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Statement of Fish and Wildlife Needs

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Statement of Fish and Wildlife Needs

Fish and wildlife managers in the Umatilla subbasin continue to seek solutions to resolve problems affecting the productivity, stability, and perpetuity of natural resources. The first step in accomplishing this task is to identify factors known to limit the productivity of the resources. Upon their definition, resource specialists are able to prescribe specific strategies or actions needed to rectify or adjust the limitation.

Lead management agencies in the subbasin have a common goal of restoring and/or stabilizing native fish, wildlife and plant species. Given the conditions and large number of critical resource needs, it will likely take an appreciable amount of time before noticeable gains are made. For instance, fisheries managers have pointed to the need for rectifying flow and temperature problems in the subbasin for years, and considerable gains have been made; however, problems with flow and temperature continue to persist. Similarly, today’s wildlife managers recognize the need to improve habitat connectivity, reduce invasion of exotic species, and restore the structural complexity of vegetation types; yet, these problems continue to be among the greatest threats to species persistence.

Fortunately, core refugia for plant and animal species in the Umatilla exists, albeit at reduced levels from historic conditions. Conservation and expansion of these areas is a common need recognized by both fish and wildlife managers. Specific needs for fish and wildlife managers are listed below.

Fish Needs

Needs for the improvement of population status of key fish species in the Umatilla subbasin are identified in Table 58. Fisheries resource management needs have been repeatedly identified in multiple planning, restoration and research documents and many are referenced in Table 58. The identified needs are a response to limiting factors, and constitute what the strategies and actions are designed to address. The table illustrates the linkage between needs, life history, and management strategies, and provides external reference information directly associated with the identified limiting factor.
Table 58. Fisheries resources management needs in the Umatilla subbasin


Reference from this document

Other References

Limiting Factor


Improve Stream Flows

Tables 34, 38, 39 and 43


(CTUIR & ODFW 1990; CTUIR 1990; CTUIR 1999; ODEQ 1998; ODEQ 2000; Shaw 2000; CBFWA 1999; Evans 1984; Contor et al. 1998; CRITFC 1996b; Towle 1935; Reeve 1988; Boyce 1986; CTUIR 1984; OWRD 1988; USFWS & CRITFC 1981; BOR 1988

Improve Stream Temperatures

Table 43



(ODEQ 2000; Boyd et al. 1999; Shaw 2000; CTUIR & ODFW 1990; Bond 1963; Buchannan et al. 1997; Contor et al. 1995-1998; Bull Trout Working Group 1999; Umatilla National Forest 2000; CBFWA 1999; Reeve 1988; Boyce 1986; CTUIR 1984; Smith and Pitney 1973; OWRD 1988; CRITFC 1996b

Address Passage Impediments

Table 36, 39, 40 and 43


(Knapp and Ward 1990; BOR 1988; ODEQ 2000; Buchanan et al. 1997; CRITFC 1996b; CTUIR & ODFW 1990; Reeve 1988; Boyce 1986; Contor et al. 1998; CTUIR 1984; BOR 1988

Improve Riparian Habitats

Table 31 and 43




(Shaw 1996, 1997, 2000; Contor et al. 1995-1998; Buchanan et al. 1997; CTUIR & ODFW 1990; ODEQ 2000; Kagan et al. 2000; USACE 1997; CRITFC 1996b; Reeve 1988; Boyce 1986; CTUIR 1984; CRITFC 1996b

Improve Instream Habitat Quality and/or Diversity

Table 31 and 43


(Shaw 2000; Contor et al. 1997; Buchanan et al. 1997; Northrop 1997; Bull Trout Working Group 1998; ODEQ 2000; CTUIR 1994, 1996; Crabtree 1996 CRITFC 1996b; Umatilla National Forest 2000; CTUIR & ODFW 1990; Reeve 1988; Boyce 1986; CTUIR 1984; CRITFC 1996b

Reduce Sediment Inputs

Table 32 and 43




(Shaw 2000; CRITFC 1996b Harris and Clifton 1999; CTUIR & ODFW 1990; Reeve 1988; Boyce 1986; CTUIR 1984;

Protect Stronghold Habitats

Table 30 and 43


(Umatilla National Forest 2000; CTUIR & ODFW 1990; Boyce 1986; CTUIR 1984; CRITFC 1996b;

Law Enforcement for Protection of Fish and Wildlife and their Habitats

Table 42







CRITFC 1996b

Increase Adult Spawners (parental base)

Table 42

all strategies/ actions listed above plus







(Bradbury et al. 1995; Contor et al. 1997, 1998; CTUIR & ODFW 1990; CRITFC 1996b; Boyce 1986; CTUIR 1984; CTUIR & ODFW 1990b

