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September 2006

IN THIS ISSUE

Wild Fish Runs is a bi-monthly publication for Wild Fish Conservancy members and supporters to provide program updates and networking assistance. The Wild Fish Conservancy is a conservation-ecology organization dedicated to the recovery and conservation of the Northwest’s wild-fish ecosystems. Since 1989, the Wild Fish Conservancy has sought to improve conditions for all of the region’s wild fish through science, education and advocacy. The Wild Fish Conservancy is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.


PO Box 402
15629 Main St NE
Duvall, WA 98019

425-788-1167 (Phone)
425-788-9634 (Fax)

 

Want to get more involved? The Wild Fish Conservancy appreciates your support and can use your volunteer help in a number of ways including the annual benefit auction, educational programs, office assistance, staffing booths at public events, and participating in membership campaigns and other special events.  Please contact the office at 425-788-1167 if you would like to volunteer or have an event you would like mentioned in Wild Fish Runs or on the website.


YOU CAN SUPPORT WT EVERYDAY - HERE'S HOW:

PCC Natural Market Scrip Card: WT is excited to announce that you can now support our work to preserve, protect and restore Washington’s wild-fish ecosystems every time you shop at a PCC Natural Market.  WT is now a participating partner in the PCC Scripts program.  This program allows you to purchase a $50.00 PCC Scripts card directly from WT and use it the same as cash at any PCC Natural Market.  WT will then receive 5% of the amount you spend as a donation.  Once you purchase the card from the WT office you can recharge it as many times as you would like at any PCC Market and WT will still receive 5% of every purchase.  For more information or to purchase your PCC Scripts card please contact WT office at 425-788-1167 or via email.

Workplace Giving:  This is also the time of year federal and state employees may designate a portion of their paycheck to Washington Trout.  Workplace rules differ but here are a few ways you may designate dollars to WT;

Washington State Combined Fund Drive (CFD) – If you are a Washington state employee, including City of Seattle employees, you can direct a donation to Washington Trout through the Washington State Combined Fund Drive.  Simply note our organization number: 315054on your payroll deduction form or head to the CFD website by December 31st to set-up giving options for the 2007 fiscal year.  Your monthly donation provides much needed, sustainable and predictable funding for WT’s emergency programs.

United Way It is that time of year again when employees have the option of directing their designating United Way dollars to the nonprofit organizations of their choice.  Many private employers and all Washington state Federal employees use the United Way to distribute donations.  If your employer participates with the United Way we hope you will remember to write in “Washington Trout” in the designated giving section on your donation form. Since Washington Trout is not a United Way member agency, we do not receive any funding from the Community Safety Net fund unless individuals designate their gifts to Washington Trout. If you have any questions, please contact the WT office at 425-788-1167.

Work-Place Giving– If your employer does not participate in the United Way workplace giving program they still may allow you to direct money to the non-profit of your choice.  Companies like Microsoft, REI and many others choose to organize their own employee donation programs where paycheck dollars are directed to non-profit organizations.  Are you unsure of the policies of your employer?  Then contact the appropriate payroll staff and ask about workplace giving and let them know you would like to direct dollars to WT – if the option is not available then talk to your employer about starting one.  It is a wonderful opportunity to showcase your employers dedication to environmental issues!

 

YOU COULD WIN THIS BEAUTIFUL CANOE! 

canoe

Washington Trout is raffling this beautiful 15’, 36” wide Chestnut Canoe, hand built and donated by Bill and Trudy Kindler. This gorgeous boat is hand laid from strips of reclaimed western red cedar, and trimmed in Honduras mahogany, Alaskan yellow cedar, and Peruvian walnut, with natural, hand caned seats, and brass fittings. It comes with two ash paddles hand made by the Shaw and Tenney Company, regarded as the gold standard in canoe paddles.

The boat is valued at over $3,000. Tickets are $5 each or get 5 tickets for only $20 and the drawing will be held on April 2, 2007. All proceeds will support Washington Trout research and conservation initiatives.  Visit the WT web site for more pictures and information at www.washingtontrout.org.


WILD SALMON RECOVERY INITIATIVE

WASHINGTON TROUT HELPS TO DEVELOP CONSERVATION AGENDA FOR PUGET SOUND

Mark Hersh, WT Water-Quality Specialist

Puget Sound is threatened by water pollution, contaminated sediments, and degradation of estuarine and freshwater habitats.  These human-induced problems result in sharp declines in populations of salmon, rockfish, marine birds, and orcas, as well as closures of shellfish bed.

