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NWF.043/Sep.19.1997
[1] Council Takes First Swipe At Fish and Wildlife Budget
[2] More Scrutiny for New Hatchery Funding
[3] Power Council Faces Conflict of Interest Issue
[4] Gorton Gives Conditional Support For Removal of Lower Elwha Dam
[5] ESA Reform Bill Introduced by Idaho Senator
[6] Gas Supersaturation Gets Top Billing At AFS Convention
[7] WA F&W Commission Accepts Wild Salmon Final EIS
[8] BC Sues U.S., States, Over Salmon Treaty
[9] New Approach to River Governance Takes Shape

[1] COUNCIL TAKES FIRST SWIPE AT FY 98 F&W BUDGET :: With a list of recommendations from scientists in its collective back pocket, the Northwest Power Planning Council voted on Sept. 17 to table more than a third of next year's $127 million fish and wildlife budget, pending further scientific and fiscal review. The recommendations are the result of last year's Gorton Amendment to the Northwest Power Act. The legislation called for a serious look at the scientific underpinnings of the fish and wildlife program.

A group of 11 scientists, the Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP), most of whom also serve on the Independent Scientific Advisory Board that advises NMFS and the Council, came up with their recommendations at the end of July. The recommendations led the Council to approve only about $90 million in funding, holding up $33 million for further review and deferring nearly $24 million in spending. The Council found it difficult to track some project costs as funding moved from capital spending to operations and maintenance. As an example, they cited the $12 million in capital spending requested for the nearly complete Yakima Tribal Hatchery facility.

With the Helena meeting filled with fish agency and tribal representatives worried about their projects, the Council heard from tribal spokesman Jerry Meninick, vice chair of the Yakama Nation Tribal Council, who said although the Gorton Amendment was a "wasteful addition" and "a redundant process," the tribes would still work with the council. He reminded the group that in 1994, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Council had to defer to the fish managers. Meninick said the Gorton Amendment did not alter the duty of the Council, and that decisions by the Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) were not superior to those of the fish managers.

Meninick said the ISRP did not fulfill its duties and failed to follow the amendment. "Policy should be determined by the fish managers," he said, adding that all the projects deal in some uncertainties, but "to stop them is a mistake."

The next morning, Council chair John Etchart said the Gorton Amendment came after the Tang decision referred to by Meninick, but "the last test is our best judgment."

Etchart said the Gorton legislation has brought a new level of scrutiny to the process. "Each decision must be above reproach and be prudent," he said, noting that as BPA's budgets get tighter, spending scrutiny is required. He called the Gorton Amendment "a one-time wake-up call from Congress to get it right or get out of the way."

Hatcheries Are a Hot Topic

The hottest issue was what to do with hatchery funding. Here the Council recommended a comprehensive review of all artificial production facilities in the basin, to be funded by BPA at a cost of $700,000 to $1 million. As for continued funding for new projects, the Council decided to separate them into two groups. The first group would include those still in the planning and design phase, with no chance of implementation in FY 98. The second group would contain "ongoing" projects. Decisions to allocate the projects among the two groups will be made over the next three weeks.

Some of the projects being considered are the Nez Perce Tribal Hatchery, the Hanford K-Basin fall chinook acclimation facilities, the Umatilla satellite facilities, Yakima Hatchery facility construction and the Lake Roosevelt kokanee net pens. The Council said it recognized that some of these projects may require an expedited review to satisfy pending biological needs, and "the Council will take what steps it can to assure that expedited review."

Rick Taylor, spokesman for the Columbia river Inter-Tribal Fish Commission said it was too early to get overly concerned about the possibility of delayed funds for projects like the brand new Yakima Hatchery, which was dedicated just last week.

"Let's remain cool here," said Taylor. "We have three weeks to find out what level of review is needed." He was confident that scientific concerns over the hatchery have already been answered by the extensive review process the project has undergone. Taylor said the issues raised by the ISRP over hatchery practices, carrying capacity and similar concerns have been answered "to the extent those questions have been answered by any human."

Captive Brood Stock Programs Questioned

The Council also recommended a review of captive broodstock projects, but will continue to fund sockeye activity and the Grande Ronde project, in particular, after Donna Darm of NMFS' Office of Protected Species told the Council by phone that her agency thought it was "critically important." About 1,800 adult fish are currently being held in temporary facilities at the Bonneville hatchery as part of the project. But the Council's own draft recommendations pointed out that a 1995 NMFS assessment of captive broodstock technology was full of cautionary remarks about the uncertain success of the strategy. The Council also recommended that seven projects listed under the Lower Snake river Compensation Plan should undergo the same review, since they are funded through the fish and wildlife program.

