Another Step Backward

Posted by: Great Bender

Another Step Backward - 06/11/18 08:54 AM

http://nwsportsmanmag.com/supreme-court-leaves-culvert-fix-order-in-place/
Posted by: FishBear

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/11/18 09:13 AM

A huge step forward... possibly, just possibly this will lead to a slowing down of habitat loss... and hope for a point in the future when we can actually turn the tide and begin to reverse the trend.
Posted by: Sky-Guy

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/11/18 09:31 AM

Originally Posted By: FishBear
A huge step forward... possibly, just possibly this will lead to a slowing down of habitat loss... and hope for a point in the future when we can actually turn the tide and begin to reverse the trend.


+1 this lawsuit was DOA to begin with....
Posted by: Carcassman

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/11/18 11:23 AM

While I agree that the culverts must be fixed there are few arguments that I wish the Supremes would have answered.

The state has to fix culverts upstream of existing barriers. It is simply a waste of money to fix passage is system without the fish to use it. Start at the bottom and work upstream.

Culverts are "easy". Dams have destroyed more salmon habitat than a culvert ever hoped to, as has building in floodplains, building levees, and so on. If the Tribes' have a right to fish produced by the habitat as it existed in pre-treaty times, is there a limit?

This case, or something like it, will be back in the courts.
Posted by: milkBottleMikey

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/11/18 03:20 PM

What about culverts on "private" timberlands? Improvements above existing barriers does seem like wasted resources.

It also seems to me that only certain culverts are a barrier, I've seen plenty of salmon spawning above culverts.
Posted by: NickD90

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/11/18 07:32 PM

Chicken or egg? It doesn't matter to me. Either in hand is more than neither in hand, so any step forward is a good thing IMO.

Think of it this way, maybe leverage the culvert work and spend into getting some barriers down? That's what I'd do.
Posted by: Carcassman

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/11/18 09:11 PM

Part of the Federal and Tribal defense was that the damage done by the culverts was quantifiable. You could demonstrate loss. Good. I'll believe that they are really interested in restoration of anadromous fish hen they go after the hydrosystem.
Posted by: Tug 3

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/11/18 10:26 PM

Right on Carcassman. More stupidity by the folks who "managed" our fisheries, because nearly all of these stream blockages were permitted by WDFW, (or WDF or WDG in the old days). The statutes were very clear. so someone either didn't do their job, or employees were over ruled by their respective administrators. Permits were supposedly written by "experts". I know that when I was in the field several of the HPA permit writers told the hiway construction crews not to worry about permits for many of the smaller streams. What the hell, this only contributed to the lawsuit that will cost a couple billion bucks! Sure wish we had a fraction of the several billion $ settlement in order to get rid of seals, sea lions and cormorants.

Couple this with the criminally effective gillnets in Columbia River tributaries program in the late 70's/early 80's to harvest predicted surplus hatchery stocks returning to hatchery streams that helped wipe out our wild fish. And on the insanity still goes.....
Posted by: Great Bender

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/12/18 05:30 AM

Tug--No one could have said it any better...G
Posted by: Carcassman

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/12/18 06:49 AM

Well, yeah Tug. It was also all about Chrome Cod (salmon). Talked to HPA folks about barriers to sculpins; a 6" barrier can extirpate them above it. Nope, salmon can get over that.

Had a couple of other situations where I was told the local political apparatus was powerful enough. Since the streams were small, the numbers not huge (another issue), it was not worth fighting.

In each of these situations we had actual data such as spawner surveys, electrofishing, and trap data to know what the barrier was doing.
Posted by: Myassisdragon

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/12/18 09:34 AM

Sculpins are gravel divers, and live in the rocks. Not surprising that they dislike swimming upstream thru culverts. They fare way better going downstream. Salmon and Steelhead, tend to be a bit more mobil in thier ability to move up and then back down into the river system...
Posted by: Carcassman

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/12/18 10:40 AM

Some species of sculpins, certainly here on the Pacific Coast, travel downstream to spawn and then go back upstream to live the rest of the year. It only takes a few years operation of a barrier to extirpate the population above it. This was first observed on Waddell Creek in CA in the 30s and seems to be continuously confirmed up here.

In one of the cases I was involved in, we knew that both coho and steelhead juveniles occasionally went upstream through a barrier culvert. It was access to great overwinter habitat. But, WDF was uninterested in having DOT fix it. In fact, DOT actually fixed it "accidentally" as they made a very passable situation that WDF was not going to force.
Posted by: Salmo g.

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/12/18 01:04 PM

I have mixed feelings about the SCOTUS decision (to leave in place the 9th Circuit decision). Don't get me wrong, I do favor restoring fish habitat. However, not all habitat restoration measures are the same. Not the same in terms of fish species affected. Not the same in the quantity of fish productivity restored. And not the same in terms of quantity of fish productivity restored per dollar, or million dollars spent. And that really bothers me. A billion or two dollars now must be spent under federal court order to restore habitat that in many cases will result in less increase in fish productivity than if that money were spent on more beneficial restoration measures.

