ecosystems and wild fish are major themes spelled out in the latest version of
the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, a set of strategies
developed by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council over the past year
and approved Wednesday during the panel’s meeting in Pendleton, Ore.
fish and wildlife program supports the restoration of ecosystems and wild fish
by addressing a broad spectrum of the fish and wildlife life cycle including
habitat, hatcheries, river flows, dam passage, invasive species, and climate
change impacts,” said Council Chair Bill Bradbury.
program amendment process just completed is dictated by Congress through its
Northwest Power Act. The 1980 law directed the creation of the Council, an
interstate compact agency with two representatives each appointed by the
governors of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.
Act requires the Council to develop a program to “protect, mitigate, and
enhance fish and wildlife, including related spawning grounds and habitat, on
the Columbia River and its tributaries … affected by the development,
operation, and management of [hydroelectric projects] while assuring the
Pacific Northwest an adequate, efficient, economical, and reliable power
Act also says that the Council must update or amend the fish and wildlife
program every five years, using the advice of federal, state and tribal fish
and wildlife managers to take into account advancements in science. The Council
must seek widespread public involvement in the formulation of regional power
and fish and wildlife policies.
has been done, according to NPCC Fish and Wildlife Division Director Tony
newly unveiled program “is literally the combined work of hundreds, perhaps
thousands, of dedicated, passionate, experienced people,” Grover said of the
input from managers, utility interests and conservation groups and other
members of the public, as well as Council members and staff.
more information about the newly approved program, go to:
1982, the Council’s program has directed the investment of more than $3 billion
of electricity revenues to improve fish passage at hydropower dams, acquire and
improve fish and wildlife habitat, boost fish production using hatcheries while
also limiting hatchery impacts on wild fish, monitor and evaluate the success
of these efforts, and improve scientific knowledge through research, according
to a Council “message” prefacing the new program’s basinwide vision, scientific
foundation, goals, objectives and strategies.
Council’s program has helped direct as much as $250 million per year in recent
years to mitigate for the impacts of hydropower dams in the Columbia-Snake
river basin on fish and wildlife. The program is funded by the Bonneville
Administration with funds collected from ratepayers. BPA markets power
generated at the federal dams
noted that salmon and steelhead returns have in recent years been on an upward
arc, including a record – at least since the first of eight federal mainstem
dams was built in 1938 – sockeye salmon run this year and near-record fall
chinook in 2014 that comes on the heels of a record in 2013.
2014 runs give us real hope that the efforts are paying off,” Bradbury said.
“Now we’re starting to see a benefit from that money we’re spending.”
particular encouragement, Bradbury said is that “more and more of those fish
are in fact wild fish that spawn on their own. That’s really our goal… to
restore naturally spawning fish to the Columbia River system.”
the program, the Council works to restore healthy ecosystems and healthy
populations of wild fish -- including those that go to the ocean, like salmon,
and those that don’t, like bull trout -- throughout the basin. This work
involves connecting areas of good habitat, removing fish-passage barriers, and
improving water quality. Much of the work designed to boost wild fish also
helps wildlife in the same ecosystems.
program also supports using hatchery programs as tools to help rebuild fish
populations that spawn in the wild, according to the Council. The program
integrates hatcheries with habitat improvements, and works with fish and
wildlife agencies and Indian tribes to define the scope and purposes of fish
propagation, as well as appropriate management techniques consistent with
current and evolving scientific principles.
of the program focus -- and roughly 70 percent of the funding -- is on salmon
and steelhead, species that start their life in freshwater, -- either in
hatcheries or the wild-- mature in the Pacific Ocean and return to freshwater
to spawn. Wild portions of 13 Columbia River salmon and steelhead portions have
become depleted, largely because of human development and, in the past,
overfishing, to the point that they have required protection under the
Endangered Species Act.
Council and the region recognize that many other species were adversely
affected as well. Therefore in this program the Council included strategies
specific to certain species including sturgeon, lamprey, and eulachon,”
according to the NPCC message. Wildlife issues too are addressed in the
is a staff summary of some of the new program elements:
Ecosystems: The program stresses the importance of restoring functioning
Strongholds: States and tribes may designate strongholds to help manage wild or
naturally spawning fish.
Water quality: Support efforts to identify, assess, and reduce toxic
Mainstem dam operations: Where there are demonstrated benefits for fish, manage
flows to more closely approximate natural patterns.
Columbia River estuary: Assess opportunities for floodplain reconnection and
removal or lowering of dikes and levees that block access to habitat.
change: Assess whether climate change effects are altering or are likely to
alter critical river flows, water temperatures or habitat, evaluate possible
actions to mitigate effects.
Wild fish: Functioning ecosystems will support and protect wild fish.
Hatcheries: Defer to the agencies and tribes to define scope, purpose, methods,
and appropriate management techniques, consistent with current and evolving
Reintroduction into blocked areas: Science-based, phased approach to put salmon
back into historic habitats blocked by dams.
Resident fish: Preserve, enhance, and restore native fish in native habitats.
Non-native and invasive species: Detect their presence, respond early, minimize
their spread, educate the public.
Sturgeon: Operate dams to provide flows that encourage sturgeon to spawn
without harming ESA-listed salmon and steelhead.
Lamprey: Evaluate dam passage, passage efficiency, and direct mortality.
Mitigation: Acquire and protect habitat units identified in loss assessments,
encourage settlement agreements.
Protected areas: Protect 44,000 miles of river reaches from new hydroelectric
development, provide for exemption where projects would have exceptional
benefits for fish and wildlife.
Adaptive management: Improve understanding of what efforts are working,
evaluate program progress.
adaptive management has become even more important in a rapidly changing world.
we are pleased that the Council’s program has played such an important role in
recovering and rebuilding fish and wildlife species, we also note that many of
the projects that implement the program are aging and are in need of additional
operational and maintenance funding,” according to the Council message. “The
Independent Scientific Advisory Board cautions that these investments may also
be threatened by outside influences.
circumstances present unique challenges for the Council, and demonstrate the
need to be flexible and responsive in a changing world. For example, the
Council is aware of the impact, present and future, of non-native species,
toxic contaminants, and climate change on fish and wildlife in the Columbia
amendment process began 13 months ago with the request from the Council to the
region’s Indian tribes, state and federal fish and wildlife agencies, and
others for amendment recommendations. The Council received 48 sets of
recommendations from tribes and tribal coordinating entities, federal and state
agencies, state supported agencies, customers, utilities and utility
organizations and environmental groups. In addition the Council received
recommendations from more than 350 individuals.
Council and staff then developed a draft program, which it released for public
comment in May.
the 80-day comment period, the Council held 10 public hearings on the draft
program amendments in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana and received oral
testimony from 72 individuals and entities. The Council and Council staff also
had 15 consultations with tribal and non-tribal entities around the Columbia River
basin regarding the program amendments.
addition to the hearings and consultations, the Council received 297 sets of
written comments on the draft program which are also posted on the Council’s