Tag Archives: trump administration

Oregon Lawmakers Hear Dire Warning About Willamette Salmonids, Fish Passage Work

Oregon lawmakers heard grim news about the future of Willamette Valley salmon and steelhead runs unless plans to increase fish passage around the Corps of Engineers’ so-called “Big 4” dams are expedited and fully implemented.

ODFW’s Bruce McIntosh warned that the stocks otherwise will go extinct, “likely within our lifetime,” if the federal agency and Congress doesn’t better connect the large amount of fish habitat available in the upper watersheds of the North and South Santiams, McKenzie and Middle Fork Willamette to the rest of the system.

Even as some projects to do that are years behind schedule, important funding to finish the work has been zeroed out starting this fall, he said.

WATER FLOWS THROUGH FLOOD GATES AT LOOKOUT POINT DAM DURING A 2013 TEST TO DETERMINE HOW BEST TO AID THE DOWNSTREAM MIGRATION OF LISTED SALMON AND STEELHEAD STOCKS. A STATE MANAGER SAYS THAT 70 TO 90 PERCENT OF SMOLTS DIE AT THE DAMS. (MARY KAREN SCULLION, CORPS OF ENGINEERS RESERVOIR REGULATION & WATER QUALITY SECTION)

The Corps has operated 13 dams in the watershed starting with the first 50 years ago for hydropower and flood control — preventing $1 billion in damage this spring, it touted — and has provided hatchery mitigation since Congress authorized it in 1951. They’ve also built adult collection facilities.

But the problem is getting young fish hatched in redds in the mountain reaches safely down past the dams. McIntosh says 70 to 90 percent die as they try to navigate through the facilities.

It’s more and more important with listed wild returns at Willamette Falls decreasing since at least the turn of the millennium, from 20,000-plus spring Chinook in the first years of the 2000s to 5,000 last year, and from 16,000 winter steelhead in 2002 to 2000 in 2018.

“Frankly, when you look at that, you can hear the battle drums of endangered species, not just threatened species. That’s the crossroads we sit at now,” McIntosh, the state’s deputy fish chief, told members of the House Committee on Natural Resources in a televised work session (starts at about 1:12:30) yesterday.

Increasing the number of returning wild fish could mean that fishery restrictions can be eased, but if runs continue to plummet, they will only get tighter due to the Endangered Species Act.

Pointing to a slide in his presentation that also showed Grand Ronde Tribe members dipnetting for the first time, McIntosh said, “There’s a whole fleet and economy around the fisheries at Willamette Falls and the Lower Columbia that is at stake here.”

McIntosh did acknowledge the “new actor on the stage” affecting returning salmonid numbers — sea lions that arrived at Willamette Falls in the past decade and which feast on returning salmon and steelhead at the chokepoint.

But he also reported that since ODFW received the OK from the National Marine Fisheries Service last fall to kill pinnipeds there, 34 have been euthanized.

A SEA LION FLINGS A SALMONID AT WILLAMETTE FALLS. (ODFW)

McIntosh said that most of what federal engineers need to do further up in the watershed is included in a 2008 federal biological opinion.

“Frankly, the Corps needs to get about the business of modifying those dams and operations, and Congress must fund them. That’s where we sit today,” McIntosh said.

He allowed that the Corps’ task was not easy, given the nature of the reservoirs, predation in them and how young fish prefer to travel at the surface of the lakes, and that some work has been accomplished.

Adult fish are being trucked around Detroit Dam on the North Santiam and Foster on the South Santiam, for instance, but there’s no way to collect smolts that otherwise have to go over the spillway or through the turbines and hope for the best. However, an “extreme draining” test on Fall Creek Reservoir showed promise for flushing fish and ridding the impoundment of nonnative fish.

THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS FISH COLLECTION FACILITY BELOW COUGAR DAM, ON A MCKENZIE TRIBUTARY. (ACOE)

He also said that other improvements are several years behind schedule, with the completion date at Lookout Point Dam on the Middle Fork — behind which is an estimated 94 percent of the highest quality spawning and rearing waters for springers in that system — now “unknown.”

Eighty-five percent of the best habitat on the South Santiam is behind Foster and Green Peter Reservoirs, 71 percent on the North Santiam is behind Detroit Reservoir, and 25 percent is behind Cougar Dam on a tributary of the McKenzie, he said.

And what’s even worse, according to McIntosh, is that the Trump Administration’s construction budget for Willamette basin work has been “zeroed out” starting this October.

