Science Panel Pans PATH, Hatchery Funding
 Agreement Over Pacific Salmon Treaty
 Locke Signs Salmon Bills
 Gorton Amendment Limits BPA's Future Dam Breaching Costs
 Tired Of Debating, BPA Prepares To Press Ex Parte Button
 Oregon Wild Fish Policy Debate Heats Up
 Senate Hearing Knocks "Secret" Federal Fish Meetings
 Columbia River Basin Forum Goes For Goals
 Don't Raise Utility Rates For Salmon, Poll Finds
 SCIENCE PANEL PANS PATH, HATCHERY FUNDING
The panel of independent scientists charged with weighing the value of BPA's fish and wildlife program has completed a report that could change the direction of regional salmon recovery. The group took issue with the accepted wisdom of regional fish managers and said spending money on big-ticket items like more hatcheries won't solve the region's fish problems. About half of the $127 million in BPA's direct fish and wildlife spending pays for hatcheries and other artificial propagation efforts.
The scientists recommended against spending $20 million for the Nez Perce salmon hatchery on the Clearwater River in Idaho, a project on which the region has already spent millions in planning costs. The review was tough on many other artificial propagation projects as well. But other elements of the program came in for close scrutiny, too. The group, known as the Independent Scientific Review Panel, also recommended that the PATH process be retired, a move that could save another $2 million in FY 2000.
NWPPC chair Todd Maddock said the independent review is the key to the basin's fish and wildlife program. "We have heard clearly from Northwest citizens and from Congress," said Maddock, "that there must be greater accountability for fish and wildlife recovery, and the Council is working to provide that accountability."
The recommendations are part of an exhaustive review of nearly 400 proposals by regional, state and federal agencies and private contractors. Using peer review groups, made up of 27 other scientists, to help judge the program, the 11-member ISRP gave the OK to 231 projects. They went to some length to explain why many of their picks didn't gibe with an earlier review by regional fish and wildlife managers and why they only supported $36 million in funding for hatcheries and other proposals for artificial propagation, while fish managers picked $66 million worth of projects in the category of artificial propagation. The difference lies mainly in the higher value the ISRP places on wild, native fish populations, long a bone of contention among regional agencies. The panel also had problems with resident fish efforts that used non-native stocks for supplementation work, like the Colville tribe's hatchery efforts.
"At this point, we are discouraged, but not surprised that they have targeted hatcheries and tribal supplementation efforts, in particular," said Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission spokesman Charles Dawson. "We question the very existence of the ISRP." He said the tribes may warm up the old lawsuit against the NWPPC that started two years ago, when the ISRP first recommended delaying funding for some hatcheries until a regional review of artificial propagation was finished. Such an effort is now underway, but it is not yet completed.
Some Power Planning Council members soft-pedaled the group's anti-hatchery recommendations. Idaho representative Mike Field said it would take time to find out just what the ISRP had in mind when it advised the NWPPC not to fund such expensive proposals as the Nez Perce hatchery. "It is an experiment," Field said. "It is the cutting edge," and as such, he noted, reviews such as the ISRP's will turn up little support in fisheries research that supports the proposal.
The ISRP scientists said there was little in fisheries' peer-reviewed literature to support claims that the "innovative" approaches to be used at the new hatchery would prove to yield greater survival of released fish. "The proposal claims to have the blessing of the ISRP (which is not true) and others, but many of the 'innovative' approaches described have not been proven to yield greater survival of released fish."
Montana Council member Stan Grace concurred with Field. He said the next step will be to look into the specific reasons why the ISRP voted against funding the hatchery.
Ultimately, it's up to the Council to decide which fish and wildlife proposals will be funded. If they decline to approve projects the panel recommended, they are only required to state their reasons in writing, according to the 1996 Northwest Power Act amendment sponsored by Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA) that created the scientific review process. Until then, fish and wildlife managers judged the worth of many of their own agency projects themselves, a situation that some likened to the fox guarding the henhouse.
The ISRP also had problems with captive broodstock programs, noting that "they are extremely costly and seen intractable as a tool for preserving all or even many Basin salmonid strains." The panel said even short-term culture of salmonids would alter selective pressures and cause stocks to lose both environmentally and genetically-based traits of wild fish, "no matter how much hatcheries attempt to mimic natural rearing conditions and environments." Members said recent studies point to captive broodstock as a "last-resort strategy" that should be preceded by careful field studies.
The ISRP also had problems with fisheries enhancement proposals in the Umatilla watershed, long touted by regional fish managers as one of the few successes in the current program. "We found that several proposals lacked any indication that the authors understood which strategy they were pursuing or what the related sub-basin objective was." The panel reported that original production estimates for the Umatilla hatchery were reduced when the facility's water supply came in at only one-third of what was originally planned, creating a situation where adult returns are not enough to supply sufficient eggs. The ISRP recommends a full scale peer review of the project and other strategies in the sub-basin.
