Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program
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Project Summary

Project 1997-038-00 - Listed Stock Chinook Salmon Gamete Preservation
Project Number:
Listed Stock Chinook Salmon Gamete Preservation
Snake River salmonid populations have experienced significant decline in population numbers over the past five decades with Chinook salmon and steelhead now listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In spite of a considerable habitat enhancement, population protection and monitoring effort by management agencies, recovery and delisting of these populations has not been achieved. Therefore, a genetic resource management approach using cryogenic technology to preserve gametes has been implemented for those salmonid populations (conservation units) at low levels of abundance and high risk of extirpation. The goals of the gamete preservation project are 1) to preserve and maintain salmonid population genetic diversity, 2) as an insurance policy against population collapse and extirpation, 3) for ongoing artificial propagation programs and 4) to preserve genetic material for future management options.

NPT initiated chinook salmon cryopreservation activities in 1992 as a comprehensive gene banking effort to preserve germplasm from diverse populations of Chinook salmon and steelhead in the Snake River basin . By collecting from numerous populations of spring and summer chinook salmon and steelhead across the entire Snake River basin, this project aims to preserve the greatest amount of endemic salmonid diversity.


In 1992 the Nez Perce Tribe (NPT), in cooperation with Washington State University (WSU) and the University of Idaho (IU), established a germplasm repository that intended to reduce population extinction risk, preserve genetic diversity and provide options for reintroduction and recovery programs for Snake River basin salmonid fish species. Collections focused on spring/summer Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha; Nacó’x? in Nez Perce) and steelhead (O. mykiss; Héeyey in Nez Perce) populations that were listed as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Numerous salmonid species and populations in this region have already been extirpated and low abundances in the remaining populations face threats from catastrophic events or reduced viability caused by decreased genetic diversity resulting from genetic drift and inbreeding. A comprehensive collection strategy was developed to maximize the preservation of within- and among-population genetic diversity from these species. In addition, the repository serves as a long-term storage facility available for other management agencies to contribute gamete samples from other populations or species. Although only male gametes can be cryopreserved at this time, the germplasm repository provides management options for future species recovery actions.
Currently the repository has preserved gamete samples from a total of 2,990 Columbia River male Chinook salmon and 1,403 Columbia River male steelhead. Approximately half of the material is currently stored in a repository at Washington State University and is available for use in hatchery broodstock management or research purposes. The remaining material is stored at the United States Department of Agriculture, National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation, National Animal Germplasm Program (NAGP) repository in Fort Collins, Colorado as part of a long-term storage repository and is reserved for future recovery actions. A form in the appendix can be used to request gametes from the repository. Project and University personnel are available to assist users with fertilization procedures and subsequent evaluations. Gametes will only be provided following approval by an ad hoc Snake River Germplasm Repository Use Committee (SRGRUC), consisting of Tribal, University and Federal stakeholders.
Proponent Orgs:
Nez Perce Tribe (Tribe)
Starting FY:
Ending FY:
Province Subbasin %
Blue Mountain Grande Ronde 25.00%
Mountain Snake Clearwater 25.00%
Salmon 25.00%
Upper Snake Snake Upper 25.00%
Artificial Production
RM and E
Focal Species:
Chinook - Mid-Columbia River Spring ESU
Chinook - Snake River Fall ESU
Chinook - Snake River Spring/Summer
Chinook - Snake River Spring/Summer ESU
Coho - Unspecified Population
Steelhead - Snake River DPS
Sturgeon, White - All Populations except Kootenai R. DPS
Sturgeon, White - Kootenai River DPS
Trout, Bull
Trout, Rainbow
Species Benefit:
Anadromous: 100.0%   Resident: 0.0%   Wildlife: 0.0%

Description: Page: 1 Cover: Cover photo

Project: 1997-038-00

Document: P123229

Dimensions: 1076 x 716

Description: Page: 9 Figure 1: Map showing locations in the Snake River basin where gametes from male Chinook salmon were collected from 1992 - 2008.

Project: 1997-038-00

Document: P123229

Dimensions: 957 x 712

Description: Page: 10 Figure 2: Map showing locations in the Snake River basin where gametes from male steelhead were collected from 1992 - 2008.

