BPA Fish and Wildlife FY 1997 Proposal
Section 1. Administrative
Section 2. Narrative
Section 3. Budget
see CBFWA and BPA funding recommendations
Title of project
White Sturgeon Productivity Status and Habitat Requirements
BPA project number 8605000
Business name of agency, institution or organization requesting funding
Sponsor type OR-State/Local Agency
Proposal contact person or principal investigator
|Mailing address||Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
17330 S.E. Evelyn Street
Clackamas, OR 97015
BPA technical contact Rick Westerhof, EWI 503/230-5061
Biological opinion ID
NWPPC Program number 10.4A.2
Investigate the early life history and define habitat used by spawning and rearing white sturgeon and quantify the habitat available in the Columbia and Snake River reservoirs downstream from Priest Rapids and Lower Granite Dams.
Project start year 1986 End year 2025
Start of operation and/or maintenance 0
Project development phase Implementation
"Status of the White Sturgeon Resource in the Mainstem Columbia River": project funded by the Federal Aid to Fish Restoration Act. Project results from stock assessment in the lower Columbia downstream from Bonneville Dam used as a control for BPA Project 860500. Results also used to manage lower Columbia fisheries.
Project 860500 funds a variety of studies by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Biological Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nez Pierce Tribe, National Marine Fisheries Service, the Columbia River Intertribal Fisheries Commission, and the Nez Perce Tribe. Each cooperator undertakes specific tasks with the goals of increasing our understanding of the effects of hydropower system operation on populations of white sturgeon in the Columbia and Snake Rivers and restoring white sturgeon productivity.
This project has been and is a cooperative effort among many agencies. The current cooperators are Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), National Biological Service (NBS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC), and Nez Perce Tribe (NPT).
The study was designed to describe reproduction and early life history characteristics of white sturgeon populations, life history and population dynamics of subadult and adult white sturgeon, define habitat requirements for spawning and rearing of white sturgeon, quantify the extent of habitat available, and evaluate the need and potential methods for protecting, mitigating, and enhancing white sturgeon.
1) 1986-1992: research results can be found in a two volume report and at least 14 published articles.
2) 1993: model development was continued to describe effects of hydropower plant operation on spawning. Project was extended into the McNary Pool, the mid Columbia below Priest Rapids Dam, and the Snake River below Ice Harbor Dam. Conducted preliminary sampling to describe status, distribution, spawning and recruitment there.
3) 1994: Provided updated status of populations in Bonneville and The Dalles reservoirs. Habitat mapping, and egg and larval sampling to describe spawning above McNary Dam.
4) 1995: Experimental transplants of sublegal white sturgeon from below Bonneville Dam to The Dalles Reservoir to evaluate a means supplementing reduced productivity. Intensive sampling to describe specific, proximate effects of hydrosystem operations on spawning. Sampling to describe population characteristics above McNary Dam. Habitat mapping continued.
6) Work underway for 1996: Experimental transplant repeated. Habitat mapping above McNary Dam continued. Provide updated status of population in John Day Reservoir. Sonic- and radio-tracking to describe habitat usage by subadult and adult white sturgeon. Sampling to describe population characteristics in Ice Harbor and Lower Monumental reservoirs on the Snake River.
Biological results achieved
Project results have been and continue to be used to arrest declines in impounded sturgeon populations that have resulted from reduced productivity related to impoundment. The reduced productivity has made these populations unable to sustain harvest at levels similar to the population below Bonneville Dam. The habitat used by spawning and rearing white sturgeon below McNary Dam has been defined; a time series of available spawning habitat has been constructed for each year since 1985.
Annual reports and technical papers
Status and habitat requirements of the white sturgeon populations downstream from McNary Dam: Annual Reports for 1988-DOE/BP-63584-2, 1989-DOE/BP-63584-3, 1990-DOE/BP-63584-4, 1991-DOE/BP-63584-5, 1993-DOE/BP-63584-6, 1993-DOE/BP-63584-7; and Effects of Mitigative Measures on Productivity of White Sturgeon Populations in the Columbia River Downstream from McNary Dam 1994-DOE/BP-63584-8, and 1995-DOE/BP-63584-9 are available.
Beamesderfer, R.C. 1991. MOCPOP 2.0: A flexible system for simulation of age-structured populations and stock related functions. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Information Report 91-4.
Beamesderfer, R.C. 1993. A standard weight (Ws) equation for white sturgeon. California Fish and Game 79(2):63-69}
Beamesderfer, R.C.P., T.A. Rien, and A.A. Nigro. 1995. Dynamics and potential production of white sturgeon populations in three Columbia River reservoirs Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 124:857-872.
DeVore, J.D., B.W. James, C.A. Tracy, and D.A. Hale. 1995. Dynamics and potential production of white sturgeon in the Columbia River downstream from Bonneville Dam. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 124:845-856.
