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NWF.089/Oct.05.1999
[1] NMFS Releases Draft 'White Papers' on Flow, Fish Transport
[2] Net Ban Rhetoric Heats Up On Both Sides
[3] PacifiCorp Reaches Agreement To Remove Condit Dam
[4] Oregon Illegally Harvests Listed Coho
[5] NMFS Hosts Habitat Modeling Workshop
[6] Power Planning Council OKs $68 Million in F&W Projects
[7] Budget Rider Keeps BPA From Saving For Future Dam Breaching

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[1] NMFS RELEASES DRAFT 'WHITE PAPERS' ON FLOW, FISH TRANSPORT

The National Marine Fisheries Service has released draft "white papers" that deal with flow management and fish transportation in the hydro system. The preliminary reports outline the history of fish survival research and include both tantalizing new results and some old caveats--mainly about the need for more research. After a regional review, the white papers will be attached as appendices to the next hydro BiOp being developed by the agency, along with forthcoming papers on dam passage and predation.

The agency said unpublished analyses of adult returns from hatchery spring/summer chinook PIT-tagged at Lower Granite Dam in 1995 could not detect a relationship between smolt-to-adult returns (SARs) and flows in the Snake River. "However," the draft report said, "these results only represent one year of data. By fall 2001, four years of complete returns should provide enough additional data to determine if the lack of an in-season relationship holds." An accompanying graph of 1995 data shows an inverse relationship between survival rates and flow increases.

For fall migrants, PIT-tag data over several years shows that "relationships between flow and survival and between travel time and survival through impounded sections of the lower Snake were neither strong (within- or between-years) nor consistent from year to year."

However, the report goes on to say that though a flow/survival relation for fall chinook doesn't "appear to exist," higher flows "may" improve survival benefits in other parts of the salmonid life cycle and in free-flowing sections on the river both above and below the hydro system.

The draft report also says that years of higher flows produce higher overall SARs, which support management actions for flows now prescribed in the current BiOp. "Research conducted since 1995 suggests that the spring flow objectives for the Columbia are reasonable." The NMFS draft says current survival rates of young spring/summer chinook approach levels measured in the 1960s.

Barging Beats Inriver Migration Again

The draft summary of fish transport research says that continued work on the value of barging spring chinook below Bonneville Dam still shows benefits from the strategy. For the 1996 outmigration, preliminary analyses show transported hatchery fish returned at 1.4 times the rate of inriver migrants, and wild transports returned at 2.7 times the rate of their inriver compatriots. For 1998's outmigration, with only jacks returning so far, hatchery fish are showing a return rate 1.4 times that of inriver fish, while wild jacks are coming back at seven times the rate of inriver fish.

More analyses of the 1994-1998 PIT-tag data shows that fish traveling from Lower Granite through multiple bypass systems at other dams returned at a lower rate than barged fish and fish detected at only one dam.

But for 1994, wild and hatchery steelhead and wild/ summer chinook transported from Lower Granite and Little Goose combined returned at higher rates than those fish undetected under existing conditions (either turbine or spillway passage).

However, in 1995, the undetected fish (11) returned at a higher rate than those that were transported. Fish numbers are very small in these samples, which creates little statistical power "to detect true differences," the NMFS paper cautions. Idaho has used the 1995 data to argue for more spill and less fish barging at the dams.

From the 1996 outmigration, preliminary NMFS analyses of adult returns show that hatchery and wild spring/summer chinook and wild steelhead transported from Lower Granite and Little Goose dams returned at a higher rate than undetecteds. There were only two fish in each category.

For 1997, with adult returns incomplete until three-ocean adults return next spring, preliminary results show hatchery and wild spring/summer chinook and steelhead combined also returned at higher rates than undetecteds.

The report notes that recent PIT tag studies "are beginning to demonstrate the tremendous within- and between-year, and most likely, decadal variability inherent in the adult return rates of anadromous salmonids," but says that to develop conclusive evidence about SARs of transported versus downstream migrants, several more years of marking fish will be required, with adult returns not completed for another 10 years.

