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Race to Stop Spread of Invasive Northern Pike in Lake Roosevelt

posted Jul 14, 2017

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Pike can consume prey up to 75 percent of their body weight.

The effort to capture and kill invasive Northern Pike in Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam, is accelerating, and state and tribal fishery managers hope it’s not too late to stop the spread of the voracious predators.

Pike have elongated bodies and flattened, duckbill-shaped mouths filled with sharp teeth. They can consume prey up to 75 percent of their body weight, meaning they can consume just about any fish they want in Lake Roosevelt.

So far, the largest populations of the predators have been found near the mouths of the Colville and Kettle rivers, Holly McLellan, principal fish biologist for the Colville Confederated Tribes, told the Council at its July meeting in Vancouver. Using nets, tribal and state fish biologists have been capturing adult and juvenile Pike. So far this year they have set nets 525 times and caught – and killed -- 1,083 pike of various ages from one to four years. The biggest weighed 22 pounds.

The Colville Tribes offer a reward of $10 per fish for Pike. At two locations on the lake, anglers can put Pike heads in zip lock bags, fill out a form, and receive a check in the mail. A total of 216 heads have been turned in since the reward program began in May, McLellan said. One head was so big it would not fit in the one-gallon bag.

This pike, caught in the Colville River, had swallowed a hatchery rainbow trout whole. Photo: Colville Tribes

Pike were first detected in Lake Roosevelt in 2011. They have been in the Columbia River system, though, since the 1950s – first in Montana’s Clark Fork River and later in the Pend Oreille and upper Spokane rivers.

“Illegal introductions of Pike and their spread is not a new issue in the states, but it is a relatively new issue for us,” Chris Donley of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife told the Council. “Managers are concerned about the impact on game fish in the lake. We don’t view pike as a fishery opportunity, we view them as a problem.”

Pike are classified by the state as a prohibited species, and so there is no harvest limit. If Pike escape Lake Roosevelt and get into Banks Lake, they could spread south to the Potholes area and affect recreational fisheries there, Donley said. If they escape below Chief Joseph Dam they could devastate the salmon and steelhead restoration efforts being undertaken by the state through the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board and by the three mid-Columbia public utility districts on behalf of the five dams they operate on the Columbia – mitigation required by federal operating licenses for the dams.

“We’ve had some really interesting conversations with the PUDs,” Donley said. “They appreciate the work we are doing, they understand there are profound potential impacts on their [operating] licenses, and they are contributing to the suppression effort.”

The state collaborates with the Spokane, Colville, and Kalispel tribes on research and eradication of Pike, which appear to have been successfully controlled in the Pend Oreille River, a Columbia tributary. That effort took at least five years.

Despite the broad collaboration in the battle against Pike, however, current funding may not be enough to be successful.

“Funding is not sufficient to solve the problem for the basin, to keep them out of the anadromous zone,” Donley said. “If we’re talking about protecting fish just in Lake Roosevelt, then funding is closer to sufficient. But those are two different levels of effort, and so it’s a policy call for the basin.”

(see full story)

Reconnecting a River

posted Jul 13, 2017

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Steigerwald Lake with Mt. Hood in the distance.

A major project to restore habitat, reconnect floodplain, and restore ecosystem functions for the benefit of fish and wildlife, particularly salmon and steelhead, is in the final stages of planning along the Washington shore of the Columbia River about 15 miles east of Vancouver.

The Steigerwald Habitat Restoration and Flood Control Project involves a collaboration of numerous entities including the Bonneville Power Administration, Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others. The project would remove 2.2 miles of the existing levee along the river and build two new levees to protect adjacent properties from flooding. As a result, 912 acres of historic Columbia River floodplain would be reconnected to the river. The project also would expand the size of the existing Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, which is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and increase recreation opportunities by expanding the trail system.

A significant portion of the expanded refuge, some 160 acres, has been purchased by the Friends of the Columbia Gorge, a Portland-based conservation group, and will be turned over to the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Bonneville Power Administration will provide approximately $17 million for the project. An additional $4.6 million will come from the Washington Department of Ecology through its Floodplains by Design grant program.

Currently, the levee system, constructed in the mid-1960s, partially blocks Gibbons Creek from flowing into the Columbia, causing occasional flooding. The levee also blocks access to important potential resting and rearing habitat for migrating salmon and steelhead. In addition to removing a portion of the levee, the project would remove a water-diversion structure, enhance approximately two miles of wetland channels, and add to the restoration of a forest along the shoreline. The project also will reduce Gibbons Creek flooding and associated pumping costs at a wastewater treatment facility adjacent to the refuge.

