BPA Fish and Wildlife FY 1997 Proposal

Section 1. Administrative
Section 2. Narrative
Section 3. Budget

see CBFWA and BPA funding recommendations

Section 1. Administrative

Title of project
Wind River Steelhead Project

BPA project number   5506900

Business name of agency, institution or organization requesting funding

Sponsor type   WA-Federal Agency

Proposal contact person or principal investigator
 NameTimothy Cummings
 Mailing addressColumbia Fisheries Program Office 9317 N.E. Highway 99, Suite I
Vancouver, Washington 98665

BPA technical contact   , EWN

Biological opinion ID   

NWPPC Program number   7.1E, 7.6E, 7.7B

Short description
The Wind River Steelhead Project is designed to collect specific information on smolt production and survival, adult escapement, and reproductive success of wild steelhead. This project will identify factors limiting the carrying capacity of the system and provide managers with critical information and tools to aid in steelhead recovery.

Project start year   1997    End year   2001

Start of operation and/or maintenance   0

Project development phase   Implementation

Section 2. Narrative

Related projects
From 1993 to the present, the following groups have participated on the Wind River Restoration Team:

-- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Fisheries Stewardship Program,
-- Gifford Pinchot National Forest, U.S. Forest Service,
-- Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife,
-- National Biological Service,
-- Yakama Indian Nation,
-- Washington Trout,
-- U.S. Geological Survey.

Major themes of the team have been to review existing data, identify uncertainties, prioritize actions, and plan future options. Numerous habitat improvement projects have also been completed (or are ongoing) by the U.S. Forest Service. The team has determined that lack of data on basic life history characteristics, basin-wide production, and critical factors limiting carrying capacity, are major hindrances in planning for steelhead restoration.

Project history

Biological results achieved

Annual reports and technical papers

Management implications
The Wind River Steelhead Project seeks to identify the critical life stages for Wind River steelhead. This information will be used to guide future management activities and restoration projects.

Specific measureable objectives
- “Identify the most critical stage (or stages) in the life cycle of wild Wind River steelhead that may be limiting population recovery, and apply this information in developing future management strategies.”

The Northwest Power Planning Council and others have recommended that a holistic, watershed approach be used to identify key physical and biological limitations for the recovery of salmon and steelhead stocks. The Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program (Strategy for Salmon, Volume II, 1992) identified that the restoration of salmon and steelhead is linked to the identification of key uncertainties and variables which limit populations. The Wind River Restoration Team has recommended examination of the life cycle of wild steelhead in the Wind River Basin to identify survival bottlenecks. Recognizing the critical life stage or stages will allow us to prescribe actions that result in increased smolt production and greater adult returns. Identifying the most critical processes among the several life stages of steelhead necessitates a multi-faceted approach. Field and laboratory studies will be used to refine survival rates, improve production estimates, and identify migration obstacles. Basin-wide production modeling will be used as a tool to integrate results and generate management recommendations.

Testable hypothesis
Hypotheses were designed to examine specific problems or transitions in the life cycle identified by the Wind River Restoration Team:

Hypothesis 1 (Overwinter survival of fry and parr ). Survival of fry to parr and/or parr to smolts is a function of the size attained by fry or parr during spring and summer, which may determine the winter survival of individuals.

Hypothesis 2 (Egg-to-parr survival). Egg to parr survival of steelhead is a function of time of emergence, growth rates, habitat characteristics (e.g., flow, temperature, depth, and cover), and fish density.

Hypothesis 3 (Smolt production). Production of wild steelhead smolts is declining within the basin.

Hypothesis 4 (Adult escapement). Escapement of wild steelhead adults continues to decline.

Hypothesis 5 (Adult and smolt migration impediments). Hemlock Dam is a significant impediment to the emigration of juvenile steelhead and the immigration of adult steelhead.

Underlying assumptions or critical constraints
1) Incidence and severity of fish diseases remain relatively constant during the study period,

2) The trend in population decline will not continue to the point where too few adult steelhead return for adequate hypotheses testing,
3) Assumptions for steelhead smolt and adult population estimates are similar to most mark-recapture studies: 1) marked and unmarked fish are captured with the same efficiency, 2) no handling mortality occurs, 3) mark retention is 100% throughout the study, and 4) marked and unmarked fish have the same overall mortality rates.

