Panel Seeks Ternabout in Recovery of SalmonThe Oregonian, September 24, 1999
Power planners lament the loss of young fish to Caspian terns near the mouth of the Columbia
Drastic steps are needed to stop birds from feasting on millions of young salmon near the mouth of the Columbia River, members of the Northwest Power Planning Council say.
The council will recommend withholding $624,000 in research money unless federal agencies present a plan by Nov. 2 for reducing predation by Caspian terns, council Chairman Todd Maddock said in a letter sent Thursday to Will Stelle, regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Caspian terns began showing up along the lower Columbia River in the 1980s after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created a 230-acre island from dredge spoils. Rice Island now supports the largest tern colony in North America.
Biologists think the birds eat as much as 18 percent of the juvenile salmon migrating down the Columbia to the ocean. The 95 million young salmon and steelhead that swam downriver this year included fish from among 12 groups listed by the federal Endangered Species Act.
"I'm not against terns . . . but spending millions of dollars on salmon (recovery) just to feed them to terns doesn't make sense," Frank "Larry" Cassidy Jr., a member of the council, said Wednesday at a meeting in Spokane. The four-state council has two members each from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
Biologists have been devising methods to encourage the terns to leave Rice Island for another island closer to the mouth of the Columbia, where their diet would include fewer salmon and more herring and anchovies.
Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service told council members Wednesday that they had not agreed on a tern-control plan for next year.
In other action, the council approved $68 million for 158 projects intended to boost fish and wildlife survival in the Columbia River Basin in fiscal year 2000. The projects range from restoring habitat for fish that spawn in the wild to measuring the survival of juvenile salmon as they migrate past dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.
The recommendations go to the Bonneville Power Administration for financing.
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