PS Chambers Creek lawsuit settlement??

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Smalma, Apr 25, 2014.


    By Andy Walgamott, on April 25th, 2014
    Hatchery steelhead smolts would be released into the Skykomish River this spring and next, but they would end for 12 years on the Skagit, according to papers filed in U.S. District Court today.
    A proposed settlement between the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, which was sued over Chambers Creek early winter steelhead production without a federal permit by the Wild Fish Conservancy, says that the state agency would also pay the Duvall-based group $45,000 in lawyers fees.
    The papers, signed by WFC’s director Kurt Beardslee today and WDFW director Phil Anderson yesterday, indicate that a native broodstock program will be studied on the mainstem Skagit and its tribs other than the Sauk.
    They also appear to OK continued releases of Chambers steelhead after the state secures a permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service for its programs on the North Fork Nooksack, Green, North Fork Stillaguamish, Snoqualmie and Dungeness.
    Previously, WFC had been trying to get WDFW to halt releases in Snoqualmie and Nooksack as well as the Skagit for a dozen years, according to a letter from Michael Grossman at the state Attorney General’s office.
    The documents indicate that the Skykomish may receive more than the 180,000 smolts that were otherwise going to be released into it in the coming weeks.
    Jim Scott, Fish Program manager for WDFW, says that being able to continue releases into the Sky was one of two key points.
    “The big thing for us is they won’t sue us for 2 1/2 years of our other programs,” he says, pointing to Puget Sound Chinook, an “immensely” important hatchery fishery. “We were very concerned that was the next step for them.”
    More details as we parse the papers and get comments from WDFW.

    A Skagit wild brood stock would be a huge step backwards for the Skagit wild steelhead if it comes to pass. The fact that WFC would agree to such a potential program as part of the settlement IMHO is a clear signal that the suit was never about wild steelhead.

  2. It seems to me that we have a fairly good handle on the effects of hatcheries on steelhead in the river. We have no actual idea of interactions in the salt, especially in the sound wher the bulk of mortalities occur.
    By allowing the other PS streams to have hatch fish, nothing is gained for the Skagit fish either. They will still swim next to and with the other PS basing hatch fish.

    Go Sox,
    Tyler Sadowski likes this.
  3. Dammit. I was hoping for a better outcome. Sad to see the sky will still be planted. I know others feel differently but this is insanity and its finest. Well that kinda chaps my ass.
  4. I'm kinda surprised it was the Sky and not the Snoqualmie
  5. That surprising too. The snoq seems like a better choice to plant if that is our only option. The sky has much better water in my opinion and also much better spawning habitat. What does this do for our seasons though? I have a feeling they will still be closing early ?

  6. While I personally think this is an excellent compromise that promotes wild fish recovery and science-based hatchery management (or hatchery closure, if that's what the NMFS scientists feel is needed) while still preserving angling opportunity, I had the exact same thought about the Snoqulamie.

    The available wild spawning potential for the Skykomish seems much greater than that in the Snoqualmie below the falls, why not dump it full of plants and let the bonkers have their go?
    Restoring wild steelhead runs is important, but like it or not, so is angling opportunity and the economic impact (and the interest in fishing and fish) it provides. We needed a compromise.

    As for the Skagit broodstock possibility, the Upper Skagit and Sauk tribes were never going to just sit quietly if WFC won the lawsuit, and WFC should have known that. The possibility for a future broodstock program gives them a path forward that is less detrimental to overall wild returns in that system.

    Hat tip, WFC.
  7. I know that I just read recently that brood stock programs wind up with the same poor returns with the same "inferior" type fish as the Chambers fish. Oregon is where I believe this study was done...any one else see it?
  8. I suspect it is in recognition of the fact that the Snoqualmie is too small to accommodate all the people in jet sleds incessantly buzzing up and down the Skykomish in search of fish to kill. ;)

  9. I believe you are referring to the Hood River study which showed that hatchery fish genetics are changed/damaged after one generation. Here is a link....
  10. Some would say it is great year for the residents of WA state.... Seahawks win the Super Bowl, marijuana is legalized, and chambers creek hatchery fish are taken out of the PS rivers! :D
    Tyler Sadowski and Phil Fravel like this.

