Shasta Dam Fish Passage Evaluation: Winter-run Chinook may swim above Shasta Dam once again

McCloud River by ToshlmasaAgency scientists discuss the winter-run captive broodstock program at Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery, the conceptual designs for the juvenile collector facilities, and the pilot implementation plan and schedule

The NMFS biological opinion on the coordinated operation of the state and federal water projects concluded that CVP and SWP operations were likely to jeopardize the continued existence of salmonids, and outlined a number of Reasonable and Prudent Alternative (RPA) actions, one of which is for the Bureau of Reclamation to evaluate the feasibility of reintroducing federally-listed salmonids upstream of Shasta, Folsom and New Melones dams.  On September 24, Bureau of Reclamation along with NMFS, USFWS, and DWR, held a webinar to discuss the feasibility study currently underway to reintroduce winter-run Chinook above Shasta Dam.

Project Overview

Shasta Dam FP_Page_03John Hannon with the Bureau of Reclamation began by presenting an organizational chart of the participating agencies in the project. There is a leadership group, a steering committee under that, and then subcommittees the deal with various issues. The steering committee has been meeting regularly and the subcommittees as needed, he said.

Shasta Dam FP_Page_04He then displayed a map of the area, noting that it encompasses Shasta Lake, Shasta Dam, and the Upper Sacramento River in Northern California up near Redding. He said the driver for the project is the consultation for the operation of the state and federal water projects, in which the National Marine Fisheries Service issued a jeopardy opinion, with one of the Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives (RPA) being to evaluate fish passage at Shasta as a potential action to protect winter run, spring run, and steelhead in the Sacramento River.

The project purpose is that we are evaluating the potential of providing passage for ESA-listed Chinook around Shasta so we can decide whether to go forward in the long term fish passage program,” he said. “Right now it’s a feasibility evaluation; and then at the end of the feasibility evaluation, we will make a decision on whether to go forward with the long-term program. If it’s not feasible, then we have to come up with some other way that we can operate the projects and protect the fish.”

Mr. Hannon said that last year, there was a webinar regarding the habitat assessment, and at about that time, they were ready to release an environmental assessment. “We shifted gears because of the status of winter run Chinook,“ he said. “We’ve delayed a little bit to make a change in sources of fish. We started a captive broodstock. Right now we’re shooting to have the pilot plan and the environmental assessment out this year. We should have the first fish available in 2017. NMFS is working on an experimental population of designation, expecting to have that ready in 2016. The first fish releases would be scheduled for 2017, which would be the start of the pilot study.”

Shasta Dam FP_Page_08He presented the results of modeling of estimated egg survival for winter-run Chinook downstream of Shasta Dam under both historical and future conditions under climate change. “You can see during the really dry years, the modeling showed mortalities up to the 50% range, but under the climate change scenarios on the bottom chart, it showed some egg to fry mortality up to 100%. Under this drought right now, we seem to be getting into that situation currently.”

Shasta Dam FP_Page_09The focus areas in the upper watershed upstream of Shasta Lake are the Upper Sacramento River and the McCloud River. The NMFS recovery plan has classified the McCloud as a primary reintroduction area and the Upper Sacramento as a candidate reintroduction area. He noted that the green dots indicate the location of the lower-most dam on the river; the Pit River has multiple dams on it, so it is not being considered for this program, only the McCloud and the Upper Sacramento River.

Shasta Dam FP_Page_12The habitat assessment, completed in 2014, identified the quality and distribution of the spawning and rearing habitats in the McCloud and Sacramento rivers. The potential spawner capacity was estimated and used to inform decisions on what areas to focus the pilot studies, he said. The Sacramento River has 37 miles of habitat available upstream of Shasta Lake; the McCloud has 23 miles; however, the thermally optimal lengths – the area of the river where water is cold enough to support winter-run Chinook egg incubation is about 9 miles in the Sacramento and about 11 miles in the McCloud which are located in the uppermost reaches of the rivers, he said.