Fifteen million dollars in both proposed and ongoing habitat improvement was also put on hold, pending development of a rigorous project selection process.

The Council also wants to put $2.5 million worth of gas supersaturation studies in reserve until a coordinated research plan is developed by the inter-agency Dissolved Gas Team.

The $4 million law enforcement program was slated for the ax, regardless of how effective it may be. The Council was concerned that the BPA seed money for a pilot program had evolved into a high-cost permanent funding item, which the Council considers "in lieu" funding that should be financed by state, tribal and federal law enforcement.

An in-depth evaluation of the law enforcement program is due out this week. John Pizzimenti of Harza Engineering, who worked on the analysis, said the program "is every bit as effective or more effective as the big buck items in the fish and wildlife budget." Pizzimenti said he was pretty skeptical of the program at first, but as they studied it, they identified some valuable enforcement techniques that helped adult salmon, including endangered Snake river fall chinook, which migrate upstream through the commercial fishery.

The Council also requested more scrutiny of the PATH process, conducted by regional modellers who are examining basic assumptions about salmon survival and the hydro system. They also had doubts about supporting some PATH efforts from a portion of BPA's $1.7 million "non-discretionary" funds, saying they don't have enough information about it, although BPA says it has provided enough data. The Council recommended its own staff work with BPA and fish agencies and tribes "to develop a better procedure" for designating non-discretionary projects.

The Council also approved $300,000 to fund two studies, mainly reviews of literature and research. The first will deal with questions raised in the ISG report, Return to the river, to assess the amount of riverine habitat lost to development and operation of the Columbia river hydropower system and the ecological changes that have occurred. It will also "suggest areas or actions with particular potential for restoration of riverine habitat and processes." The second study will be the first phase of an assessment of the population structure of Columbia river chinook.

Council chair Etchart said this year's budget analysis was an important first step. "Still," he said, "there is a ways to go before the ideal management regime is in place."

BPA's Fish and Wildlife division director Bob Lohn agreed. "It's a large step forward," said Lohn of the Council's budget process, "and we will be following their recommendations." -Bill Rudolph

[2] "NEW" HATCHERY FUNDING FACES FURTHER SCRUTINY :: If it follows a staff recommendation, the Power Council may soon be at odds with its own science panel over a major item in the FY 98 fish and wildlife budget: whether to continue funding for the Yakima Tribal Hatchery in Cle Elum, WA or put it on hold, pending a basin-wide analysis of the salmon hatchery program. The Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) recommended a hold on construction and operation funding of new hatcheries until a basin-wide analysis of artificial propagation is completed.

With 90 hatcheries in the watershed and many wild runs still in decline, questions have been raised as to whether they can be operated more effectively to bolster wild returns. Possibilities are supplementing the wild stocks or cutting back on smolt production to enhance feeding opportunities and reduce the overall stress of migration on wild stocks by their much larger hatchery brethren.

After some discussion over just what "new" means in the context of the facilities under construction, and a public uproar from lower Columbia tribes, Power Council staffers advised members to keep the money coming for the projects in question. That includes $12 million for the Yakama Tribal Hatchery, almost 9 percent of the Fish and Wildlife budget under scrutiny.

The hatchery was officially dedicated Sept. 11. It's part of a hotly contested program that began in 1982 to rebuild salmon runs in the Yakama and Klickitat Basins. Since then, BPA has spent almost $64 million on 47 contracts, including almost $16 million, so far, for the Cle Elum facility,

At the August work session in Spokane, Council staff recommended that the Yakima facility remain funded since it has completed the final design and construction phase, the last of a three-step process outlined by staff in their August memo. Other budget items lumped into this category are the Hood river Production program ($1.2 million) and the Umatilla Hatchery's on-going production activities ($4.6 million).

A Matter of Semantics

There was some confusion early on with the ISRP's recommendation and what the scientists meant by "new." But Council spokesman John Harrison said the staff has "interpreted" the ISRP's recommendations without directly asking the scientists themselves. Harrison said the staff felt that asking directly if the Yakama project was in the "new" category was singling out projects for prioritization, something the scientists themselves said they couldn't do this year because of a lack of information in the proposals.

