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News and Updates from Washington Trout
Wild Fish Runs is a bi-monthly publication for WT members and supporters to provide program updates and networking assistance. WT is a conservation-ecology organization dedicated to the preservation and recovery of Washington’s wild fish and the habitat they depend on. Since 1989, WT has sought to improve conditions for all of Washington’s wild fish through research, advocacy, and habitat restoration. Washington Trout is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.
PO Box 402
15629 Main St NE
Duvall, WA 98019
NOAA Cuts Critical-Habitat Areas for Listed Salmon and Steelhead
WT, Conservation Community, Oppose Massive Rollback in Habitat Protection
On Aug. 12, NOAA Fisheries released a final Critical Habitat Designation for 19 populations of salmon and steelhead listed as Threatened or Endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The new Designation significantly reduces the amount of salmon and steelhead habitat receiving specific protections under the ESA. It covers only areas currently occupied by listed salmon and steelhead, excludes some areas above artificial passage-barriers, trades strong habitat-protection standards for voluntary plans that were never intended to protect salmon, and could exempt many other habitat areas based on unfair and misleading economic and political considerations.
Working with a broad coalition of environmental advocates, Washington Trout has participated in developing a coordinated opposition to the CHD. NOAA Fisheries is required to designate critical habitat for all listed salmon and steelhead populations. NOAA Fisheries withdrew a previous salmon/steelhead CHD in 2002 in response to challenges from economic stakeholders, and proposed the current designation in November 2004. Washington Trout participated in public hearings, media and public outreach, and drafting coordinated public-comments regarding the proposed CHD, submitted in March, 2005 (click here to read comments). Despite credible opposition from environmentalists, scientists, fishers, tribes, and some state and local officials, NOAA finalized the CHD without significant revisions.
NOAA estimates that listed salmon and steelhead are currently occupying about 30,000 miles of streams and shorelines in California, Oregon, Washington , and Idaho. They designated about 89 percent of that as critical. But we know that wild salmon and steelhead currently occupy only some fraction of the habitats they occupied just a hundred years ago.
NOAA previously determined that approximately 130,000 stream miles were “accessible” to listed salmon and steelhead. Unfortunately, it is difficult to compile reliable data for estimating how much of that habitat was actually “accessed” by wild salmon and steelhead, and NOAA says it can make no credible estimate of how much historical salmon and steelhead habitat is currently unoccupied. In other words NOAA can not provide any context for the 30,000 miles of currently occupied habitat. Thirty thousand miles is only 23% of the 130,000 miles of stream NOAA says is or could be accessible to listed salmon and steelhead. In 1996, the National Research Council estimated that wild Pacific salmon south of British Columbia have been extirpated from approximately 40% of their historical range. Have salmon and steelhead lost or been displaced from 50%, 75%, or only 10% of their original habitats? It is difficult to assess the risk of abandoning protection for currently unoccupied habitat without that context. We do know that on average, listed salmon and steelhead populations currently hover at less than 10% of their historical abundance (at around 1900), and if they have also been eliminated from a significant portion of their historic range, it might be unreasonable to expect they could achieve or sustain any meaningful recovery in a severely reduced percentage of the habitat they evolved in.
Salmon and steelhead are at risk of extinction precisely because so much of their historic habitat has been lost to timber harvest, agriculture, dam construction, industry, pollution, and development. The Endangered Species Act recognizes that protecting habitat is a foundation of species recovery. But the current CHD abandons protection for areas that are currently unoccupied but part of the historic range of salmon and steelhead, virtually eliminating protections for rivers and streams that could be essential to the recovery of listed populations. Recovery could depend on restoring and protecting the health of rivers, streams, estuaries and shorelines where salmon once lived and could live again, not just the small percentage of areas they have been reduced to.
A Critical Habitat Designation obligates federal agencies to give special consideration to their activities when they take place in the designated areas. “Activities” include issuing permits, or managing ongoing activities by other entities For instance, the Army Corps of Engineers issues permits for all activities that include dredging, filling or moving soil in and near streams, the type of permit private developers need routinely; within designated Critical Habitat, the standards and criteria for issuing and/or enforcing a permit would be higher, with a priority on protecting listed fish. Without a CHD, habitat is only protected under the ESA insofar as damaging the habitat would result in harming or killing an actual listed fish. In areas currently or temporarily unoccupied, those protections clearly cannot apply, making a CHD the only reliable way to adequately protect the habitats salmon may need to recolonize in order to fully recover.