Project: 1997-038-00

Document: P123229

Dimensions: 957 x 712

Summary of Budgets

To view all expenditures for all fiscal years, click "Project Exp. by FY"

To see more detailed project budget information, please visit the "Project Budget" page

Decided Budget Transfers  (FY2019 - FY2021)

Acct FY Acct Type Amount Fund Budget Decision Date
FY2019 Expense $0 From: BiOp FCRPS 2008 (non-Accord) FY19 Nez Perce Budgets 11/07/2018

Pending Budget Decision?  No

Actual Project Cost Share

Current Fiscal Year — 2020
Cost Share Partner Total Proposed Contribution Total Confirmed Contribution
There are no project cost share contributions to show.
Previous Fiscal Years
Fiscal Year Total Contributions % of Budget
2019 (Draft)
2013 $0 0%
2011 $0 0%
2010 $0 0%
2009 $0 0%
2008 $4,000 2%
2007 $16,523 3%


The table below contains contracts with the following statuses: Active, Complete, History, Issued.
* "Total Contracted Amount" column includes contracted amount from both capital and expense components of the contract.
Expense Contracts:
Number Contractor Name Title Status Total Contracted Amount Dates
333 REL 32 SOW Nez Perce Tribe 1997-38 LISTED STOCK CHINOOK SALMON GAMETE PRESERVATION History $64,943 1/1/2000 - 12/31/2000
333 REL 11 SOW Nez Perce Tribe 97-38 LISTED STOCK CHINOOK SALMON GAMETE PRESERVATION Terminated $574,667 1/1/2000 - 12/31/2000

Annual Progress Reports
Expected (since FY2004):14
On time:13
Status Reports
On time:37
Avg Days Late:0

Earliest Subsequent           Accepted Count of Contract Deliverables
Contract Contract(s) Title Contractor Start End Status Reports Complete Green Yellow Red Total % Green and Complete Canceled
4000 25758, 30755, 36102, 39677, 44923, 50162, 55114, 60157, 63234, 67391, 71336, 74274, 74017 REL 3 1997-038-00 LISTED STOCK CHINOOK SALMON GAMETE PRESERVATION Nez Perce Tribe 03/2001 03/2001 Closed 54 118 1 0 0 119 100.00% 0
Project Totals 54 118 1 0 0 119 100.00% 0

The table content is updated frequently and thus contains more recent information than what was in the original proposal reviewed by ISRP and Council.

Review: RME / AP Category Review

Council Recommendation

Assessment Number: 1997-038-00-NPCC-20110125
Project: 1997-038-00 - Listed Stock Chinook Salmon Gamete Preservation
Review: RME / AP Category Review
Proposal: RMECAT-1997-038-00
Proposal State: Pending BPA Response
Approved Date: 6/10/2011
Recommendation: Fund (In Part)
Comments: Implement gamete preservation objective (Obj 1), through FY 2016.

The project sponsor proposed two work objectives for this project -- to maintain secure storage facilities for cryopreserved gametes and to assist hatcheries with the use of cryopreserved gametes for broodstock management or population recovery. The ISRP concluded that the project met scientific criteria, albeit with technical qualifications that would need to be addressed before implementation, especially with regard to the second objective. The Council decided to recommend only the first objective for implementation. As the ISRP noted, the “most support is to keep the samples frozen in good shape in two local universities and now to also include the federal cryopreservation facility in Colorado.” The technical concerns raided by the ISRP about the proposal to use the gametes added to the Council’s inclination that implementing the second objective was too low a priority for Program funds at this time.
Council Condition #1 Implement gamete preservation objective (Obj 1) only, through FY 2016.

Independent Scientific Review Panel Assessment

Assessment Number: 1997-038-00-ISRP-20101015
Project: 1997-038-00 - Listed Stock Chinook Salmon Gamete Preservation
Review: RME / AP Category Review
Proposal Number: RMECAT-1997-038-00
Completed Date: 12/17/2010
Final Round ISRP Date: 12/17/2010
Final Round ISRP Rating: Meets Scientific Review Criteria (Qualified)
Final Round ISRP Comment:
Qualification 1: Because saving salmon sperm for 50 years has not been done before, and because individual variation among researchers and storage facilities may affect long-term survival rates of preserved sperm, this project needs to develop a formal protocol to periodically and regularly test the sperm viability. Although testing every five years should be sufficient, because more than five years have already elapsed since collection of many of these samples, this plan should be developed and presented in the next proposal.

