IDAHO TROUT UNLIMITED POSITION LETTERS 2000 - 2002
Following is a letter from Govenor Dirk Kempthorne mentioning ITU.
RE: Idaho Cutthroat Trout License Plate
March 27, 2002
The Honorable Jack Riggs
President of the Senate
Dear Mr. President:
I hereby advise you that I have signed today and am transmitting to the Secretary of State the following Senate Bill, to wit: SB 1359 as amended in the House.
Senate Bill 1359 adds to the list of Idaho Wildlife Specialty Plates the Idaho Cutthroat Trout License Plate.
The funds generated from the Idaho Wildlife Special License Plate program are used by the Department of Fish and Game to manage non-game wildlife. The non-game program manages roughly eighty percent of all the wildlife, plant species and fish in Idaho.
This includes numerous species that are either proposed or are likely to be proposed for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. As the number of candidate species increases, additional funding is critical if the state hopes to preclude additional listings.
In addition, these funds also provide information and conservation education for our youth and all citizens, and enhances Idaho's economy by attracting visitors to view our wildlife.
As amended by the House, this legislation strays from that historical course of funding and shifts funds generated by these plates into the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Agriculture for non-traditional uses of these funds.
I am concerned that this may set into motion dangerous precedent that these funds can be diverted from the Department of Fish and Game and used for purposes other than what they were intended for.
If this happens, then we have opened the door for a raid on all specialty license plates funds and the intended purposes for the creation of these plates.
While these are my concerns, I am apprised that with this particular Senate Bill, enough compromise has been reached with all interested parties that they can now tolerate the amended version.
And subsequently, I have been asked by these parties, including Idaho Trout Unlimited and others, to sign Senate Bill 1359, as amended in the House.
However, be advised that in the future, any legislation that comes across my desk that intends to divert these funds away from their traditional and historical uses, will not be looked upon favorably.
Therefore, notwithstanding my concerns, I am signing this bill into law.
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne
700 W. Jefferson Street
P.O. Box 83720
Boise, ID 83720
18 March 2002
Dear Gov. Kempthorne:
The Idaho Trout Unlimited Council urges you to sign SB 1359, the legislation approved by both Houses of the Legislature to create an Idaho cutthroat trout license plate.
Representatives of the Idaho Trout Unlimited Council, which represents eight chapters of Trout Unlimited in Idaho and their 1,800 members, actively participated in the compromises reached to write the House amendment to SB 1359. As the final compromise was made to pass the bill in the waning hours of the 2002 session of the Legislature, the Idaho Trout Unlimited Council was meeting in Riggins for its annual spring conference. We applauded the House amendment compromise and unanimously voted to urge your signature to complete fulfillment of this important piece of legislation.
The cutthroat trout, a coldwater fish species unique to the West, is Idaho's state fish. We are confident its popularity among anglers and other wildlife devotees will lead to the license plate becoming one of the most popular in the state. Its sales will contribute significantly to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game's protection and restoration efforts for non-game aquatic species. The compromise House amendment to SB 1395 also provides for an important portion of the proceeds to provide enhancement of public access to Idaho's equally significant number of rivers, streams and lakes.
Idaho Trout Unlimited
Following is a letter regarding the Rainbow Family Gathering in Bear Valley.
June 18, 2001
Boise National Forest
1249 South Vinnell Way, Suite 200
Boise, ID 83709
US Fish and Wildlife Service
1387 South Vinnell Way
Boise, ID 83709
National Marine Fisheries Service
10215 W Emerald, Building C
Boise, ID 83709
Idaho Department of Fish and Game
600 South Walnut Street
Boise, ID 83712
RE: Rainbow Family Gathering in Bear Valley
The news media has reported in recent days that the annual Rainbow Family gathering will be occurring on the Lowman Ranger District of the Boise National Forest. Further information indicates the specific area for the gathering will be in Bear Valley, or in areas tributary to Bear Valley Creek.
Idaho Trout Unlimited is concerned that the large number of people who will gather in the coming days and weeks may have a significant impact on the native fish in Bear Valley Creek. Anadromous Chinook salmon and steelhead, as well as resident bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout and mountain whitefish are salmonids native to Bear Valley.
