Management Plan Priority Issues

The technical studies conducted under the Bi-State Program from 1990-96 provided the background for the technical elements of the Management Plan. Based on an assessment of that data and supplementary information, the Management Committee identified seven priority issues of concern to the Lower Columbia River Estuary. The seven issues framed the actions in the Management Plan.

The priority issues demonstrate the breadth and complexity of the problems we face. For each issue, there is a problem statement and a vision of what can be achieved when we take action to protect and enhance the lower Columbia River.

Biological Integrity
Conventional Pollutants
Toxic Contaminants
Habitat Loss and Modification
Impacts of Human Activity and Growth
Institutional Constraints
Public Awareness and Stewardship
Interrelation of Priority Issues

Biological Integrity
The populations of certain native species in the Lower Columbia River Estuary have declined, and numerous species are now listed as endangered or threatened. Some ecosystem functions are impaired, decreasing the ability of the river system to support a healthy, adaptive community of plant and animal life. Restoring and maintaining the biological integrity of the system is the ultimate goal of the Estuary Program.
Biological Integrity Vision
Integrated, resilient, and diverse biological communities are restored and maintained in the lower Columbia River and estuary.

Conventional Pollutants
Pollutants from a variety of sources have negatively [Pollution] affected water quality. Common problems include high water temperatures and high levels of dissolved gas. Standards for bacteria, dissolved oxygen, and pH are exceeded on occasion. Turbidity and sedimentation are also of concern.
Conventional Pollutants Vision
In the lower Columbia River and estuary, temperature, turbidity, bacteria, dissolved oxygen, dissolved gas, and other conventional pollutants are controlled to levels that protect the health of fish, wildlife, and humans.

Toxic Contaminants
Toxic contaminants have been found in sediment and fish tissue. Levels of PCBs, DDE, and dioxin are high enough that they may be linked to reproductive failure in bald eagles, mink, and river otters. They also pose a threat to human health.
Toxic Contaminants Vision
Toxic contaminants are not present at levels that impair the health or threaten the future well-being of the lower Columbia River and estuary and the populations they support.

Habitat Loss and Modification
Human activities over the last 100 years have significantly altered the estuary and resulted in much habitat loss and modification. Dams, dikes, maintenance dredging, urbanization, agriculture, forestry, and land use practices all contribute to this alteration. Loss of habitat harms fish and wildlife populations. Economic and recreational activities that depend on these resources are also threatened.
Habitat Loss and Modification Vision
Habitat in the lower Columbia River and estuary supports self-sustaining populations of plants, fish, and wildlife

Impacts of Human Activity and Growth
Many past and current human activities have degraded the natural environment. As population continues to grow, land use and development practices could result in further pollution, habitat loss, and impacts to fish and wildlife.
Impacts of Human Activity and Growth Vision
Land uses and land development practices, including results of past practices and population growth, are managed in a way that enhances the quality of life of the biological and human communities.

Institutional Constraints
Many agencies and levels of government are currently involved in managing and protecting the estuary. This complex and sometimes conflicting network hampers efforts to protect and improve the health of the estuary.
Institutional Constraints Vision
A coordinated, integrated network exists among all levels of government and other interested organizations that effectively and efficiently protects and manages the lower Columbia River and estuary.

Public Awareness and Stewardship
There is a continual need to connect ourselves as individual, corporate, and community citizens to our river. Greater awareness will lead to stronger river protection.
Public Awareness and Stewardship Vision
Everyone participates in maintaining and protecting the lower Columbia River and estuary.

Interrelationship of Priority Issues
The Estuary Program’s fundamental goal is to achieve a high level of biological integrity for the lower Columbia River and estuary. That integrity has been degraded by human activity and growth over the last hundred years. The degradation is evidenced by habitat loss and modification, conventional pollutants (such as elevated temperature, increased dissolved gas, bacteria and sediment), and toxic contaminants in fish tissue and sediments. Institutional constraints from multiple jurisdictions and lack of public awareness and stewardship make protection of the river challenging.

Stated in terms of future management of the lower Columbia River and estuary, actions taken to lessen the impacts of human activity, such as controlling urban stormwater runoff, will also help address water quality problems. Similarly, actions that protect and restore habitat will help provide the conditions critical to maintain biological diversity. Better public awareness of the river ecosystem and the cause/effect relationships that affect it will bring greater political will to bear on managing growth and development, which will in turn affect all the other issues.