Even in areas currently occupied by listed salmon and steelhead, the new policy contains exemptions for all military and tribal land, and for some private landowners who have agreed to voluntary conservation efforts. NOAA says it will consider more exemptions for future voluntary habitat conservation plans. The agency hopes to use these exclusions to encourage landowners to seek voluntary agreements that, according to NOAA, might outweigh protection likely through critical habitat designation. But not all these plans were designed specifically to protect or recover listed salmon, and experience has shown that voluntary efforts are ineffective where conditions require hard choices, exactly the places that most need the full protection of the ESA.
Washington Trout is alarmed over the large scope and distribution of habitat areas excluded from specific protection in this CHD. But the fundamental approach of the designation is also deeply flawed. Instead of determining which habitats would be critical to the recovery of listed salmon, as the law requires, NOAA designated only those habitats it deemed critical to merely preventing extinction, a completely novel interpretation of the ESA. By using this inadequate and illegal “survival” standard, NOAA failed to develop a bona fide recovery standard when designating critical habitat. Significantly, NOAA restricted the designation of critical habitat to the main channel of streams and rivers up to the ordinary high water mark, excluding associated riparian areas and the channel migration zone within floodplains. WT particularly opposes excluding these essential habitat-types from designation. Limiting critical-habitat protection to main channels fails to acknowledge or consider the crucial ecological role of flood plains in the health and productivity of salmonid populations.
In August, the National Wildlife Federation Earth Justice, and Trout Unlimited released a report titled, Salmon Recovery Under Attack. The report analyzes how the administration's critical habitat proposal threatens salmon recovery throughout Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho, and highlights the people and places that have benefited from critical habitat protections throughout the Pacific Northwest. The full report is available online at: Salmon Habitat Report.
In designating Critical Habitat for the Northwest’s imperiled wild salmon and steelhead, NOAA considered only currently occupied stream reaches, removed important streamside habitats from protection, excluded areas in voluntary land-management plans that weren’t designed to protect salmon, and proposes to reduce protection for the remaining habitat by using biased and inaccurate economic analyses that do not fairly evaluate all the costs of habitat damage or the economic benefits of salmon recovery. Add all these exclusions and exemptions together, and almost nothing is left protected.
We cannot abandon the rivers, streams, wetlands, and floodplains salmon and steelhead will ultimately need to recover. The ESA anticipates and requires that the recovery of listed species depends on the protection of whole ecosystems and important habitats. To act otherwise is a recipe for extinction and a betrayal of public trust. NOAA Fisheries’ ill-considered Critical Habitat Designation for salmon and steelhead is jeopardizing the recovery of listed fish and threatening the overall ecological health of the Northwest’s most valuable wild resources.
Habitat Restoration, Research, and Program Development
Renovated Cherry Creek pump facility viewed from the floodplain. New “fish friendly” Hidrostal pumps (blue) are at lower left.
Washington Trout, in partnership with the Snoqualmie Tribe, was awarded a grant this spring from the King Conservation District to conduct a three-year monitoring study of the renovated pump facility on lower Cherry Creek. In 1998 the existing pump house on Cherry Creek, operated by Drainage District 7 (DD7) in King County, was shown to be a direct cause of mortality to thousands of juvenile salmonids, including ESA-listed chinook. In 2004 DD7 replaced the existing macerating pump system with new “fish friendly” Hidrostal (screw impeller) pumps and modified the gate system to provide juvenile and adult fish passage over a wider range of flows. Although the new pump system was designed to improve conditions for fish, there are as yet no quantitative data on its effectiveness in allowing fish passage between mainstem Cherry Creek and critical spawning, rearing and flood-refuge habitat in the Cherry Valley floodplain.