The Wind River is located in southwestern Washington and enters the Columbia River at River Mile 145. The Wind River Basin drains over 225 square miles and is surrounded by private and federal landholdings. Timber production and harvest have been pervasive within the basin.

Methodology is provided for each major Hypothesis, along with the modeling approach that will be used to integrate results:

Hypothesis 1 (Overwinter survival of fry and parr). Field and laboratory studies would be conducted to determine whether fry or parr must reach a critical size threshold for winter survival. During autumn and spring, steelhead fry and parr will be sampled by electroshocking from blocked habitat units (e.g., pools, glides, riffles) of several streams. A sample of stream types within strata defined by geomorphological characteristics (e.g., stream order and gradient) will be sampled within the basin to assure as broad a spectrum of winter conditions as possible. To allow calculation of the winter survival rate at each site, local population estimates will be made in autumn and spring using depletion-removal sampling. Scales will be taken from fish collected during spring so that the size for surviving fish from the previous autumn can back-calculated. Size-frequency distributions of autumn steelhead will be compared with spring survivors to determine if size of fish influences overwinter survival. We will also compare winter survival rates to morphometric indices, local species assemblages, and local habitat characteristics.

A two-way experiment will be conducted in the laboratory with four temperature regimes (warm, mild, average, and harsh) and four levels of food ration (0.5, 1.0, 1.5), and 2.0 times maintenance ration. In October, equal numbers of small (~1.0 g) and large (~4.0 g) steelhead (summer stock; Skamania race) will be stocked in circular tanks with flow-through river water. Initial stocking density will be 90 fish in each of 32 tanks (4 temperatures x 4 rations x 2 replicates = 32 tanks). During the winter experiments, fish will be fed daily and dead individuals will be removed, measured, and replaced. At the end of March, survivors will be removed and data will be collected on individual length, weight, and morphology. The overall rate of survival and the average size of survivors (all size classes pooled) will be compared to distinguish temperature and ration effects (two-way ANOVA). The proportion of survivors in the small (Ps)and large (Pl) size classes should be equal if winter survival is unrelated to initial size (the null hypothesis), which could also be tested by ANOVA (dependent variable = Ps - Pl ). Plotting survival versus temperature and ration will allow us to determine if specific temperature or food conditions will minimize winter mortality.

Hypothesis 2 (Egg-to-parr survival). Egg-to-fry and fry-to- parr survival of steelhead will be estimated from an assessment of the number and fecundity of adult females that spawn and an assessment of resultant populations of fry and parr. The number of adults will be estimated by adult trapping at Shipherd Falls and Hemlock Dam and from redd surveys throughout the basin. Fecundity will be assessed from opportunistic counts of eggs from females that die of natural causes and from past and ongoing efforts within nearby basins of Washington and Oregon. Populations of parr will be estimated from basin-wide fish surveys using a rigorous version of Hankins and Reeves (1988) methodology that will include a basin-wide habitat survey, extensive snorkeling surveys and the judicial use of non-lethal electrofishing under a depletion-removal methodology for calibrating the snorkel data. Length and weight data will be recorded for all species captured. Population estimates will be derived for all species of fish observed. Emergent traps will be used to determine time of emergence and to validate estimates of egg-to-fry survival. Multiple regression and covariate analyses will be run to assess the amount of variation in estimates of survival that is explained by time of emergence, growth rates, habitat characteristics, and species density. Growth estimates from Hypothesis 1 will be used during this analysis.

Hypothesis 3 (Smolt production). Smolt migration data will be collected from three rotary screw traps. Traps will be installed on two major tributaries (Trout and Panther Creeks), and on the mainstem Wind River approximately one mile upstream from the confluence with the Columbia River. Trap efficiency will be tested using a non-invasive fin mark. Smolt production estimates will be temporally stratified to arrive at replicate trap efficiency estimates. Capture efficiency will be evaluated with respect to water temperature and streamflow as covariates.
Hypothesis 4 (Adult escapement). An adult trap will be installed at the top of the Shipherd Falls fish ladder on the mainstem Wind River. Fish using the ladder will be trapped, sampled, tagged, and released above the trap. A Petersen population estimate will be generated based on the ratio of tagged and untagged fish observed during snorkel counts. The trap will be operated from March through November, and information collected will include age, sex, and length.

