The Northwest Power and Conservation Council this week recommended 100 projects, some new and some ongoing, to improve scientific knowledge about fish and wildlife throughout the Columbia River Basin.
The projects are part of the Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program and would be funded by the Bonneville Power Administration as part of its responsibility to protect and enhance fish and wildlife affected by hydropower dams in the basin.
The Council did not recommend budgets for the projects, leaving that for Bonneville to negotiate with the project sponsors, who include fish and wildlife agencies, Indian tribes, and university-affiliated researchers. However, Bonneville has earmarked as much as $81.2 million for this group of research, monitoring, and evaluation projects in its fish and wildlife budget for fiscal year 2012, which begins Oct. 1 of this year. The duration of the projects varies from one to five years; projects could be funded for their duration or for a portion with a requirement for review before approval of additional funding.
“These projects were reviewed and approved by the Council’s Independent Scientific Review Panel to ensure they are based on sound science and are consistent with the goals and objectives of the Council’s fish and wildlife program,” Council Chair Bruce Measure said. “Members of the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee were able to find about $2.8 million in annual savings in this group of projects that the Council will pass along to Bonneville with its recommendations.”
Nearly half of the projects -- 48 total -- address planning, development, operation, and maintenance of fish hatcheries funded through the Council’s program. These include projects to investigate the effectiveness of hatcheries and the effects of hatchery fish on those that spawn naturally.
“The key question that continues to be asked about hatcheries, both those funded through the Council’s program and others, is whether the production of hatchery fish harms fish that spawn naturally,” Measure said. “One of the projects we will consider further aims to address the question by creating a panel of experts that will be called the Columbia River Hatchery Effects Evaluation Team. This team would not duplicate other recent hatchery evaluations, but build on that body of work to help improve decision making about hatcheries in the future.”
The NOAA Fisheries/Bonneville Power Administration CRHEET proposal is on a “B” list of projects in the RM&E/artificial production category that were held back pending consideration of related programmatic issues.
“Note that the fact that a project is on the ‘A list’ does not mean it is more important, or of higher priority, or raises fewer concerns, than the projects on the ‘B list.’ The bifurcation is merely a device for managing the issues in the review,” according to a “partial decision memorandum” detailing the 100 A list projects recommended for funding this week.
Wednesday’s recommendations included the moving forward of two of the programmatic issues identified by the Council’s Independent Scientific Review Panel. The Council in issue descriptions suggests possible means for producing resolutions. The two were included in the April 3 because they relate to many of the approved A list projects. The two issues are related to:
-- Monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness and effects of artificial production actions
The issue description notes the “lack of a regionally coordinated umbrella for the ongoing collection of monitoring information and the evaluation and reporting of conclusions on hatchery effects and effectiveness thus remains a concern.” It says that CRHEET when established could well be aimed at that need.
The programmatic recommendation offers suggestions on how that umbrella should be built.
-- PIT tags and related tags
The recommendation says the ISRP has concerns about whether the numerous research fish tagging efforts in the basin “are sufficiently well coordinated so that we have a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation program addressing the critical data gaps or uncertainties, and so that tags, data and results are being shared among sponsors in such a way to adaptively manage future work. A related issue pertains to the status of the data collected to date and what it is telling us. A third concerns uncertainties about the extent of the physical effects of the PIT tag itself on fish, an issue currently under evaluation.
It advised development of a regional tagging and marking plan as recommended by the ISRP and ISAB
A complete list of the projects recommended by the Council is posted on the Council’s website at this location: http://www.nwcouncil.org/news/2011/04/5.pdf
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council is a compact of the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington and is directed by the Northwest Power Act of 1980 to prepare a program to protect, mitigate, and enhance fish and wildlife of the Columbia River Basin affected by hydropower dams, and a companion power plan to assure the Northwest an adequate, efficient, economical, and reliable power supply.