The Northwest Power and Conservation Council on Wednesday recommended the funding of nearly $16 million in within-year budget requests to enable the protection of about 2,600 acres of Willamette River basin fish and wildlife habitat at an overall cost of more than $33 million.
The projects would be funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, which in an Aug. 4 letter said it supported the proposals with contingencies.
A request from The Nature Conservancy asks for an additional $11,065,105 in fiscal year 2010 funding to take advantage of the opportunity to acquire a 1,271-acre property at the confluence of the Middle and Coast Forks of the Willamette River. The within-year budget boost would be added to nearly $6 million in BPA's FY2010 capital budget and another $6,450,000 pre-scheduled from the FY2011 capital budget to meet the asking price – the appraised value of $23,443,370.
The Wildish property is located in a priority area for aquatic and upland habitat protection and restoration as identified in the NPCC's Willamette Subbasin Plan, the federal biological opinion for the Willamette River Basin Flood Control Project and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Willamette Floodplain Restoration Study.
The property near Eugene and Springfield, Ore., includes the confluence and six miles of river frontage a well as three miles of tributary streams. About half of the property is comprised of floodplain habitat with the remaining acreage being a mix of upland prairie, oak woodland and conifer forest habitats.
The site supports 25 terrestrial and aquatic focal species, including bull trout, spring chinook salmon and Oregon chub, three species that are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
BPA's support for the purchase is contingent on reaching an agreement with NOAA Fisheries regarding the gaining of BiOp habitat credits as a result of the purpose. NOAA's BiOp on the Corps-operated dams in the basin outlines measures that NOAA Fisheries feels are necessary to avoid jeopardizing the survival of ESA listed fish.
Bonneville funds the Council program as mitigation for impacts resulting from the construction and operation of the dams, including the inundation of habitat previously occupied by wildlife. Bonneville markets power generated at the federal dams and funds fish and wildlife mitigation with ratepayer revenues.
The other within-year request, from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, is for $4,750,000 in capital funds for the acquisition of a conservation easement on 1,310 acres of native conifer woodland, upland prairie, oak savanna, oak woodlands, grasslands and wet prairies near the town of Lafayette in Oregon's Willamette Valley.
The requested within-year funding would be added to $2 million in BPA's FY2010 capital and $3 million in pre-scheduled 2011 capital funds.
The property is owned by Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Monastery, which would continue to manage the property to provide sustainable timber resources for the monastery as well as wildlife habitat benefits. The acreage is located in an area identified as a key wildlife area and provides habitat for numerous wildlife and plant species, including several migratory and resident bird species.
Both of the purchases are intended to help reduce Bonneville's obligation to mitigate for wildlife habitat inundated as a result of the construction of the federal dams. Both projects' funding is contingent on BPA finalizing an agreement with the state of Oregon regarding the extent of BPA's habitat obligation and the determination of how the purchases of the properties contributes to reducing that debt. BPA and the state said this week that they expect the agreement to be completed as soon as the end of August.