Here is the proposal:

Wynoochee Dam Mitigation
An Alternative Approach to Traditional Mitigation

Introduction: On September 24, 2019 the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) presented a proposal for the use of the Wynoochee Dam Mitigation funds. Several elements of the proposal were of great concern to many local citizens. Recognizing that this was an issue Representative Brian Blake reached out to several citizens in an attempt to see if an alternative was available.

Working collaboratively local advocates and knowledgeable professionals the team developed an alternative proposal for review with the following defining elements.

• That the returning adults will be equal or exceed the WDFW proposal.
• That the returning adults would all return to the Wynoochee River. WDFW's proposal has the vast majority of the returning Wynoochee Mitigation adults returning to Bingham Hatchery on the East Fork of the Satsop River.
• That the additional fry production will provide fry to be placed in underutilized rearing habitat in the Wynoochee ecosystem.

Summary: From the original construction in 1972 of the Wynoochee Dam for flood control the mitigation for loss of natural production has been a contentious issue. Originally, Washington had two fish management agencies. The Department of Game managed steelhead and cutthroat while the Department of Fisheries managed salmon. Winter Steelhead and Cutthroat trout (later removed) were mitigated for but not salmon which raised considerable angst with many citizens. With the addition of the Tacoma Power power generation facility in 1994 an additional 25,000 Winter Steelhead and 55,700 Coho were required and funds set aside by Tacoma Power. Due to a number of issues throughout the years Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDF&W) was not able to comply with the mitigation requirements and the interest bearing fund has grown to over $2,600,000. Further, the loss of salmon available for harvest and ecosystem benefits has been un-mitigated for 28 years.

Currently WDFW has a new proposal and the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) have agreed to the proposal that not only included the required yearly mitigation and but also a payback for the years that the mitigation fish were not produced. The WDFW proposal would rear 60,000 additional Winter Steelhead at Lake Aberdeen Hatchery. (LAH) and100,000 Coho at LAH and 400,000 Coho to be reared and released at Bingham Hatchery which is located on the East Fork of the nearby Satsop River. While this proposal is a welcome step forward in our view it can be substantially improved by utilizing all Wynoochee Mitigation funds in the Wynoochee River ecosystem. Building off the WDFW proposal we would like to propose an enhanced vision of how to utilize the Wynoochee Mitigation funds. Our proposal is to better mimic the natural processes to Coho insure the greatest ecosystem returns on time and effort.

Broodstock: Wild Coho brood would be taken at the fish trap below Wynoochee Dam and transported to LAH. Using 2018 as an example records show that 789 Coho adults were passed upstream. This number of adults should allow for brood taken at the fish trap below the dam to be the source of brood for the mitigation Coho smolt of this proposal. A requirement exists for an undetermined number of Coho to be passed upstream of the dam, which could result in a shortage of wild brood. Shortages would be backfilled with fish from LAH Coho program to back fill the eggtake as long as fisheries are managed to meet eggtake and fish passage needs at the Wynoochee Dam. It should be noted that the LAH Coho is a fully integrated program with a high infusion rate of wild genetics.

The additional Winter Steelhead required would utilize current hatchery configuration and would be added to the current required production. The current choice of Winter Steelhead planting locations should be reviewed to ensure cross breeding between hatchery produced Winter Steelhead and Wild Winter Steelhead is kept to minimum.

Spawning, Eggtake & Incubation: Enough Coho adults to provide a 500,000 release plus an overage would be brought to LAH and held until spawning. Eggs would be incubated at LAH and fry ponded there. This might require additional incubation capacity to be added. The Grays Harbor complex has unused equipment that is not utilized due to budget cuts that could be brought to LAH. The incubator expansion would also allow for a further expanded egg take to rear fry for out planting outlined in the next section. If desired funding targeted by WDFW' for the net pens could be used for incubation improvements as the net pens are no longer necessary. Ideally, an additional incubation capacity of 1,000,000 Coho eggs is needed to meet the needs of our entire proposal.

Rearing At Fry Stage: Fry would be ponded at LAH and reared on Wynoochee water via the pipeline. The amount of time that the fry would remain at LAH will have to be determined as the volume of the rearing vessels, water flows, and loading capacities are not known by us to enabling offering a definitive timeline. As Coho imprint at the front of their life cycle it would be desirable to rear the Coho fry long as possible at LAH then transferred to Bingham Hatchery.

