Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Salmon and Steelhead advocates celebrate 20th anniversary of the Mid-Columbia Habitat Conservation Plans

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WENATCHEE – Senator Cantwell, Representative Schrier, leaders of Yakama & Colville Tribes, NOAA, U.S. and Washington State Departments of Fish and Wildlife, and Chelan and Douglas County PUDs gathered at Rocky Reach Dam on Mar. 29 to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Mid-Columbia Habitat Conservation Plans.

“I'm delighted to be here 20 years later, to see the progress, to see the measurable results, to see the collaboration and the friendships that have taken place in this particular part of the United States. Trust me, a lot of people could learn from the example set by these agencies, by these organizations, by these people, all to work together for the betterment of salmon and our region,” said Sen. Cantwell. 

20 years ago, Rocky Reach, Rock Island, and Wells Hydro Projects committed to a 50-year habitat conservation plan, or HCP, to achieve a no net impact on mid-Columbia salmon and steelhead runs. 

HCPs are long-term agreements under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, that guide the protection of threatened or endangered species through habitat conservation, rehabilitation, or habitat development. 

Established in 2004, Mid-Columbia HCPs were the first hydropower HCPs in the nation. The plans’ efforts include bypass systems, strategic spill over dams, off-site hatchery programs and evaluations, and habitat restoration work in local tributaries. The plan was a result of collaborative effort by the PUDs, state and federal fisheries agencies, environmental organizations and tribes.

“Today is a celebration of the partnerships that were close to a decades old priority carried by the intent of the Habitat Conservation Plans…This intent means that the river systems and fishery that sustain Yakama people would be healthy and abundant, like they were with resources reserved under the Treaty [of 1855],” said Christopher Wallahee, a Tribal Council Member of Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation.

Jarred-Michael Erickson, Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and biologist, also spoke about the value and the success of the collaboration, as well carrying the work on to further efforts to hold federal dams to the same accountability as the local PUD standards, work on partnerships in Canada to add further protections on the Upper-Columbia. 

Chelan PUD’s HCP requires Rocky Reach and Rock Island dams to achieve 91 percent combined survival rates for adult and juvenile salmon. In a summary of the project survival, Spring Chinook Salmon had a combined survival rate of 93.85 percent at Rock Island Dam, and 92.52 percent at Rocky Reach Dam.

“Indigenous knowledge and perspectives that [the tribes] bring to the table with this agreement, make us smarter in our decision making, and it holds us accountable to work harder to fulfill our trust responsibilities,” said Jennifer Quan of NOAA. 

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or taylor@ward.media

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