The pump retrofit will be evaluated in three project tasks. Crews will measure fish injury and mortality associated with passage through the unscreened Hidrostal pumps into Cherry Creek. Videography will be used to assess a new sluicegate in enabling passage of juvenile salmonids seeking refuge in Cherry Valley. Finally, coho salmon spawning surveys will be performed in fall 2005–2007 in floodplain tributaries to establish a baseline of the success of juvenile outmigration through the pump facility. WT will seek additional funding to support surveys beginning fall 2008, which would enable the collection of spawning data from the first generation of coho that outmigrated through the new Hidrostal pumps in 2004. Comparison of spawning success between this cohort and the pre-retrofit spawners (2005–2007) will test the hypothesis that the Hidrostal pump system will increase fish productivity in Cherry Valley.
A key objective is to communicate the benefits and limitations of the Cherry Creek pump system to resource managers in the Snohomish basin and throughout Washington State. The Hidrostal pump technology is relative new, and its use in fish-passage facilities in Washington is currently limited. There are, however, numerous opportunities in agricultural production districts throughout Washington State to retrofit existing macerating pump facilities with more fish-friendly pump and gate configurations to improve fish passage and survival. By disseminating the Cherry Creek data in a peer-reviewed scientific journal article, project partners hope to influence management decisions statewide regarding these pump facility improvement opportunities.
Hood Canal is a fjord of Puget Sound on the eastern side of the Olympic Peninsula. Recently, fish kills have occurred in the area and low dissolved oxygen (“hypoxia”) is suspected. Fish require a specific amount of dissolved oxygen in the water to survive. The WA Department of Fish and Wildlife closed sport fishing seasons in 2004, and the WA Department of Ecology has recently listed parts of Hood Canal as “impaired waters,” meaning they do not meet state water quality standards and require clean-up. While the natural features of the Canal--long, narrow, with a “sill” or sea-floor shelf at the mouth where it meets the rest of Puget Sound—contribute to the problem, researchers and officials believe that increased nitrogen pollution from on-lot septic systems is aggravating the situation.
The Hood Canal watershed is not heavily populated, with about 54,000 residents, but it is a popular tourist destination. In addition, all three counties in the watershed (Kitsap, Mason, and Jefferson) project increased growth, much of it in the near shore area of Hood Canal. While some of the new development as well as some existing homes will be serviced by proposed sewage treatment plants, many homes will continue to rely on septic systems. And as land use changes from forest to “rural residential,” additional nitrogen inputs to Hood Canal will be the result, regardless of sewage disposal method.
Researchers at the University of Washington’s PRISM (Puget Sound Regional Synthesis Model) program are refining a model to better predict how Hood Canal water quality will respond to changing land use characteristics. Washington Trout is working with PRISM scientists and others to gather on-the-ground information in order to refine predictive water quality models. Questions of interest include: what is the housing density and what is the age of the on-lot septic systems along the Hood Canal shore? What is the current seasonal use of these homes? Also, WDFW and Kitsap and Jefferson counties have identified important marine habitat areas in Hood Canal, and we intend to overlay the model’s water quality forecasts upon the existing habitat information to aid planners in prioritizing the conservation of near shore marine habitats.
We also believe that future conditions of the watershed need to be closely considered. For example, how much nitrogen will Brinnon, in Jefferson County, with a projected 2016 population of 1,200 to 1,500 (a 50% increase) contribute to Hood Canal? We are going to examine the relevant county planning documents and other sources of demographic and land-use information, and work with PRISM scientists to establish a trajectory of future conditions in the watershed. Our goal is to develop information that will help planners protect Hood Canal while allowing for responsible development.
Hood Canal from Dosewallips State Park (composite photograph)
German Creek is a tributary to the Columbia River near Longview, Washington, where Washington Trout is developing an initiative to restore and enhance off-channel spawning and rearing habitat in the lower reach of the watershed. The Columbia Land Trust is finalizing the acquisition of approximately the lower one mile of German Creek, and the project team is working with WDFW to evaluate the feasibility of using installed large woody debris to increase instream habitat diversity and complexity.
On Whidbey Island, the WT field crew has pulled up their
nets and wrapped up data collection for the juvenile fish-use assessment
project. Throughout the winter, project
staff will analyze the data collected at each sampling site along the west
coast of the Island. This data will
help researchers better understand juvenile
-fish habits in estuaries and
other near shore habitats. Check the
November issue of Wild Fish Runs for a preliminary project report.
