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UncertaintyWhat are the distributions, uses, and concentrations of toxics, including emerging contaminants, in the Columbia River Basin, and what are their trends over time?
SubthemeAssessment (distribution and concentration)
Sources ISAB 2011-1: Columbia River Basin Food Webs
Recommendations for the 2014 Program Amendment from CRITFC, Cowlitz I.T., USRTF, NOAA-F, USGS-NW
Recommendations for the 2014 Program Amendment from USFWS USGS-NW
NPCC 2006-3: Research Plan 2006
Criticality Level Priority
Rationale This is the fundamental uncertainty for this theme. Although it may be difficult to obtain data at sufficient temporal and spatial scales to fully resolve the uncertainty in the near term, it forms a foundation for understanding the magnitude of the threat and formulating approaches for tackling other contaminant-related uncertainties. Contaminants are not easily detected, so managers may unknowingly try to restore habitat in need of substantial clean-up. This critical uncertainty is from the 2006 Research Plan; see Part 2, ISAB/ISRP 2016-1, CU #34, for a discussion of progress made toward addressing this uncertainty. The proliferation of artificial chemicals in the Basin was recently identified by the ISAB as one of the highest priorities for resolution (ISAB 2011-1, ISAB 2013-1). The most recent tally of pesticide use (average for 1999-2004) lists 182 chemicals, with an aggregate application rate of ~46,000 metric tons (~50,000 US tons) of active ingredients annually; these are concentrated mostly in agricultural lands along water courses (See Programmatic Comment 2; Figure 1; ISAB 2001-1). In the 2013 ISAB report, specific recommendations were made for addressing chemicals and contaminants: (1) Actively investigate the impact of chemicals on restoration activities by fully implementing a water quality program. This initiative will require working partnerships between federal and state agencies as well as initiating modeling of how climate and temperature affects contaminant toxicity for all parts of the Basin. (2) Work diligently with other regional agencies to implement the interagency Columbia River Basin Toxics Reduction Action Plan (US EPA 2010). (3) Update the plan regularly, so that current and future chemical inputs to the system can be addressed in a timely fashion, before they become even more serious problems. The nature of the issue dictates that this will be a large, ongoing, and collective regional effort. A new, interactive mapping tool shows predicted concentrations for 108 pesticides in streams and rivers across the United States and identifies which streams are most likely to exceed water-quality guidelines for human health or aquatic life. It also provides information on probabilities of exceeding established benchmarks. It is based on Watershed Regression for Pesticides (WARP) models as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. A complete description of the development and performance of the WARP models is provided in Stone et al. (2013); additional information is available at This mapping tool should be a useful resource in watershed assessments and in the identification and planning of restoration strategies and individual project treatments.

Projects that address this uncertainty:

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ID Title Sponsor Locations Purpose Emphasis Addresses
200847000 Yakama Nation Ceded Lands Lamprey Evaluation and Restoration Yakama Confederated Tribes Columbia Gorge/Klickitat, Columbia Plateau/Yakima Programmatic RM and E Directly
200852400 Implement Tribal Pacific Lamprey Restoration Plan Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) Lower Columbia/Willamette Hydrosystem RM and E Directly
198806400 Kootenai River White Sturgeon Aquaculture Conservation Facility Kootenai Tribe Mountain Columbia/Kootenai Artificial Production Supplementation Indirectly
200700300 Dworshak Dam Resident Fish Mitigation Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) Mountain Snake/Clearwater Habitat RM and E Indirectly

last updated: Jan 26, 2016