The female capacity was estimated for different territory sizes. He noted that the McCloud has quite a bit higher estimate of the number of females it could support as there is quite a bit of habitat in the McCloud.

Shasta Dam FP_Page_13He then presented a slide of Shasta Lake, noting that it is quite complex. “A lot of systems where this type of thing has been done are narrower lakes that don’t have all the multiple tribs and arms coming in,” Mr. Hannon said, noting that a later presentation would deal with juvenile collection options.

Sacramento River Conditions and Fishery Challenges

Shasta Dam FP_Page_15Jon Ambrose with NMFS began by presenting a graph of the abundance of winter run Chinook. “Essentially, winter run Chinook were in the Pit, McCloud, and Upper Shasta, but with the construction of Shasta Dam, those three populations intergressed into one population,” he said. “As time has gone by, that population has declined drastically leading to the listing as endangered by state and federal governments in the early 90s.”

NMFS put a lot of effort into the winter-run Chinook which saw some results in the early 2000s, but for a variety of reasons, the population is now not doing so well, further emphasizing the need to get the fish above the dam to reduce the risk of just having one population located in one location below the dam. “The reason that we do have these concerns is because winter run egg to fry survival has been very low, largely in response to lack of cold water pool in Shasta,” he said. “Last year, we estimated that overall, survival was about 5% which is not doing so well for this endangered animal.”

Shasta Dam FP_Page_17He then presented a graph, explaining that the graph is for year 2014, and moving from left to right, the pyramid shapes represent the time of year in the fish’s life cycle. “Looking at when the adults are showing up, and they are peaking at the end of June and spawning; then the blue color is the eggs hatching into redds,” he said. “Throughout the summer last year, water temperatures were gradually increasing as Shasta was starting to lose its cold water pool. During the period of fry emergence, we lost the cold water pool which is the reason we experienced that high rate of mortality last year.”

Shasta Dam FP_Page_18He then presented graphs of the 2014 and 2015 temperature profiles for Shasta Lake for May. “Right now we’ve relaxed the temperature compliance,” he said. “Last year, I think our temperature compliance was 56 degrees F; this year we relaxed it to 57 and we’re in wait and see mode. We don’t know how things are going to turn out but right now we’re holding steady.”

Due to the high mortality experienced last year and the importance of the pilot program to ensure long-term survival of the winter-run Chinook, the decision was made to resume the captive broodstock program at Linvingston Stone Fish Hatchery, he said. “We were also really concerned as we don’t want to be mining the wild population below the dam, so the decision was made early this year to resume the captive broodstock program at Livingtson Stone, so that we can assure that we do have sufficient numbers of winter run Chinook for the pilot program and to minimize the likelihood of mining the wild population below the dam,” he said.

Shasta Dam FP_Page_20He then presented a slide showing a comparison of temperatures above and below Shasta Dam during the summer of 2014. “This is a nice illustration of why we want to get fish up there,” said Mr. Ambrose. “Even during the drought that we were experiencing last year, water temperatures were sufficiently cool and they got cooler as you would expect as the summer progressed, right during that period of fry emergence, and that’s where we lost temperature control, whereas if we would have some redundancy with some fish in the McCloud, those fish would likely have had a much higher survival rate.”

He then discussed their Section 10-J efforts. Section 10J is an amendment to the Endangered Species Act in 1982 whose purpose is to allow experimental populations to help recover threatened and endangered species and to address landowner and user groups concerns about having endangered and threatened animals where they weren’t previously, he said. “Section 10-J allows us some regulatory flexibility. It’s designed to further the conservation of the species, it occurs in areas where the animals aren’t currently existing, and it provides us with an opportunity to create a 4-D rule so that we could authorize some activities that may result in incidental take of listed animals.”

