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Council Updated On Final BPA Fish/Wildlife Project Expenses For FY2018, Accords, Future Cuts
Posted on Friday, November 30, 2018 (PST)

As the Bonneville Power Administration anticipates more budget cuts to its Fish and Wildlife program expenditures, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee at its Nov. 12 meeting in Portland laid out some end of fiscal year adjustments showing what was actually spent in FY2018. With the adjustments, final expenses were $28 million less than budget.

 

Looking to FY2019 and beyond, the Committee noted that the final price tag for the Columbia River Fish Accords 4-year budget was $2 million more than initially announced prior to officially signing the agreements last month. The increase was largely due to carryovers from the previous Accord agreements. Much of the Accords funding is included in the Fish and Wildlife Program expenses. For example, FY 2018 fish and wildlife spending included $107,886,154 of Accords with tribes and states.

 

Finally, the Committee and BPA added some detail to first quarter budget cuts to fish and wildlife funding but added no new projects to its list of cuts. The power marketing agency hopes to find enough in the budget to cut $30 million each year in savings. However, its review of quarter one fiscal year 2019 contracts (contracts with start dates beginning Oct. 1) has come up with reductions of just $2.7 million, affecting 12 projects, an average cut per project of 25 percent.

 

Peter Cogswell, Executive Vice-President, Environment, Fish and Wildlife at BPA, said that cuts to projects with contracts that begin in Quarters 2, 3 and 4 should be available at the Council’s next meeting, Dec. 11 in Portland.

 

Tony Grover, director of the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Division, said numbers reported in a Nov. 6 Council memorandum (https://www.nwcouncil.org/sites/default/files/2018_1113_f8.pdf) were from work by Council staff, “but Bonneville staff has gone out of their way to make sure the numbers are correct.”

 

BPA FY 2018 Budget vs Expense

 

BPA had previously reported that its FY2018 budget was $310,000,000 in expense funding to support the Columbia Basin fish and wildlife program. Of that, $33,483,000 was for the Lower Snake River Compensation program, which produces chinook salmon and steelhead to compensate for losses resulting from construction of the four lower Snake River dams. The remaining $276,517,000 of expense funds were dedicated to implementing the fish and wildlife mitigation requirements under the Northwest Power Act.

 

However, according to the memo, BPA adjusted its operating year budget for fish and wildlife programs to $256 million during the 3rd quarter, which partially accounts for the impact of the spill surcharge, and at the conclusion of FY2018, the fish and wildlife program actual expense was $248 million and the LSRCP expense was $31 million. That totals about $28 million of funds that were budgeted but unspent. Capital spending was $31 million.

 

Columbia River Fish Accords

 

The Bonneville Power Administration signed a 4-year extension with states and tribes in August. At that time, BPA said the agreements would cost the region $106,804,806 over the four years.

 

According to the Nov. 6 Council memo, however, after all Accord agreements were signed, the actual 4-year cost for the Accords rose by some $2 million. The total Accord expense for FY’s 2019 through 2022 is $108,605,603.

 

“Between the announcement date and the final adoption of the accord extensions, several budget adjustments by Bonneville have had the net effect of increasing the Accord budgets for many of the signatories and a decrease for one, Idaho,” the memo says.

 

The state of Idaho was cut by over $707,000 a year, bringing the amount paid to the state for accords to $0. BPA and Idaho recently entered into a separate Northern Idaho wildlife agreement that settled funding for that purpose through the long-term agreement, according to the memo.

 

The Colville Tribes will receive more than $1.4 million more each year and the Yakima Nation about $300,000 more each year.

 

Tony Grover, Council Fish and Wildlife director, wondered if the Accords would go the full four years given an Oct. 19 Presidential Memorandum on Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West. The memo requires the Columbia River power system environmental impact statement and biological opinion to be completed by 2020 instead of the court-ordered date of 2021.

 

A revised schedule by BPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and NOAA Fisheries is to be submitted to the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality within 60 days of the date of the Presidential memorandum. That would be December 19.

 

(See CBB, October 26, 2018, “Administration Memo Cuts Basin Salmon BiOp Schedule By One Year, Trims Regs For Water Projects,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441725.aspx)

 

“My personal reading of that – and the BPA folks are silent on it – it looks like the Accords could terminate earlier by a year. It’s possible it could turn the Accords into a three-year deal,” Grover said.

 

In his May 2016 remand of the 2014 Federal Columbia River Power System biological opinion for salmon and steelhead, U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Simon directed NOAA Fisheries, BPA, BOR and the Corps to complete the EIS and BiOp with a Record of Decision by September 2021. The Trump memo moves up the finish date for the EIS/BiOp to 2020.

 

Simon’s rejection of the 2014 BiOp was the fifth time a federal judge has rejected an FCRPS BiOp in a hydroelectric system that impacts thirteen species of salmon and steelhead listed as endangered or threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Previous challenged BiOps were in 2000, 2004, 2008 and a supplemental BiOp in 2010.

 

Even while on a schedule to complete a BiOp in 2021, NOAA Fisheries recently said it needs to also complete a BiOp by the end of this year to meet National Environmental Policy Act requirements for salmon and steelhead protections. NOAA had said in May the incidental take coverage for operation of the system expires at the end of 2018 and to ensure ESA compliance, it needs to complete a BiOp this year.

 

BPA Budget Cuts

 

Budget cuts that affect twelve fish and wildlife projects with contracts that begin October 1, 2018 (FY 2019) total $2,714,309 and have not changed since the October Council meeting. 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.

 

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

 

The Council lists in its memo these projects scheduled for cuts:

 

1. 50 percent reduction in funding for the Columbia Basin Bulletin for 2019 and elimination in 2020: $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. BPA has agreed to maintain the current budget working with the sponsors to identify other project reductions in FY19.

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

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.

 

(See CBB, October 12, 2018, “Council Hears Update On Latest BPA Funding Reductions To Fish And Wildlife Program Projects,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441652.aspx

 

Also see:

 

-- CBB, October 26, 2018, “Feds, Tribes, States Sign Extended Columbia Basin Fish Accords; $400 Million For Fish/Wildlife,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441723.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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