The Bonneville Power Administration, along
with its partners in a new Columbia Basin Fish Accords, signed an agreement this
month that for the most part extends the previous 2008 Accords it signed 10
years ago and that expired September 30, out to 2022.
A draft of the new Accords was released for
public comment in September. That opportunity closed Sept. 26 and BPA released
its Record of Decision Sept. 28.
Over ten years, the 2008 agreements provided
states and tribes more than $900 million to implement projects benefiting
salmon, steelhead, and other fish and wildlife, and $50 million for Pacific
lamprey passage improvements at federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers,
according to BPA.
The 2008 Accords protected more than 36,000
acres of riparian habitat and improved nearly 7,000 acres; protected nearly
100,000 acre-feet of water; restored nearly 600 miles of streams and
tributaries; opened access to nearly 2,000 miles of blocked fish habitat; and
improved Pacific lamprey passage at dams operated by the Corps, BPA said. The
2008 agreements also committed funding for hatcheries.
BPA said that these partnerships over the past
10 years balanced BPA’s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ and the Bureau of
Reclamation’s needs to perform their missions of navigation, flood risk
management, hydropower production, fish and wildlife mitigation, recreation, water
supply and irrigation in a manner consistent with tribal trust and treaty
"With this renewed commitment, we look
forward to building on the momentum and progress of the past 10 years,"
said Brig. Gen. Pete Helmlinger, commander of the Corps’ Northwestern Division.
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, along
with BPA, BOR and the Corps.
“These agreements continue to represent a
significant, regional partnership,” says Lorri Gray, Pacific Northwest Regional
Director for the Bureau of Reclamation. “The work we’ve accomplished with the
Accords illustrates the progress we can make for fish when we work together.
We've seen that spending dollars on improving habitat is good for the fish and
good for the region.”
The new Accords run through September 2022 and
will set aside more than $400 million for fish and wildlife mitigation and
protection, BPA said.
The 2018 Accords agreements are at www.bpa.gov/goto/FishAccordsExtensions
“The extension agreements address fish and
wildlife affected by the development and operation of the Columbia River System
and Upper Snake River Project dams, with a focus on salmon and steelhead
protected under the Endangered Species Act,” the ROD says. “The Extensions
continue the work begun under the Accords through certain on-going projects in
the Columbia River Basin for up to four more years.”
It goes on to say that BPA commits to funding
four more years to the tribal and state Accords parties to implement projects
for the benefit of fish and wildlife in the Basin, recognizing their role as
co-managers of these resources.
BPA’s ROD is at https://www.bpa.gov/news/pubs/RecordsofDecision/rod-20180928-Extensions-of-the-Columbia-Basin-Fish-Accords.pdf
“These extensions ensure we will continue to
benefit from years of collaboration and direct coordination with our Accord
partners,” says Elliot Mainzer, BPA administrator. “The alignment derived from
these agreements ensures we will continue to get the highest value for the fish
and wildlife investments we make in the region.”
The ROD says the parties to the extension
committed to working together and supporting:
-- Issuance of NOAA Fisheries and U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service Biological Opinions on the effects of the coordinated
water management of the Columbia River System, including operations and
maintenance of the dam and reservoir projects, for 2019 and beyond.
-- Agreeing on fish operations, including
spring and summer spill for fish passage, for the 2019-2021 period.
-- Collaborating to seek alignment of regional
sovereigns in support of the Columbia River System Biological Opinions, including
system operations, in appropriate forums.
-- Coordinating and submitting complementary
recommendations for amendments to the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program.
-- Finding efficiencies in project
implementation that reduce administrative obligations related to project
contracting, reporting, and, where appropriate, environmental compliance.
The 4-year extension 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 ROD says that the Accords were developed
in the mid-2000s in the context of decades of Columbia River System litigation
over ESA compliance. They reflected an effort by the parties to try a more
collaborative approach to fish and wildlife mitigation in the Columbia River
Basin and so the parties entered a 10-year Accord agreement that expired
September 30, 2018.
As the Accords were about to expire, the
parties began to express an interest in their extension.
“In the interest of continuing what proved to
be an effective approach to addressing Bonneville’s fish and wildlife
responsibilities and preserving the collaborative partnerships that developed
among the parties during the initial Accords term, Bonneville agreed to explore
Extensions of existing Accords,” the ROD says.
“We don’t want to lose the momentum of what
we’ve been doing,” Bryan Mercier, executive director of BPA’s fish and wildlife
division, told the Northwest Power and Conservation Council at its meeting in
Wenatchee, Wash. Oct. 10. “Some have said that we’ve now moved from ‘gavel to
gavel to gravel to gravel.’”
Washington, while still supportive of the
Action Agencies’ efforts to address the effects of the Columbia River System on
fish and wildlife, decided to continue collaborating in a spirit of partnership
and to document expectations in a memorandum of understanding, rather than a
contract, with the Action Agencies, the ROD says.
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 FY2018 BPA’s fish
and wildlife budget 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 Northwest Power and Conservation
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.
