3. Anadromous fish mitigation in blocked areas

Strategy

Mitigate through implementation of a variety of actions that may include passage investigation, reintroduction of anadromous fish, habitat improvements, and harvest opportunities for the loss of salmon and in blocked areas of the Columbia Basin that historically had runs of anadromous fish. Flexibility in approach is needed to develop a program that addresses anadromous fish losses.

Rationale

Anadromous fish losses are identified in “Compilation of Information on Salmon and Steelhead Losses in the Columbia River Basin” and the “Numerical Estimates of Hydropower-related Losses,” first adopted in the Council’s 1987 Fish and Wildlife Program [see Appendix B].

For some time, the fish and wildlife program has included a provision calling for investigations into the passage and reintroduction of anadromous fish above Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams if, when, and where feasible. The huge loss of salmon capacity and productivity in the upper Columbia has been one of the key drivers of mitigation activities under the Northwest Power Act, and a number of agencies and tribes recommended for this 2014 Program that the region intensify its efforts to explore the possibilities of reintroducing anadromous fish above Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams.

Principles

The following principles should guide decisions on mitigation strategies to address anadromous fish losses in blocked areas:

  • Restoration of anadromous fish to blocked areas should be investigated as mitigation for the impacts of hydropower dams that blocked historic passage of adult and juvenile fish. The abundance of native fish species should be restored throughout blocked areas where original habitat conditions exist or can be feasibly restored or improved.
  • Mitigation for fish and wildlife losses attributable to the hydropower system generally should occur in the vicinity of the losses.
  • Mitigation may include the use of resident fish, anadromous fish reintroductions, wildlife, habitat, and projects to identify or resolve data gaps.
  • Mitigate according to the following ordered priorities:
    • Weak, but recoverable, native populations affected by the hydropower system, as such populations are identified for the Council by the state and federal fish and wildlife agencies and tribes (agencies and tribes)
    • Actions that investigate reintroductions of anadromous fish into blocked areas, where feasible
    • Areas of the basin where anadromous fish are not present
    • Resident fish projects that also provide benefits for wildlife or anadromous fish
    • Populations that support important fisheries including both introduced and native species such as trout, sturgeon, kokanee, burbot, bass, perch, and others.
  • Subsistence and sport fishing resources that meet state and local regulations should be provided when full mitigation by improving the abundance of native fish species is not feasible.
  • Non-native fish should be managed to maximize use of available existing and improved habitats without adversely affecting native fish populations.
  • Efforts to increase the abundance of anadromous fish should be done in a manner that is compatible with the continued persistence of native resident fish species and their restoration to near historic abundance.
  • Hatcheries should be operated in a manner consistent with the hatchery strategy in this program.

General measures

All blocked areas

  • The action agencies, in collaboration with state agencies and tribes, shall fund mitigation of anadromous fish losses, including strategies relying on habitat improvements, reintroductions, hatcheries, harvest opportunities, and other mitigation.
  • Bonneville shall provide funding to:
    • Develop and increase opportunities for consumptive and non-consumptive resident fisheries for native, introduced, wild, and hatchery-reared stocks that are compatible with the continued persistence of native resident fish species and their restoration to near historic abundance
    • Consider passage projects to benefit native species
    • Expand and rebuild native fish numbers in blocked areas where habitat exists or can feasibly be restored or improved
    • Address anadromous fish losses with resident fish and wildlife, as appropriate, where full mitigation cannot be accomplished with resident fish alone
    • Protect and improve degraded fish habitat consistent with the habitat sub-strategy

Reintroduction of anadromous fish above Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams to mainstem reaches and tributaries in the United States

  • Phased approach. Pursue a science-based, phased approach to investigating the reintroduction of anadromous fish above Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams including juvenile and adult passage at the dams. The phases shall include:
    • Phase 1 (to be completed no later than the end of 2016):
      • Evaluate information from passage studies at other blockages and from previous assessments of passage at Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams
      • Investigate habitat availability, suitability and salmon survival potential in habitats above Grand Coulee. This might include selective releases of salmon and steelhead. Investigate the scientific feasibility and possible cost of upstream and downstream passage options for salmon and steelhead. Before funding new investigations, provide the Council with a report for consideration of subsequent work to advance the fish passage planning process.
      • As part of Phase 1, the Council will engage in discussions with tribal, state, and federal agencies and others regarding the purpose, scope and progress of reintroduction efforts above Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams.
    • Phase 2:
      • Based on the results in the first phase, the Council in collaboration with the other relevant entities will decide how to proceed. Phase 2 activities may include one or more of the following:
        • design and test salmon and steelhead reintroduction strategies and interim fish passage facilities at Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee Dams
        • investigate alternative approaches to passage
        • identify additional studies necessary to advance the fish passage planning process
        • reintroduction pilot projects
        • monitoring, evaluation, and adaptive management of the Phase 2 activities
    • Phase 3:
      • Based on the results of Phase 2, the Council in collaboration with the other relevant entities will decide whether and how to proceed to implement and fund reintroduction measures as a permanent part of the program, including construction and operation of passage facilities.
      • Monitor, evaluate, and adaptively manage the reintroduction efforts.
  • Transboundary reintroduction. The United States should pursue a joint program with Canada, with shared costs, to investigate and, if warranted, implement the reintroduction of anadromous fish on the mainstem Columbia River to Canadian spawning grounds. This joint program would proceed on an incremental basis, comparable to the phased approach described above.
  • Reintroductions above Grand Coulee to mainstem reaches and tributaries in the United States. Bonneville and the relevant federal action agencies, working in collaboration with state and federal fish and wildlife agencies and tribes, shall investigate and, if warranted, implement passage and reintroduction of anadromous fish into suitable habitats within the United States. This shall include:
    • Funding research associated with critical uncertainties at Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams required to inform Phase 1
    • Funding work required for Phases 2 and 3 based on Council recommendations

Reintroductions above projects in the Willamette River Basin

The Corps and Bonneville should support and implement anadromous fish passage measures prioritized through the Willamette River Basin Flood Control Project Biological Opinion.

Link to subbasin plans

See the Council’s subbasin plans for subbasin-level information that provides historical context, strategies and objectives that will continue to help guide mitigation work for lost anadromous stocks.

← 2. The use of hatcheries for reintroduction

4. Resident fish mitigation →

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