Lower Snake River Compensation Program (LSRCP)

Hatchery spring/summer chinook in the Snake River basin are not meeting goals established in 1975 by the LSRCP designed to replace salmon harvest lost because of the four lower Snake River dams.

The Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP)1 recently released a report describing the efficacy of the Lower Snake River Compensation Plan’s Spring Chinook Program. Click here to see the report.

Some conclusions from the report - the return goals are not being met
  • never has met the program goal of 58,700 spring/summers back to the Snake
  • the Smolt to Adult Survival Rate [SAR] design goal for hatchery fish was set at 0.87% ; the 10-year mean is 0.52%
  • the ISRP has concerns about the impacts of hatchery salmon on wild salmon

ISRP report page 63
The most successful portion of the program has been the raising of smolts for release; there has been return in sufficient numbers in a few systems to provide modest tribal and non-tribal recreational fisheries. Very little evidence is presented of supplementation benefits and any positive effects of these higher returns in producing more natural fish. The consistently lower SARs for hatchery fish than natural fish also argues that even though fish health is good, physical performance of hatchery fish in the hydrosystem, estuary, and ocean (from release to return) remains lower than for wild (natural) fish The basis for concluding that natural-origin abundance can be increased is not justified. Whether or not genetic and life-history resources can be preserved is an open question. There have been no described extirpations of local natural-origin populations, but no clear evidence that population status was positively affected by the hatchery programs. The success in establishing a hatchery program using a local tributary broodstock that is self-sustaining is evidence that these programs could prevent extinction of the lineage. It is not evidence that they could prevent extirpation from the natural environment. In many locations, it appears there is now a hatchery spring Chinook population with some natural production from feral hatchery fish.

We are too reliant on hatcheries - the failed assumption prevails - hatcheries can mitigate for human perturbations (water and habitat loss, dams, etc.). As long as hatchery salmon are providing some fishing opportunity and wild salmon cannot it will be difficult to wean the hatchery program. Without BPA funding (deep pockets) the hatchery program would not be flourishing.

With the lower Snake River dams in place wild recovery cannot be achieved and hatchery mitigation cannot be met. Dam removal would allow replacing most hatchery programs with wild fish. The Snake basin supports hatchery programs other than the federal LSRCP – Idaho Power Company mitigation for the Hells Canyon Dams.

1The ISRP was created by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council in response to section of the Northwest Power Act as amended in 1996. Under the amended Act, the ISRP provides the Council with independent scientific review of projects funded by the Bonneville Power Administration.

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