  11. I believe the settlement is for all puget sound rivers but one. Yeah, I know it sucks, but I'm sure WFC had to "give" somewhere.
  12. I noticed that as well. And I agree 100%. I have no love for Chambers Creek hatchery steelhead. But mining wild Skagit River steelhead to create hatchery steelhead is in no way a step forward for wild steelhead in the Skagit system.
  13. "A Skagit wild brood stock would be a huge step backwards for the Skagit wild steelhead if it comes to pass. The fact that WFC would agree to such a potential program as part of the settlement IMHO is a clear signal that the suit was never about wild steelhead.


    Have you all read the consent decree or are you just looking at the synopsis in Curt's original post? As far as I can tell from the text of the consent decree, all that WFC agreed to was to discuss the "appropriateness" (or lack thereof) should the Dept propose a Skagit brood stock program. WFC reserved the right to disagree and challenge that program in court if need be should WDFW attempt to institute a brood stock program. They did not agree to support such a program. If I am interpreting this aspect of the decree incorrectly, please let me know. Its attached (see paragraph 18).

    Curt, after you read the consent decree and you still think that the suit was never about wild steelhead, what do you think it was really about?​

    Attached Files:

    ChaseBallard likes this.
  14. Are you suggesting that now that we will further regulated on shorter steelhead seasons , We should now all Smoke dope and watch the seahawks instead of fishing wild stock fish?

  15. Uh, no!
  16. Skeena88 -
    Thanks for the link; in a quick search early yesterday afternoon I didn't find the decree.

    After carefully reading the decree I agree the relevant paragraph is 18 and for the me the issue comes down to the first sentence of that paragraph -

    "WDFW and the Conservancy shall work cooperatively and in good faith in an

    effort to study and evaluate whether development and implementation of an integrated steelhead

    hatchery program using native steelhead (not Chambers Creek hatchery steelhead) is warranted

    and/or appropriate, and if so, the appropriate parameters of such a program, in the Skagit River

    watershed, including the Skagit River main stem and tributaries thereof, except that no such

    program shall be considered for the Sauk River."

    I added the emphasis on "in good faith" and I guess it comes down to what one thinks working cooperatively and in good faith means. For me that means to me that for the "parties a potential alternate hatchery program is on the table.

    The fact that paragraph 18 exists is a pretty clear indication that turning the Skagit steelhead into a 12 study was a pretty high priority. Looking at the steelhead situation across the Puget Sound DPS I can find lots of examples of systems (or major portions of systems) where either Chambers Creek steelhead have been eliminated and/or wild brood stock rescue programs in effected. The Skagit in my opinion because of the uniqueness of the basin and its wild steelhead was the best example of a segregated program the meets the HSRG criteria for such programs. If folks were looking at examining the potential range of tools available in managing hatchery and wild interactions there was no better place to look at a segregated program. The recent wild Skagit returns clearly illustrate the continued robustness and productivity of the wild Skagit steelhead.

    If indeed the agenda was to insure the future of the regions wild steelhead our efforts would be much more effective in addressing the largest issues limiting that resource rather than expending considerable time and debate on issues that have largely be addressed and in the process divert attention and energy for those larger issues. If progress is every to be made on those larger issues that natural allies for such efforts includes not only the conservation community but also the tribal community and the recreational anglers. Efforts like this current suit is so divisive for those potential allies that any likelihood of success in those arenas (habitat protection and restoration, increased understand and management responses to marine survival questions) has been reduced.

    I see this whole issue and result as one small step forward and several giant steps backwards in the long term goal of preserving the future of the wild steelhead resource which remains both my short and long term goal. For better or worse I tend to measure actions against those goals.

    Irafly, _WW_ and Kent Lufkin like this.
  17. Bingo... we have a winner. This is just the beginning of the legal dance I fear. The Skagit would be a great candidate for a wild stock only system; left closed and closely could be the model from which to replicate. But, with all the forthcoming legal wrangling between state, WFC, tribe and sports fishing, it sadly won't be. I just leased a rock on the Cowlitz... see you there ;).
  18. Why does it have to be closed?
  19. So I'm guessing the skagit system will be closed to fishing unless a CNR fishery for wild fish is established? It's seems leaving it open even for bull trout would require too many restrictions and enforcement to make it cost effective? Since the chum run sucks fishing would end after coho and reopen June 1?
  20. ...and my mind reflects on all those empty chairs at the last commissioners meeting.
    constructeur likes this.

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