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DFWs To Talk Proposed Sturgeon Reg Changes For Gorge Pools, Reach, Snake

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

State fish managers are hosting a series of public meetings in May and June to discuss sturgeon fishing regulations in Washington.

DAVID KASPER BATTLES ONE OF A NUMBER OF STURGEON HE AND TWO FRIENDS HOOKED IN THE SWIRLING CURRENTS BELOW MCNARY DAM EARLIER THIS MONTH, WATERS THAT COULD SEE NEW RULES TO PROTECT SPAWNERS. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) have scheduled public meetings at the following locations:

* The Dalles, Oregon: 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, May 22, at the ODFW screen shop, 3561 Klindt Dr., The Dalles.

* Kennewick: 6 to 8 p.m, Tuesday, June 11, at the Benton PUD building, 2721 W. 10th Ave., Kennewick.

*Hermiston, Oregon: 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, June 12, at the Hermiston Community Center, 415 S. Hwy 395, Hermiston.

An additional meeting in Montesano will also be announced at a later date.

Among the topics of discussion are possible rule changes meant to improve conservation efforts and increase the abundance and survival of mature spawning-size sturgeon.

The proposed regulations are also part of WDFW’s ongoing efforts to simplify fishing rules.

“In the past several years, the agency has been moving toward rule simplification as one of the primary objectives of our regulations,” said Laura Heironimus, sturgeon unit lead with WDFW. “This effort, combined with recent biological information, offered an opportunity to take a fresh look at sturgeon regulations around the state.”

Discussion topics and management recommendations include:

* Extending the dates of all sturgeon spawning sanctuaries in the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam to Priest Rapids Dam, and in the Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam, through Aug. 31. Most of these spawning sanctuaries are currently in effect from May 1 through July 31.

* Extending the area of the spawning sanctuaries on the Columbia River below McNary and Priest Rapids dams.

* Closing sturgeon retention fishing within McNary Reservoir, inclusive of the lower Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam and the Hanford Reach below Priest Rapids Dam, due to a lack of population monitoring information.

In addition to input received at public meetings, WDFW will collect comments online and by mail. A webpage to collect public comments will be available soon. Following the public comment period, fish managers expect to brief the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in October on the resulting proposed regulations.

Spill Test Set To Begin On Columbia, Snake; Could Validate Benefits For Outmigrating Smolts

Federal, state and tribal officials have agreed to a three-year trial to see if increasing spill down the Columbia and Snake Rivers can “significantly boost” outmigrating salmon and steelhead smolt numbers.

WATER SURGES THROUGH BONNEVILLE DAM IN THIS JUNE 2014 CORPS OF ENGINEERS PHOTO. (ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS)

It’s already believed to, but the deal will allow for more flexible spring operations at eight dams to test the idea beginning next year through 2021, according to a report in the Lewiston Tribune.

“Collaboration is key to this new approach to Columbia River system management. Working together, the region’s states, tribes, and federal agencies have developed an approach that demonstrates environmental stewardship and affordable sustainable energy are not mutually exclusive,” reads a joint statement from “key supporters” of the agreement.

The parties include the Nez Perce Tribe, Oregon, Washington, BPA, Army Corps and Bureau of Reclamation. The states of Idaho and Montana are also on board with it.

The trial will include the four Lower Snake dams in Washington and the four on the shared Columbia between Washington and Oregon.

Both states will need to “harmonize” how they measure total dissolved gas measured below the spillways, with Washington’s Department of Ecology needing to up its allowance by early April and consider boosting it to 125 percent for tests in 2020.

A 2017 report by the Fish Passage Center says that “increasing spill for fish passage within the safe limits of 125% total dissolved gas has a high probability of improving smolt to adult return rates.”

The more fish, the more for fishermen of all fleets to catch and orcas to eat as well as escaping to spawn in the wild.

“It’s incremental progress at time when Columbia River spring Chinook are projected to return at very low numbers,” said spill advocate Liz Hamilton at the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, who added that it was “hardly the bold action we were seeking in (Governor Jay Inslee’s) Orca task force prey work group.”

She said NSIA will be watching closely, especially as dissolved gas levels are ramped up to the 125 percent benchmark.

“It can’t happen soon enough,” she said.

But concerns have been raised that spilling water will reduce electrical generation capacity in the hydropower system, and according to outdoor reporter Eric Barker’s piece in the Tribune, this week’s agreement was panned by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who also introduced a bill in the House this year against it.

In early 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon, who has been overseeing a long-running case over Columbia salmon and dam management, had ordered spill to occur.