As for the PATH process, the scientists said data limitations cannot discriminate between the competing passage models used to examine recovery strategies. They said a simpler process needs to be created, with data systems that can address actual management questions. "The ISRP concludes that PATH should be congratulated for a job well done and recommends that it be honorably retired." - Bill Rudolph
 NEW PACIFIC SALMON TREATY NO MODEL OF CLARITY
The June 3 media event announcing the new Pacific Salmon Treaty was clearly Gary Locke's show. The buzz was that Washington's governor, who had been accused early on of not understanding the complexities of salmon recovery, had taken on the Pacific Salmon Treaty as a personal objective, attending some 30 salmon meetings since last November. But Governor Locke and Canadian federal David Anderson had already cooked up an interim salmon conservation arrangement that left lots of British Columbia players feeling left out.
The fact that the premier of BC, Glen Clark, did not show at King County's Boeing Field International Airport was an omission that did not escape the news media. "He could have showed up if he wanted to," Governor Locke observed as Minister Anderson pointed out that signatory parties to the treaty were the Canadian federal government, the states of Alaska, Oregon and Washington, and Indian tribes. But back in Victoria, Premier Clark revealed why he wasn't on hand as he blasted the emerging treaty and charged the Canadian "federal government chose to go it alone in negotiating with the US, Alaska, Washington and Oregon governments."
Clark went on to note, in a statement posted on the BC government Website, that "Our concern over the failure to include BC in these negotiations so profoundly affecting our endangered salmon stocks and fish harvesters is well known."
Anderson made both the federal jurisdictional argument and a procedural one, noting what he said would have been "too much diversity" if stakeholders (presumably including the BC government) had been at the negotiating table with the signatory governmental entities.
Descriptions of the treaty were not laid out clearly in material made available at the announcement, and key details were parsed somewhat differently by the Canadian and state sides. It is clear that two "bilaterally-managed regional funds" ("Endowment funds" in the Canadian documents) are to be established, one for good salmon works in northern areas (Alaska and north and central BC) and the other for southern areas (southern BC, Oregon, Washington and the Snake River). The US summary says the funds will be jointly administered and will "be used to improve fisheries management and aid the country's efforts to recover weakened salmon stocks."
Money would be appropriated by the US Congress "over a four-year period." The Canadian summary says that only the income from the endowment funds would be spent. These funds are separate from the $100 million Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund proposed by the Clinton administration.
Harvest Cuts For Both Countries
The key harvest reductions (as nearly as can be determined from documents and statements at the media event) would cut US catches of Fraser River sockeye by 25 percent (down to 6 percent of the run) over 12 years and Canadian catches of US chinook west of Vancouver Island by 40 percent over ten years. Actual harvest numbers will be determined by run quantities, using "aggregate abundance-based management" rather than the fixed quotas used in previous conservation measures. Governor Locke said that $30 million to $35 million would be included in the treaty package to compensate fishers for fish not caught by buying back permits.
Premier Clark said the treaty should be evaluated in light of "two fundamental questions." First, does the treaty "meet the conservation test of protecting endangered BC coho salmon?" And second, does the deal "ensure a fair sharing of non-endangered salmon that are surplus to our conservation needs?" Clark said no on both counts, pointing out that last year, while BC fishers caught no Canadian coho, Alaskans landed 800,000; and that this year, Canadians will catch none of their coho, while Alaskans will be fishing.
Moreover, Clark said the treaty "gives Alaskans the right to more than their fair share of non-endangered salmon" and fails to "reduce Alaskan catching of BC sockeye. Instead, the deal entrenches within the treaty the right of Alaskans to catch more BC salmon than ever."
Minister Anderson seemed to be somewhat on the same wave length with Clark when he told P-I correspondent Joel Connelly after the media event that--considering an Alaska fishery that will take hundreds of thousands of chinook, sockeye and coho headed for BC and US rivers--"there will still be a major kill"
The Canadian papers were full of treaty fault-finding. From The Globe and Mail (Toronto): "'The only people who have had anything good to say about this deal are Americans,' said Jim Fulton, executive director of the conservationist David Suzuki Foundation, which supported earlier salmon-preservation moves by the federal government. 'It's quite clear that if this agreement were put on a scale of 10, the Americans would get a 10 and Canadians might get a 1.'"
From The Prince Rupert Daily News: "The agreement signed yesterday by the two nations will do nothing for northcoast fishermen, according to [former Pacific Salmon Commissioner Paddy] Greene. 'There is not a shared burden of conservation [in this treaty],' he said. 'I want to emphasize the reality is that when we talk of conservation, people are quite willing to conserve if the burden is shared by the Alaskans.'"