Projects Manager Mary-Lou White is coordinating the field verification portion of the Lake Typing Project, done in cooperation with Northwest Watershed Institute and the WA Department of Ecology. The project is developing a model to accurately determine and verify from aerial photographs and GIS map-data the size of lakes across Washington state. Lakes twenty acres or greater in surface area are classified as “shorelines of the state,” qualifying surrounding habitat for greater regulatory protections from some forms of development. Some data suggests that some lakes larger than twenty acres are not being correctly designated.
Cary Kindberg, WT GIS Specialist, installs Level Loggers at German Creek – working so fast that the camera can hardly catch him.
Whidbey field crew collecting samples in a seine net.
Dave Crabb, WT field technician, helps to measure lake size using GPS equipment.
Education and Outreach
In late September, WT staff will participate in the second Coastal Cutthroat Trout Symposium at Fort Worden State Park, near Port Townsend. The objective of the symposium is to improve our knowledge of coastal cutthroat life history and ecology, provide current assessment of the status of populations coast-wide, and to encourage development of a coordinated, range-wide conservation plan. The first symposium, held in 1995 in Reedsport, Oregon, had hundreds of attendees including anglers, biologists, students, and resource managers from British Columbia, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California.
A coastal cutthroat trout found during WT’s Seattle spawning surveys that had been killed by a heron.
WT President, Bill McMillan, will attend the symposium to deliver a poster presentation entitled “Unexpected Abundance: Coastal Cutthroat as the Inheritors of Seattle Urban Creeks in the Declining Presence of Other Wild Salmonids.” This report is the culmination of five years of field work performed with WT Field Biologist, David Crabb, documenting the spatial and temporal extent of trout and salmon spawning activity in two Seattle streams, Thornton and Pipers Creeks. Despite significant anthropogenic impacts, self-sustaining populations of coastal cutthroat trout were found in both Thornton and Pipers Creeks, watersheds whose urban conditions do not support as robust populations of other wild salmonids. McMillan’s presentation will interpret this incongruous finding and present areas for future research. WT’s spawning studies in Seattle have been generously supported by Seattle Public Utilities.
Other WT conferees include Executive Director, Kurt Beardslee, and Science/Research Directors, Jamie Glasgow and Eliot Drucker, Ph.D. Dr. Drucker will chair the Symposium’s poster session. WT staff are currently developing a technical report based on McMillan’s presentation for inclusion in a peer-reviewed Symposium proceedings to be published by the American Fisheries Society. Until the report’s appearance in print, the public is welcome to view the poster presentation this fall in WT’s Duvall office.
Summers in Washington are marked with a multitude of weekend fairs, markets and festivals and Washington Trout is taking full advantage of these opportunities to spread our message of wild fish conservation. The summer outreach season opened with a wet but exciting start at Washington Trails Association’s TrailsFest in July. A great festival designed to expose people to the exciting world of outdoor recreation in western Washington, the WT booth featured the famous “Fish Hats” made popular by our Environmental Discovery Program. While designing their own fish hat, every child (of all ages) learned about the different types of fish that inhabit our waters and the importance of protecting their habitats. This message continued at the two day Stillaguamish Festival of the River in August. The Festival of the River is designed to “help people who live and work in the Stillaguamish Watershed and surrounding regions understand how their actions can help make their environment cleaner for people, fish and wildlife.” Over the course of the two days, WT staff was available to answer questions on water quality issues, how to protect habitat and how to identify different species of salmon and trout. The WT booth included a game where children matched juvenile salmon with their adult forms, habitat and fish trivia and the opportunity to create salmon hats and run through a salmon obstacle course set up by the festival. The WT booth was heavily attended all weekend long and was incredibly popular for the numerous families in attendance.
Washington Trout continues to staff booths at events like the Carnation Farmers Market and King County Farm Tour Festival where the WT booth will be located at Oxbow Farm. This is a great way to introduce new people to the important wild fish habitat projects WT currently has underway and to answer questions the public may have on issues surrounding wild fish conservation. If you have events where you think WT could have a booth or you would like to join us in presenting WT at an event in the future please contact Kristen Durance, WT’s outreach coordinator, at email@example.com.
The early stages of becoming a wild fish advocate at the Stillaguamish River Festival
Matching juvenile salmon with their adult counterparts
At TrailsFest, kids designed their own salmon hats while enjoying the great outdoors
Kids of all ages enjoyed designing their own fish hats and learning about wild fish at the same time!
