FY 2000 proposal 199801400

Additional documents

199801400 Narrative Narrative
199801400 Sponsor Response to the ISRP Response

Section 1. Administrative

Proposal titleOcean Survival of Juvenile Salmonids in the Columbia River Plume
Proposal ID199801400
OrganizationNational Marine Fisheries Service, Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NMFS)
Proposal contact person or principal investigator
NameMichael H. Schiewe
Mailing address2725 Montlake Blvd. East Seattle, WA 98112-2097
Phone / email2068603270 / michael.schiewe@noaa.gov
Manager authorizing this project
Review cycleFY 2000
Province / SubbasinMainstem/Systemwide / Systemwide
Short descriptionMeasure the effects of time of entry, smolt quality, food habits, growth, and health status of juvenile coho and chinook salmon on survival in relation to oceanographic features of the ocean environment associated with the Columbia River plume.
Target speciesStream and ocean-type chinook and coho salmon
Project location
Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives (RPAs)



Relevant RPAs based on NMFS/BPA review:

Reviewing agencyAction #BiOp AgencyDescription

Section 2. Past accomplishments

1998 Established a long-term plume monitoring station.
1998 Collected ocean samples to assess nutrient and zooplankton composition in the Columbia River plume and along the Newport line.
1998 Collected juvenile stream and ocean-type chinook and coho salmon in and out of the Columbia River plume in June and September, measured, and acquired tissue samples to characterize growth and bioenergetic status.
1998 Characterize and forecast the spatial and temporal physical variability of the Columbia River plume and vicinity, in support of objectives 2-5

Section 3. Relationships to other projects

Project IDTitleDescription
9600600 PATH Study will contribute empirical data on factors influencing estuarine and ocean survival for use in life cycle models
9702600 Marine predators of salmon Complements partitioning of survival factors

Section 4. Budget for Planning and Design phase

Task-based budget
ObjectiveTaskDuration in FYsEstimated 2000 costSubcontractor
Outyear objectives-based budget
ObjectiveStarting FYEnding FYEstimated cost
Outyear budgets for Planning and Design phase

Section 5. Budget for Construction and Implementation phase

Task-based budget
ObjectiveTaskDuration in FYsEstimated 2000 costSubcontractor
Outyear objectives-based budget
ObjectiveStarting FYEnding FYEstimated cost
Outyear budgets for Construction and Implementation phase

Section 6. Budget for Operations and Maintenance phase

Task-based budget
ObjectiveTaskDuration in FYsEstimated 2000 costSubcontractor
Outyear objectives-based budget
ObjectiveStarting FYEnding FYEstimated cost
Outyear budgets for Operations and Maintenance phase

Section 7. Budget for Monitoring and Evaluation phase

Task-based budget
ObjectiveTaskDuration in FYsEstimated 2000 costSubcontractor
Outyear objectives-based budget
ObjectiveStarting FYEnding FYEstimated cost
Outyear budgets for Monitoring and Evaluation phase

Section 8. Estimated budget summary

Itemized budget
ItemNoteFY 2000 cost
Personnel Includes cost for personnel to run the R/V Sea Otter and 1 FTE equivalent (GS-9) $87,300
Fringe $30,600
Supplies $40,000
Operating $1,500
Capital $40,000
Travel $5,000
Indirect $36,600
Other Overtime $15,000
Subcontractor CIMRS, Hatfield Marine Science Center $110,000
Subcontractor Surface Trawling Vessel $105,000
Subcontractor Oregon State University $40,000
Subcontractor Oregon Graduate Institute $315,000
Total estimated budget
Total FY 2000 cost$826,000
Amount anticipated from previously committed BPA funds$0
Total FY 2000 budget request$826,000
FY 2000 forecast from 1999$0
% change from forecast0.0%
Cost sharing
OrganizationItem or service providedAmountCash or in-kind
NMFS Labor $112,600 unknown
Other budget explanation

Schedule Constraints: ESA Section 7 permit for collection of juvenile salmon in the nearshore ocean. Charter of suitable vessel for collection of juvenile salmon in the nearshore ocean.

Reviews and recommendations

This information was not provided on the original proposals, but was generated during the review process.

Fund in part for one year
Jun 15, 1999


Recommendation: Fund in part for one year (or a limited period) supporting objectives 1,2, and 5; future submittal and consideration of longer term funding should address ISRP comments about objectives 3 and 4.

Comments: This proposal presents the first comprehensive study of the physical and biological features of the estuary, near-shore ocean and the Columbia River plume, and their effect on the salmon production from the Columbia basin. The proposal is by nature large-scale, long-term and costly. Given changes in the marine environment and the extent of anthropocentric impacts in the Columbia River (annual flows, sediment loads, near shore development, etc.), this investment is overdue. Variation in the marine survival of salmon is now known to be large and is likely associated with large-scale ocean climate changes. However, in the Columbia basin, changes in flow and sediment loads and the estuary are also likely to have contributed to this variation. This proposal would investigate these effects and their impacts on the growth and survival of salmonids. Without such studies, conservation actions and investments in the freshwater habitats will continue to be confounded with changes in the marine habitats. Insufficient information is provided about the results and success of previous work (in too many cases the previous results are reported as "reports in progress").