ISRP chair Rick Williams said his group felt some of their recommendations have been misunderstood, but he and the rest of the panel were definitely thinking of the new tribal facilities when they wrote their recommendations. As to whether funds should be withheld from projects such as the Cle Elum facility, Williams said that was a policy decision for the Council.

In its July report to the Council, the ISRP said they recognized that "some facilities have been in the planning stage for several years and this recommendation would delay construction of projects considered high priority by the fish management agencies and tribes. The ISRP further recognizes that some of the best designed and implemented artificial propagation projects in the basin are funded through the Council's program," but they pointed out that an additional burden has been placed on these individual projects because the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority's draft environmental impact statement for hatcheries failed to adequately address the biodiversity issue and didn't include a broad analysis of the basin's hatchery program. The panel recommended funding the projects only after a "positive recommendation from an independent peer review panel."

Williams pointed out that other ISRP recommendations should be examined to clarify the issue. The panel said that the Council should fund individual projects "only if" proponents can demonstrate they have taken into account factors that would ensure biodiversity, such as an examination of the basin's carrying capacity, as well as some form of comprehensive analysis of hatcheries. Power Council staff has tried to address this issue by advising the Council, in a tentative recommendation, to name a peer review group that could review final project designs quickly ("a few days or weeks perhaps, not a review of months," says their memo).

Serious Look at Hatcheries Called For

Williams said the ISRP recommendations are not aimed at the tribes just because the tribal facilities are the immediate issue. With about 120 years of experience with hatcheries, it's about time the region took a serious look at their effects throughout the Northwest, he said. And that includes the new tribal facilities, he noted, adding that these hatcheries should not be exempt from the comprehensive analysis slated to begin soon.

Williams and fellow panel member Jim Lichatowich, co-chair of the ISRP, met with Council staffers recently to discuss the setup of a new panel to tackle the hatchery review. Williams said the panel must come up with a technical review of "high rigor and be completely free of political influence."

The hatchery review idea comes not only from an ISRP recommendation, but is also mandated in the Senate version of the energy and water appropriations bill. Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA) inserted language that calls for a review of all federally funded hatcheries and an assessment of all state, tribal and federal hatcheries to produce a recommendation for a coordinated policy. Such a review must be completed by October 1998.

At its meeting in Helena this week, the Council tabled the funding flowing to the new facilities. They decided to separate the projects into two groups. The first group would contain those projects still in the planning and design phase with no chance of implementation in FY 98. The second group would contain "ongoing" projects. The decision over where the projects fit will be made over the next three weeks. If the Cle Elum facility is placed in the "ongoing" group, it should receive at least $9 million in capital funding to build three acclimation ponds for spring chinook smolts.

If the Cle Elum facility gets the nod, annual production of 810,000 upper Yakima spring chinook smolts is expected to be reached in 1998. The fish will be used to supplement the wild population in an expensive experiment that BPA's own press release called a "test" of this approach to salmon restoration. Critics have said that natural numbers of spring chinook in the upper Yakima are so low that they would tend even lower because they would be "mined" for hatchery broodstock.

But some Council members feel that projects such as the Yakima facility should be funded. Montana council member Stan Grace said "they've run through enough hoops already."

If the Council overrides the ISRP recommendation, it must present a written explanation for its action to comply with the Gorton Amendment to the Northwest Power Act. The amendment, passed last year, established the scientific review of the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program. An oversight hearing chaired by Gorton will be held sometime this fall to see how well his amendment is being implemented. -B.R.

[3] POWER COUNCIL FACES CONFLICT OF INTEREST ISSUE :: Power Council chairman John Etchart issued a set of recommendations to council members on Sept. 10 in response to "recent questions concerning the possible appearance of conflicts of interest." The memo came on the heels of an investigation by the Associated Press and a Sept. 3 memo from staff attorneys on financial disclosure and conflicts of interest.

"In the event that the Council's legal division determines that the appearance of a conflict of interest exists," Etchart said the affected Council member will be required to take one of three actions: divest himself or herself of the questioned asset, recuse himself or herself from deliberations over the issue relating to the conflict, or disclose the facts giving rise to the appearance of conflict during a public meeting of the Council.

In addition, Etchart said Council members will be required to disclose all earned income from outside sources during a public meeting of the Council. He said the Council will make a point of informing the public annually when members' financial disclosure forms are filed and available for public review, and called for an "independent review of the Council's current conflict of interest policy and practice."

