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[1] Gas Levels Kill 125,000 Farmed Fish Below Coulee
[2] F&W Budget Shortchanges Wild Fish
[3] WDFW Hosts Hatchery/Wild Stock Forum
[4] Biologists Review WDFW's Proposed Salmon Policy
[5] Bull Trout in Columbia, Klamath Basins Proposed For Listing
[6] Hydro Managers Deal With Record Water Year
[7] Oregon Proposes Coho Hatchery Zone
[8] Fish Won't Wait For Treaty Accord
[9] New Web Site Reports On Hydroacoustic Studies
[10] NW Senators Tell Gore Fish Cap Must Be Extended

[1] HIGH GAS LEVELS IN COLUMBIA KILL 125,000 FARMED FISH :: With the basin's rivers plagued with high levels of gas supersaturation as the region copes with moving 159 million acre-feet of water to the ocean, there has been little evidence, so far, of serious mortalities to fish populations. But a preliminary report from fish farmers below Grand Coulee Dam shows they have experienced major fish kills since April caused by high levels of nitrogen supersaturation.

Dr. Ed Shallenberger of Columbia River Fish Farms says his operation 16 miles below Grand Coulee has lost nearly 50,000 three-pound steelhead this spring to gas bubble disease. Another series of pens operated by Global Aqua, six miles downstream from Shallenberger's operation, lost 74,000 tiny Atlantic salmon (40 gm. each) between April 18 and May 10. Global Aqua has since pulled its pens out of the river.

"By the time you see bubbles on the outside of the fish, it's toast," said Shallenberger. He said the netpens have snagged evidence of resident fish mortalities as well, including walleye, carp, suckers, rainbow trout and kokanee. He said his own steelhead show no tendency to avoid high gas levels by descending to deeper water in his 6-meter deep pens. Fisheries consultant John Forster, who is a partner in the fish farm, said there is no reason steelhead should be able to sense gas and move to deeper water because the natural river environment never created gas levels like the dams can produce. "It's not logical to think they have developed an adaptive behavior to cope with high gas levels since these extreme conditions never existed until the hydro system was built," said Forster.

Gas-Making Machine

Fisheries consultant Ralph Elston, who is an American Fisheries Society certified fish pathologist, said the significant gas problems created by spill at Grand Coulee occurs when most of the water is discharged through large tubes in the dam. "If you wanted to build a machine to put gas in the river, that's the way you'd do it," said Elston. He said the tubes are like huge faucets that concentrate the water, entraining much more gas on the way down than by going over a conventional spillway. Two levels of tubes are built above the water level in the tailrace, but another set of tubes, now cemented up, could have released water below the level of the tailrace, solving the problem quite simply.

Elston said the high gas levels, with spikes over 135 percent, are killing small fish in a matter of minutes. The larger ones last longer, but a preliminary report he has just released shows these fish may survive for a while, but succumb later on. Evidence from captive steelhead last year showed some with lesions along the vertebral column, and "associated complications, including death of the fish." He said this syndrome had never been seen before and may be related to gas supersaturation exposure.

Shallenberger said he has been trying to work with the Bureau of Reclamation to figure out a way to spill at Grand Coulee that reduces gas levels downstream. He said a recent letter from Bureau officials has not resolved the situation and he has contacted the office of Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who has expressed interest in controlling the spill at Coulee.

A June 16 letter to Shallenberger from Grand Coulee power manager Steven Clark said increases in netpen mortality from high gas levels did not necessarily show how native fish were affected. "There are indications in the literature, that native fish can adapt to high levels of dissolved gas by seeking deeper depths or other locales which would be unavailable to your captive fish," the letter said.

Smolts Show Symptoms

But fish with free mobility throughout the river were showing a high incidence of GBT as well. Four dams downstream, at Rock Island Dam, monitoring of smolts revealed extremely high levels of GBT. On June 11, 83 percent of the Rock Island smolts showed signs of gas bubble trauma. Two days later, nearly 90 percent of the smolts examined showed signs. But fish downstream at McNary on June 15 showed only about 25 percent with signs. Some say this is evidence that the smolts expired long before they reached McNary Dam.

Margaret Filardo of the Fish Passage Center said fish managers are still not sure why smolts at Rock Island show more signs of GBT for certain levels of gas supersaturation than they do in the lower Snake. She said it could be a matter of longer exposure time, adding that steelhead may exhibit more signs than chinook, who may swim deeper.

