May 3, 2019
Commissioners and other Interested Parties today I received an email forwarded from Jackson County Commissioner and BOC Chair Bob Strosser after Jackson County Commissioners met with Corps of Engineers staff and ODFW. To be sure we are on same page I will include comments made from this meeting and email.
From: Bob Strosser [mailto:StrossRJ@jacksoncounty.org]
Sent: Thursday, May 2, 2019 4:26 PM
To: Chris Paasch
Cc: Rick Dyer; Colleen Roberts
Subject: HB 2379 Corp of Engineers – restoration
Sorry for the delay . . . It took us a bit to do our homework on this issue and arrange to talk with some of the entities! We discussed the letter of no confidence and view that action as one not to be taken lightly. In view of your request, we reached out to the Army Corp. of Engineers, ODF&W. We were trying to determine what the requirements of the hatchery were and why the diminished fish count related to the hatchery condition and production. They flew down from Portland to speak with us and expressed that they were sincerely working on the issue and firmly questioned the number of mitigation fish cited (See below). We found their conversation candid and given a bit further research, insightful as to what they were trying to do and what they were required to do. One of their comments is that they are looking for funding to deal with the hatchery and also to replace the gravel spawning beds below the hatchery. While seated at the table together, ODF&W did not dispute their explanations of the facts.
We applaud the good work and reason for the request of a “No confidence” comment as well as the request for $5,000 in support. We are uncomfortable doing either after listening to their answers and careful consideration.
The Army Corp of Engineers and ODF&W were very responsive to meeting with us . . . They were very cordial and if you haven’t already, you might consider inviting them. They are well aware of the intensity of the concern.
Bob Strosser, Commissioner
Comments on Commissioner Strosser’s email: Commissioner Strosser stated: We discussed the letter of no confidence and view that action as one not to be taken lightly.
We all agree fully with this statement. However the long term decline in hatchery Spring Chinook of 63% and Wild Spring Chinook 60% on the Rogue River we view as a great concern. Virtually no action as of to date has been taken by the Army Corp of Engineers to rectify or even acknowledge the economic harm being done, just plans to do better. If everything related to improve Spring Chinook production was to be implemented today it would be 3 to 4 years until real improvement in runs would be seen.
If you asked the Army Corp of Engineers or ODFW fisheries managers if they had confidence 13,020 hatchery Spring Chinook Adults would return to Cole Rivers Hatchery or that 21,000 Wild Spring Chinook would return above the old Gold Ray Dam counting station next year or any year in next 5 years or 10 years, I am sure their honest comment would be no. So if the Army Corp of Engineers and ODFW has No Confidence in production requirements how can the Rogue Basin Counties have confidence in Army Corp of Engineers and ODFW to do so? Also the No Confidence letter from Josephine and Curry Counties, has no doubt had an effect to elevate the lack of Spring Chinook production and to awaken and inform many to this large economic hit the Rogue Basin Counties are suffering from the losses of the iconic Rogue River Spring Chinook fishery.
The above email included this from the Army Corp of Engineers:
This excerpt is from Tammy Mackey (Mackey, Tammy M CIV USARMY CENWP (US) <Tammy.M.Mackey@usace.army.mil)
Subject: [Non-DoD Source] Information from Jackson County Board of Commissioners
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) funds the production of hatchery fish at Cole M. Rivers Hatchery to mitigate for the loss of fish spawning habitat as a result of the construction of the Rogue River Basin Project as authorized by Congress in the Flood Control Act of 1962 substantially in accordance with the recommendations of the Chief of Engineers contained in accompanying House Document 87-566. The reports contained within House Document 87-566 noted that the construction of Lost Creek, Elk Creek, and Applegate dams would block access to spawning areas upstream of the dams and provided various estimates of the number of fish that utilized those spawning areas prior to the construction of the dams. To mitigate the loss of this spawning habitat, the Chief of Engineers recommended the construction of fish passage and fish production facilities. However, the Chief of Engineers did not identify a specific number of mitigation fish that would be produced.
Comments to this section above: The House Document 87-566 was a part of Dam Authorization Document approved as a part of the Rivers and Harbors Act of October 23rd, 1962. The Authorization Document was not the guiding document for Lost Creek Project operations, that guiding document came ten years later on May 8th 1972, The Lost Creek Project Final Environmental Impact Statement completed after extensive study and input from Oregon Fish Commission, Local Governments, Rogue Basin residents and businesses. The Dam Construction was started after completion of Cole Rivers Hatchery in 1973 but the Hatchery had to be operating prior to dam construction. The Final EIS for the Lost Creek Project May 8th 1972 is the guiding document for the Lost Creek Project. Another small point there was no fish passage allowed at Lost Creek Dam.
Definition of Environmental Impact Statement: An environmental impact statement (EIS), under United States environmental law, is a document required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for certain actions “significantly affecting the quality of the human environment”
“In particular, an EIS acts as an enforcement mechanism to ensure that the federal government adheres to the goals and policies outlined in the NEPA”.
End Comment first section.
Similarly, when evaluating the environmental impacts of the Lost Creek Lake Project in the 1972 environmental statement, the Corps provided an estimate of the number of fish that utilized spawning habitat upstream of Lost Creek Dam and an estimate of future fish production at Cole M. Rivers Hatchery. However, the environmental statement does not establish a fish mitigation requirement.
Comments to this section: Actually we must be reading the Final EIS for the Lost Creek Project differently.
The Army Corps of Engineers did not provide an estimate of the number of fish that utilized spawning habitat upstream of Lost Creek Dam and an estimate of future fish production at Cole M. Rivers Hatchery. Those estimates were done by the Oregon Fish Commission predecessor of Oregon Fish and Wildlife.