The NMFS draft also took issue with a review of fish transportation by the Independent Scientific Review Panel, which recommended that trucks not be used to move fish in the future. The panel also said wild streams should be evaluated by stream or stock. NMFS says these evaluations aren't possible at the present time, given low numbers of fish and poor adult return rates. -Bill Rudolph


[2] NET BAN INITIATIVE STIRS UP RHETORIC ON BOTH SIDES

Talk is heating up over an initiative on Washington's November ballot that would outlaw most commercial fishing by nets in state waters. The measure, known as Initiative 696, was written by sports fishing advocate Tom Nelson, editor of The Reel News, a monthly fishing publication based in Renton, Washington. Backers obtained 234,750 signatures to get the measure on the ballot. Election officials determined that 194,000 were valid--14,000 more than the minimum required by law.

I-696 would ban all non-tribal nets, commercial trolling except for reef nets, crab and shrimp pots and herring dip-bag nets in the state, which includes areas within three miles of the Washington coast.

Commercial
Photo of Truck with I-696 Bumper Sticker
Fall bumper crop of political slogans
fishing interests are slowly coming together to fight Initiative 696, with bumper stickers appearing around Seattle's waterfront that say "I'm a fisherman, not a felon." If I-696 passes, net fishing would become a Class C felony, clouding the future of the proposed buy-back system for state commercial fishermen. The program was spelled out in the recent US/Canada agreement over salmon harvests between the two countries.

Commercial groups have the support of Gov. Gary Locke, the League of Women Voters, most mainstream environmental groups--including Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and the Washington Environmental Council--along with some sports groups like the Northwest Sportsfishing Industry Association and the Westport Charterboat Association.

All take issue with the draconian nature of the initiative and its harsh tone. According to the pro-initiative website, "the purpose of Initiative 696 is straightforward and simple--to stop the killing of endangered and threatened salmon, seabirds and sealife by removing commercial fishing nets from Washington waters. Nets are so deadly efficient that many Washington fishery stocks have been netted to near collapse. This has led to Endangered Species listings of many fish stocks and seabirds. State and federal leadership have failed to protect our marine resources. The burden now falls on the voters of Washington State. ESA listings and salmon recovery efforts have already cost the taxpayers millions of dollars in 1999. The expenses and liabilities will only grow unless we remove destructive nets from Washington waters."

Commercial interests say it boils down to nothing more than a fish allocation issue. If nets are banned, they say sports fishermen will get more fish to catch--mainly chinook and coho. Data from the Pacific Fishery Management Council shows that sporties in Puget Sound already catch considerably more chinook and coho than the commercial sector.

The Puget Sound sports sector caught more than 58,000 chinook in 1997, the last year for which recreational catch figures are available, whereas non-treaty commercials caught only 21,600. As for coho, sporties boated 130,000 fish, while non-treaty commercials caught only 9,600. Treaty fishermen (the Indian fishery) caught 41,000 chinook and 142,000 coho.

These numbers point to the fact that members of the Puget Sound commercial fleet--most of whom spend the summer season in Alaska anyway--are allowed mainly to fish fall chum runs in Hood Canal, where hatchery fish are plentiful. In 1997, the commercial catch by non-treaty gillnetters and purse seiners amounted to nearly 682,000 chums. Treaty fishermen caught 660,000 chums.

A letter from Washington state officials of Trout Unlimited to their members has recognized these facts. In part, it says "opponents of the net ban will be able to paint the net ban supporters as greedy by pointing out to the public the imbalance in the harvest of these fish."

The TU letter--which admits the initiative will likely be defeated by a wide margin--doesn't take sides, but does point out that Trout Unlimited will be "lumped together with groups that believe that the only way to have more fish is to take them from other fishers. TU's hard-won reputation will be lost."

On the other hand, if I-696 passes, the fate of the state's commercial license buy-out program "isn't clear to us, either," said Bruce Crawford, license division manager for WDF&W. He said the US/Canada agreement calls for a $30 million federal buy-out program designed to reduce US harvest of Fraser River sockeye.

Crawford said the Senate has allocated $15 million for the buy-out in next year's budget, but the House has set aside no dollars for it. Crawford said it was likely a conference committee would agree to partial funding, and more for the buy-out the following year, but he was cautious about expressing an opinion on the legality of the situation.

"Can a state affect a law that nullifies part of a federal treaty?" Crawford asked.

When the
Photo of Fishing Vessel
Seiners in Hood Canal
Columbia River Alliance came out in support of Initiative 696 on Sept. 24, the rhetorical exuberance in its newsletter seemed to borrow from Greenpeace's old campaign against high seas gillnetting. "The commercial net fishery has wiped out salmon stocks and created havoc with herring, pollock, lingcod, sablefish, rockfish and whiting populations. Species population levels are so low that a net ban is necessary to prevent extinction," said the Sept. 24 Alliance Alert.

