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200716600 - Lower Columbia River Coastal Cutthroat Trout Population Response to Habitat Restoration

Sponsor: Columbia River Fisheries Program Office

Budgets: FY07: $413,500 | FY08: $383,000 | FY09: $408,500

Short description: Determine if habitat restoration efforts in the lower Columbia River and estuary are achieving the recovery goals for coastal cutthroat trout, an indicator species, of reversing declining abundance trends and maintaining life history diversity.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

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


ISRP final recommendation: Not fundable


The ISRP agrees data on cutthroat trout in the Columbia River estuary and tributaries off the lower Columbia River are required to complement the work being done at restoration projects on the more numerous salmonid species, and this would help round out an ecosystem approach. The responses to ISRP's questions were not explicit and required reading of the revised narrative. Taking both documents into account, the proponents have addressed some questions satisfactorily. Concerns about animal care protocols, rationale for using stable isotope analysis as method to investigate life history, aging techniques, and identification difficulties were addressed satisfactorily. However, there are still major problems with the overall design and concept of the project as a scientific program to evaluate coastal cutthroat response to restoration in the estuary and lower river. On this basis, the ISRP concludes the project is not fundable. The project is unlikely to succeed for the following reasons: The species is not abundant, occupies a variety of habitats, and the life history (e.g., migration patterns) is relatively unknown, and complex, compared to other salmonids. The ISRP asked about the sample size proposed for the PIT tagging and straying work to investigate migration rates and was not convinced the sample size of 1000 fish in each tributary was adequate. The ISRP asked about the selection criteria used to identify study sites. The response mentions four widely spaced restoration sites (Lower Chinook River/Baker Bay, Blind Slough, Crims Island, and Scappoose Bay). These sites were chosen pragmatically as they are some of the larger restoration projects in the lower river and estuary. The ISRP remains concerned about the conceptual basis of actually bounding the population at these restoration sites. The ISRP asked for further details on the proposed tagging work to do this and the responses did not allay concerns about problems with the mark-recapture methodology, the assumptions behind it, and how results would be used. The sponsor’s statement, "We do not presume to identify what a population is at this time (e.g., one stream v. multiple streams). Population abundance estimates will be point estimates for a given point in time for all juvenile and adult coastal cutthroat trout in the stream at that time" is particularly troubling and indicates the population estimate objective has not been well thought out. Even if population estimates were obtained it is not clear how they would relate to the restoration projects. In addition, even in the revised narrative, details on the model MARK were not given. The ISRP should not have to dig into the literature for the information. The ISRP recognizes that investigations of alternative approaches to differentiate between alternate life history strategies in juvenile and adult coastal cutthroat trout in the lower Columbia River and estuary are needed. Some of this work may be possibly supportable by agencies concerned with basic life history and descriptive ecology of this important species.

State/province recommendation: Not fundable due to budget constraints

Review group: OSPIT - Estuary

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

Comment: Though OSPIT believes this is important work, the Estuary budget will not accommodate this project.

State/province recommendation: Washington

Review group: Washington list

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

Comment: See Washington guidance