The sheer number of people (upwards of 20,000) expected to descend in such a small area could have significant and long-term impacts on Bear Valley Creek and tributary streams. We are also very concerned that Rainbow Family members may be less informed and concerned about the welfare of the fish than the usual visitor to the area.
In past years the main issue of Rainbow Family gatherings has revolved around the Forest Service's position that the group does not have a permit for this event. Now we are faced with a more compelling issue of resource protection illustrated by no less than three fish species protected under the Endangered Species Act and a fourth (westslope cutthroat) considered a species of special concern by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. It is imperative that all resource agencies step up and ensure the native fish species are protected in the coming weeks, and not leave the Forest Service on its own to deal with the crowd control.
As you may be aware, Trout Unlimited has established a track record of accomplishment in Bear Valley in the past few years. We have worked with the Boise National Forest and Idaho Department of Fish and Game to protect and restore the riparian areas that were heavily grazed for many years. We produced a publication with the Idaho Chapter of the American Fisheries Society that detailed how progressive grazing practices can be compatible with improving fish habitat for Chinook salmon. Most recently we have participated in a radio telemetry study of the migration patterns of westslope cutthroat trout in Bear Valley Creek and the Middle Fork Salmon River. In fact, this summer the Forest Service has a number of temporary workers in Bear Valley documenting habitat conditions for cutthroats at the very time of this large event!
Trout Unlimited believes your agencies have the necessary authorities and duty to ensure the valuable native fish of Bear Valley Creek are protected to the fullest extent possible during this unprecedented event:
* The Forest Service PACFISH guidelines are designed to protect riparian areas from impacts of undeveloped campsites, and that if education of visitors is not effect than removal of campsites from riparian areas is required;
* This year we will see a large return of Chinook salmon to the streams of Bear Valley. There is a risk the Rainbow Family gathering will create a situation where people will likely encounter and harass ESA-listed Chinook salmon because it is inevitable they will be attracted to Bear Valley Creek for bathing, skinny-dipping and other activities. The National Marine Fisheries Service must be prepared to educate people on the need to avoid actions that may harm Chinook salmon. We expect NMFS to exhibit a vigilance similar to that shown toward livestock management in Bear Valley over the past decade.
* Bull trout in the smaller tributaries of Bear Valley will be at similar risk from the high number of people as well as reports that human waste will be deposited in trenches rather than conventional portable sanitation facilities. The Fish and Wildlife Service should ensure that areas with known bull trout populations are not subject to significant human impacts;
* Violations of fishing regulations (gear and bag limits) should be fully enforced by Idaho Department of Fish and Game if education efforts are not successful.
Trout Unlimited recognizes this is an unprecedented event for your resource agencies. The status of these fish species and their high value to the citizens of Idaho require our public agencies to look out for the resource when faced with these adverse conditions. Trout Unlimited will be interested in participating in any resource restoration projects that may be needed after the Rainbow Family gathering. You may contact me at email@example.com.
Robert D. Dunnagan
cc. Governor Dirk Kempthorne
Jack Blackwell, Forest Service Intermountain Region
Donna Darm, National Marine Fisheries Service
Anne Badgely, Fish and Wildlife Service
Ted Trueblood Chapter
Comments on Idaho Fish and Game Regulations
Mr. Rod Sando, Director
Idaho Fish and Game Department
P.O. Box 25
Boise, Idaho 83707
Dear Director Sando:
On behalf of the more then 1,700 members of Idaho Trout Unlimited (ITU) I would like to comment on a number of the regulatory items that have come to our attention as a result of your recent scoping meetings. As I think you recognize ITU takes a position of supporting those regulatory changes that appear to benefit native fish as well as those issues which appear to be based on credible biology. The issues which we are interested and concerned about include:
1. We concur with removal of a daily limit on Lake Trout.
2. Simplification of regulations where that makes good biological sense and it will favor native fish. In those cases where it is biologically important we support more complex regulations.
3. Elimination of the "closed to harvest" designation and manage as "catch and release" using a no-bait rule where there is a gear restriction. In this regard we have a philosophical problem with the treble hook being defined as a single hook. Our experience tells us that we do more harm to fish when trying to remove a treble hook then when removing a single barbless hook. If the intent of catch and release is to return the fish and minimize the damage we cannot help but conclude that, as a social, if not a biological point, it makes good sense to use only one hook.