What we’re looking at with our 10-J effort is to develop a 4-D rule that would authorize otherwise lawful activities in the area above Shasta Dam so, for example, if somebody was conducting timber harvest operations under the California forest practice rules and something accidental happened, as long as they were in compliance with the forest practice rules, they wouldn’t be subject to the Section 9 prohibitions of the Endangered Species Act,” he said. “This is all part of an effort to minimize the concerns of various user groups. It’s a tool that we’re currently working on right now.”

An internal scoping meeting is planned in October as they move forward with the NEPA document, hopefully to be out in early 2016. A draft 10-J and 4-D rule should be out for review early in 2016, with the proposed rule being published in spring of 2016, the biological opinion on the proposed rule during the summer, with the final rule being published in late summer to early fall.

Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery Operations & Winter-run Captive Broodstock Program

Jim Smith, project leader for the Red Bluff Fish and Wildlife Service Office, then covered the background for the Livingston Stone Fish Hatchery, guidelines for operation, how we operate the hatchery, and the hatchery’s relationship with the Shasta Dam Fish Passage Evaluation.

Shasta Dam FP_Page_25He started with a picture of the facility which is located below Shasta Dam, pointing out that is has two large adult holding circular tanks, some circular rearing tanks, and some smaller rearing troughs; the building in the middle is for the egg stacks and fry holding after the fish have been spawned; then they are placed into the rearing troughs. “It’s designed actually as a temporary facility because it is a conservation hatchery,” he said. “When the run is recovered, then this facility will no longer be needed. So it may look a little shabby; it is not supposed to be something that’s supposed to go on forever.”

Shasta Dam FP_Page_27The Livingston Stone Fish Hatchery is located below Shasta Dam; however, adult salmon can only come up as far as Keswick Dam near Redding. The red line is where the natural spawning occurs for winter run; the hatchery and its facilities are above that so they can have the coolest water temperatures possible to raise the fish at the hatchery.

Shasta Dam FP_Page_28He then presented showing the decline of the winter-run. “Fish and Wildlife Service started a hatchery production program back in 1988 when it was listed at Coleman National Fish Hatchery,” he said. “It worked there; unfortunately all those fish were returning back to Coleman and Battle Creek where they could not survive. So we moved the facility up to Shasta Dam so the fish would come back to the main stem Sacramento River where they could survive.”

The primary goals for the hatchery are preservation and conservation for the stock that is below the dam; the secondary goal is restoration. “We can use fish from this hatchery to reestablish natural spawning populations in historic habitats, and that’s a secondary goal, but I want to emphasize the primary goal is to protect what is already there,” he said.

Guidelines for operation

Shasta Dam FP_Page_31Mr. Smith then explained how the hatchery operates. Broodstock is collected at Keswick Dam; there is a fish ladder that goes into a trap; those fish are taken up in a fish elevator to the top of the picture, placed in a transportation truck, and taken to the fish hatchery.

Shasta Dam FP_Page_32Our hatchery is an integrated hatchery; that means we are trying to do our best to make our brood stock as closely related to the natural origin fish,” he said. “There are other hatcheries where you try to separate those, but our hatchery broodstock are designed to be as close to the natural run as we can.

The captured fish are sorted by whether it’s of natural origin or a hatchery fish; they try to have equal numbers of male and female fish. They take genetic samples of the fish to ensure they are using only winter-run. “There are other adult salmon in the trap; we also get spring run and we also get late fall run, and we don’t want to hyrbridize those fish, so we take genetic samples and we only utilize those fish,” he said. “The other fish are taken back down to the river.”

Shasta Dam FP_Page_33A sample is taken from each fish and those fish are tagged so they can be individually identified. The samples are sent to the genetics lab in Washington; within two days, the lab results are received and the decision made to either keep the fish or return it to the river.

Shasta Dam FP_Page_34The adults are retained in large circular tanks indoors where they are held for long period of time – generally several months, Mr. Smith said. “We have been pretty good about keeping those fish alive over time. We’ve had a few years where we had problems, but we’re able to keep about 90% or better on our fish. We go through them every week to see if they are ripe; we know what those fish are because we’ve tagged them as individual fish.”