Etchart said he told a reporter he "regretted that even the appearance of conflicts of interest may have arisen...and that we will do everything we can to prevent this situation from occurring in the future."

In their memo, Council lawyers John Volkman and Bill Hannaford said members' finances could be under increased scrutiny as the Council begins making decisions about drawdowns in the Columbia-Snake basin. "This might be a good time for each member to take a careful look at his or her financial interests, including outside employment and investments," the memo said.

In a copyright story, the AP said that Washington Council member Ken Casavant severed ties last August from Olympic Pipeline Co. of Renton after Council attorneys reversed an earlier opinion and advised him to quit due to the appearance of a conflict. Casavant said he received $9,800 in consulting fees from the firm, whose proposed fuel pipeline in Washington could compete with barges moving fuel along the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Casavant himself initiated the attorneys' review last fall and later disclosed to the full Council his plan to help the firm. Staff attorneys had advised him he could overcome any possible conflict by making the disclosure, but he later asked legal counsel to take another look once the Council began considering drawdown decisions.

Other potential conflicts identified were Etchart's own holdings of between $500,000 and $1 million in Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. pension stock; Oregon member John Brogoitti's interest in some 3,000 acres of deep well-irrigated farm land in Umatilla County valued at over $1 million; and Idaho member Todd Maddock's pension investment in a 401k retirement plan at a Boise timber company valued at between $500,000 and $1 million.

Council rules provide for exceptions if a waiver is granted by a governor. Etchart said the Montana governor approved a waiver for his Burlington Northern holdings three years ago. He said the impact of any Council decision on the railroad was "so attenuated as to be remote," but added "I've ended up voting against my own interest."

Brogoitti said he too intends to seek a waiver from his governor, even though he has no control over how the produce raised on his holdings are shipped. -Ben Tansey

[4] GORTON GIVES CONDITIONAL SUPPORT FOR REMOVAL OF LOWER ELWHA DAM :: Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA) says he's willing to support removal of at least one dam on the Elwha river--but only with conditions. Gorton announced last week that he plans to introduce legislation authorizing removal of the lower Elwha dam, and that his legislation will include three important conditions: completion of a 12-year study on how removing the lower dam impacts fish populations before removing the upper dam is even considered; a guarantee that Port Angeles' water supply be held harmless; and a guarantee that no Columbia or Snake river dam would be removed, breached or significantly modified without the prior authorization of Congress.

Gorton's opposition was the major stumbling block to implementing a proposal to attempt restoration of the Elwha river's salmon runs by removing both the lower Elwha and Glines Canyon dams, which have kept salmon from returning to the river since the early 1900s.
Lower Elwha Dam
The full restoration plan has been promoted by the Clinton administration and supported by other members of the Northwest congressional delegation. But Gorton's position as chair of the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that determines the Interior Department's budget meant he could effectively block the dams' removal by denying the necessary funding.

In the past, Gorton has allowed appropriation of about $3 million annually for federal acquisition of the dams. But the senator now indicates that if the administration requests earmarking $18.5 million of the $700 million land and water conservation fund for the acquisition, he'll approve the proposal.

In remarks on the Senate floor, however, Gorton also said there is "little chance" the $60 million needed to remove the lower dam will come from the land and water conservation fund. That money should "move through other channels" and be authorized by Congress.

That Gorton would agree to move forward with acquisition is "amazing enough," said Connie Correll, administrative assistant to Rep. Rick White (R-WA), a long-time supporter of removing the two dams. Correll said the hope is that acquisition can occur before the end of the year, with removal of the lower Elwha a few years later.

Correll also said White would probably support Gorton's condition that Congress would have to approve the removal or modification of any dam on the Columbia and Snake river systems. "White has always said he doesn't want Elwha removal to be a precedent," Correll said, since the Elwha river, which has no irrigation or navigational uses, is so different from the Columbia-Snake river system, with its multiple uses and pressures.

She added, however, that it would also depend on the final language of the measure. In his Senate statement, Gorton said no dam on the Columbia or Snake could be "removed, breached or modified in a way that substantially destroys its ability to produce power, and provide irrigation, transportation or flood control without the prior
Glines Canyon Dam on the upper Elwha
authorization of Congress." And to those who favor the concept of dam removal beyond the Elwha, "I will never support their proposals to remove Snake or Columbia river dams. Never," Gorton said.

