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

Project 2007-036-00 - Mid-Columbia Trophic Dynamics
Project Number:
Mid-Columbia Trophic Dynamics
Conduct a trophics dynamic project using conventional fish capture methods, bioenergetics modeling and stable isotope analysis as well as mobile hydroacoustics surveys to quantify the impacts of predators on salmonids within the Mid-Columbia
Proponent Orgs:
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) (Govt - State)
Starting FY:
Ending FY:
Province Subbasin %
Basinwide - 100.00%
Focal Species:
Species Benefit:
Anadromous: 100.0%   Resident: 0.0%   Wildlife: 0.0%
BiOp Association:

No photos have been uploaded yet for this project.

Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review

Legal Assessment (In-Lieu)

Assessment Number: 2007-036-00-INLIEU-20090521
Project Number: 2007-036-00
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 10/6/2006
In Lieu Rating: Problems Exist
Cost Share Rating: None
Comment: Other entities required (eg non-fed Mid-Columbia project operators).

Capital Assessment

Assessment Number: 2007-036-00-CAPITAL-20090618
Project Number: 2007-036-00
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 2/27/2007
Capital Rating: Does Not Qualify for Capital Funding
Capital Asset Category: None
Comment: None

Independent Scientific Review Panel Assessment

Assessment Number: 2007-036-00-ISRP-20060831
Project: 2007-036-00 - Mid-Columbia Trophic Dynamics
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Completed Date: 8/31/2006
Final Round ISRP Date: None
Final Round ISRP Rating: Does Not Meet Scientific Review Criteria
Final Round ISRP Comment:
Even with the response, this remains a plan to develop a plan. The ISRP's earlier recommendation of "Not fundable" stands.

The ISRP's preliminary comments (June 1, 2006): The proposal in its present form is not fundable. This is a proposal to develop a research, monitoring, and evaluation plan. The proposed location-specific information on predators and predation rates on salmonids in the Mid-Columbia would be both more up-to-date and local than existing information from the lower Columbia. A better understanding of the impacts of the predators is warranted but this proposal is not sufficiently justified to address this data gap. Particularly, the methods are insufficiently described. If the proposal focused on developing a method to estimate predator population size and food habits, it could be developed into a fundable project. Additional comments by ISRP reviewers are listed below.

Technical and scientific background: Scientific and technical information related to the Columbia River Basin is adequately explained with references. This section of the proposal is brief, and would have benefited from a brief review of relevant studies in other geographic regions.

Rationale and significance to subbasin plans and regional programs: The potential significance of predators is noted in the subbasin plans for the project area and is generally recognized as a problem in the basin. The proponents mention subbasin plans and Council's research plan, but do not make a strong case for whether predator trophic dynamics studies are a high priority in these plans.

Relationships to other projects: The proponents provide a description of how their results will be applicable to several ongoing and newly proposed studies. They plan to work with the Chelan County and Grant County Public Utility Districts' pikeminnow removal programs to collect additional stomach and tissue samples if required.

Objectives: The first objective in which the proponents want to do the project planning with project funding suggests that this proposal is incomplete; i.e., this is a proposal to do a proposal.

The general objective to improve the understanding of predatory fishes' impact on migrating salmonids is very appropriate. However, the relationships among the specific objectives listed in the proposal are not clear. For example, in work element 3.1 the statement is made that a population estimate of predators will not be possible. However, much of the sampling effort (e.g., littoral sampling, hydroacoustic sampling) seems to be focused on developing some understanding of predator abundance. In fact, without a good estimate of predator abundance, it will not be possible to estimate impacts on migrating salmon, even with the use of the bioenergetics model. One of the primary objectives of this work should be developing a methodology that will provide an estimate of predator abundance.

The rationale for collecting the water quality data is unclear. Developing a relationship between water quality attributes and salmonid susceptibility to predation would require sampling at frequent intervals, across a range of water quality conditions, at least one site within each of the broad habitat classes (forebay, tailrace, reservoir). However, sampling will occur only in spring and fall. Therefore, only two points per site, per year will be collected. The possibility of developing a meaningful understanding of the relationship between water quality and predation rate seems pretty remote given the paucity of the data.

The objectives at the end are presuming good results and go on to actions, which are acceptable for projecting ahead, but are premature for inclusion in this proposed work.

The proposed timelines for the three phases of the project are not clear.

