Okanogan County Citizens Coalition (OC3) "Let Them Spawn" Resolution

June 28, 2001

Submitted for the Record

House Natural Resources Committee - Field Hearing, Klamath Falls, OR - June 16, 2001

Okanogan County Citizens Coalition (OC3) "Let Them Spawn" Resolution

Whereas National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) claims their goal in enforcement/ implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is to protect and restore wild and native salmon runs; and

Whereas hatchery activity in the Methow has been continuous since the first salmon hatchery was built on the Methow River in 1899; and

Whereas NMFS officials have admitted/ acknowledged there are no wild or native spring chinook in the Methow - Documented by: 1) Lower Methow river dammed - with no fish passage - for 16 years ending 1931; and 2) In the 1940s all Spring Chinook were trapped at Rock Island Dam and entered into federal hatchery mitigation programs; and

Whereas Carson Stock spring chinook has been raised 24 consecutive years - since 1976 - at the federal hatchery in Winthrop, WA; with documented instances of natural spawning occurring; and

Whereas spring chinook runs have been successfully recovered in the Umatilla River Basin using Carson Stock; and

Whereas NMFS has conferred ESA listing to the Winthrop state hatchery's "Methow Composite Stock" spring chinook which according to WA F&W: was bred based on (at least) 65% Carson broodstock; first released in 1994; with first run returning in 1998; and

Whereas NMFS has ordered the Carson Stock "phased out" of the Methow Valley ie. exterminated by fish-clubbing and destroying the eggs and milt; and

Whereas state and federal hatcheries, contrary to the public's perception of salmon recovery, have been systematically killing "surplus" salmon - including *183,609 in WA state during 1999 alone! (*Based on data compiled by Senator Bob Morton, using NMFS, USF&W, and WA F&W records); and

Whereas Washington State salmon recovery programs cost taxpayers $207 million (annual average); and

Whereas federal salmon recovery programs cost taxpayers $345 million (annual average); and

Whereas Bonneville Power Administration Pacific Northwest electrical ratepayers contribute $310 million annually for salmon recovery; and

Whereas NMFS has refused repeated request for science and genetics documentation for salmon listings - from citizens; watershed planning processes; elected officials; and FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) petition for the Common Sense Salmon Recovery lawsuit.

Therefore be it resolved that Okanogan County Citizens Coalition (OC3) supports allowing the Carson Stock to spawn naturally - "in-the-wild" in the Methow River watershed;

Be it Further resolved that the ESA listing of the hatchery-developed Methow spring chinook be immediately INVALIDATED!

Okanogan County Citizens Coalition (OC3) "Let Them Spawn Resolution was adopted by all twenty-two member groups in July 2000. The resolution was first used as part of an info-packet for OC3's participation in the July 26th protest rally, which culminated with a weir being constructed in Spring Creek to block further fish passage into the Winthrop National Hatchery. About twelve people went into the creek - representing Yakama, Colville, Umatilla Tribes and non-tribal alike. This purposeful act of civil disobedience was done to protest NMFS salmon recovery/hatchery policies - which had slated the Carson Stock for destruction. Due to public outcry and three protests, last year's Carson Stock run was saved, but was banished from the Methow watershed to be raised elsewhere at considerable taxpayer expense.

The OC3 Resolution was the basis for requesting a General Accounting Office investigation of the Methow Spring Chinook listing, and to request Congressional Field Hearings on NMFS/ESA Salmon Recovery/Hatchery policies.

In April 2001 OC3's Resolution was used to formally request a public hearing regarding the US Fish & Wildlife Service application for an ESA section 10 permit to "take" Upper Columbia Spring Chinook at Winthrop, WA. [Federal Register: Vol. 66, No. 54, pg 15694-15695] OC3 objected to this permit's purpose of killing and sorting the fish to comply with the NMFS ordered extermination.

On May 14, 2001 NMFS announced that State/Federal agencies and Tribes had reached agreement for use of this year's returning Upper Columbia Spring Chinook Salmon. The agreement calls for broodstock to be trapped in the local river system. Spring Creek "swim-in" access to both Winthrop state/federal hatcheries has been blocked at the confluence of the Methow River. ALL FISH, not needed for broodstock, will be allowed to spawn naturally in the river system regardless of their "coded-wire-tag" identity.

This is in direct contradiction to the Listing Determination for Upper Columbia River Spring Chinook Salmon [Federal Register: Vol. 64, No. 56, pg 14308-14328], which states [pg 14324]: "This ESU does not include naturally spawning spring run chinook salmon derived from the Carson NFH [National Fish Hatchery] spring run chinook salmon stock, or other hatchery stocks derived from the Carson spring run stock and their progeny."

However, the ESU/listing does include the Methow, Twisp, and Chewuck Rivers hatchery stocks [pg 14316]. These fish, dubbed "Methow Composite Stock," are being raised by Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) at the Methow River hatchery in Winthrop, WA. (That hatchery was built and operation costs are funded by Douglas County PUD as mitigation for Wells Dam.) The hatchery opened in 1992, and began its Spring Chinook program in 1993.