But Filardo said, "I am assured that what we're seeing is what we're seeing," though she pointed out that the bulk of the signs seemed to be minor. Filardo said Chelan County PUD biologists looked into the question last year--whether the high rate of GBT in fish sampled at Rock Island was valid or if results were an artifact of the sampling procedure peculiar to that site--and they decided that it was representative of smolts in the river at large.

Fish sampled at Rock Island transit only 50 vertical feet before they are sampled--much less than fish in bypass systems at dams on the lower Snake, where some biologists say smolts may decompress before they are sampled, thereby reducing the signs of GBT until they return to supersaturated water and the bubbles reappear.

Dead fish also were reported below McNary in early June. Fish managers said the fall chinook smolts were found stranded, supposedly victims of reservoir fluctuations. John Day pool had been lowered two feet for flood control when the smolts were discovered in mid-May. Gas levels were above 130 percent at the time.

Stranding Theory Questioned

The Columbia River Alliance sent aquatic biologist Gerald Bouck to investigate the stranding near the Umatilla Wildlife Refuge, west of Umatilla, Oregon. Bouck concluded that the drawdown "served more to reveal the mortality and exacerbate it, than cause it by stranding."

Bouck said healthy wild fish are accustomed to fluctuating water levels. Though he said some stranding did occur, he believed that gas supersaturation promoted it "and likely would have killed fish anyway." He expected undetected mortalities would continue if high gas levels persisted in these shallow nursery areas.

River managers finally decided at the June 18 TMT meeting that it was OK to overgenerate in a last ditch attempt to reduce gas levels caused by the record water year, but they had to search through last year's minutes of the Implementation Team meetings to be sure they had authority to do so.

But there is only so much they can do. Adults migrating upstream may be in serious trouble since gas levels, though declining for now, are still very high. Levels in the Columbia River estuary were in the 130 percent range on June 18 and were having noticeable biological impacts on fish. Twenty-five out of 40 adult sockeye were found to have signs of GBT at Bonneville Dam.

Meanwhile, fish farmer Shallenberger says his netpen fish are the canaries in the coal mine, if only people would pay attention. The Bureau of Reclamation said it wasn't sure "it was an apt analogy," but spokespeople said a proposal to study the effects of total dissolved gas on native fish may be implemented by 1999. -Bill Rudolph

[2] F&W BUDGET SHORTCHANGES WILD STOCKS :: According to Power Council documents, hatchery costs for salmon and steelhead production will make up the biggest part of fish and wildlife expenditures for the next five years. Funds directed at wild salmonids remain a tiny part of the budget.

The Council's cost evaluation for hatchery production adds up to $148,952,755 for the next five years; funds directed at improving natural production (hatchery and wild salmon spawning naturally) and habitat is $96,739,751. However, only $17 million will be going to projects that benefit wild native salmonids.

The hatchery expenditure represents 31% of the five-year program cost of $482 million--the single largest expenditure in the Council's fish program. By comparison, the natural production and habitat expenditure will make up about 20 percent of the budget for the next five years. Funding slated to benefit native wild salmon is only 0.2 percent of the 5-year plan program cost.

In 1997 the Power Council instructed the Bonneville Power Administration to conduct cost accounting for natural production, but natural production and habitat costs have never been separated, inflating the expenditures for natural production. Also, "natural production" is a term used by the fish agencies, tribes and the Power Council to mean all fish spawning naturally in streams. There is no attempt to find out how many of those fish are of hatchery origin. Consequently, an unspecified proportion of the natural production expenditures is being spent on hatchery fish in streams. The actual expenditures that benefit wild, native salmonids is not declared, but it is still possible to determine spending for wild fish in basins where no hatchery fish are released.

A recent issue paper by Power Council staff has recognized the importance of life history diversity of salmonids (Consideration of Ocean Conditions in the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, 97-6). It states, "Variation in the environment including the ocean conditions is a natural feature of the ecosystem to which salmon have adapted by developing a diverse array of biological traits or solutions."

One of the principles developed in the paper makes the issue an important management consideration. "Salmon and steelhead...accommodate ... environmental variability through a sufficient level of productivity and a wide range of biological diversity. Management actions and projects can restrict biological diversity and lessen the ability of salmon and steelhead to withstand environmental fluctuations." The Power Council's staff has recommended a review of program strategies to assess their impacts on biological diversity.

