The Umpqua National Forest in Partnership with the National Forest Foundation recently completed a road decommission project to reduce sediment input in Copeland Creek, an important tributary for native fish in the North Umpqua Basin. Photos below are of the project underway.
Kirk BlaineHabitat Restoration by Umpqua National Forest and National Forest Foundation
You’re Invited! Steamboaters will be hosting their annual Hwy 138 Road cleanup with the decreased road construction!
On Saturday, August 20th, at 9:30 am, the Steamboaters and other volunteers will gather at Bogus Creek raft put-in to distribute bags, trash grabbers, and vests. We will help direct folks on where to pick up trash that day. The cleanup will finish at 12:15 pm and meet at Susan Creek Day Use Area for refreshments provided by the Steamboaters. Multiple Steamboaters Board members will be there for conversations or questions.
If you would like to join, please email Steamboatersboard@gmail.com. We hope everyone can make it for a beautiful day giving back to the River.
Who: Anyone interested in cleaning up the Wild and Scenic North Umpqua River
What: Trash Pickup with refreshments afterward
When: Saturday, August 20th, 9:30 am refreshments at 12:15 pm
Where: Bogus Creek Raft put-in
How: Folks will split up and tackle multiple sections of the river. We will organize folks in the morning to cover different river sections. Please bring adequate clothing and water.
Kirk BlaineAnnual North Umpqua River Trash Pick Up
Steamboaters has sent a letter of support to Umpqua National Forest endorsing the proposed Aquatic Restoration project on Fish Creek and Copeland Creek.
In both of these drainages, the projects will commence a couple of miles above the River, and include placement of boulders and logs in the stream and may include bank stabilization in some areas. The project is identified as aimed at anadromous fish, and will clearly benefit steelhead in Copeland Creek. It’s unclear how much of the project area on Fish Creek is accessible to salmon or steelhead, but as Bob Nichols, UNF’s Fisheries Program Manager points out, improving the health of the creek and riparian area will benefit downstream areas as aquatic invertebrates and increased amounts of wood eventually wash downstream.
Steamboaters offered to help with monitoring, both in gathering baseline data and in ongoing evaluation of the benefits, either on-the-ground surveys or with funding, particularly on Copeland Creek.
ODFW’s Proposed Fish & Wildlife Agreement with the Coquille Tribe
The draft still leaves many of the details to be worked out, but appears to grant extensive hunting, fishing, and harvest rights; the area includes all of Lane, Douglas, Coos, Curry, and Jackson Counties (map of the area is on page 24 of the draft).
Hatchery System Impacts Analysis
On May 24 ProPublica and OPB produced an in-depth report on the failure of hatcheries to provide anadromous fish to replace the lost production from dams and habitat degradation. The report focuses on the Columbia River but also discusses the problem from a larger perspective.
News from the Big Bend Pool – A message from our partners at the North Umpqua Foundation
Beginning with the summer of 1992, The North Umpqua Foundation (TNUF) has provided a caretaker at the Big Bend Pool and we are pleased Ed Kikumoto will be returning to that position again this year. Ed is in the process of setting up the visitor’s area which will again be open to the public.
The North Umpqua Foundation sends a big thank you to Kirk Blaine, President of the Steamboaters, for hauling the Air Stream trailer up to the Big Bend Pool on May 14th, just another example of the way the two organizations work together for the river.
Hope to see you there!
Kirk BlaineA Message from our Partners at The North Umpqua Foundation
It’s official, only 449 Wild Summer Steelhead returned to the Iconic North Umpqua River last year, the lowest run on record. It is an emergency and we must take action to do everything we can to restore these fish.
For decades, conservationists, including legendary Steamboater Frank Moore, have been working to protect this fragile run of wild steelhead. Recently, the Steamboaters have been a part of the North Umpqua Coalition, a group of conservation organizations working together to restore an all wild steelhead North Umpqua. Our mission is simple – focus on the management practices we can control and we know work. In the North Umpqua, we don’t look far for answers because the river’s wild winter steelhead show us the way.