In December of 2005, Governor Christine Gregoire called on the region to come together to protect and restore Puget Sound, one of North America’s most unique and culturally important ecological resources. To this end, the governor formed a public/private group called the Puget Sound Partnership  (www.pugetsoundpartnership.org).  The Partnership is composed of twenty-one representatives of government, Tribal, business, and conservation entities, and they have been charged with developing a plan by the end of 2006 to restore and protect the Sound by 2020. People for Puget Sound represents the conservation community on the Partnership.

In May 2006, Washington Trout began participating on a “caucus” organized and led by PPS to help develop a conservation agenda to present to the Partnership, as well as strategies to achieve that agenda.  The caucus includes People for Puget Sound, the Puget Soundkeepers Alliance, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Washington Trout, and other regional and national conservation organizations.  Of course a healthy Puget Sound will be critical to the meaningful recovery and conservation of Washington’s wild-fish ecosystems, and WT has been advocating for greater use of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Sound itself, as well as stronger controls on stormwater and other measures to better protect rivers and other freshwater habitats associated with Puget Sound.

The Partnership is due to present its final report by November.  Because most evidence indicates that a business-as-usual attitude will result in a future Puget Sound that is more degraded than at present, the opportunity to protect and restore this national treasure is a limited-time opportunity.  Washington Trout hopes that the Partnership assembled by the Governor takes the bold steps necessary to reverse these trends.

 

WASHINGTON TROUT SUBMITS COMMENTS ON WDFW STEELHEAD ASSESSMENT

Ramon Vanden Brulle, WT Communications Director

On September 15, Washington Trout responded to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s request for comments regarding the public review draft of Oncorhynchus mykiss: Assessment of Washington State’s Anadromous Populations and Programs. The “Assessment” was developed by WDFW to create the scientific foundation for revised management plans for steelhead populations throughout the state.

Washington Trout generally supports WDFW’s initiative to develop comprehensive and coordinated steelhead-management plans. The public review draft includes valuable information and frank insight regarding the status of Washington’s wild-steelhead resource, some sources of its decline, and current threats to its conservation and recovery. The impacts and risks of various management programs are in some places frankly discussed. However, Washington Trout expressed concern about several significant weaknesses in the public review draft.

Washington Trout agrees with other reviewers that WDFW’s assessment of the current status of many populations suffers from an inadequate and inaccurate historical perspective, leading it to underestimate the historical abundance, diversity, and spatial structure of some populations, and the potential current capacity of some populations and habitats. These deficiencies will lead the Department to underestimate appropriate abundance and diversity targets required to recover many of Washington's wild steelhead populations. We also agree with some other reviewers that the public review draft is uneven in tone and substance, that it sometimes allows long-held, internal management assumptions and objectives to influence assessments and findings that should more appropriately be based on scientifically objective evidence and procedure, and; that it omits and ignores some available scientific recommendations.

In particular, we found WDFW’s analyses of artificial production largely incomplete and unconvincing. WDFW fails to acknowledge fundamental management failures that should be included in an evaluation of the potential risks and benefits of artificial production. The assessment is dominated by biased assumptions and unsupported assertions. Finally, available scientific information, findings, and recommendations that would tend to undermine WDFW’s analysis and apparent management priorities are all but ignored. We recommended that WDFW significantly revise the public review draft, relying more heavily on the findings and recommendations of the Bonneville Power Administration’s Independent Scientific Advisory Board, NOAA Fisheries’ Salmon Recovery-Science Review Panel, and other independent researchers.

The full text of Washington Trout’s comments are available by clicking here.

HABITAT RESTORATION, RESEARCH, AND PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT


BLACK LAKE DITCH FISH HABITAT ENHANCEMENT PROJECT

Jamie Glasgow, WT Director of Science and Research (Ecology)

 

The Black Lake Ditch is a man-made channel connecting Black Lake to Percival Creek in Olympia.  The ditch, which is co-managed by the City of Olympia and Thurston County, was constructed in 1922 and drains the lake and surrounding wetlands year-round.  It is known to provide habitat for cutthroat trout, chinook salmon, native sculpin and crayfish, and non-native sunfish and bass.  It may also provide habitat for coho salmon and steelhead.black_lake_elj

Because the Black Lake Ditch is a man-made channel, it lacks the instream habitat diversity and complexity that our native fish have come to rely upon. In an effort to address this problem, Washington Trout and the City of Olympia developed a plan to build engineered log jams in the Black Lake Ditch just upstream of the Mottman Road culvert and within the City of Olympia’s Black Lake Meadows regional stormwater treatment wetland facility.  Black Lake Meadows is designed to provide passive recreational opportunities, manage stormwater, and protect fish and wildlife. 

