Tag Archives: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Biop Says Corps Must Provide Downstream Salmon Passage At Upper Green River Dam

What goes up must come down, and in the case of King County’s Green River, that requires building downstream fish passage infrastructure at Howard Hanson Dam.

AN ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS AERIAL IMAGE SHOWS HOWARD HANSON DAM ON THE UPPER GREEN RIVER. A BIOP REQUIRES THAT DOWNSTREAM FISH PASSAGE BE BUILT AT THE FACILITY TO AID ESA-LISTED CHINOOK, STEELHEAD AND ORCAS. (COE)

Earlier this month, federal fishery overseers issued a new biological opinion that found the Corps of Engineers had to help ESA-listed juvenile Chinook and steelhead get from the 100 miles of spawning and rearing habitat above the project to the waters below there.

That “Reasonable and Prudent Alternative” to collect the young fish would not only improve the viability of both populations but also help out the region’s starving orcas.


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“Because (Puget Sound) Chinook salmon are an essential prey base for Southern Residents … the higher (Puget Sound) Chinook salmon abundance provided by access to the upper watershed would also contribute to the survival and recovery of killer whales,” NOAA’s biop states.

Downstream passage would also build upon Tacoma Water’s existing facilities that can provide a lift for returning adult salmon and steelhead arriving at the utility’s diversion dam 3 miles below the reservoir, as well as link in with fish habitat work being done in the lower, middle and upper reaches of the Central Cascades river that drains into Seattle’s Elliott Bay as the Duwamish.

“Assuming 75% of the annual production upstream from (Howard A. Hanson Dam) would survive passage and be recruited into the adult population were safe and effective downstream passage provided, we estimate that an additional 644 natural origin spawners would return to the Green River from production areas upstream of HAHD. Adding the potential production from the upper Green River to the 1,288 spawners returning from production downstream from HAHD gives a total Green River escapement of 1,932 natural origin spawners returning to the Green River. About 36% of the Chinook salmon returning to the Green River are harvested,” the biop states.

In a press release, the Engineers’ Seattle District Commander Col. Mark Geraldi said that improving fish passage at its project is “a priority” for the federal agency.

“This is a project we’ve been working on. NOAA Fisheries’ BiOp provides us crucial guidance and design criteria to follow as we forge ahead,” Geraldi said.

WITH THE GREEN-DUWAMISH IDENTIFIED AS A KEY SOURCE OF CHINOOK FOR PUGET SOUND ORCAS, PLANS ARE IN THE WORKS TO NOT ONLY INCREASE HATCHERY PRODUCTION BUT PROVIDE ACCESS AROUND A PAIR OF DAMS FOR RETURNING ADULTS TO GET TO THE UPPER WATERSHED AND SPAWN. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Essentially, the biop tells the Corps to get back to work on a project they began in the early 2000s after consulting with NOAA, spent tens of millions of dollars drawing up, but then “abandoned its commitment to construct them” as Congressional funding ran out in 2011 and wasn’t reauthorized.

That led to a reopening of consultations and downstream fish passage being left out of the Corps’ 2014 biological assessment for operating the project.

NOAA found that that was likely to harm kings, steelhead and orcas and instead came up with the biop’s RPA and a target of February 2031 for the Corps to have the new facility’s bugs worked out and be operating for that spring’s smolt outmigration.

“We’re optimistic that new fish passage at Howard Hanson Dam, with continued habitat restoration in the more developed lower and middle Green River, will boost fish populations toward recovery,” said Kim Kratz, a NOAA Assistant Regional Administrator, in a press release.

Congress will need to provide the funds for the Corps, which is also spending $112 million trap-and-haul facility at Mud Mountain Dam, in the next major watershed to the south of the upper Green.

Columbia Sea Lion Bill Signed By President

Northwest fish advocates are waking up to some positive news this morning.

Federal legislation expanding sea lion removals in more of the Columbia and many of its tributaries became law yesterday, capping a multi-year, multi-stakeholder, bipartisan effort to reduce pinniped predation on ESA-listed salmon and steelhead as well as other stocks in the big river.