Three decades ago, fisheries managers elected to end hatchery releases of winter steelhead into the North Umpqua. They invested in habitat restoration after decades of extensive logging and managing winter steelhead for the wild genetics and diversity, not fish reared in other watersheds or concrete raceways. Since then, the run has seen a dramatic recovery. In 2020, ODFW reported over 10,000 fish crossing Winchester dam and in 2015 over 13,000 wild winter steelhead made the journey over the dilapidated dam. This, by far is the largest run of wild fish in the entire Northern Oregon Coast.
In 2020, the Archie Creek fire obliterated ODFW’s Rock Creek Hatchery in the Umpqua Basin. In response, ODFW moved hatchery programs to Cole Rivers hatchery on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. After rearing there, those fish have been moved back up to the North Umpqua Basin.
The Coalition is asking ODFW to pause the planting of hatchery summer steelhead in the North Umpqua River starting this year. To be clear: we aren’t asking for an elimination of all hatchery programs in the basin, we are focused on the summer steelhead in the North Umpqua.
ODFW’s own monitoring shows that too many hatchery fish are spawning in the North Umpqua, and have been for decades. The Steamboaters are simply requesting that ODFW follow their own conservation management plan. This plan was adopted in 2014 to help restore and conserve multiple species of salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout on the Northern Oregon Coast. It is absurd that ODFW will not comply or enforce their own rules and regulations in fisheries management.
To outline the science and give a historical perspective we go to Jeff Dose, current Steamboaters president, and retired fisheries biologist of the Umpqua National Forest. Jeff worked in the North Umpqua Basin for over thirty years and deeply understands the hydrology, biology, and ecology of the entire watershed. There’s no better person to provide insights on why a pause to the summer steelhead hatchery program is part of the solution to giving the North Umpqua’s iconic wild fish their best chance to rebuild their numbers.
A Change in Management for the Future of Wild Summer Steelhead
By Jeff Dose, Steamboaters President
The topic I’d like to address is what I clearly believe is a needed, and appropriate, change to the Coastal Multi-species Management Plan (CMP). Specifically, since adoption of the CMP, there has been some substantially changed conditions to the environment within the North Umpqua basin from the Archie Creek fire and accelerated climate change. There has also been a changed condition with the status of the wild summer steelhead population, with a substantial declining trend. I believe plan amendments are entirely appropriate. Changes from the original assumptions regarding wild NU summer steelhead involve both biological and environmental factors.
Habitat quality is already problematic in some parts of the watershed and will undoubtedly be further reduced from decreased water quality, sedimentation, simplification of stream channels from landslides, among other factors. The biological conditions are such that there has been a decline from the observed abundance of 3,200 from which the CMP is based, while counts of wild summers at Winchester Dam have actually declined to under 2,000 for 4 of the last 6 years, with the 2021 run at about 350, the lowest on record since counting began in 1946. This is a major movement away from the desired abundance and towards the critical abundance of 1,200 identified in the CMP. They are classed as Sensitive – Vulnerable and proactive management of existing threats is warranted. It was true then and new information supports the need for even greater actions. If information appears to show that progress is not being made towards desired status goals, or declining towards critical abundance levels, the ODFW will consider if additional actions need to be implemented. I strongly believe this is the case.
Please note that in an OAR for steelhead management goals there is direction to protect wild populations of steelhead from detrimental interactions with hatchery fish. The literature clearly shows that hatchery fish have the potential to cause either genetic or ecological (i.e, competition or predation) impacts on any population with which they spatially and temporally overlap. They certainly do overlap in the case of NU summer steelhead at both juvenile and adult life stages. The desired proportion of hatchery fish in the natural environment (pHOS) goal is to not exceed 10%. This is either unmet or not accurately measured and is estimated to be over 30%. Many of the returning hatchery summers counted at Winchester Dam are not accounted for in harvest or the Rock Creek trap. Some indication of where they go, and likely spawn, is counts at Soda Springs Dam, which is some 40 miles upstream from Rock Creek. In some years the number of hatchery summers has equaled and occasionally greatly exceeded wild summers.
