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Tribes’ Columbia salmon netting boat vandalized at Brewster

FISHING — I've been hearing scattered complaints about "the Indians" netting salmon near the mouth of the Okanogan River since before the Upper Columbia sockeye and chinook fisheries opened on July 1.

Sport fishing has been excellent, but some people apparently can't share the catch with the Tribes that actually are working to improve salmon fishing in the Upper Columbia. Here's the latest:

"The Colville Confederated Tribes’ fishermen had a rude awakening on the morning of July 14 when they arrived to work at Mosquito Park near Brewster, Wash., and found their fishing boat, “The Dream Catcher,” was vandalized and some equipment was stolen," the Tribes report.

     “The Dream Catcher has two primary functions for the Columbia River fishery and the Colville Tribes,” said Randall Friedlander, CTFW director.  “The first function of the boat is to collect both hatchery-origin and natural-origin Chinook broodstock for salmon production at Chief Joseph Hatchery.  These fish provide future returns for all of the fishermen throughout the entire river system.  We release 2.9 million salmon yearlings per year,” he said.  “The second function of the vessel is to provide a selective harvest opportunity for the Colville Tribes.  Natural-origin Chinook that are not taken for broodstock are released to spawn, and only the hatchery-origin Chinook are harvested for consumption.  Historically, our people have been recorded as catching up to ten tons of fish per day at just one of the many fisheries on the upper Columbia like Kettle Falls.  Today, our Tribe catches a fraction of its historic catch,” said Friedlander.  

     Often, what the Colville's do catch is shared with the other Upper Columbia United Tribes, the Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, Kalispel and Kootenai Tribes.   

     Due to the recent incident, security has been added to the site along with cameras.

     Anyone with information about the incident is being asked to call the Colville Tribal Police Dept. at 509.634.2472. The Colville Tribe is offering a $2,500 reward for information that helps solve this crime.  Local businesses are also stepping up to add to this reward.  More information will become available pending further investigation.   

By the way, Jeff Korth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional fisheries manager, says sport fishermen in the Upper Columbia catch about twice as many sockeye as the Colville tribal fishermen.


Colville Tribe names new fish, wildlife director

WILDLIFE — Randall Friedlander has been hired as the new director of the Colville Tribes’ Fish and Wildlife Department.

Friedlander served as interim director for the past year, replacing former director Joe Peone, who left the job unceremoniously.

Friedlander oversees about 130 employees and a $20 million budget, much of which is funded by federal programs, including Bonneville Power Administration mitigation funding for the impact Columbia River dams have had on fish and wildlife on tribal hunting and fishing grounds.

Friedlander has worked for the Colville Tribe since 1995, including four years with the Fish and Wildlife Department.

Tribes keep fishing jurisdiction a hot potato on Lake Roosevelt

PUBLIC LANDS — My column today regarding the murky jurisdictional differences sport fishermen must navigate on and around Lake Roosevelt is just a glimpse at years of posturing that's likely to go on for many more years.   That's the way it is with boundary disputes between sovereign nations, only in the case of a U.S. citizen challenging the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe, the citizens pay the cost of both the prosecution and the defense, since the U.S. Attorney would be called in to defend the tribe.

This is part of the reason it's hard to move forward.

A few notes:

  • When camping or fishing FROM SHORE on the Colville or Spokane Indian reservation lands along Lake Roosevelt, tribal permits and licenses are required.  No state or federal agencies dispute that.
  • The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Colville Tribe recently renewed their five-year agreement to allow non-tribal anglers to fish without a tribal fishing license in the designated area along the net pens on Lake Rufus Woods.  The agreement calls for allowing this privilege in three areas along the reservation side of Rufus Woods, but state funding has allowed development of only the one site so far, said WDFW Police  Capt. Chris Anderson.
  • Attatched to this blog is the "5 Party Agreement" the Indian Tribes refer to when they say they have jurisdiction to the middle of Lake Roosevelt, regardless of what the federal court ruled in the Cassidy Decision.
  • Click here for my story explaining the Spokane Tribe's contention that a tribal fishing license is required for fishing in the Sanpoil Arm of Lake Roosevelt, even from a boat below the 1,310 elevation line.