Increase SARs (smolt-to-adult returns)

Table 42



CTUIR 1999; Contor et al. 1995-1998; CRITFC 1996b; CTUIR & ODFW 1990; Boyce 1986; CTUIR & ODFW 1990b

Address Research Monitoring &Evaluation and Data Gaps










(CTUIR 1990; CTUIR & ODFW 1990; Busby 1996; CRITFC 1996b; CTUIR & ODFW 1990b

Improve Stream Flows

Historically, Umatilla Basin fish populations have been severely impacted by low stream flows due to out-of-stream uses. Dewatering was the primary contributing factor in the extinction of several species of indigenous salmonids. To ameliorate some of these impacts, the Umatilla Basin Water Exchange Project was implemented by the Bureau of Reclamation and Bonneville Power Administration (O & M power costs). This project delivers Columbia River water to three of the five major irrigation districts in the Umatilla Basin in exchange for leaving instream flows in the Umatilla River for anadromous fish passage and rearing (Heirs 1996). The purpose of this exchange was not to increase year-round flows, but rather to increase flows in the lower Umatilla River during critical migration and rearing periods. However, little has been done to address flow problems in the upper Umatilla and tributaries basin-wide. Many tributaries suffer low flow situations as a result of both out-of-stream uses and watershed-scale degradation. Lack of summer rearing habitat due to low flows is a primary limiting factor in the Umatilla Basin (Contor et al. 1998). Ongoing efforts to restore floodplain/riparian function should continue.

Where out-of-stream uses are causing low flow problems, attempts should be made to mitigate them. One possible solution is acquisition of water rights. Oregon’s Instream Water Rights Law allows water right holders to donate, lease, or sell some, or all, of their water right for transfer to instream use. Oregon Water Trust (OWT), a private, non-profit group, negotiates voluntary donations, leases, or permanent purchases of out-of-stream water rights. These rights are converted to instream water rights in those streams where they will provide the greatest benefits to fish and water quality. Where watershed land use practices have led to lowered summer flows, management should focus on developing “flow friendly” land use practices.

An immediate need is the continuation of funding for the power costs associated with the Umatilla Basin Water Exchange Project. While this project has successfully improved flows in the lower Umatilla, target flows developed for the project are not always met during the identified time period. Also, managers have found additional flow needs for addressing species and life histories phases that were not included in project Phase I and II flow target and times. A Phase III of the Umatilla Basin Flow Augmentation Project is being pursued by CTIUR. Phase III, as proposed, would fund feasibility studies to identify the most efficient flow enhancement options for addressing outstanding flow problems. Phase III could also involve local partnerships ( for example,. City of Pendleton municipal needs).

ODFW and OWRD have established priorities for restoration of streamflow as part of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds (Measure IV.A.8). ODFW has prioritized streamflow restoration needs by ranking biophysical factors, water use patterns, and the extent that water limits fish production in a particular area (Figure 40). OWRD watermasters will incorporate the priorities into their field work activities as a means to implement flow restoration measures. The “needs” priorities will be used by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board as one criterion in determining funding priorities for enhancement and restoration projects. Watershed councils and other entities may also use the needs priorities as one piece of information to determine high priority restoration projects

Figure 40. Umatilla/Willow subbasin streamflow restoration priorities (also includes Oregon portion of the Walla Walla subbasin).

Improve Stream Temperatures

Excessively high water temperatures are a basin-wide problem as indicated by the number of streams listed for temperature on the DEQ 303 (d) list (Table 3). Elevated water temperatures are a result of anthropogenic changes in the basin. Primary causes for elevation of stream temperatures include loss of shade producing vegetation, reduced stream flows, reduced hyporheic flows, loss of effective floodplain function, and changes in stream channel geomorphology.

Areas with high water temperatures that need to be addressed in the short term include the mainstem Umatilla from the confluence of Meacham Creek to the mouth (excluding the reach immediately below the cool water inflow from McKay Reservoir), Meacham Creek from mouth to headwaters, and Birch Creek from mouth to headwaters. Ongoing activities to restore riparian vegetation and improve stream channel morphology and floodplain function should be continued. Efforts to improve streamflows through water exchanges and through lease or purchase of out-of-stream water rights for transfer to instream should be accelerated.