Thank You Dale for all your hard work!
Field Biologist Dale Russell is leaving Washington Trout to return to airplane manufacturing at Boeing. This was Dale’s second stint with Washington Trout, combined he has been with us for over five years. During this tenure Dale has brought his vast field knowledge to bear on numerous projects, including the King County Puget Sound tributary stream typing, the Dosewallips estuary restoration project, City of Redmond stream typing, and the west Whidbey nearshore fish use assessment. We could always count on Dale showing up with a smile and a tale of Alaskan proportions! His legendary memory for people and places and his renowned fish identification skills will be sorely missed. All of us at Washington Trout want to wish Dale the best of luck in his new endeavor.
Instructors Needed for the Fall 2005 Environmental Discovery Program (Paid and Volunteer Positions Available)
Washington Trout is looking for people to help lead the Fall 2005 Environmental Discovery Program field trips. The EDP is a hands-on, classroom and field-based environmental education program that brings students from Seattle and the surrounding areas to Oxbow Farms, an organic farm located between Duvall and Carnation on SR 203. As part of the program, students take a full day field trip to the farm where they explore the surrounding environment and learn about the importance of native plants, animals, and ecosystems.
Read more about the Environmental Discovery Program at www.washingtontrout.org/EDP.shtml
Instructors will lead groups of 5-10 students on field trips at Oxbow Farm. Fall field trips are tentatively scheduled for the first two weeks in October but this may change to accommodate teacher and school schedules. On a typical day, volunteers would need to be on site from approximately 9 am until 2 pm. All instructors will receive plenty of personalized and group instruction prior to the field trips to ensure your teaching comfort. (A volunteer training date is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, September 24th from 10 am-2 pm). To volunteer or to learn more about the paid instructor positions, please contact WT’s Education Coordinator, Casey Ralston at firstname.lastname@example.org., 425-788-1167, or via mail at Washington Trout, P.O. Box 402, 15629 Main Street, Duvall, WA 98019.
Become a fully informed environmental advocate for the Northwest by taking the Mountaineers Northwest Environmental Issues Course. This course provides lectures and optional field trips designed to provide participants with the tools and awareness that they can use to protect the natural resources of the Northwest. Students examine South Puget Sound interests of growth management, low impact building, Commencement Bay, climate change, and activist opportunities through lectures by local environmental experts, group discussion, and other activities.
The course runs from October 19 to November 16. Lectures will be held Wednesday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the University of Puget Sound.
Want to get more involved with Washington Trout? WT appreciates your support and can use your volunteer help in a number of ways including the annual WT auction, educational programs, mailing and office assistance, staffing booths at public events, and participating in membership campaigns and other special events. Please contact Kristen Durance at Kristen@washingtontrout.org if you would like to volunteer or have an event you would like mentioned in Wild Fish Runsor on the website!
New to the WT Store: this original piece by Don Barnett.
The WT Store is a fun way to open up the front of our office and make a space where people can come in, learn about Washington Trout, and find the perfect gift with the knowledge that all proceeds go to support WT. This fall we have an exciting array of new items including note cards and correspondence kits, beautiful leather bound journals and calligraphy sets. We are also please to showcase an original print by Don Barnett. This original watercolor was shown at the Seattle Art Museum on August 4th, 2005 and is currently on display at the WT store in Duvall and is available for purchase.
We also continue to stock a wide variety of items to appeal to adults, kids,
and kids-at-heart: puppets; stuffed animals; scientific games and kits; tools
to explore the outdoors; books to educate and entertain all age levels; Burt’s
Bees and Bunny’s Bath personal products (currently 20% off); art prints by
Joseph Tomelleri, Tanya Hill, Jean Ferrier and Tim Harris; chocolate; candles;
TOPO! map programs; yummy treats and fun gifts for your dog or cat; and of
course, WT logo hats and fleece blankets.
View some of our store items online at www.washingtontrout.org/store.shtml.
The Washington Trout store is open Monday – Saturday from 10:00am till 5:00pm. If you need to place an order and can’t make it out to Duvall, contact the office at 425-788-1167 and we’ll be happy to take your order and ship it to you. We are located on SR 203 at 15629 Main St NE in Duvall, WA.