The idea of a phased removal of the Elwha dams isn't new; in fact, it's one of the "Alternatives Considered but Rejected" in the November 1996 final EIS on the Elwha river Ecosystem Restoration implementation. According to the EIS, phased removal was rejected "because of its unacceptable impacts on existing anadromous fish stocks, increased costs, and its delay in restoring the Elwha river ecosystem."

A Senate staffer close to the issue said rejection of the phased approach was "a scientific call made by the National Park Service." More important, he said, is the fact that an ad hoc community group, the Port Angeles-based Elwha Citizens Advisory Committee, supported "on a policy level" the idea of taking out one dam and then "thinking about taking out the other one." -Jude Noland

[5] ESA REFORM BILL INTRODUCED BY IDAHO SENATOR :: Last week, Sen. Dirk Kempthorne (R-ID) introduced a bipartisan endangered species act reauthorization bill that appears to have the tacit approval of the Clinton administration. interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt attended the press conference held by Kempthorne and co-sponsors Max Baucus (D-MT), Harry Reid (D-NV) and John Chafee (R-RI) to announce the measure. While he stopped short of endorsing the bill, Babbitt "wouldn't have shown up" if he and the administration didn't support it, one Congressional staffer indicated.

The Senate Environment and Public Works committee will hold a hearing on the bill--S1180--this Tuesday, Sept. 23, and markup is expected to begin the following Tuesday, Sept. 30.

The Endangered Species Recovery Act is the result of 18 months of negotiations and input from various stakeholder groups, said Kempthorne spokesman Mark Snider. The proposal focuses on recovery by setting timelines for developing and implementing recovery plans--18 months and 30 months, respectively. "That's never happened before," Snider said. The bill also gives states the option of taking over recovery activities for a species; under the current act, Snider said, states are often left out of the process. in addition, recovery measures would have to meet the recovery goal in a way that achieves "appropriate balance" among three factors: effectiveness in meeting the recovery goal, the period of time needed to reach the goal and the social and economic impacts of the measures.

Under the proposal, listing decisions would have to be peer reviewed by scientists approved by the National Academy of Sciences. And Section 7(a)(2) consultation requirements are streamlined by giving federal action agencies greater authority to determine if a project is not likely to adversely affect a species. Under the bill, if the USFS evaluation determines a proposal won't have adverse effects on a species, other agencies would have 60 days to object in writing. if no such objections are filed, Snider said, the project would proceed.

The measure also encourages private landowners to develop habitat conservation plans for multiple species that depend on the same habitat. Landowners who develop such plans and receive incidental take permits would receive a "no surprises" guarantee, Snider said, that they won't be required to spend more money or carry out additional mitigation measures to meet any future new requirements under the ESA. in addition, the bill includes a "safe harbor" provision for landowners who enter voluntary agreements with the government to maintain, create or restore habitat, which assures that such activities won't mean the landowners will be subject to additional liability under the ESA.

An issue left out of the proposal is water rights, Snider said. The complexity of water laws and the jurisdictional questions associated with the issue led lawyers and water users alike to the consensus that "no water language is better than adding language that has unintended consequences in other states."

Snider said Kempthorne has also introduced a companion bill to S1180: S1181, which provides some financial incentives for landowners. Snider said another element of S1181 would allow some financial compensation for landowners whose property is devalued due to the ESA. If the property value decreases by more than 30 percent, a landowner would be able to seek compensation at fair market value. If a negotiating period doesn't produce satisfactory results, the landowner would then be able to take civil action. Snider said Kempthorne introduced S1181 to fulfill a commitment he made to his Idaho constituency, but "some property rights advocates will say it's not enough."

Environmental groups have yet to weigh in on Kempthorne's proposal. Snider said he expects the support of the Idaho Conservation League, which had a "major influence" in the process. -J. N.

[6] GAS SUPERSATURATION GETS TOP BILLING AT AFS CONVENTION :: Gas supersaturation was the topic of a day-long series of seminars Aug. 27 at the American Fisheries Society annual convention in Monterey, CA. The gas symposium was put together by retired BPA biologist Gerry Bouck and current BPA biologist Bill Maslen. It featured 17 presentations and a panel discussion on the major issues related to nitrogen gas supersaturation problems in the Columbia Basin.

By most accounts, it seemed a sociable affair with little public friction evident from differing viewpoints. Bouck was succinct. "We needed this first group. Maybe now it's time to deal with the hard stuff."

