The Northwest Power and Conservation Council this week took
another step towards evaluating passage for salmon and steelhead above Grand
Coulee Dam when it sent the only proposal it received for the initial study of
upriver habitat to the Independent Science Review Panel.
The council at its October meeting approved a request for
proposals for a habitat reach assessment.
The Council, along with the Bonneville Power Administration,
then released the RFP asking for proposals to investigate whether over 500
river miles of tributaries and mainstem river from Grand Coulee (river mile
545.1) to the Canadian border (river mile 745) are suitable habitat to support
runs of anadromous fish, including chinook and sockeye salmon, and steelhead.
The single proposal received at the Council by its Dec. 15,
2015 deadline, according to Lynn Palensky, Council staff in the Fish and
Wildlife Division, was submitted by the Spokane Tribe and a collaborative group
of regional co-managers. That group includes the Spokane Tribe of Indians, the
Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe of
Indians, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and with technical support
from the U.S. Geological Survey, Columbia River Research Laboratory and NOAA
Fisheries. The Upper Columbia United Tribes (UCUT) submitted a letter of
support for the proposal.
“The proposal has been sent to the ISRP for review as of
this afternoon (Thursday),” Palensky said.
“We asked them to review the proposal based on sound scientific principles
and methodologies as defined in the Program.
The proposal defined work based on the tasks and deliverables that were
described in the RFP.”
Funding for the study could be as high as $200,000, although
it is unknown what the proposal’s price tag might be until after the ISRP
review. Much of the cost would be assumed by BPA.
Tony Grover, Council staff, at the October meeting had
anticipated that a coalition of partners would submit a proposal and that it
likely would include upper Columbia River tribes who had already done much of
the work, along with the Salmon Recovery Board and other federal agencies.
At that deciding meeting, Council members approved the
measure unanimously, but some made it clear that they were only voting to fund
a study of the habitat above Grand Coulee Dam, not approving measures that
would reintroduce anadromous fish into the area. That could come later after
(See CBB, October 16, 2015, “Can Salmon, Steelhead Survive
Above Grand Coulee Dam? Council Investigation May Provide Answer,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/435273.aspx)
When the Council amended its Columbia River Basin Fish and
Wildlife Program in October 2014, it updated program provisions that included
investigating the possibility of reintroducing anadromous fish back into
blocked mainstem Columbia River reaches and tributaries.
for language in the Fish and Wildlife Program
The program calls for the pursuit of “a science-based,
phased approach to investigating the reintroduction of anadromous fish above
Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams including juvenile and adult passage at the
The RFP targeted just one element of the work that still
needs to be done before fish are passed upstream of either dam – the
investigation into the area’s habitat potential.
Among the specific tasks required by the RFP are:
--compile what is known about the area and species from
existing studies, GIS information, reports and local knowledge.
--identify areas where information is weak or lacking
--identify and prioritize target reaches for potential field
--perform field studies if needed in target areas to
evaluate existing habitat condition and suitability for anadromous fish
--summarize and analyze previously existing and newly
collected data to determine what species and life histories can be supported by
the existing habitat, the salmon survival potential and species interaction,
particularly with native and non-native fishes.
The approval process includes ISRP review, public comment
and Council recommendation to Bonneville, according to Palensky.
“Bonneville has the final funding decision since they hold
the contracts,” she said. “We anticipate
funding recommendations and funding decisions to be made in late spring/early
The preliminary ISRP report is due Jan. 13, 2016, in time
for the January monthly Council meeting. The ISRP could seek feedback from the
coalition, with the final ISRP report due Feb. 24, 2016. Written public comment
is due March 24. The Council will make its recommendation to BPA in May and
Palensky anticipates that BPA will conclude its contracting process in the
summer of 2016.