The Steigerwald refuge was created as partial mitigation for the fish and wildlife impacts of the construction of the second powerhouse at Bonneville Dam about 20 miles upriver in the early 1980s. Expanding the refuge will increase habitat and restore natural ecosystem processes for the benefit of Winter Steelhead, Cutthroat Trout, Chinook, Coho, and Chum salmon, and Pacific and Western Brook Lamprey.

Chris Collins discusses the project at the water diversion that will be removed.

“We have pretty high confidence that the target species will utilize this habitat,” Chris Collins of the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership said during a recent tour of the project site for Power Council members and staff. “When completed, this project will boost habitat between Bonneville Dam and the mouth of the Willamette River by 17 percent.”

The project will help the Bonneville Power Administration meet commitments under the Northwest Power Act to mitigate the fish and wildlife impacts of federal dams on the Columbia River and its tributaries. As well, the project will provide more than 10 percent of the total credits Bonneville needs to meet requirements in the 2018 Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinion to protect and enhance threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead species in the Columbia River.

Construction is expected to begin in 2019.

(see full story)

Recovering Chum Salmon

posted Jul 13, 2017

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A male chum salmon, spawning colors. Photo: WDFW

Over time, the Columbia River Chum salmon run has declined by as much as 99 percent, from historic annual run sizes estimated at 500,000 to 1 million fish to modern-day runs ranging from about 1,000 to 10,000 fish. At one time, there were 17 distinct Chum salmon populations in the Columbia, which spawned from the Grays River near the coast as far upriver as Celilo Falls just east of The Dalles, Oregon.

Today, 90 percent of those populations are extinct and the remaining populations, aggregated into a single unit with three components (coast, Cascade, and Columbia Gorge), do not spawn farther inland than Bonneville Dam, 50 miles west of Celilo Falls and 146 miles from the ocean. Columbia River Chum were listed as a threatened species in 1999. Harvest is prohibited.

There are many reasons for the precipitous decline, but the loss of freshwater habitat and related ecosystem function arguably is the most important, Todd Hillson, Lower Columbia Chum salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), told the Council at its July meeting in Vancouver, Washington.

Artificial spawning channel in Hamilton Creek.

Chum spend very little time in freshwater, compared to other salmon species. They have a unique life history, inhabiting shoreline areas where they spawn and rear before going to the ocean. The best habitat for chum was in the lowest reaches of tributaries or in braided channels in the mainstem river, and some of these areas were cut off by dikes and levees or mined for gravel.

Chum faced a litany of other threats to their survival over the years. Bonneville Dam flooded historic spawning areas upstream to Celilo Falls, and the varying flows out of the dam impacted spawning areas downriver, sometimes dewatering egg nests laid near the shoreline in higher water. Hydropower dams on the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers limited how far upstream the fish could swim and spawn.

While Chum typically produce huge numbers of juvenile fish, less than one half of one percent survive the migration to the ocean, and as a result the number of adult fish that survive in the ocean and return to spawn is low. Chum juveniles begin migrating to the ocean not long after they hatch, when they are just a couple of inches in size, making them “food for everything,” Hillson said.

Because ocean survival is low, freshwater survival has to be high in order to recover the species, he said. Recovery work is focusing on improving spawning habitat and ecosystem function by, for example, constructing spawning channels to serve as interim incubation areas while natural restoration activities take hold and produce improved spawning areas. Spawning channels were built in Duncan Creek near Bonneville Dam in 2001 and in nearby Hamilton Creek in the 1980s; both have been upgraded since. Hatcheries also are being used to raise chum for planting in streams to jump-start rebuilding individual populations.

Monitoring by WDFW shows that juvenile Chum survival has improved over time. While it’s not possible to say with certainty that the habitat improvements and hatchery releases are responsible, it is clear that environmental conditions have improved and that the biological and ecological response has been positive – for chum and for other species that use those areas. And that’s the root purpose of actions like these in areas where fish and wildlife have been affected by habitat alterations and hydropower operations -- encouraging watershed-scale processes to take effect and, over time, making it possible for species to rebuild.

(see full story)

Ocean Power

posted Jun 15, 2017

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Floating wind turbine off the coast of northern Portugal. Photo: Principle Power

The constant motion of the world’s oceans and the winds above them constitute an energy resource of immense potential. Capturing that energy to make electricity is the focus of intense research in the United States, Europe, and Japan, experts told the Council at a meeting this month in Corvallis, Oregon, home of one of the premier ocean wave energy research facilities in the world.

