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Discussion Starter #1
Friends of the Cowlitz n(FOC) have supported and are proceeding to raise funds to support a genetics study to determine whether a native strain of steelhead exist on the Cowlitz river. This will be a multi-year study to disprove the existance of a native strain of steelhead and confirm the absence of a true native genetic strain specific to the Cowlitz river.

Purpose is to provide best available science to present to Tacoma Public Utilities and WDFW to counter findings in their approved Habitat Management Plan prepared by Tacoma Public Utilities and reopen the plan for amendment on such things as run time, escapement and up river enhancement for steelhead and salmon. From the surface, this appears to be a worthy effort to bring to the regulators new information to augment their data.

I to was initially in favor of this study without realizing the position of the Federal agencies and ESA implications. The NOAA Fisheries and National Marine Fisheries position on ESA listed species is to protect the "take" of a listed species. These federal agencies appear only to recognize a native fish as an umarked fish, i.e. presence of adipose and ventral fins, within a specific river system. Genetics has not always been considered in protective measures to determine candidate and listed species.

My questioning this study is based upon knowledge that FOC and WDFW hatcheries are releasing unclipped smolt to many small tributaries and main stem of the Cowlitz river. These fish include salmon and steelhead alike. As these Coho and steelhead return to the river system and are identified in the genetics study, could this have an adverse impact to the FOC purpose. Moreover, what about the unclipped Snake river steelhead that move into the lower Cowlitz in August before finishing there migration up the Columbia, and the few native Chum salmon that appear sparatically in the Cowlitz River.

The genetics study could capture one or several of these species and then present this information to Federal agencies. If so could this trigger even further restrictions to the Cowlitz not invoked by the current Habitat Management Plan, like what is now in effect on the Skagit River system, including seasonal motorized boat restrictions in specific areas of the river, barbless hooks, and catch and release only or even worse closure of the fishery during specific runtimes.

IMO the position of the Federal agencies tasked with implementing and enforcing the ESA act should be consulted as to their position on determination of a native fish and the role genetics plays in their determination. It appears that this genetics study, while with the best of intentions, could adversely impact the Cowlitz fishery even more due to ESA regulations. Would FOC efforts be better focused upon insuring the recommendations of the current Habitat Management Plan to insure upgrading existing hatcheries, maintaining escapement numbers, and enforcing an already approved plan.

I due support the FOC raising and releasing Coho and Steelhead into the Cowlitz River system. But if they recieve there eggs from the hatchery shouldn't the fish be marked before release. As well, all smolt released from the hatcheries should be marked, as well.

MOre information will be presented at a special meeting to be held Thursday night 2/28 at Spiffys Resturant at 6:30 PM. This meeting is sponsored by the Washington Sport Fishing Association, i.e. former Guides Association.
 

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Definately going to be interesting to see where this goes! i'm just curious how tacoma is going to use the results of this...
 

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it was my understanding that tac. power wanted to prove that there was a native run left in the cowlitz so they could cut back on hatchery production to protect them. i think f.o.c. should prove that there isnt a native strain left so tac. power will have to live up to there obligations with hatchery production. when the dams were built on the cowlitz it pretty much spelled the demise of any native fish surviving. tacoma power should be responsible for keeping fish in that river regardless of what the findings are.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
The data referenced by Tacoma Power regarding genetics was as study dating back to the early 1980's. At that time the probability of a specific native strain was below 1%. FOC's intentions are to establish that this percentage is much lower or non-existent. A noble cause. But if the data presents other listed species in the Cowlitz river including Snake River Steelhead, Columbia River Coho, chum salmon and now unmarked hatchery steelhead and coho, the Federal NOAA Fisheries and Federal Fish and Wildlife agencies could then invoke stricter restrictions on the Cowlitz River to protect these species under the Endangered Species Act.

My point is that FOC should investigate the probability of invoking further ESA restriction as a result of this genetics study. Could this not back fire and result in greater restrictions and impacts to this fishery.
 

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My question is this, where did you obtain your knowledge that the FOC was not fin clipping the smolt? Would it be from the same info pool that I have sat in meetings with you and was told that the FOC was the next best thing since peanut butter if so it appears that the info pool is very unreliable since it has been stated at many meetings that we the fisherpeople should help the FOC in feeding these smolt, taking care of the net pens and oh yes clipping these fish before they are released. Maybe the old timers ie FOC jsut don't have the energy anymore to clip these fish. In conclusion if we attend this special meeting are we going to get reliable information or just a bunch of propaganda.

Freedrifter this reply is in know way questioning you as a person just my opinion.
 

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There are native steelhead in the Cowlitz. If a study is done they will find it to be true and then we will see what ESA or Tacoma will do with the Cowlitz after the study.
 

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It doesn't matter if there are native steelhead in the Cowlitz or if they're actually wild. The ESA treats them the same.