Our team would like to put forth for consideration that the 30,000 LAH Coho program be continued as backup and ideally expanded to meet the fry planting of our proposal. As our proposal would leave unused vessels at LAH after the transfer to Bingham in real terms it costs little other than feed as the hatchery is still fully staffed.

In addition to the previous proposal our team would propose an additional effort to rebuild Wynoochee Coho. When Chehalis Coho stocks crashed in the 1980's WDFW Montesano staff used Bingham Hatchery to produce fry for out planting at around 400 pp very successfully. The effort targeted underutilized habitat such as beaver ponds and off channel rearing areas.

It is often debated as to how effective the use of hatchery fry are in rebuilding Coho stocks. The volunteers from the Elma Game Club, (EGC) who later assumed operation of WDFW facility Satsop Springs Rearing Ponds, learned that success of fry plants was dependant on two elements. First the fry brood parents should not be multi generation hatchery stock. Due to the layout of nearby Simpson Hatchery (now Bingham) and prior to mass marking a substantial number of wild adults were incorporated into the eggtake due to the facility layout resulting in a hatchery fish that was genetically the same as its wild counterparts. A strong brood with strong wild genetics is necessary for success and the LAH brood meets that requirement.

The second element was the release sites. Realizing simply planting fry in a convenient stream is prone to failure so EGC volunteers identified and utilized release locations that had solid salmonids habitat. Their efforts were confirmed when they identified a stream on the Satsop / Wynoochee Boundary road that had a total culvert blockage and huge plunge pool just several hundred yards from the main river. (That culvert has since been replaced) The area above the blockage was a long series of beaver ponds that could be accessed by a Simpson Timber Co. road. The volunteers planted Coho fry reared at a project built on the Muller family farm on the Satsop River that incubated and reared 1,000, 000 eggs to fry to plant at a weight of 400 fpp to 40 fpp for the Satsop sub basin. Each year they planted this stream with Coho fry by accessing the area upstream. When the adults came back the volunteers were astounded to find the pool literally full of adult Coho where few had been seen before. When the EGC assumed operation of Satsop Springs the group continued to monitor the stream. After the returns from the final year of Coho fry plants returned everything went back to what it had been prior to the plants. Very few Coho adults were observed. For the EGC volunteers it was a valuable lesson, it is all about broodstock and habitat.
Work by various WDFW staff has shown that lakes such as Crocker, Capitol, and Steilacoom can take Coho from fry to 80mm migrants and in very short order produce high quality smolts. In situations where smolt-adult survival was measured, the lakes provided significant boost in marine survivals. Further, beaver ponds, wall-based channels, and other off-channel “ponded” habitats in the Clearwater basin (WADNR staff) have been shown to attract and overwinter good numbers of Coho.

Our team proposes that the integrated LAH Coho stock be used to rear fry for out planting to areas in the Wynoochee sub basin. Areas where habitat exists that is underutilized or simply has habitat available. The fry would be planted at a size to maximize survival with little effect on LAH capacity, loading issues and timing will come with size on the fish transferred to Bingham. The number of fry that LAH could produce would need to be determined as additional incubation would be required. Ideally the program would utilize the local community as it did in the past to out plant fry.

Rearing to Yearlings: The fry will be reared at Bingham Hatchery under protocols to a size to that is desirable for the next phase of our proposal.

Overall Rearing Protocols: Fry will be reared on Wynoochee River water to ensure early imprinting. The transfer to Bingham, and subsequent rearing, will be for the least amount of time concomitant with the production of smolts from the Conditioning Ponds (CP). The use of the CPs is based on the work of Cederholm (Clearwater River wall-based ponds WADNR) and Crocker Lake (WDFW) wherein Coho actively sought out these off-channel sites for rearing, especially overwintering, and produced significantly larger smolts that had higher survival rates than stream-reared congeners. The various sites will be evaluated for suitability, which would include outflow, temperature, and food abundance. Feeding is an option, but would require additional permitting and monitoring. At the minimum, Coho will be stocked into the ponds in late winter (probably February) at as large a size as is possible. Smolts will emigrate volitionally. Since the CP’s will be natural rearing and subject to predation, it is recommended that egg-take be increased concomitant with the expected length of rearing in the CP’s.