Excerpts from Lost Creek Project Environmental Impact Statement Page 1-5
clearly shows in this passage there was a required mitigation level, differing from Army Corps of Engineers contention above:
- “Included in the project is construction of Cole M. Rivers Fish Hatchery”.
- “The hatchery will be capable of producing 425,100 pounds of fish per year. That capacity is based on requirements to provide restitution for loss of spawning and rearing areas at Lost Creek as well as other authorized Rogue Basin projects, Elk Creek and Applegate.”
- “The species to be reared are spring chinook, summer and winter steelhead, coho salmon, rainbow trout, and kokanee salmon.
(Elk Creek was never built and there are 365,120 pounds of fish production for mitigation now, ODFW decides the makeup of this required poundage and rearing, they are now producing 1,703,250 Spring Chinook smolt).
From the Rogue River Spring Chinook Salmon HGMP 2016
The discontinuation of the program would violate the mitigation agreement that was a key part of final public approval of Rogue River Basin Project dams in the Rogue watershed, which may cause significant public concern.
More Excerpts from Lost Creek Project Environmental Impact Statement Page 2-6
as stated above there was no required mitigation level – (I can see the public saying at Dam support meetings we don’t need any assurances on mitigation levels, (sure) common sense should rule here).
- “Rogue River Basin contains an abundance of recreational resources..”
- “excellent hunting; and a very valuable and nationally known salmon and steelhead fishery.”
- “The sports fishery consists principally of spring and fall chinook salmon…”
- “The River has received international acclaim as a sport fishing paradise.”
- “The salmon fishery is especially important to the sports and commercial programs in Oregon. It is also significant on a national basis.”
More Excerpts from Lost Creek Project Environmental Impact Statement Page 2-10
- “Studies by the Oregon State Game Commission and the Fish Commission of Oregon show that about 13,020 Spring Chinook Salmon and 500 Summer Steelhead migrate upstream from Lost Creek dam site.”
Just an observation – if the EIS states about 13,020 Spring Chinook migrate historically above Lost Creek Dam site would not the mitigation level be set at about 13,020 or so?
More Excerpts from Lost Creek Project Environmental Impact Statement Page 3-6
- “It is estimated that the stretch of river from the dam upstream provides spawning area for 13,020 spring chinook and 500 summer steelhead. Production at Cole M. Rivers Hatchery will be sufficient to cover those losses. Annual production will be about 425,000 pounds which is equivalent to about 3,500,000 fingerlings. The 11-mile length of stream to be inundated also will be lost as natural habitat for resident rainbow and cutthroat trout.”
Excerpts from Lost Creek Project Environmental Impact Statement Page 6-1
- “A long-term effect will be increased fish production it the Rogue River. Fifty-thousand pounds of trout will be planted annually in the reservoir and the resulting yield to the sport fishery will exceed the present yield in the stretch of the river that will be flooded. In conjunction with hatchery program to mitigate loss of spawning area for chinook and steelhead the improved temperature and flow conditions in the river during the summer months will result in a long term increase in production of those species.
Comment: Only down 63% below hatchery Spring Chinook return goals of 13,020 and 60% below Wild Spring Chinook returns over the last 14 years.
End of comment on the above section.
The Corps currently funds the production of hatchery fish at Cole M. Rivers Hatchery at levels consistent with the Hatchery and Genetic Management Plans (HGMPs) submitted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in accordance with 50 C.F.R. § 223.203. The submittal and approval of these HGMPs is required to ensure that the hatchery programs do not violate the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by jeopardizing the continued existence of ESA-listed Coho salmon along the Oregon Coast.
In summary, the Corps is meeting production goals identified in the approved HGMPs.
Herein we see the disconnect – we are not addressing the number of pounds of mitigation releases produced Cole Rivers Hatchery, we are contending that hatchery returns are a disaster. The Hatchery is 46 years old and obviously failing. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and ODFW are measuring success by pounds produced not return on investment. If production released is the goal, heck, dump the smolt production in the parking lot and call it successful. As to the HGMP no one has challenged that and it was written decades after the contract (Environmental Impact Statement) was written and agreed to. Every county in the basin was sent an EIS Draft for review and comment, the EIS was an implied contract and un-adhered to is a violation of federal statute, NEPA.
The world is full of promises, we are going to add spawning gravel as soon as we find funding. Funding for spawning gravel was requested publicly in 1994 just 25 years ago. This goes along with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers telling concerned citizen at Grants Pass public meeting that spawning gravel in the Upper Rogue River would not be an issue as new gravel recruitment would come from shore erosion and tributaries. It is a flood control dam it is supposes to stop shore erosion – there are no gravel rich tributaries in the Upper Rogue River, ask them to name one.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is seeking funds to repair the 46 year old hatchery – it has been failing for at least 14 years and they are seeking funding now – why now? Could it be driven by No Confidence letter or did they finally notice returns were horrific.
One Other point to be made: Quote from Status of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Hatchery Mitigation Program with Oregon Prepared by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife February 8, 2017 (http://local109.seiu503.org/files/2017/02/USACE-Jan-2017-Status-Document.pdf) Last Paragraph.
“The Corps actions and failure to communicate, cooperate and collaborate in good faith with Oregon demonstrates their lack of commitment to their mitigation responsibilities. Despite ODFW’s leadership continuously communicating Oregon’s expectations regarding the federal governments’ mitigation responsibilities and the importance of these programs to Oregonians, the Corps leadership has continually failed to understand the role of these programs nor engage ODFW in discussions or negotiations regarding the fate of these programs. They have basically told Oregon what they are going to do, take it or leave it.”
I hope these insight help you all understand what you hear could likely be considered true but not as complete or relevant as they want you to believe.
Oregon Strong Natural Resource Consultant
Gold Beach, Oregon