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Council Approves Fish, Wildlife Package

by Associated Press
Lewiston Tribune, June 12, 2003

BOISE -- The Northwest Power Planning Council on Wednesday approved a three-year, $34 million package of fish and wildlife improvement projects that squeezes as much work as possible from a limited budget.

Bonneville Power Administration, which funds the projects, has scaled back some projects to deal with a tightened budget.

Part of the package is a project which pays anglers a bounty on northern pikeminnow, a voracious predator of migrating juvenile salmon and steelhead.

The council members meeting in Boise halved the funding for the pikeminnow fishing, calling it a success which can function with less money.

The projects continue to implement the council's Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife program and the federal government's 2000 biological opinions for the wild salmon and steelhead on the Endangered Species List.

The $34 million budget reflects an overall reduction in funding for the council's fish program imposed this year by Bonneville, which supplies about half the region's electricity. For 2003, Bonneville limited direct expenditures to that program to $139 million, a reduction of about $40 million over previously planned spending.

"The decision on this package of projects was very difficult for us, but we did the best we could with the budget we were given," said Council Chairwoman Judi Danielson of Idaho.

"For each project, we asked whether the work is a Bonneville ratepayer responsibility, or could be funded by others," she said. "Given the current financial crisis at Bonneville, we recommended a package of projects that produce biological benefits and improve scientific knowledge at the lowest possible cost."

The reduction in the pikeminnow project from $2.8 million to $1.4 million per year occurred because it has been successful, council information officer John Harrison said.

The council's Independent Scientific Review Panel of biologists concluded the bounty fishing has cut the trash fish population and it will continue to be effective even if the fishing -- and funding -- were reduced, he said.

The program pays $4 per pikeminnow for up to 100 fish, $5 per fish for 101 to 400 fish and $6 for 401 or more. The minimum size is 9 inches.

Associated Press
Council Approves Fish, Wildlife Package
Lewiston Tribune, June 12, 2003

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