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NW Fishletter #309, October 19, 2012

[4] Council Staff Recommends Changes For Data-Management Projects

A special committee tasked by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council with examining several F&W program data-management projects has suggested eliminating or reducing funding for some projects. The Program Evaluation & Reporting Committee (PERC) released its draft recommendations to the Council's F&W Committee on Oct. 3. Under review are several long-standing projects, and supporters were on hand to voice their concerns.

It's a trial run for PERC, which met twice with stakeholders earlier this summer to map out future needs.

Council staffers on PERC recommended that the Northwest Habitat Institute ($191,000 in FY 2012), which is involved in subbasin planning, be funded for only three months in FY 2013, and its data moved over to StreamNet, the huge regional database maintained by the Pacific States Marine Fish Commission. The staff also supported a 10-percent to 15-percent reduction in the StreamNet budget, in line with potential cuts now under review by BPA for FY 2013.

The staff called for convening the wildlife crediting forum to discuss whether the Habitat Evaluation Procedures team, which conducts vegetation surveys for wildlife managers, will still be needed in the future. It's managed by the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority.

The staff also recommended a 10-percent to 15-percent reduction in the budget for the Pacific Northwest Aquatic Monitoring Partnership, a coordinating body that works to develop standardized data collection. In addition, council staffers recommended ending funding for the annual Status of the Resources Report managed by CBFWA, but to maintain personnel for at least a year to provide technical services for reporting needs for the F&W program. It also recommended that the work of the Fish Screening Oversight Committee be maintained in the future.

The recommendations, which did not include any idea as to how much money could be saved, will be discussed at the F&W Committee's meeting later this week in Whitefish, Mont.. Council staffers said they do not recommend specific budgets, "but rather the work or work projects." If the recommendations are approved, they will be sent to the full Council for a vote at its November meeting.

PERC's work has already garnered criticism from some stakeholders. On the day before the meeting, Northwest Habitat Institute Director Thomas O'Neill sent a letter to F&W Committee members, complaining about the process that announced the potential termination of the NHI project "in a document that is globally distributed." He also explained at length why the NHI funding should be maintained. O'Neill said his project maintains and serves over 5,000 files developed and made accessible for subbasin plans. He said 59 subbasins have used or cited this data.On Oct. 10, the Council's F&W Committee [http://www.nwcouncil.org/news/2012/10/6.pdf] reported on the PERC recommendations to the full Council, which is scheduled to vote on them at its November meeting. It was estimated that the region could save about $500,000 if the recommendations are approved. -B. R.

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