A measure of the political turmoil in Canada over the salmon treaty issue is the fact that BC fishermen and critics of the pact were barred from the federal fisheries minister David Anderson's news conference in Vancouver on the day of the announcement. The BC government was not represented at the announcement, which was attended by the governors of Alaska, Oregon and Washington.
There was some regional optimism on this side of the border at chinook harvest cuts, most importantly in dwindling runs of falls. Ocean fishing cuts might double endangered falls going into the Snake, according to what Burnie Bohn, assistant director of fisheries for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, told The Oregonian. Barbara Lindsay, Washington state lobbyist for the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association of Portland, was quoted as saying "This is really good news to the industry and to the regional economy."
Details To Come
But many salmon restoration players said there most probably were some devils in the details, and details were in short supply. The 40 percent cut in west-of-Vancouver-Island chinook harvest is a cut in a baseline exploitation rate, and considering that Canadian catches of those fish have been zero recently, a cut in the exploitation rate against a multi-year baseline could mean more chinook caught rather than fewer. Moreover, the quota system in the old PST has been dropped in favor of an "abundance" standard, which will vary actual catch numbers depending on how big runs are.
Canada will not pay into the mitigation funds, which some sources speculate to be recognition that American fishers, particularly Alaskans, have for many years landed more than a fair share of Canadian fish.
The $140 million in the two funds must be appropriated by Congress. "We are confident that there will be strong bipartisan support to honor this [financial] commitment," Lloyd Cutler, former White House counsel who was recently appointed special administration representative to the treaty talks, told reporters.
Bipartisan perhaps, but the key to getting the bucks may explain why the Alaskans seemed to be the biggest beneficiaries of the proposed pact. That non-bipartisan key is Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, Republican chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, whose good will is mandatory in getting money from the Congress for this special purpose. Or any other, for that matter. But Democrat Cutler and Stevens, both veteran Congressional rainmakers, would be a powerful pair in getting funding. - Cyrus Noë
 NW GOVS EMBRACE SALMON ISSUES
Environmentalists were upset at Washington Governor Gary Locke's signing of two bills that Locke said provided salmon with "the highest level of protection...on forest lands of any state in the nation." The enviros had bailed many months ago from the bills' negotiating sessions, which they felt were not going toward their goals of really big riparian setbacks. "This bill is a sellout to the timber industry, pure and simple," Dave Mann, president of the Washington Environmental Council, was quoted as saying about one of the proposals in press accounts. "It gives the timber industry control of future logging rules, gives them a multimillion-dollar tax cut, and allows them to continue to cut trees too close to streams, threatening salmon and water quality," Mann said.
Governor Locke, legislators, industry representatives and tribal leaders thought otherwise. They said the bills--the culmination of two years in the face-to-face negotiation trenches and subsequent legislative bargaining--produced the best way of melding demands of the ESA and maintaining a viable timber industry. Bill Wilkerson, executive director of the Washington Forest Protection Association, said the bills mean the industry "has a future."
The riparian setbacks worked out in negotiations include a "core zone" consisting of a 50-foot "no touch" area closest to the stream. There would be a restricted management zone starting at the 50 foot mark and extending another 30 feet to 100 feet, depending on stream conditions. An outer zone beyond would require maintaining 20 trees per acre. The east side core zone is 30 feet wide. The bills provide that riparian setbacks and other actions be submitted to the state's Forestry Practices Board for approval.
Timber interests report the industry is giving up $2 billion in harvestable timber along 60,000 miles of streams, rivers and adjacent hillsides. The bills provide a state tax break that amounts to about $8 million a year exempted from timber harvest excise taxes. A very important feature of the legislation for industry was that state timber regulations would be relatively stable for the next 50 years.
The environmentalist view on riparian set-backs can be found on the Washington Environmental Council Website as a joint WEC-Audubon Society proposal. The proposal calls for a 250-foot no-cut buffer along streams, including intermittent ones.
Lottery Funds For Oregon Fish
In other salmon news, Oregon Governor Kitzhaber won a battle with the legislature over management of the Oregon Plan salmon recovery program, which the governor wanted to stay with state agencies. A coalition of timber, business, utility and conservation interests wanted a new state recovery commission, which they thought would assure long-term funding of the Oregon Plan effort. They felt specific funding might guarantee protection against the feds doing heavy deeds like restricting timber cutting and breaching dams. The upshot was placing $44 million in lottery funds with a souped-up version of the governor's Watershed Enhancement Board, which would have six Northwest public members in addition to the current five state natural resources agency representatives.
At a Power Planning Council work session in Portland, Kitzhaber confounded predictions he might thwack Council members for not showing greater deference to the Columbia Basin Forum as a more open instrument of policy development than the NWPPC. To the contrary, Kitzhaber went out of his way to say nice things about the Council to the Council, in particular congratulating the Council for not being jealous of the Forum.
