At its May meeting, the Northwest Power and
Conservation Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee released a letter soliciting
recommendations from regional entities to amend its Columbia River Basin 2014
Fish and Wildlife Program. The recommendations were to be due to the Committee
However, this week the Committee agreed to
extend the period to receive recommendations 90 days to Dec. 13 after hearing
from tribes, states and the Bonneville Power Administration that they all need
more time to craft their messages. And the full Council approved the extension
at its meeting Wednesday, Aug. 15.
There are a couple of processes in progress
throughout the region in addition to the Council’s amendment solicitation for
its Fish and Wildlife Program. One of those is the release of provisional goals
by the Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force that has been out for comment for
“The additional time would be useful in
considering questions posed by the Council and in addressing other ongoing
regional processes that intersect with the Fish and Wildlife Program (i.e.
Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force, gas cap spill test, etc.),” said Dave
Statler of the Nez Perce Tribe, just one of the tribes that asked the Committee
for an extension at its Aug. 14 meeting in Portland. “The additional time would
also be useful for Fish and Wildlife Managers to coordinate amendment recommendations.”
In addition, some of the agencies – tribes and
states – have limited time due to smaller staffs to work on Program
recommendations, especially during the summer field work season.
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 Council’s current program has helped
direct as much as $250 million per year in recent years to mitigate for the
impacts of hydropower dams in the Columbia-Snake river basin on fish and
wildlife. The program is funded by the Bonneville Administration with funds
collected from ratepayers. BPA markets power generated at the federal dams.
In an Aug. 7 Council memorandum (https://www.nwcouncil.org/sites/default/files/f2_3.pdf)
about the process of developing draft amendments to the Program, Fish and
Wildlife staff said that it had received a request from the Spokane Tribe of
Indians to extend the deadline 90 days.
BPA had requested a 30-day extension. “We
currently have a number of ongoing initiatives that are consuming our time,
including developing a new BiOp, negotiating potential extensions of Fish
Accords, and collaborating with partners on budget reductions. The 90 days the
Council adopted will help us wrap up some of these other work streams and put
in a focused effort on the Program amendment,” said Bryan Mercier, executive
director of BPA’s fish and wildlife division.
The list expanded at this week’s Committee
meeting to include the Kalispell, Coeur d’Alene, Upper Columbia, Nez Perce and
Kootenai tribes. They all asked for a 90 day extension, as did the Oregon and
Washington departments of fish and wildlife.
The Council’s amendment recommendations period
opened on May 16, 2018. The Northwest Power Act directs the Council to provide
90 days for recommendations unless the Council opts to extend this period,
which it did when the Committee initially extended the comment period to 120 days
to Sept. 14.
However, with the additional 90 days just
approved by the Council, the deadline bumps up against the deadline to complete
the full Northwest Power Plan. Patty O’Toole of the Fish and Wildlife staff
said that the Committee has to have the amendment process wrapped up before the
Power Plan is done, but that the extension can likely be “absorbed.”
To do so will require staff to turn around
within 24 hours and put the recommendations out for public comment. “It
generally takes a year to arrive at the final amendment, which would be
December 2019,” she said.
Under Section 4(h)(5) of the Northwest Power
Act, the Council must decide on amendments to the Fish and Wildlife Program
based upon the recommendations submitted to the Committee, the follow-up
comments to those recommendations and the consultations on the recommendations,
according to the memo.
The Council adds the step of preparing a
public review draft, so it must also base its decision for the adoption of the
final Program on the comments, public hearings and consultations on the draft
Program, the memo says.
“It’s like building a layer cake,” O’Toole
said at the Committee meeting, referring to the iterative process over the next
nearly one-and-a-half years.
In the end, the Council will make its decision
based on the full administrative record and not just on the recommendation of
the Fish and Wildlife Committee.
-- CBB, July 20, 2018, “Connecting Salmon
Recovery Efforts: Columbia Basin Partnership Releases Vision Statement, Goals,”
--CBB, May 11, 2018, “Council Releases
Recommendations Letter As First Step In Amending Basin Fish And Wildlife
--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