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200500100 - Pilot Study for Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation of Subyearling Salmon in Tidal Freshwater of the Columbia River

Sponsor: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Budgets: FY07: $737,298 | FY08: $705,440 | FY09: $735,950

Short description: This study addresses juvenile salmon use of shallow water habitats (0-5 m) and develops acoustic telemetry protocols for action effectiveness research in Columbia R. tidal freshwater between Portland and Bonneville (RM 110-146).

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $0 | FY08: $0 | FY09: $0


ISRP final recommendation: Fundable in part (Qualified)


The sponsors have improved their proposal and adequately addressed many of the ISRP's comments. The proposal has a new name, and the scope is reduced. This project is no longer a pilot study for RME of juvenile salmon in tidal freshwater. Now, the study involves status and trends monitoring and testing monitoring protocols. The sponsors have done a lot of preparatory work and obviously a lot of thinking has been done on the proposal. The methodological concerns have been addressed as best they can be at this time. While it is certainly important to try and find out the habitat utilization of focal species such as Snake River Chinook in tidal freshwater habitats, it is not clear, however, why the work should be done at the Sandy River delta. There is no justification for choosing this particular area as a representative tidal freshwater reaches of the Lower Columbia River. Four habitat complexes will be sampled at six sites: river confluence floodplain (1 site), shallows (2 sites), floodplain (1 site), and mainstem island (2 sites). The catena method for classification is being developed through project #200300700. However, this work is not complete and, in the fact, the completion of the development of the method was a qualifying factor from the ISRP in the final recommendation of the latter project. The sponsors have added stream-type chinook and steelhead to the species that will be studied. They do not plan to sample channel habitats, although these may be the main habitats used by stream-type chinook and steelhead. The sponsors should seriously consider sampling channel habitats, especially since they have added stream-type Chinook and steelhead as target species. The sponsors propose to use a beach seine to sample shallow water (0-2 m) and a trawl for mid-depth water (2-5 m). The trawling still may miss many fish as the 2-5 m band will not extend very far offshore. The sponsors seem to be defining the depth intervals they will sample based on the gear they have available. Perhaps a Kvichak trawl (or similar) can be towed in the deeper water unless the current is too strong. Some references to cross channel distributions of Chinook can be provided by the ISRP. The connection with the Sandy River Delta Habitat Restoration project (BPA #project 199902500) is one of the strongest parts of this project, but the sponsors state in their revised proposal: “The tie in with the Sandy River restoration effort is limited at this time because restoration to date has concerned re-vegetation. If and when the tidal reconnection project happens, we will coordinate with the appropriate parties.” The sponsors state the Sandy River restoration is "only" dealing with re-vegetation, but re-vegetation is supposed to have benefits to fish (e.g., through increased terrestrial insect food supply, etc) and so there is a rationale of a linkage between # 19902500 and this project. Coordination with the restoration project should happen at the outset if both studies are funded. USACE studies in 2007 call for tagging (JSATS tags) over 15,000 juvenile salmonids. The sponsors will attempt to detect the tagged fish with listening nodes at two locations. More information on the species, life history types, and stock composition of the releases of JSATS-tagged fish, as well as release schedules, would have been useful. The sponsors mention VEMCO tags released by the Acoustic Tracking for Estimating Ocean Survival project (BPA project #200301400), but it's not clear if they can detect VEMCO tags using JSATS equipment. (Review and coordination of all acoustic telemetry studies in the Columbia Basin is needed to avoid duplication of efforts.) It will be cost-effective to take advantage of the USACE tags but the focus on detecting them for the Sandy River delta is not well defended, and the ISRP hopes that the findings are not extrapolated very widely. The Project History section notes that the sponsors convened a conference on the lower Columbia River estuary, including the ecology of juvenile salmonids, with FY 2006 funding. The proposal would have been improved if relevant results of the conference had been summarized. Qualifications: 1. The number of sampling sites is too small especially for a project that is essentially trying to find fish. Because so little is known about the types of habitat fish use in the tidal freshwater, the ISRP strongly recommends that the number of sites be expanded even if this requires not funding another part of the proposed work or at least delaying initiation until a better understanding of fish distribution is achieved. 2. Areas in the delta with large wood definitely should be sampled to determine if it is an important habitat for fish. The sponsors did not explain why acoustic camera surveys are necessary. Although snorkeling has its problems as a fish sampling method including limitations in murky water, it still may be a reasonably efficient means of detecting fish. 3. The ISRP strongly recommends that this project collaborate closely with projects #200300700 and #199902500. 4. The ISRP questioned use of the Latin square design; the proponents noted that they would address this concern when the project statistician returned to the office after July 24, 2006. This should be addressed before funding is approved. 5. While this project will likely provide hydrosystem managers with useful data on salmonid ecology in shallow habitats in the vicinity of Sandy River delta, it should not be viewed as a replacement for the original concept of a comprehensive RME pilot study. While the proponents state that a comprehensive (EMAP-type) project design is not feasible because of funding constraints and habitat complexity, this issue would best be determined through a competitive proposal process. The ISRP recommends issuing a new RFP for a comprehensive RME pilot study. Not Fundable: The sponsors do not provide sufficient justification for sampling invertebrates, and this part of the proposal is not fundable at this time. After more is known about fish habitat use invertebrate sampling may be more meaningful. Perhaps funds from this part of the work could help to augment funding for an increased number of sampling sites.

Response loop edit

See the sponsor's revised proposal from the response loop. You'll be taken to CBFWA's proposal system in Section 10 where most sponsors uploaded revised narratives or other responses to the ISRP comments.

State/province recommendation: Washington

Review group: Washington list

Recommended budgets: FY07: (n/a) | FY08: (n/a) | FY09: (n/a)

Comment: See Washington guidance