McIntosh also highlighted how the Corps has been backing away from mitigating its dams with hatchery fish and is now producing 20 percent less than in past decade.

“And we frankly suspect there are more reductions to follow,” he said.

He claimed that the feds consider putting out their 4.6 million salmon and steelhead and 750,000 trout to be “discretionary” rather than a line item in their budget.

As the Corps has recently mulled turning over hatchery production in the basin to private vendors, McIntosh said he’s joked with federal staffers that they should turn over their dams to PGE, which saw “significant increase in survival” after it installed upstream and downstream fish passage at its Clackamas River dams.

At a cost of $90 million, 97 percent of juvenile salmon and steelhead now safely pass the facilities, according to the Portland-based utility.

ODFW’S BRUCE MCINTOSH SPEAKS BEFORE THE OREGON LEGISLATURE’S HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES, CHAIRED BY REP. BRAD WITT. (OREGON LEGISLATURE)

“What’s at stake? It’s our legacy. While we fully support the Corps and federal government efforts to restore wild fish to sustainable levels in the valley, they also have a mitigation responsibility, and our message to them is, we will not accept paper fish in exchange for real fish,” McIntosh said.

“When they get about the business of recovering wild fish, we can talk about reducing that mitigation responsibility,” he said.

At the end of the work session, Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) said that he intended to have a letter drafted supporting construction work on the Willamette system to aid fish passage.

BHA Blasts Proposed Federal Budget And Its Deep Cuts To LWCF, Natural Resource Agencies

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM BACKCOUNTRY HUNTERS AND ANGLERS

The release by the Trump administration of both its fiscal year 2019 budget request and a wide-ranging package of infrastructure programs drew criticism from Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, which zeroed in on deep cuts proposed for land management agencies and popular public access programs, including the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The president submitted a $4.4 trillion budget to Congress on Monday, recommending cuts of 16 percent to the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture and a steep 34 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency, all while adding $7 trillion to the federal deficit.

“By starving key resource management agencies of funds, the administration essentially deprives them of the tools to execute their jobs efficiently and effectively,” said BHA President and CEO Land Tawney. “Economically speaking, the value of investing in our resource agencies is undeniable and contributes significantly to the $887 billion generated every year by outdoor recreationists, including hunters and anglers. Congress owes it to the innumerable communities that rely on this economy – and the citizens who sustain it – to summarily reject this shortsighted proposal and instead ensure that our federal land managers are given the resources they need to do their jobs.”

The president’s budget likewise takes aim at federal monies earmarked for conservation and access, eviscerating the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a nationwide program that uses royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the outer continental shelf to conserve public lands and waters and expand public access opportunities. The budget proposes cutting the LWCF by 98 percent from previously enacted levels. State grant programs under the LWCF have been completely eliminated, zeroing out popular elements like the Forest Legacy Program, which supports working forests and unique public-private business partnerships.

A package of infrastructure programs also was unveiled by the administration on Monday. A closer look suggests a shell game will be played with revenue from mineral and energy development on public lands and waters to pay for deferred maintenance backlogs. BHA maintains that while these backlogs should remain a priority, Congress must ensure that they are not resolved at the expense of revenues currently allocated to the LWCF.

Trump’s infrastructure proposal also weakens standards for review and public input on public lands projects, and it sets a potentially dangerous course for the privatization of public works that could be precedent setting and threaten other federal property assets.

“The administration repeatedly affirms the importance of maintaining and expanding public access,” stated Tawney, “and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke touts his department’s commitment to public access opportunities – such as his support of federal access programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, support that he cited repeatedly during his confirmation hearing.

“So why, now, is the administration throwing its support behind a measure that would eliminate funding for the LWCF and cripple the program’s ability to acquire new access, including access to currently inaccessible public lands and waters?” Tawney remarked. “You can’t claim that access is the name of the game then gut the most successful, established, bipartisan public access program in existence. Sportsmen are sorely disappointed by this abrupt about face.”

Washington Urges Zinke To Leave Hanford Reach Nat’l Monument Alone

With recently designated national monuments under review, Washington’s natural resource agencies are advising Washington DC not to mess with the Hanford Reach.

Letters from both the Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources urge Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke not to downsize the 194,000-acre zone around the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia as well as former buffer to the Hanford site.

