The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing an emergency translocation of Columbian white-tailed deer from Julia Butler Hansen (JBH) Refuge for the Columbian White-tailed Deer near Cathlamet to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) near Ridgefield.
Steamboat Slough dike, a dike owned and maintained by Diking District 4 along the Columbia River boundary of the JBH Refuge, is eroding and, according to geotechnical engineers, could fail at any time.
A December 3 news release said the Fish and Wildlife service believes a dike breach would inundate the mainland refuge and place the approximately 100 Columbian white-tailed deer at extreme risk. Managers believe that flooding would displace or kill the majority of those deer, thereby setting recovery efforts back significantly. The proposed emergency translocation is an attempt to minimize loss of deer and maintain efforts toward recovery under the Endangered Species Act.
Although technology exists to fix the impending dike breach, there are no funds available for the effort at this time. Plans for a longer-term remedy are under consideration but cannot be completed in time to prevent a potential dike breach this winter.
The US Army Corps of Engineers is planning a possible project to address the erosion threat by building a new dike set well back from the shoreline.
"No one has the funding to fix the existing revetment, so they're going after salmon habitat enhancement funds," Wahkiakum County Commissioner Lisa Marsyla said Tuesday. "This is all preliminary."
The Corps, county, Fish and Wildlife and representatives of federal elected representatives will meet December 18 in Cathlamet to go over the plan.
Marsyla said the concept is to build a dike well back from the shoreline and turn the land between the dike and river into wetland habitat for juvenile salmon. The dike wouldn't be paved, she said.
Commissioner Blair Brady said he wouldn't support such a plan.
"Basically, they would flood 100 acres and have a set back dike without a road on top which I strongly oppose," he commented.
The dike is expected to continue to erode, and that will result in a loss of access to the shoreline area.
Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to translocate approximately half of the deer on the Cathlamet refuge to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Fish and Wildlife also proposes to stabilize an existing small subpopulation at Cottonwood Island near Longview by translocating 15 deer from Puget Island.
Capture and translocation would occur up to three times per week. Monitoring of the translocated deer would occur three times per week for the first month post release, at least once per week for the next three months, and at least once per month to six months post release.
The service would employ several capture methods. Most of the deer would be moved by ground capture and vehicle transport. Ground capture techniques would include drop netting, drive netting, and darting. Deer would be transported in specially made crates by vehicle and boat. The Service would also conduct one day of helicopter capture after March 1 if ground capture methods have not achieved half of the intended goal by February 22.
As part of the emergency effort, Fish and Wildlife has developed a Draft Environmental Assessment and opened a period of public comment.
That document can be found on the JBH Refuge website at: www.fws.gov/jbh. All comments must be received by January 2, 2013. A Final Environmental Assessment addressing all comments will be published on the JBH Refuge website in early 2013.