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Council Releases Recommendations Letter As First Step In Amending Basin Fish And Wildlife Program
Posted on Friday, May 11, 2018 (PST)

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council this week took the first step in a public process to amend the 2014 Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program when it approved the release of a letter soliciting amendment recommendations.

 

At its meeting May 8 in Boise, the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee approved the letter with a small editing change and sent the letter to the full Council for approval May 9, where it received unanimous approval.

 

As it begins to amend its Fish and Wildlife Program, the Northwest Power Act (Section 4h) requires the Committee to solicit the recommendations, said John Shurts, Council attorney, at the Council’s April meeting in Portland. It is the first step in a process that will eventually incorporate a new Fish and Wildlife Program with a new draft Northwest Power Plan by the third quarter of 2020.

 

The 1980 Northwest Power Act directed the creation of the Council, an interstate compact agency with two representatives each appointed by the governors of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

 

The Act requires the Council to develop a program to “protect, mitigate, and enhance fish and wildlife, including related spawning grounds and habitat, on the Columbia River and its tributaries … affected by the development, operation, and management of [hydroelectric projects] while assuring the Pacific Northwest an adequate, efficient, economical, and reliable power supply.”

 

The Act also says that the Council must update or amend the fish and wildlife program every five years, using the advice of federal, state and tribal fish and wildlife managers to take into account advancements in science. The Council must seek widespread public involvement in the formulation of regional power and fish and wildlife policies.

 

The Fish and Wildlife staff expects to formally release the letter by May 18 and the recommendations will be due Sept. 14, unless there are requests to extend the deadline, Patti O’Toole, program implementation manager in the Fish and Wildlife group told the Council.

 

Staff will prepare public comments on the recommendations and prepare a draft Fish and Wildlife Program document by Feb. 15, 2019, according to a draft timeline prepared by O’Toole. After that staff and the Fish and Wildlife Committee will take public comment and conduct public hearings and other consultations on the recommendations with tribes, along with state and federal fisheries agencies as it develops the final Program document.

 

The letter and draft timeline are at https://www.nwcouncil.org/media/7491669/8.pdf

 

Shurts at this month’s Council meeting reminded Council members and staff that the day the letter is sent out marks the time to begin the formal process for the administrative record. For that, Council and staff will need to record their communications pertaining to the amendment process and development of the Program with outside entities.

 

“The key point is that all communications and documents relevant to the amendment process or to the issues in the amendment process need to make their way into the administrative record,” Shurts wrote in a memorandum to the Council (https://www.nwcouncil.org/media/7491670/9.pdf).

 

The final Recommendation letter has two parts:

 

1-an invitation to parties to provide their recommendations. It describes the legal requirements, the expectations and schedule for the amendment process. A formal request in writing will go to tribes and state and federal fish and wildlife agencies for recommendations for (according to the letter):

- “measures which can be expected to be implemented by the [Bonneville] Administrator, using authorities under this Act and other laws, and other federal agencies to protect, mitigate, and enhance fish and wildlife, including related spawning grounds and habitat, affected by the development and operation of any hydroelectric project on the Columbia River;

- establishing objectives for the development and operation of such projects on the Columbia River and its tributaries in a manner designed to protect, mitigate, and enhance fish and wildlife; and

- fish and wildlife management coordination and research and development (including funding) which, among other things, will assist protection, mitigation, and enhancement of anadromous fish at, and between, the region's hydroelectric dams.”

 

The letter also includes an attachment that “lays out some issues the region may want to consider,” O’Toole said.

 

For background, see CBB, April 20, 2018, “Council Readies Letter Asking For Recommendations On Amending Basin Fish And Wildlife Program,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440564.aspx

 

“The letter is good, but I don’t think so highly of the attachment,” said Washington Council member Tom Karier (he still approved the letter’s release). “I think if others read this, they will think ‘so that’s what’s important to us’ and maybe not to them. The attachment is a distraction. Why don’t we just ask the fishery managers what they think?”

 

O’Toole said there is already “plenty of pre-thinking going on” among the managers even before the letter goes out.

 

Also see:

 

--CBB, March 16, 2018, “Tentative Schedule For Amending Four-State Columbia River Basin Fish And Wildlife Program Outlined,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440359.aspx

 

-- CBB, Jan. 19, 2018, “Council Mulling Issues Likely To Arise During Coming Update Of Basin Fish And Wildlife Program” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440106.aspx

 

-- CBB, October 10, 2014, “NW Power/Conservation Council Approves New Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/432366.aspx

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