The unknown is what the information will do to future fishing opportunities.
 

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Red Neckersom said:
There are native steelhead in the Cowlitz. If a study is done they will find it to be true and then we will see what ESA or Tacoma will do with the Cowlitz after the study.
if thats the case, i think the aftermath woul'dnt be good. i did catch one unclipped fish last summer. it was my understanding the cowlitz never had a natural summerrun of steelhead. maybe i'm wrong? but thats the only unclipped steelhead i've ever caught in there. i would just like to see tac. power keep the river as good as it has been. i think if they find there are nates it would'nt be good for the sportsman.
 

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It has been in my past experience that if Tacoma Power can find a way out of spending money or exerting any EXTRA energy in general.... they're going too-
 

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I spoke with freedrifter for an hour on this its a very bad idea, there is no upside for the fisherman IMO. The downside is very clear ESA could and will come in and put restrictions on the Cowlitz. One should asked oneself what does the FOC have to gain by doing this study? It makes more sence to make Tacoma Power live up to the mandates they already have written and are not living up to. I am very cofused with the FOC as to whats in it for them this is the same group that started a law suit to block the rebuilding of the Blue Creek Hatchery 4 to 5 years back. This hatchery is so out dated I wonder how many people that fish new this, all the rearing pens are linked together so if one has a disease all the others will get the same. The proposal to fix this problem by making the pens seperate from one another which would allow more smolt release even if one pen had a kill it would not effect the rest therefore better returns this was blocked by the FOC go figure. This summer run season will be a good indicator this will be the first season there was no smolt kill and TAC Power release 600,000 smolt if we get the average 1 to 1.5 % return d o the math 6000 to 9000 return far better than the last couple of years return after kills at the hatchery. We stand to lose all of this or a good portion if they find one so called NATURAL OR NATIVE fish IMO.
 

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I think you may be right Doublehooks!

Here is the FOC website with the WDFW proposal.

http://www.friendsofthecowlitz.org/wdfw ... oposal.htm

Here are the three possible outcomes from the bottom of the document. Note that both potential outcomes listed as 1 and 2 could be used by Tacoma as a reason to decrease the amount of their required mitigation of hatchery plants, or at the very least, make sure the discontinued recycling is never re-implimented.

MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS

WDFW believes it is important to understand the genetic composition of various hatchery origin and natural spawning populations in the Cowlitz River System in order to better manage the hatchery production and fishery harvest. We believe that it is important to look at several different genetic metrics and perspectives that elucidate the degree of distinction (and conversely relatedness) of existing steelhead stocks found in the lower Cowlitz River system - hatchery production, natural production, and out-of-basin strays.

Results from the genetic study are expected to provide a basis for any management actions needed to assist recovery of natural Lower Cowlitz steelhead populations. A variety of possible outcomes from the genetic analysis can be anticipated. Three possible results scenarios and projected management responses are outlined below. These are only given as examples and we do not assume that they model the most likely outcomes.

Potential Outcome 1. All natural populations sampled are significantly genetically distinct from hatchery broodstocks and show little evidence of hatchery stock introgression.

Management response:
Assume any straying hatchery steelhead do not interbreed successfully (i.e. do not produce adult offspring) and that natural populations are capable of maintaining at least a minimum level of sustainability. Through field studies investigate actual straying levels and reproductive behavior of strays. Sample subyearling offspring to determine whether strays produce juveniles. Determine whether any juvenile production poses ecological risks to steelhead or other listed species recovery. If significant risks are present, modify appropriate hatchery production program(s) to substantially reduce these risks. Modifications could include a variety of actions, such as altering release protocols, reducing hatchery stock production, increasing hatchery fish harvest, targeted in-stream strays removal.

Potential Outcome 2. All natural populations sampled are moderately genetically distinct from hatchery broodstocks and show intermediate levels of hatchery stock introgression.

Management response:
Assume straying hatchery steelhead do interbreed successfully with native populations and have an annual production contribution dependent on abundance. Assume that native gene pools are present but at diminished natural production capacity. Through field studies investigate actual straying levels and reproductive behavior of strays. Sample subyearling offspring to determine the magnitude of interbreeding. Modify appropriate hatchery production program(s) to substantially reduce the straying behavior or proportion of strays. Modifications could include a variety of actions, such as altering release protocols, reducing hatchery stock production, increasing hatchery fish harvest, targeted in-stream strays removal. Monitor natural populations to evaluate genetic change in response to reduction of hatchery fish interbreeding.

Potential Outcome 3. All natural populations sampled are not genetically distinct from hatchery broodstocks and are likely offspring from hatchery broodstocks.

Management response:
Assume native populations are extinct in the sampled drainages. Through field studies investigate annual straying levels of first generation hatchery fish and reproductive behavior of strays. Determine whether existing naturally spawning populations are self-sustaining. Assess whether a restoration strategy using a local, native population is possible and feasible. A restoration strategy may require modifications of hatchery production activities.
 

