Science Panel Finds Big Holes In Summer Flow Analyses
 Fish Researchers Still Looking For Answers To Flow-Survival Conundrum
 Columbia River Initiative Handed Off To New Governor
 Judge Nixes Corps' Lower Snake Dredging Proposal
 Power Council To Fund Review Of Region's Fish Data Management
 Douglas PUD, Colville Tribes Reach Deal on Wells Land Charges
 SCIENCE PANEL FINDS BIG HOLES IN SUMMER FLOW ANALYSES
At last week's flow symposium in Portland, an independent panel of scientists said the region needs to get a much better handle on measuring both water flows and fish survival before it can hope to implement a policy sure to benefit ESA-listed fall chinook.
Panel members, who were charged with making a recommendation about Montana's proposal to modify current hydro operations, panned a federal fish passage model that links summer flow augmentation with improved fish survival. They also questioned the accuracy of current survival rate data after hearing about recent research that found half the ESA-listed Snake River fall chinook returning as adults had never been counted as juveniles migrating to sea.
The symposium was the brainchild of NOAA regional administrator Bob Lohn. In July, Lohn suggested the region should meet so the flow/survival debate could be brought up to date and reviewed by the ISAB [Independent Scientific Advisory Board] before NOAA Fisheries finishes its final version of the hydro BiOp, promised by Nov. 30. The ISAB is a group of Northwest scientists who are occasionally convened to judge the scientific merit of different aspects of salmon recovery research.
Lohn was on hand to kick off the Nov. 9-10 proceedings, noting that the region had suspected a flow-survival connection for 30 years or so. But direct proof has been elusive, especially in the case of summer migrants, where flow-survival correlations are often confounded by other elements like river temperatures and turbidity.
Lohn was skeptical that any short-term research could detect changes in fish survival from "modest" changes in flow as called for in the Montana proposal. And after a presentation by Northwest Power and Conservation Council staffer John Fazio, the ISAB heard those modest reductions may be much smaller than most hydro policy wonks had even thought.
The Montana proposal, now an amendment to the Council's fish and wildlife program, calls for an experiment that would evaluate a change from current BiOp operations that drains the top 20 feet of its two largest federal reservoirs in July and August. The operation adds about 1.2 MAF of flow augmentation to the Columbia River for aiding the juvenile migration of ESA-listed Snake River fall chinook.
The proposal calls for drawing down only 10 feet in most years (80 percent of the time) and extending those water releases through September to stabilize flows and reduce adverse effects on resident fish below Libby and Hungry Horse dams, which include ESA-listed bull trout and sturgeon.
Fazio cautioned that his results were preliminary, but looking at the Montana proposal relative to the BiOp, he pointed out the dampening effects from other projects like the Corra Linn Dam at the outlet to Kootenay Lake. Corra Linn Dam may reduce average flows by the time the water reaches the lower Columbia (at McNary Dam) to about 8 kcfs from a 10-kcfs reduction at Libby and Hungry Horse during July, when average flows at McNary are in the 200-kcfs range.
Fazio said average flows in August at McNary (140-180 kcfs) could be reduced by 5.6 kcfs to 7 kcfs from Montana reductions, with a slight boost in September. According to his analysis, when all BiOp actions are included, the net effects to system flows from potential changes in Montana range from a 2-kcfs increase in July to a 2-kcfs loss in August. The small changes in flow from the Montana proposal might add only a few hours of travel time for fish migrating between McNary to Bonneville dams, Fazio said.
An analysis by Fish Passage Center staffers Margaret Filardo and Tom Berggren of fish survival between Rock Island and McNary dams concluded that a 10-kcfs reduction in August would likely have a negative impact on fall chinook survival. But the flow/survival relationship exhibited by Berggren in a graph came in for criticism by ISAB members, who wondered how a curve could be developed from the data points since fish survival between the dams was actually a bit lower this year, about 25 percent, than in 2001 when flows averaged only at 60 kcfs, compared to the 100-kcfs average summer flows in 2004.
