Alaska salmon issues?

like lots of other people who love fishing, I have been watching the salmon related news out of Alaska with concern/confusion/astonishment/humor- reports of chinook fishing restrictions and closures, huge rivers failing or barely meeting spawner escapement requirements (some tied to international treaties since the spawning grounds extend into Canada...)

here in the NW, we seem to have witnessed the bottoming of our anadromous fish situation in the late 1990's when we finally got serious about not doing more damage and starting the huge effort of rebuilding habitat and carefully controlling harvest and everything else needed to maintain long-term sustainable populations of these fantastic fish.

these 2 news reports that caught my eye last week have me thinking this- the problem in Alaska is that they haven't bottomed out, they haven't stopped hurting the situation. so just for fun, I wanted to try and draw a parallel here in Oregon to perhaps put these things into some sort of prospective.

Chuitna coal project: "In the coming months, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources must decide whether to reserve water in the Middle Fork of the Chuitna River to protect wild salmon, or allow the water, and wild salmon, to be removed by a coal company to extract coal for export to Asia. The Chuitna River watershed lies 45 miles west of Anchorage, and it supports all five species of wild Pacific salmon. To protect this renewable resource, a group of local Alaskans filed an application to keep enough water in the stream for wild salmon to spawn, rear and migrate."

Oregon example: imagine the discussion here if a coal company proposed to 'eliminate' the Trask River for 25 years by diverting the water, strip mining coal under the streambed, and directly shipping it to Asia with a total job creation of about 300. seriously? would anyone out there miss the Trask River for 25 years? jobs lost? wouldn't we pull a collective stomach muscle laughing about this idea?

Susitna hydropower dam: "The proposed project would involve constructing the largest dam in Alaska, 723 feet tall, and the second tallest dam in the United States, according to a report with the U.S. Society on Dams. The Susitna River, which currently flows unobstructed for 300 miles, is the sixth largest drainage in Alaska, and the 15th largest drainage by volume in the nation. This would create a reservoir that is 42 miles long with an average width of one mile, resulting in large-scale transformation of the biological, chemical and physical conditions to which fishes and other aquatic organisms resident in the Susitna River Basin have adapted over millennia.
The Susitna River Basin is home to all five species of Pacific salmon, rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, Arctic Grayling, Burbot, Arctic char and lake trout. The Susitna River has the state's fourth largest Chinook salmon population.

Oregon example:
Susitna output is 50K ft3/sec and drainage basin is 20K sq. miles. Umpqua flows 7K ft3/sec and drains 8K sq. miles. Deschutes flows 6K ft3/sec and drains 10K sq. miles. Rogue flows 7K ft3/sec and drains 5K sq. miles.
So the Susitna is 'only' 20% of the Columbia but it is easily as big as the Umpqua, Rogue, and Deschutes put together. So let's consider the discussion in Oregon if the proposal was to put a dam on all 3 of these beautiful rivers, turning 42 miles of each river into reservoir and all but ending salmon migration above the dams. Anyone want to be on the "let's do it" side of that debate? And this Susitna dam project has been in the state budget plan, not just some 'out there' idea...

cheers? roger
Roger, I know you wanted a debate on this but I am absolutely speechless. Well, not completely: the coal and dam projects have got to be the stupidest things I have heard in a long time. Thanks for sharing.

Wow, interesting post, thanks!

My only thought is that it might be a bit dangerous to take for granted that Oregon has "bottomed out," or that ever "bottoming out" is a necessary thing that will occur in Alaska. How much greedy people are allowed to destroy the world we love to fish/hunt/hike in/otherwise enjoy, is largely a consequence of the agenda of whoever's got the money and power at the time. The outlook could change in Oregon for the worse, really at any time. Or just as easily, could never change in Alaska...On the bright side, people that care about it and want to do something to help have had some success in the past in stemming the tide...just have to bear in mind it will always be an ongoing struggle.

All that aside, it does definitely put into perspective what we have to be thankful for here in OR! Cheers to that.
Good info, roger!

Something to remember is that the battle of resource extraction vs. conserving wildlife still goes on in Oregon.

That proposed nickel mine down in Southern Oregon comes to mind.
that is a great example and why we can never let our guard down. at least from my quick read of it, the mining company applied in June, opposition was overwhelming within a matter of weeks, it was rejected in September and about to be rejected again in Jan when the company withdrew the application for 5 years. can you say 'wilderness designation'? sure you can and wilderness areas are fully open to fishing, hunting, rafting/drifting/canoeing/kayaking...

part of what shocked me was the scope and size of these Alaska projects and how far down the planning process they seem to be, and I totally left out the Pebble Mine deal up there, I think lots of people are already familiar with that one....
Not to raise any hackles on OFF over environmental issues about the Columbia River and down home Oregon. But some of us in Astoria are STILL in a fight against LNG wanting to change the way we fish and hunt ….Forever! This little war has been going on for years with no let-up. First, LNG wanted to install an import facility because of Oregon's shortage of natural gas. Now they want to install an export facility because of our abundance.

