Lake Roosevelt White Sturgeon Recovery Project
The Lake Roosevelt White Sturgeon Recovery Project is a multi-agency project that is responsible for assessing the white sturgeon population in Lake Roosevelt. The project receives funding from the Bonneville Power Administration through direction of the Northwest Power Act and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program to recover native populations of fish and wildlife in hydro-power impacted regions. The project is managed by the Spokane Tribe of Indians, which contracts with the other Lake Roosevelt fisheries managers, the Colville Confederated Tribes and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to complete identified tasks. Currently, the lead field biologist is a white sturgeon biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. He provides the project with research direction and conducts the field work with the assistance of technicians provided by the Colville Confederated Tribes and the Spokane Tribe of Indians. Additionally, the Spokane Tribe provides interagency coordination and overall project management.
Over the past four years, the project has surveyed the white sturgeon population in the northern third of the reservoir and the free-flowing section of the Columbia River above Lake Roosevelt. Surveys have indicated that the population is comprised primarily of an aged cohort, with very few young fish present in the population, which indicates that the population is failing to recruit from the egg, larval or juvenile stage of life. Managers and researchers have begun to assess the factors limiting the success and survival of these early life stages.
Coordination is of critical importance in the recovery of the upper Columbia River transboundary population. Since its inception, the project has been working cooperatively with the transboundary Upper Columbia White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative and Team (UCWSRI/T). This organization is comprised of US and Canadian federal, state, provincial, First Nations and Tribal representatives. The UCWSRI is co-chaired by one Canadian team member and one US team member, which is currently represented by the Spokane Tribe of Indians project manager. Their objective is to address recovery of the Upper Columbia white sturgeon population. This has become of critical importance to the Canadian representatives due to the recent listing of white sturgeon under the Canadian Species At Risk Act (SARA) which has lent special emphasis to the recovery of the transboundary reach population. One of the major milestones met by the UCWSRT was the completion of an Upper Columbia White Sturgeon Recovery Plan that developed recovery measures for both the Canadian and US sections of the transboundary reach. The Lake Roosevelt White Sturgeon Recovery Project partially funded completion of this plan.
Recovery efforts for both US and Canadian partners have included the release of hatchery sturgeon into the transboundary reach. The Lake Roosevelt Sturgeon Recovery Project has developed an interim hatchery program that raises genetically distinct families of white sturgeon for release annually into the reservoir and upper Columbia River. In conjunction with the release of the sturgeon, the project has developed a Student Discovery Week event as part of an outreach program aimed at educating the public about the plight of white sturgeon in Lake Roosevelt. This event allows a group of school kids to learn about sturgeon and to release one into the reservoir with a distinct tag so they can monitor the progress of the fish using data disseminated via the White Sturgeon web page developed by the project.