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Council Receives Proposed Amendments To Basin Fish And Wildlife Program, Comments Due Feb. 4
Posted on Friday, December 21, 2018 (PST)

Recommendations for amendments to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program received from state and federal agencies, tribes, Bonneville Power Administration customers, environmental and conservation groups and individuals are now out for public comment.

 

The Northwest Power Act of 1980 requires the Council to periodically – at least every five years – update its basin Fish and Wildlife Program by first soliciting from the public recommendations that would amend the Program. The Council Fish and Wildlife Committee is to do this before the full Council adopts its new Regional Northwest Power Plan, which it will do in 2020.

 

The Fish and Wildlife Committee solicited recommendations to amend its 2014 Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program at its meeting in May, setting a Sept. 4 deadline for receiving recommendations. It extended that deadline 90 days to Dec. 13 at its September meeting after hearing from tribes, states and BPA that they needed more time to craft their messages.

 

By the Dec. 13 deadline the Committee had received 51 letters, some with numerous amendment recommendations, and is now asking for public comment on the recommendations. Comments are due back to the Committee no later than Feb. 4, 2019.

 

The amendment recommendations are at https://app.nwcouncil.org/fw/program/2018amend/recs/. To comment, go to each letter containing recommendations.

 

The May letter soliciting amendment recommendations is at https://www.nwcouncil.org/fish-and-wildlife/fish-and-wildlife-program/request-2018-recommendations-2014-fw-program.

 

Among the recommendations to the Fish and Wildlife Plan were those sent by NOAA Fisheries (https://app.nwcouncil.org/fw/program/2018amend/recs/rec?&id=772).

 

“I appreciate the Council's diligent efforts in working to restore and conserve the Columbia River ecosystem,” said Barry Thom, regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “Great strides have been made just in the short time since the 2014 FWP was adopted, and I am optimistic that the 2019 FWP will continue the Council's trajectory of conservation success in many program areas.”

 

In his cover letter to NOAA’s recommendations, Thom suggested that the Council’s Program should reflect recently completed federal salmon and steelhead Endangered Species Act recovery plans.

 

“Additionally, we recommend incorporating key biological opinions recently completed, or nearly so, such as those involving the Federal Columbia River System (CRSO), U.S. v. OR, and numerous hatchery genetic management plans. It is also important that the 2019 FWP incorporate the deliberations and agreements reached in recent years around biological goals and objectives for salmon and steelhead through the Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force (CBP Task Force).”

 

Joint Comments from the Public Power Council, Northwest RiverPartners, PNGC Power and Northwest Requirements Utilities (https://app.nwcouncil.org/fw/program/2018amend/recs/rec?&id=755) also suggested that the Council incorporate “by reference” biological opinion requirements and that it should be aware of the new BiOp and National Environmental Policy Act “processes and be flexible enough to incorporate the related actions upon their completion.”

 

Saying that the Council and regional fish and wildlife managers have been very proactive in understanding its competitiveness concerns and have collaboratively worked through budget reduction and prioritization efforts with the agency, BPA’s recommendations “focus on documenting historic Program accomplishments, prioritizing Program measures and objectives, understanding cost-effective mitigation alternatives, and tracking statutory responsibilities,” according to BPA’s cover letter signed by Scott Armentrout, Executive Vice President of Environment, Fish and Wildlife (https://app.nwcouncil.org/fw/program/2018amend/recs/rec?&id=765).

 

Also offering recommendations to the Council’s program was the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (https://app.nwcouncil.org/fw/program/2018amend/recs/rec?&id=741) on behalf of its member tribes the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe. These tribes also submitted individual comments.

 

CRITFC recommended to the Council to incorporate into the 2014 Program all commitments identified in the 2018 Extension to the 2008 Lower River Tribes and CRITFC Columbia Fish Accords.

 

Other tribes that offered recommendations are the Burns Paiute Tribe, Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Cowlitz Indian Tribe, Kalispel Tribe of Indians, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, Shoshone-Bannock Tribe and Spokane Tribe of Indians, as well as the Upper Snake River Tribes Foundation.

 

Virgil Moore, director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife, in his cover letter recommended the Council focus on Bonneville Power Administration funding for long-term operation and maintenance of assets the Program has already invested in.