Within the project site, Washington Trout and the City of Olympia have constructed four strategically placed engineered log jams to increase instream habitat complexity in an effort to create and enhance high-flow refuge, summer rearing habitat and predation refuge, trap sediment and scour pools, and trap salmon carcasses to improve retention of marine derived nutrients.  Each structure consists of 4-6 key logs and 5-8 rack logs.  Key logs are discretely anchored using either rock ballast, rock anchors, posts and pins, or through partial burying.  The log jams are closely associated with the stream bed so that they function both at high (winter-spring) flows and summer low flows.

black_lake_crewAs the Black Lake Meadows park is accessed by the general public for passive recreation and birding opportunities, the channel enhancement project has significant public outreach and education opportunities. The project complements the recent replacement of the Mottman Rd culvert (2001) and the City of Olympia’s novel stormwater facility design.  A trail network exists through the park; this trail system will likely be improved and extended within the next five years to provide viewing access to the log jams.  The city of Olympia is currently developing a long-term management plan for the park – this fish habitat enhancement project will be an integral component of the plan, and it is anticipated that interpretive trails and signs will be build along the project reach to illustrate what was done, why, and how.

Funding for the project was provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Community Salmon Fund, and through financial and technical support from the City of Olympia.  All the large woody debris used during the project was provided by the City of Olympia, the result of a nearby road-widening effort.  The project was designed by Washington Trout and Anchor Environmental, L.L.C.; Washington Trout will be monitoring the effectiveness of the log jams over time.


WT EMBARKS ON LONG-TERM STUDY OF ICICLE CREEK

Dr. Elliot Drucker, WT Director of Science and Research (Physiology)

 

 

sept06_iciclehabitatThrough a generous grant from The Icicle Fund, Washington Trout this summer has begun a multi-year research program designed to improve understanding of salmonid habitat use, population structure and population dynamics in the Upper Columbia River Basin.  The project focuses on a major tributary of the Wenatchee River, Icicle Creek, which contains many miles of high-quality rearing and spawning habitat, but also presents a distinctive suite of challenges for trout, salmon and char seeking to utilize these areas.  Both natural and man-made impediments to fish movement within Icicle Creek present a major challenge to both migratory and resident salmonids.  Foremost among these potential barriers is the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, which has blocked returning salmonids from almost 30 miles of near-pristine mainstem and tributary habitat in the upper Icicle Creek basin for over 65 years.

Recent initiatives undertaken by local citizens, Washington Trout, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service have resulted in improved fish passage at the hatchery, a development which inspired WT’s Icicle Creek Project.  The primary research objectives of the project are to characterize the joint processes of wild salmonid recolonization and overall ecological recovery in Icicle Creek, and to describe the structure and population dynamics of the resident fish community of the upper Icicle basin before and after the influence of anadromy is permanently restored.

This June, July and August, WT biologists performed snorkel surveys of nearly 20 miles of mainstem Icicle Creek and its major tributaries to collect baseline data on fish species composition, relative abundance, and distribution within the watershed.  During this time, in collaboration with Dr. Gary Winans of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, WT staff also collected tissue samples from resident rainbow trout in the upper Icicle basin for genetic analyses, and equipped these fish with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags to track their movement through the watershed.

Planned research activities in the coming weeks include a broad-scale snorkel survey of the Icicle Creek headwaters and uppermost tributaries, additional tissue sampling and PIT tagging of resident rainbow trout, and installation of water temperature loggers throughout the basin.  Stream channel morphology and riparian vegetation will be characterized to establish conditions during the first year of restored fish passage at the hatchery.  In addition, salmonid food web dynamics will be explored by collecting data on invertebrate prey abundance and diversity.  In collaboration with Dr. Brian Kennedy of the University of Idaho, WT will collect fish scales, together with samples of Icicle Creek water throughout the basin, and conduct chemical analyses to identify when juvenile and adult fish make use of specific sub-basin areas.

To promote stewardship of Icicle Creek and to inform resource managementsept06_iciclefish actions, Washington Trout will disseminate the results of its ongoing research to both the public and scientific communities.  Learn more about WT’s Icicle Creek Project and meet staff biologists at the 2006 Wenatchee River Salmon Festival from September 28th to October 1st.

 Washington Trout gratefully acknowledges the Icicle Fund’s commitment to environmental stewardship in the Wenatchee River Basin, and its financial support of this research program in the Icicle Creek watershed.


