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Council Hears Update On Latest BPA Funding Reductions To Fish And Wildlife Program Projects
Posted on Friday, October 12, 2018 (PST)

The Bonneville Power Administration is continuing to look for cuts to its Fish and Wildlife funding that, eventually, the power marketing agency hopes will total $30 million each year in savings.

 

It has completed a review of quarter one fiscal year 2019 contracts (contracts with start dates beginning Oct. 1) and has come up with reductions of $2.7 million, affecting 12 projects, an average cut per project of 25 percent.

 

Many of the first cuts are of projects that BPA says do not provide fish benefits, its top policy decision as it considers further cuts.

 

“We want to maintain those actions that have direct benefits to fish and wildlife,” Bryan Mercier, executive director of BPA’s fish and wildlife division, told the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee Tuesday, Oct. 9, at its meeting in Wenatchee, Wash. “We are now moving on to quarter two programs and projects and hope to end our review by the end of the calendar year, although it could take a little longer.”

 

BPA’s fish and wildlife budget in FY2018 was $310,196,000, with $33,483,000 of that going to the Lower Snake River Compensation program, leaving $276,713,000 in direct fish and wildlife expense, according to an Oct. 2, 2018 Council memorandum (https://www.nwcouncil.org/sites/default/files/2018_1009_f8.pdf). The Snake Compensation program produces chinook salmon and steelhead to compensate for the losses of those fish resulting from construction of the four lower Snake River dams.

 

Tony Grover, Director of the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Division, said the memo is an update of previous memos brought to the Fish and Wildlife Committee.

 

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 or about $30 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.

 

Of the total fish and wildlife spending, $107,886,154 was spent in FY2018 on the Columbia Basin Fish Accords with tribes and states. The four-year Accord extension, agreed to by parties Sept. 30 and signed by BPA this week, will reduce the amount the power marketing agency will spend on the Accords. The reduction by year is $3,602,196 in FY2019 (3.3 percent cut), $3,851,861 in FY2020 (3.6 percent), $2,660,334 (2.5 percent) in FY2021 and $1,081,348 in FY2022 (1 percent), the last year of the Accord extension, the memo says.

 

These savings are in addition to the savings found in first quarter contracts of $2.7 million.

 

Among the contracts that begin in the first quarter of FY2019, BPA has identified these for proposed cuts:

 

1. 50 percent reduction in funding for the Columbia Basin Bulletin for 2019 and elimination in 2020. The 2018 Budget for the Bulletin is $148,412.

2. Proposed program-wide 50 percent reduction in funding in FY2019 and elimination in FY2020 for Bonneville funded conferences.

3. Beginning in FY 2018 Bonneville reduced travel and registration fees for conference attendance by project sponsors.

4. Reductions in funding for technical assistance functions of some umbrella projects, and estuary habitat work.

5. Reduce Water Transaction Program funds by $1 million.

6. Reduce StreamNet funding by $82,512 and reduce funding to other data management efforts.

7. Proposed two year ramp down of Select Area Fisheries Enhancement (SAFE) program beginning in FY2020, which Bonneville currently budgets at $1,908,145 per year.

 

Mercier said that the sponsors – Oregon and Washington – were not comfortable with the immediate cut to this program and so BPA agreed to maintain the current budget while they work with the sponsors to identify other project reductions in FY2019. BPA had planned on a $700,000 reduction to this program, so the agency will have to find savings elsewhere.

 

He added that BPA believes ratepayers should not have to pay for what is largely a commercial harvest program.

 

8. Reduce Lower Snake River Compensation program (LSRCP) funding by about $2.3 to $3.0 million dollars.

 

A previous Council memo attributed BPA as saying that the effects of this reduction would be minimal for the program as the budgeted funds have exceeded actual expenditures for several years, but the program is now saying that the budget cuts could impact improvements at “aging assets” in the future, Grover said.

 

Mercier said the reduction, however, did not target production of fish in the program.

 

9. Permanently eliminate most funding for Columbia Habitat and Monitoring Program (CHaMP) and the Integrated Status and Effectiveness Monitoring Program (ISEMP) projects. These projects were funded at just over $7,000,000 in FY 2017 and budgets were first reduced in FY 2018 with the goal of contracting these projects for about $1,500,000 in FY 2019.

 

10. Budget adjustments with the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho.

 

An objective in BPA’s 2018 strategic plan is to “Hold the sum of program costs, by business line, at or below the rate of inflation through 2028,” according to the memo.

 

The memo goes on to say that “In addition, because fish and wildlife costs make up a significant portion of power costs, this strategic goal includes taking a more disciplined approach to managing the total cost of our Fish and Wildlife Program.” And more specifically: “To make the most of available funds, investments in fish and wildlife protection, mitigation and enhancement will be prioritized based on biological and cost-effectiveness and their connection to mitigating for impacts of the FCRPS.”

 

BPA has said that the cost reductions are very much a work in progress.

 

“Some of these cuts make me uncomfortable,” Grover said. “But, I remind myself that this is a huge fish and wildlife program – about one-quarter of a billion dollars per year – and that is still a huge investment. Yet, there is still a debate around some individual projects.”

 

Mercier announced at this week’s Council meeting that he is leaving BPA and will take up a new position to lead the regional office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs beginning next week.

 

Also see:

 

--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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