Habitat

A number of species in the Northwest are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In our operational area these species include primarily bull trout, particularly in western Montana. Avista consulted with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service regarding the ESA during relicensing of both the Spokane River and Clark Fork hydroelectric projects.

Fisheries

The restoration of wild fish stocks, particularly bull trout, is a key part of the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement. The result is a collaborative native salmonid recovery program with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Native American tribes and the states of Idaho and Montana on the lower Clark Fork River, consistent with requirements of the FERC license.

Key Clark Fork activities in 2010 included:

  • Continued funding the Predator Management Program on Lake Pend Oreille, in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) and the Bonneville Power Administration. This program focuses on reduction of non-native lake trout and rainbow trout (that compete with native salmonids) through use of commercial netting and angler incentives. Efforts also include development of population estimates and models to monitor success.
  • Monitoring of habitat restoration projects on Copper Gulch, Granite, Crow, Graves, and Prospect creeks, East Fork Bull and South Fork Bull river drainages.
  • Continued capture and transport programs for adult and juvenile bull trout in order to evaluate and re-establish connectivity between Lake Pend Oreille and spawning and rearing habitat in Montana streams.
  • Continued design process for an upstream fish way at Cabinet Gorge Dam
  • Began design of a permanent downstream trap on Grave Creek. The purpose of the trap is to capture downstream migrating juvenile and adult bull trout as part of the fish passage efforts.
  • Continued bull trout enforcement and education programs.
  • Conducted bull trout redd counts on tributaries to Noxon Reservoir, Cabinet Gorge Reservoir, and Lake Pend Oreille.
  • Conducted winter creel survey to define winter angler use and harvest.
  • Continued consolation with the cultural resources management group on design of the Blacktail and Noxon Flats wetland enhancement projects. (For more information on the cultural resources management group, see our Clark Fork Project FERC License.)
  • Ongoing programs to acquire key habitat properties in the Bull River and Trestle Creek drainage.

With respect to other fish species, on our Spokane River Project we implemented ramping rate and minimum flow operations at our facilities, as agreed to with fishery agencies and included in our license. We also submitted a five-year fishery protection and enhancement plant and performed the following habitat assessments:

  • Lower Spokane River redband trout spawning habitat from the Monroe Street Dam to the Nine Mile Reservoir;
  • Spokane River water temperature and discharge flow monitoring; and
  • Upper Spokane River rainbow trout spawning and fry emergence protection plan.

Wetlands

Idaho Wetlands

Avista’s Water Quality Certification for our Spokane River Project FERC license, issued under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, requires Avista to develop a wetland and riparian habitat protection and enhancement plan for the purposes of “identifying, evaluating and undertaking wetland and riparian protection, restoration, creation, and enhancement projects.” A five-year plan was submitted to FERC on March 26, 2010, and approved by FERC on Oct. 5, 2010.

Currently Avista is partnering with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, United States Forest Service and Ducks Unlimited to undertake a potential wetland and riparian habitat improvement project along the St. Joe River approximately 10 miles upriver from the town of St. Maries, Idaho. This project consists of habitat restorations on a combined total of 124 acres of Idaho Department of Fish and Game property and Avista Corporation property. Project alternatives are being analyzed in 2011 with anticipated habitat improvements being completed in 2012.

Coeur d’Alene Reservation Wetlands

Section 4(e) of Avista’s Spokane River license requires Avista and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe to collaboratively prepare a Coeur d’Alene Reservation wetland and riparian habitat plan providing for the restoration of at least 1,368 acres of wetland, riparian and associate upland habitat. The plan was submitted to FERC on June 18, 2010, and approved by FERC on Oct. 5, 2010.

In 2010 Avista and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe began evaluating and identifying quality mitigation projects and properties on the reservation that could add improvements to the wetland, riparian and upland habitats within multiple watersheds on the reservation.

Raptor protection

Avista also has ongoing programs to reduce harm to raptors, including hawks, ospreys and bald eagles, by minimizing nesting on transmission and distribution line structures, providing nesting platforms, taking remedial action in the event of bird injury, and training employees in raptor identification and protection.

As part of our Clark Fork Project License, Avista monitors and protects bald eagle nest sites, to ensure there are no project-related human activities that could harm eagles. Avista also prepared and will implement a bald eagle management plan to protect bald eagles related to the Spokane River Project. We submitted that plan to FERC on May 7, 2010.

This plan includes:

  • Annual monitoring of known bald eagle nests;
  • Surveys to identify new bald eagle nests;
  • Annual monitoring of bald eagle nesting territories, primary use areas, home ranges, and key use sites;
  • Annual reporting; and
  • Consultation with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.