The ISAB also got updates from salmon passage modelers at the University of Washington and NOAA Fisheries. Former U.W. programmer Chris Van Holmes explained the latest version of the CriSP model, which includes a relationship between river temperature and juvenile fish survival. The U.W. modelers say their latest model fits the survival data, including the extremely low flow year 2001, better than any (14 in all) others that have been used to model Columbia and Snake River salmon passage.
NOAA hydro branch chief Jim Ruff described his agency's SIMPAS model as an accounting spreadsheet with a flow/survival relationship built into it that is being used to estimate fish survival in the new BiOp, evaluating proposed hydro operations compared to a hypothetical reference operation that maximizes fish survival.
Panel member Prof. Charles Coutant, a resource ecologist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, took issue with the SIMPAS model because it lacked a temperature input and needed a better accounting of the system's water. He said using monthly flow averages doesn't get to the level of detail needed to answer the question posed before the panel. He also questioned the legitimacy of NOAA's modeling assumption that "absorbed temperature into flow," pointing out that adding flow from Idaho's Brownlee Reservoir likely reduces fish survival because the water is so warm.
ISAB member Prof. Dan Goodman of Montana State University called Ruff on the carpet for extrapolating fall chinook survivals from the lower Snake to the lower Columbia, where data were lacking. "You've got a bad regression," Goodman said.
But NOAA Fisheries statistician Steve Smith pointed out that his own analysis of fall chinook survival in the lower Columbia approximated the SIMPAS analysis.
"We recognize that models are lacking at this point to do those sorts of predictions, which doesn't mean we should ignore it," Smith said. "I think that, specifically, for the Montana plan that's under consideration, I would probably have as much confidence in the SIMPAS model to predict that tiny little difference as I would with any other possible model at this point with the data we have, which is saying they're all equally bad."
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department scientist Billy Conner explained his work that has turned Snake fall chinook survival studies upside down since he and others have found that many returning adults over-winter before heading to sea. This may have huge implications for current survival estimates that have assumed all the fish migrate as sub-yearlings.
Ruff also acknowledged his agency has a major uncertainty in regard to the "life-history question" of fall chinook.
Prof. Goodman said a whole new data collection system is needed, since at this point, no one can say whether fish survival is lower at lower flows, or whether it correlates to higher survival of the reservoir-type fall chinook.
Coutant said with daily flow fluctuations, the flattening process, the peaks over time, "and a whole lot of other stuff that is going on out there, that's going to make it next to impossible, I suspect, to really tease out the effects downstream of this [proposal]."
Retired University of Washington fisheries professor Richard Whitney, and the ISAB's "grand old man," called the long-standing view that flow was good for fish survival simply a belief system. "It's a cult," he said drawing laughter from spectators. "We might need a counselor to de-program us."
The ISAB spent the rest of the afternoon discussing research possibilities with Basin researchers. NOAA Fisheries' Bill Muir said a transport study for fall chinook had been stalled by "roadblocks" from other agencies for five years. Others pointed out the startling fact that fish managers had also refused to let federal researchers take scale samples from 400 returning fall chinook to investigate the yearling/subyearling question. The ISAB asked whether the managers had a scientific reason for turning down the request. The researchers said no, it was a policy issue.
Federal scientists said they were tagging more fish to get more answers, but Montana State Prof. Goodman summed up the current situation that's likely to be the gist of the panel's report to Lohn.
"We're in a startling state of ignorance regarding these fish," Goodman said, who also noted that if harvest rates were cut back significantly, "you'd have fish to burn." He said tremendous numbers were being taken in Canada. -Bill Rudolph
 FISH RESEARCHERS STILL LOOKING FOR ANSWERS TO FLOW-SURVIVAL CONUNDRUM
Federal scientists reported last month that 2003 research on hatchery fall chinook in the Snake River shows that 20 to 30 percent of the juvenile fish die before they reach the first dam, but they admitted they're no closer to finding the hydro system's Holy Grail--unraveling the confounding effects of river flows, temperature, turbidity and travel time on salmon survival.
