< Back to list of FY 2007-2009 projects

200203200 - Snake River fall Chinook salmon life history investigations

Sponsor: US Geological Survey (USGS) - Cook

Budgets: FY07: $4,416,192 | FY08: $3,991,426 | FY09: $4,094,349

Short description: This project investigates the consequences of ocean- and reservoir-type life histories on passage timing, travel rate, survival, and SAR calculations for Snake River fall chinook salmon. Mechanisms and prevalence of these life histories are explored.

view full proposal

Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $1,000,000 | FY08: $1,000,000 | FY09: $1,000,000


ISRP final recommendation: Fundable


This is a good proposal from a team with an established track record of success. The level of funding may be contingent on support from the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The project proposes to obtain primary data that will be essential to refining estimates of smolt-to-adult return rates (SARs), transport, etc for Snake River fall Chinook, particularly the newly recognized reservoir life history, under variable hydrosystem operations. These data and analyses are important to understanding the life history of this Evolutionary Significant Unit (ESU) and to evaluating whether hydrosystem operations can be manipulated to the benefit of the ESU. The technical background is well developed and the research questions are clearly identified. A couple of the acronyms (e.g., TBR) were not identified and may not be familiar to everyone. The reservoir life history in Snake River fall Chinook is an important new development and deserves study. The complications the reservoir life history causes for the estimation of SARs and for evaluating transportation and in-river survival are clearly explained. The project is clearly related to Updated Proposed Actions in the 2004 BiOp, and to the Council's Research Plan. It does not mention any subbasin plans. There is text that establishes the relationship between this project and several others addressing Snake River fall Chinook status and hydrosystem operations. Given that the principal investigators are sometimes the same on these different projects, along with the huge budget increase, it would be helpful if there was a table that clearly identified all the data that was being collected by which project for what hypothesis testing. Trying to keep all of this straight is not easy, and therefore it is difficult to identify unnecessary redundancy in these proposals. They all tend to take credit for contributing the data necessary for our current understanding of Snake River fall Chinook. The history was adequately explained, but without much detail for a project that is requesting so much money (~$4 million per year, much more than in previous years). This was one of the projects that led to a much better understanding of the reservoir life history type, winter behavior and passage through the dams, and various methods of identifying the reservoir-type through scale analysis and genetic markers. Neither the history nor the relationships section differentiates well enough between its work and that of 199102900 (Connor's US Fish and Wildlife Service project). The history section might have gone into more detail about how the results have been used to date in the hydrosystem operations. Clearly defined, measurable objectives are presented with adequately explained hypotheses and timelines. Excellent fish tracking methods are planned -- acoustic, radio, PIT, all related to hydraulics. The explanation of the experimental design, primary data collections and field methods, and analysis are clear. Because the project involves extensive fish marking it is important to include power analyses in determining appropriate sample sizes, and the proposal does a good job of showing how this was done. Procedures for monitoring and evaluation are thoroughly explained. This work will be applicable to studies of the behavior of other species in other regions of the Columbia River Basin. The group has excellent facilities, equipment, and personnel. Much equipment is from Corps projects and will be used simultaneously with their work (cost-saving should be explored to reduce the cost to this project). The proposal describes the different ways information will be disseminated. They also include plans for long-term data and meta-data storage at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. This group has a fine record of publication.

State/province recommendation: MS: Core Program

Review group: MSRT

Recommended budgets: FY07: $750,000 | FY08: $750,000 | FY09: $750,000

Comment: This project can be flexible in funding level based on which tasks are moved forward and coordination with other projects (USACE acoustic receivers). This project needs to be reviewed with all the other Fall Chinook studies. The set of questions surrounding SR Fall Chinook survival and movement are Core Program issues. Which suite of projects should be funded to address those questions needs to be strategically developed to fit within an available budget and address management questions with enough certainty to be useful for management decisions.