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Framework for the development of the Columbia River mainstem fish tissue and water quality monitoring program - Bonneville Dam to Canadian border

December 27, 2022

The Columbia River provides important cultural, economic, and ecological services to a significant portion of the United States. Anadromous and resident fish species and other wildlife are integrated into the cultural traditions of all Tribes in the Columbia River Basin. Salmon, lamprey, sturgeon, and resident fish are an integral part of Tribal religion, culture, and physical sustenance. Despite concerns about the effect of contaminants on the aquatic ecosystem, the disproportionate effects of contaminants on members of Tribal sovereignties, and the known effects of contaminants on species protected under the Endangered Species Act, efforts to address toxic chemical pollution in the Columbia River have been limited. The lack of a dedicated contaminant monitoring program impedes evaluation and decision making regarding the health of the Columbia River ecosystem, as well as human health for Tribal members and others that consume fish and other biota from the Columbia River.

The purpose of this framework is to provide guidance for the development of a long-term program (Program) that provides the basis for assessing the status and trends of contaminants in fish, sediment, water, and invertebrates along the 962-kilometer length of the Columbia River from the Bonneville Dam upriver to the Canadian Border (Figure ES1).

This framework will focus on four persistent and bioaccumulative classes of toxic contaminants:

• Mercury

• Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

• Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT)

• Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)

Media of interest in this framework include anadromous and resident fish, sediment, invertebrates, biofilm, and surface water.

Future consideration of additional contaminants could include pesticides, per or poly-fluoroalkyl substances, 6PPD-quinone, and contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), which comprises a diverse group of anthropogenic chemicals that include thousands of pharmaceuticals, hormones, illicit drugs, new pesticides, personal care products, flame retardants, artificial sweeteners, perfluorinated compounds, disinfection byproducts, ultraviolet filters, and other industrial chemicals.

This framework includes the vision, goals, and objectives for the Program. The vision for the Program is that it will provide the basis for assessing the status and trends of contaminants in the Columbia River to guide ecosystem recovery resulting in clean, healthy fish for current and future generations. The goals of the Program are to 1) conduct long-term monitoring to assess the spatial and temporal status and trends of toxics in fish, water, sediment, and other potential media in the Columbia River mainstem, from Bonneville Dam to the Canadian Border in perpetuity, 2) stimulate conversion of science into action by providing information to facilitate future decision making that improves ecosystem function and reduces contaminants in all levels of the food chain, and 3) adaptively manage the Program to address new key questions, incorporate new and emerging science advancements, and respond to community information needs.

To facilitate achieving these goals, this framework provides details on technical planning; community outreach and engagement; and adaptive management to promote understanding and improve future decision making over the long-term, including updating the Program with new and emerging science and community needs. Additionally, data associated with the Program will be made available to the public through the EPA Water Quality Exchange ( Documents and other materials associated with the Program can be accessed via a website hosted by Yakama Nation Fisheries ( water-quality-monitoring-program).

Although the Program is limited to the Columbia River upstream of the Bonneville Dam, collaboration with other entities that monitor contaminants in the Columbia River Basin, including the Columbia River estuary below Bonneville Dam, are also an important component of outreach. Our goal is to encourage efforts to ensure data comparability across programs and recognize that the growth and adaptive management of the Program considers basin-wide monitoring developments.

Publication Year 2022
Title Framework for the development of the Columbia River mainstem fish tissue and water quality monitoring program - Bonneville Dam to Canadian border
Authors Timothy D. Counihan, Patrick W. Moran, Ian R. Waite, Sherrie Duncan, Laura Shira
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype State or Local Government Series
Index ID 70244068
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Oregon Water Science Center; Washington Water Science Center; Western Fisheries Research Center