The results were announced in a draft paper submitted to the Bonneville Power Administration last month that also found mortality between each successive dam on the lower Snake was about 12 percent once the fish were in the hydro system, according to the report from the Fish Ecology Division of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.
But are the dams killing the fish, or could it be a large population of hungry predators that get ever hungrier as waters warm in the summer?
To get a better handle on these questions, researchers released Pit-tagged fish from upstream locations where acclimation ponds above the dams on the lower Snake are the last stop for hundreds of thousands of hatchery chinook trucked from Lyons Ferry Hatchery in Southeast Washington to begin their migration. The investigators said the hatchery fish showed higher survivals than wild fish during 2003, likely due to their much larger size (100 mm long vs. 70 mm).
Though wild fish took about two more weeks to get to the dam, the scientists said the hatchery juveniles were still reasonable surrogates for wild fish because they also spent extended time rearing upstream of Lower Granite before they began their migration. And like their wild brethren, headed for sea primarily in the summer, increasing their rate of movement as they moved downstream. But are the dams killing the fish, or could it be a large population of hungry predators?
The study found very few of the tagged hatchery fish over-wintered to migrate to sea the following spring, only about one-tenth of a percent. Fish reared in the nearby and colder Clearwater River seem to show a much greater propensity to migrate as yearlings, which has severely complicated survival analyses based on adult returns. Scale sampling of returning adults from other research has shown about half of the Clearwater fish seem to over-winter in the river and migrate before detection systems are in operation.
These problems are addressed in the latest version of a NOAA Fisheries technical memo on dam effects released Nov. 5, which points out the difficulties associated with measuring the survival of the Snake fall chinook. The memo notes that survival of both wild and hatchery fish has "varied widely among years, and within years, with survival declining as the season progressed, flows decreased and temperature increased."
The NOAA scientists concluded that current data couldn't be used to estimate hydro-related mortality through the reservoir above Lower Granite Dam since the fish were both rearing and migrating in that part of the river.
However, the water temperature factor seems to be getting more attention these days as an important element in the juvenile fish survival equation.
Another part of the BPA-sponsored study reported on a tagging effort from 1999 to 2002 that measured fall chinook survival between McNary and John Day dams in the mainstem Columbia. For two of the three years, it found that greater flows were related to lower fish survival, but in 2002 when the range of summer flows was larger, the scientists found a positive, "significant" correlation with flow. When they examined the years together, they said, on average, fish survival increased about 1.5 percent for each increase of 10 kcfs in flow.
But they also found that fish survivals were nearly constant when water temperatures were below 19.3 degrees C (about 80 percent), while above 20.6 degrees C fish survival decreased to the 60-percent range.
The researchers said they found similar correlations between flow, temperature, travel time, and survival as they had already seen in the Snake River, but were unable to unscramble effects of flow and temperature. But they did note that other research in the Sacramento River has found that when the water gets above 20 degrees C, fall chinook fry didn't grow as fast and were more likely to be eaten by predators.
Eat Or Be Eaten
The predator question was one topic in the flow/survival rubric that was mentioned at a regional symposium last week in Portland where University of Washington scientists from Columbia Basin Research explained their new model which attempts to unravel the interactions of fish and flows.
In a paper now being reviewed for publication that was distributed at the gathering, CBR head James Anderson and associate Chris Van Holmes say their analysis, which was supported with funding from BPA, presents a consistent picture that contradicts the prevailing beliefs in the benefits of flow that have held sway for the last 30 years.
Using thousands of survival estimates generated from millions of tagged fish, they tested the current survival models and concluded "that the benefits of natural flow variations on fish is five to 20 times less than previously believed."
