A "Recovery Plan" that does not expect actual recovery (because it does not include LSR dam breaching, and which is necessary for recovery) was released by NOAA Fisheries in November 2017: This is very odd because ESA Section 4(f)(1) states that "The Secretary shall develop and implement "recovery plans" for the conservation and survival of endangered species and threatened species listed pursuant to this section, unless he finds that such a plan will not promote the conservation of the species."
Management Strategies and Actions Recovery Plan (November 2017)
The recovery strategy builds on recent improvements by continuing to implement the 2008 FCRPS biological opinion and its 2010 and 2014 supplements, which address the configuration and operation of the hydropower system. The Reasonable and Prudent Alternative (RPA) for the FCRPS takes a comprehensive approach to ESA protection that includes hydropower, habitat, hatchery, and predation measures to address the biological needs of salmon and steelhead in every life stage within human control.
Overview Recovery Plan (November 2017)
Currently, both fish species remain at risk of becoming endangered within 100 years. Multiple threats across their life cycles contribute to their current weakened status. These various threats need to be addressed to ensure that Snake River spring/summer Chinook salmon and Snake River Basin steelhead can survive over the long term.
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NMFS estimates that recovery of the Snake River spring/summer Chinook salmon ESU and Snake River Basin steelhead DPS, like recovery for most of the ESA-listed Pacific Northwest salmon and steelhead, could take 50 to 100 years.
Management Strategies and Actions Recovery Plan (November 2017)
Since breaching of a dam at the scale of the lower Snake River dams has not yet occurred, many of the effects considered are estimates or preliminary assessments. Further, the previous assessments do not take into account the most current information.
As discussed in these prior analyses, if lower Snake River dams are breached, some effects are fairly certain to occur for yearling juvenile migrants for both species. Juvenile travel time through the lower Snake River would be faster; juvenile fish transportation would no longer be available at projects that collect fish for transport which were breached, and changes in total dissolved gas caused by releasing water through spillways would be eliminated at projects that were breached.
The previous analyses indicated there is greater uncertainty about the sediment loads and river conditions fish might experience during drawdown and breaching. Turbidity would increase dramatically for the first several years with much of the sediment transport occurring in the spring months. Juveniles migrating in the spring would experience highly turbid conditions. A similar impact from turbidity is anticipated for spring migrating adults because they migrate upstream during the high flow period when sediment transport will be greatest. Predictions of the effect of increased sediment on the survival of migrating salmon and steelhead would be highly subjective and would depend on flows during the post-dam breaching period.
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The changes in conditions during the dam breaching period could have the greatest negative effects on fish passage. The breaching action could span a number of years, depending on how many dams are breached and the methods used to breach them. These could include deteriorated conditions in the adult ladder entrances and exits due to changes in depth and water supply, reduced spillway passage efficiency, and reduced juvenile bypass passage efficiency. Life-cycle modeling that incorporates expected effects of the altered river environment will help inform the questions of how juvenile and adult migrants might respond to breaching of the lower Snake River dams, although uncertainties regarding the combined effects on each species' populations will remain.
Following completion of the NEPA process, NMFS will work with the Action Agencies to identify actions to implement the preferred alternative and ensure the long-term survival and productivity of Snake River spring/summer Chinook salmon and steelhead, as well as other affected ESA-listed species. Future actions may include the potential additional actions identified below in Table 6-8 (not shown). In the meantime, the Action Agencies will continue to implement measures required by the 2008 biological opinion and supplements, which will contribute toward improvement in species' viability and abundance.
48-year Recovery Standard for Spring/Summer Chinook -- FR/EIS Appendix I (February 2002)
Alternative 4--Dam Breaching, is the only alternative under consideration that meets the 48-year recovery standards for the median model results. None of the median results for the dam retention alternatives (e.g., Alternatives 1, 2, and 3) meet the 48-year recovery standards.
The EFFECTS Salmon -- FR/EIS Summary (February 2002)
Both CRI and PATH analyses relied on many assumptions for their predictions. Lack of specific values for many components in both lifecycle analyses generated outcomes with a high degree of uncertainty. Overall, PATH results indicate that the chance of meeting NMFS survival and recovery criteria for the four listed species under Alternative 1 (doing nothing) would likely be the same or slightly better than Alternatives 2 and 3. Alternative 4 provides the highest probability of meeting the survival and recovery criteria under the PATH analysis. Both the CRI and PATH analyses indicate that further improvements in the hydrosystem passage system are unlikely to recover listed Snake River stocks unless there is an improvement in juvenile fish survival downstream of Bonneville Dam, either through such factors as improved fish conditions or improved timing of entry into the ocean. However, PATH does not address whether it is necessary to breach the dams. NMFS 2000 Biological Opinion on Federal Columbia River Power System operations indicated the need for improvements in all areas of impact: harvest, hatcheries, habitat, and hydrosystem. The Biological Opinion states:"Although breaching is not essential to implementation of the initial actions called for in the Reasonable and Prudent Alternative (RPA) which constitute a non-breach approach, the RPA requires that the Action Agencies prepare for the possibility that breaching or other hydropower actions could become necessary."
Many people are familiar with the Seventh Generation philosophy commonly credited to the Iroquois Confederacy but practiced by many Native nations. The Seventh Generation philosophy mandated that tribal decision makers consider the effects of their actions and decisions for descendents seven generations into the future. There was a clear understanding that everything we do has consequences for something and someone else, reminding us that we are all ultimately connected to creation.