“The Pacific Northwest is the epicenter of marine energy development,” Jason Busch of the Pacific Ocean Energy Trust said. “There has been significant progress toward commercialization of the technology; in about five years you will see the first commercial-scale generator in the water.”

Many generator designs are being tested, he said. All make power as waves rise and fall, but the mechanisms differ. Meanwhile, ocean wind turbines look like those on land, but some are anchored to the ocean floor and others float in areas where the floor is too deep. Wind turbines located off the Northwest coast would have to float, he said, as the near-shore floor is deep.

In this design, a wave enters an open chamber under the structure, forcing air upward. The force of the air turns a turbine, generating electricity. The retreating wave creates a vacuum, which keeps the turbine spinning in the same direction, generating power continuously. Photo: Ocean Energy USA. 

Research and design support for Pacific coast ocean power plants takes place at the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Oregon State University in Corvallis. The Center operates test sites off the coast of Newport, Oregon, and in Alaska, Puget Sound, and Lake Washington. In 2016 the Center received a grant of up to $40 million from the federal Department of Energy to build the second of its two test facilities off Newport, which should be operational by 2020. Congress appropriated $30 million of the total.

“This will be an asset that will attract companies to this area to build and test their designs that will make the first commercial-scale technologies viable,” Busch said.

Ted Brekken, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at OSU, said two important questions for research are how to lay out an array of floating generators that takes maximum advantage of ocean waves, and how best to account for “output pulses” – making power when a wave passes but not when the wave has passed. Another research issue is how to reliably connect ocean wave and wind generators to the power grid on land.

On the West Coast, Brekken  said, ocean wave energy systems could improve the capacity of the regional power grid, provide carbon-free power when solar power and terrestrial wind plants power down, and improve the resilience of the power supply in the event of an emergency. “If there is an earthquake, these systems are pretty much impervious to damage,” he said.

Meanwhile, wind energy companies increasingly are deploying offshore generators as they learn to deal with the dynamic interactions of wind and waves – in short, keeping floating windmills upright. Kevin Bannister of Principle Power, a California-based company developing ocean wind generators off the coasts of Portugal and France, said ocean wind already is spinning turbines closer to home. Ocean wind energy plants are planned or are under construction off Maine, California, and Hawaii. Others are being built off Taiwan, Japan, and northwestern Africa.

Some issues regarding floating power generators have yet to be resolved, and they loom large – for example, the potential impacts to marine mammals such as whales and to pelagic birds such as several species of Albatross, which are protected by international agreements. There also could be conflicts with ocean fishing fleets.

Nonetheless, power from the ocean may be the next big thing in the energy world. “This is an industry that has arrived,” Bannister said. “There is a lot of optimism in the industry today.”

(see full story)

Research Revision

posted Jun 15, 2017

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This month the Council approved a revision of the plan that guides research undertaken through the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. The research plan identifies “critical uncertainties” that the Council believes must be investigated and better understood in order to define projects that implement the Program, understand how they are performing, and report on the status and trends of focal species – those that define the health of ecosystems -- and their habitats.

Among the critical uncertainties identified in the Program are the effects of climate change on fish and wildlife habitat; the impacts of contaminants on water quality and fish and wildlife; the effects of hatchery fish on the environment where they are released and on wild fish in the same habitats; research about how fish use various habitats, including freshwater and in the estuary; impacts of harvest on salmon in the Columbia River Basin; impacts of hydropower dam passage on juvenile and adult salmon; monitoring and evaluation methods including the use of fish tags; and the abundance of non-native and predator fish and their impacts on other species.

With more than $250 million spent annually on projects that implement the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Program, scientific research is critical to improve knowledge and help guide decision-making. The Council’s revision of the research plan, last updated in 2006, was based largely on the advice of its two panels of independent scientists, the Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) and the Independent Scientific Advisory Board (ISAB). 

With more than $250 million spent annually on projects that implement the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Program, scientific research is critical to improve knowledge and help guide decision-making. The Council’s revision of the research plan, last updated in 2006, was based largely on the advice of its two panels of independent scientists, the Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) and the Independent Scientific Advisory Board (ISAB). The plan identifies 14 areas for future research including (not in priority order) fish habitat in Columbia River tributaries; fish habitat in the mainstem Columbia and Snake rivers; fish hatcheries; river flows and dam passage impacts on fish; and the Columbia River estuary, near-shore freshwater plume in the ocean, and the ocean farther off shore.

