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NW Fishletter #371, July 3, 2017
 Council Approves Columbia River Fish and Wildlife Research Plan
After more than a year of work, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council on June 13 approved the research plan for the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program.
Though not a part of the F&W program, the research plan provides guidance on implementing research measures and program priorities for the federal agencies with legal responsibilities under the Northwest Power Act, according to the plan's primary editor, Patty O'Toole, a program implementation manager at the Council.
While the Council program contains a set of guiding scientific principles for the F&W program, important knowledge gaps and critical uncertainties persist.
In February 2016, the Independent Science Advisory Board and Independent Scientific Review Panel identified 50 critical uncertainties and recommended changes to the original 2006 research plan.
O'Toole and other staff, with input from Council members, sharpened and condensed the uncertainties to 27 with additional subsets for many of 14 thematically organized uncertainties.
The uncertainty categories or themes range from tributary habitat to hydro-system flow and passage operations to contaminants.
Tom Karier, a Washington Council member, praised staff's work on the document, saying that shortening the research plan from some 60 pages to 21 pages added clarity and made it more useful. Karier has criticized the program's research, monitoring and evaluation efforts, particularly the large costs.
Comments from agencies and tribes and the public in January of this year were especially helpful, O'Toole said.
Karier and other Council members voted to approve the research plan, which does not by itself obligate any spending. Instead, the plan presents critical uncertainties as a series of questions to "elicit the development of specific research hypotheses and project proposals without constraining innovative approaches," O'Toole wrote in her memo to the Council.
The critical uncertainties, she said, are generally related to measures now being implemented or areas of research that may lead to different or modified measures or new understandings that could improve the F&W program. -Laura Berg
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