Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Courts Rule on McKenzie Chinook

Spring chinook salmon at Trail Creek Dam on the McKenzie River. (Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard)
Judge declines to limit chinook salmon release into McKenzie River
State must set a deadline for when it will reduce the releases

Original article:
By Christian Hill
The Register-Guard
March 18, 2015

U.S. Magistrate Judge Tom Coffin ruled that the wildlife agency is complying with adopted plans intended to reduce harm to wild salmon and therefore can’t be held liable for an illegal “take” under the Endangered Species Act.

The aim of the hatchery program is to offset the loss of salmon spawning habitat due to the construction and operation of the corps’ flood-control dams farther up the basin.

State and federal agencies had proposed constructing a sorting facility at Leaburg Dam to prevent hatchery fish from getting upstream into wild salmon territory and spawning there, but the plan was abandoned.

Coffin wrote that all state and federal agencies involved in hatchery operations generally agree getting the proportion of hatchery salmon sprawning upriver to 10 percent or less is “an appropriate and necessary goal to avoid harm” to the wild chinook salmon.

The proportion of hatchery fish spawning upriver has averaged about 34 percent over the past 12 years, the state wildlife agency reported in court documents.

Dave Thomas, a member of McKenzie Flyfishers and a biologist, said he was satisfied with the decision. “We didn’t get everything we asked for,” he said. “But we now have all the parties agreeing the fisheries need to be managed for the conservation of these wild fish, which has not been the case in the past."