Address Passage Impediments

As with instream flows and temperature, passage impediments have severely impacted fish populations in the Umatilla subbasin and were a major cause of the extinction of native salmon stocks. Passage problems on the mainstem Umatilla River from the construction of diversion dams have been largely mitigated, as have many passage problems on tributaries; however, a number of significant passage barriers remain, particularly in Birch, Butter, and Willow Creeks. Birch Creek continues to produce very significant numbers of summer steelhead. Butter and Willow Creeks historically supported summer steelhead, but no longer do so because of passage barriers and low streamflows. Both continue to support populations of interior redband trout. The remaining passage barriers in the Birch Creek watershed should be addressed to improve production of summer steelhead. Passage barriers in both Butter and Willow Creeks should be inventoried and a plan developed for addressing them.

While ladders and screens are in place at all lower Umatilla River Irrigation diversions, these facilities must be properly operated and maintained to provide optimum protection for salmonid fish. Ongoing efforts to operate and maintain these facilities should continue. All fish screens and passage structures in the basin need to be maintained to provide optimum benefits.

As with upstream passage barriers, unscreened water diversions have also had a substantial impact on anadromous fish in the Umatilla Basin. All known gravity feed diversions in the anadromous portion of the basin are screened. It is not known to what extent pump diversions have been screened in the anadromous portion of the subbasin. An inventory of pump installations should be conducted to determine screening needs; all unscreened pumps should be appropriately screened. The number of unscreened diversions in Butter and Willow Creeks is unknown. An inventory of all surface water diversions should be conducted and a plan developed for screening all unscreened diversions.

Improve Riparian Habitats

Riparian vegetation is a critical component of a stable, functioning stream ecosystem. Degradation of riparian vegetation leads to changes in both the physical and biological parameters important for salmonids and other aquatic organisms. Riparian vegetation provides multiple benefits, including streambank stability, stream channel shading, insect drop, organic matter for terrestrial and aquatic insects to feed upon, thermal cover for wildlife, nesting and roosting areas for song birds, and recruitable instream wood. Reeves et al (1988) found that approximately 70% of 422 miles of streams in the Umatilla Basin inventoried by ODFW would benefit from riparian improvements. Since 1988, the ODFW, CTUIR and UNF have implemented habitat enhancement projects on nearly 38.15 miles of streams on UNF and private owned lands. These areas are currently in early recovery. Numerous small properties, fragmented ownerships, and lack of cooperative landowners frequently make it difficult to recover a contiguous riparian buffer in high priority areas.

Activities to improve riparian habitat should continue, particularly in subwatersheds with temperature, sediment and/or flow problems such as Birch, Meacham, Wildhorse, and Butter Creeks. Activities should include operation and maintenance of existing projects; implementation of new restoration projects (e.g., fencing, revegetation, bioengineering, noxious weed control); purchase of critical habitat for fish and wildlife; and acquisition of grazing, timber, mineral and water rights.

Improve Instream Habitat Quality and/or Diversity

Intensive land uses throughout the basin have negatively affected watershed function, altered natural channel and floodplain characteristics, and have destroyed or deteriorated riparian zones. Many streams in the subbasin have been channelized, resulting in channel incision below the water table. Such incision lowers the surrounding water table, which reduces the amount of water available to riparian plant communities, thus lowering the viability of native riparian plant species. Other outcomes of channelization include streams losing their bank strength, channel widening, and lateral channel extension. This has resulted in large, unstable gravel bars and wide, shallow stream flow. The cumulative effects of such stream channel alterations result in unstable channels and poor fish habitat. Ongoing efforts in the basin to restore historic stream channel dynamics and native riparian vegetation should continue. Many miles of stream in the subbasin are still in need of treatment.

Reduce Sediment Inputs

Many streams in the Umatilla basin have excessively turbid waters and a high percentage of fine sediment in spawning substrates (DEQ 2000). Some of the highest suspended sediment loads were found in the Wildhorse Creek, Tutuilla Creek and Butter Creek drainages. Most areas of the basin exceed the water column turbidity target of 30 NTU developed for the TMDL requirement. DEQ found that water column sediment in the Umatilla Basin is derived from both streambank (bed and banks of the stream) and upland sources; however, the primary source (71% to 96% of the sediment load) was from streambanks. As with instream habitat quality, reduction of streambank erosion can be accomplished by restoring stream channel morphology and natural flow regimes, and by restoring riparian vegetation. Upland sources should be addressed by implementing Best Management Practices (BMPs) as documented in the TMDL Water Quality Management Plans (DEQ 2000).

