Following a “qualified” endorsement from its Independent Scientific Review Panel, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council on Tuesday recommended that $10 million be earmarked for a plan to provide permanent protection for core salmon habitat in the “ceded” territory of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
The tribes will target river corridors and watersheds of the Grande Ronde, Umatilla, Walla Walla and John Day rivers in central and northeast Oregon and southeast Washington. Ceded lands are territories historically occupied by tribes that were ceded via treaty to the federal government but where tribal members are reserved the right to hunt and fish.
The highest priority targeted habitat protection area will be the upper Grande Ronde River in Oregon with a special focus on spring chinook spawning and rearing habitats.
The proposal will identify the process to select and implement habitat acquisition/protection, potential enhancement treatments and monitoring of habitat improvements. It intends to both fulfill a funding promise made by the Bonneville Power Administration and other federal agencies in a 2008 memorandum of agreement, called a Fish Accord, with the Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakama tribes and address issues related to NOAA Fisheries’ 2008 Federal Columbia River Power System biological opinion. The funding is specified for the same time frame as the BiOp, 2008-2017.
NOAA Fisheries developed the BiOp in consultation with BPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation and in collaboration with sovereign states and tribes in the region. It prescribes measures needed to avoid jeopardizing salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Wild Grande Ronde fish are part of the listed Snake River spring chinook stock.
The goal through such acquisition and restoration programs is to be “successful in fulfillment of our BiOp obligation,” said Bill Maslen, manager of BPA’s Fish and Wildlife Division.
“The ISRP found that the proposal met review criteria (qualified) and will serve as a ‘starting point’ for implementation,” according to a Jan. 4 memo prepared by Mark Fritsch, the NPCC’s project implementation manager. “The ISRP recognized that the CTUIR did the best they could with the information currently available … for identifying priority conservation areas.
“The qualifications raised by the ISRP include the need for additional detail to address specifics regarding the sequence of priority acquisitions and contingencies for dealing with issues that may arise that may affect implementation. In addition, the ISRP requested more information regarding the monitoring and evaluation associated with acquisitions in the priority subbasins.”
The memo said that Council and Bonneville staffs have determined that the information requested by the ISRP can be addressed through contracting and then reviewed during a geographical review of fish and wildlife project funding proposals expected in 2012-2013.