The thrust of the Governor's talk underscored the need for turning away from conventional wisdom approaches to salmon problems, eschewing "silver bullet" solutions and valuing science. The region will be acted on if it does not act in salmon and energy matters, the Oregon governor said, and "we do not need people east of the Mississippi making decisions for this region." - C. N.
 GORTON AMENDMENT LIMITS BPA DAM BREACHING FUNDS
Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA) has added an amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill that's designed to keep BPA from collecting money during the 2001-2006 rate period for potential dam removal expenses that might be incurred after that time period. Gorton's proposed amendment, which the Senate approved by a vote of 97 to 2 on June 16, "prevents BPA from creating a separate slush fund" for future dam breaching, said Gorton spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman. Later, Gorton took out language in the Interior appropriations bill that tied $7 million in Elwha dam removal money to a statement that authorized only Congress to direct breaching of federal dams.
The amendment changes the Water and Power appropriations bill to limit "the inclusion of costs of protection of, or mitigation of damage to, and enhancement of fish, within rates charged by [BPA], to the rate period in which the costs are incurred." The amendment also adds that statement as new language to section 7 of the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act, along with "Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, rates established by the Administrator in accordance with established fish funding principles under this section shall recover costs for protection, mitigation and enhancement of fish, whether under the [NW Power Act] or any other act, not to exceed such amounts the Administrator forecasts will be expended during the period for which such rates are established."
"BPA will not be limited in its ability to pay for fish recovery costs, but they will not get one extra dime as a down payment for dam removal unless Congress and the people of the region authorize such action," Gorton said in a news release.
BPA has no specific position on the amendment, said spokesman Perry Gruber. "This is Congress dealing with what they feel they have to deal with, and we're the executive branch," he said.
BPA Senior VP Steve Wright said the amendment would not change the way BPA is planning to proceed with its rate case for the 2001-2006 period. He added that the issue at hand is a difficult one: in its rate proposal, the agency is shooting for doubling its reserves to $1.4 billion, when in the past, the target reserve level was from $500 million to $700 million. While that has led some to wonder if the extra reserves are a way for BPA to "hide money for future dam breaching," Wright says that isn't the case. "We have a lot more risk than in the past, particularly in respect to markets and fish costs within the rate period."
While the amendment doesn't change BPA's approach to the rate case, Wright said it does mean the agency won't have to include additional money in the 2001-2006 period to cover even more expensive fish contingencies. That suggestion was raised in a recent controversial federal agency memo. - Jude Noland
 TIRED OF DEBATING, BPA PREPARES TO PRESS EX PARTE BUTTON
BPA on June 23 put into effect ex-parte rules with respect to communications between itself and parties in the power rate case. However, the initial rate proposal itself will not be published in the Federal Register for another three to six weeks.
The delay will allow BPA to make any needed changes based on the outcome of negotiations with its DSI customers, said Diane Cherry, BPA rate case manager. The agency last week said most DSIs had agreed to a compromise for their subscription allocation.
A pre-conference hearing will be held a week after the initial proposal is published in early August. The following week, the 4,000 pages of the rate case, bound in 15 volumes, will be available. Cherry said the agency decided to trigger ex parte in advance of publication of the IP because it is anxious to get the process started. BPA Administrator Judi Johansen offered an even stronger version of that sentiment in a recent interview: "We've debated the issues fully and ad nauseam and it is time to move forward."
Johansen said implementation of ex parte rules would make things easier in some respects, "as it ends some of the debates, but on the other hand it's cumbersome." But she emphasized the agency intends to abide strictly to the rules: "We will not engage in off-the-records communications regarding the substance of the rate case."
Johansen said her objective in traveling to Washington DC during the week of June 7 was "to get the rate case freed up and on its way, and I accomplished that" by getting final a sign-off from a number of agencies. "I think folks on the Hill understand what a delicate balance BPA is engaged in and they are supportive of what we doing."
The BPA administrator also said she believes the flap over the memo from mid-level staffers in several Federal Family agencies encouraging BPA to raise funds beyond those agreed in the fish principles has been put to rest. The missive--"annoying and aggravating" as it was--resulted from a combination of a "legitimate misunderstanding" and of the matter not being "high enough on people's screens," she said. "It took a couple of rounds for people to say, 'Oh, i get it.'"
Johansen said she met with Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of Management and Budget and the Interior department, and that those agencies are now clear that "we don't need to raise rates to preserve options on the fish side."
But environmental constituents are still unsatisfied with the rate case proposal. In a June 17 letter to Johansen and the CEQ, directors of NW Energy Coalition, Sierra Club, Idaho Rivers United, Friends of the Earth, Trout Unlimited, American Rivers and Save Our Wild Salmon said they've reviewed memoranda from a number of Congressional delegation members and from NMFS' Will Stelle saying BPA's proposal is sufficient to cover its potential F&W costs. Stelle's memo informally ended the "federal memo" flap. Even so, the groups said "we believe more than ever that the proposal jeopardizes fish recovery, Treasury repayment and Northwest control of the federal hydropower system."