Elliott J.C. and R.C. Beamesderfer. 1990. Comparison of efficiency and selectivity of three gears used to sample white sturgeon in a Columbia River reservoir. California Fish and Game 76(3):174-180.
McCabe, G.T., Jr. 1993. Prevalence of the parasite Cystoopsis acipenseri (Nematoda) in juvenile white sturgeons in the lower Columbia River. Journal of Aquatic Animal Health 5(4):313-316.
McCabe, G.T., Jr. and L.G. Beckman. 1990. Use of an artificial substrate to collect white sturgeon eggs. California Fish and Game 76(4):248-250.
McCabe, G.T., Jr., R.L. Emmett, and S.A. Hinton. 1993. Feeding ecology of juvenile white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) in the Lower Columbia River. Northwest Science 67(3):170-180.
North, J.A., R.C. Beamesderfer, and T.A. Rien. 1993. Distribution and movements of white sturgeon in three lower Columbia River reservoirs. Northwest Science 67(2):105-111.
Parsley, M.J., and L.G. Beckman. 1994. White Sturgeon spawning and rearing habitat in the Lower Columbia Rive. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 14:812-827.
Parsley, M.J., L.G. Beckman, and G.T. McCabe, Jr. 1993. Spawning and rearing habitat use by white sturgeons in the Columbia River downstream from McNary Dam. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 122(2):217-227.
Rien, T.A. and R.C. Beamesderfer. 1994. Accuracy and precision in age estimates of white sturgeon from pectoral fin rays. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 123(2):255 265.
Rien, T.A., R.C.P. Beamesderfer, and C.A. Foster. 1994. Retention, recognition, and effects on survival of several tags and marks on white sturgeon. California Fish and Game 80(4):161-170.
Warren, J.J. and L.G. Beckman. 1993. Fishway use by white sturgeon to bypass mainstem Columbia River dams. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sea Grant Extension Project, Columbia River Series WSG-AG 93-02.
Key findings and recommendations based on this projects findings are summarized on pages 9-16 in Volume 1 of our 1993 Final Report for phase 1 work. The management implications of research to date are now being compiled in a document with the working title: "A review of alternatives for the restoration and management of white sturgeon populations and fisheries in the Columbia River between Bonneville and McNary dams (Zone 6)".
The top three recommendations are: 1) Reduced flows limit spawning habitat and recruitment of white sturgeon. A 250 Kcfs minimum instantaneous discharge at McNary Dam when water temperatures are 13-15 °C will provide white sturgeon spawning habitat in all three Zone 6 pools. Lesser discharges do not provide spawning habitat in John Day Reservoir. Greater discharges provide more spawning habitat. Detailed recommendations for operation of the hydropower system are one of the objectives for current research. 2) The density and potential harvest for populations in The Dalles and John Day reservoirs are limited by poor recruitment. Supplementing recruitment through transplantation or hatchery releases should be initiated and evaluated. Supplementation evaluation or implementation should continue until increased flows restore recruitment. 3) Sturgeon are isolated in each reservoir. No individual reservoir fully meets the life history needs of the sturgeon isolated there and the dynamics of each reservoir population are unique. Therefor management strategies should be tailored to optimize production and offset effects of impoundment based on the unique attributes of each impounded population and each population must be closely monitored to maintain optimum exploitation rates.
Specific measureable objectives
1. Experimentally implement and evaluate success of selected measures to protect and enhance populations and mitigate for effects of the hydropower system on productivity of white sturgeon in the Columbia River downstream from McNary Dam.
1.1. Evaluate success of developing and implementing a management plan for white sturgeon in reservoirs between Bonneville and McNary dams in enhancing production.
1.2. Evaluate growth, mortality, and contributions to fisheries of juvenile white sturgeon transplanted from areas downstream from The Dalles Dam to areas in The Dalles and John Day reservoirs.
1.3. Evaluate white sturgeon spawning and recruitment downstream from McNary Dam under recommended flows and project operations.
2. Continue to examine and develop promising new measures to protect and enhance populations and mitigate for effects of the hydropower system on productivity of white sturgeon in the Columbia River downstream from McNary Dam.
2.1. Evaluate levels and assess effects of contaminants found in the Columbia River downstream from McNary Dam (e.g. organochlorine pesticides, PCB's, dioxins and furans, and trace elements) on production of white sturgeon populations.
2.2. Assess quantity and quality of habitat available for use by subadult and adult white sturgeon downstream from McNary Dam.
2.3. Identify and evaluate approaches to supplement recruitment of wild populations of white sturgeon downstream from McNary Dam.
3. Evaluate the need and identify potential measures for protecting and enhancing populations and mitigating for effects of the hydropower system on productivity of white sturgeon in the Columbia and Snake rivers upstream from McNary Dam.