SNORKELING THE CHIWAWA

Brent Trim, WT Field Biologist

chiwaca_habitatWith a quick thumbs up, WT Conservation Biologist Micah Wait and I duck head-first into the frigid waters of the upper Chiwawa River.  It’s no longer summer in the high country of the north eastern Cascades, but not yet autumn, as the first cold snap of late August chilled the air across the state the evening before.  A dusting of fresh snow brightened the high peaks above the Stevens Pass highway.  Having never snorkeled this stretch of river (just downstream from the old mining village of Trinity), not really knowing what to expect, I slowly let my eyes become accustomed to the aquamarine of the deep pool, and try to keep my mind focused on the task at hand, not the aching numbness slowly spreading across my exposed cheekbones, the only part of my body not insulated by a neoprene wetsuit.

Washington Trout is conducting snorkel surveys in the Chiwawa in order to determine its suitability as a reference stream for ongoing research in the Icicle Creek watershed, another major tributary of the Wenatchee River (see WT embarks on long-term study of Icicle Creek;above). Because the Chiwawa has had no historical man-made barriers to fish passage, it could provide valuable comparisons for similar data being collected by WT at Icicle Creek, where a diversion dam at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery has limited fish migration for over 60 years.

Like neon, the glowing white leading edge of a fish’s fin flashes in my peripheral vision.  I turn and squint through my mask into the glacial gloom, as the fin slowly resolves itself into the largest male bull trout I’ve ever encountered face-to-face.   Thirty-one inches of native char turns slowly away, and fins gracefully and with measure toward Micah’s position on the opposite side of the river.  Suddenly I am swirling in the center of a whirlpool of power and color, as other fish emerge from the shaded side of the pool into full sunlight.  Background hues of purple and green, orange streaked fins and underbellies, and a dorsal surface spotted with red, white, and gold are proof enough that our timing for this survey couldn’t have been more ideal.  These fish were staging in the deepest pools of the upper river, preparing to spawn.  Micah and I surface at the same moment, and shoot each other big grins.  I’ve forgotten about the cold water, and the day’s work has just become infinitely interesting!

I turn and glance at the sign embedded in the bluff above the river proclaiming this the “Dolly Pool.”  Obviously, local fishermen had known about the bull trout concentrating in these pools in the upper Chiwawa for decades, though to them, these fish were Dolly Varden.  It wasn’t until the late 1970’s that fisheries biologists differentiated bull trout (Salvelinus confluentes) from Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma) based on morphological disparity, and recent and recurring microsatellite DNA analysis continues to uphold the distinction.  It is generally believed that all native western char were originally similar to Dolly Varden.  Bull trout probably diverged from Dolly Varden to become a separate species after they were isolated in the upper tributaries of the Columbia River basin by the enormous Canadian ice sheets of the Ice Ages.  Following the retreat of continental ice, bull trout migrated downstream and out to sea to eventually re-populate coastal rivers as well, where both Dolly Varden and bull trout now coexist (and occasionally interbreed – hybrids have been documented in scattered locales).

As we make our way downstream the morning’s trend continues.  Each pool wechiwaca_bull_trout snorkel holds from 15 to 40 Bull Trout, none smaller than 16 inches.   Most are 22-26 inches, with the occasional monster male going 30 inches plus from kype to caudal fin.  A pair of “springers,” chinook salmon that enter the mouth of the Columbia in early spring and migrate to upper tributaries in late summer to spawn, appear undersized to our trained eyes, in comparison to the several large bull trout occupying the same deep glide.  The relatively large size of the Chiwawa bull trout is likely due to an adfluvial life-history wherein spawning, emergence, and early rearing of juveniles occurs in tributary streams, while the majority of growth and maturation takes place in generally more productive lakes and reservoirs before the adults migrate to streams and rivers to spawn.  In this case, it’s possible that nearby Lake Wenatchee is serving as foraging habitat for these large piscivores. 

In the past, bull trout developed an undeserved bad reputation among sport anglers, as competitors with and predators on more popular angling species like salmon or rainbow trout. While bull trout are without a doubt the top predatory piscivore in most river systems in which they occur (is it any wonder that we only see a small handful of moderate-sized rainbow and west-slope cutthroat trout during the course of our two-day survey?), a more enlightened view has led to the recognition that native bull trout maintain a natural and vital position near the apex of the food web in mountain streams of the North Cascades.  Like too many of our native salmonids, bull trout have suffered dramatic population declines throughout their historic range in western North America, leading to their listing as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 1999.  Mandatory recovery measures are currently underway in the several western states in which bull trout occur, and the Chiwawa River here is currently closed to fishing, to protect this threatened population from further decline and harassment due to fishing pressure and potential over-harvest during the spawning period.

