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Council Fish/Wildlife Committee Moves Three Sturgeon Research Projects Toward Final Approval
Posted on Friday, May 19, 2017 (PST)

Three Columbia River white sturgeon projects were approved by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee at its meeting this week in Boise, Idaho.


The three research projects, one which will use Columbia River Accord funds, will cost the region about $413,000 in fiscal year 2018 and $253,000 in FY2019. Some $150,000 of that money will come from Accord funds over the two years, while the remainder ($283,000 in FY2018 and $233,000 in FY2019) will come from cost-savings identified by the Fish and Wildlife Committee’s cost-savings workgroup, according to Lynn Palensky of the Council’s Fish and Wildlife staff.


The projects 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 cost is $193,000 in FY2018 and $157,000 in FY2019, all from cost-savings.


--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 cost is$130,000 in FY 2018 and $20,000 in FY2019, all from Accord funds.


--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. The cost is $90,000 in FY2018 and $76,000 in FY2019, all from cost-savings.


However, at least one member of the Committee worried that BPA’s financial situation might stymie the second year of the projects and suggested funding them one year at a time.


“It would be more prudent to take these one year at a time to see what Bonneville will do,” Idaho Council member Bill Booth said.


He added that there also will be more money needed for hatchery operation and maintenance work that would also come from cost-savings funds. Booth headed the group that researched infrastructure needs at federal hatcheries. That resulted in about $200,000 of cost-savings funds targeted for hatchery O&M last year.


“We have some big projects coming up at the hatcheries and that’s a number one concern for managers,” he said.


Booth also thought the Council shouldn’t build a base of projects that use cost savings funds that would “go on forever. I would like to see some money going back to the ratepayers in this process.”


The white sturgeon projects are specified as two year projects and “would fall apart if funded for just one year,” said Tony Grover, Council Fish and Wildlife director.


“There are rumors of (BPA) budget concerns on the horizon. We all know they are there,” he said. “But belt-tightening is premature and if it does happen, we’d look at the entire Fish and Wildlife Program package and make rollbacks when they should occur.


“It’s clear BPA is not ready to make that budget call yet and the Council should not make that for them,” Grover concluded.


Brian Mercier, who just this month assumed the job as BPA’s executive manager of Fish and Wildlife, said the agency would stand behind these projects, but agreed with Grover that if cuts did come, both BPA and the Council would have to look “across the board at the entire Fish Wildlife Program” expenditures.


The cost-savings workgroup had identified up to $300,000 a year from cost-savings for white sturgeon research and in January the Council and the Bonneville Power Administration released a request for information to fund the projects. That generated nine proposed projects from six entities by late February. Those have now been whittled down to the three which the full Council will weigh in on at its June 13 and 14 meeting in Corvallis, Oregon.


The Council cost-savings workgroup, led by Council Member Jennifer Anders, Montana, had intended the money for the sturgeon projects to begin in FY2017. However, Mercier notified the Council at its meeting in Missoula, April 11, that the time it takes to initiate a new project, plus its financial situation, would 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.


Mercier said last month that BPA forecasts showed that the agency expects to end fiscal year 2017 with revenues that are lower than expected, “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.”


The cost-savings workgroup has identified $651,915 in cost savings that was made available for new work in FY 2017, according to the Fish and Wildlife Committee’s May 9 decision memorandum ( About $310,000 is still available for FY 2017 work. In each FY 2018 and FY 2019, the “$651,915 will be available along with any additional savings the CSW identifies through the mechanistic approach,” the memorandum says.


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


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


Also see:


-- CBB, April 14, 2017, “Council/BPA Weighing Best Proposals To Assess White Sturgeon Status Above Bonneville Dam,”


--CBB, February 17, 2017, “Through Other Funding, Council Able To Reduce O&M Commitment To Northwest Hatcheries,”


--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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