Tasks (work elements) and methods: Many of the work elements are not clearly described. This point clearly applies to the issue of estimating predator population size, mentioned above. Much more thought needs to be given to this aspect of the study. In fact, the usefulness of the information collected in this project would be severely compromised unless some estimate of population size is made. The use of multiple sampling techniques to enumerate predator populations exacerbates the problem. Is it possible to combine data collected during the littoral sampling with the hydroacoustic data? The issue of data compatibility is especially problematic given that the littoral data is collected in the spring and fall and the hydroacoustic data in mid summer. It might be worthwhile to consider restricting the sampling effort to a much smaller section of the river (between two dams, maybe) and concentrate on developing a solid estimate of salmonid losses to predation at this site. Subsequently, the methodology could be applied to other locations.

The proponent's description of Phase 2 indicates that evaluation of any predator control strategy will require monitoring of predator population size. This point further emphasizes the need to develop a method for measuring population size.

It is not clear what types of samples (other than fish muscle) will be used in the stable isotope analysis. In order to construct a food web for the system, samples of all the major food items of the predatory fishes need to be collected for isotopic analysis. Without these data, it will not be possible to draw any conclusions about the diets of the predators beyond what you learn from the gut contents. If samples of food items are planned, this should have been described in the proposal. If there is no plan to collect samples of food items, the stable isotope analysis should be omitted from the study.

Work element 1.1: This is a proposal to do a literature search to further develop research, monitoring, and evaluation methods and a sample design. In general, the proposal would have been improved if this work had been completed prior to submission of the proposal.

Work element 1.2: Standard WDFW protocols for selecting samples sites will be used. Methods of random site selection are not described. Sampling methods to be used include gillnetting, electrofishing, fykenetting, and angling but no details on gear (e.g., mesh size), fishing methods, or fishing strategy with respect to target species are provided. Additional habitat types will be designated depending on gear types. The proposal would have been improved if the study area and sampling design had been completed and included as part of the proposal.

Work element 2.1: The proponents would limit sampling to the spring to "when smolt are migrating" and fall "to ascertain diet data associated with smolt absence." Why isn't predation on juvenile salmon parr, which might be rearing and feeding in reservoirs throughout the year, of interest in this study? Part of the description of hydroacoustic methods is written in past tense - is this methodology derived from another study conducted by the proponents? Again, the proposal would be improved by a description of the net sampling gear and procedures that would be used to validate species composition and size distribution.

Throughout the proposal, statistical data analysis procedures -- sample sizes/statistical power -- are not provided. Work elements for phase II and III of the proposal are not fully developed.

Monitoring and evaluation: This is a monitoring and evaluation project. However, there are deficiencies in the design that should be addressed before the project is implemented.

Facilities, equipment, and personnel: The budget request includes a new boat, a new truck and several other capital items. These needs suggest that current equipment and facilities may not be sufficient to undertake this project. Where will the stable isotope analyses work be done? Only the lead staff person's CV was given, and a few other names are listed in the text as writers. We have to presume that the state staff knows how to do the planned work. What are the roles of Polacek, Simmons, Bennett, and Schroder in the proposed study?

Information transfer: The public outreach component is especially noteworthy. The proposal would have been improved if plans for publication of results in a scientific journal were included. Plans for release and long-term storage of data and meta-data are not described.

Benefits to focal species and non-focal species: The proposed project is intended to benefit salmon populations through predator control (if warranted by the results), but it is not demonstrated that benefits would be significant or persist over the long term. Without a good estimate of predator population levels, the impact of these fishes on migrating salmon cannot be estimated and the effectiveness of any predator control strategy that is implemented cannot be assessed. This problem reduces the benefit of this project to the focal species. Knowing more about the predatory fishes and the consumption of salmon will likely benefit salmon populations, but there is some uncertainty.

There are potential adverse effects of the sampling (e.g., electrofishing) on salmonids and other species of native biota. Any predator control program implemented as a result of this work could have unforeseen impacts on aquatic communities in the mainstem. However, it would seem unlikely that these impacts would be to species that are the primary targets of recovery efforts. There likely will be some beneficial information gathered on species other than the major predator and prey species that are being targeted.
Documentation Links:

Council Recommendation

Assessment Number: 2007-036-00-NPCC-20090924
Project: 2007-036-00 - Mid-Columbia Trophic Dynamics
Review: FY07-09 Solicitation Review
Approved Date: 10/23/2006
Recommendation: Do Not Fund

Project Relationships: None