The selection of culverts for a habitat court case was strategic. The case area treaty tribes figured that, compared to habitat loss due to urbanization, roads, agriculture, forestry, mining, and hydropower, stream miles of anadromous fish habitat loss due to culvert blockages is the most easily and readily quantified. Easily quantified means even a federal judge who knows nothing about habitat productivity can add and subtract stream miles. Ergo, the now famous culvert case.

In news releases yesterday, Lorraine Loomis, chair of the NW Indian Fisheries Commission is quoted as saying that these culvert fixes will result in hundreds of thousands more salmon available for treaty and non-treaty harvest. That sounds nice, impressive even. Unfortunately it is also nonsense, no offense to Ms. Loomis intended since she is just repeating what someone told her.

According to case notes, there are about 1,000 culverts blocking access to about 1,600 miles of usable habitat. Most of the culverted streams have no more than 2 meters of low summer stream flow width that would provide a rough total of 5,632,000 square meters of salmon habitat that could, emphasis on COULD, produce about 2,816,000 coho smolts, IF, and only IF, that habitat is pretty good quality and less than about 1 or 2% at most, stream gradient. Habitat greater than 4% gradient rapidly approaches zero in terms of coho productivity. So if this habitat is prime coho habitat, it could produce 112,640 additional adult coho, about 40% of which will be needed for spawning escapement, given today's general condition of degraded habitat. And all of this habitat is degraded, or else there wouldn't be a culvert there.

This same 1,600 miles would produce less than one Chinook salmon redd per mile, since these are small streams that are typically not favored by Chinook because of their very small size in late summer, early fall when Chinook spawn. These days, PS Chinook can barely replace themselves, so we would be lucky to see an additional 1,600 Chinook in the case area.

Not to stretch this out too long, but the upshot is that under the very best case scenario, the increased salmon production that could result from fixing or replacing every single one of these culverts is quite small, and certainly less than " . . . hundreds of thousands . . ." of HARVESTABLE salmon and steelhead. And I'll add that evidence of that probable outcome is already known to WDFW and the treaty tribes, since they do NOT plan to increase spawning escapement goals by even one single fish, let alone the additional thousands of spawners that would be necessary to produce these many hundreds of thousands of addtional harvestable fish.

Sg
Posted by: Carcassman

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/12/18 02:34 PM

Thanks for saying that Salmo. I oversaw a culvert replacement that opened 10 miles of (primarily chum) habitat. Low gradient, so what coho are in there would do well. Close to 100% chum block. WDFW would like to LOWER the whole watershed goal.

Culverts were chosen, I believe, because as Salmo says they were easily quantifiable and the fix takes little away from anybody. Stream still flows down the channel, road still crosses it, and so on. Nobody loses, except the taxpayer who foots the bill for the few real actual fish added.

Makes good talking points, though.
Posted by: wsu

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/12/18 03:55 PM

Salmo - The problem with disagreeing that the money could be better spent elsewhere is that the state appeared to have no intention of meaningfully addressing habitat. They weren't going to fix culverts, dams, land use, logging or any other million problems. Perhaps the dollars could be better spent, but at least the state has to meaningfully address the issue.

Maybe we can reinstate the head tax to pay for all this.
Posted by: Carcassman

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/12/18 04:34 PM

Unless the State and Tribes (and the rest of society) are willing to address human population the decision is moot, anyway. More people will move in, people will reproduce, more resources will be needed to support them, fish lose.
Posted by: Myassisdragon

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/12/18 04:58 PM

Originally Posted By: Carcassman
Unless the State and Tribes (and the rest of society) are willing to address human population the decision is moot, anyway. More people will move in, people will reproduce, more resources will be needed to support them, fish lose.


They do lose unless, one or more of those new humans ends up being the ones that actually sees thru all this fogged up crap, and gets us all pulling on the same oar that turns this around and fish start winning a few ......
Posted by: RUNnGUN

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/13/18 06:13 AM

Originally Posted By: Tug 3
Right on Carcassman. More stupidity by the folks who "managed" our fisheries, because nearly all of these stream blockages were permitted by WDFW, (or WDF or WDG in the old days). The statutes were very clear. so someone either didn't do their job, or employees were over ruled by their respective administrators. Permits were supposedly written by "experts". I know that when I was in the field several of the HPA permit writers told the hiway construction crews not to worry about permits for many of the smaller streams. What the hell, this only contributed to the lawsuit that will cost a couple billion bucks! Sure wish we had a fraction of the several billion $ settlement in order to get rid of seals, sea lions and cormorants.

Couple this with the criminally effective gillnets in Columbia River tributaries program in the late 70's/early 80's to harvest predicted surplus hatchery stocks returning to hatchery streams that helped wipe out our wild fish. And on the insanity still goes.....


To bad those HPA permit writers that made those decisions to bypass standards, can't be held accountable today for their irresponsible actions. Would set examples for future illegal actions.
Posted by: Carcassman

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/13/18 06:38 AM

In all likelihood it was the permit writer, it was further up the Food Chain. I knew many who found themselves on the "wrong" side of Admin because they placed the law and the fish first. As in war, it the grunt who is killed for the General's decision.
Posted by: RUNnGUN

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/13/18 05:00 PM

Originally Posted By: Carcassman
In all likelihood it was the permit writer, it was further up the Food Chain. I knew many who found themselves on the "wrong" side of Admin because they placed the law and the fish first. As in war, it the grunt who is killed for the General's decision.