4. Decrease the native white fish limit to 25 and increase the non-native brook trout limit to 25. It is our observation that a 50 fish-limit just shows disregard for a native species. Increasing the limit on non-native brook trout may reduce competition and interbreeding between native and non-native fish.
5. We concur that the implementation of a winter "catch and release" season should be implemented in lieu of the winter whitefish season in those areas where this will not be detrimental to native fish.
6. Revise the "snagging" regulation so it is reasonably enforceable in a court of law.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on these proposed regulations.
Robert D. Dunnagan
J. William McDonald
Director - Pacific Northwest Region
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
1150 N. Curtis Road, Suite 100
Boise, Idaho 83706-1234
Re: Flows Below Palisades Dam on the South Fork Snake River
Dear Mr. McDonald:
The Upper Snake River Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Idaho Council of Trout Unlimited, and Trout Unlimited National (collectively "Trout Unlimited" or "TU") are writing to express our grave concerns regarding winter flow conditions in the South Fork of the Snake River. As you are undoubtedly aware, the South Fork is a natural resource of national significance. Anglers from across the country travel to southeast Idaho to fish the South Fork and, most importantly, this stretch of the Snake River supports one of the last remaining strongholds for native Yellowstone cutthroat trout (YCT). Recently, several conservation groups (not including TU) petitioned to listed the YCT pursuant to the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) emphasizing that strong populations exist in only about 10% of their historic range. In addition, the Idaho Department of Fish & Game currently recognizes the South Fork YCT population as the most robust in terms of abundance outside of Yellowstone National Park.
Trout Unlimited is not a mere carpetbagger when it comes to decrying resource impacts to the South Fork. In the late 1980s, The Upper Snake River Chapter and local members mounted a legal challenge to Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) operations at Palisades that adversely affected Yellowstone cutthroat. Further, Local TU chapter members have worked for years on habitat restoration and educational projects to help protect and recover native Yellowstone cutthroat in the South Fork and its tributaries. Finally, TU is about to establish a "Home Rivers Initiative" for the South Fork. In doing so, Idaho TU members in partnership with and via funding and staff assistance from the national organization hope to work with state and federal agencies and local stakeholders to initiate a watershed-scale research, community outreach, and restoration program for the South Fork.
In early November 2000, TU representatives met with Ken Pedde at the BOR regional office in Boise. TU appreciated your staff taking the time to meet with us on such short notice. While there were no solutions offered, we appreciated your staff's candidness regarding BOR statutory and operational limitations. At the same time, we want to be clear that the normal winter flow regime during low water or drought years puts an unacceptable burden on South Fork YCT populations. TU will be exploring numerous avenues to rectify the current situation, including a coordinated local, regional, and national media campaign to ensure the angling community is engaged nationwide regarding this important issue.
From TU's standpoint, merely citing statutory project enabling legislation and constricted authorized use provisions no longer suffices in light of native species and fishery declines. Trout Unlimited is well aware of limitations in terms of both Idaho water and federal reclamation law when it comes to protecting instream flows. However, The bottom line is that winter flow problems are a recurring nightmare for South Fork fisheries. In 1977 and again in 1988 extremely low winter flows severely impacted South Fork YCT populations. During these years, entire age classes were either wiped out or decimated, and in turn, YCT and fisheries health jeopardized both in the short- and long-term. Further, in light of the dramatic increase in rainbow and hybrid trout since 1990, current and future low flow conditions could combine with other factors for species decline to greatly exacerbate existing threats to native YCT.
Trout Unlimited believes that the time for pro-active measures and creative thinking is now. Therefore, we recommend that the following actions be taken immediately.
1. Completely reassess Palisades Dam and overall Minidoka Project operating protocols so that untenable risks to YCT survival and persistence are avoided. In other words, develop a plan whereby re-fill procedures are taking advantage of the latest technology related to snow-pack adjustments and long-term weather forecasting so that the conservation burden is not placed solely on the backs of native fish. Current practices establish minimum flows in November based on the previous water year and current reservoir levels with no adjustment until January. This is a very important time period for juvenile fish as they are adjusting for the first time to colder water temperatures and are therefore especially vulnerable to unnaturally low flows and decreased habitat. Further, adjustments for the rest of the winter are based on the amount of anticipated inflow and irrigation needs with little or no consideration for the needs of the fish. In sum, the current system operates with little or no risk to reservoir re-fill without any concern for native YCT or the fishery. This is not acceptable.
