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NW Power/Conservation Council Looks At Potential Sturgeon Studies, Identifies More Cost Savings
Posted on Friday, March 17, 2017 (PST)

Seven responses from six entities to a January request for information for white sturgeon project proposals in the Columbia and Snake rivers were received by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council by February 28, the deadline to reply to the RFI.


Of the responses, which were short proposal summaries describing potential projects that could be funded with up to $300,000 from program cost-savings, two would expand existing sturgeon projects and a third was new work that could actually be funded as a Columbia River Accords project.


The other four responses were for new work, according to information from the Council’s Fish and Wildlife staff, and just two of the proposals were easily implementable within the two-year period – 2017 to 2018 – the Fish and Wildlife Committee had sought, according to Lynn Palensky of the Fish and Wildlife staff.


The proposals that have already been sent to the Independent Scientific Review Panel for review were presented to the Committee at its meeting in Portland Tuesday, March 14.


Of the proposals, one was especially ready to fund, according to Tony Grover, manager of the Council’s Fish and Wildlife department. That was an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife proposal for white sturgeon spawning habitat and use in the John Day reservoir. According to a staff synopsis of the proposal, it was for tagging, tracking and analysis that would assess spawning staging areas, behavior and habitat in the reservoir.


The proposal that could be funded by the Accords is a project to determine sex of sturgeon through a genetic marker. The staff summary says it would discover and develop a genetic marker for sex determination for use in status assessments. The project was proposed by the Columbia River InterTribal Fish Commission and the Yakama Nation.


Without the genetic marker, sex is nearly impossible to determine by just looking at the fish, Grover said. The project could cost up to $150,000.


Other proposals include:


-- a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife status assessment for isolated at-risk populations of white sturgeon in lower Snake River reservoirs between Ice Harbor and Lower Granite dams.


-- spawning monitoring (larvae collection) below Ice Harbor Dam to understand the current use of habitat. The proposal was submitted by Golder Associates, a Canadian company with offices worldwide.


--Pacific Northwest National Laboratory proposed two projects:

1) simulate white sturgeon early life history in Columbia Basin reservoirs using a 2D model to determine the effect of river flow and transport of juvenile sturgeon above Grand Coulee Dam in order to understand recruitment failure and adapt elsewhere;

2) Implant long-lived (no battery) acoustic tags for tracking movement and habitat use in Snake and Columbia Rivers


--The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geologic Survey proposed a study to look at sturgeon population status, spawning habitat and predation by 1) using eDNA to assess tributary use by sturgeon in the lower Columbia River; 2) constructing and testing spawning habitat models using existing data and develop habitat suitability maps; and 3) assessing feasibility of side scan sonar and underwater video to locate carcasses below Bonneville’s power house 4 that died from predation.


The up to $300,000 for sturgeon projects originated from cost-savings identified by the Council’s Cost-Savings Workgroup from fish and wildlife projects administered by the Bonneville Power Administration that are either closing out or reducing expenditures in fiscal year 2016. The money has been set aside and the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee wants to spend that money in FY2017 on the Council’s emerging priority programs.


In 2016 the workgroup identified $651,915 in cost savings that would be available in fiscal year 2017, including for sturgeon programs.


It identified another $77, 773 from a quarterly projects review and reported that to the Fish and Wildlife Committee this week. The cost savings is from an Oregon project -- Spring Chinook Captive Propagation. The project began ramping down in FY 2016 and continued in FY 2017 as the captive brood facility at Bonneville hatchery is mothballed, a staff report said.


Another $110,000 per year over three years will become available from a Deschutes River project, Investigation of Relative Reproductive Success of Stray Hatchery & Wild Steelhead and Influence of Hatchery Strays on Natural Productivity in Deschutes.


“A staff policy review of this project has resulted in an understanding that the original goals and objectives for this project are unlikely to be achieved as a result of a significant unanticipated reduction in out-of-basin steelhead fish straying into the Deschutes,” the staff report said.


It was through no fault of the researchers, Grover said. “There were changes to the temperature control structure the Pelton-Round Butte dam and also transportation of smolts stopped so there are far fewer strays in the system.”


It had been budgeted for $335,000 per year. The close out of the project will take three years, so cost savings of $110,000 will be available each year in FY 2018, FY 2019 and FY 2020.


The staff report said that “BPA has created a reserve fund for cost savings in FY 2017. The availability of funds is dependent on: (1) the spending trajectory within the FY18/FY19 rate period, and (2) developing a process to reallocate funds to other priorities.”


The Council cost savings workgroup is composed of Montana Council member Jennifer Anders, Brian Mercier, Peter Cogswell and Scott Donahue of BPA, and Kerry Berg, Palensky, Laura Robinson and Grover, of the Council’s Fish and Wildlife staff.


The cost savings workgroup initially developed a cost savings methodology, which was approved by the Council at its July, 2015 meeting in Spokane. See ttp://


More information about the workgroup and methodology used to determine eligible cost savings can be found at


Also see:


--CBB, January 19, 2017, “Council, BPA Release ‘Request For Information’ On ‘Ready To Implement’ Sturgeon Projects,”


--CBB, December 22, 2016, “Council FW Committee Identifies More Than $500,000 In Project Cost Savings To Free Up For Others,”


--CBB, November 18, 2016, “Council’s ‘Cost-Savings’ Workgroup Earmarks Some FW Project Cost Savings For Hatchery Repairs,”


--CBB, May 20, 2016, “Council’s ‘Cost Savings Workgroup’ Looking To Review More Projects,”


-- CBB, “Council Approves More Than $550K In Cost-Savings From FW Projects; Money Goes To Emerging Priorities,”


-- CBB, March 11, 2016, “BPA, Council Identify More Than $500,000 In Cost Savings In Fish And Wildlife Projects,”


-- CBB, August 14, 2015, “Council, BPA Move Forward On Efforts To Fund ‘Emerging’ Fish/Wildlife Project Priorities”


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