But Seattle Greenpeace spokesman Paul Clarke said his group did not support the net ban initiative because "it casts its net too wide. There is room in our environment for a vibrant sustainable fishery."

CRA's Lovelin admitted the ban would have no effect on tribal gillnetting, but he hoped that Indian fishermen "will see this as a good opportunity to explore selective fishing techniques, too."

According to Tony Meyer of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, 1,300 to 1,500 tribal members are currently fishing commercially in the state--down from over 3,000 in the early 1980s. Commission chairman Billy Frank has gone on record opposing the proposed net ban as well. If the initiative passes, about 1,500 non-treaty fisherman would be affected by the ban. -B.R.


[3] PACIFICORP REACHES AGREEMENT TO REMOVE CONDIT DAM

PacifiCorp has reached an agreement to remove its Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in southwestern Washington. The company last month formally signed a voluntary agreement with the Yakama Indian Nation, environmental groups, and state and federal fisheries agencies, under which the utility will continue operating the 14 MW project for seven years and begin removing the dam in October 2006.

The agreement ends PacifiCorp's 10-year effort to relicense the project, which seemed destined to end with FERC issuing a relicense that would have made the project uneconomic to operate. The preliminary FERC EIS on the project, for example, indicated installation of $28 million in fish ladders and screens would be necessary. "It became pretty clear to us after the first five years [of the relicensing process] that the mandatory prescriptions would increase the cost of [Condit's] power by more than three times," said PacifiCorp spokesman Dave Kvamme. Such an increase would clearly make the project uneconomic to operate, he said. That fact, along with the potential for protracted legal battles and the lack of precedent on refusing to accept a FERC relicense, led the company to discussions with the Yakama Nation and the Columbia River Inter-tribal Fish Commission on "what else could be done."

The result is the agreement the parties signed Sept. 22, which caps PacifiCorp's costs for project removal at $17.5 million in 1999 dollars. About $13.65 million of that is for direct project removal costs, while another $2 million is for permitting and mitigation. PacifiCorp will also contribute $1 million to the Yakama Nation Fishery Enhancement Fund, while an additional $500,000 is earmarked for the enhancement fund for the tribal "in-lieu" site, which is downstream from the dam, at the river's mouth, and is held in trust by the US government for the four harvest treaty tribes.

The agreement also includes provisions to address unforeseen increases in construction costs, permitting issues and other steps necessary for removal. At the same time, it calls for a 50-50 sharing between the company and the intervenors of any savings in construction, permitting and mitigation costs. The intervenors' share of such savings will be contributed to the in-lieu site enhancement fund.

The agreement marks the conclusion of over two years of negotiations that have included PacifiCorp, the Yakama Nation, American Rivers, the state of Washington, NMFS, the USDA, Forest Service and the Department of the Interior. In 1997 PacifiCorp reached an agreement in principle with the Yakama Indian Nation to remove Condit in seven years, at a cost of $14 million, plus another $1 million for mitigation activities and an additional $1 million the tribes would use for a fisheries restoration fund. That agreement with the Yakamas served as a framework for the more inclusive negotiations that followed.

Delaying dam removal for seven years was a key element of the agreement for PacifiCorp. The additional seven years of operation under current operating conditions will help the utility offset some of the costs of dam removal. But it was also an early point of contention for American Rivers. "That's something that we just don't agree with," American Rivers' Katherine Ransel said in February 1998. Condit has been keeping salmon from swimming up the White Salmon River since 1913, she said at that time, and "it's long past time" for it to be removed.

There are people who think the dam should have come out years ago and people who think it should stay in place for more than seven years, Ransel said recently. But the agreement is a compromise between those two views. "In order to solve the salmon crisis in the Northwest, we are going to need a lot more inspiration and compromise in the future."

PacifiCorp's Kvamme credits American Rivers with playing a very constructive role in reaching the agreement. Ransel, meanwhile, gives PacifiCorp "an enormous amount of credit because they are taking responsibility for this project rather than shifting it to someone else. When we see that happening, we're willing to be flexible, too, and try to come half-way as well.

"It's a great day for all of us to get to this stage," she added. "There are seven more years of hard work to go."

The Condit Dam was built in 1914, 60 miles east of Portland and about three miles upstream from the confluence of the White Salmon and Columbia Rivers. Besides the dam, the project includes the dam's reservoir, Northwestern Lake; a wooden flume and penstocks for moving the water; and a powerhouse and tailrace about one mile below the dam.

