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NW Fishletter #375, November 6, 2017

[5] Council Approves BPA-Funded Wildlife Projects With Strings

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council has endorsed the ongoing implementation of 29 BPA-funded wildlife projects.

Based on assessments by the Independent Scientific Review Panel, the Council's Oct. 10 decision also qualified its approval of 23 of these projects.

The 29 wildlife projects represent those that receive annual program funding. The cost in recent years has been in the range of $12 million to $13 million annually.

These wildlife projects are on lands that were purchased to replace habitat inundated by dam construction.

Once acquired, the ratepayer obligation for the lands involves operation and maintenance funding to support the habitat units that were the basis for mitigation, a Council memorandum said.

The six projects that had no outstanding issues were given the green light to proceed with implementation as their sponsors proposed. These were Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation's Rainwater Wildlife Area Operations; Kootenai Tribe's Kootenai River Operational Loss Assessment; Nez Perce Tribe's Northwest Oregon Wildlife Project; Shoshone-Paiute Tribes' Southern Idaho Wildlife Mitigation; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge Additions; and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Shillapoo Wildlife Mitigation.

Rainwater Wildlife Area. Credit: CTUIR

For the other projects, the Council expects BPA and project sponsors to address the Council's requirements and recommendations during contract development and implementation, the memo said.

However, Council member Tom Karier (Wash.) said he didn't see the Power Act requiring the Council to make recommendations or requirements for managing wildlife lands.

"Our mitigation is done," he said, referring to the lands having been purchased and turned over mostly to state and tribal wildlife managers. "These are not problems the Council needs to deal with."

Karier abstained from voting on the wildlife recommendation, while the other seven members endorsed the recommendations generated by the ISRP review and Council staff.

Council member Jennifer Anders (Mont.) said that many of the projects were in transition and still needed to clean up some deficiencies.

The staff memo noted that the fish and wildlife program has been transitioning to wildlife settlement agreements that, in most cases, include long-term funding for operations, maintenance and monitoring.

Anders said that during the upcoming amendment process, the Council could address the issue of its involvement.

Idaho Council member Bill Booth said that BPA has fiduciary responsibility, but the agency "should be moving to hand off these projects."

Meanwhile, in lieu of settlement agreements, the Council expects wildlife projects that receive annual operations and maintenance funds will need to meet general program requirements.

Missing from many of the wildlife management plans that received qualified approval by the ISRP and Council are time-specific, measurable objectives; adequate monitoring and evaluation; effective strategies to address fragmented habitats; and adoption of integrated pest management to control weeds; among other issues.

The next programmatic and scientific review is scheduled to occur again in six years. The previous review took place in 2009-2010. -Laura Berg

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NW Fishletter is produced by Energy NewsData.
Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: Laura Berg
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