At the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Council’s October 2012 request the Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) reviewed five proposals and supporting documents for research of lamprey passage in the mainstem Columbia River. This research is intended to effectively inform prioritization, design, and evaluation of lamprey passage improvements. These projects are proposed for implementation through the Corps’ Columbia River Fisheries Mitigation (CRFM) Program, specifically the Anadromous Fish Evaluation Program (AFEP). ISRP review of projects under this program was directed in the 1998 U.S. Congress Senate-House conference report for the fiscal year 1999 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill. The ISRP’s review responsibilities are incorporated in the Council’s 2009 Fish and Wildlife Program.
The ISRP reviewed the proposals using their standard criteria, that the project is based on sound science principles; benefits fish and wildlife; has clearly defined objectives and outcomes; and has provisions for monitoring and evaluation of results. The ISRP found that four of the proposals met scientific review criteria with some qualifications and one proposal did not meet criteria. The Corps also asked the ISRP seven questions that apply across the proposals and inform their overall lamprey plan. The ISRP’s attached review includes answers to these seven questions and highlights positive attributes of the projects as well as deficiencies that should be addressed to help the Corps ensure that limited resources are being effectively applied.
This review also gave the ISRP an opportunity to see how the AFEP lamprey work meshes with the Fish and Wildlife Program lamprey projects (see ISAB 2012-3). The ISAB generally found that the Fish and Wildlife Program’s lamprey projects and plans are directed towards learning more about Columbia River Basin lamprey, their genetic structure, and general life history. The AFEP projects focus almost entirely on mainstem dam passage issues and passage behavior of Pacific lamprey. Therefore, the two programs mostly complement each other. A holistic plan, however, that can be used to coordinate these two efforts and prioritize lamprey research and recovery actions in the Columbia Basin does not exist. The ISRP suggests that the Corps, tribes, USFWS, NOAA Fisheries, and university and state-based lamprey researchers capitalize on their collegial partnerships and co-develop such a plan. Research and recovery actions will need to take place simultaneously across multiple life history stages and geographic locations for lamprey recovery to succeed. Having a plan that provides time lines and overall direction to these work efforts is needed.