The Northwest Power and Conservation Council approved a proposal by the Spokane Tribe of Indians to continue producing kokanee -- freshwater sockeye salmon -- and releasing the fish into Lake Roosevelt behind Grand Coulee Dam. Kokanee provide a culturally important fishery for tribal members.
The Council’s Independent Scientific Review Panel recommended against continued funding of the kokanee production program in July because the panel considered the tribe’s management plan insufficient and problems in Lake Roosevelt difficult if not impossible to overcome. But the tribe plans to work with its co-managers, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Confederated Colville Tribes, to respond to the science panel’s concerns and meet production goals. A key challenge is the fact that Lake Roosevelt is a reservoir that fluctuates in both elevation and the velocity of water flow because of Grand Coulee Dam operations. The tribe’s challenge is to raise fish in that difficult, complex environment.
Kokanee, which are a type of salmon, are important to the Spokane Tribe because Grand Coulee Dam (1941), and later Chief Joseph Dam (1955), blocked access to ocean-going salmon, vastly reducing the tribe’s historic fishery on those species. The tribe chose to mitigate the impact of the dams with kokanee so that tribal members would have access to a salmon species for subsistence and as a cultural resource.
The annual budget for the ongoing kokanee production, which is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration through the Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, is less than $200,000 per year.