The Bonneville Power Administration aims to clamp down in some regards on Integrated Fish and Wildlife Program spending that so far in fiscal year 2012 is “running hot.”
“We see the funding as fully ramped up,” BPA fish and wildlife director Bill Maslen said Tuesday of commitments that have climbed in recent years in large part due to Endangered Species Act responsibilities and contracts made since 2008 to states and tribes for specific fish and wildlife projects.
Fully ramped up means the federal power marketing agency has to assure the overall annual budget stays within allotments established through the recent rate processes. Bonneville uses ratepayer revenues to fund the fish and wildlife program, which is in large part implemented across the Columbia-Snake river basin through the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, a compact made up of representatives from the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
Through the end of February, a total of $107 million had gone out the door in fiscal year 2012, which began Oct. 1, 2011.
The agency projects that spending will be “greater than we had planned” if it continues apace, Maslen said. The fiscal year target – the “start-of-year budget” -- was $237 million or less, but BPA now expects the fish and wildlife program total might rise as high as $250 million. Start-of-year budgets serve as baseline indicators to manage program spending within authorized levels.
Bonneville is now amidst the process of establishing a SOY budget for 2013, working with project sponsors, and Council and its staff and others. Maslen on Tuesday briefed the Council of the progress of the current budget, and the development of the next budget. The most recent rate proceeding penciled in $241 million in 2013 for fish and wildlife “expense.” The agency spent $311 in all in 2011 -- $221 million in expense and $90 million for capital projects.
Maslen said the process involves evaluating project funding needs and accomplishments and creating a line-item SOY budget. It will be completed likely by early this summer.
Spending has been ramped up in recent years to what is now considered the peak, Maslen said. Spending has jumped from slightly more than $100 million at the turn of the century, with most of the increase coming since NOAA Fisheries in 2008 released its 10-year Federal Columbia River Power System biological opinion for salmon and steelhead, and BPA and other federal agencies signed so-called Fish Accords with states and tribes.
The BiOp’s biggest focus is preserving and restoring habitat to benefit ESA-listed salmon and steelhead. Much of that and other work is channeled through the Council program for funding and scientific evaluation. The accords pledge more than $1 billion in funding over a 10-year span for projects ranging from hatchery construction to habitat restoration and acquisition.
Since the program is now fully extended, a few of the rules have changed.
BiOp placeholder budgets are fully allocated (i.e., placeholders no longer exist, according to BPA). The budgets in the recent past have included placeholder amounts to handle unforeseen expenditures that crop up over the year.
And requests for project funding increases, whether they be one-time or multi-year, will not be additive. Any increases that are approved must be offset by reductions elsewhere in the program, Maslen said.
Across-the-board inflation adjustments to the baseline budgets are not planned for 2013, though they may be approved in specific cases.
Once the process is complete will presents the 2013 SOY to the Council and post it to Taurus (cbfish.org).