This proposal is not convincing that it will achieve the stated objectives. The experimental design does not convincingly address the fundamental question of whether or not the plume is important to salmon. For example, there is no way to be certain of the origin of, or realistically determine the importance of, the plume, for most salmon found inside or outside of the plume. Any fish sampled could have just recently entered or left the plume, so the importance of the plume to growth or survival cannot be clearly established. The plume may indeed be critical to the survival of juvenile salmon, but the experimental design in this proposal may not be able to conclusively demonstrate this. Further, the proposed sampling schedule is likely to inadequately resolve the most important variations (e.g. fish sampling inside and outside the plume).

Some additional recommendations that would likely improve the chances of success for this project are:

1. It is essential to determine the migration routes, migration timing, and residence times of juvenile salmon inside the plume in order to assess the importance of the plume to growth and survival. This could be examined directly by tagging juvenile salmon at the mouth of the river with dual sonic/radio tags and following them seaward through the plume. 2. Tag sufficient additional numbers of salmon (e.g. with otolith thermal marks, CWT's, PIT, or visual implant tags) in the estuary. This will ensure a reasonable chance of recovery of a sufficient numbers of these tagged fish over time as well as to assess movements and residence times. Sample juvenile salmon more intensely in time and space to try to recover more fish that have been tagged in other Columbia River programs. 3. Bi-monthly sampling is not frequent enough to determine if salmon found in the plume have been there for hours, weeks or months. Additional information required to assess this (e.g. change in size with time) will also not be obtained by bi-monthly sampling.

There are some important inconsistencies in the proposal. For example, under objectives 1 and 2 only two sampling cruises are identified. However, in sections 3 and 4 three cruises sampling salmon are identified. The value of the additional cruises which will not sample salmon are questionable. The position and characteristics of the plume will be identified, but there will be no associated information about juvenile salmon.

Minor weaknesses include a very confusing, though probably important, description of the difficulties of sampling along the "plume axis"; weak methods description with respect to statistical analysis methods used; a weak section on food habits work; and a poor section on growth and "health" (as compared to other sections). These proponents should consider deletion of the fish health work (especially if 20052 is funded); an addition of a strong statistical collaborator; and explicit incorporation of the previous predation project (97026). It is recommended that closer coordination and collaboration with other potential programs, which likely will be conducted simultaneously in the same area (e.g. GLOBEC, PNCERS, etc.), should be developed. These other programs could provide much of the required physical oceanographic data required for this project as well as allow more of the resources requested in this project to be focused on studying the juvenile salmon.

In summary, there is significant potential programmatic value to this project. The researchers should consider application of remote sensing (e.g. satellite imagery) to fill in information gaps between sampling periods. This is a very large program that needs an examination of the sampling design with appropriate spatial and temporal scales to determine the dynamics of the plume. The methodologies proposed to study the effects of the plume on growth and survival of salmon are inadequate. The proposed ten-year time frame to hope for adequate contrast in interannual variation has not been found to be a successful strategy. The monthly intervals in objective 2 are likely inadequate to achieve this objective.

Do Not Fund
Aug 20, 1999


Aug 20, 1999


Consider with other estuary research. The tasks and objective of Project #20052 should be dove tailed with this project due to similarities in tasks. This project should be continued to be funded through NMFS ESA reserve.
Aug 20, 1999


Technical Criteria 1: Met? Inc -

Programmatic Criteria 2: Met? Inc - Unclear if sufficient tagged fish can be recaptured to accomplish objectives.

Milestone Criteria 3: Met? Yes -

Resource Criteria 4: Met? Yes -

Fund in part. Do not fund objective 4
Oct 29, 1999


Fund in part. Do not fund objective 4. Other than objective 4, fund for 3 years followed by a comprehensive review of objectives 1,2 (objective 5 terminate before this); objective 3 will require more time to complete adult returns. The ISRP remains unconvinced that the methods and experimental design for objective 4 are scientifically sound. If applied, we are concerned that there is real risk that the results will be misinterpreted. The ISRP strongly recommends that NMFS carefully review these and alternative methods before providing further resources for this portion of the proposal.

While the ISRP was strongly supportive of this area of research, we clearly failed to communicate the basis for our concerns about the methods proposed to assess the importance of the plume to salmon production. This is a large complex research proposal in which the proponents suggest that the reviewers applied several key misconceptions, ignored "standard ecological" approaches, and simply erred. Consequently, we have carefully re-reviewed the full proposal and considered the proponents' response. Unfortunately, we again draw the same conclusions.

Objectives 1 & 2 are strongly supported as important research to understand the dynamics of the plume, its biological processes, and inter-relation with Columbia River discharge. Objective 5 could be support independent of the other objectives since it relates to the utilization of this environment. However, we continue to have serious concerns about inferences to be drawn from the methods applied to objectives 3 and 4 (in particular objective 4). Fundamentally, our difference of opinion involves what constitutes evidence of the importance of the plume to salmon survival and growth.