The U.W. researchers maintain that the missing ingredient in other models used by federal scientists is water temperature and the impact it has on the eating habits of salmon predators like northern pikeminnow, who consume a lot more small salmon and steelhead when waters get warmer. They cite a 1991 study that showed pikeminnow were satiated by a third of a smolt at 10 degrees C, but at 20 degrees C the predators had to consume nearly three smolts to get full. Other research showed that the metabolism of smallmouth bass, another common predator in the hydro system, triples when temperatures go from 10 to 20 degrees C.
Anderson says the impacts of flow augmentation and water withdrawal (irrigation) on water velocity are insignificant compared to the effects of temperatures and predators. Major flow augmentation might reduce the travel time of smolts through the hydro system less than 5 percent, but adding water to the lower Snake River from Idaho reservoirs could actually decrease fish survival by boosting temperatures. On the other hand, adding cooler water from Dworshak Reservoir might improve juvenile survival of fall chinook in the Snake, but may slow rearing of smolts and contribute to the over-wintering of many fall chinook from the Clearwater River, as suspected by USFWS researcher Billy Conner.
The U.W. modelers have already published a paper that describes their theory of predator-prey interactions, which is actually based on another theory "originally developed to predict collision rates of molecules." -B. R.
 COLUMBIA RIVER INITIATIVE HANDED OFF TO NEW GOVERNOR
The years-long process of dealing with future Columbia River water withdrawals by Washington interests has culminated in a piece of draft legislation being written by the Department of Ecology that will be left on the new governor's doorstep, whoever that may be. The election is so close, a mandatory recount is underway.
The proposed legislation will call for a substantial budget initiative to fund water acquisitions and begin a move toward creating new off-channel storage. However, Ecology wants the state legislature to approve its approach, and has decided to hand off the new policy in the form of an executive request to the incoming legislature rather than adopt a final rule on its own.
One of the most controversial elements of the proposal actually expands the past "no net loss" water policy for fish previously pushed by NOAA Fisheries and supported by Ecology. It calls for making up any future water withdrawals with an amount to be reserved for conservation purposes. For every acre-foot of water that is drawn from a mainstem account for new water uses, 0.5 acre-feet "shall be permanently retained in the account to improve stream flows."
That provision has traditional water users livid. "We call it 'no net loss plus'," said water consultant Darryll Olsen, who represents irrigation interests in the Columbia Basin.
Olsen said the initiative's future depends on who ends up in the governor's mansion in Olympia. If Democrat Christine Gregoire wins the election, Olsen predicted the water bill would flounder for the next four years without any resolution. However, if Republican Dino Rossi wins, Olsen says its likely to end up more to the irrigators' liking, using best management practices already spelled out and paying $10/acre-foot for potential hydro impacts.
Ecology is currently putting together a package that includes negotiated agreements with the Bureau of Reclamation, Columbia Basin irrigation districts, the Colville Tribes and other stakeholders. But the Washington Farm Bureau still opposes the initiative.
"Clearly, from the beginning, farmers and ranchers were not in agreement with the governor's proposal," said Dean Boyer, spokesman for the Washington Farm Bureau. He noted that the National Research Council panel called for interrupting any new water rights during low flow years, a conclusion that Boyer said wasn't "widely accepted."
Last March, when the NRC report was released, Olsen said the panel did not address efficiencies in water delivery. Nor did it address any expected improvements in the next 20 years, which he said, "make it likely that even with more water taken out of the Columbia, there will be more water in the river than now."
Olsen said the 90 mainstem permits between Wells and John Day dams that have been the focus of recent litigation add up to about 300,000 acre-feet of water annually, while the NRC focused on the possibility of drawing another 1.6 million acre-feet from all projected demands. This larger draw includes another 220,000 acre-feet to meet future demand of the Columbia River Project that already takes 2.5 million-acre feet out of the Columbia above Grand Coulee to irrigate nearly 600,000 acres of eastern Washington farmland.
Olsen said the water from the 90 permits in question would reduce July flows in the mainstem by about 1 kcfs, which is less than one percent of the daily net flow fluctuation at McNary Dam during the middle of the drought in July 2001. -B. R.
