Consultation on the Willamette River Basin Flood Control Project
Endangered Species Act Section 7(a)(2) Consultation Biological Opinion & Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation & Management Act Essential Fish Habitat Consultation
This Biological Opinion (Opinion) is the result of an interagency consultation under Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on the effects of the configuration, operations, and maintenance of the Willamette Valley Project (Willamette Project) on 13 listed species of Pacific salmon and steelhead, North American green sturgeon of the Southern DPS, and Southern Resident killer whale DPS. There are three Federal Action Agencies in this consultation because each plays a role in the Willamette Project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) operates and maintains the 13 multipurpose dams and maintains about 43 miles of revetments in the upper Willamette basin; Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) markets power generated at some of the Willamette Project dams; and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) sells a portion of the water stored in Project reservoirs for irrigation purposes.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is responsible for administration of the ESA with respect to anadromous salmonids, green sturgeon, and killer whales. Section 7(a)(2) of the ESA requires Federal agencies to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or adversely modify designated critical habitat. To “jeopardize the continued existence of” means to engage in an action that reasonably is expected, directly or indirectly, to reduce appreciably the likelihood of both the survival and recovery of a listed species in the wild, by reducing the reproduction, numbers, or distribution of that species (50 CFR §402.02).
The Action Agencies submitted a Biological Assessment (BA) (USACE 2000) to NMFS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS, and collectively with NMFS, the Services) on April 26, 2000, and a Supplemental Biological Assessment (Supplemental BA) (USACE 2007a) on May 31, 2007, requesting consultation on the effects of the Willamette Project on species listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA, and on their critical habitat. The Action Agencies’ Proposed Action consists of the continued operation and maintenance of the Willamette Project, which provides flood control, hydropower generation, water quality, water for irrigation, and other project purposes, including fisheries conservation and recreation. As part of the Proposed Action, the Action Agencies propose to reduce adverse effects on ESA-listed species by releasing minimum flows and reducing Project ramping in tributaries below dams; maintaining minimum flows in the mainstem Willamette River; constructing, operating, and maintaining fish collection and passage facilities at priority sites above and below Project dams; operating, improving, and maintaining Project hatcheries; and carrying out a series of research, monitoring, and evaluation actions to assess the effectiveness of the mitigation measures. The Proposed Action is described in more detail in Section 2 of this document and in the Action Agencies’ BA (USACE 2000) and Supplemental BA (USACE 2007a), which are incorporated herein by reference as the complete version of the proposed action for this consultation.
The objectives of this Opinion are: (1) to determine the effects of the Proposed Action on 13 salmon evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) and steelhead distinct population segment (DPS), as well as the Southern DPS of North American green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris), and Southern Resident killer whales (Orcinus orca), and (2) to determine if the Proposed Action is NMFS Willamette Project Biological Opinion Introduction 1 - 4 July 11, 2008 likely to jeopardize the continued existence of these ESA-listed species under NMFS’ jurisdiction, or adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat for these species. Because there are multiple ESA-listed species are affected by the proposed action, and some of these are under USFWS jurisdiction, the Action Agencies consulted jointly with the Services. However, USFWS and NMFS wrote separate Biological Opinions.
This Opinion and the incidental take statement were prepared by NMFS in accordance with the ESA of 1973 (16 USC 1531 et seq.) and implementing regulations at 50 CFR 402. The analyses in this Opinion are based on NMFS’ review of the best available scientific and commercial information. In this Opinion, NMFS concludes that the Proposed Action is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of Upper Willamette River (UWR) Chinook salmon and UWR steelhead, and to adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat for these species. NMFS also concludes that the Proposed Action is likely to adversely affect, but not likely to jeopardize, the continued existence of the other 11 species of Interior and Lower Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead. Additionally, NMFS concludes that the Proposed Action is not likely to adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat for the ten Interior and Lower Columbia Basin species for which it has been designated. Because the conclusion of this Opinion is that the Proposed Action jeopardizes two of the listed species of salmon and steelhead under NMFS’ authority, NMFS developed and provides a reasonable and prudent alternative (RPA) to ensure their survival with an adequate potential for recovery. NMFS determines that the RPA and Proposed Action combined are not likely to adversely affect the Southern Resident killer whale DPS or the Southern DPS of North American green sturgeon, or to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat designated for the Southern Resident killer whale.
NMFS is also responsible for consultations conducted under Section 305(b) of the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) regarding essential fish habitat (EFH) consultation requirements. Section 305(b)(2) of the MSA requires Federal agencies to consult with NMFS if their actions may adversely affect EFH. Added to this Opinion is NMFS’ assessment of whether the Proposed Action may result in adverse effects on EFH, and EFH conservation recommendations provided under Section 305(b)(4) of the MSA. NMFS prepared the EFH consultation in accordance with Section 305(b) of the MSA (16 USC 1855(b)) and implementing regulations at 50 CFR 600 subpart K.
The administrative records for both the ESA and MSA consultations are on file at NMFS’ Northwest Regional Office in Portland, Oregon.