Connie Williamson of Grand Coulee was one of the anglers first ticketed by tribal officers for fishing without a Colville tribal fishing license on Geezer Beach. She says she has a tribal because she fishes on the reservation lands and respects the tribe's authority to manage its fish and wildlife on the reservation. But she fished while carrying just a state fishing license on Geezer Beach to  press the point that that land belongs to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the tribe should have no authority on that land.

When she went to Colville tribal court for her hearing, the charges were dropped. She, too, could not progress to a resolution in the dispute.

Read on for portions of the responses she's received as she's pursued the issue to higher levels:


Colville Tribe opens $51 million salmon hatchery

FISHING — The new Chief Joseph fish hatchery that will release nearly 3 million salmon to the wild each year is being dedicated today along the Columbia River in north-central Washington new Brewster, marking the opening of the first hatchery designed and built under new scientific recommendations intended to boost fish survival rates in the Pacific Northwest.

Read on for the Associated Press report with more explanation on why this hatchery has benefits that override previous concerns over the impact of hatchery fish on native stocks.

Chief Joseph salmon hatchery to open June 20; tours offered

FISHING — The Chief Joseph Hatchery, designed to release up to 2.9 million chinook salmon into the Columbia River, will be dedicated and tours will be offered on Thursday (June 20) during a celebration organized by the Colville Confederated Tribes.

The $50 million state-of-the-art hatchery, between Bridgeport and Chief Joseph Dam, has been built with funding from the Bonneville Power Administration in cooperation with state and federal agencies. It will be managed by the tribe.

 The facility will provide chinook for the tribe, boost Columbia sport fishing and facilitate reintroduction of spring chinook to the Okanogan River.

Read on for more details and a schedule of events and tours for the Thursday ribbon-cutting celebration.

Upper Columbia salmon hatchery previewed

FISHING — The BPA-funded upper Columbia River salmon hatchery being built near Bridgeport and managed under the direction of the Colville Confederated Tribes is scheduled to go online in May.

The Seattle Times posted this update on the project, which should greatly enhance salmon fishing potential in the Columbia and Okanogan rivers.

Wolf killed on Spokane Indian Reservation

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A gray wolf has been killed on the Spokane Indian Reservation by a tribal member who was trapping other species, according to B.J. Kieffer, the tribe's Natural Resources Department director.

"The incidental take occurred (Dec. 10) within the boundaries of the reservation, and within the jurisdiction of the Spokane Tribe," he said in a media release.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials say the wolf is likely a member of the Huckleberry Pack, noting that its range overlaps a portion of the reservation.

Wolves are protected by state endangered species rules outside of the reservation.

The Spokane Tribe is still in the process of developing a wolf management plan for its 157,376-acre reservation and has no designated trapping or hunting seasons for wolves.

The Colville Confederated Tribes have formally opened a wolf hunting season for tribal members on their 1.4 million-acre reservation with a quota of nine wolves. No wolves have been reported killed in the hunt.

Officials from both tribes say protecting big game is important to their tribal members, who rely on deer, elk and moose for subsistence.

At least 10 wolves have been killed in Washington this year through official or accidentalt actions, notes a report by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman magazine:

This region of Washington is part of the zone in the Northern Rockies where gray wolves were Congressionally delisted in spring 2011. Additionally, the Spokanes and Colvilles are sovereign nations and can manage animals on their reservations as they see fit.

There are at least six other packs in Northeast Washington, including two on the Colville Reservation, two suspected ones and new activity in the area where the Wedge Pack was eliminated for cattle depredations.

