Programs & Activities: Fish and Wildlife
The Pacific Northwest Region is involved in a variety of fish and wildlife programs, through a number of different programs. Staff members are involved in several anadromous fish initiatives, from cooperative watershed planning to the design and installation of fish passage devices. Working in concert with the Northwest Power Planning Council's "Strategy for Salmon," Reclamation is participating with state and local interests in water conservation demonstration projects and model watershed programs in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.
Reclamation works with a variety of local partners to manage wildlife areas, sometimes developed as mitigation for its dams.
Reclamation and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game established the Tex Creek Wildlife Area above Ririe Reservoir in Idaho to replace wildlife habitat lost to construction of Ririe and Teton dams. The two agencies combined public and private land in the Tex Creek area creating a wildlife reserve of about 15,000 acres.
Through an agreement with Reclamation, the Corps also transferred an area about six miles west of Rexburg to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, for establishment of the Cartier Slough Wildlife Area.
Bull Trout Activities
The Pacific Northwest Region consults with the NOAA Fisheries and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that project operations and other activities do not jeopardize ESA-listed species or their critical habitats. Reclamation also enters into partnerships with Federal, state, and local partners and with Tribes to study the needs of threatened and endangered species and to cooperate in habitat restoration projects.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the bull trout as a threatened species in the Columbia Basin in 1998. Barriers (such as dams) to habitat and spawning migrations are contributors to the decline in bull trout populations, although they are not the only contributing factor. Seasonal movements of these fish associated with Reclamation facilities are being studied, as habitat preferences and locations.
Reclamation is involved in cooperative research activities that may relate how operations affect bull trout. Study goals for bull trout are to:
- determine selected life history characteristics;
- determine/monitor the abundance of bull trout;
- provide basin area groups with population and life history information to guide bull trout recovery; and
- provide baseline information on bull trout populations for long term monitoring.
Columbia/Snake River Salmon and Steelhead
Over the past century salmon have dwindled in numbers to the point that most runs are now protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Recovery of the listed species is overseen by the NOAA Fisheries. The causes for the decline include over-harvest, dams blocking access to significant portions of the basin, alteration of spawning habitat, pollution, predators, hydroelectric dams impeding the migration of the fish, and genetic interference by weak strains of introduced hatchery fish.
The Bureau of Reclamation manages many water projects in the Columbia River basin and has been designated an "action agency" along with the Bonneville Power Administration and the US Army Corp of Engineers. As directed in the ESA, these action agencies have consulted with NOAA Fisheries on the management of the Federal Columbia River Power System.
Biological Opinions issued in 2000, 1995, and 1994 directed the action agencies to conduct studies, alter operations, modify structures, provide supplemental water to assist migrating fish, and participate in the recovery activities.
In addition to work at its own facilities, Reclamation has been participating with the Bonneville Power Administration and the Northwest Power Planning Council in a program to update irrigation diversion screens at various locations within the basin. These screens have greatly improved the ability for migrating juvenile salmon to survive their long journey to the ocean.