Federal Columbia River Power System Mitigation Actions
The FCRPS Biological Opinion requires the three FCRPS Action Agencies (Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration, and the Bureau of Reclamation) to implement a series of mitigation measures (also called Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives) to address the effects of the FCRPS on fish species protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The FCRPS Biological Opinion requires the three FCRPS Action Agencies (Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration, and the Bureau of Reclamation) to implement a series of mitigation measures (also called Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives) to address the effects of the FCRPS on fish species protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These mitigation measures include hatchery, habitat, harvest, and predation measures.
Hatcheries are one tool to help support wild stocks and provide fish for harvest, so long as hatchery fish are managed in the context of our overall goals for ESA-listed fish. Today, there are about 200 salmon hatchery programs in the Columbia River Basin, and 80 percent of the salmon and steelhead that return as adults were hatched and reared in hatcheries.
Under the FCRPS Biological Opinion’s Reasonable and Prudent Alternative, actions focus on reforming existing hatcheries and reducing effects on wild salmon and steelhead. While there are no quantified survival benefits expected from hatchery actions, important qualitative improvements are anticipated. Performance standards in this area will track progress of competing hatchery projects.
Hatcheries can help prevent extinction and preserve the genetic integrity of endangered salmon and steelhead species. For example, in the Columbia Basin, hatcheries serve this role for Snake River sockeye salmon.
Hatcheries are one tool to help recover endangered and threatened salmon and steelhead. Under the “supplementation” strategy in the FCRPS Biological Opinion, best management practices are designed so that the new hatchery stocks will help promote recovery of ESA-listed fish.
The FCRPS Reasonable and Prudent Alternative includes an aggressive program of actions to improve tributary habitat limiting factors and attain population survival improvement targets. Tributary habitat actions are typically geared to improving spawning and rearing habitat, providing habitat access, and enhancing in-stream flows.
Estuary habitat actions are also being implemented with a goal of improving survival for all fish populations. Estuary actions include protecting and restoring riparian and off-channel habitat, reconnecting flood plains, increasing fish access to productive habitat, and reducing predation.
The states and tribes agreed to a harvest plan under United States v. Oregon that manages treaty and non-treaty salmon harvests in the Columbia River. The harvest plan provides opportunities for the tribes to fish, consistent with their treaty rights. The harvest plan also provides non-treaty tribal fisheries and state fisheries with a fair allocation that is consistent with the requirements of the ESA. The plan allows harvest to vary depending on the abundance of salmon. Harvest is reduced when runs are down and the conservation need is greatest, but may increase when runs are strong. The underlying analysis of the FCRPS Biological Opinion reflects the United States v. Oregon Agreement.
The FCRPS Action Agencies have limited authority regarding harvest, but a few harvest-related actions are included that will directly or indirectly reduce take of ESA-listed species in the near term, and advance harvest reforms for application over the long term.
The FCRPS Reasonable and Prudent Alternative includes expanded efforts to reduce losses of juvenile and adult fish from predation by birds, other fish, and marine mammals. Birds, fish, and marine mammal predation are a major cause of mortality for ESA-listed juvenile and adult fish in the Columbia River Basin.
Populations of Caspian terns and double-crested cormorants have increased over the past two decades in the Columbia River estuary and in the mid-Columbia region. Northern pikeminnow and bass also prey on juvenile salmon and steelhead. California sea lions and Steller sea lions consume substantial numbers of adult spring Chinook salmon, sturgeon, and winter-run steelhead below Bonneville Dam. Performance standards for predation activities are 1.7% survival improvement for fall-run Chinook salmon, 3.1% survival improvement for other Chinook salmon, and 4.4% survival improvement for steelhead.
For more information on how the FCRPS Action Agencies are implementing these actions, visit www.salmonrecovery.gov.
For more information about the FCRPS Biological Opinion, visit the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) Biological Opinion web page.