Council Launches Review of Columbia Basin
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council and Bonneville Power Administration planned this week to launch a review of about 87 habitat-based projects proposed for continued funding in "anadromous" -- salmon, steelhead, lamprey -- areas of the Columbia/Snake river basin.
The project portfolio targeted by the so-called "geographic review" represents about 30 percent Bonneville's annual expense budget for Columbia River basin fish and wildlife restoration work. That spending amounted in fiscal year 2012 to about $249 million, according to Bonneville.
The federal power-marketing entity funds basin fish and wildlife restoration work as mitigation for impacts caused by the construction and operation of the Federal Columbia River Power System, a system of 31 federal dams that provide nearly 40 percent of the region's electric power supply as well as flood control, irrigation, navigation and recreation.
The NPCC and the Independent Scientific Review Panel review project funding proposals for adherence with the Council's Columbia River Fish and Wildlife Program goals and objectives and for scientific credibility.
The Council was set to launch the review Thursday with an e-mailed announcement to project proponents with a packet of information on the process, schedule, instructions and guidance.
Most of these projects have an FCRPS biological opinion association -- actions that answer BiOp "reasonable and prudent alternatives." The 10-year BiOp, completed in May 2008 and updated in 2010, includes research and on the ground efforts aimed at improving the survival of 13 wild Columbia and Snake river salmon and steelhead stocks that are now listed for protections under the Endangered Species Act.
About half of the projects to be reviewed in the coming months are specified for implementation through "Fish Accords" between federal agencies and states and tribes that promise funding for specific purposes. Most of those Accords were signed in 2008 on the heels of the BiOp's completion.
All of the proposals in the geographic review are for the continuation of ongoing projects.
The deadline for the submittal of work proposals for the geographical review is midnight, Feb. 28.
The reviews include five general steps. The first is for project sponsors to develop proposals on the work they intend to accomplish over the next five years and to report the results of their past work. Second, the ISRP reviews these proposals and results of the projects to date. The ISRP review includes site visits, presentations, and a response loop.
Third, the public is invited to comment on the ISRP's review. Fourth, the Council staff will use the information from the proposals, science reviews, and public comment to draft recommendations for the Council. Fifth, the Council will make final recommendations to Bonneville for project implementation. The Council's recommendations will span from fiscal year 2014 through 2018.
"This review focuses on ongoing habitat projects, including some that have been the subject of numerous reviews in the past," according to the NPCC staff announcement sent to project sponsors.
"An important function of these reviews is to evaluate project results and how well the projects have adapted proposed future work based on those results. The review will also evaluate how well the project sponsors have responded to the scientific and management issues identified in previous reviews."
Another primary focus of the review is to understand how the projects fit into the context of other work in the subbasin, i.e., how they align with subbasin plans, recovery plans, limiting factors, artificial production activities, and other work within the same subbasin or watershed, according to a Nov. 27 staff memo from NPCC program coordinator Lynn Palensky to the Council.
The Council periodically scrutinizes projects proposals, new and ongoing. The most recent covered projects proposed for funding for the 2007-2009 percent. The geographic review is the last conducted in the most recent cycle. The first, a review of wildlife projects, was completed in 2009. Completed since have been reviews of resident fish/data management/regional coordination and research, monitoring and evaluation/artificial production projects.
For more information geographic review go to: www.nwcouncil.org/fw/budget/2014/
Estimating Fish Benefits from Habitat Actions may Take Decades by Bill Rudolph, NW Fishletter, 1/19/12
Estuary Report: Columbia River Salmon Show High Levels of Toxic Contaminants, Monitoring Inadequate by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin, 6/11/10
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