Our slippery Senator Ron Wyden has been no help in this matter. Why should he? He actually lives in New York where there was once an abundance of salmon in the Hudson River, not that long ago.

The environmental impact for the pipeline to Astoria alone will be an unbelievable blow to the coast range. LNG is just simply wearing us down through the courts and propaganda. Privatising Eminent Domain and chalk board politics have the potential of changing Oregon into a very different environment then what we enjoy today.

I remember the recent up roar over the Youngs Bay exclusion zone. That fishery is minuscule compared to future access to salmon from Megler Bridge to the mouth of the Columbia.

(Forgive me if I have offended anyone)

But Roger, just think of all the bluegill and crappie that could be caught in those reservoirs;). You brought up some good comparisons in your post, thank you. :thumb:
yep, seems we have two LNG projects of concern (Astoria and CoosBay), disappointed in Wyden if he is not opposing them now, I found other reports that indicated both Merkley and Wyden "have been strong critics of LNG export plans", so I am not sure where Wyden stands now. Down the coast here at least DeFazio has been trying to block the use of eminent domain and in 2014 a bill to fast track these sort of LNG projects was killed in the US Senate after being passed in the House.
When fishing is good in Alaska it tends to be bad in the Columbia, and vice versa. It's due to a flip-flopping ocean current which lends to boom and bust ocean conditions. It's going to be swapping back to more productive Alaskan waters in the next couple of years, so get in on the good fishing while it's down here.

Look up the Pacific Decadal Oscillation for way more info on it.
These are the statements from Ron Wyden on the LNG export facility in Coos bay and Astoria.

[ “This announcement is exactly what Coos Bay, North Bend and America need: new jobs and new investment, while factoring in a changed geopolitical landscape through a case-by-case process.
I urged DOE to consider this application without delay, and I am pleased the department decided that Jordan Cove deserves to move forward.
Priority one for me has always been ensuring American jobs and employers see the full benefits of the natural gas renaissance. The Department of Energy must monitor markets closely and be prepared to adjust course should any threat to American jobs or energy security emerge.”]

[“I wanted Jordan Cove to have the chance to make its case. And I like to think the fact that I did it by the book, and was straight with people, contributed to Jordan Cove having that kind of opportunity,” Wyden said in an interview Friday.
“Warrenton is further behind in the process. And I think that those who are interested ought to just go forward with the process. I’m happy to look at it every step of the way.
“I do think Jordan Cove is ahead.”]

Translated from political speak to Modern Oregon dialect ;
''I pushed the Department of Energy to approve the Coos Bay LNG project ( I'm a member) and I will do my best to push the Astoria project too''!

The impact of buoy 10 and the lower Columbia fishery has not been addressed except for the ''exclusion zone'' around the LNG ships coming to port, docked or leaving port will be protected by the Coast Guard. It is very difficult to assertion any information on this particular subject. There will be a 500 yard protection zone completely around the vessels as stated in the link below;

...So in my humble perspective and opinion, the 500 yard protection zone IS theLower Clumbia Astoria salmon fishery zone. Wait till Coos Bay fishers figure that out!

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thanks 'man'...that is great stuff, I wish there was an update to the 1997 UW paper, the last data it has covers from the 1977 step to 1996, looks like the next reversal was about 2006...the previous cycles looked to average about 25 years (reversals at 1900, 1925, 1947, 1977), so are we nearing mid-point of the current "NW good, Alaska weak" cycle? or is this expected to be a shorter cycle?
While MM knows his stuff, for sure, there's a little more to the recent upsurge in the fishing/fish on the Columbia. Obviously, ocean conditions are a major factor. But there's also the increase in spill for the outgoing smolts in recent years. And there's a lot more hatchery activity going on upriver (and if we could only get the Tribes to start clipping their releases like they're supposed to... which is strictly speculation on my part, with little evidence to back my claim, other than a rather unlikely ratio of unclipped fish in the summer months).

That, and the ocean conditions have been good (and good for attracting sea lions into the Columbia).

But none of the Columbia-specific conditions explain the high numbers on the coastal streams of late. I'd put that squarely on ocean conditions.
great discussion...and I am very happy that (at least so far) we agree that 'eliminating' the Trask river for 25 years to strip mine under it is a bad idea...:thumb:
According to California and NOAA it's starting to swing the other way a couple years early. Granted there is a pretty good lag between the shift and apparent increases/declines in adult populations, so I bet the next couple years will still be great in the Northwest.
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