 JUDGE NIXES CORPS' LOWER SNAKE DREDGING AGAIN
Environmental groups won another round against the Corps of Engineers earlier this month when a district court judge in Seattle extended a 2002 temporary restraining order that keeps the feds from dredging the river channel around Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington. The channel has been silting up since 1998, causing headaches for port managers, cruise boats and a towboat industry that hauls 24 million bushels of wheat downstream every year. In some spots, the channel is only 8- to 10-feet deep when it is supposed to be 14 feet deep, barely enough to handle the 13-foot-6-inch draft of fully loaded grain barges.
But District Court Judge Robert Lasnik said the Corps failed to comply with federal law by not filing a NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] document for dredging proposed this winter. Justice Department lawyers had argued that it wasn't necessary for the one-time action, since the agency is expected to complete an EIS by next spring that looks at the next 20-year channel maintenance plan for the lower Snake. However, the Corps did complete a supplemental analysis for the proposed operation to dredge nearly 300,000 cubic yards of sediment from the channel, mostly at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers.
Most sediment stayed put after a 1992 drawdown test above
Lower Granite Dam.
(Courtesy of COE)
That wasn't good enough for the judge, who extended his order from December 2002, when he first stopped the proposed dredging operation. At that time, Lasnik ruled that NOAA Fisheries' biological opinion was insufficient because it had failed to establish a permissible level of "take" of ESA-listed fall chinook. He also had "serious questions" whether the Corps had adequately studied other alternatives to dredging, such as pulsing water downstream to remove sediment.
In this month's ruling, the judge did give credit to the Corps for looking at other alternatives. One supported by state and tribal fish agencies called for a 10- to 15-foot drawdown of Lower Granite Reservoir to flush sediments from the channel, but the Corps said the action wouldn't likely move enough from problem areas in the channel.
Lasnik generally agreed with NOAA's "no jeopardy" conclusion in its new BiOp on the action, but he sided with plaintiffs who argued that the short-term analysis didn't fully evaluate the cumulative effects of the dredging.
For the past two years, fish managers have allowed the Lower Granite Reservoir to remain a foot above minimum operating pool during the fish migration season to help keep the river transportation industry afloat as environmental groups continue fighting to scuttle the lower Snake barge industry as part of their overall strategy that still calls for breaching lower Snake dams to recover ESA-listed salmon stocks.
In a press release issued by Earthjustice and other groups after the ruling, environmentalists said the delay in dredging "adds to mounting questions about the long-term viability of the Snake River barge transportation network." They also called for improving the rail infrastructure for the region.
But barging wheat instead of shipping by rail saves farmers $40 million a year, said Dixon Shaver, president of Shaver Transportation, a towboat company that operates on the Columbia and Snake rivers. "The environmental groups are slowly but surely asphyxiating the navigation industry," Shaver said. He said the groups' strategy was just part of their larger objective--dam removal.
Shaver was skeptical that railroads, which currently face a large shortage of railcars, would spend the money to compete for that 40 percent of the grain now shipped to downstream ports by barge.
"Dredging in the lower Snake is environmentally risky and economically unsound," said Jan Hasselman, National Wildlife federation attorney. "There are better ways to manage this river that would save money and give salmon and steelhead a fighting chance to recover."
The ruling means that grain barges will continue to "light load" at Lewiston to avoid going aground and then top off further downstream, a process that is adding about $3 million annually to shipping costs, according to a Corps' of Engineers' analysis.
But with silt building every year, some places in the navigation channel around Lewiston are 3 feet below the specified depth of 14 feet when the reservoir is at minimum operating pool. "The confluence is silting up at a rate of nine to 10 inches a year," said Lewiston port manager Dave Doeringsfeld, who noted that it will soon take more than a MOP plus one-foot reservoir elevation to keep barges from hitting bottom. -B. R.