According to an August 1998 draft engineering report prepared by R. W. Beck, one of the long-term effects of removing the dam would be creation of upstream habitat for holding, spawning and rearing of an anadromous fishery. At the same time, the report said the resident rainbow trout fishery would probably decrease as its habitat area returned to a free-flowing stretch of river.

According to Dave Mudd, division manager for the Washington Department of Wildlife, removal of Condit Dam could eventually increase steelhead runs by 400 to 700 fish--but those gains would be realized over 10 to 20 years. Coho would see the greatest improvements, with an estimated addition of 1,600 to 2,200 fish. Mudd also said estimated increases for spring chinook are 600 to 4,500 fish, and for fall chinook, 200 to 1,000 fish. However, Mudd said sediment release could create a "lethal situation" for the trout.

Removal of the dam would also eliminate a 35-acre wetland near Northwestern Lake Park, the R.W. Beck report indicated, and could affect waterfowl and the "state-endangered western pond turtle." While there would be additional rafting opportunities, the report predicts flat water boating "will practically cease" and "swimming activities will decrease markedly."

The report also pointed out that FERC's final EIS--released in October 1996--favored relicensing over sediment removal, primarily due to concern about the environmental impacts of eroded settlement. The draft report re-examined the issue of sediment removal and concluded that less sediment would be transported downriver after dam removal than FERC originally estimated.

PacifiCorp's Kvamme said the agreement to remove Condit is in the best interest of PacifiCorp's customers and its shareholders. But the utility does not view the agreement to remove Condit as a precedent, he added.

"We view each of our hydro projects as being unique. We fully intend to pursue new licenses for our other projects." -Jude Noland


[4] ESA-LISTED COHO SALMON ILLEGALLY HARVESTED IN OREGON

In July, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission listed the wild coho salmon of the Clackamas and Sandy Rivers as endangered under the Oregon Endangered Species Act, but neglected to issue an incidental take permit (ITP) requirement to harvest these endangered fish until Sept. 1, 1999. That was some time after the Buoy 10 and other commercial and sport fisheries had already begun. The agency said the ITP would cover those fisheries retroactively, citing a precedent established by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

"It's incredible that ODFW is allowing any harvest of endangered salmon, let alone an illegal one. This shows just how much the agency is out of touch with its conservation mission," said Jim Myron, conservation director of Oregon Trout. The threat of legal action against ODFW by the conservation group persuaded the state agency to write the ITP and make its regulated fisheries legal.

An incidental take permit allows the commercial and sport fisheries to kill listed fish in fisheries directed at abundant hatchery-reared coho salmon and other species, a standard practice for all fisheries. The state also issues an ITP for all hatchery programs to take wild coho for broodstock.

ODFW has estimated the abundance of wild coho salmon at only 830 fish, according to language in the permit. The ocean fishery is expected to take 50 of these fish, the sport fishery five, and 21 wild coho were expected to be landed by the commercial fishery, for a total of 79. ODFW said that "additional fishery impacts will be managed to limit total aggregate fishery impacts to less than 15 percent of the total adult wild population."

Fish managers say this represents a substantial reduction in harvest compared to the 1988-1993 base years used by NMFS, when 78 percent were harvested. Based on this assessment, ODFW managers say "the proposed fisheries are designed to minimize the impact on the listed species, and are not expected to impact the long-term conservation of the species."

Taken together, the 210 wild coho used for broodstock and the 124 that are harvested in the fisheries are consistent with conservation management for the listed coho in the Clackamas and Sandy Rivers. When compared to the total wild coho run, these numbers suggest that 40 percent of the wild run will be removed from natural production by the two actions. NO SPACE The wild coho run on the Clackamas is estimated at 551 fish, which leaves only 258 wild coho for natural spawning. Only 235 fish are expected back to the Sandy for natural spawning.

In a report to the Fish and Wildlife Commission that led to the state's endangered listing of the wild coho, ODFW biologist Mark Chilcote noted that a run size of less than 300 fish placed the fish at risk of extinction (The Oregon Wild Fish Management Policy sets a minimum standard of 300 fish to maintain the genetic health of a salmon population). So, the natural spawning population in both rivers will fall below the gene conservation standard.

