A program that has consumed an average of 18
percent of the Bonneville Power Administration’s fish and wildlife budget each
year and has cost the agency over $560 million over its 10-year life is coming
to end, although it may be extended.
The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish
Commission published a summary of work completed in the last ten years under
the Columbia River Fish Accords and presented its conclusions to the Northwest Power
and Conservation Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee at its meeting in Portland
Prior to signing the Accords among BPA, the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, CRITFC and three of the
four lower Columbia River tribes – the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the
Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and
the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon – tribal
fisheries programs faced funding uncertainty.
“Once we signed the Accords in 2008, that
provided the certainty and the funding that we needed,” said CRITFC executive
director Jaime Pinkham.
Although the Nez Perce Tribe was not a
signatory of the Accords, the summary, “Columbia Basin Fish Accords: Ten-year
Report: 2008 – 2017,” says, its projects are congruent with fish programs of
the other tribes and of CRITFC. The full report is at http://www.critfc.org/blog/2018/08/14/fish-accords-10-year-summary/.
According to a Bryan Mercier, executive
director of BPA’s fish and wildlife division, BPA and the tribes are in
discussions with tribes and states to extend the Accords, which expire this
September. He told the Fish and Wildlife Committee at its July 10 meeting in
Missoula, MT, the next agreement could be of a shorter duration and likely
would be tied to a new salmon/steelhead environmental impact statement and
biological opinion for the Federal Columbia River Power System.
(For more information about the Accords go to https://www.salmonrecovery.gov/Partners/FishAccords.aspx).
Spending on the Fish Accords in fiscal year
2017 was $57 million, which is 22 percent of the direct costs in BPA’s fish and
wildlife budget for the year. The total fish and wildlife budget in FY2017 was
$254.7 million, according to an annual report released in mid-July by the
Council for Northwest governors.
Success with salmon programs takes time to see
the benefits, said Tom Iverson, a consultant with the Yakama Nation.
“Most populations of salmon and steelhead are
doing well, there is a high variability in population sizes and they still need
to remain listed,” Iverson told the Committee. “The goal of CRITFC is to get
fish into the nets and back to the people.”
Over the 10-year period improvements at dams
by BPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation through
the Columbia River Fish Mitigation Program have improved downstream survival of
juveniles as well as upstream survival of returning adults through the dams,
The average annual survival for juvenile wild
chinook from Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River to Bonneville Dam on the
Columbia River improved by 10 percent to an average survival of 48 percent. For
wild steelhead survival improved by 13 percent to 48 percent, and for sockeye
the improvement was 4 percent to an average annual survival of 50 percent.
Those dam improvements, according to the
10-year report, are surface passage, fish screens and turbine bypass, turbine
survival upgrades, juvenile fish transportation, predator control structures,
adult passage, lamprey passage and flow augmentation.
The tribes, with Accord funding over the past
ten years, have also significantly improved habitat with 14,586 in-stream
actions and 404 out of stream actions. These have resulted in:
--37.3 billion gallons (114,542 acre feet) of
water protected and conserved each year;
--7,236 miles of stream protected or improved;
--968,621 acres (the area of Rhode Island) of
habitat protected, treated or maintained;
--10.5 miles of dikes modified or removed;
--662 miles of road decommissioned or
--192 miles of fence installed;
--81,705 pounds of trash removed;
--31 fish screens installed or modernized;
--397 barriers improved or removed;
--161 beavers released.
Through all of this activity, the tribes have
created 4,195 jobs (on average 17 jobs per $1 million spent).
Artificial propagation (hatcheries) is the
hardest story to tell, Iverson said.
“A web of funding sources and the complexity
of programs make it difficult to tease out the specific Accords propagation
efforts from the overall effort,” the report says. (The tribes use hatcheries
to help rebuild natural populations through supplementation.)
Over the 10-year period, tribal hatcheries
released 5 million sockeye smolts, 78.9 million coho, 109.9 million steelhead,
62.5 million summer chinook, 199.8 million spring chinook and 396.1 million
fall chinook. These releases, Iverson said, do not include releases of smolts
by the Nez Perce Tribe at its hatcheries.
“One of the biggest ‘gets’ of the Accords is
the focus on lamprey,” he said. “About $50 million has been spent at mainstem
dams for such things as slowing the velocity of water at the base of
passageways. Hopefully, that funding will continue.”
Prior to the Accords, just a half million
dollars were spent on lamprey, but that jumped to an average of about $2 million
after the Accord money kicked in. The money has been used for passage
improvements, translocating lamprey from the Columbia River into the Yakima and
Umatilla rivers, a tool used for reintroduction and augmentation efforts and
lamprey propagation research.
Some 3.5 percent of Accord funds are for white
sturgeon research and propagation. CRITFC has completed a strategic plan for
sturgeon conservation, restoration and management that includes habitat
protection and restoration, natural and hatchery production, fishery
management, research, monitoring and evaluation. It has also completed a
hatchery review for sturgeon.
About 25 percent of Accord funds go to
research, monitoring and evaluation of tribal programs, such as supplementation
efforts, catch sampling, results of habitat projects and genetics research
(including lamprey genetics), among other RM&E projects.
The report ends with two concerns, predator
control, including invasive species, and climate change, said Aja DeCoteau,
watershed department manager at CRITFC and a member of the Yakama Nation.
Predators, such as sea lions downstream of Bonneville Dam and avian predators
up and down the Columbia River are threats that need to be dealt with.
CRITFC is also engaged in climate change
research, particularly focusing on cold water refuges for salmon, steelhead and
lamprey, and the shrinking of snow dominant basins as climate and stream waters
are expected to warm significantly over the remaining 21st century. That
research is at www.critfc.org/climate.
Some 3.5 percent of the Accord money was spent
on partnerships, DeCoteau said. That includes the Future of Our Salmon
conferences, as well as such regional operations groups as the Regional
Implementation Oversight Group, the interagency Technical Management Team and
the U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Group.
“The Accords allowed us to think differently
and operate at a higher level with a focus on species as never before,” Pinkham
concluded. “It was a pretty good investment.”
--CBB, July 20, 2018, “Council Releases Report
To Governors Detailing BPA Fish/Wildlife Costs For FY 2017,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441137.aspx
--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