The groups said a graph Stelle used in his memo was "misleading" because it does not cover all "actual base rate costs, and the contingency funds available to cover additional costs are much less than implied..."
"Simply put, the PF rate already includes planned reserves, a CRAC, and carry-forward reserves in order to cover BPA's normal risk. If any extraordinary event occurs, such as a very likely fish recovery decision with greater than $520 million annual costs, BPA actually has recourse to very few contingency funds, and its Treasury payment probability sinks below 88 percent.
"We find it hard to believe that the rest of the country will be sympathetic to delaying fish recovery, Clean Water Act compliance or missing Treasury payments when Northwest electric rates are significantly below market," the letter added. The groups also complained that BPA's 1500 MW "sweetheart" offer to the DSIs increases the risk to F&W and Treasury obligations. "We estimate that the variable rate mechanism could cost BPA between $70 million and $130 million per year."
Meantime there were several other developments on the rate case front. For one, the American Federation of Government Employees Local 928, whose 900-plus members constitute the largest of BPA's three labor bargaining units, announcement that an "overwhelming" majority of its approximately 135 dues paying members had voted to seek status as a party in the rate case.
The union said it is concerned that BPA "has indicated that it will include 'undistributed cost reductions' in the costs it uses to set its rates." It said it wants to know how vulnerable its members are, especially "in the light of electricity rate cuts being negotiated with BPA's DSI customers. AFGE is concerned that a disproportionate share of the risk and burden of providing such low rates for these industrials customers will come from staffing cuts."
If granted, it would be the first time any BPA union representatives have joined a 7(i) proceeding. The decision will be made by a hearing officer on BPA's payroll. The application poses perplexing issues such as the application of ex parte rules. "BPA wouldn't be allowed to talk to itself," one BPA employee observed.
In a related developed, Employees for Efficiency (E4E), a independent group of Bonneville employees that maintain a website (www.angelfire.com/or/emp4eff/) devoted principally to BPA's Administrative Efficiency Project and related issues, posted "an account of BPA's dealings with the DSIs from someone who knows and wants to remain anonymous." E4E said it's concerned that "any sweetheart deal with the DSIs won't be paid for by BPA's other customers--the employees are now a fair target for paying for such deals--with their jobs."
The account details some recent history of BPA's negotiations with the DSIs, and in places alleges that BPA's post-subscription offers to the DSIs were the result of political pressure. A BPA spokesman said the agency does not sponsor the website and regards it as unofficial because BPA "works directly with the unions on employee issues." It would not comment on the accuracy of the account: "We're not even going to discuss it."
BPA was also taking heat from Congressman Peter DeFazio (D- OR) on the variable rate component of the deal BPA offered the DSIs. The low end, at which BPA would charge the DSIs 19 mills if aluminum prices were at or below 60 cents/lb, "is too low," DeFazio said. More recently, BPA said the low end of the variable rate would kick in at 62 cents/lb.
"It is my understanding that you have estimated the cost of this proposal at $50 million, with $25 million covered by the prior augmentation budget, and the remainder split in some form between the DSIs and BPA's public power and IOU residential and small farm loads."
DeFazio said he's also worried about "the possibility of BPA providing hedge contracts provided by Morgan Stanley to the DSIs." As understood by public power, the M-S instruments would make it possible for BPA credit to back up DSIs whose credit worthiness is lower than other DSIs. "I find it hard to believe that Bonneville--an agency of the federal government--would gamble in the risky and unregulated market for hedge funds." BPA says it is "not taking on significant additional risk" by providing the M-S product.
DeFazio put to BPA a series of detailed questions about both issues. He also again urged that any contracts signed with the DSIs repeal "the targeted stranded cost protection included in earlier DSI contracts." Last week, BPA said DSIs agreed to take on the same exposure to stranded costs as public agency customers.
According to the analysis in the unsigned E4E document, the variable rate BPA put on the table will enable "hidden values" that the DSIs can take to Wall Street and exchange "for as much as $4.00/MWh in cash back to them. That will have the effect of shifting "untold potential millions in financial options values away from BPA and the [in] the direction of the DSIs." - Ben Tansey
 OREGON WILD FISH POLICY DEBATE HEATS UP
A bill introduced in the Oregon legislature by Columbia River tribes designed to exempt all rivers above Bonneville Dam from the Oregon Wild Fish Policy has been transformed into a subbasin planning process.
The original bill was opposed by Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber along with NMFS regional administrator Will Stelle, the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and conservation groups such as the Oregon Council of Trout Unlimited, Oregon Trout and the Native Fish Society.
The tribes' bill was supported by the Coalition of River Users who oppose the tribal position on removal of the Snake River dams, but who feel that increased hatchery stocking will solve the problem for wild fish.