SEA LIONS GATHER AT THE MOUTH OF THE COWEEMAN RIVER ON THE COWLITZ IN KELSO IN FEBRUARY 2016 DURING THE SMELT RUN. THE ENDANGERED SALMON PREDATION PREVENTION ACT WILL DEEM ANY SEA LIONS INSIDE THE MOUTHS OF SALMON SPAWNING STREAMS AS “INDIVIDUALLY IDENTIFIABLE” AND SUBJECT TO REMOVAL . (SKYLAR MASTERS)

S.3119 gives the three Northwest states as well as the Nez Perce, Yakama, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Cowlitz Tribes, and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission up to five one-year permits to kill as many as 920 California sea lions and 249 Steller sea lions annually through an amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Those figures represent the 10 percent potential biological removal, or PBR, levels for both species, according to WDFW’s Meagan West, the agency’s federal legislative coordinator.

“We anticipate lethal removal to be a lot lower,” she said, based on the number of sea lions that venture up the Columbia above river mile 112 and below McNary Dam and into salmon spawning tribs like the Cowlitz.

A similar bill was introduced in the U.S. House last year, but following swift passage through the Senate and then the lower chamber of Congress earlier this month the Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act was signed yesterday by President Trump, according to a bill announcement posted by the White House.

It was cosponsored by Idaho Sen. Jim Risch (R) and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell (D). The original House bill was put forth by Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-3) and Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-5), both of whom represent parts of the Lower and Middle Columbia.

Liz Hamilton at the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association in Portland said that with salmon recovery so complex, “to have one of the many moving parts moving in the right direction is so exciting.”

In 2014, an estimated 104,333 ESA-listed Upper Columbia spring Chinook were believed to have been eaten in the river by sea lions.

“Folks are recognizing we have a system that is out of balance,” Hamilton said.

WDFW’s West said that the permittees are starting to talk to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration about how to streamline the process with as few applications as possible.

ODFW’s Dr. Shaun Clements says that because the way the bill is worded, Oregon will have to submit a separate one to meet tribal requirements.

They would then be reviewed by NOAA and through the National Environmental Policy Act.

With the bill signing, “We can start this process immediately now,” West said.

She praised the myriad stakeholders for coming together to work on passing a sea lion bill and said she was excited by the outcome.

“Really, really relieved it’s over the finish line,” added Clements. “We appreciate the efforts of the delegation.”

The permits are in addition to prior authorizations for the states to take out California sea lions at Bonneville Dam and ODFW at Willamette Falls.

Clements says that the bill will eventually supersede those because it covers the same areas.

San Juan Islands Angler Leery Of Voluntary No-boat Zone For Orcas

Kevin Klein has done his part to feed starving southern resident killer whales in Puget Sound.

As he fought a very big Chinook in the San Juans a few summers ago, a bull from J-pod swam over from a quarter mile away and chomped off the meatiest bits of the salmon.

“I THINK ALL OF US WANT THE BEST FOR THE ORCAS. THAT’S NUMBER ONE,” SAYS SAN JUAN ISLANDS ANGLER KEVIN KLEIN, HERE WITH ALL THAT WAS LEFT AFTER A KILLER WHALE SNARFED A BIG CHINOOK OFF HIS LINE IN JULY 2013. (KEVIN KLEIN)

The encounter left Klein temporarily deflated and holding a 5-pound fish head, but also gave him a new appreciation for the “giant marine super predator.”

That might help explain why he’s not too crazy about WDFW’s request yesterday for boaters to voluntarily avoid a quarter- to half-mile-wide strip along much of the west side of San Juan Island, prime feeding and fishing grounds for orcas and anglers alike.

The goal is to reduce human activity there and follows federal overseers’ call to do more to protect the endangered pods in Washington waters.

But Klein says it won’t do a bit of good to help out the killer whales and instead is just a “feel-good ‘win'” for the species’ enthusiasts.

