A decision nearly a year in the making is expected next week when the Northwest Power and Conservation Council passes judgment on a set of 100 fish and wildlife project proposals that are projected to draw an estimated $78 million in funding during fiscal year 2012.
The Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee on Tuesday gave thumbs up to staff recommendations that a subset of 100 “Research, Monitoring and Evaluation and Artificial Production” projects on the “A-list” be sent to the Council for final approval during its April 12-13 meeting in Wenatchee, Wash.
The draft recommendation includes language describing resolutions for two programmatic issues associated with some of the projects on the “A-list” -- artificial production monitoring and evaluation and PIT tags and related tags.
A Council recommendation to fund the projects would bring to an end the first and largest chapter of the RM&E/AP categorical review, which involved the submittal of 159 projects for funding through the Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. The Bonneville Power Administration funds the program as mitigation for impacts on fish and wildlife caused by the Columbia-Snake river hydro system. BPA markets the power generated at the dams.
“It’s the majority of projects that we’re recommending go forward,” said Lynn Palensky, who is in charge of project development for the Council. Still under consideration are about 59 proposals on the “B” list that posed a variety of as yet unresolved programmatic issues.
The proposed funding recommendations for the 100 A list projects range in duration from one to five years.
“The projects on the “A list” are those not tied to or otherwise subject to an overarching programmatic issue still in need of resolution, and which do not present project-specific concerns,” according to a draft decision memo prepared by Council staff. “The staff recommendations for the projects on the “A list” are consistent with the ISRP’s recommendations.” During the process, which began in June 2010, the Council’s Independent Scientific Review Panel reviewed all of the projects, in most cases more than once, for scientific merit.
Nearly all of the A list projects represent ongoing work and are called for either under the terms of so-called “Fish Accords” or as a result of NOAA Fisheries’ Federal Columbia River Power System biological opinion.
The accords are memorandums of agreement signed by BPA and the other federal action agencies with the states or Idaho, Montana and Washington and the Colville, Shoshone-Bannock, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakama tribes that promise funding for, in most cases, specific fish and wildlife projects. The other action agenies are the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation, which operate the hydro projects.
The BiOp prescribes measures that NOAA Fisheries deems necessary to improve survival of Columbia-Snake river salmon and steelhead stocks that are listed under the Endangered Species Act.
The projects are sponsored by state agencies, tribes, federal entities, private research organizations and researchers affiliated with academic institutions.
The largest 2012 funding recommendation is nearly $4.2 million to continue the Water Transaction Program run by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The primary focus of the program is to fund water transactions that restore streamflow on ecologically-significant Columbia Basin tributaries.
Another of the bigger ticket items is the Development of Systemwide Predator Control project guided by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission with $3.9 million in funding projected for 2012. Its primary tasks involve implementation of the Northern Pikeminnow Management Program, a basin-wide program to harvest northern pikeminnow. It was started in 1991 in an effort to reduce predation by northern pikeminnow on juvenile salmonids during their emigration from natal streams to the ocean.
Also recommended for funding is a budget of $1.46 million for the Fish Passage Center and $1.35 million for its ongoing Comparative Survival Study. The FPC provides technical analysis, data summaries, graphic representations for the state, federal and tribal fishery managers’ use in developing their recommendations for fish passage management to the federal operators and regulators and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
A total of $2.4 million would be recommended for 2012 to continue the “Survival Estimate for Passage through Snake and Columbia River Dams and Reservoirs” project sponsored by NOAA Fisheries and implemented in collaboration with the University of Washington. The study began in 1993 to determine survival and travel-time characteristics of wild and hatchery-reared spring/summer chinook salmon and hatchery steelhead migrating through Snake River dams and reservoirs. This research was expanded in 1995 to include Snake River fall chinook salmon.
The PSMFC’s Columbia Basin PIT information is expected to have a 2012 budget of $2.6 million if it wins a funding recommendation. The goal of the project is to operate and maintain the Columbia River Basin-wide database for fish outfitted with PIT Tags as part of research activities.
During Tuesday’s committee meeting, Council members and staff and Bonneville officials noted that a screening of projects produced a savings of about $2.8 million. It included a zeroing out of some projects that were not yet ripe or had completed their mission. Several of those projects were post-construction activities related to the Nez Perce Tribe’s Northeast Oregon Hatchery, which has yet to be built.