WDFW's own records show: "BY93 Methow River hatchery fish were derived 67% from unmarked hatchery fish. BY94 and BY95 Methow River hatchery fish were derived 100% from unmarked hatchery fish. These unmarked hatchery fish were most likely volunteer strays from the Winthrop National Fish Hatchery." [Draft, 1998, Methow Composite Broodstock] (Note: BY=Brood Year.)

They are the same Carson Stock fish! But as soon as they were marked with the state hatchery "coded-wire-tag" they were instantly transformed into NMFS-designated, Evolutionary Significant Unit, ESA-listed endangered species.

During a meeting to provide the public with information about the May 14th agreement, in response to questions about the Carson Stock, NMFS Rob Jones, (Chief, Hatcheries & Inland Fisheries Branch, Portland, OR) explained: "It's an experiment, if those fish- if those fish show that they can survive and sustain a population, we'll count them." [Twisp, WA - May 23rd mtg - Tape on file.]

OC3 considers the May 14th agreement a victory for common sense and the fish. However, OC3 adamantly disagrees with claims that this was an example of NMFS / ESA flexibility. It was simply state and federal agencies responding to political pressure. It was the direct result of people joining together - regardless of ancestry - to save the Spring Chinook that had successfully passed through nine dams to return to the Methow Valley to spawn. NMFS / ESA would have clubbed and destroyed the run; they were the problem - not the solution.

Furthermore we have witnessed no flexibility demonstrated toward Okanogan County residents. OC3's concern: Will people in the Methow Valley - their water and property rights, their livelihoods and way-of-life - survive this federal government experiment?

Background: When National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) made their move on the Methow Valley, (Okanogan County, Washington) just prior to the 1999 irrigation season; they justified their treatment of people as necessary for salmon recovery to restore "wild and native" fish. Under the guise of Endangered Species Act (ESA) enforcement, NMFS issued threats of fines and imprisonment if historic legal water rights were used.

Although 1999 was a "high water" year, with the Methow River running at twice its normal flow; and with near-record snowpack in the Cascade Mountains; three irrigation ditches - Early Winters, Skyline, and Wolf Creek - were shut down under ESA Section 7 consultation. Never mind the fact that NMFS had no Biological Opinion (Bi-Op) in place; because they had failed to meet their own administrative procedures and timelines required under federal law. After the fact, NMFS issued draft Bi-Ops in July 1999.

Meanwhile croplands - alfalfa fields and orchards; the school district's sports fields; a local golf course; and tourist resorts - were all denied water. The largest employer in the valley, a destination resort, cancelled it $6 million expansion project. A 75-year-old widow was forced into bankruptcy when the $1.3 million deal to sell her 80-acre bed & breakfast/golf course/resort fell through. All to meet the "biological needs of fish."

Water rights were also curtailed in 2000. The Skyline ditch had no water at all for a second year, causing private wells along the watercourse to go dry. In June, NMFS filed for an immediate injunction to cut off water to about 800 acres served by the area's largest water purveyor, Methow Valley Irrigation District (MVID). The action carried a $55,000 fine for "taking" of listed juvenile fish at the close of the previous irrigation season. The injunction was not granted; NMFS had not documented whether the stranded fish were from listed stocks; the fine was waived. However, MVID accepted the terms of a "stipulated consent decree" with NMFS, agreeing to operate at lower water capacity. In August, NMFS ordered water shut off to Early Winters irrigators, more than a month before the end of irrigations season.

The long awaited final Bi-Ops for the Section 7 ditches were also issued in August 2000. Through the Bi-Ops NMFS claims that "pre-civilization" river conditions are the standard necessary to meet the "biological needs of fish." That could completely curtail all industrial, domestic, and agricultural water use. (It should be noted that human water use in the Methow Valley constitutes less that 2 percent of the flow in the basin during an average year.) If this policy is allowed to stand, the economic and social implications would be devastating to the Methow Valley, Okanogan County, and potentially the entire nation.

With the 2001 drought, all irrigators are facing a tough season. But in the Methow, under NMFS "precivilization" target flow, water use could be halted in five (or more) of every ten years.

One June 19, 2001 in US District Court, Spokane, WA, Okanogan County and Methow Valley irrigators filed a lawsuit against National Marine Fisheries Service, US Forest Service and other federal agencies. OC3 commends the stand that Okanogan County Commissioners and Methow Valley residents have taken to fight for property/water rights protected under both the United States and Washington State Constitutions.

This is an action "of last resort," unfortunately necessary until such time as Congress acknowledges that they have created a "green-eyed" monster - the Endangered Species Act. Currently, ESA enforcement agencies answer to no one - for their science or their policy decisions.

OC3 urges Congressional support for the people in the Klamath Basin; because we understand first-hand what the families, farmers, businesses and communities are going through!

This insanity must stop. It's time for balance and accountability - REFORM ESA!


Respectfully submitted by:

Bonnie Lawrence, Secretary

Okanogan County Citizens Coalition (OC3)

The Okanogan County Citizens Coalition (OC3) consists of twenty-two grassroots member groups which support multiple use resource and land management and Constitutional government. OC3 includes more than 6000 people in Okanogan County representing cattle, orchards, agriculture, irrigation, timber, mining, wildlife and recreational interests. OC3 was founded in 1994.

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