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Commentaries and editorials

BiOp Check In:
Actions on Track and Working

by Staff
BPA's Journal, October 2003

Salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River basin have made dramatic rebounds in their abundance. Most of the runs in the past two years are many times their 10-year averages, and the make-up of the 2003 runs indicates strong runs are likely in 2004.

Those are some of the conclusions in the 2003 Check-In Report issued by the federal Columbia River Power System agencies that are responsible for implementing the 2000 NOAA Fisheries Biological Opinion. Those agencies are BPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The BiOp requires the agencies to provide to NOAA Fisheries an assessment of their performance in six specific areas. The report was issued Sept. 29.

"We believe that overall implementation of the NOAA Fisheries BiOp is on track," the three federal agencies wrote. They said further that a majority of the hundreds of actions they've agreed to implement to conserve jeopardized fish are under way.

In general, the agencies' report says the status of Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act is improved over conditions prior to the BiOp, three years ago. In particular, the report states, seven of eight species listed as jeopardized are showing significant improvement. The one exception is Snake River sockeye whose population is listed as precarious.

The check-in report says that a dominant cause of the increasing fish runs appears to be a turnaround in ocean productivity. "This improved ocean environment can enhance our efforts to improve conditions for salon and steelhead in freshwater," the federal agencies noted. They concluded that improved fish passage at Columbia and Snake River dams and better habitat, hatchery, and harvest practices are also contributing. In many places the adult fish are encountering improved spawning habitat and the potential for even greater runs in the future continues to improve.

The check-in report concludes, "Where problems have developed, most have been delays rather than inaction, caused by the nature of regional coordination, funding or environmental review process."

BiOp Check In: Actions on Track and Working
BPA's Journal, October 2003

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