By Ann McCreary

Submerged antennas would be placed in up to 19 streams and rivers in the Methow Valley to monitor endangered fish species through a project proposed by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

The Methow Valley Ranger District is proposing to issue a five-year special use permit to WDFW to install and maintain the antennas in waterways on U.S. Forest Service lands.

Called Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) antennas, the devices detect tags implanted in fish that contain a code specific to each individual fish. The PIT-tagged fish swim past an antenna, which records the passage of the fish and other identifying information.

The project is part of a monitoring and evaluation effort to be conducted throughout the Columbia Basin, said Michael Liu, Methow district ranger.

“The technology is a means of monitoring and evaluation of a variety of Upper Columbia salmonid recovery efforts, hydroelectric project mitigation efforts and general habitat restoration and enhancement efforts, most of which target ESA [Endangered Species Act]-listed fish,” Liu said in a letter inviting public comment on the proposal.

Streams and rivers that are potential sites for the antennas include Black Canyon, Gold Creek, Libby Creek, Poorman Creek, Buttermilk Creek, Eagle Creek, War Creek, Twisp River, Boulder Creek, Eightmile Creek, Chewuch River, Twentymile Creek, Lake Creek, Wolf Creek, Goat Creek, Early Winters Creek, Lost River, Robinson Creek and the Methow River.

The Chewuch River, Early Winters Creek and Lost River would be permanent, year-round sites; the other sites would be seasonal.

The antennas are made of PVC pipe with wires running through them. Data is collected when tagged fish swim in the vicinity of the devices.

Placements at seasonal sites would typically include one or two antennas, located upstream and downstream of each other in order to determine the direction of the fish. They will be two to three feet wide and five to 10 feet long depending on the width of the waterway they span.

The antennas would be held in place using two six- to seven-foot metal T-posts driven into the streambed using hand tools. The antennas would be attached to the posts with nylon straps, and connected to a data-logger housed in a locked box on the stream bank.

Maintenance would involve changing 12-volt batteries and memory cards every seven to 10 days. The seasonal antennas would be deployed when conditions allow data collection, typically summer and fall, according to the Forest Service.

At permanent sites, up to 12 antennas constructed of PVC, three feet wide and 10 to 20 feet long, would be placed in stream channels with depths of less than four feet in low water. The permanent antennas lie flat on the bottom of the streambed, and some rocks and boulders may have to be moved to place the antennas.

The antennas would be held in place using galvanized iron earth anchors, driven in to the streambed using a pneumatic hammer. Nylon straps will secure the antenna to the anchors. The Lost River and Chewuch sties would be powered by a propane thermoelectric generator and the Early Winters site would be powered by an existing electrical line.

Fisheries officials trap and implant juvenile fish with transmitting devices. The technology provides information about fish returns and survival.

Because the project involves waterways on Forest Service lands, a special use permit is required. Comments may be sent to District Ranger Michael Liu, 24 West Chewuch Road, Winthrop, WA 98862. Comments are requested by Jan. 31 and may be sent electronically to comments-pacificnorthwest-okanogan-methowvalley@fs.fed.us.

For questions or more information about the project, contact Laurie Dowie, special uses coordinator, at 996-4071 or by email at ldowie@fs.fed.us.