The Huckleberry Pack is suspected by state wolf managers of being involved in sheep depredations in northwest Spokane County in early summer.

There have been calls for state delisting and translocation of wolves in Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties and elsewhere in Washington east of, roughly, Highways 97 and 17.

At least ten Washington wolves have now been killed this year through management actions, legal hunts or other incidents, including the seven Wedge wolves shot by state gunners, one that went to BC on a walkabout and another member of a cross-border pack that was on the Idaho side earlier this hunting season.

A pup that was eartagged by a state trapper in July was also discovered dead.

That that many wolves have died may be alarming for some, but it also means that their numbers are strong, especially so in Washington’s gamey northeast corner.

Meanwhile, the Washington Department of  Fish and Wildlife has been active with wolf issues on various fronts, including public education presentations.

In addition, officers have:

  • Met with landowners about the range rider program to deter wolves from livestock during spring, summer and fall.
  • Responded to a reported wolf attack in Loon Lake.  The party reported her dog had been injured and its leg had to be amputated.  She said she saw a silver or grey dog, which was bigger than a coyote, near her residence a few weeks back.  Officers advised her to immediately report any more sightings and preserve any evidence found in the future.
  • Used radio telemetry to verify the wolf known as OR-16 (yearling wolf dispersing from Oregon) is in Garfield County. 
  • Worked with cattlemen to develop a Damage Prevention Cooperative Agreement that would set guidelines for livestock operations in wolf country and detail responses to wolf activity available from the state.
  • Toured the area between the Columbia and Kettle Rivers in northern Stevens County where agency gunners wiped out seven wolves in the Wedge Pack after they'd inflicted a out 17 confirmed attacks on cattle.  No tracks were seen in fresh snow on that tour, but locals have reported seeing wolf tracks in new snow since that time.

Colville Tribe documents Washington’s 9th wolf pack

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Colville Tribe confirmed Washington’s ninth wolf pack Sunday as they trapped and released a 104-pound gray wolf.

The new group of gray wolves has been called the Strawberries Pack.

The wolf is the third to be captured, fitted with a GPS collar and released  on the reservation in three months.

Eric Krausz and Donovan Antoine of the tribe’s wildlife program caught the 104-pound female wolf on Sunday, the tribe reports.

Wolf trapping expert Carter Niemeyer was hired last spring to teach the Tribes’ wildlife personnel the tricky art trapping gray wolves.  While Niemeyer was on the reservation, the trapping team captured a 68-pound female and a 72-pound male as the tribe confirmed the state’s eighth pack, dubbed the Nc’icn Pack.

After scouting to find significant wolf sign, Krausz and Antoine set a trapline two weeks ago that finally caught the third wolf after six days.

The tribe is working on a wolf management plan that’s separate from the Washington wolf plan adopted last year to deal with wolves as the naturally move back into their former range.

Colvilles install salmon weir across Okanogan River

FISHERIES — A temporary picket-style salmon weir recently has been installed on the Okanogan River about 15 miles upstream from its confluence with the Columbia River near Brewster, the Colville Tribe reports.

The structure spans the Okanogan river, but leaves room along the west bank for small waterdraft to pass around the weir.

The weir was installed a mile downstream from Malott Bridge during three weeks of construction by Chief Joseph Hatchery staff to test methods for sampling chinook salmon heading upstream to spawn.  The river can flow through the weir but the picket slots form a barrier to upstream-bound adult salmon and angles them into a trap.

“This summer we will watch for any negative effects the structure may cause,” said Keith Wolf, the hatchery's lead scientist. “We will be able to count fish, and get good estimates on the salmon returning to the Okanogan River. After closely monitoring the site for the next several weeks, we will see how salmon react to the weir and we’ll make any necessary modifications we need to for the permanent structure.”

The weir allows the staff to manage summer-fall chinook, sorting out fish of hatchery origin while releasing wild fish to continue their spawning migration.