Hypothesis 5 (Passage). The timing and number of emigrating parr and smolts into Hemlock Lake will be compared to the timing and number emigrating over Hemlock Dam. Two juvenile fish traps will be used, one above, and one below Hemlock Lake. These traps will be operated during the primary movement periods of steelhead parr and smolt. In addition to identification and enumeration of the fish trapped, the data collected will include timing and size of all fish trapped. Capture efficiency will be evaluated with respect to water temperature and streamflow as covariates.

Modeling (Integration of results). We propose to use a suite of models to help predict adult returns to the Wind River Basin. Rates of growth and survival operate at the individual fish level, individuals respond to patchy habitats, and the sum of habitat effects results in the basin-wide population response. Our modeling studies will examine patterns and responses at these different scales.

A bioenergetics model of juvenile steelhead will be developed as a tool for simulating growth scenarios and predicting size in different habitats. Bioenergetics models are an effective way of integrating the physiological responses of fish to variable environmental conditions, such as temperature and food availability, and these models have been used extensively in research and management during the last 20 years. Software to implement the model is available through the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Program and model parameters are being developed in collaboration with researchers at the University of California at Davis. Habitat survey data will be incorporated into a geographic information system (GIS) to allow visualizaiton of landscape patterns. A GIS of the Wind River Basin has been previously developed by the U.S. Forest Service. Finally, a production model of steelhead in the Wind River Basin has been developed and will be used to evaluate the overall importance of life- stage transitions. The production model will assist in predicting carrying capacity for wild steelhead under historic, current, and projected future conditions.

Brief schedule of activities
The schedule of activities is presented in tabular form below with activities organized relative to each of the major Hypotheses. Fundamental data collection on smolt production (Hypothesis 3) and adult escapement (Hypothesis 4) will continue throughout the project. Initiation of specific investigations for overwinter smolt survival (Hypothesis 2), egg to parr survival (Hypothesis 1), and smolt passage (Hypothesis 5) will be staggered during the study. Development of the bioenergetics model can begin immediately, while development of habitat use and adult production models will commence subsequent to preliminary data collection and analysis.

1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
Hypothesis 1 xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx
Hypothesis 2 xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx
Hypothesis 3 xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx
Hypothesis 4 xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx
Hypothesis 5 xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx
Integration/Modeling xxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxx

Biological need
The Wind River, located approximately 10 miles above Bonneville Dam, was once renowned for its run of wild summer steelhead. Historic run sizes were estimated in the 2,500-5,000 range. The 1990 Wind River Subbasin plan estimated that the smolt carrying capacity of the basin was 62,273 fish. In 1986, the Washington Department of Wildlife estimated that 23,498 smolts could be produced in the basin, resulting in a run size of 1,557 adults. However, the cumulative effects of habitat loss, mainstem and tributary passage mortality, and harvest have reduced the run size to less than 100 wild fish in 1995. The decline has been particularly evident in the Trout Creek subbasin which once accounted for almost half the total run size of the Wind River. Trout Creek alone may have supported an annual run size of 1,500 steelhead before 1950. However, adult returns to Trout Creek have dramatically declined and have consistently been under 100 since 1992, and under 20 since 1994. In 1991, the American Fisheries Society concluded that wild Wind River steelhead were at high risk of extinction. Wind River steelhead are severely depleted and in 1994 were petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Through the Northwest Forest Plan, the Wind River basin has been designated a Tier 1 watershed with valuable anadromous fishery resources.

In response to this decline, a cooperative effort began in 1994 to restore wild steelhead in the Wind River basin. The Wind River Restoration Team, which includes representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service , U.S. Forest Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Yakama Indian Nation, U.S. Geological Survey, National Biological Service, and Washington Trout was formed to prioritize projects and plot a strategy for recovery. The team targeted instream and riparian restoration activities within the basin. In addition, the team concluded that the lack of information on critical lifestages for steelhead in the basin was a distinct impediment to management planning.

The Wind River Restoration Team has identified several information gaps which have limited the team's ability to evaluate past habitat restoration efforts, as well as plan for future "on the ground" projects. The work proposed herein is designed to bridge these gaps, and provide managers with the data needed to make informed decisions.