In his report, Chilcote noted that "...both the Sandy and the late component of the Clackamas populations are at significant short-term risk if the relative survival declines to 17 percent of the 40-year average for a period of only 6 years. These concerns are amplified by the observation of declining recruitment performance (the ability to produce juveniles and adults in the next generation) for both Sandy and Clackamas populations over the last 12 years and the near loss of one of the brood year cycles."

ODFW Commissioner John Esler said he was "uncomfortable" because the group did not have a chance to determine whether a 15 percent harvest impact was too much for the fish. Esler suggested that in the future, the commission should have a discussion with staff conservation biologists to determine how much harvest impact can be allowed to still meet the goal of rebuilding these runs.

Oregon assistant attorney general Steve Sanders said the ITP includes conditions that will minimize impacts on listed fish, as required by the Oregon statute on the ESA. "The harvest rate will be less than one-fifth of the base period harvest rate," Sanders said. "The 15 percent harvest impact on wild coho is an aggregate number that combines the harvest impact of both ocean and inriver fisheries." He said ocean harvest was estimated at 5 percent, with inriver harvest pegged at 10 percent.

Oregon Trout's Myron asked the state's science team to review the incidental take permits. "Oregon Trout is seriously concerned that continued harvest at these levels will only accelerate the extirpation of these species. It appears that the few hundred wild coho remaining in the Clackamas and Sandy rivers represent the last remaining wild populations in the entire Columbia River Basin. All of the other populations have been managed to extinction by overharvest associated with the massive hatchery program." - Bill Bakke


[5] NMFS HOSTS HABITAT MODELING WORKSHOP

NMFS hosted a two-day session for modelers last week in Seattle, where a whole slew of new biological models was aired before the select few who are trying to lasso some of the uncertainties about fish and wildlife restoration and develop them into management tools for the future.

Most modelers voiced a common complaint-lack of data. But one, Vashon Island consultant Lars Mobrand, said his approach "avoids the burden of proof associated with purely statistical models. We avoid the dilemma of not enough data." It's called EDT, Ecosystem Diagnosis and Treatment, which he calls an "expert system," because it's based on knowledge from biologists familiar with the subject at hand to develop an idea of the productive potential of watersheds.

Mobrand said the EDT approach could examine habitat and evaluate population performance potential by using experts' knowledge and opinion to fashion explicit rules. He said results to date are consistent with observation. "Folks tend to focus on numbers," Mobrand said. "We try to de-emphasize the numbers."

Mobrand's associate, Larry Lastelle, described how the EDT approach was used to examine the Yakima drainage, which was divided up into 170 reaches, with current v. historical fish numbers associated with each segment. Seventeen watershed attributes were developed to help provide a diagnosis, what he called a "limiting factor analysis." Lastelle said, hopefully, the results could be used to help make decisions about action priorities and form hypotheses for adaptive management. The regional Framework Process is using the EDT method to analyze fish and wildlife alternatives being developed for Columbia Basin watersheds, with results promised soon.

Other models are quite ambitious in their scope as well, but involve Bayesian statistical analyses to examine uncertainties. The Forest Service, for instance, is developing a model for the entire Interior Columbia Basin to consider population trends in the six salmonids in more than 6,000 subwatersheds and potential management alternatives. The weakness, according to EPA scientist John Van Sickle, is a "virtual lack of data characterizing whole watershed/population responses that would be most useful in generating conditional probabilities for many of the relationships."

Others are working on fish/habitat models for Oregon's Umpqua River and Willamette River basins, a life history model for Oregon coho, restoration analysis for Skagit River chinook in Washington, and a behemoth called CLAMS (Coastal Landscape and Modeling Study), which is attempting to model habitat and wildlife relationships in Oregon's Coast Range.

CLAMS is a multi-disciplinary research effort sponsored by Oregon State University's College of Forestry, the Forest Service and the Oregon Department of Forestry that is trying to develop ecological, economic and social models to build tools for policymakers. The intended goal is to help decide if policies will achieve intended goals. One example, mentioned by the Forest Service's Gordon Reeves, is that CLAMS modeling for spotted owl habitat shows that federal lands will provide overall better habitat for spotted owls by 2085.

But Reeves pointed out that CLAMS has shown that "most conservation efforts on federal lands miss where the fish are-on private lands downstream." Another controversial finding, according to Reeves: "Old-growth habitat may not be the kind of habitat you want for fish."