3.1. Describe reproductive and early life history characteristics of white sturgeon in the Columbia and Snake rivers upstream from McNary Dam and downstream from Bonneville Dam.
3.2. Describe the life history and population dynamics of subadult and adult white sturgeon in the Columbia and Snake rivers upstream from McNary Dam and downstream from Bonneville Dam. Describe the white sturgeon recreational fishery in the Columbia and Snake rivers upstream from McNary Dam.
3.3. Define habitat used for spawning and rearing; and quantify extent of habitat available in the Columbia and Snake rivers upstream from McNary Dam and downstream from Bonneville Dam.
3.4. Assess quantity and quality of habitat available for use by subadult and adult white sturgeon in the Columbia and Snake rivers upstream from McNary Dam.
White sturgeon productivity above McNary Dam is equal to productivity in the free-flowing reach below Bonneville Dam.
Transplanted white sturgeon will have similar growth rates and condition factors to native white sturgeon in The Dalles Reservoir.
Habitat use by white sturgeon differs among seasons.
Spawning habitat for white sturgeons in each known spawning area does not differ among years as a result of river discharges and water temperatures that occurred, which in turn are influenced by hydropower system operations.
Recruitment of white sturgeon to young of the year in the Bonneville Reservoir is unrelated to the amount of spawning habitat that occurred during that year.
Recruitment and white sturgeon spawning success is directly related to the quantity of spring flow during times when water temperatures are between 10 and 17°C.
Viral diseases specific to white sturgeon already exist in wild populations of the Columbia River Basin.
In the Hell's Canyon reach of the Snake River, all size groups of white sturgeon have increased in abundance since 1970 when Idaho initiated a catch-and-release regulation.
In the Hell's Canyon reach of the Snake River, white sturgeon can now support an annual harvest of 25-100 3-foot 6-foot fish and maintain the current brood-stock abundance.
Underlying assumptions or critical constraints
A basic assumption in this project is the lower Columbia River white sturgeon population downstream from Bonneville Dam has not been critically constrained by Columbia Basin hydroelectric development and operation and is therefore a good control group for comparing productivity of impounded populations to determine the effects of impoundment.
We have not requested specific flows to test the relationship between flow and recruitment. Thus the range of flows we are able to examine is constrained by hydrosystem operation and water year. The effect of flows outside that range (specifically greater flows) are unpredictable.
The experimental premise in these studies is that the effects of impoundment on Columbia Basin white sturgeon populations can be determined by comparing critical population dynamics parameters such as growth rate, mortality rate, and reproductive potential between impounded populations and the unimpounded lower Columbia population. Abundance and population dynamics are estimated using standard protocols such as mark and recapture studies, catch curve modeling, and maximum likelihood estimates of parameters used to describe reproductive potential (please refer to published BPA annual reports and journal articles for further detail). All life history stages are being studied in this research effort.
Habitat use by white sturgeon will be described by conducting an analysis of water depth, velocity, and substrate at sites where fish are located through sonic telemetry. Criteria curves defining the suitability of each habitat descriptor will be developed by applying non-parametric tolerance limits to the observations. Fish to be tagged with crystal-controlled high-power sonic transmitters will be captured by setlining. During each seasonal period, twelve fish will be tagged with these transmitters and an additional six fish will be tagged with depth-indicating tags. The fish will be captured and released throughout the study area. Water depths will be measured with recording fathometers, water velocities will be measured with mechanical meters and with an acoustic doppler current profiler, substrates will be determined with dredges and underwater cameras. Habitat will be quantified by using the physical habitat simulation system developed by the USFWS, and by cartographic modeling with a Geographic Information System.
Brief schedule of activities
1997 activities by cooperating agency or tribe:
ODFW: 1) Setlining and gillnetting in The Dalles Reservoir to estimate survival, growth, and condition of approximately 8,000 sublegal white sturgeon transplanted from below Bonneville Dam in the Falls of 1994 and 1995. 2) Collection of white sturgeon tissues samples for contaminants assays. 3) Collection of white sturgeon tissue samples for eventual genetics survey. 4) Sampling of commercial and recreational fisheries in Zone 6. 7) Development of an annual Zone 6 management plan for harvest management and enhancement of depressed populations upstream from The Dalles Dam.
WDFW: 1) White sturgeon stock assessment in reservoirs between Ice Harbor and Lower Granite dams on the Snake River. 2) Updating stock assessment and refining estimates of population dynamics parameters for the unimpounded lower Columbia white sturgeon population. 3) Assisting the NBS in statistically elucidating the white sturgeon flow/recruitment relationship using catch rates of young-of-year white sturgeon in Bonneville Reservoir correlated to spring flows and estimates of available spawning habitat. 4) Collection of white sturgeon tissues samples for contaminants assays. 5) Collection of white sturgeon tissue samples for eventual genetics survey. 6) Sampling of commercial and recreational fisheries within the Columbia Basin. 7) Development of an annual Zone 6 management plan for harvest management and enhancement of depressed populations upstream from The Dalles Dam.