Shasta Dam FP_Page_35The hatchery has a very stringent protocol; since they are working with endangered fish, the maximum target is 15% of the run. They take fish each month to take a wide breadth of the return. They have a minimum of 20 and a maximum capacity of 120. “Most years, we do not even come close to the 15%,” Mr. Smith said.

Shasta Dam FP_Page_36Spawning takes place from May through mid August. “I want to emphasize these are winter-run salmon and they are unique in that they are spawning in the middle of the summer – the hottest period of time and that’s why temperatures are so important to these fish,” he said.

The egg lots are split to increase the genetic diversity; the family groups are tracked individually. “That’s real important for a conservation hatchery, so we know what’s going on with these family groups,” he said.

Shasta Dam FP_Page_37The juveniles are reared at the hatchery for about 6 months; they are marked and released in the Sacramento River below Keswick Dam near Redding sometime around February 1st. “That’s before we expect them to smolt; we want them to be somewhat naturalized by the time they start outmigrating and so they move down river, sometimes quickly, sometimes not so quickly, depends on the flows,” he said.

They have been releasing between 140,000 to 250,000 fish per year in most normal years, Mr. Smith said. “The last couple of years because of the drought conditions and the poor survival of the natural fish below the dam, we increased the capacity of the hatchery on a short-term basis,” he said. “Last year, we released about 600,000. This year we are expecting to release about 400,000 in anticipation of potentially poor survival of those fish.”

This is a conservation hatchery and our primary objective is for protection of the natural stock below the dam,” he said. “Given that we only had a 5% survival last year, we think last year’s hatchery fish are going to be very important for the persistence of the run.”

Mr. Smith said that more detailed program information is available at http://cahatcheryreview.com/

They are almost finished with the development of two hatchery genetic management plans, a requirement for the permit with NMFS to raise the fish; they will be available for public review in the next couple of months, he said.

Relationship to Shasta Dam Fish Passage Evaluation

They did reinitiate the captive broodstock program, he said. “Captive broodstock are a form a hatchery production that differ from hatchery programs in one important aspect: essentially fish are held in captivity for their entire life cycle; that means we take juveniles and they never leave the station,” he said. “A lot of the trout hatcheries do this in order to provide eggs. At Livingston Stone, we actually operated a captive program from about 1999 to 2006. We have had experience with that; we have released from the captive broodstock in the program so we’ve had good experience with this program, so that’s why we decided to reinitiate it last year for several different reasons.”

This year, about 1000 fish were held back, about 3 per family group in order to get maximum diversity; they will be reared at the hatchery for 2 to 3 years. “We’re hoping that will produce about 250 males and 250 females,” he said. “We’ll spawn those as adults; those will produce eggs and juveniles, and the eggs and juveniles and possibly some of the adults can be used for the fish passage program evaluation.”

The primary purpose of the captive broodstock program is protection of the existing run. “If it turns out in 3 to 5 years that we end up with another year class failure, we may take some of these fish from the captive broodstock program and release them downriver if that’s what fishery agencies think we need to do,” he said. “These fish will be available as a source for reintroductions above Shasta Dam, and also the source for reintroduction back into Battle Creek, another reintroduction program going on.

Another issue is if adult Chinook salmon are released above Shasta Dam, it is a concern for fish health at the Livingston Stone hatchery. “Adult Chinook salmon can carry diseases that don’t actually kill the adult,” he said. “Those diseases can be released into the water after the adult has spawned and died, so if those diseases get into the hatchery water supply, we can lose all of our juvenile fish. So it would require a water treatment facility to be built to protect the hatchery from disease in the water supply.”

He said a contractor has been hired to develop a technical memo of various water treatment alternatives that will help in the decision making process.