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 expenditures have been
about $90M of the about $250M or near 40 percent of the program,” Mercier had
said at the Council’s September meeting in Eugene. “Capital expenditures
fluctuate based on actual implementation of hatchery construction and/or land
Some $107,886,154 was spent in FY2018 on
Accords projects with tribes and states. The four-year Accord extension reduces
the amount BPA will spend on the Accords each fiscal year. Extension expense
funding by year:
FY2019: $104,283,958, a reduction of
$3,602,196 from FY2018 (3.3 percent cut);
FY2020: $104,034,293, a reduction of
$3,851,861 (3.6 percent cut);
FY2021: $105,225,820, a reduction of
$2,660,334 (2.5 percent cut);
FY2022: $106,804,806, a reduction of
$1,081,348 (1 percent cut).
Over the four years of the extension, the
Colville Tribes will receive $68,840,586, CRITFC, $35,472,739, Idaho:
$63,760,116, Montana, $24,526,239, Shoshone-Bannock, $25,263,661, Umatilla,
$66,461,919, Warm Springs, $34,668,762, and Yakama, $129,517,963 (total
The Accord extension does not include new
hatcheries beyond those budgeted under the 2008 Accords, the ROD says.
In addition, it’s unlikely the Accord
extension would fund reintroduction of anadromous fish upstream of Chief Joseph
and Grand Coulee dams, even though the Northwest Power and Conservation Council
Fish and Wildlife Program includes a three-phase approach of investigating the
reintroduction. The ROD says that the action agencies – BPA, the Corps, BOR –
“have legal, economic, and policy concerns with the Council’s three-phase
approach and any other specific proposals for passage and reintroduction, the
parties agree that all matters relating to this issue require the greatest
sensitivity and adherence to the no-surprises provision of the Extensions.”
At its October meeting in Wenatchee, Wash.
some Council members showed concern about the language in the new Accord
regarding the Council’s measure in its 2014 Fish and Wildlife Program that
calls for the investigation of anadromous fish reintroduction upstream of Chief
Joseph and Grand Coulee dams, especially the Agreement’s assertion that the
measure “does not meet the requirements of the Northwest Power Act.
In an Oct. 12 letter to Mainzer signed by
Chair Jim Yost of Idaho, the Council says Bonneville’s position “has no basis
in the Northwest Power Act” and only the Council has the authority to decide
what constitutes a Program measure. Bonneville’s responsibility in the law is
to determine how to use its fund “in a manner consistent with” measures the
Council includes in the Program, according to a blog post by the Council’s John
“Moreover, Bonneville is not entitled to any deference for an interpretation of
the portions of the Act explicitly instructing the Council how to develop and
amend the fish and wildlife program.”
The Council added the measure in question to
the Program in response to recommendations from parties including Indian
tribes, whose recommendations for Program measures are given particular
importance in the Power Act, Harrison wrote.
Harrison noted that Council members had other
concerns about the Accord extension, saying that BPA “appears to be trying to
limit participation by the Accord parties in the Council’s amendment of its
Fish and Wildlife Program, a process that began last spring and will last into
2019. The Council amends the Program at least every five years.
“It looks like you are trying to keep the
program static,” Oregon Council member Richard Devlin said, “by putting it in a
box.” The Accord extensions require tribes to share any Program amendment
recommendations with Bonneville, the Corps, and the Bureau in advance, and that
recommendations must be consistent with the extensions.
Mercier said the Accords “will not impede the
program; there is room to adaptively manage the projects.” He said the parties
agreed to the Accords because they create “a forum of compromise, middle
During the 30-day comment period in which the
public could comment on the draft Accords extension, there were just 14
comments. The ROD responds in general to those comments. Among the comments
-- some expressed disappointment that there
was not more information about the progress towards mitigation goals and
objectives as a result of the 2008 Accords.
-- some wanted the action agencies to use
“measureable data” to evaluate the success of fish and wildlife mitigation
actions as a way to inform a project and budget prioritization process.
-- some said it was imperative to bend down
the upward cost trajectory of fish and wildlife mitigation costs to deal with
BPA’s financial uncertainty.
-- some comments questioned how the Extensions
affect Bonneville’s flexibility to get more money to cover the costs of more
spill, some suggesting that the cost of spill comes from the BPA fish and
-- One comment noted that the Accords failed
in a central purpose—ending litigation over Columbia River System Operations.
-- One commenter says that funding does not
focus on species of greatest need, such as white sturgeon and lamprey.
-- Two commenters believe that fish produced
at Chief Joseph Hatchery should be available for use above Chief Joseph Dam.
-- One commenter expressed concern that the
presence of four lower Snake River dams interferes with the Nez Perce treaty
tribal fishing rights and the survival of salmon and orcas.
All comments to the draft Accords extension are
CRITFC recently compiled a summary of work
completed in the last ten years under the Accords. That report is at http://www.critfc.org/blog/2018/08/14/fish-accords-10-year-summary/
The 2008 Accord agreements are available at www.salmonrecovery.gov.
--CBB, October 12, 2018, “Council Hears Update
On Latest BPA Funding Reductions To Fish And Wildlife Program Projects,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441652.aspx
--CBB, September 14, 2018, “Draft Columbia
Basin Fish Accords Extension Out For Review; Less Expensive, Shorter Duration,”
--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
--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