NBS: 1) Define habitat use by white sturgeon in the McNary Pool including the free-flowing Columbia River downstream from Priest Rapids Dam and the Snake River downstream from Ice Harbor Dam. 2) Quantify habitat for white sturgeon in the impounded portion of the McNary Pool. 3) Calculate the index of spawning habitat for 1996 for spawning areas located downstream from McNary, John Day, The Dalles, and Bonneville dams.
USFWS: Collection of hydraulic field data in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia and in areas of the Snake River to be determined.
NMFS: Conduct Fall trawling below Bonneville Dam to index young of the year abundance in the control area.
CRITFC: 1) Early season tagging to estimate survival, growth, and condition of approximately 8,000 sublegal white sturgeon transplanted from below Bonneville Dam in the Falls of 1994 and 1995. 2) Development of an annual Zone 6 management plan for harvest management and enhancement of depressed populations upstream from The Dalles Dam. 3) Disease research with wild young of the year. 4) Assist WDFW with stock assessments in the Snake River.
NPT: Field activities in the Snake River below Hell's Canyon Dam depend on critical uncertainties identified in a Risk Assessment of Supplementation Project (RASP) required under Measure 7.3B.1 of the Northwest Power Planning Council Fish and Wildlife Program. Likely activities include research on reproduction, life history, population dynamics, and habitat availability and use.
Many activities occurring in 1997 will continue. The list of information needs includes: Habitat mapping in Snake River Reaches. Habitat use by subadult and adult sturgeon. Habitat use by juvenile sturgeons in Snake River reservoirs and the Hell's Canyon Reach. Quantity of available spawning and rearing habitat above Ice Harbor Dam in the Snake River. Annual monitoring of Zone 6 fisheries. A statistically robust index of recruitment to young of the year. Stock assessment updates in Zone 6 and other areas. Genetic analyses of archived blood samples. Refinement of hatchery technologies that ensure maintenance of genetic diversity, control disease, and allow diet transition to naturally available feed. Supplementation plans and guidelines. Contaminant levels in sturgeons of the Columbia River Basin and their affect on fish health and population productivity. Effectiveness of fish lifts to allow sturgeon passage at dams.
Hydropower development has isolated once anadromous white sturgeons into discrete populations bounded by dams, severely restricting movements to make use of seasonally favorable food supplies and habitat. Little is known of the life history and habitat needs of this species. This information is needed by fisheries managers to maintain viable populations.
In the absence of stock assessment information, sturgeon consumptive harvest cannot be adequately managed for sustainable yields. Hydrologic management decisions cannot be shaped to address the spawning needs of impounded sturgeon populations risking future listings of depressed stocks under the Endangered Species Act.
It is uncertain whether flow augmentation designed to enhance spawning and recruitment of impounded sturgeon populations will be implemented due to the conflicting needs of hydropower users. In the absence of flow augmentation, it is uncertain whether the disease and genetic risks relative to artificial propagation are large enough to preclude this enhancement option.
The geographic limits to supplementation and stock transfers are not known. The genetic compositions of populations isolated by dams have not been adequately described. Such a description must include a time frame to assess when stocks diverged. If populations are genetically distinct, is that the result of impoundment or did genetically distinct stocks exist before migration was impeded by dams?
Summary of expected outcome
It is expected that, upon completion of assessing the Columbia Basin's sturgeon populations, it will be determined that populations are more depressed the further upstream in the basin they are found. It is also expected that hydroelectric system development and operation is the primary reason for this loss of production potential.
The information we obtain on habitat use by white sturgeons in free-flowing and impounded river reaches will be used to provide estimates of the amount of habitat that is available for spawning and rearing fish. The time series analysis of spawning habitat spanning several years can be used to better understand how operation of the hydropower system affects this habitat and the white sturgeon populations.
Dependencies/opportunities for cooperation
From its inception this project has been a cooperative effort among many agencies. Our past performance demonstrates a high level of cooperation. We expect this level of cooperation will continue.
The activities associated with our work pose no risk to species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Some eggs and larvae of sturgeon are collected, but the numbers collected are minuscule compared to the potential productivity of even one female sturgeon.
Progress will be reported in annual reports, oral presentations, and in peer-reviewed journal articles.
|Historic costs||FY 1996 budget data*||Current and future funding needs|
* 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.
CBFWA funding review group Resident Fish
Recommendation Tier 1 - fund
Recommended funding level $2,294,400
BPA 1997 authorized budget (approved start-of-year budget) $2,294,400