A Dissenting Voice

Portland consultant Charlie Paulsen, a participant in the ongoing PATH analysis for Snake River stocks, played devil's advocate for the group. He spoke on the difficulty of finding studies that correlate improvement in salmon numbers with improvement in habitat quality. With the millions spent by BPA over the years on fixing habitat in the Columbia Basin, Paulsen said, he figured there must have been studies done that showed improved salmon numbers.

"But it wasn't true," Paulsen said. He found no studies on chinook, but a few on coastal coho. Paulsen said he incorporated his findings in PATH's 1997 report, which said that it was unlikely habitat degradation had played much of a role in Snake River fish declines since the 1970s.

Paulsen described the difficulty of "teasing out" habitat and land use factors that might impact salmon numbers in the Snake. He told the group about his latest efforts that began by looking at survival numbers of spring chinook PIT-tagged in high basins and detected the following spring at Lower Granite Dam. His tentative results show that highest survival occurs in wilderness areas, with recently logged areas showing poorest survivals. Statistical correlation between fish survival and low road densities also appeared. He also found median survival was related to length of tagging and a drought index factor. "With cool, wet conditions, survival goes up." But Paulsen noted there is little information about exactly where the parr over-winter during the 5- to 8-month period before they are detected at the dam.

Work to date shows sensible relationships, he said, but collecting the data is difficult and expensive. He said one of the main weaknesses of his approach is that there is no way to answer questions about how fish survival changes as land use or habitat quality changes.

Though he said he would agree that fish survival is better in riparian zones above agricultural areas, "you can't tell from the data." But he said his analysis could be combined with nutrient enhancement (placing fish carcasses in streams) to measure survival benefits, because he said the high altitude streams where these fish rear are essentially hypotrophic; that is, nutrient-free.

NMFS researcher Bob Bilby and other scientists from the federal fish agency reported on efforts to associate land use actions to fish population response. The work is related to ESA recovery actions being developed by the feds throughout the Northwest.

In part, their report said, "Associating subwatershed habitat conditions with population levels enables the current productive capacity for freshwater habitat in a watershed to be estimated." The scientists said assessing potential habitat alterations on fish productivity in each watershed "provides a method of developing alternatives for achieving the quantity and quality of freshwater habitat conditions required to achieve the recovery population goal for the watershed."- Bill Rudolph


[6] NORTHWEST POWER PLANNING COUNCIL OKS $68 MILLION IN F&W PROJECTS

At their September meeting in Spokane, the Power Planning Council OK'd a little more than half of the projects proposed for funding in the FY 2000 fish and wildlife program. The projects had already been reviewed and recommended by both fish and wildlife managers and a scientific review panel.

Nearly 400 projects were reviewed for funding this year, with the science panel recommending almost 70 percent of those approved by the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority.

Almost $60 million in proposals remain in limbo because of disagreements between the scientists and CBFWA managers over funding priorities. Among these are $20 million for the controversial Nez Perce hatchery and funding for continuation of the PATH process. These proposals are undergoing additional review, with final Council decisions expected in October and early November.

Next year, the funding process will be revised to reflect more emphasis on reviewing projects within the context of each watershed. "Our intention is to transition to a sounder, more rigorous and more rational process that will help ensure the region's fish and wildlife investments are wise ones," said Council chair Todd Maddock. "This is consistent with the Council's role as a publicly accountable body that gives Northwest citizens a strong voice in determining the future of the Columbia Basin's resources" -B. R.


[7] ENERGY AND WATER BUDGET RIDER KEEPS BPA FROM SAVING FOR FUTURE DAM BREACHING

Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA) last week added a rider to the the House-Senate Conference Committee's Energy and Water Appropriations bill that's designed to keep BPA from saving up for a future fish scenario that could include such big-ticket items as breaching the lower Snake River dams.

Through a floor amendment, Gorton added a provision requiring that rates set by BPA to recover costs for the protection, mitigation and enhancement of fish and wildlife cannot exceed amounts forecast for those activities in the current rate period. But the provision does preserve BPA's ability "to establish appropriate reserves and maintain a high Treasury payment probability for the subsequent rate period." The provision was a reaction to the flap last spring over a federal agency memo that proposed two new expensive fish cost scenarios designed to support higher fish costs into the next rate period (post 2006) and increase BPA rates.

In another victory for Gorton, the bill removes next year's expiration date for the Independent Scientific Review Panel that had been added to the Power Planning Council's review of F&W projects. The change extends the panel's existence into perpetuity. -Jude Noland

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