2. Federal funding be provided to thoroughly assess and document the relationship between water flows and YCT habitat availability and quality. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game's (IDFG) 1994 study established habitat suitability curves based on empirical data. Therefore, there is a solid baseline established regarding the amount of available habitat commensurate with various flow levels. Further, from the IDFG study we know that the quantity of available habitat declines precipitously as flows drop below 1,500 cfs. However, we do not know the quality of the remaining habitat at these low flow levels. Therefore, the impacts of low flows might be greater than previously surmised depending on the actual usability of the remaining habitat. This is an extraordinarily important question in light of what recent studies have documented regarding the importance of adequate winter habitat in terms of both quantity and quality to trout survival.
3. Develop a systematic program to alleviate the conservation burden on, and provide certainty for, YCT during low flow and drought years. There are numerous market-driven strategies utilized by other Western states to better protect aquatic resources while ensuring that local agricultural economies are not harmed. Obviously, in the state of Idaho statutory mechanisms to protect or create instream flows are either extremely limited or non-existent. Therefore, the BOR must work with stakeholders, elected officials and the Idaho Governor's office to develop a feasible plan to protect flows during difficult water years. While there will undoubtedly be resistance to change at the state level, the ESA specter continues to loom over southeast Idaho, and will undoubtedly be raised even higher if YCT populations are further threatened.
It is time to end status quo river management on the South Fork Snake River. Trout Unlimited is committed to working with diverse stakeholders in local communities throughout the West to develop long-term solutions to natural resource problems. We understand the complex nature of BOR operations and water management in our region, and the delicate balancing required to satisfy conflicting water uses throughout the West. However, it is time for the BOR to show leadership by working with all the various stakeholders to fashion a long-term solution that fully protects a vital natural resource - the Yellowstone cutthroat trout.
Please don't hesitate to call if you have any questions or comments regarding the contents of this letter. We would like to set up a follow-up meeting as soon as possible to discuss our vision of the South Fork.
John Lent - President TU Upper Snake River Chapter
Jim Mathias - Conservation Chair TU Upper Snake River Chapter
Bob Dunnagan - Chairman TU Idaho Council
Kathy Buchner - Director TU Wyoming Council
Loren Albright - Regional V.P. TU National Resource Board
Scott Yates - Director TU Inland Native Trout Program
Cc: Steve Brawley, BOR
Governor Dirk Kempthorne
Jim Caswell, Idaho Office of Species Conservation
Bob Ruesink, USFWS
Vergil Moore, IDFG
Dexter Pittman, IDFG
Dick Scully, IDFG
Bob Martin, IDFG
Mark Gamblin, IDFG
Steve Moyer, TU
Marv Hoyt, GYC
Marti Bridges, IRU
Counsel, Western Water Project
Fremont Madison Irrigation District
P.O. Box 15
St. Anthony, ID 83445
Fall River Rural Electric Cooperative
1150 N. 3400 E
Ashton, ID 83420
Henry's Fork Foundation
P.O. Box 550
Ashton, ID 83420
Re: Comments on Draft Memorandum of Agreement dated 5/03/00
Trout Unlimited, including our Idaho Council and the Wyoming State Office, appreciates the opportunity to review and to comment on the Draft Memorandum of Agreement dated 5/3/00 (Draft MOA) regarding the proposed transfer of ownership of portions of the Bureau of Reclamation's Minidoka project (Transferred Facilities). We have followed the discussions (to the extent permitted by the confidentiality of the negotiations) among you regarding management of the facilities proposed for transfer, and have long looked forward to seeing the results. While we appreciate the efforts the parties have made in developing the Draft MOA, we cannot support it as currently drafted for the reasons laid out below.
Trout Unlimited, and our 125,000 members nationwide, feel a strong affinity for the Henry's Fork of the Snake River. In fact, in 1999 TU published its Guide to America's 100 Best Trout Streams (Falcon Press), where TU members voted the Henry's Fork as the best trout stream in the country. Because it has a national reputation for fishing quality, and because it is a destination held in either the memory or fantasies of most of our members, we care deeply about the fate of the Henry's Fork.
