In response to the Council's November 6, 2019 request, the ISRP reviewed the Yakama Nation’s Revised Master Plan for Yakima Subbasin Summer- and Fall-run Chinook, Coho Salmon and Steelhead (Volume I and Volume II, Appendices; hereafter “Revised Plan”). The Master Plan is for Project #1988-115-25, Yakima River Design and Construction-Yakima/Klickitat Fisheries Project (YKFP). This is the ISRP’s fourth review related to this Master Plan (see ISRP 2018-6, ISRP 2013-8, and 2012-13).
The 2019 Revised Master Plan is a revision of the plan first reviewed by the ISRP in 2012. The Revised Plan describes how five hatchery programs in the Yakima River Basin will be implemented. Coho salmon are the focus of two of these endeavors. In one case, an integrated coho hatchery program is being used to provide conservation and harvest benefits. The second coho effort uses a segregated hatchery effort to increase harvest opportunities in Zone 6 and within the Yakima subbasin. Similarly, integrated and segregated hatchery programs for Chinook salmon are the center of two additional hatchery efforts. The integrated summer/fall Chinook hatchery program is intended to provide both conservation and harvest benefits. The segregated hatchery program produces upriver bright fall Chinook (the John Day Mitigation project) that will be used to increase harvest opportunities. None of these coho and Chinook populations are listed under the ESA. The fifth hatchery component is directed toward reconditioning wild steelhead kelts. Steelhead in the Yakima subbasin are listed as threatened under the ESA. The kelt reconditioning project is a conservation effort conceived to increase the abundance of steelhead spawners in the subbasin.
The 2019 Revised Master Plan addresses: 1) all the proposed coho and Chinook harvest and conservation actions of the original master plan that were not fully implemented, 2) issues raised in previous ISRP reviews (i.e., 2013-8), and 3) specifics associated with the Holmes Ranch site (i.e., Melvin R. Sampson Coho Facility) as requested by the Council (see ISRP 2018-6). The Revised Plan also includes proposed facility upgrades for the coho and Chinook programs as well as those associated with steelhead kelt projects. Because the kelt component was previously reviewed by the ISRP (2016-12 and 2014-9) and received a recommendation to proceed by the Council, the ISRP is not reviewing that component of the Revised Plan in this Step review. Additionally, some facility needs for one of the Chinook components (John Day Mitigation project) are still under consideration and will likely be submitted for review in the future.
ISRP Recommendation: Response Requested. The revised Master Plan did not fully address all of the ISRP’s Qualifications from our previous review.
The ISRP commends the proponents for well written and comprehensive revisions to the 2012 Master Plan and for including responses to previous ISRP comments to document the history of these important efforts. The Revised Plan provides new information about the segregated and integrated hatchery programs for coho and Chinook salmon, and it adequately addresses some but not all previous ISRP concerns (ISRP 2018-6).
The primary purpose of the proposed coho and Chinook hatchery programs is to increase harvest of coho and Chinook salmon in the Zone 6 and Yakima River Basin fisheries. Additionally, the integrated coho and summer/fall Chinook programs are designed to meet the conservation objectives of re-establishing locally adapted populations upstream of Prosser Dam and increasing the spatial and temporal diversity of the naturally spawning populations. Hatchery operations and objectives in the Revised Plan are generally well described and meet most of the ISRP’s scientific criteria.
Most ISRP concerns involve the use of the integrated hatcheries to re-establish natural populations of coho and summer/fall Chinook salmon above Prosser Dam, and the extent to which self-sustaining populations could be established, given current habitat conditions and exploitation rates in existing fisheries. This endeavor is complicated and challenging because coho and summer Chinook salmon were extirpated from this area, and fall Chinook runs currently are severely depressed. Ultimately, the success of re-establishing self-sustaining natural populations above Prosser Dam during the final stages of the program will depend on the success of planned habitat restoration activities, sustainable harvest rates on the less productive natural populations that co-mingle with more productive populations (mostly hatchery), and successful implementation of the integrated hatchery programs that enable fish to adapt to the local environment and increase survival.
The ISRP requests that the proponents address a list of specific issues detailed in the report within the next six months. If requested, the ISRP is willing to meet with the project proponents and Council staff to discuss these issues. Most issues refer to both the integrated coho and summer/fall Chinook programs. In the full report, the ISRP explains the rationale for each request and provides additional suggestions that the proponents should consider as they develop their response. The ISRP recognizes that some of the issues presented will not be faced until later stages of the project. Nevertheless, developing approaches for how they may be addressed will serve as important starting points for the proponents as the project moves forward.