Protect Stronghold Habitats

Particular areas of the basin provide habitat strongholds. For example, the North Fork Umatilla provides stronghold habitat for bull trout and spring chinook, and Squaw Creek provides stronghold habitat for summer steelhead. Stronghold habitats are paramount to conservation of salmonid species in the Umatilla Basin. These areas are the life-blood of the basin and account for the majority of fish production. Should catastrophic events occur, these areas would likely be instrumental in maintaining a basin-wide population base. Current management and/or protective strategies that have allowed stronghold habitats to persist should be continued. Above all else, stronghold habitats should be protected to maintain their current status. Additionally, all salmonid habitats should be protected to at least maintain their current quantity and quality. Habitat acquisition should be emphasized where opportunities exist to protect stronghold fish and wildlife habitats or to enhance areas to stronghold status.

Increase Adult Spawners

Salmonid species in the subbasin currently limited by the number of adult spawners include bull trout (Hansen et al. 2001), and summer steelhead (Chilcote 2001 unpublished draft). Reintroduced salmon species (chinook and coho) are likely also limited by lack of adult spawners. While natural production has been documented for these reintroduced species, it is far below the level needed to provide replacement of adult returns. This is not unusual considering Umatilla reintroduction efforts (utilizing non-endemic stocks) is still in the “start-up” stage. Most endemic salmon and steelhead populations in the mid to upper Columbia River system are currently not replacing themselves; therefore there may be factors other than in-subbasin instream habitat influencing fish recovery. Even if replacement was occurring, populations would still not be at a level that could meet natural production and harvest objectives. As a result, key needs for Umatilla fish recovery include habitat enhancement, both in and out of the subbasin, as well as the continuation of artificial production efforts in order to increase the number of natural spawners.

There are numerous strategies for increasing natural spawning escapement. These include improvements in total survival, reduction of sport and commercial harvest, artificial propagation, habitat enhancement, and passage improvement. Current efforts to increase bull trout spawner abundance include prohibiting sport harvest, improving habitat and passage, and improving the survival of fish with a “fluvial” life history. These efforts should be continued, and improvements made through monitoring and evaluation of the “fluvial” life history pattern.

Steelhead abundance below objectives should be addressed through habitat improvement and continued hatchery supplementation with endemic Umatilla stock (CTUIR). Spring chinook abundance below objectives should be addressed through habitat improvement and continued hatchery supplementation with the additional production proposed by CTUIR. Fall chinook abundance below objectives should be addressed through habitat improvement and hatchery supplementation utilizing 0+ and 1+ juvenile releases, and adult outplants. Adult return success should also continue to be evaluated. Coho salmon abundance below objectives should be addressed through habitat improvement and continuation of the existing hatchery reintroduction program. Pacific lamprey research and restoration efforts utilizing supplementation should continue in order to meet restoration objectives (CTUIR). Monitoring of survival and adult return success (for anadromous species) should be continued.

Increase SARs (smolt to adult returns)

Low SARs continue to impede efforts to achieve natural production, broodstock, and harvest objectives in the Umatilla Basin. This has been a problem for both natural and hatchery produced smolts. According to Chilcote (1998), Umatilla wild summer steelhead have been below estimated population equilibrium since the 1994 spawning year. Actual SARs for hatchery produced smolts have been far below the target planning levels identified in the Umatilla Hatchery Master Plan (NWPPC 1990). This is believed to be caused by conditions both inside and outside the subbasin.

The survival rate of smolts initiating downstream migration in the Umatilla River is estimated at 60-70% (Knapp and Ward 1990). While the specific survival bottlenecks have not yet been identified, it is presumed that improved passage conditions (in-river flows, water quality, management of smolt by-pass facilities, and decreased avian predation) will result in higher smolt survival. The Umatilla River Fish Passage Operations Project should continue to oversee operation of fish by-pass facilities, monitor river conditions, and direct implementation of the Umatilla Basin Water Exchange Project to optimize in-river smolt migration conditions. Fish managers should support implementation of actions to achieve the waste load allocation adopted by the Umatilla TMDL (DEQ 2000) to improve water quality conditions for smolt outmigration.

In 2000, fish managers modified the Umatilla hatchery fall chinook production program because of low smolt to adult returns from subyearling’s released in the Umatilla. Smolt to adult returns have been low since fall chinook production at the Umatilla Hatchery began. While the bottleneck(s) for fall chinook SARs are not currently known, managers hypothesize that size of release, low streamflows, and high water temperatures in the Umatilla River at the time of release, are the primary problems (ODFW and CTUIR 2000, unpublished). Over the next several years, managers will implement different release strategies to improve survival. These strategies will be evaluated to determine which actions are most successful.

