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
Timing of the Development of White Sturgeon Embryos

BPA project number   5508900

Business name of agency, institution or organization requesting funding
National Biological Service

Sponsor type   WA-Federal Agency

Proposal contact person or principal investigator
 NameMichael J. Parsley
 Mailing addressColumbia River Research Laboratory
5501A Cook-Underwood Road
Cook, WA 98605

BPA technical contact   , EWP

Biological opinion ID   

NWPPC Program number   

Short description
Determine the relation between the age (in hours) of white sturgeon eggs and water temperature for the lower Columbia, Kootenai, and Snake rivers.

Project start year   1997    End year   1999

Start of operation and/or maintenance   0

Project development phase   Implementation

Section 2. Narrative

Related projects
8605000, 8806400, 8806500

These three projects have goals of recovering white sturgeon populations that have declined following development of the hydropower system. Each of these projects relies on estimates of the timing of spawning obtained from white sturgeon eggs collected from spawning areas to draw conclusions regarding the effects of hydropower system operation on spawning and recruitment of these fish. There is a paucity of information on the general biology and life history of white sturgeons in altered environments; this project would provide information that is necessary to understanding how daily operations at various dams may affect sturgeon spawning.

Project history

Biological results achieved

Annual reports and technical papers

Management implications

Specific measureable objectives
Develop relations between time, water temperature, and egg developmental stages for white sturgeons from the Columbia, Kootenai, and Snake rivers to allow accurate back-calculation of spawning times (within hours) from newly spawned and well advanced eggs collected during spawning surveys.

Testable hypothesis
a) Ho: There is no difference between the time to egg developmental stage developed from Columbia, Snake, and Kootenai River white sturgeons and the time to egg developmental stage from a study by Wang et. al. (1985) examining this relationship for a single white sturgeon from the Sacramento River.

b) Ho: There is no difference between the relationship of time to egg developmental stage between Columbia and Kootenai River white sturgeons.

Underlying assumptions or critical constraints
An underlying assumption is that eggs incubated under hatchery conditions (with river water) develop at the same rate as those spawned naturally in riverine environments.

I. Developing white sturgeon embryos will be sampled from the culture facilities at specified time intervals after the eggs are fertilized. Embryos will be fixed in 10% unbuffered formalin and then transferred to 4% unbuffered formalin. The preserved specimens will be identified to stages described by Beer (1981). Hatchery water temperatures will be recorded with digital thermographs.

II. Relations between egg developmental stage, time, and incubation temperature will be derived through regression analyses. It is important to examine the variation in developmental stages at each time interval. We will test for differences among the relations developed for each river to determine if incubation period varies among sites.

Embryos will be sampled from fish collected and from the Columbia, Kootenai, and Snake rivers. We will sample less than 5000 embryos from each location.

Brief schedule of activities
Date Activity
March 1997 Complete coordination with cooperating agencies
July 1997 Complete the collection of samples
November 1997 Complete lab analysis of samples
December 1997 Complete data entry and begin analysis

1998 - 1999 Prepare annual report and peer-reviewed journal article; prepare study designs for and implement controlled-temperature experiments.

Biological need
Hydropower development has altered the natural hydrograph and thermal regime of Columbia Basin rivers. Questions remain about how this development and how the daily operation of the hydropower system affect spawning activities of white sturgeon. Several projects (see above) are attempting to address these questions by an analysis of the timing of spawning by white sturgeons and the corresponding hourly dam operations. These projects require a reliable method for estimating the age of eggs collected from the environment.
The studies done to date that describe the timing of white sturgeon spawning in the Columbia, Snake, and Kootenai rivers have used relationships developed by Wang et al. (1985) characterizing the time to development of white sturgeon egg and larval stages. However, this study used only eggs collected from one female white sturgeon from the Sacramento River, which may have different incubation characteristics from white sturgeon in the Columbia River basin.

Studies examining white sturgeon spawning in the Columbia, Snake, and Kootenai rivers have used the relation developed for Sacramento River fish to estimate the time of spawning (usually to the nearest day). However, studies investigating the effects of hourly dam operations on spawning need to reliably place the timing of spawning to the nearest hour. This can be done from collections of newly-spawned eggs but eggs of this stage represent a minor portion of the eggs collected in spawning surveys. Having the ability to reliably estimate the time of spawning from a variety of egg stages would allow a more efficient use of samples collected and enable more efficient sampling strategies for future work.

Critical uncertainties
Biologists are currently unable to reliably estimate the age (in hours) of most white sturgeon eggs that are collected from spawning surveys. Thus, studies investigating the effects of hourly dam operations must hope to collect large numbers of newly spawned eggs over time, which past studies have shown to be unlikely, or rely on imprecise estimates of the time of spawning from older, more advanced eggs that are collected.

Summary of expected outcome
This study should provide the information needed to obtain reliable estimates of the age (in hours) of white sturgeon eggs of various developmental stages from different rivers within the Columbia Basin. This would increase the utility of information gathered by managers and researchers who are studying the effects of hydropower system operation on white sturgeon spawning.

Dependencies/opportunities for cooperation
This project would require the assistance of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, the University of Idaho, and Pelfries Fish Hatchery. We would depend on these entities to collect and spawn adult fish, and assist in the collection of samples of developing embryos. The success of this project is dependent on the ability of these entities to provide this service; the parties mentioned above have expressed a willingness to cooperate on this study.

This project would require a Section 10 Permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to use white sturgeon from the Kootenai River.

This project would pose a minimal risk to the public welfare or to the interests of any governmental or tribal entity.

Monitoring activity
Progress will be reported in annual reports, oral presentations, and peer-reviewed journal articles.

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: 47,800
1998: 60,000
1999: 30,000

* 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   Resident Fish

Recommendation    Tier 2 - fund when funds available

Recommended funding level   $47,800