SCOTT FLETCHER SHOWS OFF A FALL CHINOOK CAUGHT IN THE HANFORD REACH LAST SEASON. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

“WDFW would like to echo Governor Inslee’s response, which recommends no action to rescind or alter the Hanford Reach  Monument’s border. Our recommendation is based on the Monument’s importance to the quality of life for citizens of Washington relative to recreation and the state’s economy, as well as the unique and critical habitat protected by the HRNM for fish and wildlife species,” reads a July 7 letter from the agency’s regional director, Mike Livingston.

He says the publicly accessible 68,000 acres of the monument provide “exceptional recreation opportunity” for anglers, hunters and others, as well as “supports spawning and rearing habitat for the largest fall Chinook salmon population in the lower 48 states.”

“Chinook produced in the HNRM support a world-class freshwater sport fishery as well as offshore commercial and recreational fisheries that extend as far away as southeast Alaska,” Livingston wrote.

The 2015 fishery yielded a record harvest of 35,432 upriver brights for 48,000 angler trips in the Reach alone, and along with steelhead fisheries, these waters annually pump $2 million to $3 million into the local economy.

“Changes to the boundaries of the HRNM could increase erosion and sedimentation, reduce public access, alter nearshore water quality and habitat, and result in negative impacts to these fish populations and public recreation,” Livingston warned.

In her July 10 letter, perhaps taking note of Zinke’s time in Utah to investigate a new national monument there, DNR Director Hillary Franz invites him to “come toss a line in the water.”

“You’ll find yourself among the Americans that come here annually with their loved ones and families. Reeling in your first sturgeon will be as surprising as it is exhilarating. The prehistoric nature of this fish is emblematic of what was preserved here; history, culture, recreation and the American way of life,” Franz wrote in her letter.

Yesterday was the final day for public comment on the Trump Administration’s review of 27 national monuments created since the mid-1990s and which are more than 150 square miles in size.

That includes Oregon’s 100,000-acre Cascade Siskiyou.

Recent days have seen increasing pushback from sportsmen.

Last week, Andrew McKean, editor of Outdoor Life, published an open letter to Zinke that was subheadlined “A call to defend, celebrate, and cherish national monuments.”

It appears the purpose of your review is to confirm your own support for monuments. That’s the only way I can understand your order, as a clever (and slightly subversive) way to call attention to these special places that are reservoirs of the American qualities of equality, adventure, self-reliance, and democracy.

After all, you have repeatedly identified yourself as a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican.” The father of the Antiquities Act—the legislation that enables the creation of National Monuments —Roosevelt recognized that monuments are a tool to elevate the very best of our best public lands by giving them a status that allows true multiple use while protecting the integrity of remarkable landscapes for future generations. While I think it’s healthy to periodically review government decisions, I think you—especially if you emulate TR—would agree that national monuments are among America’s best ideas and entirely worth celebrating, not eliminating.

This morning, the Spokane Spokesman-Review‘s long-time outdoor editor Rich Landers — recently recognized by the Outdoor Writers Association of America with the organization’s highest award for adherence to conservation principles — posted a blog asking “Can Zinke be trusted as Interior steward of federal public lands?

Dave Mahalic, senior advisor to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, speaking recently at the Outdoor Writers Association of America 2017 Conference in Duluth, Minnesota, defended the review of 27 monuments that have been designated since 1996 and the potential for rescission or downsizing.

He said the Antiquities Act was designed to include “the least amount of land necessary to accomplish the protection.”

The former supervisor of Yosemite National Park said the review is needed because “some people feel they don’t have a voice.”

I asked him directly, “Who are those people?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

OK, so much for transparency. Mahalic should know who’s pushing for the review if he’s making appearances to officially support if not pimp the mission. So should Secretary Zinke.

And they should reveal who those people and interests are to more than 1.3 million people who commented during the review period.

Landers also pointed towards a scathing story posted yesterday by Ted Williams in Hatch magazine headlined “With friends like Ryan Zinke, who needs enemies? It’s time for sportsmen to get real about our Secretary of Interior.”

Wrapping his piece around a metaphor from the Jungle Book, Williams writes, ” … (When) politicians and appointed officials work against fish and wildlife, sportsmen need to get loudly on their cases, then vote the right way,” he wrote.

For his part, in a BLM press release out today, Zinke said he and President Trump had opened comment on the monuments “in order to give local stakeholders a voice in the decision-making process.”

He said that even if monument boundaries were tweaked, the land would still remain federal.

After touring the new Bears Ears National Monument, Zinke advised the White House it should be shrunk.

Now that Washington state officials as well as some 1.3 million others have had their say, it’s up to Washington DC to make the next move.