Trout Unlimited Policy on Reclamation Ownership Transfers
In testimony before Congress, TU is on record as strongly supporting transfers that enhance public values, especially conservation of aquatic species. (Testimony of Steven Malloch, March 22, 2000 before the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Water and Power; Testimony of Steven Malloch, October 7, 1999 before House Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Water and Power.) We have also endorsed testimony on the issue given by other organizations including the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies, and a 1996 Statement of Principles issued by a number of environmental and conservation organizations. While those statements and testimonies contain a number of issues, they can be summarized by the following four points:
Transfers should enhance the public benefits of the project and the associated river system. Our fundamental position is that transfers only make sense if the human and environmental systems associated with the water projects are made better because of transfer. Crafting transfer terms that ensure public benefits and enhance the environment, despite changes in legal status and management, requires information, public involvement, and careful balancing.
Some federal water and power projects should remain federal. As a corollary to the first principle, where public benefits cannot be ensured and enhanced in a transfer because adequate terms cannot be crafted or the recipient will not accept the conditions, the project should remain federal.
Water users are not entitled to project ownership; transfer is a new benefit to be negotiated. Under the Reclamation laws, water users are in no sense entitled to project ownership when they complete their capital repayment obligations. The law and history are unambiguous on the point. "Paid out" does not mean "paid for." If a transfer of ownership to private water users is accomplished, the minimum quid pro quo should be significantly enhanced public benefits.
A decision to transfer a project should not be made until the consequences of transfer are understood and the terms of transfer determined. The terms of the deal determine whether a transfer is in the public interest.
Please note that conservation organizations are not alone in concern about terms and prior review. The Western States Water Council whose members are appointed by Western governors arrived at very similar conclusions in twice adopting a position on transfers of federal water and power projects. In 1995 and again in 1998 the WSWC stated their concerns about third party impacts, public costs and benefits, the changes in applicable laws, and the need for a strong role for states. They urge Congress and the Administration to adopt a process and develop criteria and guidelines for project-by-project review of transfer proposals, with significant state involvement. (See Position No. 209 at http://www.westgov.org/wswc/transfer.html). Trout Unlimited agrees with this position
Trout Unlimited's Position on the MOA
TU is confident that the approach taken by the Henry's Fork Foundation, the Fremont- Madison Irrigation District and the Fall River Rural Electric Coop (HFF/FMID/FRREC) in negotiating the Draft Memorandum of Agreement dated 5/3/00 (Draft MOA) could ultimately lead to a transfer that enhances the public benefits of the project and the associated river system. We support the efforts HFF/FMID/FRREC have made to enhance the fishery resources of the Henry's Fork. We support the concept of ownership change for the Transferred Facilities as a means to improving aquatic habitat in the Henry's Fork, and enhancing other public benefits of the project. However, as the Draft MOA stands, the benefits are too uncertain and the potential costs are too high for TU to support. Therefore, TU does not support the Draft MOA as it has been negotiated and presented to the public.
On both substantive and procedural issues, the Draft MOA does not yet meet the standards of the four points made in the prior section. Enhancement of public benefits is well defined in some areas, poorly or not defined in others. While we have serious concerns about the MOA and the subsequent steps needed to finalize a transfer, we are more than willing to work towards a successful resolution of those issues with HFF/FMID/FRREC, other members of the affected public, state, local and federal agencies, and Congress.
Comments on the MOA and the Proposed Transfer
Trout Unlimited offers a series of comments below on the MOA and the proposed transfer. In the first section below, we offer some observations about the process used to date and the need for the involvement of additional perspectives. Then comments on the specifics of the MOA are offered.
TU observes that this is a three-party agreement in a situation in which the interests of many more parties need to be accommodated. A partial list includes: the Bureau of Reclamation; the state of Idaho, including various agencies; federal wildlife agencies including the Fish and Wildlife Service and potentially the National Marine Fisheries Service; the US Forest Service; water contractors who benefit from integrated operation of the Minidoka project and its Fremont Madison project storage; affected members of the public; and public interest organizations such as the Henry's Fork Watershed Council and Trout Unlimited. No doubt the full list is much longer. It is unlikely that the concerns and interests of this long list are fully and completely represented by the three parties.
That other entities affected by the Transferred Facilities are not parties is important for another reason as well - enforceability. As a contract, the MOA is primarily enforceable by the parties. In the general case, third parties will have no legal standing to seek enforcement.