The environmental and biological conditions affecting the long-term persistence and abundance of wild NU summer steelhead is putting them at great risk. The potential social and economic benefits from a robust run of wild NU summer steelhead is great but is threatened. One action that the ODFW and the Commission, can take to reverse this trajectory is to amend the CMP to eliminate the NU summer steelhead hatchery program. We are not asking for a complete cessation of all hatchery programs, just a pause in the NU summer steelhead hatchery program for 10 years, which equates to about two generations. It won’t solve all the threats but will go a long way towards that goal. One final thought, the genetic diversity inherent in a wild steelhead population will provide for greatly improved resiliency that will be needed to cope with the anticipated future changes in environmental factors. There is no better biological insurance policy.
On April 7th, ODFW will be hosting a webinar discussing the future of Summer Steelhead in the North Umpqua River. The webinar will feature Dr. Megan Jones, a social scientist with ODFW and a member of the ODFW science team. There will be a presenation followed by questions and answers. Please join to share your concerns about the future of Summer Steelhead in the North Umpqua River.
On April 22nd, the ODFW Commissioners will be reviewing the situation of North Upmqua Summer Steelhead. The Steamboaters will be at that commission meeting asking ODFW to comply with the Conservation Management Plan adopted in 2014. Please join us in person that day or over the phone testifying to the Commission.
Kirk BlaineNorth Umpuqa Summer Steelhead – Wild is the Future
Joe Ferguson, board member of the Steamboaters lifelong conservationist, shared his most fond memories of Frank Moore and the stories that Jeanne would share when visiting by their famous trout ponds. We all miss Frank and the work he did to protect the place we all love and enjoy will always be remembered.
One evening, Frank and Jeanne were driving home up the North Umpqua River and noticed an Oscar Mayer Wiener-mobile, you know the hotdog mobile, parked along the highway and the driver was looking at a map. Frank said he was lost, Jeanne said he wasn’t really lost. Of course, Frank stopped the car to see if they could help. Frank and Jeanne ended up inviting him to their lovely home for dinner. After dinner, the Oscar Mayer Wiener driver ended up staying the evening with the caring and loving couple! That’s the kind of person Frank was and Jeanne continues to be – cabinet members, congressmen, rich and famous people, and wiener-mobile drivers were all welcomed at Frank and Jeanne’s wonderful cabin above the North Umpqua River.
Another great memory of Frank was when I stopped by their home one summer evening. I looked around the house expecting them to be making dinner or working outside, but it looked like nobody was home. As I went back to my van here came Frank running down the road BACKWARDS! He was only about 75 or 80 at the time and not missing a step. His pace was faster than most folks in the their 30’s. When he approached, he looked at me and told me, keeps my legs in good shape to wade…
Thanks, Joe, for sharing these wonderful memories of Frank and his lovely wife Jeanne. His legacy will continue to push each one of us to be better humans and continue his work in conservation.
North Umpqua Coalition asks ODFW to reduce harm to imperiled Summer Steelhead Populations
North Umpqua River, Idleyld Park, Oregon – On January 31, 2022 the North Umpqua Coalition, consisting of The Conservation Angler, Native Fish Society, The Steamboaters, The North Umpqua Foundation, Umpqua Watersheds, and Pacific Rivers, filed a Petition for Declaratory Ruling with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission asking them to pause the production and release of hatchery Summer Steelhead until ODFW staff and fisheries managers can adhere to their own conservation management plan (Coastal Multi-Species Conservation and Management Plan aka CMP) for the North Umpqua River. The North Umpqua Coalition shares a vision of an all wild Steelhead North Umpqua River.
