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Draft Columbia Basin Fish And Wildlife Research Plan Moves To Full NW Power/Conservation Council
Posted on Friday, May 19, 2017 (PST)

A fish and wildlife research plan that has been in the works for more than a year will go to the full Northwest Power and Conservation Council for final approval in June.


The draft research plan was approved this week, Tuesday, May 16, at the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee meeting in Boise. Support for the plan was unanimous among all four state Council members on the committee.


An updated research plan was called for by the Council’s 2014 Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program and, according to Fish and Wildlife staff member Patty O’Toole who presented the plan, is relevant to the Program’s priority number 2, which is to implement adaptive management, including prioritizing research on identified critical uncertainties.


The Council first developed a research plan in 2006, under a provision of the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Program.


O’Toole described the process in a memorandum, saying that the latest “effort began with a request from the Council to the Independent Scientific Advisory Board and the Independent Scientific Review Panel for a review of past research and a revised set of critical uncertainties.”


That ISAB report was completed in January 2016. See “Critical Uncertainties for the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program” at


The Committee and full Council reviewed historical investments on research and monitoring and briefly reviewed common elements of other similar research and science plans from around the country, the memorandum says.


A draft research plan was developed and released for more public comment in January 2017, with comments due in March.


O’Toole presented two copies of the latest 19-page draft that will go to the Council for approval. One is a clean copy that incorporates comments and the other is a marked-up (redlined) copy with changes largely driven by public comments.  See the May 9 Memorandum:


The plan has five sections: an introduction, research themes, a discussion of research priorities, implementation guidelines and the critical uncertainties.


The plan’s purpose, the latest draft says, is “to help the Council, Bonneville, project sponsors and the independent science panels: 1) continue to improve organization of research conducted under the Program and reporting of results and conclusions; 2) organize critical uncertainties for the Program; 3) identify priority areas of current and future research; 4) inform adaptive management; and 5) along with other considerations, guide funding recommendations. This research plan is intended to be used to guide 1) projects that are exclusively research, 2) effectiveness monitoring projects, or 3) projects that contain research elements.”


Added due to public comment is a paragraph that outlines responsibilities, clearly stating that the research plan is not a part of the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Program, but it serves to guide research and priorities of the Program for federal agencies.


Some other changes resulting from comments include:


-- a determination if fish propagation research “can be used to maximize benefits to harvest and conservation while managing risks to natural populations.”


-- a requirement for science and policy reviews to “follow established protocols and typically include solicitation for project reports and proposals; ISRP review; public review; staff review and recommendations, and final Council decision.”


-- to ensure progress is being made, the Council “will use a variety of methods to synthesize and evaluate progress towards addressing critical uncertainties. The Council may hold science-policy forums for review and synthesis of topics, request ISAB synthesis for certain topics, or request syntheses from project researchers, staff or contractors.”


-- the addition of research questions under the critical uncertainty Tributary Habitat asks “To what extent do some restoration efforts provide resilience to buffer against climate events and recover native species of interest?” and “Are the cumulative suites of restoration actions benefiting populations of fish and wildlife in tributary watersheds?”


-- and under Mainstem Habitat, one question added is “To what extent can managed releases from high-head dams mitigate or mask the effects of climate change by regulating water temperatures and thereby optimizing habitat for endangered fish downstream of such structures?”


-- under Hydrosystem Flow and Passage Operations, the question added is “How does juvenile passage through multiple dams versus transportation affect adult fish migration behavior, straying, and pre-spawn mortality, and juvenile-to-adult survival rates?”


-- for Predation, “Are the current efforts to address predation and reduce numbers of predators effective?”


-- under Climate Change, “How can understanding future climate conditions help guide restoration actions and ensure their effectiveness over time?”


-- for Monitoring and Evaluation Methods, “Are models used to predict habitat benefits of actions prior to implementation accurate and useful in order to prioritize actions and assess cost/benefit ratios?” and “What statistical methodologies are available for estimating the number of fish (1) entering and then leaving habitat areas or for (2) entering and the number of progeny leaving the habitat area? And how effective are the statistical methodologies for different habitat types?”


The full Council will act on the final fish and wildlife research plan at its meeting June 13 and 14 in Corvallis.


Also see:


--CBB, January 19, 2016, “NW Power/Conservation Council Seeks Comments On Draft Research Plan To Guide FW Program,”


-- CBB, Feb. 5, 2016, “Scientists Review “Critical Uncertainties” In Columbia Basin Fish/Wildlife Research”

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