The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation (SBT) aboriginally used and occupied lands in a vast geographic area, including what are today the states of Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, Montana, Washington, and Oregon. In 1868, in the Treaty of Fort Bridger, the Tribes agreed to make the Fort Hall Reservation their permanent home (Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868, 15 Stat. 673). Pursuant to Article 4 of the Treaty, The SBT and its members hold off-Reservation hunting, fishing, and gathering rights on unoccupied lands of the United States, including waters flowing through the Snake and Columbia River Basins. The Snake and Columbia River Basins are a sacred resource of the SBT’s aboriginal lands, providing our people with subsistence since time immemorial. Protection of the rivers and flows for resident and anadromous fish, wildlife, cultural, and other natural resources are critically important to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
This correspondence responds to the request from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to submit recommendations for amending the Columbia River Fish and Wildlife Program. In addition to the following recommendations, the SBT support the recommendations submitted as a package from the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority.
The SBT believes that all historic aquatic habitats in the Columbia River Basin should be utilized to the fullest extent possible. This includes: restoration of component resources to conditions which most closely represents the ecological features associated with a natural riverine ecosystem, and reintroductions of native fishes in their habitat where they have been eradicated due to man caused activities. The following recommended actions will complement other measures, strategies, and actions to reach the biological objectives identified in previous and current Fish and Wildlife Programs.
Native salmonid reintroduction
RECOMMENDATED ACTION: Bonneville should fund the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes to investigate the feasibility of reintroducing anadromous and resident salmonids in the Snake River Basin. Specifically, anadromous fish in Salmon River Basin waters including YellowBelly Lake, Panther Creek, Slate Creek, Basin Creek, and other headwater streams where anadromous fish no longer exist. In areas where the feasibility studies indicate biological and ecological merit, Bonneville should fund the SBT to reintroduce, monitor, and evaluate the fish populations in these streams.
Stream nutrient enhancement
Historically, Pacific salmon and steelhead contributed large amounts of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous to freshwater streams. The effects of marine derived nutrients (MDN) brought inland from anadromous fish was investigated as early as the 1950’s in Alaska. By 1968 the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans began a fertilization project to increase productivity to rebuild a sockeye salmon stock that had dwindled since the turn of the century. The success of this project led to fertilization of Canadian and Alaskan lakes that continues into this century. Stream fertilization soon followed and has also been effective in increasing salmon productivity where runs have declined.
Thomas et al. (2003) found a substantial reduction of MDN in the Salmon River from 1956 to 1990, with the upper main Salmon River declining more than the South or Middle Forks. They estimated that up to 50% of streams in the Salmon River Drainage may be nutrient limited. Salmon carcass analogs represent a pathogen-free nutrient enhancement tool that mimics natural trophic transfer pathways. The results from an innovative project the SBT conducted revealed that salmon carcass analogs are an effective way to increase productivity in streams (Kohler et al. 2007) and don’t contain potential negative effects (pathogens, heavy metals) associated with some carcass additions.
RECOMMENDATED ACTION: Due to the experience and expertise the SBT has, Bonneville should fund the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes to apply nutrients to selected streams in the Salmon River Basin.
Yankee Fork Restoration Project
Dredge mining in the early-mid 1900s severely impacted 10 kilometers of the Yankee Fork Salmon River, eliminating the natural meander pattern and associated in stream habitat as well as riparian vegetation and the values it provided. The existing stream-floodplain complex consists of unconsolidated and unvegetated dredge tailings that offer little habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species. The impacted floodplain has reduced natural and nutritional fluxes.
The goal of the Yankee Fork Floodplain Restoration Project is to restore natural river channel characteristics, floodplain function, hydraulic and sediment regimes, and aquatic habitat within the dredged reach, so that the system will be self sustaining. We are currently in the process of evaluating restoration alternatives that would reconnect tributaries, floodplains, and disconnected ponds left by the dredging. The Yankee Fork has the potential to be great spawning and rearing habitat for salmonids due to two important elements for successful restoration of salmonid rearing and spawning habitat: cold water (adequate temperatures throughout the year) and late summer flow. Restoring the river to less disturbed conditions will create a healthier, functioning riparian community that will benefit fish and wildlife and help restore cultural significance.