Since 1994, when the Power Council adopted their fish and wildlife program, a number of natural production projects have remained unfunded, yet these projects are aimed at maintaining biological diversity. -Bill Bakke

[3] WDFW HOSTS WILD/HATCHERY STOCK FORUM :: Washington's Fish and Wildlife Commission hosted a June 13 forum in Olympia that looked at "Balancing Wild and Hatchery Salmon." After a day-long session filled with different views on the subject, one thing was clear: there is certainly no consensus among regional biologists. And at this stage of the process, it's also unclear how the state's wild salmon policy will fit in with potential ESA listings.

There were some hard truths to swallow as some fisheries experts asked if there weren't some places "we should just give up" on--a question posed by Peter Bisson, biologist with the U.S. Forest Service. He said the recent NRC study advised matching recovery with nature's ability to heal itself, but Bisson said he was still pessimistic about results as increasing population in the Northwest has created more development pressure.

He said his pessimism stemmed from various sources--continued fragmentation of habitat, competition and predation by introduced species, negative and inconsistent land use management and continued pressure for using hatcheries and artificially created habitats--instead of using natural restorative strategies or a combination of natural and "active management approaches."

NMFS biologist Robin Waples said that while the point of hatcheries is to produce more hatchery fish than wild, once that is achieved, "you've missed the boat" because the wild salmonids are "keystone" species in terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

WDFW's Bill Hopley told the commission that maximizing production is no longer the game, but improving hatchery conditions to mimic wild environments is one direction his department is heading as part of the "paradigm shift."

But he got an argument from Ken Currens of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, who told the assemblage that putting hatchery fish in a natural environment was questionable.

"Is it worth the loss of production?" Currens questioned, adding that there was little evidence to generalize about a lack of genetic diversity coming from hatchery produced fish. But others in the audience pointed out that studies with trout and Atlantic salmon have shown real losses in such diversity. And earlier, Waples said that wild fall chinook from the Tucannon River raised in the Lyons Ferry hatchery on the Snake River returned younger and smaller and were less fecund than their truly wild counterparts.

WDFW's Todd Pearsons said it was hard to document ecological impacts between hatchery and wild fish, but some stunning underwater photos of wild chinook smolts, before and after a group of hatchery steelhead (at four times the size) appeared in the stream, clearly documented a crowded situation that kept the wild fish from acting out territorial behaviors.

Gordon Reeves of the USFS explained how a range of natural conditions is essential. He said riparian territory undisturbed by fire, flood, or landslide in the last 300 years was "lousy salmon habitat," but areas relatively undisturbed for the last 180 years were best. Even stream habitat that had 90 years to recover from some type of disturbance was "lousy" for salmon.

Perhaps the most disturbing message of all was that it will take decades of monitoring before the region finds out if its efforts will pay off . -Bill Rudolph

[4] FISHERIES SOCIETY REVIEWS WASHINGTON'S WILD SALMON POLICY :: Six biologists from the American Fisheries Society have reviewed the draft EIS of Washington's Wild Salmonid Policy have given it mixed reviews. Though they found the document "refreshing" because it candidly admitted past failures from catering to special interest groups, they found the DEIS "at once too pessimistic and too optimistic."

They found the agency may be putting too much emphasis on serious reductions in harvest rates to help wild stocks. Stocks that could not stand the pressure of mixed hatchery/ wild fisheries may recover more quickly because "salmonid populations are remarkably resilient... and capable of rapid recovery."

Poor ocean conditions have also kept many salmon populations low in the Pacific Northwest, and the AFS reviewers said that more favorable conditions are likely to return. But they pointed out that there is no guarantee that this improvement will happen soon, and "we should not count on the ocean to bail us out of habitat-related problems."

They also took issue with the DEIS for its vague description of the processes by which habitat protection and restoration would be implemented.

The biologists said the document was good at identifying the big factors that controlled salmon populations in the state, but less so at examining the various elements thoroughly. They cited the 40 pages devoted to habitat with specific criteria for improvement, but a lack of performance standards for harvest, hatchery operation or spawner abundance.

The AFS felt that a section discussing the relationships between various aspects of the plan should be included, because of the different time frames required for improvement in each part of the plan. "Since recovery of degraded habitat is a long-term proposition, implementation of habitat restoration and protection measures should not be expected to have beneficial effects until some time in the future."

