Cold Water for Columbia Steelhead?

Deschutes River Plume

Yesterday ODFW held an online public meeting to discuss potential plans for creating cold water refugia for steelhead in the Columbia River.  From my perspective, this is a simple decision.  With a heating planet and plunging steelhead populations in the Columbia Basin, of course there should be cold water areas set aside where fishing is restricted.  If anything, it seems we should err on the side of making the refugia areas larger and closures longer.  This is not a universally held opinion, however.

I watched the presentation live and found the questions at the end to be the most interesting part. They were submitted in writing in real time and everyone could see the question and who asked it.  Not all of them were addressed by ODFW in the Q&A discussion.  Clearly, there are many perspectives on this issue and details to be worked out.  I find it frustrating, however, when the request is to open more areas to fishing or when increased hatchery production is once again stated to be the solution.  If hatcheries worked in the Columbia Basin anadromous fish would not be in the dire situation they are in.  We need to try something else.

Here’s the ODFW web page that contains a recording of the presentation, the slides used, and a way to submit comments, which I encourage you to do.  I’ve also included a copy of the presentation, below.  Finally, I have to point out that the mouth of the Deschutes is the largest cold water refugium.  Yes, the Deschutes is delivering relatively “cold” water to the Columbia during the summer.

Click to access CWR_Public%20Meeting_2020.pdf