The North Umpqua Coalition’s petition asks the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to direct the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to pause the release of hatchery Summer Steelhead of the North Umpqua River in order to comply with their own conservation management plan and administrative rules. The coalition is asking for a management change based on the high levels of hatchery origin Summer Steelhead spawning in the wild. The best available science shows detrimental effects to wild native fish when hatchery fish spawn with wild native fish. To protect the viability of wild summer steelhead, ODFW’s conservation management plan for the North Umpqua River provides that the proportion of hatchery steelhead spawning in the wild must be 10% or less in the majority of wild fish spawning areas. ODFW reports a nine year average of 33% hatchery Summer Steelhead on the spawning beds in the North Umpqua River, and 77% hatchery Summer Steelhead are spawning in and near Rock Creek causing major concerns for the long-term health of wild Summer Steelhead. Not releasing hatchery summer steelhead smolts and pausing the summer steelhead hatchery program will allow summer steelhead to respond as the all-wild winter steelhead population on the North Umpqua has since the cessation of that hatchery program.
“The current scientific literature clearly shows substantial adverse impacts to wild Steelhead populations from interactions with hatchery fish. In addition to reduced fitness from genetic integration among the spawning populations, other factors; such as competition, predation, disease transmission, and altered predator survival and behavior begin as soon as juveniles are released into the natural environment” says Jeff Dose, longtime Fisheries Biologist with the Umpqua National Forest.
ODFW is rearing ~79,000 hatchery Summer Steelhead smolts at Cole River Hatchery in the Rogue River watershed. As recently reported in the Medford Mail Tribune, heaters at Cole Rivers Hatchery have malfunctioned and fish are unlikely to meet ODFW’s size standards for release. The best available scientific evidence shows that smaller juvenile Steelhead often fail to migrate to the ocean, with a subsequent high likelihood of residualizing where they were released and even spawning with wild fish. It is critical ODFW not release undersized Summer Steelhead smolts into the North Umpqua this year. ODFW has other options such as releasing them into the Galesville Reservoir where more anglers have the opportunity to catch them.
“The North Umpqua River’s iconic run of wild Summer Steelhead continue to struggle with only 347 wild fish returning to spawn this year,” said Becky McRae, President of The North Umpqua Foundation. “ It is clear a fisheries management change is critical and pausing the hatchery Summer Steelhead program is one limiting factor ODFW can easily change to help restore these wild Summer Steelhead populations.”
The North Umpqua Coalition began sharing their concerns about the wild Summer Steelhead population on the North Umpqua River with ODFW over a year ago. Members of the Coalition attended the September 2021 ODFW Commission meeting asking for action and change in management. The Coalition was informed there would be a public outreach period during the fall of 2021, yet no such meetings occurred. During the December 2021 ODFW Commission meeting a member of the coalition gave public testimony reminding commissioners and staff of the emergency situation and asked for a change in management. On January 7, 2022 the Coalition wrote again to the ODFW Director and Fisheries Division Administrator asking for immediate action. While ODFW made a statement at the January commission meeting that there is an evaluation underway, no management changes have been taken that would bring them into compliance with their own policies and rules.
The Coalition’s petition asks that the Commission directs ODFW Staff to pause the Summer Steelhead hatchery program to ensure the long-term health and conservation of wild Summer Steelhead.
“It is absurd that ODFW insists on releasing hatchery fish into a river with so few wild fish that it must be closed to all angling,” said Karl Konecny, board member of the Steamboaters and The North Umpqua Foundation.
The North Umpqua Coalition is working to conserve and restore the North Umpqua River and its wild fish populations. Working together, their vision is focused on restoring an all wild steelhead North Umpqua, making it the only river in Oregon with a population of both wild summer and wild winter steelhead. This advocacy has been made possible through a grant from the Flyfisher Foundation of Oregon.
Frank Alvin Moore always gave 125% in all his endeavors, but he didn’t expect others to meet that standard. His determination and grit made you want to give a 100% plus without saying a word. Sometimes Frank would give you a steely look or pronounced silence during a conversation. It always made me reflect, evaluate, and maybe make a change or shout a little louder.
