As federal officials consider whether to continue funding of a five-year Lake Pend Oreille kokanee experiment, an independent board has concluded the study will not prove a thing.
The experiment nearing the end of its first year calls for the winter lake elevation to remain at 2,056 feet above sea level through 1999.
The traditional winter drawdown was to 2,051 feet. The level is maintained at 2,062 feet in the summer.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is researching whether the lower level for downstream users harmed populations of the landlocked salmon by leaving prime winter spawning gravel open to the air.
Agricultural interests and electric companies opposed the experiment, and a report by the Northwest Power Planning Council’s Independent Scientific Advisory Board contends other factors could be playing into the demise of the kokanee.
“The current study plan is not likely to demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship between the manipulated winter lake levels and recovery of the kokanee population,” board chairman Richard Williams concluded.
The power council will review the critique Tuesday in Portland. It has authority to mitigate the effects of power production on wildlife and fish.
Fish and Game biologist Melo Maiolie said the board never asked for information it cited as missing.
“If they didn’t ask for the information, they wouldn’t have received it and there would appear to be a hole in the study,” Maiolie said.
The report cites a lack of spawning maps in the original proposal, but Maiolie said his agency has data on every year of kokanee for the last 20.
The critique also questions whether hatchery-raised kokanee compete for food sources with native fish.
Hobart Jenkins of Bayview, a member of the Lake Pend Oreille Kokanee Recovery Task Force, said the board does not take into account that research also is under way to determine how mysis shrimp and predator fish affect the kokanee population.
“The researchers are not familiar with the lake,” he said. “They don’t understand all of the ramifications the proposal was intended to do.”