The Yankee Fork Restoration Project is a unique project due to the historically supported large runs of anadromous fish and since has dramatically reduced over the years due to mining activities and downstream hydrolelectric developments. The project has the great opportunity to test a floodplain restoration success on a large scale and will be an example of future floodplain restoration projects with the preliminary data before restoration and the data collected from monitoring and evaluation once restoration is complete. This restoration approach will address ecological processes and the biological processes of anadromous and native fishes throughout the upper Salmon River Basin watershed ecosystem.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Bonneville has a legal responsibility to mitigate throughout the Columbia River Basin for the loss of anadromous fish habitat. Funding the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes to complete the Yankee Fork Salmon River project is a great opportunity to satisfy their obligation and to help create a sustainable fisheries population within the headwaters of the Columbia River Basin.
We also recommend that the Fish and Wildlife Program include specific actions that optimize in-river passage conditions by spilling to the gas caps, within biological constraints, as determined by the state, tribal and federal salmon management agencies, and spreading the risk between in-river passage transportation for salmon and steelhead. Spill programs should include spill 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, to the gas cap and within established adult passage constraints at all mainstem hydro electric projects through the spring and summer migration periods in all years. Manage spill for fish passage collaboratively with the state, federal and tribal fishery managers.
We recommend that the Fish and Wildlife Program reflect the established policy of the state, tribal and federal salmon managers that transportation of smolts, consistent with the recommended full spill program, is based upon a spread the risk strategy between juvenile fish passage in-river and juvenile fish transported, with no more than 50% of each population group being transported.
Continue funding the operation of the Fish Passage Center to provide technical assistance and information to the fish and wildlife agencies and tribes in particular, and the public in general, on matters related to juvenile and adult salmon and steelhead passage through the main stem hydro system. This information relates to the implementation of the water management and fish passage measures in the Councils fish and wildlife Program, the NOAA Fisheries Biological Opinions and other regional fish passage operational and implementation plans. In performing this function the Fish Passage Center shall: Plan and implement the annual Smolt Monitoring Program, Comparative Survival Study consistent with the regional RME plan.
Gather, Organize, analyze, house and make widely available monitoring and research information related to juvenile and adult passage and to the implementation of the water management and passage measures that are part of the Council’s program and regional operations plans.
Provide technical information necessary to assist the agencies and tribes in formulating in-season flow and spill requests that implement the water management and fish passage measures in the Councils program, the NOAA fisheries biological pinions and or other regional operations plans.
In general provide the technical assistance necessary to coordinate recommendations for storage reservoir and river operations that to the extent possible avoid potential conflicts between anadromous and resident fish.
The 2000 Program includes “Restoration of anadromous fish into areas blocked by dams should be actively pursued where feasible.” The new Program should include a strategy or action to undertake a feasibility study for the reintroduction of anadromous fish above the Hells Canyon Dam Complex.
Director Fish and Wildlife Department
Kohler, Andre E., A. Rugenski, and D. Taki. 2007. Stream food web response to a salmon carcass analogue addition in two central Idaho, U.S.A. streams. Freshwater Biology 53 (3) 446-460.
homas, S.A., T. V. Royer, G. W. Minshall, and E. Snyder. 2003. Assessing the historic contribution of marine-derived nutrients to Idaho streams. Pages 41-55 in J.G. Stockner, editor. Nutrients in salmonid ecosystems: sustaining production and biodiversity. American Fisheries Society, Symposium 34, Bethesda, Maryland.
|The Council should incorporate the Shoshone-Bannock TrIbes' recommendations in the amended program. Re-introduction of fall chinook above the Hells Canyon complex will make a substantial contribution to the survival and recovery of Snake River fall Chinook, which, due to extirpation of all but one remnant population, are at significantly greater risk of extinction than other endangered species with multiple remnant populations. Funding the operation of the Fish Passage Center should be continued and the Council should ensure that the FPC is allowed to perform its responsibilities without the interference of political and economic interest groups that have in the past threatened or sought to silence FPC personnel. It is also important that the Council ensure that all FPC provides the technical information required to balance operations for anadromous fish with minimization and mitigation of adverse impacts on resident fish and wildlife as required by the 2003 amendments. The Sho-Ban recommendations for spreading the risk (transport) and spilling to gas caps, subject to constraints imposed by adult upstream migration, is sound and should be adopted. In addition, the Council should make it clear that transport is a "life support" strategy and is no substitute for making improvements in operations that provide for the survival of in-river migrants. Finally, the Council should support the Sho-Ban efforts to restore ecosystem functions in the Yankee Fork and reintroduce/restore anadromous fish to Yellowbelly Lake, Slate Creek, Basin Creek and Panther Creek. The Shoshone-Bannock have led the way in supplementation strategies that emphasize "gravel-to-gravel" production. Their unique approach is appropriately scaled, and can be replicated with minimal costs.