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Report Summarizes Tribes’ Work, Results From 10 Years Of Columbia River Fish Accords
Posted on Friday, August 17, 2018 (PST)

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 this week.

 

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, Iverson said.

 

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 improved;

--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.”

 

Also see:

 

--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 Accords,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441105.aspx

 

--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

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