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Draft Columbia Basin Fish Accords Extension Out For Review; Less Expensive, Shorter Duration
Posted on Friday, September 14, 2018 (PST)

The Bonneville Power Administration and most parties to the previous 10 years of the 2008 Columbia Basin Fish Accords have come to a tentative agreement to extend the Accords beyond Sept. 30, the ending date of the first Accords.

 

However, rather than another 10-year agreement, the extension is for just four years with an ending date in 2022 that corresponds with the completion of a new court-ordered biological opinion of the federal Columbia River power system. The 2014 BiOp was remanded by U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Simon in May 2016, requiring the hydropower action agencies to come back to court with a new BiOp by 2022-23.

 

The annual payments from BPA to the parties in the agreement will also be smaller than the previous agreements, with BPA spending on the Accords down 3.3 percent or $3,602,196 in the first year (fiscal year 2019, which begins Oct. 1). BPA Accord spending will be down 3.6 percent in FY2020, 2.5 percent in FY2021 and 1 percent in FY2022.

 

Separate talks with Washington state are working towards a memorandum of understanding, according to Bryan Mercier, executive director of BPA’s fish and wildlife division. “The existing estuary Accord with Washington will expire on Sept. 30,” he said.

 

The draft agreement is now out for public review until Sept. 26. For more information on the Accord extension, go to https://www.bpa.gov/PublicInvolvement/Cal/Pages/Proposed-Columbia-Basin-Fish-Accords-extensions---August-2018.aspx. To make comments, go to https://www.bpa.gov/applications/publiccomments/OpenCommentListing.aspx.

 

“The proposed Accord extensions provide less money than the previous 10-year agreement,” Mercier said. “Reductions were negotiated with each Accord partner and made to projects that were identified by BPA as potentially having lower biological benefit and/or implementation performance.”

 

He added that capital projects are included in the extensions.

 

BPA said that with the 2008 Accords, BPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation (action agencies) “together with our tribal and state partners have built a regional coalition founded on common goals, trust, respect, and collaboration. The coalition helps the Action Agencies balance their legal responsibilities for providing benefits of the Columbia River System, including protection of fish and wildlife.”

 

Signing on to the new 4-year extension are the states of Idaho and Montana, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, the Shoshone Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation, and the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission. All are taking a cut, according to Mercier.

 

These entities “will continue to focus their efforts on biologically significant and cost-effective actions that directly benefit fish and wildlife and address legal obligations of the Action Agencies,” BPA said.

 

“The 4-year period is intended to facilitate the CRSO EIS,” Mercier explained. The extensions, if signed, would last until FY22 or a final decision on the EIS, whichever is first. Obviously, the CRSO EIS is a major milestone in the future of the federal hydro system, so commitments beyond a final outcome of the EIS are difficult to make.” CRSO is the Columbia River System Operations (http://www.crso.info/).

 

The draft also updates the terms of the original Accords in several important ways, BPA said.

 

--Each extension summarizes the respective tribal and state party’s accomplishments under the Accords;

--All parties acknowledge the extensive overhaul of the Columbia River System and the improvements in fish survival over the past two decades;

--Similarly, all parties recognize and accept that Bonneville’s financial circumstances have shifted in the past decade, and going forward mitigation efforts will need to reflect increased efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

 

“To that end, the proposed budget for each state and tribal party reflects reductions for the term of the extension,” BPA said.

 

The Accord spending makes up a portion of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s 2014 Fish and Wildlife Program, which is funded through BPA’s Fish and Wildlife budget.  In FY 2018, BPA budgeted $310,196,000 in funding to support the direct-funded fish and wildlife program, according to a Sept. 5 Council memorandum (https://www.nwcouncil.org/sites/default/files/2018_09_f6.pdf) that was presented to the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee this week, Tuesday, Sept. 11, in Eugene, Ore.

 

Of that, about $33.5 million went to the Lower Snake River Compensation program, which produces chinook salmon and steelhead to compensate for losses of those fish resulting from construction of the four lower Snake River dams. The remaining $276,713,000 in the Fish and Wildlife budget is dedicated to implementing the fish and wildlife mitigation requirements under the Northwest Power Act, the memo says.

 

Of the nearly $277 million of BPA’s fish and wildlife expense budget, a fairly large portion goes to Accords programs. The Corps and BOR also share in the expenses of the Accords.

 

“Typically, Accord expense expenditures have been about $90M of the about $250M or near 40 percent of the program,” Mercier said. “Capital expenditures fluctuate based on actual implementation of hatchery construction and/or land acquisitions.”

 

The total budget for the Accords in FY2018 was $107,886,154, which includes capital expenses. That drops to $104,283,958 in FY2019, $104,034,293 in FY2020, $105,225,820 in FY2021 and $106,804,806 in FY2022, according to the Council memo.

 

Funding for capital projects, such as hatcheries, remain largely unchanged. Much of the capital funding had already been allocated to projects from 2008 Accord funding. For example, the Yakama Tribes’ Melvin R. Sampson coho hatchery is paid out of the original Accords funding.

 

For the new Accords capital projects, the Umatilla Tribes will receive just more than $11 million over the four years, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes will receive $7.15 million and Montana has three equal payments in FY2020, 2021 and 2022 of $3,333,333.

 

The reduction in Accord spending helps BPA as it seeks to reduce its Fish and Wildlife spending by $30 million annually. The federal power marketing agency has identified several cuts from its first quarter contracts and is moving on to second quarter contracts, Mercier said at this week’s Council meeting. He doesn’t expect to complete his review of contracts until mid-FY2019.

 

BPA proposed to cut funding for conference sponsorships by 50 percent in FY2019 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 2018.

 

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 over $1 million, Mercier said at an earlier Council meeting. Cuts to conference sponsorships and travel provide the bulk of the $1 million.

 

CRITFC has recently completed a summary of work completed in the last ten years under the Accords and presented its conclusions to the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee at its August meeting in Portland. That report is at http://www.critfc.org/blog/2018/08/14/fish-accords-10-year-summary/.

 

Also see:

 

--CBB, August 17, 2018, “Report Summarizes Tribes’ Work, Results From 10 Years Of Columbia River Fish Accords,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441301.aspx

 

--CBB, August 17, 2018, “Council Gets Update On BPA Efforts To Reduce Funding For Fish/Wildlife Program Projects,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441295.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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