The main issue--whether high gas levels harm fish--was left unanswered. But some topics were broached, like the extremely high "near field" gas levels found by the Corps of Engineers in some stilling basins below spillways. To reduce those levels of supersaturated gas (up to 170 percent) could cost more than a billion dollars in modifications to dams if submerged ports were installed to reduce spill to acceptable levels.

John Colt of the National Marine Fisheries Service spoke to the uncertainties and assumptions that must be dealt with before smolt monitoring results of the past few years can be validated, to ensure the spill program optimizes fish survival.

Colt later said a real mystery to solve is differences in gas problems in the mid-Columbia and Snake rivers, where one mid-Columbia site, Rock Island, was showing extremely high percentages of juvenile fish with signs of GBT. On June 20, for instance, 83 percent of the sampled fish showed signs of GBT. Downstream at McNary, 19 percent of the samples showed signs. Up in the Snake that day, signs varied between 2 percent and 15 percent.

Kathleen Frizell from the US Bureau of Reclamation said her agency will conduct tests next spring at Grand Coulee to measure the effects of different operating systems on total dissolved gas levels downstream, with biological studies and feasibility estimates for various structural modifications to come later.

But Colt said another significant problem exists. When fish are examined, symptoms of GBT may disappear within minutes.

On the other hand, a presentation by Jeff Fryer of the Columbia river Inter-Tribal Fish Commission revealed that signs in sampled adult salmon from 1994 to 1996 were less than 1 percent. Based on signs in adult chinook, tribal biologists said gas levels at Bonneville could rise to 140 percent (110 percent is the legal limit). For sockeye and steelhead, Fryer said a 125 percent would minimize symptoms.

Jack Gakstatter of EPA said the long-term solution is the development of gas abatement plans at the dams, but consultant John Pizzimenti of Harza Northwest said dam modifications could provide marginal benefits if NMFS decides that dam removal or juvenile transportation becomes the major pathway in its recovery plan. He said these questions should be decided before making high-cost choices for gas abatement. -B.R.

[7] WA F&W COMMISSION ACCEPTS WILD SALMON FINAL EIS :: The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously Sept. 8 to authorize issuance of a final environmental impact statement on the state's wild salmonid policy. The document recommends changes in harvest and hatchery operations, as well as establishment of watershed councils.

Bud Mercer, eastern Washington grower and the commission's newest member, said the final EIS touches on enough options for developing a reasonable salmon policy and "includes a couple of things helpful to agriculture." He said an important factor will be including local stakeholder input in the process. "Now the real work begins," said Mercer.

The commission plans to consider adoption of the document on Oct. 3, after two public meetings. Both the commission and staff from the Fish and Wildlife Department are still meeting with tribal representatives to resolve issues of harvest and habitat. The tribes want to ensure their harvest opportunities won't be jeopardized by the state's effort to restore wild salmon populations.

Some observers feel the document lacks sufficient technical content to satisfy compliance with the state's environmental policy act. -Bill Rudolph

[8] BC SUES U.S., STATES OVER SALMON TREATY :: The province of British Columbia joined fishing industry representatives and filed a lawsuit on Sept. 8 that names the United States (including Secretary of State Madeline Albright), Alaska and Washington as defendants in a complaint for relief and $325 million in damages for violations of the Pacific Salmon Treaty and the Magnuson Act. The C$325 million is what BC has pegged as the value of salmon lost to US fishermen since 1985, when the treaty was signed.

The suit, filed in federal district court in Seattle, had attorneys on both sides of the border scratching their heads. A leaked memo from the federal government in Ottawa did not offer much encouragement for the tactic. Canadian fisheries minister David Anderson said he was afraid the lawsuit would delay negotiations.

BC premier Glen Clark had harsh remarks for his own federal government. He said Ottawa was undermining his province's action. "In other countries, that would be called treasonous," Clark told The Vancouver Sun.

US response was mild. Curt Smitch, salmon advisor to Washington Gov. Gary Locke, said it was more evidence that the treaty was not working. His sentiments were echoed by Robert Wright, one of Canada's treaty commissioners, who resigned Sept. 11. Wright, who owns a string of sport fishing lodges, said the lawsuit was ill-conceived and would not aid negotiations, but he said the treaty mechanism will never resolve the dispute. He had harsh comments for his own federal officials, too. He said the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans was "full of dinosaurs" and their actions were driving chinook and coho stocks to extinction . -B.R.