Problems with low SARs for spring chinook smolts reared at Umatilla Hatchery and released into the Umatilla have been observed in recent years. Managers believe that this survival problem is tied to the water supply in which the fish are reared. The fish are reared in warm well water with a temperature regime unlike natural conditions. This has resulted in early maturation of fish. In past years, juveniles were smolting in the hatchery prior to transfer to acclimation facilities for release. Managers hypothesize that early transfer to acclimation ponds with natural temperature regimes will increase survival. To test this hypothesis, one group of spring chinook smolts will be transported to acclimation facilities in mid November for release in March.

The major problem affecting SAR that occurs outside the subbasin is outmigration through the Columbia River hydropower system. Reducing the mortality of downstream migrants through the impounded Columbia River mainstem will be necessary before any upriver subbasins can be expected to meet production and harvest objectives. There is a need for special emphasis on addressing problems with fish passage, water quality, predation, and estuary conditions in the Columbia. These problems will be elaborated in the mainstem “subbasin” assessments as a part of the NWPPC fish and wildlife restoration planning and implementation process. Without appropriate sharing of the conservation burden throughout the fish’s life history, concentrated efforts in the subbasins will have limited results.

Address Research/Data Gaps

Natural Production

  • Continue collecting trend data for salmonid distribution, abundance, densities, age, and growth throughout the subbasin at established index sites

  • Continue collecting trend data for natural adult returns and the natural spawning of hatchery and natural produced steelhead, spring chinook, fall chinook, coho, bull trout and lamprey

  • Maintain regular collections and archives of genetic material for O. mykiss and bull trout

  • Maintain artificial production monitoring and evaluation programs

  • Monitor juvenile salmonid outmigrant timing and survival

  • Evaluate existing flow enhancement efforts and define the most feasible options to meet additional needs

  • Evaluate salmonid supplementation programs

  • Continue research and restoration of Pacific lamprey and develop a research and restoration plan for shellfish
  • Monitor and evaluate patterns of fluvial bull trout

  • Monitor distribution and abundance of spawning hatchery-reared steelhead

  • Inventory pump diversions and determine screening needs

  • Inventory irrigation diversions in the Butter and Willow Creek drainages and determine passage and screening needs

Artificial Production

  • Maintain artificial production monitoring and evaluation programs


  • Evaluate existing flow enhancement efforts and define most feasible options to meet additional needs

  • Inventory pump diversions and determine screening needs

  • Inventory irrigation diversions in the Butter and Willow Creek drainages and determine passage and screening needs


  • Continue research and restoration of Pacific lamprey

  • Develop a research and restoration plan for shellfish

Wildlife Needs


Grassland and Shrub Steppe

  1. Protect, maintain and enhance shrub steppe habitats

  2. Improve connectivity between existing shrub steppe fragments

  3. Move savannah grassland with potential brooding , leking and wintering sharp-tailed grouse habitat into protect status

  4. Enhance and restore native perennial grassland habitats

  5. Reduce non-native annual grasses in shrub-steppe and grassland habitat

  6. Pursue and implement effective biological controls on noxious weeds including yellow-star thistle and knapweeds


  1. Protect, maintain, and enhance late-seral dry forest habitats
  2. Maintain large patch size late-seral dry forest stands

  3. Restore and maintain snag and downed wood densities of a variety of species to meet nesting and foraging requirements of forest dwelling landbirds

  4. Move mid-elevation and foothill big game winter range habitat into protected status

  5. Protect, enhance, and restore aspen groves

  6. Reduce road densities and associated impacts to watershed functions


  1. Control noxious weeds in specific high value habitat areas (e.g. reed canary grass in wetland and riparian communities)

  2. Restore riparian understory shrub communities

  3. Maintain and improve large structure riparian cottonwood galleries for Lewis’s woodpeckers

  4. Identify and protect remaining ferruginous hawk nest sites and associated habitats in the subbasin

Wildlife Populations

  1. Restore anadromous fish populations to support salmon dependent wildlife and promote natural nutrient cycling

  2. Evaluate status of avian species that are inadequately surveyed by standardized survey protocols

  3. Evaluate the importance of individual habitat fragments to native wildlife species on private lands in the subbasin

  4. Assess methods to reduce cowbird parasitism on native bird species

  5. Inventory herptile and small mammals and their habitats in the subbasin

  6. Maintain, protect and enhance big game winter range

  7. Reduce bullfrog predation on juvenile western painted turtle and other native herptiles

  8. Reduce domestic sheep/bighorn sheep conflicts in primary Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep habitat

  9. Reintroduce Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep into suitable habitats
  10. Reestablish harvestable populations of mountain quail

  11. Assess impacts of ravens, cowbirds, crows, starlings, and magpies on species at risk

  12. Assess the impacts of shed antler collecting on deer and elk herds and associated habitats

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