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NW Fishletter #381, May 7, 2018

[13] ISAB Offers Ideas To Strengthen NWPCC's Fish And Wildlife Program

The Independent Scientific Advisory Board complimented the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's work to improve salmon passage at mainstem dams, protect over 44,000 miles of river, create high quality habitat for wild and natural-origin fish, remove barriers for anadromous fish, and engage the public in its processes.

But the ISAB's April 11 presentation of its review of the Council's 2014 Fish and Wildlife Program focused on its weaknesses, and ways to improve the program as the Council prepares to amend it. The ISAB review of the program came at the Council's request in an effort to inform the amendment process, expected to get underway next month. "Overall the ISAB found that most sections of the 2014 Program provide sound scientific guidance for actions to mitigate for hydrosystem impacts and move toward recovery of fish and wildlife resources in the Columbia River Basin," a summary of the review states.

ISAB Chairman Alec Maule told the Council that all 11 members of the ISAB worked on the 120-page report, and he discussed their answers to seven questions that the Council had asked. He said the ISAB believes that the timeframe of an investment strategy of 1 to 20 years is unrealistic, since the basin is in a "highly altered state," leading to a great deal of scientific uncertainty surrounding the threats, and a need to make adaptive management its highest priority. He said that the program also needs to incorporate cost-effectiveness analyses to ensure that the projects that provide the most benefits are selected and funded.

Maule also said the ISAB does not believe that the program's goal of 5 million adult fish at Bonneville Dam by 2025 is realistic, especially since historic abundance ranged from 5 to 9 million adults, and one third of the habitat is now blocked. He also said life cycle models are important tools, and should be incorporated into an adaptive management cycle.

And, he said, the ISAB recommends that the program's scientific principles are reduced to four: "Take the entire ecosystem into account including freshwater, estuary, and ocean, and the linkages and feedbacks between the natural and human systems; provide the diverse array of habitats and connections among them that organisms require throughout their life cycles to restore and sustain diverse, abundant, resilient populations; maintain the diversity of genes, life histories, populations, and biological communities that allows ecosystems to adapt to environmental change; and fish and wildlife live in complex ecosystems dominated by humans; to achieve system resilience and persistence, we need to understand societal values and incorporate these in decision making."

ISAB member Stan Gregory talked to the Council in greater depth about some of their suggestions. He said in a 2017 Wildlife Project Review, the Independent Scientific Review Panel found that 70 percent of projects lacked an adaptive management plan, and 90 percent lacked quantitative objectives with explicit timelines. He said there's a lot of confusion about the definition of "adaptive management," and said that, while those implementing the projects may adjust their methods based on what is working and what isn't, true adaptive management requires objective and explicit timelines, and "feedback loops" for adjusting the implementation and revising plans and objectives, so others can benefit from the knowledge.

Gregory also reviewed the ISAB's suggestions regarding the plan's strategies on various subjects, including ecosystem function, habitat, climate change, cost effectiveness, and the estuary, plume and ocean.

The Council also heard from its general counsel John Shurts about the "highly-orchestrated, step-by-step process" they will undergo when amending its Fish and Wildlife Program in the coming year. The program must be adopted by a super-majority of the Council before it can complete its Eighth Power Plan, revised every five years.

The formal process is expected to begin in May--if the Council is ready to call for recommendations for amendments to the Fish and Wildlife Program--from agencies, tribes, states and the public. The call for recommendations is a request in writing, seeking formal recommendations for changing the current 2014 program. Required under the Northwest Power Act, this periodic amendment to the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program must be completed before the Council develops its next regional power plan. Through the act, the Council is directed to "adopt a program to protect, mitigate and enhance fish and wildlife," while "assuring an adequate, efficient, economical and reliable power supply." -K.C. Mehaffey

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Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: K.C. Mehaffey
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