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NW Fishletter #373, September 5, 2017

[2] BPA Plans FY 2018 Fish and Wildlife Spending Closer to 2016, 2017 Levels

Although $277 million is in BPA's fiscal year 2018 budget for the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, the agency will try to keep direct expenses closer to those in FY 2016 and 2017.

Bryan Mercier, BPA's executive manager for fish and wildlife, told the Northwest Power and Conservation Council Aug. 15 that the power agency would realize the savings through contracting.

Two large habitat research projects, ISEMP (Integrated Status and Effectiveness Monitoring Program) and CHaMP (Columbia Habitat and Monitoring Program), can expect 50-percent reductions, he said.

BPA's fiscal year runs Oct. 1-Sept. 30. This year's expenses are tracking closely to FY 2016's, even though $274 million is in the budget for 2017. Direct expenses in FY 2016 totaled $258.1 million.

The end-of-July totals were about $220 million for both years.

The two research projects being cut, ISEMP and CHaMP, together have cost BPA about $9 million to $10 million annually. ISEMP funding dates from 2003, while CHaMP started in 2011.

Columbia Basin F&W Program Expenditures. Credit: BPA.

ISEMP and CHaMP, along with BPA's own Intensively Monitored Watersheds, have not been popular with some Council members and have been criticized for not indicating the quantifiable results of their research.

Project defenders have argued that habitat restoration is a long-term endeavor that takes decades and longer to show results.

Mercier did not say what other projects might be on the chopping block.

He indicated that fish and wildlife projects could expect travel, training and conference attendance to be trimmed. The emphasis, he said, would be on-the-ground work with direct fish and wildlife benefits.

Mercier said the latest financial worries at BPA were prompted by falling revenues and low cash reserves.

In July Bonneville said it would raise wholesale power rates by 5.4 percent this fall.

The agency cited decreasing customer loads and lower market prices for its sales of spot market or surplus power.

BPA now has fewer sales over which to spread its costs, yet operating costs for the fish and wildlife program have increased from $108.2 million in 2000 to $258.1 million in 2016, Mercier said.

The agency will try to hold fish and wildlife program costs flat until financial competitiveness is restored, he said. -Laura Berg

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Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: Laura Berg
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