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200724600 - Restoration of bull trout passage at Albeni Falls Dam using a trap-and-haul approach in conjunction with investigations to assess effectiveness of rapid genetic analysis in assigning natal tributary

Sponsor: Kalispel Tribe

Budgets: FY07: $756,658 | FY08: $385,662 | FY09: $411,495

Short description: The goal of this project is to provide temporary upstream passage for bull trout at Albeni Falls Dam, Pend Oreille River. Effectiveness of the action will be evaluated using RM&E.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $756,658 | FY08: $385,662 | FY09: $411,495

Comment: ISRP fundable in part (qualified):Fund consistent with ISRP comments - fund pilot test of electrofishing, do not fund genetic assessment.

ISRP final recommendation: Fundable in part (Qualified)

Comment:

Fundable to conduct a pilot test of the electrofishing approach, with subsequent electrofishing and trap and haul of bull trout around Albeni Falls Dam contingent on the success of that pilot test. Not Fundable to conduct a genetic rapid assessment of tributary assignment or radio-tagging and tracking of spawning bull trout. This project proposed collecting bull trout by electrofishing and trapping below Albeni Falls Dam, and then transporting the fish for release above this or other upstream, impassable dams to contribute to depleted spawning populations. In the preliminary review the ISRP questioned whether the project was timed appropriately since the sponsors indicated the dam operators were conducting a feasibility study of options to pass bull trout around Albeni Falls Dam. The ISRP also had several concerns about the genetic assessment of the likely spawning tributary of the migrants captured below Albeni Falls Dam, and the evaluation of migration by tracking radio-tagged fish. In response the sponsors clarified that the feasibility studies were complete, and that trap and haul was one option being considered by the dam operators and regulators. The sponsors suggested that the trap and haul should begin immediately, providing near-term benefits to fish, while the managers determine the long-term solution. The ISRP found the argument convincing. Albeni Falls Dam is a major bull trout migration barrier and therefore impacts fluvial and adfluvial populations. Passage is needed to preserve these two life histories. The problem is similar to bull trout passage difficulties in the Lower Clark Fork River. So, is this potentially the right (or at least a workable) approach? Is it designed to at least figure this out? The short answer is yes for the first, but no for the second. The ISRP believes that at this time the idea of volitional migration following assisted dam passage is sufficient without the genetic assignment to natal streams coupled with radio-telemetry. That each population sampled above the dam has a differing constellation of msDNA alleles is not improbable. In fact, it would be surprising if it were not the case given the population sizes and the high variation in msDNA. It is not clear to the ISRP whether the genetic samples and assignment methods are sophisticated enough to assign the natal river with sufficient accuracy (what level is this accuracy set at?) to warrant this kind of approach and not create a mis-assignment error that is detrimental to the population. Detrimental because the fish were passed above more than one dam owing to the natal stream assignment. Collecting bull trout below the dam is an equipment (floating trap [screw trap?]) and labor (60 + hours of electrofishing) intensive effort. Work on the Lower Clark Fork suggests it can be accomplished. Ultimately, it is necessary to demonstrate that it has helped the population(s). Is the population stabilized? Is it growing? Is it still shrinking? And which of the tributary populations are contributing (or failing to contribute) to improved abundance. That fish can be collected, genotyped, and tracked to a spawning location is an interesting observation, but not really a biological end-point. In the proposal there are also related trap improvement efforts (cold water, natal stream water) to be tested. Pheromone release has worked for other adfluvial species. The sponsors could begin by testing electrofishing for one year to determine if the effort yields 40 + adults. If that is successful then initiate the trapping trials. Monitoring needs to determine if there are increases to population sizes in the tributaries and increases in down stream migrants, regardless of where they spawned.

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: Fundable

Review group: Intermountain

Recommended budgets: FY07: $756,658 | FY08: $385,662 | FY09: $411,495

Comment: No change to proposed budget.

State/province recommendation: Washington

Review group: Washington list

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

Comment: See Washington guidance