They called attention to the "high fishing pressure" on Washington stocks from Canadian salmon fishermen, which has resulted from an "explicit and conscious" trade-off of chinook and coho for Fraser River sockeye. They supported renegotiation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty to reduce Canadian effort on these stocks by "abandonment of the US claim to Canadian sockeye." The reviewers say that such a change would be in accordance with the Law of the Sea, "which recognizes that salmon belong to the country where they spawn."

The AFS raised questions about the state's plan to regularly "infuse" wild fish into hatchery populations derived from local stocks because such a strategy prevents optimal adaptation to either environment. They also cautioned the state about how many hatchery fish would be allowed to spawn naturally.

How to Re-tool 29 Hatcheries

The group said the plan should include political and economic elements that deal with the 12 federal and 17 tribal rearing facilities in the state "since many will--or at least should--be phased out" because of the state's new goals of rehabilitation and natural production. They felt it was important to discuss the best way to redirect people, funding and facilities towards the new goals.

They found inconsistencies with the state's approach to addressing habitat management because a set of strict performance standards for improvements seemed at odds with the broad goal of promoting the range of naturally occurring conditions.

Peer reviewers pointed out potential conflicts regarding three main objectives in the DEIS--maximizing diversity and wildness of salmon, while maximizing both the number of fish spawning and using habitat, yet still maximizing short-term harvest.

In the harvest arena, the AFS said it was misleading to use the concept of Maximum Sustained Yield as the "appropriate tool to establishing escapement goals" without addressing fundamental problems using MSY for anadromous salmonids.

As for making harvest more selective, the group said fish traps and fish wheels should be explicitly discussed as ways to make in-river fisheries completely selective by species. -B.R.

[5] BULL TROUT IN COLUMBIA, KLAMATH RIVERS PROPOSED FOR LISTING :: On June 10, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing bull trout populations in the Klamath and Columbia River basins under the Endangered Species Act. The Klamath segment has been proposed for endangered status, and the Columbia segment is proposed for threatened status.

The proposal was issued in response to an Oregon district court decision that ordered USFWS to reconsider its 1994 decision that found such a listing "warranted, but precluded" by other more needy species. The original finding was challenged by environmental groups. The 1994 analysis found that all bull trout in the continental US warranted listing, but subsequent re-analysis of the 1994 data found that five distinct populations of bull trout existed.

The federal agency found that the 1994 record indicates bull trout in the upper Columbia are nearly extinct and populations in parts of Montana and Idaho appear to be declining.

Threats from habitat degradation, passage restrictions at dams and competition from non-native trout species have caused the agency to designate the Columbia River segment at "a moderate risk of extinction" -B.R.

[6] HYDRO MANAGERS COPE WITH RECORD WATER YEAR :: Hydro managers say their latest forecast shows a year destined for the record books. Lower Granite and The Dalles inflows are expected to set new records. Lower Granite January-through-July flows are forecast at more than 33 million acre-feet, or 154 percent of normal, while The Dalles is predicted to come in at 159 million acre-feet, or 150 percent of normal. According to BPA's Robyn MacKay, that amount of water hasn't been seen in the 69 years of system-wide record keeping. The June final forecast has pegged flows at Grand Coulee at over 89 million acre-feet--141 percent of normal.

By June 13, the lower Columbia was seeing flows in the 560 Kcfs range. Some areas east of the Cascades were flooding from high snowmelt, especially around Columbia Falls, below Montana's Hungry Horse Dam. The upper Snake was also flooding upstream and downstream from Palisades, near the Idaho/Wyoming border.

At the June 11 Technical Management Team meeting, US Army Corps reservoir control manager Cindy Henriksen said that Grand Coulee was still filling for flood control, and expected it still wouldn't be full by June 30. She said the Colville Tribe had made a request to preserve cultural resources in the pool and wanted time to stabilize several burial sites along reservoir banks. "But," she cautioned, "one good rain event could fill it right up."

Fish managers were concerned that the reservoir was not filling rapidly enough, but Henricksen was blunt. "If we had filled Grand Coulee two weeks ago like the fish managers wanted, Portland Harbor would now be flooding and flows in the lower Columbia would be around 700 Kcfs."

The hydro system managers received a request from fish managers to reduce gas levels because smolt monitoring at dams is showing increased levels of gas bubble trauma. A lengthy discussion at the June 14 TMT meeting revolved around whether over-generating at dams was worth the tradeoff in reducing gas levels by a few percent. Over-generation pushes more water through powerhouses, but since turbines are not operating at maximum efficiency, cavitation causes increases in smolt mortality.

