Council Recommends 44 Resident Fish Projects to BPA for Funding

A sturgeon in the Upper Columbia River.

This month the Council recommended 44 resident fish and sturgeon projects to the Bonneville Power Administration for funding following a review of the projects by the Council’s Independent Scientific Review Panel and approval by the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee. The total cost of the projects is approximately $35 million.

The resident fish and sturgeon project review, which began in 2019, is the third of four sets of reviews over the last four years of projects funded by Bonneville to implement the Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. The projects are located in all four states represented on the Council and are highly collaborative, involving state fish and wildlife agencies, Indian tribes, and conservation organizations, said Mark Fristch, the Council’s project implementation manager.

A few examples of the projects:

Felix Aripa holds a native Westslope Cutthroat Trout at Lake Creek near Worley, Idaho. Photo: Coeur d'Alene Tribe.
  • Coeur d’Alene Tribe trout ponds: The Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s trout ponds provide fishing opportunities to partially mitigate for lost anadromous fisheries. The four isolated ponds associated with this project are stocked with infertile rainbow trout with the goal of reducing fishing pressure on native fish as they recover and respond to management actions.
  • White Sturgeon recovery: White Sturgeon are the focus of recovery and research projects in the upper Columbia River above Grand Coulee Dam to the Canadian border, and in the lower Columbia and Snake Rivers. In the upper river, the Spokane and Colville tribes collect white sturgeon larva and rear them to a larger size to boost their survival when they are released back into the river. In the lower Columbia and Snake, research is helping better understand the populations in each reservoir behind dams and what factors are limiting their survival.
  • Hungry Horse Dam mitigation: The dam on the South Fork Flathead River inundated trout habitat, and rapid residential and commercial development threaten remaining habitat on the river and its tributaries. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are working to secure habitats through land acquisition and conservation easements to reverse the downward trends in native species and protect healthy populations.
  • South Fork Snake River Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout: In Southern Idaho, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is working to protect a strong population of Yellowstone Cutthroat, which is threatened by non-native Rainbow Trout.

Of the 44 projects in the review, 40 are located in areas where anadromous fish once migrated but have been blocked by dams, such as the Columbia River above Grand Coulee Dam. Nine of the projects address sturgeon, and of these, six take place in blocked areas. Here are links to the staff memo, which includes details of the projects, and the presentation at the Council meeting.

Nine of the projects have modest budget increases. The Council’s 2020 Addendum to the 2014 Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program asks that Bonneville work with the Council and project sponsors to identify when project budgets need to increase to reflect the effects of inflation and preserve the substantive work.