Technical Recommendations

Given the history of abundant salmon populations above Bonneville Dam and the complexity of jurisdictions and interest groups whose activities have contributed to their demise, the four tribes conclude that significant actions must be undertaken immediately if we are to preserve our cultural heritage and treaty-guaranteed property rights. The preferred approach for managing these required activities is adaptive management. This approach combines the objective approach of scientific methodology with social and political decision making processes.

Adaptive management is a process consisting of identifying a problem, taking actions to address the problem, observing the results, and modifying the assessment of the problem and needed remedies. Adaptive management requires taking actions of a magnitude large enough to be likely to demonstrate measurable results in the face of inherent biological variability. It is a flexible process that does not require perfect knowledge to begin. It is self-correcting as new information is obtained.

An adaptive management approach to restoring salmon production in the Columbia River Basin above Bonneville Dam includes:

  1. Initial assessment of the problem;
  2. Formulation of goals, hypotheses about the nature of the problem(s), and needed solutions;
  3. Identification of the expected results of the proposed actions;
  4. Implementation of the proposed actions;
  5. A monitoring program to observe the actual result of actions;
  6. Communication of results among interested parties; and
  7. Reevaluation of the problem definition and modification of management actions.

This plan addresses steps 1 through 3 of this process. We are now prepared to move forward with implementation of actions proposed in this plan.

Resources for restoring salmon (time, money, manpower) are limited and there is much we do not fully understand about the impacts of society’s actions on salmon survival at each life stage. These uncertainties about actions and their consequences often lead to debate and inaction for fear the “wrong” action will be taken and limited resources will be wasted or that actions will have unintended negative results. The result is the worst possible for salmon populations – they continue to decline toward extirpation. We must identify and resolve the most important of these uncertainties so we may make most effective use of limited resources to rebuild declining populations.

The most effective way to resolve critical uncertainty is by application of sound scientific methods. We must first realize, however, that science itself is a process or methodology, a way of discovering things, not a number, or a collection of facts (Orians 1969). The best science, then, is a rigorous process conducted over time, not the best number or fact at a particular time. The scientific method consists of formulating a theory or hypothesis, developing and conducting a test that would disprove the hypothesis if it were false, drawing a conclusion from the results of the test, and formulating new hypotheses and theories.

These technical recommendations are designed to accomplish the tribal anadromous fish restoration goals and objectives:


  • Restore anadromous fishes to the rivers and streams that support the historical cultural and economic practices of the tribes. (These are generally areas above Bonneville Dam.)
  • Emphasize strategies that rely on natural production and healthy river systems to achieve this goal.
  • Protect tribal sovereignty and treaty rights.
  • Reclaim the anadromous fish resource and the environment upon which it depends for future generations.


  • Within 7 years, halt the declining trends in salmon, sturgeon, and lamprey populations upstream of Bonneville Dam.
  • Within 25 years, increase the total adult salmon returns above Bonneville Dam to 4 million annually and in a manner that supports tribal commercial as well as ceremonial and subsistence harvests.
  • Within 25 years, increase sturgeon and lamprey populations to naturally sustainable levels that also support tribal harvest opportunities.
  • Restore anadromous fishes to historical abundance in perpetuity.

The objectives require gravel-to-gravel salmon survival levels for naturally reproducing populations approximately double the present level in seven years, and quadruple present rates in twenty-five years (see Anticipated Outcomes section). This will result in natural production levels greater than replacement while also providing for commercial, ceremonial, and subsistence harvest levels consistent with the treaties.

Measures that we believe are needed and appropriate to achieve these objectives are set forth in the following hypotheses. For instance, the juvenile passage hypothesis calls for achieving a fish passage efficiency (FPE) at all mainstem dams of at least 80% immediately and at least 90% within eight years. The land use practices hypothesis is intended to protect and restore all existing tributary habitat, without any additional degradation over existing conditions.

There may be other actions that will achieve the objectives of this plan. The tribes are flexible on the details of specific actions as long as the end result, as measured by overall survival rates and fish abundance, is consistent with the above objectives.

The table below hypotheses summarize the tribes’ perception of the problem and their proposed initial responses. The hypotheses are organized within the life cycle stages of the salmon, beginning with the hypotheses affecting early life history stages (e.g., egg to juvenile survival). No prioritization of the importance of the hypotheses is implied by the sequence in which they are presented. Several of the hypotheses have both short term and long term phases. The long term reflects actions intended to be carried out in year eight of this plan and in succeeding years.

Table 5B.1. Summary of hypotheses.
Hypothesis Habitat Life Stage
1 Land Use Practices Tributary Adult, egg, parr
2 Water Quantity Tributary Adult, egg, parr
3 Watershed Restoration Tributary Adult, egg, parr
4 Supplementation Tributary Egg, parr
5 Reintroductions Tributary Egg, parr
6 Juvenile Salmon Passage Mainstem Smolt
7 Estuary Estuary Smolt, adult
8 Harvest Ceilings Ocean Adult
9 Adult Salmon Passage Mainstem Adult
10 Water Quality Mainstem,tributary Adult, smolt
11 Stock-specific Concerns Mainstem, tributary Adult
12 Lamprey Passage Mainstem Adult lamprey
13 White Sturgeon Mainstem All
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