NMFS biologist Gary Frederick said over-generating by 3 percent at McNary Dam would cause only a 0.1 to 0.3 percent increase in turbine mortality and reduce gas levels by 1 percent to 2 percent, but he was cautious about the numbers, saying there was little data to base them on. There was also discussion of manipulating McNary pool to reduce spill at high loads. In the end, salmon managers voted against the over-generation scenario, but the following week, a review of last year's minutes of the Implementation Team was cited to begin over-generating at McNary.

On June 23, Jim Athearn of the Corps of Engineers reported that McNary turbines were being operated outside the 1 percent peak efficiency range in an effort to reduce spill, but debris at screens made it difficult to keep them working that way, hampering efforts to evaluate the strategy. The Corps gave up on the situation the next day.-B.R..

[7] OREGON PROPOSES COHO HATCHERY ZONE :: Adoption of the Oregon Coho Plan has kept the species from Cape Blanco to the Columbia River from being listed as endangered. Its purpose, according to the memorandum between the state of Oregon and the National Marine Fisheries Service, is to "restore natural coastal salmon populations and fisheries to productive and sustainable levels..."

But that's not the case for the Salmon River on Oregon's north coast, where the largest, most troubling coho salmon decline is evident. According to a May 5 memo from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Salmon River coho would be dropped as a wild coho salmon stream by administrative action on the part of the ODFW commission. This means that wild coho salmon would no longer be protected under the state's wild fish management policy, and the whole watershed would be turned over to hatchery coho production.

The agency cited two reasons for the decline of wild coho--the Salmon River Hatchery and decades of excessive harvest rates in the ocean. ODFW said: "...a self-sustaining wild coho population no longer existed in the Salmon River," and recommended the state wildlife commission "remove the Salmon River wild coho from the wild fish population list."

Zoning Out Wild Fish

This proposal would concentrate the release of hatchery coho in the Salmon River to feed the industrial fishery in the ocean, should it ever reopen. The memo suggests concentrating hatchery production in the Salmon River, would "zone" it as a hatchery stream and lead to "minimal hatchery coho smolt releases into other watersheds and thereby protect wild coho."

The threat of listing wild coho salmon as a federally protected species has caused the state of Oregon to rethink its coho management program. Rather than dump hatchery fish in every watershed to subsidize the ocean fisheries, the plan is to zone the coast into hatchery watersheds. The Salmon River proposal is ODFW's first effort to accomplish this goal without publicly announcing it, preferring to accomplish the plan piecemeal. The proposal comes early in the Oregon Coho Plan process and would allow the state to begin implementing its hatchery zone plan before the species is potentially listed by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Since 1990, the memo says, 90% of the naturally spawning coho are of hatchery origin, and only 82 naturally produced coho, on average, return to 42 miles of spawning habitat in the Salmon River basin. The Oregon Coho Plan calls for 42 wild fish per mile. This means the Salmon River is getting only about 2 coho spawners per mile.

The proposal to delete the Salmon River from the wild fish policy and release the ODFW from meeting agency standards would effectively expand the Hatchery Management Extinction Zone of the lower Columbia River coho streams to coastal watersheds. On the Columbia River, the coho spawners have declined to less than one adult per mile. In the 1970s, ODFW decided to maximize the harvest of Columbia River hatchery coho by eliminating any wild coho spawning requirements in tributaries. By releasing hatchery smolts into these tributaries, they said natural production could be maintained. The theory did not work out, and the National Marine Fisheries Service said the lower Columbia River coho were not warranted for listing because no distinct native population could be found to list.

Oregon scientists have raised the issue that once a native coho population declines to a very low level, conservation efforts do not result in an increase in the population size. For example, drastically reduced harvest rates have not led to an increase in coho adult spawners in the lower Columbia River, nor in northern Oregon coastal streams south of the Columbia River. One theory is that there are so few spawners, fish cannot find mates. Another theory speculates that the predator base has built up around hatchery coho releases and creates a barrier to native coho recovery. -Bill Bakke.

[8] FISH WON'T WAIT FOR TREATY ACCORD :: US and Canadian negotiators spent one long day together before they walked away from talks last Friday that tried to break the logjam over the Pacific Salmon Treaty. With the first run on the Fraser expected to show up any day, both sides blamed the other for inability to reach agreement. Canadian diplomat Yves Fortier said it was time for binding arbitration and that it was arrogant of the US to accept the dire predictions of its scientists. But it was Canadian scientists who made headlines last week with dire predictions of their own.