“They did something. Picked some low-hanging fruit so now the grant money can keep coming in. If there is no problem with the killer whales, then professional orca advocates don’t have funding or jobs. So it’s in their best interests to perpetuate a problem rather that actually addressing the tougher issues that would help the whales,” says the Anacortes-based angler and yacht brokerage employee.

Lined up against fixes such as increasing hatchery salmon production and reducing pinniped and fish-eating bird predation are groups like the overly litigious Wild Fish Conservancy and PETA, which Klein claims are ready to sue the state as well as “take on even the Puget Sound tribes and boycott casinos if you start culling cuddly seals and sea lions.”

Other challenges include northern fleets’ interception of salmon bound for Northwest rivers, which in some cases have severe habitat issues.

He says he doesn’t want people to chase whales and notes that there are laws against that already.

The state legislature passed a measure in 2008, and a 2011 rule from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration bars “vessels from approaching any killer whale closer than 200 yards and forbid vessels from intercepting a whale or positioning the vessel in its path” in Washington’s inside waters.

But NOAA has been pushing for more and more action, and earlier this year Governor Jay Inslee signed an executive order directing WDFW and other state agencies to do all they could to help out the killer whales.

That included bumping hatchery production, though it will take several years for those fish to become available, and pruning salmon seasons in some areas.

When we posted WDFW’s press release on its “difficult request” to San Juan Islands fishermen Tuesday afternoon, anglers generally reacted against it.

They’ve already kicked us in the teeth taking September Chinook away. So … no,” wrote Bellingham angler Rory O’Connor, referring to the closure of the popular Chinook fishery that time of year in the islands.

Besides seven likes of the post, there were no supportive comments, though there was more on the agency’s version.

According to WDFW, the voluntary no-go zone — a quarter-mile strip of shoreline from Mitchell Bay to Cattle Point, with a half-mile bubble around Lime Kiln Lighthouse — is the “most frequently” used feeding and lounging area for southern residents.

(WDFW)

“This step will help support killer whale recovery and prevents a potential delay in federal approval for our salmon fisheries throughout the entire Sound,” Fish Program chief Ron Warren said in a press release.

He takes the long view, adding that recovering orcas “will mean more salmon returning to Puget Sound each year, which will benefit anglers” too.

Ultimately, the request is another straw on the usual camel’s back, sportfishermen, who are already bearing the burden of Washington’s failure as a whole to stem the loss of salmon.

Is it one straw too many this time, or the wrong straw?

“Really, we all know that the orcas aren’t bothered one bit by our 20- to 30-foot rec boats trolling at 2 mph,” says Klein. “The best thing a small rec boat can do is just keep trolling and let the whales react to you on a predictable path. If anything, they are attracted to us and curious. I think they know exactly what we are doing and might even think it’s funny.”

“They are highly advanced super predators. Top of the food chain, with sonar and perceptions of their world that we can’t begin to fathom,” he says. “Give them some credit. They’ll thrive with more fish in the water.”

Yuasa: ‘Winter Chinook Fishing Hitting Full Stride’

Editor’s note: The following is Mark Yuasa’s monthly fishing newsletter, Get Hooked on Reel Times With Mark, and is run with permission.

By Mark Yuasa, Director of Grow Boating Programs, Northwest Marine Trade Association

It’s the start of 2018, and there are plenty of on-water salmon fishing activities to ring in during the New Year!

If you catch my drift this isn’t a time to sit back on the couch in front of a fireplace or TV as winter chinook fishing is hitting full-stride, and the table quality of these fish are like non-other to be had on the BBQ grill.

BE SURE TO CATCH THE SUNRISE AT SEKIU WHEN IT OPENS FOR SALMON FISHING ON MARCH 16. (MARK YUASA)

Keep in mind closing dates on many fishing areas mentioned below could hinge on catch guidelines or encounter limits for both sub-legal and legal-size chinook that often make or break if anglers can fish for hatchery-produced salmon. This unfortunate situation came to fruition in November for two northern marine areas when the sub-legal catch skyrocketed.