We appreciate the need to have a proposal to put before the large numbers of affected parties for review and reaction. In the Draft MOA, HFF/FMID/FRREC make significant progress towards laying out a structure and operating guidelines for a system that could result in significant benefits to all affected parties. Therefore we suggest that this Draft MOA be considered by the three parties directly involved, as well as the longer list of affected entities, as the start of the conversation and negotiations over the fate of the Henry's Fork, rather than its conclusion.
TU is very concerned about the process apparently envisioned under the Draft MOA. Apparently the concept is to sign a final MOA, convince Congress to transfer the project, and then perform the administrative processes, including drafting an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation and the NEPA/ESA review. From our perspective, this process should be reversed in part because the negotiations to date have been closed. A full, public, development of the issues is needed before the terms of transfer are set. Consequently, we believe that a NEPA/ESA review should come next, and should be the basis for identifying issues and solutions for setting the terms and conditions of the transfer. Once those conditions are identified, the various agreements should be negotiated and finalized. Only after the terms of the deal are set and the agreements finalized should legislation be sought.
Finally, one of the most significant problems experienced with Bureau of Reclamation projects is that the purposes and management of the projects were set when the projects were authorized, decades ago, without mechanism for change. For instance, the authorization for the Transferred Facilities is obsolete by today's standards because it does not include fish and wildlife, recreation, or water quality. In 50 years, the needs of the Henry's Fork watershed may be very different. Granting ownership of the project to FMID may make accommodation of those changes more difficult unless there is a strong public presence in the management decisions for the Transferred Facilities - a stronger presence than appears to exist in the Dam Operating Committee.
Comments Specific to the MOA
Definitions Section II
F & G. The Guaranteed Flow and the Supplemental Flow are the primary environmental enhancement for the entire transfer and should be based on a scientific analysis of the fishery and other aquatic needs. We understand that the scientific basis of management for the fishery is still evolving. The scientific basis for the flow arrangements, their likely impact on the fishery as well as other public resources, and the risk/reward for the flow should be made public. The objectives for the flow arrangements specified are to "sustain" the fishery; however no mechanism is included for adjusting flows if the flows specified here are not meeting the objective. Further, there should be a public analysis of the likely effects on irrigation and power generation.
I. Is the 3000 AF conservation pool adequate to both keep sediments in Island Park Reservoir to avoid another sediment release and still provide for fish conservation? It may be that there should be a larger portion of the storage pool dedicated to the needs of fish conservation.
Basic Agreements Section III
A. The objectives listed call for meeting the objectives of all three parties - full satisfaction of irrigation rights, maximum power generation, and "sustaining" aquatic life. However, no priority is set among the objectives. This is most troubling because the environmental objective is somewhat ambiguous. While we agree with the connotation of "sustain"- to keep from yielding under stress, as long as that means to maintain aquatic life at current levels - we are concerned with the first definition in some dictionaries - to keep in existence. Mere existence should not be the objective, rather, maintained abundance should be. Further, we believe that with broader public involvement in setting the environmental objectives additional criteria, objectives and standards will be developed. We are also concerned that the minimal description of the environmental objective, it will be the first to give way in shortage.
I. In Section I, the parties clearly recognize that a significant change in regulation accompanies change in ownership - Section 7 of the ESA may no longer apply. We applaud this attempt to create a private mechanism to protect T&E species in addition to the applicable law. We are concerned that no third party rights are created in this attempt. For instance, if the parties fail to take the appropriate action under this provision, Trout Unlimited would have no legal recourse. Further, the protections should apply to all T&E species affected by the project, regardless of location. Specifically, actions to protect Snake River salmon applicable to Reclamation projects should apply to the transferred project. Finally, as obligations under the ESA change, so should the obligations under this agreement.
K. Section K provides for public access to the Transferred Facilities. However it does not provide for continued or improved recreational facilities. Recreation is a major benefit of the project that should be maintained.
N. We strongly object to finalizing the terms and conditions for post-transfer operations under the MOA before the NEPA process is complete. NEPA is not simply a hoop to jump through, it is used to identify issues and find solutions as part of the decision making process.
Dam Operations Committee Section V
A. The composition of the Dam Operations Committee is one of the most troubling aspects of the Draft MOA. As noted earlier, other valid interests are not parties to the Draft MOA and they are not represented on the DOC. While we do not advocate a DOC so large as to be unwieldy, additional representation, particularly by federal or state wildlife agencies, an HFWC representative, and perhaps others, is absolutely necessary. Additional membership would require a larger body.