Understandable. Whistles can still be blown loudly! Generals are not immune from expulsion/prosecution. To many city, county and state elected officials and public employees in high places, seem to get free immunity after their gone, after making terrible unconscionable and illegal decisions while employed or in office. The taxpayer left to hold the bag. Actions would change quick if they were held accountable even after their gone.
Posted by: Carcassman

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/13/18 07:01 PM

The decisions which leaders make are done because they are supported by the political structure. Somebody on the outside has to file suit. This means they need the money while the taxpayers fund the defense.

In my experience, the State bets on the idea that the public/individual will not take it to court.

For example, when WDFW conducts its "secret" negotiations with the Tribes, who among the leadership of the state objects?
Posted by: Tug 3

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/13/18 09:25 PM

Bravo, Salmo G. and Carcassman for your continued thoughts, and education. But who in the world are the geniuses in the tribes who think salmon will magically appear in recovered good habitat with no increased escapement? ( I know I'm preaching to the choir here). We need to broodstock and supplement now or we're gonna' lose it all. Our climate change of the last decade or more is evidence that we must put considerably more spawners on our good habitat, not the trend of fewer.
Posted by: Carcassman

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/14/18 07:02 AM

We have seen pinks, chum, cutthroat, and native char all respond by simply not being killed; lots escaped and spawned. While it is more complex than that, killing less will work. I find it hard to understand that PS conditions are so horrible and yet the cutts and char that live there year around increase. The pinks and chum spawn (in big systems) in the same place as Chinook. And yet, the FW habitat is not there for Chinook.

But, out in the Big Blue, the increase in pinks is now accompanied by a decrease in Chinook and coho. The pinks are also associated with decreases in some birds that breed in Antipodes but summer here to get fat. They (the birds) support a culturally important harvest on the nesting grounds. There is a critical problem out there with the food supply. Not only is there "not enough" but the quality is lower.

The solutions are going to require not only individual managers to get out of their silos but whole agency and county silos that look only at their parochial interests.

I would add, Tug, that we need more spawners in the habitat, period. Up in the Fraser, the majority of annual sediment transport in some streams is caused by spawning sockeye. Entrained sediment is the primary cause of low egg-fry survival. Seen any restoration proposals for sediment removal? Plus, here in WA it was shown that mass spawning by chum produced more fry than spawning at lower densities. Lower density gave more fry per female, just fewer in total. The management paradigm is to maximize individual yield (R/S, eggs/female) rather than total population. MSY-type management is based more on economics than biology; what is the minimum input I need to make to realize maximum returns. I don't think Mother Nature was an Economist.
Posted by: Salmo g.

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/14/18 08:52 AM

Tug,

I'm not sure who the genius are. I was discussing this with a tribal bio just the other day and did not have a chance to go into any detail. Color me puzzled when he said he thought the tribal case UNDER-estimated the salmon production loss by up to a factor of four. I used very general, but very available productivity values for the back-of-the-envelope estimate I posted the other day. If there are data that support a significantly higher productivity estimate, I haven't seen it.

Hypothetically more production could be realized without higher spawning escapements if the habitat is of significantly higher quality, meaning more productive than the existing accessible habitat. I don't think that is the case. The majority of salmon habitat in western WA has been degraded by forest practices at least, if not by additional anthropomorphic activities. Forest practices means large increases in stream sedimentation which reduces egg to fry survival. Back in the 1950s, WDFW estimated that as little as 20 to 25% of a Chinook or coho population was easily enough spawners to maintain population productivity. With habitat degradation in the latter half of the 20th century, it looks more like roughly 50% of a Chinook and coho population is needed for escapement to maintain a run. That appears to be directly due to the measured decrease in egg to fry survival. So it looks like the hypotheses is false, and that salmon production will not increase unless the increase in accessible habitat is accompanied by increased spawning escapement.

Sg
Posted by: Carcassman

Re: Another Step Backward - 06/14/18 11:10 AM

I think that pre-devlopment there were significantly more spawning salmon. The majority of studies that have quantified benefit of spawners directly feeding rearing juveniles (pink/chum feeding coho/steehead) seem to peak out at about 2 kilograms of spawner per square metre at SLF. Just plug that into something the size of the Skagit. We put 90K chum, successfully, into 2 miles of Kennedy Creek. The Stilly is how much longer??

We actually have seen these densities, and higher, in some streams. Whenever I have conversations with bios, they think-for example-that a million pinks in the Green was a lot and we should see huge ecosystem benefits. A million was a drop in the proverbial bucket and that is the disconnect. A manager looks at numbers and then tries to minimize the spawners to maximize the harvest.

I would add that when I started out, on a steelhead research project, that WDG believed a single pair of steelhead was sufficient to seed a mile of creek. So, the creek we were on was "adequately" seeded with 14 fish. Yeah.

As I noted above, if you want to clean the gravel, pack it with spawners. That has been shown to be the most cost-effective way to do it.