Pacific Council News Summer 2019: Habitat

Habitat Report

Jordan Cove letter

In July the Council sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on the proposed Jordan Cove Liquified Natural Gas Terminal and Pipeline, which would transport liquified natural gas (LNG) 229 miles from near Klamath Falls, Oregon to the coastal export terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon for shipping across the Pacific. The Coos Bay project includes two storage tanks, five liquefaction processing structures, vessel loading facilities, a large deepwater vessel slip, LNG carrier vessels, a marine access channel, and supporting infrastructure. On March 29th, FERC issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project.

The proposed pipeline would cross or otherwise impact 352 water bodies, including water bodies that are known to support salmon and other Council-managed stocks. In addition to environmental impacts, a security zone 500 meters wide–equal to the width of the existing navigation channel–will be required around LNG carrier vessels. This could impact all other vessel traffic while carrier vessels are present. FERC estimates 120 carrier vessels will transit the area each year.

Construction will require large-scale channel modification and continuous dredging, and will impact estuarine habitats that are important to several Council-managed species (Chinook and coho salmon, sardine, herring, Pacific sanddabs, English sole, starry flounder, lingcod, and rockfishes), and their prey.

Fishermen and processors believe that the proposed project is likely to disrupt fishing-related business and offloading activities in the vicinity of the terminal site at Coos Bay. Recreational fishing will also be disrupted in the estuary and streams.

An analysis of the social and economic impacts to Council-managed fisheries due to loss of productive habitats, direct mortality on fish species and prey, disruption of fishing activities and port deliveries has not been conducted, but impacts are likely to be significant.

National Marine Fisheries Service has not yet undertaken an essential fish habitat consultation or developed conservation recommendations for the project. For more details, see the Council letter and the related Oregonian article.

Forest Service standards

In a related matter, the Habitat Committee discussed the U.S. Forest Service’s forest plan standards, which would need to be amended to accommodate the Jordan Cove pipeline. The standards affect rare species and riparian zones, which are also designated as essential fish habitat. The Council directed the Habitat Committee to draft a letter to the Forest Service on this subject for the September briefing book.

California offshore renewable energy

Chris Potter from the California Natural Resource Agency/Ocean Protection Council gave a presentation to the Habitat Committee on California offshore renewable energy lease efforts. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has issued a call for information and nomination for three potential offshore energy leasing areas near Humboldt Bay, Morro Bay, and Diablo Canyon, California. The latter two are understood to be in conflict with Department of Defense operations, but political pressure is being applied to move projects forward despite Defense objections. Currently 14 companies have submitted indications of interest to obtain a commercial lease for a wind energy project.

Coastal sediment management

Rising sea levels mean more coastal erosion, which means that beaches need to be restored to protect habitats for many species. These include species that spawn on the beach, such as sand lance, surf smelt, and grunion. In June, the Habitat Committee heard a presentation on sediment management and beach nourishment in California and Washington. In California, the Coastal Sediment Management Workgroup is a collaborative state and Federal effort that has helped develop 14 regional sediment management plans covering the California coast.

In Washington, beach nourishment is being used to restore beaches that are lacking natural sediment. Ninety percent of Puget Sound’s beaches are fed by sediment from eroding bluffs, and a third of these bluffs have shoreline armoring that prevents sediment from moving naturally to the beach. In beach restoration, sediment is placed above the water level on beaches to protect benthic organisms and to allow the sediment to be distributed by coastal processes. At the same time, shoreline armoring is often removed, and large woody debris is added. These efforts can restore surf smelt and sand lance spawning habitat, both of which are prey species for Council-managed species.

Klamath issues

Since April 1, the Bureau of Reclamation has been operating the Klamath Project under a new Biological Opinion (BiOp), which has caused some issues with water management given the mid-year switch. For example, below-average discharge from Iron Gate Dam has left the Klamath with drought-like flows, while every stream around it has above-average discharge. The Yurok Tribe is suing Reclamation over its methods for calculating the block of environmental water (all water not allocated for agriculture).

The levels of Ceratomyxa shasta, a parasite that contributes to fish kills in the Klamath, started climbing in May. A pulse flow was released to flush the spores from the river and to help ensure hatchery fish survival. Initially, only 65 percent of the Iron Gate Hatchery fall Chinook were going to be released, but because of mortality concerns and to capitalize on the pulse flow, California Department of Fish and Wildlife decided to release the last of the Chinook during this pulse as well, despite the fact that the fish were undersized and only 7 percent were marked with coded wire tags, rather than the typical 25 percent.

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