(see full story)

Sturgeon Research

posted Jun 15, 2017

Wildlife Haven

posted Jun 13, 2017

More Sea Lions, Fewer Fish

posted Jun 9, 2017

Efficiency Exchange 2017 Recap

posted May 23, 2017

Wet Winter

posted May 17, 2017

Protecting Cold Water Refuges

posted Apr 18, 2017

Fish Head Bounty

posted Mar 24, 2017

Fish Forecast: 'Not Very Good'

posted Mar 15, 2017

Fish Tools

posted Mar 13, 2017

Sea Lion Fish Feast

posted Mar 1, 2017

Lamprey Rescue

posted Feb 16, 2017

Unveiling the Estuary

posted Feb 15, 2017

Mussel Strategy

posted Jan 23, 2017

A Plan for Scientific Research

posted Jan 19, 2017

Flat Loads

posted Dec 20, 2016

Mussel Alert

posted Dec 16, 2016

Repeat Spawners

posted Dec 16, 2016

Moving Fish Over High Dams

posted Nov 16, 2016

Megawatt? A Powerful Question.

posted Oct 20, 2016

Fuel Of The Future?

posted Oct 18, 2016

Powering the Internet of Things

posted Oct 17, 2016

Storable Power

posted Oct 17, 2016

The Blob Is Back

posted Oct 11, 2016

Old Door, New Opening

posted Oct 6, 2016

Fun With Sturgeon

posted Sep 20, 2016

Cool Relief

posted Sep 15, 2016

Upper Columbia Salmon Habitat

posted Sep 14, 2016

No Gain

posted Sep 14, 2016

The Invasion Strengthens

posted Sep 13, 2016

Cold Water Refuge

posted Aug 11, 2016

Building on a Legacy Resource

posted Aug 5, 2016

Salmon Smorgasbord

posted Jul 14, 2016

Tapping Into Geothermal Energy

posted Jun 21, 2016

Fish And Warm Water Don't Mix

posted Jun 20, 2016

Going, going, almost gone

posted Jun 7, 2016

Early Warning System

posted May 27, 2016

In the (Efficient) Spotlight

posted Apr 25, 2016

The Mystery of Swan Lake

posted Apr 13, 2016

A boost for northern pike removal

posted Apr 13, 2016

They're back, and they're hungry

posted Mar 23, 2016

Warm ocean, small salmon: Why?

posted Mar 7, 2016

Seventh Power Plan Homestretch

posted Dec 15, 2015

Touring Baker Dam

posted Jul 8, 2015

Forest Fires and Fish Habitat

posted May 19, 2015

This Plan Is Your Plan

posted Apr 30, 2015

Lunch and Learn With the Council

posted Mar 31, 2015

Scenario Analysis Begins

posted Feb 11, 2015

Scenario Analysis Is Coming!

posted Jan 22, 2015

"The Objectives Process" begins

posted Dec 11, 2014

Why We Plan for Uncertainty

posted Nov 19, 2014

Why We Have a Regional Power Plan

posted Oct 29, 2014

Estimating Energy Efficiency

posted Oct 24, 2014

Seventh Power Plan 101

posted Oct 6, 2014

BPA Energy Efficiency Funding

posted Mar 12, 2014

Weathering a Cold Snap

posted Jan 17, 2014

The Seventh Power Plan

posted Dec 11, 2013

Designing for Efficiency

posted Nov 12, 2013

The Flexibility Challenge

posted Oct 30, 2013

Northwest Q & A: Robert D. Kahn

posted Oct 29, 2013

Tagging Sturgeon in Astoria

posted Aug 22, 2013

Habitat Tours Focus on Results

posted May 31, 2013

Sustainability Is Success

posted May 29, 2013

A Last Look at Condit Dam

posted Oct 24, 2011

Changing Minds, Changing the Land

posted Jul 26, 2011

Wind Power, Then and Now

posted Apr 18, 2011

The Rebound Effect: Is It Real?

posted Feb 1, 2011

An Update on Didymo

posted Jan 27, 2011

Didymo: A New Kind of Invader

posted Jan 18, 2011

A Good Year for Returning Salmon

posted Sep 30, 2010

Building a Better Battery

posted Aug 11, 2010

Using Batteries to Store Energy

posted Jul 28, 2010

Growing Summer Energy Demand

posted Jul 26, 2010

California's Energy Scene

posted Jul 23, 2010

Ensuring Efficiency

posted Jun 21, 2010

Making Wind Work

posted Jun 7, 2010

Clean Tech Draws VC Funding

posted May 3, 2010

And the Wind Came Up

posted Apr 6, 2010