 POWER COUNCIL TO FUND REVIEW OF REGION'S FISH DATA MANAGEMENT
In an attempt to reduce duplication of effort and improve cost-effectiveness, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council passed a motion earlier this week to fund the Fish Passage Center at its current level while authorizing up to $10,000 for a review of data management by the Center, the University of Washington DART [Data Analysis in Real Time], and the Pacific States Marine Fish Commission's StreamNet project. The motion also called for a scope of work that addresses regional data management, pit-tagging and data collection issues identified by a subcommittee of three Council members which has been looking into the matter.
Oregon Council member Gene Derfler, who is also on the subcommittee which originally evaluated a request by the FPC for a budget increase, said there was quite a "court press" by FPC director Michele DeHart "to try to curtail this look at how they do things." Because of that, he said the subcommittee couldn't come up with a recommendation, but should hire a neutral party "to look at data management programs in order to make it look as if we are not trying to destroy the Fish Passage Center, which was not our goal to start with, but it seemed that they assumed that was what we were trying to do."
After the Council began its review of the FPC budget, most Northwest state fish agencies and some tribal entities sent letters supporting the FPC budget request. At last month's Council meeting, chair Judi Danielson explained their message. "They're all pretty much the same, they all contain misinformation, accusations, veiled threats, and a number of things like that." But she said they raised "red flags" in her mind, and left the council "a little more committed to find out what the deal is when it comes to the budget."
But it wasn't just the budget that has come under scrutiny, but the way the whole region collects and disseminates information. Derfler said an independent review could determine whether there is a more efficient, cost-effective way to gather and house data where it would be available to everyone. He also noted that it seemed awkward that several different entities were managing the FPC, including an oversight board, the PSMFC, and the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority.
Derfler also said there seemed to be a lot of confusion associated with regional fish tagging efforts. He said his subcommittee recommends the full Council ask the ISAB [Independent Scientific Advisory Board] and NOAA Fisheries' Science Center in Seattle work together to examine the over-all program to ensure the region is getting the right information in a cost-effective way.
Council staffer Jim Tanner said the FPC has made some severe budget cuts to keep their costs at the current level. FPC manager Michele DeHart had originally asked for a $140,000 boost to her $1.3 million budget to pay for salary raises, new computers and rent increases. Tanner said expenses were cut for travel and office space is being reduced, while BPA contributed some computer equipment.
In response to a question from Derfler, Tanner said the FPC staff did take their pay increases, even though they acknowledged they aren't required to follow the federal pay scale for increases as they have in past years. Tanner said the FPC even cut employee parking, supplies, equipment rentals and are moving from a fee-based software system to a free system.
Washington member Cassidy, a member of the FPC oversight board, said he wasn't particularly happy when he learned that the FPC staff kept salary increases while possibly cutting services. He pointed out that such issues weren't within the purview of the subcommittee's current recommendations, but would be pursued the following day; he would ask the FPC for an explanation.
Derfler disagreed, saying it was all part of "taking a look at their management style. "Certainly, when you have three entities oversee them, I would say it's an appropriate charge."
Tanner said there haven't yet been any budget breakdowns to examine FPC costs for supporting the smolt monitoring system and their hatchery tagging effort, or for providing technical support for state and tribal fishery managers.
Idaho Council member Jim Kempton said the FPC staff wasn't entitled to any federal pay raises, but he said the question of data management was a larger issue. He said he had "significant heartburn" about the way the Center did reports without having them peer-reviewed. "I don't know how you handle it, exactly, but that's for another day."
Cassidy explained that the subcommittee was calling for a consultant to look at how the FPC, DART and StreamNet collect data to see if there was a more cost-effective way. "We're not addressing the real tension with respect to the Fish Passage Center," Casssidy said, "and the fact that there is a cadre of people in the fish recovery game that don't subscribe to their [FPC's] analysis." He said that issue should be addressed in the future, but it is not the subject of this particular review. -B. R.
 DOUGLAS PUD, COLVILLE TRIBES REACH DEAL ON WELLS LAND CHARGES
Douglas PUD and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation have reached a settlement in a 42-year-old dispute over annual charges owed the tribes for lands used by the utility's Wells Hydroelectric Project.