In the summer of 2020, I was over at Frank and Jeanne’s on a hot summers evening. We were sitting by the pond talking about the history of the River, steelhead fishing stories, and steelhead history on the North Umpqua River. Jeanne correcting Frank and Frank correcting Jeanne as they always did. They got me laughing so hard I almost fell out of my chair into the pond. That would’ve been a good story if I’d gone in. Later that summer, Frank, Jeanne, Kathy (my wife) and I lost our homes to the Archie Creek Fire.
Frank never gave out the names of fishing runs, he would say to me “you catch a fish there, come back and I’ll tell you.” Kathy and I explored more runs on the North Umpqua than ever imaginable, just trying to catch a fish so Frank would tell us the name of the run. We were doing intense fishing research with direction from Frank.
Frank loved to sing. I never got to hear him sing, but he took singing lessons at one time. That’s how he met Jeanne.
Keep your ears open on the river and you might hear….
I will miss you so much Frank. I feel privileged to have received many bone crushing bear hugs and handshakes over the years.
We are saddened by the news that Frank Moore passed away over the weekend. A legend in conservation with a heart of gold, Frank will be deeply missed in the community. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jeannie and the Moore family.
We will continue to fight and protect the North Umpqua River working to restore the future of wild fish in the river Frank loved so much.
Kirk BlaineSaddened by the loss of a North Umpqua Legend
Restoring abundant runs of wild Pacific salmon and anadromous trout, that is, fish spawned in natural habitat from wild parents, to the rivers and streams of the Pacific Northwest has risen to the highest levels in the public’s consciousness. As a consequence, there is attention from the regions’ and nations’ top elected officials and a large expenditure of public and private funds in an effort to prevent extinction and restore some measure of historical abundance. This attention is certainly true here, in the Umpqua River basin, where our fish runs support a multitude of recreational and commercial enterprises and where there is concern for some greatly diminished populations.
The North Umpqua River has one of the most diverse populations of wild salmon and searun trout in coastal Oregon. There exist six different races representing four species. These are spring Chinook salmon, fall Chinook salmon, coho salmon, winter steelhead, summer steelhead, and searun cutthroat trout. In addition to the wild populations, there are artificially propagated populations from hatcheries, principally Rock Creek hatchery, where large numbers of juvenile spring Chinook salmon and summer steelhead are released into the North Umpqua. The hatchery also produced coho salmon and winter steelhead to augment populations elsewhere in the Umpqua basin.
The historically large and intense wildfires that started in early September of this year throughout western Oregon caused extraordinary losses to property and infrastructure. Several fish hatcheries were impacted, Rock Creek hatchery along the North Umpqua River, was nearly completely destroyed by the Archie Creek Fire. Reconstruction of this facility has been estimated to cost as much as $15 million. Even before the Archie Creek Fire, Rock Creek was a compromised watershed with poor water quality. High summer water temperatures necessitated construction and operation of a pumping station to draw water from the North Umpqua to allow survival of the adult and juvenile fish that were being held during the summer. The impacts from the highly intense fire, as well as suppression actions and salvage logging, will further degrade the Rock Creek watershed for decades. Additionally, anticipated impacts from climate change will likely further retard or prevent meaningful watershed recovery. As I describe below, there are some considerations that should be seriously considered as to whether that level of public expenditure is prudent.
Pacific salmon, broadly defined to include sea-run trout, are a truly remarkable and successful group of animals. During this time period, they have endured numerous global-scale climate changes – upheavals that caused the extinction of an untold numbers of other species – yet they persisted, albeit not always in the same locales. Through evolutionary processes such as natural selection, salmon have been able to persist, and even thrive, by developing some rather unique and impressive characteristics and abilities which enhance their genetic diversity, including:
the ability to “navigate” and migrate enormous distances;
a very fine-tuned “homing” ability that allows them to return to their natal streams, while at the same time having sufficient straying capability to colonize new or previously lost habitats;
a life-history which results in the bulk of the population being at sea during the “catastrophic” natural disturbances (e.g., floods, wildfire, drought, etc.) which occur periodically within their freshwater habitat;
the ability to dramatically change their kidney function so as to be able to move between fresh and salt water, which allows them to utilize the relatively rich marine environment for growth and the relatively safe freshwater environment for reproduction and initial rearing; and;
the ability to evolve quickly to different environments by adopting life-history strategies, such as migration timing or body size, to a wide variety of different, localized freshwater environments – ranging from intermittent streams in southern California to alpine lakes near the continental divide in Idaho to frequently frozen rivers above the Arctic Circle in Alaska and Canada.
