Tag Archives: lower elwha klallam tribe

Feds, Tribe Prevail In Elwha Salmon, Steelhead Hatchery Appeal

Federal and tribal fishery overseers have prevailed in a court case involving Elwha River salmon and steelhead that allows for continued use of hatchery fish in the restoration of runs to the north Olympic Peninsula watershed.

After hearing arguments last month, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld a lower court’s ruling that the National Marine Fisheries Service had done its homework when approving state and Lower Elwha Klallam production programs for after two dams were removed.

THE ELWHA RIVER ABOVE THE SITE OF THE DAMS. (OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK)

“The Ninth Circuit found our analysis was complete and that both NOAA and the (National) Park Service have thoroughly adequately assessed the impacts involved, from the dam removal process to the efforts to recover salmon and steelhead populations,” explained Michael Milstein, a spokesman¬† for NOAA’s Fisheries Service in Portland.

That analysis was the target of a long-running challenge in U.S. District Court for Western Washington by the Wild Fish Conservancy, Wild Steelhead Coalition, Federation of Fly Fishers Steelhead Committee and Wild Salmon Rivers.

According to federal court documents, they had argued that NMFS’s approval of hatchery programs violated the National Environmental Policy and Endangered Species Acts, and that the tribe’s facility output represented a taking of ESA-listed fish.

But 9th Circuit Court Judges Susan P. Graber, Sandra S. Ikuta and Andrew D. Hurwitz largely agreed with U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle’s earlier ruling, and according to Milstein that “clears the way” for NMFS and its partners to focus on restoring the river, including with hatchery fish per a 2012 environmental assessment that found minimal risk and some benefits from them.

The Elwha restoration is a project on a huge scale, featuring the removal of Elwha Dam in 2012 and Glines Canyon Dam in 2014, freeing up dozens of miles of river and tributaries that flow from the heart of the Olympic Peninsula.

To that end, earlier this spring, WDFW, the National Park Service and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe extended a fishing moratorium on the Elwha through May 2019.

For its part, WDFW doesn’t appear interested in stocking steelhead into the river, as last summer it declared the Elwha a wild steelhead gene bank. The Wild Steelhead Coalition said that designation was the result of “decades of work,” but the tribe’s hatchery means the sanctuary “still does not exist.”

Elwha Fishing Closure Extended To June 2019

THE FOLLOWING IS A JOINT PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE AND LOWER ELWHA KLALLAM TRIBE

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Olympic National Park, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have agreed that it is necessary to extend the fishing closure in the Elwha River for another two years, from March 1, 2017 to June 1, 2019. The fishing closure applies to all recreational and commercial fishing in the Elwha River and its tributaries. A fishing moratorium in these waters has been in place since 2011 to protect depleted native salmonid populations, including four federally listed fish species which are needed to re-colonize habitats between and upstream of the two former dam sites. Mountain lakes in the Elwha basin within Olympic National Park and Lake Sutherland will remain open to sport fishing from the fourth Saturday in April to October 31.

A FLYRODDER TRIES HIS LUCK ON THE ELWHA, IN 2011, THE YEAR A FISHING MORATORIUM WENT INTO EFFECT ON THE NORTH OLYMPIC PENINSULA RIVER IN ANTICIPATION OF THE REMOVAL OF TWO OLD DAMS. THAT CLOSURE HAS SINCE BEEN EXTENDED THROUGH 2019. (OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK)

As part of the Elwha Ecosystem Restoration project, Elwha Dam removal was completed in April, 2012 and Glines Canyon Dam was removed in August, 2014. Additional rock demolition occurred in Glines Canyon in summer, 2016 to improve upstream anadromous fish passage. Fisheries biologists recently confirmed upstream passage of adult Chinook salmon, sockeye salmon, coho salmon, winter and summer steelhead and bull trout past the former Glines Canyon Dam site. Those species, as well as pink salmon, chum salmon, and Pacific lamprey have now been documented upstream of the former Elwha Dam site.

The restoration of salmonid spawning and rearing in habitats upstream of the former Glines Canyon Dam is paramount to successful restoration. These early re-colonizers play an important role in establishing spawning and juvenile rearing in habitats of the upper watershed. To date, low numbers of Chinook salmon, summer steelhead, and bull trout have been observed as high upstream as the Hayes River confluence.

The Elwha project partners are annually evaluating spawner abundance, extent of distribution, and juvenile production throughout the system using a variety of tools including sonar, redd surveys, radio telemetry, snorkel surveys, smolt trapping, and environmental DNA. Recreational and commercial fishing will resume when there is broad distribution of spawning adults in newly accessible habitats above the former dam sites, when spawning occurs at a rate that allows for population growth and diversity, and when there is adequate escapement and a harvestable surplus. The salmon and steelhead populations are expanding into newly opened habitats, but are not yet approaching the recovery objectives.

Monitoring ecosystem recovery in the Elwha is a cooperative effort among Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Olympic National Park, NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

For updated fishing regulations on waters within Olympic National Park, please visit https://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/fishing.htm or contact Fisheries Biologists at 360-565-3081 or 360-565-3075.

For waters outside the park, please visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ or contact WDFW’s Fish Program at 360-902-2838