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Doublehooks said:
I spoke with freedrifter for an hour on this its a very bad idea, there is no upside for the fisherman IMO. The downside is very clear ESA could and will come in and put restrictions on the Cowlitz. One should asked oneself what does the FOC have to gain by doing this study? It makes more sence to make Tacoma Power live up to the mandates they already have written and are not living up to. I am very cofused with the FOC as to whats in it for them this is the same group that started a law suit to block the rebuilding of the Blue Creek Hatchery 4 to 5 years back. This hatchery is so out dated I wonder how many people that fish new this, all the rearing pens are linked together so if one has a disease all the others will get the same. The proposal to fix this problem by making the pens seperate from one another which would allow more smolt release even if one pen had a kill it would not effect the rest therefore better returns this was blocked by the FOC go figure. This summer run season will be a good indicator this will be the first season there was no smolt kill and TAC Power release 600,000 smolt if we get the average 1 to 1.5 % return d o the math 6000 to 9000 return far better than the last couple of years return after kills at the hatchery. We stand to lose all of this or a good portion if they find one so called NATURAL OR NATIVE fish IMO.
Where in the world are some of you getting your misinformation from…Tacoma?

This is really funny! The last time that heard (the meeting with Gary Loomis and the sport fishing guides) in Chehalis, the "guides" supported this genetic testing proposed by the FOC. So what had made them change there minds now?

When we hear there answer, we can then discuss that, but they need to tell us why they don't want to support testing now. I wish that some of the people here who have commented about this genetic study knew what they are talking about. The Settlement Agreement (SA) states that the hatchery must put there rearing priority on listed fish first.

DA!!!!!

So how do we tell witch specie is hatchery stock, "wild stock", or native stocks? For some unknown reason, I have heard that Loomis does not want this testing to occur. Why on earth would he want that? Before any of you decide one way or the other, you really do need to read the SA and the Biological Opinion before you believe any of us. Most, if not all of the people who have made comment to this thread here has done neither.

What's even funnier is that WDFW has already done much, if not all, of its own genetic work already on all the LCR on these steelhead stocks. Much of that work had came from my own testimony from a couple of years ago where I had put Director Koenings on the spot at a commissioners meetings concerning wild steelhead stocks being taken in the Columbia River gill net fishery and how they related to recovery efforts on the Cowlitz.
 

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Well About the fin clipping WDFW admits they only clip something like 75% on salmon , and they are working toward 100% , The funny thing is Habitat is gone it aint coming back , And it's going to be hatcheries or no fish period ,
 

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Discussion Starter #14
The WDFW has completed genetics studies in the past on the Cowlitz. This information was discussed in the TPU habitat management plan submitted and approved by WDFW and FERC as a condition of relicensing the dams. While the findings of this old genetic study has recieved criticism it was used to promote the sustainability of the late winter run steelhead on the Cowlitz River. It certainly appears that all current hatchery management on the lower river is focused on sustainability of this specific run.

This new FOC genetics study appeared to be aimed at two points either disproving this original study or identifying a specific strain of steelhead indigeious to the Cowlitz river for up river enhancement. If a true indigenious steelhead strain was found it was to be protected and managed to sustainable levels. IMO this river has been influenced by hatchery supplementing both summer and winter steelhead of many different river systems in the past, that the presence of a true indigenious Cowlitz steelhead is doubtful. With that said, disproving the orignial study or confirming that we have a mix of steelhead species returning to the Cowlitz will not change the fact that the Habitat Management Plan has been approved at the Local, State and Federal levels. Again IMO, it is highly doubtful that these agencies will reopen this document for amendment or alteration of any kind given the money spent to develop this plan. This would cost TPU an extensive amount of money and staff time, not to mention the public criticism. IMO, they would fight this, as they have in the past, just to save face.

In my past experience with permitting through Federal NOAA fisheries and USFWS as part of the ESA act, the identification of a protected fishery deals with return number only and not specific genetics. While WDFW may be interested in genetic information where it can affordably obtain this data, it is not the only indicator to list a run of fish. Why not spend our time and effort to enforce the current habitat mangement plan with completing uprades to the hatecheries, which the design and funding has been in place now for several years, insuring the escapement numbers and runtimes are consistent with the plan, maintaining the recycling program, and then focus on developing a better method of capturing the up river smolt above Cowlitz Falls. Why further deplete the steelhead runs to levels that could trigger the ESA listing of this species.

I am not convinced that the efforts of this genetics study will improve the sportsfisherman's postion in any way. According to TPU, WDFW and FERC we the public have had our say on this Plan, regardless of our personal opinions on public notice, closed meetings, ect. Now it is time to work the plan and we should focus our efforts toward insuring this plan is implemented.
 
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