The wrangling centers over the proposed coho/sockeye swap between the two countries that is designed to relieve fishing pressure on distressed Puget Sound coho stocks by BC fishermen in return for a cut in the US harvest of sockeye bound for the Fraser, a run pegged at more than 18 million fish. But recent allegations have surfaced in the Canadian press that their own coho stocks are near collapse. One federal biologist is on official leave advocating a "no-fish" option for commercial harvesters who would be intercepting coho bound for the Thompson River, a tributary of the Fraser. The Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, acting on behalf of the Neskonlith Indian band, has filed a lawsuit to stop all sports fishing for coho on the Thompson, claiming the population is in danger of extinction.

The Canadian fisheries establishment was dealt another blow when an article in a recent issue of the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Biology condemned Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans for ignoring science at odds with a government policy that supported overfishing, a policy that led to the Atlantic cod collapse and present problems with BC salmon stocks. The DFO said the charges are unfounded, but the three authors, all well recognized in their field, including Dr. Carl Walters from the University of British Columbia, recommended that the DFO be replaced by an independent group of researchers.

Both Pres. Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have been approached by top Canadian diplomats to help solve the impasse over the coho/sockeye swap. But now that the plight of Canadian stocks is out in the open, some observers feel that the US is in no hurry to rush into an agreement.

The Vancouver Sun reported much of the bad news in a June 9 story. The article quoted Terry Glavin, author and advisor to Canadian native groups, who said, "We have been fishing their coho to extinction so efficiently that we are now fishing our own coho to the brink of extinction."

On the other end of the treaty seesaw, Alaska announced it would set a chinook quota of 277,000 fish for its Southeast region harvesters. That's up from 140,000 last year and represents a rising abundance in the Upper Columbia and along the west coast of Vancouver Island, according to Alaska Fish and Game biologist Dave Gaudet.-Bill Rudolph.

[9] NEW WEBSITE REPORTS ON HYDROACOUSTIC STUDIES :: The Walla Walla District of the US Army Corps of Engineers has approved public viewing of a home page developed by Battelle that reports in "pseudo-real time" results of hydroacoustic studies at Lower Granite and Lower Monumental dams. Battelle scientist Gary Johnson cautions that the data are preliminary, subject to change, and should be used with caution.

The research is looking into the effectiveness of the surface bypass and collector at Lower Granite Dam and evaluating spill at Monumental Dam, where basic assumptions about fish passage are being examined, namely, whether the proportion of fish spilled equals the proportion of the total project flow spilled. The 1:1 assumption is currently used to guide voluntary spill levels set to achieve 80 percent fish passage efficiency, which means that 80 percent of the fish pass the dam by non-turbine routes.-B.R.

[10] NW SENATORS TELL GORE FISH CAP MUST BE EXTENDED :: All eight Northwest senators gave Vice President Al Gore a simple message last week. Keep fish and wildlife costs in the ballpark after the present fish cap on costs runs out in 2001.

In the June 17 letter, they said, "The continued financial health of BPA and its ability to meet fish and wildlife obligations are of critical economic interest to the federal government, the nation's taxpayers, and all the citizens of the Northwest. The latter is not possible without the former. We therefore ask that you work with us, and with the four Northwest governors through their Transition Review Board, to develop a proposal for extending the MOA beyond 2001." They told Gore that present BPA funding is reasonable for fish and wildlife expenditures without compromising the region's commitment to a healthy salmon resource.

They "urged" Gore to review the current principles used by the Power Council that were mandated by the Gorton amendment to the Northwest Power Act that created a scientific review of budget proposals. They said it was time to show the region "we place a high priority on BPA maintaining its financial solvency and its ability to meet its financial obligations."

The current MOA has established an annual budget of $435 million for Columbia Basin fish and wildlife recovery, and a $325 million contingency fund that runs until 2001. By extending the agreement, BPA would be able to meet its Treasury payments, and still "remain economically viable in a deregulated wholesale energy market."

Lower Columbia tribes are opposed to extending the cap at current levels because it would preclude funding for drawdowns and dam breaching that the tribal restoration plan has called for. To complicate matters, the largest single cost of the fish and wildlife budget will soon be repayment of capital debt, but without a continuation of the cap, BPA says it will have a tough time attracting power subscribers.-B.R.

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