A webinar participant asked for more information on the Battle Creek reintroduction. Mr. Smith said the recovery plan identifies three populations necessary for considering the population as recovered under the ESA: above Shasta Dam, below Shasta Dam, and Battle Creek. “The long term intent is to have separate populations built up that will protect the run,” he said. “There is a reintroduction plan being developed. It’s a little less complex in Battle Creek, because the fish can swim up there and spawn. We are planning at this point to utilize fish from Livingston Stone in order to accelerate the program. We’ve been monitoring there for a number of years with the existing population in the mainstem and we don’t see hardly any winter run go there, so the agencies are pretty well in agreement that we need to utilize a hatchery program to accelerate that as they don’t seem to be straying into Battle Creek on their own.”

Juvenile Fish Collection Facility Conceptual Designs

Stefan Lorenzato with the Department of Water Resources then discussed the concepts for the facilities that would be used to move fish around during the pilot project.

He began by acknowledging that Shasta Lake has complicated flow patterns, so there isn’t a lot of confidence that the fish will show up at the dam. “We’re thinking that in order to ensure that we can move fish out of the reservoir, we’re going to have to collect fish as they come into the reservoir at the bottom of the tributaries where they slow down into the lake,” he said. “We’re thinking that because we don’t exactly know how the fish are going to behave, that we’ll have to do that in a way is pretty comprehensive and catches the whole population coming down. That’s a rather different approach then most of the fish collection facilities that we’ve used in the past in the state, which have been designed to collect a sample of the population rather than the entire population.”

Mr. Lorenzato said that his staff has spent the last few years looking at different technologies used in conjunction with the fish passage efforts in the Pacific Northwest.   “Our conclusion at this point is that most of those technologies gives us some useful information, but they aren’t a specific model that we can just duplicate here, mainly because the reservoir has a lot of unique characteristics relative to the river systems in the Pacific Northwest on the Columbia system and some of the other rivers up there.”

A technical workgroup has been established with people from the Pacific Northwest and other parts of the country to help develop a system; they held a workshop onsite on the McCloud River. They are only looking at the McCloud River at this time; they will look at the other rivers after they have successfully implemented a system on the McCloud.

The workgroup has been developing two different systems: one that would be placed in the stream channel itself, and one that would be placed in the lake just downstream of the river.

Shasta Dam FP_Page_49He presented a conceptual drawing for the instream collector. “We have a fairly wide flow range that we have to be collecting during, and the outmigrating period for these fish is extended, which means there is an extended hydrology or water flow pattern that we have to be able to cope with,” he said. “That also means that we have to be able to manage debris that is floating down the river and keep it from coming into our trapping system and either breaking it down or clogging it up, or hurting the fish, so both the in river and head of reservoir options include a debris boom to try to and capture and manage debris that is coming downstream.”

With the in-river system, we’re trying to catch our fish moving anywhere in the stream system moving downstream so we have to have something that goes all the way across the river,” Mr. Lorenzato said. “To do that, we’re thinking right now that we’ll use some inflatable bladders that have a fish screen mounted on the upstream side of them. The bladders will anchor the screens so that we don’t have to drill into the bed of the river.”

The screens will direct the fish down into a collection facility,” he continued. “We have to have screens in the collection facility, separate from any of the bladders, to make sure that we have fish moving through and into our collection facility. Those have to be fairly large screens in order to ensure that we don’t have too much flow coming through the screen and basically pinning the fish against the screen, so we have to have a large surface area in order to minimize the amount of force that the fish are experiencing against the screen; that is why we have this W-shaped screen set up on this drawing is to give us a longer screen surface to work with.”

Once the fish get in there, they will be funneled down there into some chutes that will direct them into the collector,” he said. “The collector has to be positioned so that it keeps the fish safe and in cool water and away from predators while we’re collecting them. Then from there we’ll collect the fish and move them into some kind of a transport vehicle.”

