Attendees at a Cowlitz Fisheries Annual Project Review Meeting listen to officials from Tacoma Power and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at Wednesday at Centralia College.

Attendees at a Cowlitz Fisheries Annual Project Review Meeting listen to officials from Tacoma Power and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at Wednesday at Centralia College.

The number of hatchery salmon and steelhead released in the Cowlitz River isn’t going to change much from the implemented 2014 plan to the draft 2015 plan, officials said at a Wednesday night meeting in Centralia.

The most notable change is a 25,000 boost to summer-run steelhead released, increasing from 625,000 to 650,000 under the Fisheries and Hatchery Management Plan.

“Hopefully this works well for the fishermen; we’re not proposing a radical change from last year,” Mark LaRiviere, fisheries biologist with Tacoma Power, said. He added that the 2016 plan likely won’t be much different either.

“This works well for our lives, this works well for the hatchery,
Tacoma Power and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife employees presented the plan at its annual project review meeting for Cowlitz fisheries to about 15 people at Centralia College.

Mark LaRiviere, of Tacoma Power, left, and John Serl, with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, present information at a Cowlitz Fisheries Annual Project Review Meeting Wednesday at Centralia College.

Mark LaRiviere, of Tacoma Power, left, and John Serl, with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, present information at a Cowlitz Fisheries Annual Project Review Meeting Wednesday at Centralia College.

In 2014, officials saw the largest record return of coho at about 110,000 Cowlitz salmon hatchery adult returns, John Serl, WDFW fish biologist, said. About 15,000 of those were natural fish. The last highest return number for coho that Serl presented was about 80,000 in 2010.

LaRiviere said about 85 percent of most returning species are hatchery origin fish.
With the monitoring and tracking being done, including the use of weirs on four tributaries — Ostrander, Delameter, Olequa and Lacamas creeks — better data collection is happening for the Cowlitz, Serl said.

Front Page, The Chronicle, June 4, 2015

Front Page, The Chronicle, June 4, 2015

“We’re getting a lot more information than we ever have before,” Serl said.
Currently they are calculating 13,000 natural coho spawned in tributaries of the Lower Cowlitz.

“We had no idea it was that many in the Lower Cowlitz,” LaRiviere said. “But then we’ve never really systematically looked like we’re looking now with weirs, with marking, with miles and miles of stream surveyors out looking.”

He added that hatchery origin coho are not being found in the tributaries.
LaRiviere also updated meeting attendees on projects and preparations underway by Tacoma Power.

Construction is beginning this week on the Cowlitz Falls dam $30 million fish passage and collection project.

The Chronicle, June 4, 2015

The Chronicle, June 4, 2015

LaRiviere said Tacoma Power hopes to have the facility operational for testing in 2017.

“It’s a pretty complicated construction project, trying to fit it in on an existing dam,” LaRiviere said.

Tacoma Power has also made preparations for the statewide drought emergency declared by Gov. Jay Inslee on May 15, noting the company got permission to put some extra water in Riffe Lake to meet demand.

“Right now we have plenty of water to maintain our flows through the summer, into the fall, into next winter,” LaRiviere said.

By Kaylee Osowski / kosowski@chronline.com