The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is being encouraged to take action to protect Northwest salmon from predatory birds, including those nesting on a Potholes Reservoir island, in legislation passed by the U.S. House.
Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., had language included in the report accompanying the House Energy and Water Appropriations Bill that passed Wednesday night.
"Each year, Northwest residents pay nearly $1 billion to protect endangered salmon, only for them to be consumed by predatory birds," Hastings said in a statement Thursday. "Federal agencies should be making it a priority to take immediate action to address this ongoing problem."
The Army Corps of Engineers was expected to release a final environmental assessment late last year on managing birds that prey on endangered fish on the Snake and Columbia rivers upstream from the Bonneville Dam.
However, now the plan is expected to be completed in the final months of this year, said Corps spokeswoman Gina Baltrusch.
The language in the bill report encourages completion of the plan, requiring the Corps to provide a written report to the House Appropriations Committee within 60 days after the bill is enacted detailing progress made to date and actions planned to address the threat of predatory birds to endangered salmon species.
Hastings also included language in the bill report for the House Energy and Water Appropriations Bill last year, but the bill was not enacted into law.
Last year, he directed the Corps to speed up its response to birds preying on salmon in the Columbia River.
Caspian terns, cormorants and gulls nesting in the region consume as much as 15 percent of migrating endangered upper Columbia River steelhead smolts, according to a 2011 report released by Oregon State University and the U.S. Geological Survey.
The Corps said last year that focusing on the Caspian terns nesting at Goose Island at Potholes Reservoir and at Crescent Island just below the mouth of the Snake River could have the biggest benefit for fish in the region above Bonneville Dam. Terns on Goose Island fly out to the river and feed on juvenile steelhead.
Terns are protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and cannot be harmed, which limits options.
The Corps has been looking for alternate habitat to develop within the Caspian tern's migratory corridor, Baltrusch said.
The goal would be to encourage them to move to a location where they would feed on fish that are not endangered.
Populations have been moved successfully in the past by fencing in or getting rid of habitat where terns were living and using decoys and broadcasting tern sounds to entice them to new habitat.
If habitat is reduced, it would be replaced with twice as much habitat.
-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; email@example.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews