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199502700 - Lake Roosevelt White Sturgeon Recovery Project

Sponsor: Spokane Tribe

Budgets: FY07: $547,517 | FY08: $484,318 | FY09: $477,305

Short description: Project goals are to restore natural recruitment, implement an interim aquaculture program until natural recruitment is restored, and continue to collect baseline stock assessment data to identify and evaluate restoration and management activities.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $547,517 | FY08: $484,318 | FY09: $477,305

Comment: ISRP fundable (qualified): sponsors should consider the ISRP comments for the next project review. Work element associated with artificial production triggers step reviews. See project 200737200.

ISRP final recommendation: Fundable (Qualified)


This is a proposal for white sturgeon rehabilitation in Lake Roosevelt that is reasonable in broad view, but the initial proposal lacked perspective from other white sturgeon research, did not adequately document the status of the population, and did not adequately justify a conservation aquaculture program. The first two of these three deficiencies were amply remedied by an excellent response. The response addressed the ISRP's identified concerns explicitly with an abundance of data, analysis, and intentions for the proposed research. The response provides convincing evidence that sponsors are gaining an understanding of the dynamics of the sturgeon population upstream from Lake Roosevelt and perhaps beginning to determine the mechanisms limiting recruitment to the older age classes. An expanded reference list was provided. The ISRP appreciates the thoughtfulness, thoroughness, and objectivity with which the sponsors provided their response. The reporting of results of the project has been good with Annual Reports to BPA produced for each year of the study. The relationships of the Lake Roosevelt stock to other components of the Columbia River Basin white sturgeon were described both genetically and geographically. The research and analysis to date on stock status was described quantitatively and appropriate results were presented. As requested, the response demonstrated an understanding of the sturgeon population in the context of other populations and ongoing research and management in the basin and throughout the species' range. The initially unclear relationships among existing projects were appropriately clarified. The response provided evidence that the population assessments conducted to date and those planned for the future are intended to be quantitative and have statistical rigor. Despite the fine response, the ISRP has some suggestions for sponsors’ consideration in the areas of population status and stock assessment. Sponsors conclude with a statement that the historic stock structure is not germane to the current problem of poor recruitment, and that the population will remain isolated for the foreseeable future because of impoundment of this section of the river. This may be true, although the ISRP provides another view for consideration. The ISRP receives proposals from various reaches throughout the Columbia River basin that implicitly treat each impoundment as an isolated unit. It could be, however, that before the hydrosystem was constructed white sturgeon migrated among segments of the Columbia and Snake Rivers (exclusive of the Kootenai, which has been isolated for thousands of years). Coupled with episodic and localized successful recruitment interspersed with many years of failed reproduction, the abundance and geographic distribution of sturgeon may have depended on movement of individuals, young and old, among river reaches. The fragmentation of the system may itself be a causal mechanism in the decline in recruitment in some segments. If this is the case, then efforts to mitigate the mechanisms for recruitment failure may be a necessary but insufficient solution to recover these populations. Any artificial production to support white sturgeon needs to consider this possibility. Sponsors provided a very helpful summary of their stock assessment efforts, and their conclusions to date. If this proposal is funded and the current round of tasks are accomplished, it would be helpful for reviewers in the next proposal cycle if the sponsors provided a more thorough justification of additional stock assessments. There need to be explicit assessments outlined that will provide convincing abundance and survival estimates. The conclusion that a standardized survey needs to be conducted every three years could to be better justified, also. Future proposals should more thoroughly develop the need for continued population status monitoring and at what time intervals. The sponsors' justification for the conservation hatchery was still based too much on the UCWSRI (2002) and recovery plan recommendations, plus the citing of supplementation ongoing in the lower Columbia River (The Dalles reservoir) and in the Kootenai River. The ISRP examined the upper Columbia plan and found no compelling evidence that a conservation aquaculture program was well justified other than that the Canadians were successfully rearing and releasing juvenile white sturgeon into the Keenleyside Reach since 2002. All of the supplementation efforts are at such an early stage that it is unknown if supplementation will help or hurt these populations. This is too much like a bandwagon approach. The rationale for trying conservation aquaculture was presented as a temporary response to the longer time frame of likely research and management advances for restoring habitat deficiencies likely responsible for low recruitment. An informative set of projected population trajectories with and without hatchery supplementation was provided. Nonetheless, the ISRP suggests the supplementation approach be more thoroughly developed and justified, which remains a qualification for the fundable recommendation.

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: $547,517 | FY08: $484,318 | FY09: $477,305

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