Pacific Council News Fall 2019: Habitat and Ecosystem

Habitat report

Jordan Cove

The Council has sent a letter to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on the proposed natural gas pipeline project for the Jordan Cove Liquefied Natural Gas facility. The letter comments on the agencies’ proposed changes to their Resource Management Plans, which exempt the pipeline from complying with the agencies’ standards. These changes are described in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) draft Environmental Impact Statement. FERC’s joint biological assessment/essential fish habitat assessment for the Jordan Cove Project is now available. 

Klamath River

The Habitat Committee has drafted a letter encouraging the Klamath River Renewal Corporation in their Klamath dam removal efforts. On July 29, 2019, the Corporation and PacifiCorp submitted a license transfer application and plan for decommissioning the four lower Klamath dams to FERC. The dams are currently on track to be removed by 2022.

The letter will be included in the November briefing book for Council approval.

Pre/Post Study in Rockfish Conservation Area 

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Marine Habitat Project has partnered with marine scientists at Oregon State University (OSU) to study the habitat impacts of the former trawl Rockfish Conservation Area near Heceta Bank before the area is opened to trawling in January 2020.

The trawl Rockfish Conservation Area off Oregon and California will reopen as a result of Amendment 28 to the groundfish fishery management plan. The areas to be reopened provide new opportunities to study the recovery of habitats and associated species, and the effects of long-term closures for fish populations.

The study will use ODFW’s remotely operated vehicle and OSU’s benthic landers to obtain high-definition video of the substrate, invertebrates, and fish, as well as sediment and bottom water chemistry, before and after trawling restarts in the study area.

The full project will include repeat surveys over several years. The 2019 surveys will establish a permanent record that may be used to evaluate habitat and species recovery after an extended closure, and will serve as a baseline against which to compare habitat conditions in the future. Results from the study are expected to inform the Council’s understanding of the impact of modern groundfish trawling on benthic habitats, and may be valuable in the Council’s next review of groundfish essential fish habitat.

Council adopts revised vision for Fishery Ecosystem Plan for public review 

In September the Council reviewed alternate visions, goals, and objectives for the Fishery Ecosystem Plan. The Council chose the following vision statement, which is available for public review: “The Council envisions a California Current Ecosystem that continues to provide ecosystem services to current and future generations—including livelihoods, fishing opportunities, and cultural practices that contribute to the wellbeing of fishing communities and the nation.” The Council also adopted for public review a revised set of goals and objectives (see page 9 of the link). Final versions of the vision statement, goals, and objectives will be adopted in March.