[9] NEW APPROACH TO RIVER GOVERNANCE TAKES SHAPE :: A draft proposal for a single approach to governing the Columbia/Snake river basin has been given the nod for further refinement by a high-level group of state, federal and tribal officials. "The basic idea would be to create a single process made up of the three sovereigns that is accessible by stake-holders," said Howard Funke, chair of the river governance subcommittee of the Three Sovereign senior staff group.

The Three Sovereigns senior staff--denoting state, federal and tribal authorities-was put together last June after Northwest governors met with regional tribes to discuss river issues. That meeting, held in Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber's Salem office, yielded a renewed effort to cut through the tangled lines of responsibility and accountability that have kept river governance in an unsettled state.

The resulting group created three subcommittees, including Funke's, which have been meeting for several months now. The group started with five options ranging from the status quo to a year-old tribal proposal for substantial change known as the Red Paper. The group refined these options into the single one presented Sept. 12 in Spokane.

Funke, an attorney for both the Spokane and Coeur d'Alene tribes, said the point of the draft plan is to "treat the basin as an ecosystem instead of as a maze of balkanized jurisdictions; coordinate all of the divergent processes now in operation and establish one forum and government process operating pursuant to a plan agreed upon by everyone." All stakeholders would be in "one room" in an attempt to coordinate all activities.

Activities encompassed by the draft proposal, Funke said, would include all matters pertaining to the Endangered Species Act and associated river operations at the federal dams, as well as the east side ecosystem process. It would also encompass matters at issue in the American rivers and US v Oregon lawsuits. He said it would affect "anything going on in the basin impacting the ecosystem."

Funke cautioned the plan is only in draft form. "It is a very dynamic process and the plan is subject to change. There's a lot of work to be done."

Roy Sampsell, an independent consultant hired by the Columbia Basin Fish & Wildlife Authority to facilitate the senior staff group, said the discussion in Spokane focused on areas of past disagreement and how those disagreements could be referred up the line to the governors, feds and tribal leaders. The governors are scheduled to meet again in Montana at the end of September, and the 13 tribal leaders are to meet in mid-October. The senior staff group won't meet again until after those sessions.

Questions of Scope Remain

Sampsell said the major disagreement is over "what is the task and scope before the governance group, what are they going to be addressing at the policy level and what are the essential work items that need to be developed." He said there is disagreement on whether the plan should encompass a "broader policy discussion" or be very specific. Those advocating for a narrow construction argue there is only so much that can be accomplished in a fixed time, Funke said; others want the broad strokes so they can be taken to the governors and tribal officials for guidance.

Northwest Power Planning Council member Ken Casavant of Washington, also a member of the river Governance subgroup, said that under the draft plan, existing state, tribal and federal authorities "would come together in a cooperative effort to work out a plan and then implement it through their [existing] authorities." Something yet to be worked out is, "Do we emphasize the plan first or the process? Should we have a plan with a process evolving or develop an organizational/institutional arrangement to develop a plan that is then implemented?"

Casavant said that under the terms of the discussion Sept. 12, the scope of the proposal encompasses a fish and wildlife plan only. But he said it might still be broadened to look at the impact on generation, navigation, irrigation and other issues.

Sampsell said any final agreement will probably take the form of an "informal" memorandum of understanding with some kind of dispute resolution mechanism. He said a final recommendation might be ready in November.

Meanwhile, several other groups are also working on river governance. An informal group of two dozen high level officials from various interests, chaired by Ralph Cavanagh, of the National Resource Defense Council has been quietly hammering out a fish and wildlife recovery plan that includes a set of principles for governance. In addition, Phil Batt, the governor of Idaho who last week announced he will not run for re-election in November, also has a group charged with looking at river governance. Several individuals are members of more than one of these groups, so there is some communication between them.

"I don't see these processes as competitive," Sampsell said. "They are all asking the same questions. The single table is the Three Sovereigns table; that's where it will eventually come together." -Ben Tansey

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LINKS/DOCUMENTS FROM NW FISHLETTER 043:: Below are listed links and documents referred to in the text of NW Fishletter issue 043 .

THE ARCHIVE :: Previous NW Fishletter issues and supporting documents.


Regional ReviewWho We Arei.O.D. = information on DiandFish.NETThe HUBEnerNet Home

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