The system has to be operated over an extended period of outmigration, he said. “This particular system may not be able to be in the river over that entire period because if the flows come up too high, this kind of a system can’t be sustained in the higher flows,” he said. “The McCloud River has a pretty broad range of flows from just a few hundered cfs up to about 30,000 cfs and we haven’t been able to figure out how to do a temporary system like this that would be able to sustain those higher flows and not hurt fish. We’re anticipating having something that can be removed quickly from the river, so as we project a big storm event or big flow coming in, that we would take it out of the river and let the river flow naturally during the big event and put it back as the flows tailed off.”

This would be a temporary, pilot-scale, removable facility that would be able to operate up to 500 cfs; higher than that, it would need to be removed from the river.

Mr. Lorenzato said that based on their anticipated flow regimes, they should be able to capture a good percentage of the population even being limited to 500 cfs. “That time period for the higher flows is relatively short within the whole outmigration calendar, but they are important periods for us to manage because we’re not sure how many fish would be moving in those high flows,” he said. “There’s some evidence that fish actually wait until the high flows to start moving, so we have to have another system in place to try and backup this system when this is not operative.”

Shasta Dam FP_Page_50He then presented a conceptual diagram of the head of reservoir concept, noting that there’s a debris boom to keep debris off the collector. “The collector is basically a floating deck or a small barge that has the collection tank mounted in it,” he said. “Then we use guidenets to direct the fish into the collection tank. We may need to have both guidenets and a temperature curtain.  A temperature curtain is a solid fabric that is laid down underneath the surface down to the bottom or at least weighted down so it directs cooler water up into the trapping area.”

Shasta Dam FP_Page_51The temperature curtain is needed because the temperature gradients in the Shasta Lake in the McCloud branch during the fall are too hot for the fish. “So we may need some way of insuring that we can get cold enough water into the trap to make sure we don’t harm the fish while we’re trapping them,” he said. “What the temperature curtain is designed to do is reach down and pull some of that colder water from the bottom up to the trap to make sure we have cold water.”

Shasta Dam FP_Page_52He then presented more detailed drawings of the head of reservoir collector. “It’s a cage or a box mounted on a floating dock or small barge that’s anchored to the shore,” he said. “We expect to be able to move this back and forth in the reservoir to accommodate elevation shifts in the reservoir that may occur with the flow into the reservoir. It would be positioned and stay in position over fairly wide flow ranges, but as the reservoir rises or falls it would be repositioned to stay in the same relative position to the tributary. We’d have to establish some anchor points on the shore to make sure we can keep it stable and in place and have the curtains and guidenets work properly.”

Pilot Implementation Plan and Environmental Assessment

Stephanie Theis with MWH then described the implementation plan and environmental assessment currently being prepared.  The intent was to start the pilot program in 2015, but with winter-run Chinook population decreasing and the captive broodstock program being initiated, the decision was made to limit the pilot implementation plan to focus on the fish reintroduction itself, so they created a pre-implementation work plan, she said. “That allows the pilot program itself to focus on fish reintroduction studies. It also allows the whole pilot program to continue to move forward until the captive broodstock is available, and it allows the technology workers to work on the collection facility design and to conduct some other studies.”

Work plans in the pre-implementation workplan include the resident fish health study, hydrology studies in the reservoir, water quality sampling, site refinements for the release and collection locations, and transportation logistics, she said.

The purpose of the pilot implementation plan is to work towards the objectives that were assigned in the NMFS RPA: to ultimately test the method, the collection facilities, and also to identify the best release and collection locations and to determine whether or not the benefits of the reintroduction outweigh the risks of the reintroduction. The benefits include abundance, productivity, spatial structure, and diversity; the risks include evolutionary, demographic, ecological, and disease.   “Ultimately it’s assigned studies that determine whether or not a long-term reintroduction is feasible,” Ms. Theis said.

The pilot implementation plan separates the pilot program into three year study. It includes engineering options for upstream and downstream passage, it identifies key questions and objectives for each year and for each life stage, it describes the pilot studies or monitoring plan and gives a program timeline.