A provision of Wells' 1962 license requires Douglas to pay a reasonable charge for use of tribal lands within the Colville Indian Reservation, the PUD said. "Over the years, compensation has been paid for some, but not all of the land in question, and the amount of that compensation has been disputed by the Tribe."
In their filing, the parties said the PUD has not paid any annual charges since the early 1970s, and that FERC has not figured the land into its calculation of annual charges assessed against the project. Although they reached a settlement, the PUD still believes it should not have to pay because it acquired the lands after it got the Wells license. The tribe maintains the land sales, which were approved or authorized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the 1960s, were improper.
The state of Washington, the PUD and the Tribe have argued for years over which of them owns or has rights to the portions of the riverbeds of the Columbia and Okanogan Rivers occupied by the project's reservoir. On that issue, the Washington State Supreme Court has come down "more or less" on the side of the Tribe, PUD general manager Bill Dobbins has said.
Under the terms of an agreement announced Nov. 1, Douglas will pay the tribe a lump sum of $13.5 million within six months of FERC's approval of the settlement. Within 30 days, it is to transfer about 466 acres of project lands to the Colville Tribe. The PUD said the property is outside the Wells project boundary and surplus to its operational needs.
In addition, the parties petitioned FERC for approval of an open-ended power purchase contract under which the Tribe will receive, at cost, 4.5 percent of Wells' project output through Aug. 31, 2018, whereupon the allocation will increase to 5.5 percent. The PUD has agreed, for a nominal cost, to sell the power for the Tribe during the first year, an arrangement which could be extended at the Tribe's discretion. The Wells Project's average gross generation over the past five years has been slightly less than 4 billion KWh.
In exchange, the tribe will drop all claims, past and present, regarding the annual payments; affirm land rights previously conveyed to the PUD, including water impound rights; and agree not to compete with and to support the PUD's effort to secure a new 50-year license for the project.
The four utilities who purchase 62 percent of Wells' output, Portland General Electric, PacifiCorp, Avista and Puget Sound Energy, also signed off on the settlement.
Although the dispute stems from the project's original license, the PUD said the new agreement is the result of negotiations that began about February, 2003. That's when the Colville Tribe said the PUD owed it $950 million, an amount that Dobbins found "shocking." But he said at the time that the Colvilles have been an important partner over the years, having signed the PUD's Habitat Conservation Plan. The HCP was recently approved by FERC.
The director of FERC's Office of Energy Projects also wrote the PUD in early 2003 to say the outstanding matter of annual charges to the Tribe was one that "needs to be corrected."
In recent years, the Colvilles have also settled with the federal government over compensation for tribal lands flooded by Grand Coulee Dam, for which they received a lump sum of $53 million. The Tribe also receives $21 million a year from BPA.
"I'm feeling pretty happy about the outcome," said Joe Pakootas, chairman of the Colville Tribal Business Council, regarding the latest settlement. "The tribe is finally going to receive some significant compensation for its past damages. A lot of our members may not feel complete with it, but at least compensation is started." He said it was better than years of litigation.
Douglas PUD said its ratepayers will not immediately feel the effect of the settlement but that it "will likely be a contributing factor at some point in the future" when the PUD next adjusts its rates. -Ben Tansey
LINKS/DOCUMENTS FROM NW FISHLETTER 188:: Below are listed links and documents referred to in the text of NW Fishletter issue 188.
- Reservoir Operations / Flow Survival Symposium, Nov. 9-10, 2004
- NW Fishletter 186
- Survival of Subyearling Fall Chinook Salmon in the Free-flowing Snake River and Lower Snake River Reservoirs, 2003, and from McNary Dam Tailrace to John Day Dam Tailrace in the Columbia River, 1999-2002, BPA, October 2004
- Columbia River Initiative
- Lower Snake and Clearwater Rivers, Winter Maintenance Dredging 2004-2005, Washington and Idaho
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