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Salmon Dodge BPA Cuts

by Associated Press
The Spokesman Review, January 28, 2003

PORTLAND -- The Bonneville Power Administration's spending on fish and wildlife will be focused on saving threatened and endangered salmon and do less for other species after the agency gets through cutting $35 million from its budget.

The Northwest Power Planning Council, which balances fish and wildlife against hydroelectric power in the Columbia Basin, on Monday unanimously approved a set of principles for reducing the BPA fish and wildlife budget from $174 million to $139 million this year.

The council's deadline for specific recommendations on which projects to cut is Feb. 21. The BPA will then make the final decisions, said Therese Lamb, acting BPA vice president for environment, fish and wildlife.

"The focus is probably more directly on salmon and listed stocks," said Sara McNary, BPA's director for fish and wildlife. "We have a certain amount of funding available for wildlife, and a certain amount for non-listed fish species. But it will not be as robust as planned."

The top priority for programs will be those that help BPA meet its short-term obligations under the Endangered Species Act for restoring the 12 runs of Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead that are threatened or endangered species.

Other top priorities include maintaining past investments in improving salmon passage in tributaries, such as a fish ladder over an irrigation dam, protecting habitat where wild salmon are spawning successfully, and maintaining fish hatcheries.

The projects were initiated by the fish and wildlife agencies of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, as well as Indian tribes with treaty rights to fish for salmon.

"We feel BPA still has the financial tools available to get them out of this," said Charles Hudson, spokesman for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, which represents the tribes. "Fish and wildlife spending did not put Bonneville into this mess. It goes back to a flawed rate case built on flawed assumptions and horrific business decisions."

Under the biological opinion for salmon recovery adopted in 2000 by the National Marine Fisheries Service, BPA must meet certain checkoffs in 2003, 2005 and 2008.

The checkoffs are designed to document that progress in being made in making the basin's hydroelectric dam operations less harmful to salmon. Failure to satisfy the checkoffs would require renewed consideration of breaching four dams on the lower Snake River.

The first round of checkoffs mostly have to do with verifying systems are funded that will be able to verify future improvements in salmon returns. The checkoffs in 2005 and 2008 involve showing salmon returns have improved.

Associated Press
Salmon Dodge BPA Cuts
The Spokesman Review January 28, 2003

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