She then discussed the general plan for each of the three years:

Implementation Plan, Year 1

Shasta Dam FP_Page_59In the first year, they will focus on the fry and juveniles because they won’t know until later in the year if fish will be available for the pilot program. Key questions identified, focusing first on what the recovery efficiency will be of the collection, the best location and method for collecting those fish; and the transportation method and release location.

Shasta Dam FP_Page_60Given the fish haven’t been in the river in a long time, we don’t know what the timing of migration going to be,” she said. “Are they going to stay longer than they would in the lower Sacramento? What are their growth rates and how are they going to distribute in the rivers? and is their survival rate going to be higher up above? How are they going to interact with the resident fish? And the smolt to female ratio.”

Ms. Theis said the bottom picture is just an example of how they might put the fish in the river. Snorkel surveys are likely to be conducted, and tags will be needed for the fish.

Implementation Plan, Year 2

Shasta Dam FP_Page_61In the second year, they are anticipating being able to include eggs if available, but will carry forward the studies with fry and juvenile, but adjusted based on outcomes from year 1 studies. Additional questions focus on the best way to transplant eggs, where to place them, and the survival rate.

Shasta Dam FP_Page_62She then presented a diagram of an instream incubation system being used at Klamath Falls on Cricket Creek. “It’s a pretty interesting system, so that’s an option we might be able to use for instream incubation,” she said.

Implementation Plan, Year 3

Shasta Dam FP_Page_63In year 3, fry and juveniles continue, eggs continue, and if available, adults from the Sacramento River will be used. “Captive broodstock would not be used as adult hatchery raised fish adults don’t tend to react the same in river,” she said.

The questions carried forward for adults that are important to know are what the pre-spawn mortality rates are, release locations, recruit ratios, where are the holding and spawning habitat, and how the fish are responding.

Environmental assessment

Shasta Dam FP_Page_65An environmental assessment currently being prepared to evaluate the impacts of implementing the pilot program itself on the resident fishery, recreation, water quality, and cultural resources. “We have two alternatives that we’re looking at,” she said. “One is if the fish are introduced into the McCloud River and the Sacramento River at the same time in the same year, the second alternative is if the fish are put into the McCloud River in one year and Sacramento River in a different year.”

The document is still in progress, but can’t be completed until the designs of the collection facilities are final and the locations selected, so once those are finished, the environmental assessment will be completed.

Project Timeline, Schedule, and Stakeholder Engagement

John Hannon with the Bureau of Reclamation then discussed the project timeline and schedule.

In 2013 and 2014, the habitat assessment was completed. Also during that time, an agency draft implementation plan and EA was circulated which is currently being updated. NMFS has also started looking into the experimental population designation.

Looking to the future, the pilot implementation plan and the environmental assessment should be out by the end of the year, as well as the fish health study. The captive broodstock HGMP (Hatchery Genetic Management Plan) should be finished towards the end of this year; NMFS will then prepare a biological opinion.

The juvenile collection facility designs should be ready in early 2016, as well as the experimental population and a separate environmental assessment to go along with that. The juvenile collection devices would be installed and the first fish released in the summer of 2017. After that, there would be annual reports beginning in 2018.

The RPA talks about a comprehensive fish passage report to make an assessment of the feasibility,” Mr. Hannon said. “The RPA specifies three years that would come out, so it’s going to be a learning process as we go, and we’ll see where we’re at at the end of three years of pilot studies.”

After the Pilot Plan EA is released, there is a plan to hold public meetings on the release of the document to receive feedback and input from landowners and stakeholders. The program anticipates continuing to have ongoing meetings with stakeholders, landowners, and other interested parties as needed and as requested, and then as part of the annual course of findings, the program anticipates holding annual meetings to provide updates on how activities are progressing, and also gather input from stakeholders.

For more information …

Photograph of McCloud River by flickr photographer Toshlmasa Ishlbashl

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