: Report of the Independent Scientific Advisory Board Regarding a Research Proposal for Inclusion in the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. Proposal Reviewed: Lake Pend Oreille Fishery Recovery Project (March 7, 1997)
The Council requested the ISAB to review Idaho Fish and Game’s study plan to address scientific uncertainties associated with kokanee spawning and recruitment and winter lake levels in Lake Pend Oreille.
The ISAB concluded that the current study plan was not likely to demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship between the manipulated winter lake levels and recovery of the kokanee population. The ISAB found that the study design does not adequately evaluate a number of potentially confounding factors that would mask the effects of winter lake level manipulation. These factors include predation and competition with other salmonids and opossum shrimp. The ISAB also found that there was not sufficient information in the proposal to demonstrate that:
Finally, the ISAB found that some tasks were weakly linked to the central issue and were unlikely to contribute to the resolution of the question concerning effects of the winter drawdown regime on Pend Oreille kokanee recovery.
In mid-April 1997, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, University of Idaho’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Kokanee Recovery Task Force submitted comments and reports to the ISAB regarding the ISAB’s review. On May 28, 1997 the ISAB responded to the comments by letter. Among the commentors’ primary criticisms of the ISAB review was that the ISAB did not possess all of the reports and background information needed to fully understand the project when it wrote the report. The ISAB agreed with the criticism and later established review procedures to ensure that they possessed all the necessary information for a review. The ISAB acknowledged that to address the new information would entail another complete review with no guarantee that the overall assessment would change. The ISAB found that the new material did not alter the basic conclusion that the focus on population size of kokanee as the chief response variable for manipulations of lake elevation at Pend Oreille is not likely to yield conclusive results within the limited five-year experimental period, because there are so many factors that potentially affect numbers in the population.
ISAB 97-5: Review of a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement: Impacts of Artificial Salmon and Steelhead Production Strategies in the Columbia River Basin (April 1, 1997)
In February 1997, the Council and NMFS asked the ISAB to review the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on Impacts of Artificial Salmon and Steelhead Production Strategies in the Columbia River Basin (DPEIS). The DPEIS was released for public review and comment. It framed policy level issues that fisheries managers must address and proposed significant changes in the artificial production program in the Columbia Basin. Among other actions, the proposed alternative called for increasing the amount of fish supplemented in natural habitat from current levels of about 7 million smolts annually to as many as 78 million smolts annually.
The ISAB described the basic purpose of an environmental impact statement as an assessment of the environmental impacts of alternative actions, balanced against costs and benefits. The ISAB concluded that the DPEIS did not fulfill this basic purpose. The ISAB found significant shortcoming with the DPEIS including:
Because of these and other shortcomings, the ISAB concluded that the DPEIS was not an adequate guide for future artificial production program development in the Columbia River Basin.
NWPPC Report 97-15: Downstream Passage for Salmon at Hydroelectric Projects in the Columbia River Basin: Development, Installation, Evaluation (October 1997) by Richard R. Whitney, Lyle D. Calvin, Michael Erho and Charles C. Coutant.
This report was prepared as part of an assignment from the Northwest Power Planning Council to the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) to conduct a review of the science underlying the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program. A draft of this report was included in the prepublication version of the Independent Scientific Group report Return to the River (NWPPC 96-6). In April 1997, the ISAB decided to publish this report separately from Return to the River.
The report describes the obstacles that the Columbia River hydroelectric system poses to salmon including mortality in turbines, mortality in river reaches, and migratory blockage. The report explores the effectiveness of bypass methods including spill and mechanical bypass systems. The report’s appendices describe the fish passage goals of the Council, NMFS, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The appendices then evaluate the effectiveness of the bypass systems in achieving those goals in 1995.
In addition to review projects, the ISAB was involved in the development of the Independent Scientific Review Panel, education of the public regarding Return to the River, analysis of mainstem issues and synthesis of scientific consensus and uncertainties in the Columbia River Basin. The ISAB chair Rick Williams and other members provided education on the "normative" river concept as described in Return to the River. These educational efforts included a river tour with Idaho Congressional Representative Michael Crapo, a tour of the Hanford Reach with Council members, and presentations to the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority and others. In addition to educational activities, the board gathered information on mainstem activities and hypotheses. Members of the Mainstem Subcommittee attended PATH meetings and toured several Columbia Basin dams. At the request of the Council, the board developed a plan for a symposium on salmon recovery plans and strategies. The Council decided not to hold this symposium.
In September 1996, the first and only amendment to the Northwest Power Act was signed into law. The amendment, which was sponsored by Washington Senator Slade Gorton, called on the Council to increase the scientific scrutiny through which fish and wildlife recovery projects are prioritized for implementation and to broaden our review of projects to include ocean conditions and cost effectiveness. In response to the new legislation, the Council formed an Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP), which includes scientists nominated by the National Research Council. Eight members of the ISAB were selected to serve on the ISRP. Because of this overlap of membership and mission, the ISAB was instrumental in the development of the ISRP.
