Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Steve Wright, administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration, last Friday (Oct. 22) signed an agreement to jointly protect nearly 20,000 acres of Willamette Basin wildlife habitat – more than twice the area of Oregon’s largest state park.
The agreement dedicates stable funding from electric ratepayers for 15 years to safeguard Willamette habitat for many native species such as Oregon’s state bird, the western meadowlark.
State and BPA officials say the agreement supports Kulongoski’s “Willamette River Legacy” and fulfills BPA’s responsibility under the Northwest Power Act to offset the impacts of federal flood control and hydropower dams.
(For more details see Aug. 20, 2010 CBB Story: “Oregon, BPA Close To Proposed $103.5 Million Agreement On Willamette Valley Mitigation” http://www.cbbulletin.com/395574.aspx)
“This agreement marks a landmark partnership between federal, state and local governments and organizations,” Kulongoski said. “This agreement allows us to not just maintain the crown jewel of the Willamette Valley – but to restore and enhance habitat for many future generations of Oregonians.”
The state will engage tribes and others in a public process for allocating ratepayer funds to the most ecologically beneficial and cost-effective habitat projects. Tribes, agencies and others may use the funds to protect and restore wetlands, floodplains, grasslands, oak woodlands, riparian areas and other rare habitat, consistent with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Oregon Conservation Strategy and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Fish and Wildlife Program.
Some river and stream habitat will benefit spring chinook and steelhead protected by the Endangered Species Act.
“This new partnership will ensure that we protect the most essential Willamette habitat in a way that delivers lasting value for ratepayers, and for Oregon and its wildlife,” Wright said. “We’re fulfilling an important obligation to wildlife, while remaining accountable to the electric customers who are providing this funding.”
The agreement’s signing provides for BPA funding of two major initial habitat acquisitions: Purchase of 1,270 acres at the confluence of the Middle and Coast forks of the Willamette River southeast of Eugene by The Nature Conservancy and a conservation easement on 1,310 acres of forest and other habitat owned by Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey near Lafayette. Both were expected to close by the end of this month.
The Willamette Wildlife Habitat Agreement is a “memorandum of agreement” between BPA and Oregon specifying BPA wildlife habitat commitments to offset the impacts of federal dams on Willamette River tributaries, as required by the Northwest Power Act.
--- The Willamette River Basin Flood Control Project:
Number of dams: 13, eight of which generate power
Ownership: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (BPA markets power from the dams)
Purpose: Primarily flood control, with hydropower, recreation and irrigation
When built: 1941-1969
Approximate hydropower generation: 180 average megawatts
--- The agreement by the numbers:
Total lost to dam construction/inundation: 17,791
Negotiated total to mitigate for dam impacts: 26,537
Protected with BPA funds before 2010: 6,699
Protected 2010 (including Mount Pisgah/Wildish and Trappist Abbey): 2,958
Total protected so far: 9,657
Still to be protected: 16,880
BPA funding (amounts will increase 2.5 percent per year for inflation starting fiscal 2015)
Habitat protection fiscal 2011-2013: $2.5 million/year
Operations and maintenance fiscal 2011-2012: $837,000/year
Operations and maintenance fiscal 2013: $1.1 million/year
Habitat protection fiscal 2014-2025: $8 million/year
Operations and maintenance fiscal 2014-2025:$1.7 million/year