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Tribes Began Second
Lower Columbia Treaty Fishing this Week

by CBB Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - May 14, 2004

For the second time this spring, tribes are fishing for spring chinook salmon in the lower Columbia River.

The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, on behalf of Northwest tribes, this week asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for special operations at lower Columbia River dams to aid tribal gillnetters while they fish.

Representing the Nez Perce Tribe, the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation and the Confederated Tribes of the Warms Springs Reservation, CRITFC's Kyle Martin asked the Technical Management Team (TMT) this week to approve a system operational request to hold reservoir levels at three lower Columbia River dams full and free from fluctuations from 6 a.m. Tuesday, May 11, through 6 p.m. Friday, May 14.

Tribal gillnetters' first spring chinook fishery was from 6 a.m. May 4 to 6 p.m. May 6. During that fishery, the gillnetters caught about 3,200 chinook, Cindy LaFleur, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told TMT.

Martin said that the fishing was "lousy right now" and that there may be a third tribal fishing season beyond this second season. However, the ability of the tribes to initiate a third season would be up to a decision in the U.S. v Oregon process, said CRITFC's Bob Heinith.

Regional biologists initially expected as many as 360,000 adult spring chinook salmon to return to the river this year, but that number was reduced to 200,000 as the first spring fishery began and this week the expected count was reduced again to 189,000 fish, LaFleur said. She said that count was what is expected at the mouth of the Columbia River. CRITFC estimated the count at Bonneville Dam to reach 164,400 fish.

Martin said tribal gillnetters used all three pools in the lower river during the first tribal fishery. Of a total 227 tribal nets, 114 were in the Bonneville Dam pool, 71 in The Dalles pool and 92 in the John Day pool.

The SOR asks the Corps to hold pool fluctuations to within one foot. During the first spring fishery, CRITFC said that the Corps was in compliance with that request, along with specific elevation requirements, 62 percent of the time at Bonneville Dam, 70 percent of the time at The Dalles Dam and 23 percent of the time at John Day Dam.

However, Cindy Henriksen of the Corps said that CRITFC is asking for pool levels at John Day Dam which are outside the requirements of the NOAA Fisheries 2000 biological opinion of the Federal Columbia River Power System. The BiOp calls for a 1.5 foot operating range between an elevation of 262.5 feet to 264 feet. CRITFC asked for an elevation of between 263.5 feet and 264.5 feet.

"What Kyle (Martin) is asking for is outside the normal range asked for in the BiOp, which is the lowest possible 1.5 foot range that will still allow irrigation pumping around the pool," Henriksen said. That goes up later in August when flows are lower.

The SOR asks the Corps to hold the Bonneville Dam pool steady within one foot of full, which is an elevation between 76.5 feet and 75.5 feet and The Dalles Dam pool within one foot at an elevation between 159.5 feet and 158.5 feet.

Pool fluctuations at Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day dams during the tribal fishery can cause several problems, according to the SOR. Fluctuations tend to increase currents that sweep debris into nets and can tear nets from their anchors. Rapid drops in reservoir elevation can entangle nets and cause boat access difficulties. Fluctuations can impact "tribal incomes, food resources and cultural practices," the SOR said.

Related Pages:
Technical Management Team:
Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission:

CBB Staff
Tribes Began Second Lower Columbia Treaty Fishing this Week
Columbia Basin Bulletin, May 14, 2004

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