Joe Peone, Colville Confederated Tribes (CCT) Fish and Wildlife director, explained in a media release:

“This project plays an important role in adult management of summer Chinook that are destined for the spawning grounds in the Similkameen River and the U.S. portion of the Okanogan River. It allows managers to manage natural-origin (NOR) summer Chinook to be the primary spawners (70%) and allows us to control the number of hatchery-origin spawners (HOR) about (30%) on the breading grounds.

In return, the CCT will be able to harvest the HOR summer Chinook and distribute to the CCT members,” he said. “At the same time, we want to make sure our Okanogan weir does not hinder any salmon stocks from migrating up the river. This is why we are doing a two-year feasibility study to monitor adult behavior as they approach the weir.”

The Okanogan River test weir was funded by Grant County Public Utility District and will be operating until the end of September.

Peone said the hatchery staff will operate the weir and communicate with resource agencies regarding the project findings.

Ferry County residents need donations to get through storm disaster

OUTDOORS — There's plenty of firewood for keeping warm in northeastern Washington this week, but many People are hurting for other necessities.

With hundreds of families still without power after last Friday's wind storm wreaked havoc in the region, officials in Ferry County are trying to drum up help with a list of basic necessisties people are needing to get back into gear — including a family that lost their home.

"There's a snowballing effect to this Ferry County disaster," said Bob Whittaker, who lives near Curlew. "Ferry County has Washington State's highest unemployment rate.  Everyone has freezers full of deer meat that gets us through the year. Being this rural, all of us shop in bulk and freeze food. 

"But without power, its all going bad. I just found out they are still rationing blocks of ice in Republic.

"Keller on the Colville Reservation is even more devastated than North County but we are not hearing about it as much, yet. again, no power."

Coming Thursday

It may be hot outside but we've managed to put together a cool Valley Voice for Thursday. The Spokane County Library District's summer program recently brough in a Salish speaker from the Colville Tribe for a children's storytime in Fairfield. Reporter Lisa Leinberger headed down there to check out the program.

The Spokane Valley City Council talked economic development for nearly two hours this week and I'll have a report on their discussion. You can also get your first detailed look at the upcoming construction on the Indiana and Sullivan intersection, including which parts of the intersection will be closed when. The project is set to start Aug. 1.

Don't look for me to post links to the stories until late tomorrow, though. I'll be away from the computer most of the day and I'll be around in the late afternoon to do some posting. That is, unless I melt first.

Lake Rufus Woods fish kill may impact anglers

FISHING — The Colville Tribe is saying the recent loss of perhaps a million rainbow trout in commercial net pens downstream from Grand Coulee Dam might scuttle the regular release of net pen trout for anglers in Lake Rufus Woods.

A story in Northwest Sportsman Magazine quotes Colville spokeswoman Sheri Sears as saying the tribe's normal release of 4,000 3- to 4-pounders a month from fall into spring  helps ensure good fishing in some areas of the 50-mile-long reservoir.

“Typically we buy $60,000 worth of triploids from the netpens. This year we probably won’t have those available,” Sears told NSM.

She said tribal managers foresaw the high flows and released their redband rainbow broodstock from the pens.

People are catching fish in a wide range of sizes.

Colville Tribe bans state wildlife enforcement on reservation

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — The Colville Tribe's ongoing snit with Washington Fish and Wildlife police has become more formal and more troubling in the past month.

The Tribe has been telling the state Fish and Wildlife Department officers for at least a year that they couldn't drive the roads on the Colville Indian Reserveration.  More recently the tribal council formally banned state Fish and Wildlife officers from enforcing hunting and fishing laws on the reservation.

The March 17 resolution says the ban is “due to their failure to honor the tribes lawfully issued nonmember fishing permits.”

The Fish and Wildlife director has told the tribe he's disappointed with the decision and that it will infringe on wildlife enforcement.

Today's Wenatchee World has a comprehensive story on the situation.