The Northwest Power and Conservation Council
this week identified additional reductions to the Bonneville Power
Administration’s fish and wildlife program expenditures that total about $1
BPA is proposing to cut funding for conference
sponsorships by 50 percent in fiscal year 2019, which begins October 1, 2018,
and then to eliminate funding for those sponsorships in FY2020. Among the cuts,
BPA funding will be pulled from the popular Lake Roosevelt Forum most recently
held April 24 – 25.
The agency already had reduced travel and
registration fee payments for conference attendance by project sponsors in
Also, the federal power marketing agency is
cutting funding for the Columbia Basin Bulletin for FY2019 by 50 percent and
eliminating funding for the online newsletter in FY2020.
All three of the cuts would save BPA well over
$1 million, said Bryan Mercier, executive director of BPA’s fish and wildlife
division. Cuts to conference sponsorships and travel provide the bulk of the $1
“I’m not personally happy with this, but it’s
a matter of priorities. This is not a value judgement,” Mercier said.
BPA announced to the Council at its meeting in
Portland June 12 that it must cut its direct spending for fish and wildlife
programs by 10 percent from about $300 million a year due to the agency’s
fiscal uncertainties. Bonneville funds regional fish and wildlife projects
associated with the four-state Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife
program. For more information about the Council, its regional fish and wildlife
program and program projects go to https://www.nwcouncil.org/fish-and-wildlife.
“There are some obvious policy issues emerging
and we can still develop alternatives for managing into the future,” Tony
Grover, Director of the Council’s Fish and Wildlife section, told the Fish and
Wildlife Committee at its meeting Tuesday, August 14. “All three share a policy
impact: information that needs to get out will be more difficult to get out.”
He said “the Northwest Power Act requires a
Power Plan, a Fish and Wildlife Program and to make it easy to see what’s going
on (transparency and communications). If Bonneville can’t do it, the obligation
doesn’t go away.”
The three cuts discussed by the Council this
week all have to do with information dissemination and the transparency that
Grover said is required by the Power Act. He said that, perhaps, Council staff
could pick up some of the communications, but would first have to determine
what level of public outreach and engagement is required by the Act. “When you
go out with a public notice, is everything needed already there?” he asked
rhetorically as a minimum level of communications.
The reduction and elimination of conference
funding has the potential to weaken implementation of the 2014 Fish and
Wildlife Programs’ Adaptive Management Strategy and the Public Engagement
Strategy, according to an August 7 Council memorandum (https://www.nwcouncil.org/sites/default/files/f6_1.pdf).
“The Council’s comprehensive review of
research, monitoring and evaluation in 2012 identified as a significant issue,
the need to support obtaining, organizing, synthesizing, evaluating and
reporting on implementation and biological results for the Program,” the memo
says. “Also, the proposed reduction may take time to apply equitably throughout
the Columbia basin because some conferences may not be identified as a line
item in entity budgets.”
Similarly, the reduction to travel and
registration fees is contrary to the Public Engagement Strategy Principle:
“Support and champion organizations that effectively support productive
partnerships among relevant sciences, between science, management and the
public….” the memo says.
The Columbia Basin Bulletin – with funding
slated to be cut in half in FY 2019, and eliminated in FY 2020 -- is an
electronic newsletter with more than 10,000 subscribers distributed since 1998,
the memo says. It reports on a wide range of Columbia River basin salmon and
steelhead recovery issues. Elimination of funding would also weaken
implementation of the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Program public engagement
strategy, which reads:
“On an ongoing basis, the Council will educate
and involve Northwest citizens to develop, implement, and improve understanding
of the fish and wildlife program and the Council, and to promote successful
ecosystem management.” See the 2014 Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife
Program, page 99, at https://www.nwcouncil.org/sites/default/files/2014-12_1.pdf
“How much of the Council Spotlight is
indicative of what the CBB does?” asked Montana Council member Jennifer Anders.
“There is some overlap, but the region relies
on broader news and more detail than what we’ve been doing in the Council
Spotlight,” Grover said.
Grover updated the Fish and Wildlife Committee
on several other programs with proposed cuts that were announced at the
Council’s July meeting:
The partners of one proposed cut – the data
management StreamNet program – “rose to the challenge,” Grover said and
voluntarily offered over $82,000 in cuts.
BPA had announced reductions of $1 million to
water transaction program funds and this month the agency said in the Council
memo that cost reductions would be primarily administrative resulting from the
consolidation of multiple programs into a single program.
BPA said it would eliminate Select Area
Fisheries Enhancement funding for commercial gillnetters over a three-year
period with an annual savings of $1,908,145. However, the SAFE project provides
mitigation for lost harvest opportunities in the lower river for commercial
gillnetters. Between 2003 and 2016 well over one million chinook and coho
produced through the SAFE project were commercially harvested in the
off-channel areas of the lower Columbia River.
Lower Snake River Compensation funding will be
reduced by $2.3 million, but the effects will be minimal, according to BPA, as
the budgeted funds have exceeded actual expenditures for several years. The
funding for this program has been collected in BPA rates.
--CBB, July 13, 2018, “Council F&W
Committee Talks Policy About BPA Project Funding Cuts, Columbia Basin Fish
--CBB, June 15, 2018, “Bonneville Power
Looking At Spending Reductions In Columbia Basin Fish/Wildlife Spending,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440947.aspx
--CBB, May 18, 2018, “Draft Report On Columbia
Basin Fish/Wildlife Costs In 2017 Out For Review; $450.4 Million,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440762.aspx
--CBB, February 2, 2018, “Bonneville Power
Releases Five Year Strategic Plan, 2018-2023,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440159.aspx