On this day, Micah and I count a total of 294 adult bull trout longer than 12 inches in approximately three miles of stream.  In the following weeks, I will return to the Chiwawa with other Washington Trout personnel to document fish densities in reaches of the river further downstream.  In the meantime, I fall asleep this late August night in a mountain cabin, with visions of spawn-bright bull trout dancing in my head.

 

LEARNING, HELPING, AND HAVING FUN

Ben Burrill, WT Field Intern chiwaca_Ben

Ben Burrill is a high-school student from Marysville, Washington. In August, he joined WT field crews on snorkel surveys related to the Icicle Creek Research Project. The following is his account of his experiences and impressions.

First off let me just say this was definitely a great experience for me…I learned a lot as well as had fun too and those two things don’t usually mix for me. I’m glad I am getting this opportunity especially at my age…I feel honored and privileged to be doing the stuff I am doing and am very happy that I’m able to do such an important thing for the environment and have fun at the same time. As for the actual snorkeling part…. it was really cool to see the fish living in different habitats and the different kinds of fish that live in those habitats, It was a little hard to remember what each kind looked like, but after seeing them all day it became really easy to tell what each one was…although it was a little physically draining, more so then mentally (I don’t get to say that very much) it was still comfortable work to do and was very fun as well. Definitely something I want to continue doing if possible. Thanks to all of you who are giving me this chance.

 

EVENTS & VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

JOIN WT AT THE WENATCHEE RIVER SALMON FESTIVAL SEPTEMBER 28TH THROUGH OCTOBER 1ST

sept06_salmonfestCome on out to Leavenworth September 28 – October 1 to participate in WT’s 2006 Happy Salmon Homecoming poster contest.  WT’s booth at this year’s Wenatchee River Salmon Festival is focused on how happy salmon and trout are now that they can go home again, past barriers that have blocked access for wild fish to approximately 21 miles of habitat for over 67 years.  The contest is for children 12 years old and younger but wild-fish advocates of all ages are invited to come on out to the festival and learn about our work at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. 

We are also in need of volunteers for the event.  If you or anyone you know is interested in volunteering for one or more days please contact WT Outreach Coordinator, Kristen Durance, via email or at 425-788-1167.  The festival runs from 10am to 4pm Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and we also need extra hands during set-up and take-down.  Volunteers will work with children to complete their Happy Salmon posters as well as help WT staff answer basic questions regarding the work we do.  Accommodations are available for volunteers interested in helping out more than one day – give us a call for more information!

 

VOLUNTEERS NEED TO STAFF THE FALL ENVIRONMENTAL DISCOVERY PROGRAM

sept06_edpWashington Trout is looking for people to help lead the Fall 2006 Environmental Discovery Program field trips. The EDP is a hands-on, classroom and field-based environmental education program that brings students from Seattle and the surrounding areas out to Oxbow Farms, an organic farm located between Duvall and Carnation on SR 203. As part of the program, students take a full day field trip to the farm where they explore the surrounding environment and learn about the importance of native plants, animals, and ecosystems. There are several different components to the field trip curriculum that teachers will choose between – The Journey Home (a salmon lifecycle activity), Water Quality, Animal Lives, Plant Identification, and Discovery Skills.

Instructors will lead (or assist) groups of five to ten students on field trips at Oxbow Farm. Ten classes are participating this fall and field trips are scheduled to take place during school days Monday – Friday, the weeks of October 9th and 16th.  On a typical day, you would need to be on site from approximately 9 am until 2 pm.  All instructors will receive plenty of personalized and group instruction to ensure your teaching comfort. A mandatory instructor training will likely be scheduled on a Saturday (September 16 or 23rd) from 10 am-2 pm.

Paid Position: Washington Trout is currently accepting applications for two temporary Field Instructor positions. These paid instructors must be available to work all ten field trip days during the two weeks in October and will receive a $600 stipend.  If you are interested in applying, please submit a resume by September 15th.

Volunteer Positions: If you are interested in this opportunity but you aren’t available to work all ten field trips, we are also looking for several volunteer instructors. Ideally, we would like to have two or three volunteers per day to help lead groups and run field activities.  You can volunteer for as many (or as few) days as you like.

If you are interested in joining us or you have questions about the curriculum and overall program, please contact WT’s Education Coordinator, Casey Ralston at casey@washingtontrout.org or 425-788-1167.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 




 

 

 

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