After a veto threat by the governor, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the tribes went into negotiations behind closed doors. Roy Hemmingway, Kitzhaber's salmon advisor, told ODFW director Jim Greer that the governor supported protection of wild fish and he "doesn't want you to compromise your principles. If you cannot live with the bill and its amendments, the governor will support you."
Jim Myron of Oregon Trout asked the bill's sponsor, Representative Jason Atkinson (R-Jacksonville) to allow Oregon Trout and the Native Fish Society to participate in the negotiations, but Myron's request was turned down. Atkinson said negotiations would fall apart if he were to let those groups into the negotiations.
The tribes and the state agreed to bill language that called for development of subbasin plans that use sound science, adaptive management, monitoring and evaluation, clearly defined objectives, benefits wild fish, and be consistent with the federal Endangered Species Act.
According to Myron, the effort by conservation organizations and the strong stand by Kitzhaber transformed a very harmful bill into sound, science-based process for making decisions about the use of hatchery fish. Myron said he wants the public involved with the tribes and the ODFW in developing subbasin plans, and called for their review by the state's independent science team. Salmon advisor Hemmingway said that will be accomplished.
The amendments to the bill went to the Senate Rules Committee for a public hearing. After listening to the tribes and a few supporting legislators the hearing was closed and the committee referred the bill to the floor with a 'do pass' recommendation.
The committee cut off testimony from the director of the fish and wildlife agency, the other party involved in amendment negotiations, and three conservation groups. Public testimony in the only other hearing on this bill was handled in the same way. Myron was furious.
"Science doesn't matter a bit in this debate," he said. "It's just raw politics."
The bill, HB 3609, is expected to pass, but its effect on continuing negotiations among the states and tribes under US v. Oregon has created problems for setting the fall fishing season on the Columbia River.
In 1988, the states and tribes reached agreement on production and harvest planning for the Columbia River under a court-ordered process called the Columbia River Fish Management Plan. A 1997 review of this agreement by agencies and tribes noted that measures to rebuild the runs were stalled because the parties could not agree on how to carry them out.
"The agreement ended in 1998, with expectations for a re-consultation to be completed by the end of the year. But it didn't happen, so the Oregon District Court extended the negotiations until the end of the 1999 spring fishing season. The extension runs out in a few days."
In a recent status conference, federal judge Malcolm Marsh lectured the parties, saying that the agencies and tribes represented the "greatest wealth of knowledge" in the region, but noted they had failed to set aside their differences. The judge said that if the parties cannot reach agreement, he would have to rule.
With considerable disagreement still evident among parties over production issues, ESA listings in the region have complicated the debate even more. According to Oregon state attorney Steve Sanders, the dispute is growing over which group gets most of the hatchery fish and more conflict is brewing over recovery and harvest issues. The tribes and federal agencies are in agreement, but they are opposed by the states.
With the approval of HB 3609, Sanders said, Oregon cannot finish these negotiations until the Oregon F&W Commission adopts the proposed agreement through its public process and by rule adoption.
In a memo to John Platt of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, tribal representative Paul Lumley said, "I'm sending this message because I think it's important to document that the Oregon attorneys are already trying to use HB 3609 to impede salmonid recovery programs. All the tribes are asking ODFW to do is to release 100,000 smolts (steelhead) in the Imnaha Subbasin for recovery and that these fish not be ad-clipped for their sport fishery. John, the tribes could really use your assistance in making sure that HB 3609 is being implemented as it was intended, not as another barrier to recovery."
Platt wrote a letter to ODFW seeking a signed agreement from both the director and attorney Sanders.
According to Sanders, "The implementation of HB 3609 is now entangled in resolution of the 1999 fall season harvest on the Columbia River. We need to find a way to implement HB 3609 and reach agreement on the fall season which includes both harvest and production. However, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the tribes do not yet have a common understanding if and how this new legislative act would work." - Bill Bakke
 SENATE HEARING KNOCKS 'SECRET' FEDERAL FISH MEETINGS
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) led a Senate subcommittee hearing last week that focused on activities of the federal caucus (aka "Federal Family"), the nine agencies working on fish and wildlife policy in the Columbia Basin. He called for FOIA requests from each agency and asked them to include all regional stakeholders in future meetings. The FOIA requests ask for agendas, minutes, and correspondence from inside, between and among the agencies.
Crapo, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Drinking Water, said June 23 that he has heard complaints from constituents, including state, local and tribal officials, concerned about the federal caucus' closed meetings. "Given the magnitude of the salmon recovery issue and the importance of regional input in the decision-making process, I agree the public needs to know more."
White House Council on Environmental Quality chair George Frampton explained in his testimony that the region is developing fish and wildlife alternatives through the Framework Process, which is completely public. Crapo expressed concern that federal meetings were leaning toward certain alternatives without enough public input.