Critical uncertainties
Obvious information gaps exist regarding specific-life history traits of Wind River steelhead and the carrying capacity of the basin. Filling these information gaps would lead to improved management, and recovery of this unique run. Deficiencies in smolt production estimates, adult survival and escapement levels, and contribution of natural versus wild steelhead production has resulted in confusion over future management strategies. The lack of basic information on age, growth, and fecundity of wild steelhead has been recognized since the 1990 Wind River Subbasin Plan. Overall, the lack of information concerning lifestage specific survival rates (e.g. egg to fry, fry to parr, and parr to smolt) compromises the effectiveness of management efforts. The proposed research and monitoring is consistent with the goals under the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program for recovery of salmon and steelhead.

Summary of expected outcome
The expected outcome of this work is the more efficient and productive management of wild Wind River steelhead. Concerted efforts in monitoring the remaining population and identifying crucial biological "bottlenecks" would allow managers to better design longterm solutions for recovery.

Cooperative ongoing activities which would provide cost sharing opportunities for the Wind River Steelhead Project during 1997 include:

-Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife ($10,000 for in-kind labor),
-Washington Trout ($22,500 for instream habitat work and passage improvement),
-U.S. Geological Survey ($15,000 for operation of stream gaging stations),
-U.S. Forest Service ($20,000 for habitat and GIS information and temperature and sediment monitoring),
-University California-Davis ($128,000 for bioenergetics modeling).

-Total in-kind matching fund = $195,500

The U.S. Forest Service annually conducts habitat restoration projects within the Wind River Basin. The Wind River is considered a priority watershed and funding for these efforts will likely continue in the future. Results from the Wind River Steelhead Project will be incorporated into restoration activities conducted by the U.S. Forest Service.

Dependencies/opportunities for cooperation
Dependencies for this include: 1) collecting permits from the State of Washington, 2) permission for work to be conducted on U.S. Forest Service land, 3) approximately 5,000 steelhead parr and smolts from the Skamania State Hatchery, or a similar facility.

This study is a joint effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Biological Service. The National Biological Service will have primary responsibility for laboratory experiments and model development associated with Hypotheses 1, 2, and 5. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Biological Service will have joint responsibility for field activities associated with Hypotheses 1, 2, and 5. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will have responsibility for activities associated with Hypotheses 3 and 4. As cooperators, the U.S. Forest Service will monitor water temperature and quality in critical areas, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will contribute in-kind labor for field work.

The principal contact with the National Biological Service is Dr. James Petersen (509-538-2299). Cooperative opportunities for this study include: Principal parameters for the bioenergetics model are being collected by Dr. Joseph Cech Jr. and his students at the University of California at Davis. Data were collected in 1995 on the effects of temperature and body size on respiration rate and maximum consumption, and additional data will be collected in 1996. A cooperative agreement has been established with Dr. Cech and with Mr. Steve Railsback of Pacific Gas and Electric, who is funding the bioenergetics work at Davis. The U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Geological Survey have field studies in the Wind River Basin that will provide habitat and streamflow data related to field work and modeling.

Minor mortality to steelhead juveniles and adults during field studies.

Monitoring activity
Project progress will be documented with annual reports, presentations, and peer-reviewed publications. Longterm maintenance and monitoring of this project will be conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and U.S. Forest Service. Maintenance and monitoring will include the monitoring of juvenile and adult steelhead populations. In addition, the monitoring of water temperature and quality will continue.

Section 3. Budget

Data shown are the total of expense and capital obligations by fiscal year. Obligations for any given year may not equal actual expenditures or accruals within the year, due to carryover, pre-funding, capitalization and difference between operating year and BPA fiscal year.

Historic costsFY 1996 budget data*Current and future funding needs
(none) New project - no FY96 data available 1997: 359,891
1998: 318,335
1999: 318,359
2000: 327,455
2001: 336,826

* For most projects, Authorized is the amount recommended by CBFWA and the Council. Planned is amount currently allocated. Contracted is the amount obligated to date of printout.

Funding recommendations

CBFWA funding review group   Bonneville Dam - Priest Rapids Dam

Recommendation    Tier 2 - fund when funds available

Recommended funding level   $359,891