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Council/BPA Weighing Best Proposals To Assess White Sturgeon Status Above Bonneville Dam
Posted on Friday, April 14, 2017 (PST)

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council and Bonneville Power Administration have narrowed nine proposed white sturgeon projects down to three and are now working to refine those proposals.

 

The Council cost-savings workgroup, led by Council Member Jennifer Anders, Montana, had identified as much as $300,000 that could be used for the sturgeon projects that were to begin this fiscal year.

 

However, instead of funding the projects in fiscal year 2017, BPA said at the Council meeting in Missoula, Tuesday, April 11, that the time it takes to initiate a new project, plus its financial situation, will cause a delay in funding the projects into fiscal year 2018, which begins October 1. Under BPA’s Fish and Wildlife program funding, it typically takes 4 to 6 months to get a proposed scope of work to an executed contract.

 

“Our fiscal year 2017 financial situation is deteriorating and we’re doing some belt-tightening,” said Bryan Mercier of BPA, noting power market conditions.

 

“Our forecasts show that the agency expects to end fiscal year 2017 with revenues that are lower than expected,” Mercier said in an email this week. “This is mostly driven by lower than forecasted revenues from our Power and Transmission Operations, which is due in large part to the volatility of energy markets and the changing energy marketplace.”

 

Across all BPA departments, managers and employees are being asked to tighten their belts. Like all other areas of the agency, BPA Fish and Wildlife employees have been asked to review expenditures, he said. “For 2017, this means reducing travel and training budgets, taking more time to fill vacant positions, and delaying some projects until FY18.”

 

However, he said, “Once we start these sturgeon projects, we plan on completing their scope of work.”

 

The Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee and BPA approved a request for information (https://www.nwcouncil.org/fw/2017sturgeonrfi/) to fund project-ready sturgeon projects at its meeting in Portland January 10 and released the RFI January 13. At the time, Tony Grover, director of the Council’s Fish and Wildlife section, said the Council wants to “speed up the assessment of sturgeon populations above Bonneville Dam and into the Snake River.”

 

The RFI sought information from white sturgeon managers and scientists on “ready-to-implement” Columbia and Snake river white sturgeon assessments of population status, spawning success, spawning habitat or susceptibility to predation, with the funding to be available during fiscal years 2017 and 2018.

 

Of the proposals received by the RFI’s February 28 deadline nine were from six entities. The Council Fish and Wildlife staff, along with BPA, whittled that down to four new projects that had the most potential to be funded. One of those projects backed out – a proposal from Golder Associates to monitor sturgeon at Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River – leaving three proposals.

 

Staff was directed at the March Fish and Wildlife Committee meeting to move forward with clarifying questions to the sponsors of four proposals. That is still in process, according to Lynn Palensky of the Council’s Fish and Wildlife staff.

 

“The questions include: scientific information necessary for a full proposal; detailed implementation timeline; and a confirmation of interest to proceed to next steps,” an April 4 Council Fish and Wildlife Memorandum says (https://www.nwcouncil.org/media/7491037/f5.pdf). “The responses will help us shape funding and implementation recommendations and identify any additional review steps necessary before finalizing recommendations.”

 

The three remaining projects the Council staff is considering for funding are:

 

--Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, along with other partners, propose to do white sturgeon population status assessments between Ice Harbor and Lower Granite dams on the lower Snake River in Washington.

 

--The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and the Yakama Tribes propose to develop a genetic marker to determine the sex of white sturgeon that can be used in status assessments.

 

--The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife proposes tagging and tracking and then analyzing their data of white sturgeon to assess spawning staging areas, their behavior and habitat in the John Day Dam pool.

 

In addition to Anders, Palensky, Grover and Mercier, the Council cost savings workgroup is composed of Peter Cogswell and Scott Donahue of BPA, and Kerry Berg and Laura Robinson 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 http://www.nwcouncil.org/media/7149359/1.pdf.

 

More information about the workgroup and methodology used to determine eligible cost savings can be found at http://www.nwcouncil.org/fw/cost-savings-group/

 

Also see:

 

--CBB, February 17, 2017, “Through Other Funding, Council Able To Reduce O&M Commitment To Northwest Hatcheries,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438347.aspx

 

--CBB, January 19, 2017, “Council, BPA Release ‘Request For Information’ On ‘Ready To Implement’ Sturgeon Projects,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438206.aspx

 

--CBB, December 22, 2016, “Council FW Committee Identifies More Than $500,000 In Project Cost Savings To Free Up For Others,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438117.aspx

 

--CBB, November 18, 2016, “Council’s ‘Cost-Savings’ Workgroup Earmarks Some FW Project Cost Savings For Hatchery Repairs,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437987.aspx

 

--CBB, May 20, 2016, “Council’s ‘Cost Savings Workgroup’ Looking To Review More Projects,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436753.aspx

 

-- CBB, “Council Approves More Than $550K In Cost-Savings From FW Projects; Money Goes To Emerging Priorities,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436489.aspx

 

-- CBB, March 11, 2016, “BPA, Council Identify More Than $500,000 In Cost Savings In Fish And Wildlife Projects,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436206.aspx

 

-- CBB, August 14, 2015, “Council, BPA Move Forward On Efforts To Fund ‘Emerging’ Fish/Wildlife Project Priorities” http://www.cbbulletin.com/434736.aspx

 

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