One observer remarked that Crapo was really "hung up" on this one issue, which he said turned the hearing into a "non-event."
NMFS policymaker Donna Darm told Crapo the FOIA wasn't necessary; that her agency would provide the necessary paperwork. Darm explained that a final alternative may well be a "mix and match" of several alternatives under discussion in the Framework.
Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne chaired another panel at the hearing. He said he was "troubled" that the caucus' work "is being done behind closed doors." And he was uncertain that the agencies were using the most recent research data because no requests had been made to his state for any data or analysis on these issues.
"What I am asking for is the states be given a seat at the table and the opportunity to be fully involved in the process sooner rather than later," Kempthorne said. He added there is no assurance the feds will use the resources of the Framework Process as they work toward a 1999 decision for fish and wildlife recovery. And Idaho is interested in knowing about fundamental assumptions that the feds were formulating in their "4H" process. If the feds develop alternatives based on recoverable wild fish, Kempthorne said it could be a critical factor in the continued viability of Idaho's fish hatcheries.
Industry representatives also criticized the federal caucus. Lobbyist Mark Dunn of agribusiness giant J.R. Simplot mentioned the recent rate case memo developed by several caucus members without BPA input. The document recommended BPA boost projected rate increases to account for the probability of higher future fish and wildlife costs than the Administration had agreed to in funding principles finalized last September.
"If the caucus cannot or will not coordinate such an important initiative, how can we as economic stakeholders hope to work with them? Can we trust their statements--and even more concerning, what is coming next?" Dunn questioned how the closed door federal process that is developing the 4H paper can succeed "when the federal agencies that hold the regulatory hammer are developing their own separate vision for the region."
Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission executive director Don Sampson said a reasonable 4H analysis must be grounded in the best science and questioned the decisions by federal scientists and policymakers so far. "We see the fruits of their 'expertise' in the empty waters and degraded streams in the basin," Sampson said in written testimony. He called for an independent scientific review of the 4H analysis.
Tim Stearns, spokesman for environmental and fishing groups under the Save Our Wild Salmon umbrella, said the feds need to put their options out for public review, but "we reject the notion that the Administration should not meet privately to develop its positions." He said he shared skepticism about the 4H paper, but believes it's "overdue and necessary." Stearns used the occasion to stump for opening up BPA's rate case to higher projected fish and wildlife costs. After the hearing, Crapo said the information provided by federal representatives "shows they are actually evaluating and possibly creating new alternatives for salmon recovery in private. I'm more concerned now than I was before the hearing. They confirmed that they are doing exactly what they are accused of doing--meeting without any local, state, tribal or relevant interest group representation." Crapo said he would demand changes "so that a truly collaborative effort regarding salmon recovery is underway." -Bill Rudolph
 COLUMBIA RIVER BASIN FORUM GOES FOR GOALS
The Columbia River Basin Forum is still trying to define itself. At last week's meeting in Portland, Forum reps spent hours discussing what they want to be and what they want to do.
"We're spending too much time talking about how to do business instead of doing business," said Bob Nichols, Washington Gov. Gary Locke's representative to the regional roundtable. Later on, attendees did begin to articulate their goals for the process. It's a situation that fish and wildlife Framework Process participants are already familiar with; they went through this exercise at a workshop last year.
Nichols told the Forum that Washington state was developing yet another forum to tackle fish issues, one that will bring together agricultural and fish policy folks to work out a recovery plan modeled after the recent success of the state's timber-fish-wildlife plan just signed into law after more than two years of wrangling. Nichols said the big issue in his state is to resolve water issues with the agriculture sector, which uses two-thirds to three quarters of the federal "nexus" irrigated water in eastern Washington.
As for hatcheries, Nichols said his state was open to tribal supplementation ideas, as long as they dovetail with the Power Council's recent study on hatcheries. He admitted harvest wasn't his strong point.
Idaho's Mike Field said the biggest problem for him was trying to resolve the regional question of wild fish versus hatchery fish. "I see a rationale in both sides," he said, adding that with a new governor, his state isn't prepared to articulate a set of goals for fish and wildlife recovery. But he noted that with strong pressure from irrigators, and no scientific evidence that flow augmentation works to improve fish runs, it might be hard for Idaho's legislature to even renew the 427 kcfs in flow augmentation called for in the present NMFS BiOp.
Montana's Stan Grace said his state isn't ready to set goals, either. "We want to be part of a regional solution. We don't know where we fit in yet." Grace said his view is that where anadromous fish habitat has been blocked, some hatcheries are needed. He said Montana is also concerned about harvest issues.
Oregon's Erich Bloch said his state recognizes a legal obligation to recover fish under treaties with the basin's tribes, as well as upholding federal statutes like the Clean Water Act and the Northwest Power Act.
"For us," said Bloch, "everything is on the table." He said Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber supports substantial reductions in all causes of fish mortality, in all the 4-H's of habitat, hydro, harvest and hatcheries.