If we follow the proponents' argument, periodic sampling of salmonids in and near the plume will tell us about the importance of these habitats to the growth and health of juvenile salmonids (survival of salmonids would be inferred). Further, comparisons between sampling periods (months apart) will allow assessment of these habitats' importance to salmonid growth rates, bioenergetic health, and incidence of disease. Our concerns, for example, are these:

  1. What would differences in length and weight sampled in different populations tell us about "growth rate" between sampling periods or habitats?
  2. The proponents assume that these will be the "same" populations, and that the comparisons are meaningful and follow a "well accepted basis for an experimental design". Further, that stock composition of the samples can be determined. (ISRP comment … but this does not ensure/suggest that you are re-sampling the same population as before.)
  3. The project will begin my sampling yearling chinook and coho salmon, but what evidence is there that these large emigrants remain in these coastal waters for extended periods?

Surely, these issues generate questions about residency of the smolts in coastal waters, habitat utilization, and selective mortality between sampling periods. These were the types of concerns that the reviewers originally intended to relay. These are difficult questions to address but ones that the ISRP felt were necessary to demonstrate the importance of the plume to salmon survival and growth. Just because we can measure or evaluate something does not mean we have actually learned anything.

In terms of the response from the proponents, we remain totally unconvinced by the simple declaration that objective 4 is being addressed through methods used in ecological field research. A more thoughtful response and consideration of assumptions seems appropriate for a proposal requesting almost one million dollars a year.

Two specific aspects of the response also require further clarification. The ISRP identified an inconsistency in the numbers of cruises identified in various objectives. Contrary to the respondents' statement that the May cruise was explained in the proposal, we can not find any such reference. A related concern is whether that cruise has been included in the budget requested? Secondly, the ISRP questioned the ten-year time period for the investigation. This question was generated by the stated application of regression analyses to examine the relationship between salmon survival and variables measured during this study. If the ten-year duration was suggested to allow for natural contrast in the measures, the ISRP simply wanted to flag that such studies are subject to the vagaries of the natural environment, particularly when studying such a complex and dynamic environment. More direct test or studies are preferable when practical.

Addressed ISRP review: The response provided clarified aspects of the study but certainly failed to consider the major concern expressed by the ISRP. In several responses, the respondents requested that the ISRP provide more justification for our comments … this seems a strange shift in the "Burden of Proof" since the ISRP is not the agency requesting these funds! If the ISRP erred, correct our error; but there is a responsibility to consider what peer reviewers offer to assist their program.

Fund in part
Nov 8, 1999


Further review
Mar 1, 2000


(9). Ocean Survival of Juvenile Salmonids in the Columbia River Plume; NMFS; Project ID # 9801400; $826,000 from ESA Placeholder

Discussion/Background: While there is no current obligation for the satisfaction of independent scientific review of projects funded under the ESA budget, the Fisheries Service submitted its proposal to the Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) for their comments and peer evaluation.

ISRP Review: Fund in part. The ISRP June 15th report recommended partial funding of certain objectives only. In particular, they recommended against funding two of the proposed objectives (32 percent of the budget or $264,000). In its October 29th report the ISRP continued with its strong reservation against one of the proposed objectives (21 percent of the budget or $173,000). The ISRP recognized the value of studies in the plume area, but also indicated that it remains unconvinced about the adequacy of certain proposed methods and aspects described in the experimental design for this project.

1. Expansion of activities: While the review process for project 9801400 was underway, Bonneville initiated a procurement action to expand the statement of work for this project. The expansion of project 9801400 provides funding for the "Canada-USA shelf salmon survival study", submitted by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada. This action requires an additional $285,600 of ESA funds. Tallied together, the original request for 9801400 and its newest expansion add up to $1,111,600. Furthermore, there is very little mutual acknowledgment between these two components of the project. The original proposal submitted by the Fisheries Service makes no reference to a future expansion. The additional proposal submitted by the Canadian agency makes a limited and confusing attempt to link up with the Fisheries Service's project. The Canadian addition was not submitted for ISRP review and evaluation.

2. Research planning: On September 24, 1999, Will Stelle (Fisheries Service) sent a letter to Bob Austin (Bonneville) in support of the addition of the Canadian proposal to project 9801400. In his argument, Mr. Stelle links this proposal to the fulfillment of elements of the Reasonable and Prudent Alternative #13 in the Biological Opinion. The language in Alternative # 13 requires the development of "a [multi-agency] comprehensive monitoring, evaluation and research program." The text further furnishes some examples of the kinds of studies that should be contained in such a comprehensive plan. Estuary and near-shore research studies are some of these examples.

In the past, the Council indicated its discomfort with the Fishery Service's interpretation of the biological Opinion. A letter of May 5, 1998 from John Brogiotti (then Chairman of the Council's Fish and Wildlife Committee) to Mr. Stelle clearly draws attention to the larger intent of the language, directed at developing a comprehensive plan instead of addressing individual efforts in a prescriptive manner.

Council staff analysis: