Thursday, July 22, 2010

Deschutes Steelhead in Hot Water...Literally!

Lots of debate going on at the various fishing websites here in the Pacific Northwest but, of course, it's mostly mindless whining by guides and hatchery steelhead lovers.
I am not going to offer an opinion on this because guess what? I wouldn't know what I am talking about just like most of the other internet geniuses that do have an uneducated opinion.
I decided to communicate with Bill Bakke of Native Fish Society who does know what he is talking about and here is the the information he emailed me.

Bakke spoke with Don Ratliff, biologist for PGE, about temperature profile changes for the lower river due to adjustments in temperature below the dams from the newly constructed fish passage and temperature adjustment tower at Round Butte Reservoir.

He asked the following questions:

1. Have you modeled the temperature changes using blend 17 at the mouth of the river, 100.1 miles downstream?
2.Have you modeled the effect of temperature changes in the lower river on resident trout, steelhead, and fall chinook?
3. Have you modeled the effect on small mouth bass breeding response in the lower river due to temperature changes?
4. Can adjustments be made in outflow temperature to deal with high ambient temperatures in the lower canyon and its affect on water temperatures?
5. Is there funding available to monitor the temperature effects on fish below the dams?

Here are the answers he received
Question 1:
According to Ratliff the temperature changes have not been modeled at the mouth using blend 17, however, the work of Chuck Huntington on temperature changes in the lower river have been used to estimate the effect of these changes.
Question 2:
The temperature changes and their effect on salmonids in the lower river, primarily below Sherars Falls to the mouth have not been determined.
Question 3:
The improved spawning and rearing conditions for small mouth bass in the lower Deschutes River below Sherars Falls due to temperature modification have not been evaluated.
Question 4:
Water temperatures in the lower Deschutes will be cooler due to releases at the dam in August and September, but it would be difficult to make adjustments in releases of water to adjust for hot ambient temperatures affecting the river in July. A concern regarding the flexibility to adjust temperature to meet environmental hot spells in the lower river is unclear because of existing regulations.
Question 5:
There is no funding available from PGE to monitor temperature effects on fish below the dam. This would have an impact on adaptive management for temperature in the lower river. Monitoring funds are directed at re-establishing salmon and steelhead above the dam.

I'm not going to try to second guess the PGE biologist but it seems to me that this whole thing was kind of a "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" by PGE.
One thing the colder water temperatures do is bring in straying hatchery steelhead destined for other watershed like the Grand Ronde. Higher temperatures would help keep those fish out in the cooler Columbia and reduce that straying.
One thing we do not need is hatchery steelhead straying into the Deschutes to inter act with wild steelhead that belong there.
I know that the Deschutes is a favorite river for many anglers throughout the region and of course they welcome steelhead to catch no matter what river they are headed for.
Let's also not forget the probable increase in small mouth bass that warmer temps will bring. I can just see it now! Metallic painted super charged bass boats hauling ass up and down the Deschutes in search of a "hawg" or two.
All I can say is I really don't trust PGE to do the right thing and I certainly do not respect any of these "Johnny Come Lately" concerned guides that are worried that their hatchery meal ticket is not going to get punched this year.
Stay tuned.....

1 comment:

  1. Shane,

    I have been reading many of the same comments being posted. However these are mind blowing. Possibly cherry picked questions to show PGE really doesn't know what they are doing?

    Here is one point I don't really get with this whole water temp management-

    The MAJORITY of passing hatchery steelhead takes place in August to about mid Sept. Would not an even cooler Deschutes be MORE inviting (especially during the ever present August heat waves)? Pulling more fish into the system because the river is now 3 or 4 degrees cooler than recent history?

    If this is the case I don't think you will hear another peep from anglers until next July because of no fish again.