When pressed by a question from DSI attorney James Buchal as to what he meant by fish and wildlife recovery, Bloch said Oregon fish and wildlife recovery strategies were still under discussion. He said his state places a very high value on fish and wildlife, and recovery should be achieved along with "wise" economic development.
"The real killer of the fish is the dams," said tribal representative Howard Funke. He expressed dismay that three Northwest governors have gone on record saying that the four lower Snake dams should stay put. He felt such a state of affairs precluded serious discussion of such drastic recovery options.
But Nichols pointed out that four alternatives under discussion in the Framework Process include dam breaching strategies. He said the region needs an explanation of alternatives that will recover fish with the dams in place. Nichols' boss, Gov. Locke, has supported keeping the lower Snake dams. However, Nichols said, "the status quo is not enough."
Field took issue with Funke's remark. "In Idaho, we feel that dams are not the highest source of mortality."
Funke was philosophical about dam breaching. "Even though we're discussing it, it's not going to happen." But he said without seriously considering the breaching option, it "cheats the process."
Funke told the group that when upriver tribes lost their salmon runs, it was "like you losing electricity." He said the region needs an ecosystem-based approach to recovery and more reliable data than what's coming out of the cost/benefit analyses in the Corps' DREW process and the Framework's economic and social studies.
CRITFC counsel John Platt suggested adopting a goal from the lower river tribes' restoration plan: the return of four million salmon to above Bonneville Dam. "Without goals and objectives, the Framework process is doomed to failure," he said.
NMFS policymaker Donna Darm expressed her agency's goals--to satisfy obligations for tribal harvest; to foster recovery of fish and wildlife, and to prevent weak stocks from going extinct. She explained how Framework alternatives are being winnowed down and cautioned participants that if their recovery alternative doesn't aim to achieve NMFS' three goals, "it's a non-starter."
Karen Hunt of BPA said the power agency's goal is to support fish and wildlife recovery and maintain market-based electrical rates, along with funding certainty for 10 years.
Towards the end of the discussion, one participant summed up the general feeling of the meeting. "It seemed like a worthy goal to make a list of goals." -B. R.
 DON'T RAISE UTILITY RATES FOR SALMON, POLL FINDS
The latest poll on salmon issues by Seattle-based Elway Research has found that most Puget Sound residents are not willing to face higher water and electric bills to pay for fish recovery and accept more restrictions on private property. The latest numbers were developed after the ESA listing for Puget Sound chinook became official last month.
Though nearly 80 percent of those polled were willing to cut their use of water, pesticides and lawn fertilizers, 60 percent were unwilling to face higher utility bills, with 39 percent of them "very unwilling."
Sixty percent were also unwilling to accept more restrictions on private property. Forty-four percent of those polled in this category were "very unwilling." A poll last year found the 51 percent favored establishing stronger controls over land use in the Puget Sound region. The pollsters said the difference suggests that public opinion "is still volatile on this issue."
The poll also found that 40 percent considered that either urban development or runoff was the most to blame for slight salmon runs. Twenty-seven percent thought overfishing was the major cause, while agricultural runoff was blamed by another 11 percent as the major factor in fish declines.
The pollsters reported that over the last five years, Washington voters who think the cost of salmon restoration may be too high has risen from 29 percent to 42 percent, while the proportion of those who disagreed fell from a 55 percent majority to 44 percent.
The latest survey showed that while 54 percent of respondents said it was OK to fund salmon recovery in other parts of the state with local taxes, when state taxes were mentioned, it was another matter. The poll found 43 percent in favor of raising them to aid fish, 42 percent against, with 15 percent undecided. The pollsters reported a nine percent drop in the group that supported raising taxes for fish from two years ago.
The issue showed deep divisions between the eastern and western parts of the state. A tax hike was supported by 55 percent of King County respondents and only 17 percent of respondents in Eastern Washington.
The poll also found that most Puget Sounders feel the ESA listing is a "good thing," and only 7 percent felt it would have a significant economic effect on them, but another 29 percent said they expected some negative impact on them or their households. Last year, only 42 percent of those polled said the listing would be a "good thing."
Pollsters also reported that when asked to choose between restoration plans that "produced the greatest number of fish versus a plan that restored fish to the greatest number of rivers," 53 percent picked rivers by a 2:1 margin, down from a 3:1 margin last year. -B. R.
LINKS/DOCUMENTS FROM NW FISHLETTER 083:: Below are listed links and documents referred to in the text of NW Fishletter issue 083 .
- ISRP Review of FY 2000 Fish and Wildlife Program
- Summary of Agreement, Pacific Salmon Treaty, June, 1999
- Washington Environmental Council
- Employees for Efficiency
THE ARCHIVE :: Previous NW Fishletter issues and supporting documents.
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