B.3. The effect of this provision, relating to treatment of releases of carryover storage water in ROM calculations, is unclear. The intent and effect of the provision should be stated.
Suggestions for the Next Steps
Trout Unlimited suggests that after wide circulation of the Draft MOA and compilation of comments, a new round of negotiations be entered on a Draft MOA II. This new round should include at a minimum, the Bureau, the HFWC, affected state and federal agencies, and members of the affected public. With this broader representation, and the Draft MOA already prepared, a more useful document can be prepared. After completion of the Draft MOA II, and side agreements as necessary, the whole package should be subjected to NEPA and ESA review. Only after that that process is complete would seeking Congressional approval be in order.
Trout Unlimited commends HFF, FMID and FRREC for the creativity, initiative and diligence needed in getting to this point. We think that the transfer outlined shows great promise for being a "win-win" solution. While there are a number of unresolved issues, the prospects for reaching acceptable solutions are great.
Please do not hesitate to contact me at 703-284-9415, Bob Dunnagan, Idaho Council Chairman at 208-263-4433, or Kathy Buchner of the Wyoming State Office at 307-733-6991with any question or comment.
Very truly yours,
Idaho Department of Environmental Quality
1410 N. Hilton
Boise, ID 83706
Dear Ms. Saul:
This letter is to inform you that Idaho Trout Unlimited, representing more than 1,300 Idahoans, registers its support for designating the South Fork of the Snake River, the Boise River headwaters system, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, the Selway River and the St. Joe River as Outstanding Resource Waters.
As you know, the South Fork of the Snake River contains the largest population of Yellowstone cutthroat trout outside Yellowstone National Park. This native Idaho species has become increasingly rare throughout its historic range, however this stretch of the Snake River has the pristine water quality necessary to support this trout population.
As a state, we must take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the South Fork of the Snake River can support the diminishing numbers of Yellowstone cutthroat before its simply too late.
The headwaters of the Boise River are home to the endangered bull trout and redband trout, as well as resident cutthroat and rainbow fisheries. ORW designation for these headwaters can only enhance and perpetuate the measures Idaho has already taken to protect this resource.
Needless to say, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River is Idaho's most famous and spectacular river basin. Aside from its recognition as Idaho's most outstanding natural resource, the Middle Fork of the Salmon contains more native fish habitat than any other watershed in the Salmon River Basin.
With its salmon and steelhead runs, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River forms the backbone of Idaho's remaining wild native fish stocks. However, the basin not only includes critical salmon and steelhead habitat, but it also supports healthy populations of genetically pure bull and cutthroat trout.
The Middle Fork is also one of central Idaho's economic mainstays with thousands of visitors from throughout the world taking advantage annually of the boating, fishing, hiking, hunting and other outdoor recreational opportunities this basin has to offer. Congress recognized the value of the Middle Fork by designating it a Wild and Scenic River, though this designation does nothing to protect water quality.
We cannot allow the opportunity to further advance the spirit and intent of this congressional designation to slip by without doing all we can to protect this national treasure.
The Selway River supports many species of wildlife, including salmon, bull trout, steelhead, and cutthroat trout. The Selway also provides the Nez Perce tribe with a staging area for cultural fishing ceremonies. Furthermore, there are important historic structures and archaeological sites along the river and surrounding wilderness area that provides a natural laboratory for scientific research.
The St. Joe River also supports native cutthroat fisheries and contains some of the best trophy westslope cutthroat fishing in Idaho. Westslope cutthroat is one of Idaho's native species, but because this fish has become increasingly rare throughout its historic range, the species is recommended for listing under the ESA. We can, and must, do more.
Idaho Trout Unlimited is dedicated to conserving, protecting, and enhancing the watersheds and cold water fisheries of the state of Idaho. Designating these waters as ORW is imperative if we are to pass onto our children and future generations this legacy that is Idaho.
Thank you for taking this letter into consideration as part of the deliberative process on these ORW applications. Idaho Trout Unlimited strongly endorses approval of ORW status for the waters under consideration and eagerly awaits a favorable decision.
David Scott, Operations Chief
Idaho Trout Unlimited
IDAHO TROUT UNLIMITED