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Independent Scientific Review Panel Completes Evaluation Of RM&E, Artificial Production Projects
Posted on Friday, December 17, 2010 (PST)

The Independent Scientific Review Panel and Peer Review Groups this week completed their final review of 99 proposals submitted for funding through the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program.

 

The two-part report released today provides final ISRP comments and recommendations for projects being considered through the Council’s 2010 Research, Monitoring and Evaluation and Artificial Production Categorical Review. Part 1 provides programmatic comments and recommendations that apply broadly to general issues that were identified in multiple proposals during the ISRP reviews. Part 2 includes specific ISRP recommendation and comments on each proposal.

 

The full report can be found online at: http://www.nwcouncil.org/library/report.asp?docid=27

 

The ISRP will present its findings at the Council’s Jan. 11-12 meeting in Missoula, Mont. At the February and March Council meetings, Council staff anticipates presenting recommendations for Council discussion. At the Council’s March and/or April Council meetings, the Council is expected make recommendations on which of the projects should be funded.

 

The Council is made up of two members each appointed by the governors of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. It was created by the federal Northwest Power and Conservation Act in 1980 to develop and update a regional power plan and a fish and wildlife program to protect and rebuild fish and wildlife populations affected by hydropower development on the Columbia River. The fish and wildlife program is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration as mitigation for hydro system impacts. The federal power marketing entity makes final funding decisions.

 

The ISRP, created through an amendment to the power act, is charged with judging the scientific merit of projects submitted for funding through the program.

 

The science panel in a preliminary review issued in October said that 47 of the projects submitted in the categorical review were consistent with the scientific principles outlined in the Council’s program. But it found additional information was needed before it could judge 99 other projects. Those projects’ proponents were asked to respond to the ISRP’s concerns.

 

After considering submitted responses, the final report says that 38 of the 99 proposals submitted 38 proposals (38 percent) met scientific review criteria and 50 proposals (50 percent) met criteria with some qualifications.

 

In addition, the ISRP found that five proposals (5 percent) did not meet criteria and felt that five proposals (5 proposals) were not applicable for review at this time. One proposal had yet to address the ISRP’s request for a response.

 

Overall, the projects are demonstrating improved data collection, analysis, and reporting, the ISRP says.

 

“And the ISRP compliments the Basin's scientists, managers, and technicians for implementing a robust monitoring effort in a large geographic region with a complex legal and administrative structure. The program's RM&E and artificial production projects are providing data that will be useful toward supporting adaptive management of the Fish and Wildlife Program,” the report says. 

 

In addition to the 99 proposals reviewed for this report, 59 projects recently reviewed by the ISRP were included in this set to provide context for the other 99 RM&E and artificial production projects that had not been reviewed recently.

 

“In July 2010, a Council letter to the ISRP emphasized that in implementing the 2009 revised Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program (Program), the Council anticipated maximizing funding of on-the-ground mitigation efforts while conducting an efficient monitoring and research program to meet the priority needs of the region,” the report says.

 

“The ISRP was asked to review RM&E and artificial production project proposals mindful of the Council goal to reduce duplicative and excessive research, monitoring, and evaluation, and of the Council’s intent to recommend adjustments to projects as needed and apply savings to on-the-ground work. The ISRP was asked to consider how and to what extent each project supported and was consistent” with key policies.

 

“To a large extent, the questions posed by Council are embedded in the ISRP’s standard scientific review criteria and have been incorporated in individual ISRP proposal evaluations. Those projects with ‘in part’ and ‘qualified’ ISRP assessments may have components that did not entirely meet the objectives of the guidance questions from Council,” the report summary says. “Important points of inconsistency are identified in individual proposal reviews.”

 

“The ISRP finds few projects where RM&E efforts were clearly duplicative or excessive,” according to the ISRP. “The ISRP does feel there is a need for better coordination and integration among projects, and for a strengthened emphasis on evaluation of field data, but the ISRP continues to find that the Fish and Wildlife Program would benefit from more, not less, high quality research, monitoring, and evaluation. The lessons learned from thoughtfully designed RM&E will contribute to the Program’s cost effectiveness and will improve the efficacy of future restoration actions.”

 

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