Expectations are that Bonneville Power Administration spending on fish and wildlife projects will continue to climb in fiscal year 2012 as the federal power marketing agency works to satisfy long-held obligations, as well as relatively newborn commitments made through the so-called “Fish Accords” and a federal “biological opinion.”
During a Tuesday briefing, BPA officials said the start of year “expense” category budget for FY 2012, which starts Oct. 1, would be about $271 million, which is up from $261 million in 2011 and $251 million in 2010.
Start-of-year (SOY) budgets are estimates of the total amount of funding the agency expects to write contracts for over the course of a fiscal year. The 2012 estimate is based on spending for ongoing projects during 2011.
Fish Accord projects will receive a 2.5 percent cost of living increase. Projects in other categories may or may not get COL increases, said Bill Maslen, director of BPA’s Integrated Fish and Wildlife Program. In 2011, 170 of the 400 or so contracts signed through the program did not get increases.
Maslen on Tuesday brought the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee up to date on budget expectations for the coming year. All projections are subject to change over time. Most of the projects are channeled through the Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program and its Independent Scientific Review Panel.
The Council was created via the Northwest Power Act of 1980, which also directed the NPCC to develop a program – goals, objectives and guidelines – to mitigate for hydro system impacts on fish and wildlife. The Act also directed Bonneville – which sells power generated in the federal Columbia-Snake Power System – to fund the program.
Because the various contracts (about 400 in all) start and end at different times throughout the fiscal year, the SOY or planning budgets are not a direct reflection of the actual spending in that year. As an example, a one-year, $100,000 contract that starts midway through the fiscal year would be included in total for the SOY, even though half if it may actually be spent in one fiscal year and the other half in the next year.
The preliminary estimates are that actual FY 2012 expense category spending will be about $237 million, Maslen said. That too is subject to change, and likely often. The expectation is that actual spending in FY 2011 will range from $220 million up to as much as $228 million, Maslen said.
Actual spending in the expense category has risen from $139.5 million in FY 2007 to $148.9 million in 2008 to $177.9 million in 2009 and $199.6 million in 2010 before taking an even bigger jump for the current fiscal year. The increases are fueled by memorandums of understanding (the Accords) that were signed, for the most part, in 2008 with states and tribes and by NOAA Fisheries’ 2008 Federal Columbia River Power System BiOp.
The Accords pledged funding above and beyond planned funding within the program. The BiOp added considerably to the to-do list with the goal of avoiding jeopardy to 13 basin salmon and steelhead stocks that are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Many of the BiOp projects to be funded during the 10-year length of the BiOp are designed to improve fish survival by restoring and protecting habitat. The survival gains are intended to offset hydro system impacts.
The BiOp-Non-Accord category of projects dominates the SOY budget at $118 million, which is $7 million higher than the 2011 projection. Most of the increase is due to planned projects for critical habitat restoration needs in the Columbia estuary.
The 2012 SOY Accord budget has $88 million penciled in, an increase of $2 million from 2011. The 2012 SOY for the “general category” is $45 million, The general category includes non-BiOp and non-Accord projects that were developed through the Council program.
The fish and wildlife program also has a “capital” spending category that funds projects estimated to cost $1 million or more for tributary passage (construction of such features as wells, ladders, diversions, pumps, culverts, diversion (irrigation) consolidation and actions that will increase in-stream flow such as irrigation efficiencies (piping, drip irrigation, and lining of ditches for seepage reduction), hatchery construction or land acquisitions that protect, enhance, and maintain in-stream wetland and riparian habitat.
BPA made available $90 million in 2011 “and we’re going to spend it,” Maslen said. Some desired projects may be pushed into 2012. Next year’s budget is still being developed but he said he expects there to be about $67 million available.
Maslen said that willing sellers of habitat had been holding back in hope that the sunken real estate market would revive. Well, many got over that in 2011, saying “it is what it is” and offered up valuable habitat to the program.
More than half of the 2011 capital spending is expected to be for Accord and BiOp-non Accord projects. The big ticket there is a modified 2011 yearly budget of $26.7 million for ongoing construction of the Colville Tribes’ Chief Joseph Hatchery at the dam of that name in central Washington.
BPA expects to spend about $43 million in capital funds for projects stemming from the general category (non-Accord, non-BiOp projects), most of which is for habitat acquisition.
For more information go to http://efw.bpa.gov/IntegratedFWP/ and http://www.nwcouncil.org/fw/