Managing salmon resources involves preventing overharvest, protecting and restoring habitat, managing hydro and other dams, and augmentation of wild populations with hatchery production. While counter-intuitive, large-scale hatchery production does not usually produce more fish and can seriously reduce fitness of wild populations. Most current hatchery practices, such as supplementing wild populations with hatchery-bred fish produced from artificial selection, rather than natural selection, are antithetical to the goal. Additionally, hatchery production requires a large investment of funds that might be better spent on habitat acquisition and restoration, alternative energy sources, law enforcement or better research, monitoring and evaluation. It is not uncommon for the return of one hatchery salmon to cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. The majority of which is paid by taxpayers and ratepayers, not from the sale of licenses and tags.
Among other effects, genetic changes are contributing to the problem of salmon declines. Most recent legitimate, peer reviewed research has shown significant reductions in wild salmon and steelhead production when hatchery fish are spawning with wild fish, even at fairly low levels (~10-15%) of hatchery fish.
In addition to genetic effects from interbreeding, impacts to wild salmon begin as soon as the hatchery fish are released into the rivers and streams. These potentially include disease transmission, competition, direct predation, altered migratory behavior, and altered predator survival and behavior. In addition to these direct effects, the release of 10’s of thousands of hatchery reared fish (and their subsequent return) makes it nearly impossible to assess accurately the status of wild stocks. This is further exacerbated during periods of high ocean productivity when hatchery fish survive (and return to spawn) at much higher rates than at other times. The offspring from these pairings are unmarked and are essentially indistinguishable (without genetic analysis) from true wild stocks. They are then usually counted, inappropriately, as wild. Despite the large body of scientific information that portrays the damage done, there has been little real change in the current hatchery/harvest paradigm. Similarly, there has been very little change in land and water uses that affect salmon habitat.
As to habitat “restoration,” most of what has been done to date is the uncoordinated treatment of some of the more obvious symptoms, while totally ignoring the causes – like widespread clearcutting and road building in forest watersheds, unrestricted livestock grazing, diversions of large amounts of water from stream channels for irrigation and domestic use, urban and industrial development on and adjacent to floodplains, and retention of damaging, outdated dams. Successful, widespread restoration of wild salmon stocks will require a significant paradigm shift from current approaches. Many researchers have concluded that for restoration programs to succeed, there must be a shift away from simplistic technofixes – such as hatcheries for low fish numbers or log structures for poor watershed conditions – to ecologically-based restoration of watershed processes.
I’ll conclude with a quote from the book Salmon Without Rivers, (Lichatowich, 1999) in which he concluded:
Today we are faced with a legacy of more than a century of salmon management based on a faulty set of assumptions. Natural salmon habitats have been wrecked while we have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on hatcheries, chasing the foolish dream of producing salmon without rivers. Every independent scientific review of the current management system has called for a major overhaul, but bureaucratic salmon managers still cling to the status quo, defend their hatchery programs, and embrace without thinking the outmoded worldview from which hatcheries first emerged in 1872. [Page 219]
While I fully understand many citizens, particularly some avid anglers, have complete faith in hatchery programs and reject any attempt to reduce them. Some even advocate for large increases. I believe them to be well-intentioned, but short-sighted. While the Archie Creek fire caused wide-spread devastation, it also provides an opportunity. An opportunity to decommission the Rock Creek hatchery without the large expenditure of public funds that would be required to rebuild it. I firmly believe that significant changes in land and water uses and cessation of hatchery inputs can eventually lead to more robust populations of all of our wild salmon and steelhead in the North Umpqua basin, as has happened with our wild winter steelhead after stopping hatchery production.