Conditioning Ponds: Several options exist for this phase of our proposal, which may or may not be feasible. Gravels pits exist in many places up and down the Wynoochee valley that can be used as conditioning sites. The issue of feeding the Coho after releasing them into a conditioning site if desirable has yet to be addressed as it is an issue of landowner acceptance of the use of the pits and regulatory issues about wastewater discharge. One characteristic of Coho is that they tend to go as far upstream as they can to spawn. A simple example given to us is that if one reared Coho at or near the mouth of a stream when the adults returned they would continue upstream as far as they could to favorable spawning areas as shown by WDFW work in the Snow Creek watershed. This makes the use of multiple release sites desirable. The WDFW work on County-line Ponds in the Skagit River watershed, wherein some off-channel ponds were more formalized for use as overwinter ponds, can be used as a guideline for evaluating sites

Our thoughts are that the landowners would embrace the concept and that multiple sites insure the greatest potential for success. If eggs were taken this fall we have nearly a year and half to get the release sites online.

• Briscoe Pit located off the Upper Donavan logging road mainline owned by Weyerhaeuser was a Grays Harbor College project site. Substantial data exist as to water quality and off channel rearing. It is our understanding that the abandoned pond may or may not have been compromised by the river.
• Northwest Rock (a Roglin Company) has gravel extraction site midway up the East side of the Wynoochee valley. The abandoned pit has an egress connecting it to the river that is a prime candidate.
• Several pits also exist in the vicinity of Sterling Park owned by the Port of Grays Harbor.
• With the expanded numbers that our proposal envisions, a member of our team expressed a desire to utilize a strategy of planting a number of the yearling release in Sylvia Lake. Lake planting will result in production of very large smolts that have shown to have significantly higher marine survivals. Note: at the same time, there were many lowland lakes whose OD “trout” fishery was supported by Coho pre-smolts as they will likely be of pretty good size and smolts have been seen to 400mm “smolts” and are very bright silver.
• Unnamed sites that could be utilized.
• The city of Aberdeen industrial intake area could be utilized to build a conditioning pond for a single release or ideally one of the multiple release sites. While our team lacks detailed knowledge of the site or property owned acceptance it is viable water source with a secured parameter. A single pond would offer more physical control but dispersed ponds will offer a wider range of smolting points, probably a wider range of smolting points, probably a wider range of timings given different temperatures and food resources, and probably better adult dispersal as there will be a variety of different places to at least initially home

Another Option: At the recent public meeting a former Tacoma Power employee stated that when the power generation facility was constructed a pipeline was installed to the proposed hatchery site. Not knowing the size or volume capacity limits our ability to fully vet this option. The potential exists to build a relatively inexpensive earthen pond to utilize as a conditioning pond. While not the hatchery that was originally intended that the QIN supported it does recognize their desires and is an option that should be considered. This option would place the greatest number fish higher in the watershed and reduce delays in gathering of adults.

Marking: Under the recently announced WDFW proposal the 100,000 releases on the Wynoochee was not to be clipped but the 400,000 at Bingham Hatchery would. As our proposal has no releases of Wynoochee Mitigation Coho at Bingham several options exist. Under our proposed 500,000 releases on the Wynoochee if clipped the numbers of returning adults would be vastly greater than the current WDFW proposal substantially expanding the potential success of the effort to rebuild the wild stock with mitigation production. Also if marked it would allow for the mitigation fish to be passed upstream and only true wild adults taken to LAH for brood. Another thought is to not mark the 100,000 the current WDFW proposal has and do mark all 500,000 smolt of our suggested program production. The harvest considerations that revolve around mass marking are for the co-managers to decide as user group harvest preferences are not part of this proposal.

In closing our team has attempted to present a proposal that meets the requirements of the Mitigation Agreement that is genetically sound, uses the funds available, and recognizes the effort WDFW and QIN staff put into the original proposal that our team utilized to expand upon.

Acknowledgement- Our team would like to recognize the effort and values provided by all of those who contributed to the creation of this proposal requested by Representative Blake. If they had not invested their time to share their educational knowledge and personal experiences this project could never have been completed. Bill Osborn, Joe Durham, Dave Hamilton

Edited by Rivrguy (10/16/19 02:13 AM)
Dazed and confused.............the fog is closing in