Qualification 2: The program also needs to initiate development of a plan with co-managers soon on when and how the region would use these preserved gametes. Such a plan should include innovative approaches to conserving/maximizing usage of these valuable and historical sperm samples (rather than using up an entire sperm sample in one production event). For example, if cryopreserved sperm cells represent a life-history legacy, to conserve those genes, sperm may need to be amplified before being used to produce smolts. Eggs could be fertilized with a subsample of the preserved milt, some of the resulting smolts released, and precocious parr and smolts could be used to collect additional sperm for storage, as well as to produce a cohort of smolts for release.
First Round ISRP Date: 10/18/2010
First Round ISRP Rating: Response Requested
First Round ISRP Comment:
This is a proposal for a modest amount of money ($50,000) to maintain the sperm cell collection from Snake River Chinook and steelhead. The project is generally sound and justified. That said, the ISRP requests information on testing the viability of the cryopreserved gametes and a discussion of a plan to employ the gametes if needed. Would they use the sperm to produce smolts that would be released for ocean migration? The Forks Hatchery relative reproductive success work (and possibly Hood River as well) demonstrate a very high variance in production of adult progeny from hatchery fish. Most do not return any progeny. While captive rearing raises serious issues, it may actually be better to maintain smolts produced with cryopreserved milt until they are precocious parr or jacks and then use them to fertilize eggs to be released for anadromous migration. In such a scheme there is an amplification generation (and the possibility of replacing the used sperm with that of direct progeny). Using doubled-haploid technology it might be possible to maintain the original germplasm without recombination with a contributing female genome.
Documentation Links:
  • Proponent Response (11/15/2010)

2008 FCRPS BiOp Workgroup Assessment

Assessment Number: 1997-038-00-BIOP-20101105
Project Number: 1997-038-00
Review: RME / AP Category Review
Proposal Number: RMECAT-1997-038-00
Completed Date: None
2008 FCRPS BiOp Workgroup Rating: Supports 2008 FCRPS BiOp
Comments: BiOp Workgroup Comments: No BiOp Workgroup comments

The BiOp RM&E Workgroups made the following determinations regarding the proposal's ability or need to support BiOp Research, Monitoring and Evaluation (RME) RPAs. If you have questions regarding these RPA association conclusions, please contact your BPA COTR and they will help clarify, or they will arrange further discussion with the appropriate RM&E Workgroup Leads. BiOp RPA associations for the proposed work are: ( )
All Questionable RPA Associations ( ) and
All Deleted RPA Associations ( 62.5 64.2)
Proponent Response:
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review

Council Recommendation

Assessment Number: 1997-038-00-NPCC-20090924
Project: 1997-038-00 - Listed Stock Chinook Salmon Gamete Preservation
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Approved Date: 10/23/2006
Recommendation: Fund
Comments: Reduce the work elements to what the Council concluded were the priority elements at this time (maintain current inventory, no new collection).

Independent Scientific Review Panel Assessment

Assessment Number: 1997-038-00-ISRP-20060831
Project: 1997-038-00 - Listed Stock Chinook Salmon Gamete Preservation
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 8/31/2006
Final Round ISRP Date: None
Final Round ISRP Rating: Meets Scientific Review Criteria (Qualified)
Final Round ISRP Comment:
Previous comments from the Provincial/Systemwide Review still apply. To repeat, "It is time for a thoughtful analysis of what the Fish and Wildlife Program wants to accomplish in gene conservation, whether or not cryopreservation continues to be a useful tool, and whether an ever-increasing commitment to this program is consistent with that goal." The project applies to a number of subbasins and to ESA planning in the Columbia River Basin, and should benefit focal species. The program could turn out to be critically important if ecosystem dysfunction issues can be addressed and "old" genes are wanted to expand the diversity in the extant population.

The proposal was clearly written and provided a strong technical and scientific background. There was evidence of excellent collaboration between the project and agencies, tribes, and universities. The project history is well described. Proponents and cooperators publish in the peer-reviewed literature and report at regional and national conferences.

The narrow, task-oriented objective that was provided should have been superceded by an overarching objective dealing with preserving genetic diversity in ESA-listed fishes. Reviewers would have appreciated more evidence that project personnel are able to keep up with all emerging technologies. Another important issue, not apparently addressed in the proposal, is when is active collection of sperm completed, and thus when is it appropriate for the proposal to shift into a lower budget maintenance mode. Also, if future monitoring indicates a significant reduction in sperm viability then there would be a need to rotate or update earlier collections. This should be addressed at some point in time.

Documentation Links:

Legal Assessment (In-Lieu)

Assessment Number: 1997-038-00-INLIEU-20090521
Project Number: 1997-038-00
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 10/6/2006
In Lieu Rating: Problems May Exist
Cost Share Rating: 3 - Does not appear reasonable
Comment: Cryogenic gene bank for listed SR species; other entities authorized/required to fund (eg fishery managers, other hydro project owners); query whether cost-share sufficient.

Capital Assessment

Assessment Number: 1997-038-00-CAPITAL-20090618
Project Number: 1997-038-00
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 2/27/2007
Capital Rating: Does Not Qualify for Capital Funding
Capital Asset Category: None
Comment: None

Project Relationships: None

Name Role Organization
William Young Project Lead Nez Perce Tribe
Jay Hesse Supervisor Nez Perce Tribe
Dorothy Welch Supervisor Bonneville Power Administration
Deborah Docherty Project Manager Bonneville Power Administration