Council Agrees to Fund Programs to
by Laura Berg
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council on Sept. 14 approved funds for programs to control populations of two non-native predacious fish species--northern pikeminnow and northern pike.
In July, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) requested $700,000 from the Council's Budget Oversight Group to deal with a shortfall in 2016 angler payments for a program that compensates sport fishers for catching and removing northern pikeminnow from the Columbia and Snake rivers.
In recent years, the number of fishers participating in this 25-year-old predator-control project has dwindled, threatening the effort to keep this predator population in check.
To increase participation, the predator-suppression program increased the rewards for catching pikeminnow, a species BPA and PSMFC representatives told the Council "accounted for up to 80 percent of salmonid predation."
In September, Bonneville informed Council staff that the updated budget shortfall was lower, and now estimated to be $350,000.
"This adjustment is based on the in season catch data analysis through Aug. 31 and other adjustments made by Bonneville and the sponsor," a Council staff memo reported.
One adjustment made by the PSMFC, the program sponsor, was to reduce reward expenditures by ending dam angling in mid-August, while maintaining payouts for reservoir fishing.
The Council reluctantly agreed to cover the $350,000 shortfall. The Council established the oversight group to make budget adjustments within the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
In making the motion to approve the additional expenditure, Council member Bill Booth (Idaho) seemed to speak for other members when he said he expected the pikeminnow program to at least include an opt-out provision for September, in case the program is about to use up its funds again next year.
Program sponsors said they planned to make September an optional month.
"You've got to budget and stick to it," Booth said.
The Council also agreed to redirect $40,000 in cost savings to continue the Spokane Tribe's work to control northern pike in Lake Roosevelt.
The dollars will be used in fiscal year 2017 work to reduce numbers of the fish, and to keep them out of the Columbia River below Chief Joseph Dam.
Predator reduction measures were initiated in 2016 in response to an increased abundance of this pike observed in early 2015.
"Anglers now routinely capture pike in the shallow bays in the Columbia River near Kettle Falls and on the Kettle River," a staff memo said.
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