On that note, my word of advice is to go sooner than later, which will likely guarantee you more time on the water.

The San Juan Islands (Marine Catch Area 7) opened Jan. 1 with fishing allowed through April 30 for hatchery chinook.

Let me stand on my soap box, and preach to you about island chain being as close as you can get to awesome scenery and wildlife viewing that is very similar to Alaska’s coastline. And let’s not forget there’s a decent chance to catch a quality large-size chinook just minutes from nearby boat ramps or marinas.

A good gauge on success in the islands will occur when anglers hit the water for the Resurrection Salmon Derby – part of the NMTA’s Northwest Salmon Derby Series – on Jan. 5-7 in Anacortes at Cap Sante Marina. This is followed by Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Jan. 18-20. For details, go to NW Salmon Derby Series.

Closer to Seattle is central Puget Sound (Area 10), which has been quietly producing some fair to good action at places like Southworth, Allen Bank off Blake Island, Manchester, Rich Passage, West Point, Jefferson Head and Point Monroe. The closure date for 10 is Feb. 28.

Back in mid-November, northern Puget Sound (Area 9) fell victim to the huge sub-legal chinook (fish under the 22-inch minimum size limit) encounter rate and was shut-down until further notice.

Area 9 was scheduled to reopen for hatchery chinook from Jan. 16 through April 15. Look for blackmouth at places like Possession Bar, Double Bluff off southwest side of Whidbey Island, Point No Point, Foulweather Bluff, Pilot Point, Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend and Scatchet Head.

Areas 8-1 and 8-2 – eastside of Whidbey Island – also experienced a set-back in November, and was supposed to reopen sometime this month and could happen concurrent to the Area 9 opener. Keep an eye out for an announcement on this situation by WDFW very soon.

Don’t overlook, south-central (Area 11), Hood Canal (Area 12) and southern Puget Sound (Area 13), which are all open now through April 30.

Other winter chinook fisheries on the “must go” list are western Strait (Area 5) from March 16 to April 30; and eastern Strait (Area 6) from March 1 to April 15.

New Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan proposed

Salmon politics started brewing on Dec. 1 when fishery managers released the 368-page Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan.

This fishing plan – sent to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries for review – and guides conservation and harvest of Puget Sound chinook salmon from the ocean clear into inner-marine waterways takes effect from 2019 through 2029.

AUTHOR MARK YUASA WORRIES THAT THE OPPORTUNITY TO CATCH WINTER CHINOOK IN THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS “COULD BE A THING OF THE PAST IF THE PROPOSED PUGET SOUND CHINOOK HARVEST MANAGEMENT PLAN BECOMES A REALITY.” (MARK YUASA)

The controversial plan has raised issues and many in sport-fishing industry are concerned that the plan could adversely affect sport salmon fishing opportunities.

There is an 18-month public comment period, and this will surely be a hot topic of many debates in the months to come. To view the comprehensive plan, go to Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan.

Seattle Boat Show drops anchor Jan. 26-Feb. 3 at three locations

The Seattle Boat Show from Jan. 26 through Feb. 3 is the one-stop place to get your fix on hundreds of fishing boats, informative seminars, and state-of-the-art gear and electronics.

There will be 55 free fishing seminars, and more coverage on a variety of new topics by top-notch experts that will provide anglers with the most in-depth wealth of knowledge on how to catch fish across the Pacific Northwest. For a complete list of all fishing and boating seminars, go to https://seattleboatshow.com/seminars/.

This will also be a time when visitors can check out the NW Salmon Derby Series grand prize $65,000 KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with a Honda 150hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer. The fully-rigged boat comes with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine electronics; a custom WhoDat Tower; and a Dual Electronic Stereo.

THE 2018 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES GRAND PRIZE BOAT. (NMTA)

There are 15 derby events in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada, and the drawing for the grand prize boat will take place at conclusion of the Everett Derby in September or November. For derby details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

I’ll see you on the water or at the biggest boat show on the West Coast, the great Seattle Boat Show!