 

Other Idaho comments address, quantitative goals and for salmon and steelhead, predator management, fish propagation and adaptive management (research, monitoring and evaluation).

 

Idaho suggests that the Council Program adopt quantitative goals for salmon and steelhead populations that are being developed concurrently to the Council amendment process by the Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force.

 

“An objective of the Council under the new Program should be to evaluate progress toward meeting quantitative escapement goals for natural-origin salmon and steelhead that includes developing a basic understanding of the underlying factors (and relevancy of those factors) affecting achievement of those goals,” Idaho says.

 

The Sierra Club, Save Our Wild Salmon, Idaho Rivers United and the Association of Northwest Steelheaders in their joint recommendations (https://app.nwcouncil.org/fw/program/2018amend/recs/rec?&id=758) also said that the Council’s Program “must move beyond calling for a discussion to develop specific, quantitative biological objectives for measuring Program progress and actually identify and adopt a comprehensive suite of such measures.” The groups are represented by attorney Todd True of Earthjustice.

 

Among the comments provided by the Conservation Angler, a wild fish conservation group (https://app.nwcouncil.org/fw/program/2018amend/recs/rec?&id=732):

 

“Harvest is managed to secure spawner escapement by hatchery to provide the eggs needed to achieve production criteria. But wild salmon and steelhead are not managed so that spawner escapement criteria by natal stream are achieved to fully utilize the available habitat. The consequence is that wild salmonids are declining. The Council’s Fish and Wildlife Program can be improved by including criteria for wild salmon and steelhead recovery by subbasin.”

 

In its recommendations, the group addresses river specific management, factors limiting recovery and hatchery impacts, among others.

 

Once the Council Fish and Wildlife Committee receive comments in early February, it still has a lengthy process to complete before it adopts final amendments in December 2019. Fish and Wildlife staff will review the recommendations with the Council at its Feb. 12-13, 2019 meeting and will continue those reviews until the amendment process is complete, according to a Committee draft planning calendar (https://www.nwcouncil.org/sites/default/files/2018_1211_f1.pdf). Some additional Committee and Council meetings may be required through the process.

 

Draft amendment language is expected in July, which kicks off a public comment process on the draft. A final amendment will be adopted at the Council’s December 2019 meeting.

 

The 1980 Northwest Power Act directed the creation of the Council, an interstate compact agency with two representatives each appointed by the governors of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

 

The Act requires the Council to develop a program to “protect, mitigate, and enhance fish and wildlife, including related spawning grounds and habitat, on the Columbia River and its tributaries … affected by the development, operation, and management of [hydroelectric projects] while assuring the Pacific Northwest an adequate, efficient, economical, and reliable power supply.”

 

The Act also says that the Council must update or amend the fish and wildlife program every five years, using the advice of federal, state and tribal fish and wildlife managers to take into account advancements in science. The Council must seek widespread public involvement in the formulation of regional power and fish and wildlife policies.

 

The Council’s current program has helped direct as much as $250 million per year in recent years to mitigate for the impacts of hydropower dams in the Columbia-Snake river basin on fish and wildlife. The program is funded by the Bonneville Administration with funds collected from ratepayers. BPA markets power generated at the federal dams.

 

Also see:

 

-- CBB, August 17, 2018, “Deadline Extended For Amendments To Columbia River Basin Fish And Wildlife Program.” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441298.aspx/

 

-- CBB, July 20, 2018, “Connecting Salmon Recovery Efforts: Columbia Basin Partnership Releases Vision Statement, Goals,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/441138.aspx

 

--CBB, May 11, 2018, “Council Releases Recommendations Letter As First Step In Amending Basin Fish And Wildlife Program,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440702.aspx

 

--CBB, March 16, 2018, “Tentative Schedule For Amending Four-State Columbia River Basin Fish And Wildlife Program Outlined,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440359.aspx

 

-- CBB, Jan. 19, 2018, “Council Mulling Issues Likely To Arise During Coming Update Of Basin Fish And Wildlife Program” http://www.cbbulletin.com/440106.aspx

 

-- CBB, October 10, 2014, “NW Power/Conservation Council Approves New Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/432366.aspx

 

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