The Independent Scientific Review Panel reviewed the list of projects recommended to the Council by the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority. The scientists recommended that the Council not approve funding for construction and operation of new fish hatcheries until a comprehensive review of existing hatcheries addresses key issues such as the ecology of the Columbia River and its estuary, carrying capacity and other limiting factors that influence salmon survival. The scientists suggested the Council should evaluate proposals for new hatcheries and permit them to go forward only if the proponents demonstrate they have addressed those parts of the Council’s program that deal with protection of wild and naturally spawning fish. The scientists’ other recommendations concerned administration of the Council’s program and specific measures addressing juvenile salmon migration, resident fish and wildlife.
For more information see, ISRP Report 97-1: Review of the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program as directed by the 1996 amendment to the Power Act.
The Independent Scientific Advisory Board is funded through the Bonneville Power Administration fish and wildlife program. The Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Foundation (CBFWF) administers ten of the eleven members’ contracts. The cost of these ten members’ services, travel and overhead for fiscal year 1997 (FY97) was $468,252. The budget for the ISAB/ISG in FY96 was $575,398. The ISAB’s proposed budget for FY98 is $632,708. NMFS, the Council and Congress have assigned extensive reviews to the ISAB in FY98.
ISAB Member Activity Costs FY97 – this pie chart shows the costs of various ISAB activities in FY97, but does not reflect CBFWF’s operation of the ISAB. "NWPPC" refers to reviews requested by the Council, "NMFS" by NMFS, "ISAB" to projects generated by the board, etc. "Misc." refers to the ISAB’s other projects such as presenting the "normative" concept to agencies and the public.
May 18, 1996 through October 1, 1997
June 25, 1996: Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority, Portland, Oregon
September 24-25, 1996: Spokane, Washington
November 20, 1996: Council Offices, Portland, Oregon
December 18, 1996: NMFS Offices, Seattle, Washington
January 22, 1997: NMFS Offices
February 13-14, 1997: NMFS Offices
March 26, 1997: Council Offices
April 24, 1997 : Council Offices
May 22, 1997: Council Offices
June 26, 1997: Council Offices
July 23, 1997: NMFS Offices
September 11, 1997: Council Offices
Richard N. Williams, Ph.D., a consulting fisheries scientist, Clear Creek Genetics, Idaho. Graduate Affiliate Faculty, Aquaculture Research Institute, University of Idaho.
Richard R. Whitney, Ph.D., a consulting fisheries scientist, Washington, formerly a professor in the School of Fisheries, University of Washington.
Peter A. Bisson, Ph.D., a specialist on habitat issues at the Olympia (Washington) Forestry Sciences Laboratory of the U.S. Forest Service.
Charles C. Coutant, Ph.D., a senior research ecologist, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Daniel Goodman, Ph.D., an expert in ecological risk assessment at Montana State University in Bozeman.
James A. Lichatowich, M.S., a consulting fisheries scientist, Alder Creek Consulting, Washington, formerly assistant chief of fisheries, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
William Liss, Ph.D., a fisheries professor at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
Lyman McDonald, Ph.D., a consulting statistician at Western Ecosystems Tech., Inc., Cheyenne, Wyoming, formerly a professor at the University of Wyoming.
Philip Mundy, Ph.D., a consulting fisheries scientist from Lake Oswego, Oregon, and member, Board of Directors, Alaska Science and Technology Foundation.
Brian Riddell, Ph.D., an expert in international fisheries management at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Nanaimo, British Columbia.
Jack A. Stanford, Ph.D., a professor of ecology, University of Montana, and director of the university’s Flathead Lake Biological Station.
Michael Schiewe, Ph.D., with the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.
Willis E. McConnaha, M.S., a manager of program evaluation and analysis for the Northwest Power Planning Council.
Lyle D. Calvin, Ph.D., statistics, Emeritus Faculty and Chair, Statistics Department, Oregon State University
Charles C. Coutant, Ph.D., fisheries ecology, juvenile migration, Senior Research Ecologist, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Michael W. Erho, Jr. , M.S., fisheries management, Independent Fisheries Consultant, formerly with Grant County Public Utility District.
James A. Lichatowich, M.S., salmon ecology and life history, Independent Fisheries Consultant, formerly Assistant Chief of Fisheries, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife .
William J. Liss, Ph.D., population and community ecology, Professor, Department of Fisheries, Oregon State University
Phillip R. Mundy, Ph.D., population dynamics, harvest management, consulting fisheries scientist from Lake Oswego, Oregon, and member, Board of Directors, Alaska Science and Technology Foundation.
Jack A. Stanford, Ph.D., large river and lake ecology, Bierman Professor and Director, Flathead Lake Biological Station, University of Montana
Richard R. Whitney, Ph.D., fisheries management, juvenile bypass, Professor (retired), School of Fisheries, University of Washington
Richard N. Williams, Ph.D., population and evolutionary genetics, ecology, Graduate Affiliate Faculty, Aquaculture Research Institute, University of Idaho
ISG Scientific Coordinator for the Northwest Power Planning Council
Willis E. McConnaha, M.S., fisheries biology, ecology, Senior Fisheries Scientist, Northwest Power Planning Council
Daniel L. Bottom, M.S., fisheries management, marine ecology, Research and Development Section, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Center for Analysis of Environmental Change, Oregon State University
Christopher A. Frissell, Ph.D., fisheries, ecology and freshwater habitat, Flathead Lake Biological Station, University of Montana