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NW Fishletter #387, Nov. 5, 2018

[9] BPA Signs Record of Decision On Fish Accords That Commits $448M In Project Spending

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has issued its Record of Decision extending the Columbia Basin Fish Accords for four years.

Bryan Mercier, executive manager of BPA's fish and wildlife division, announced the decision at the Oct. 10 Northwest Power and Conservation Council meeting.

The new Accords commit Bonneville to spend a total of $448 million on fish and wildlife projects, in partnership with several tribes and the states of Idaho and Montana.

Mercier said the agreement represents an annual decrease of $3.3 million compared with the 2008 Accords. That decrease helps Bonneville fulfill a goal in its 2018 strategic plan, to keep costs at or below the rate of inflation. Mercier noted that BPA received 14 comments on the proposed extension, many of which were addressed in the ROD.

He said language in the extended Accords demonstrates how they have helped Bonneville build long-term relationships with tribes and states involved, including language that reflects an alignment of goals rather than legal protections. "The off-ramps are clear and more accessible for all parties in these agreements," and the language that allows for greater flexibility," he told the Council.

In later comments, Council Member Richard Devlin said he understands the extension's positive aspects, including a long-term commitment for funding, but was concerned the new Accords may impede feedback to the Council as it works through an amendment process to its Fish and Wildlife Program.

Mercier responded he doesn't believe the new Accords in any way impede the ability to have frank conversations about improving the program. "Just like the [Columbia River System Operations], we want our partners to have unlimited expression of what is happening with the EIS," he said.

And, in answer to a question from Council Member Guy Norman, Mercier said he sees the new Accords as mostly an extension that turns a 10-year agreement into a 14-year agreement, rather than a launching pad for a new 10-year agreement.

However, he added, because BPA has built new relationships and implemented successful fish and wildlife projects by providing long-term funding, he's hopeful that once a new biological opinion for federal dams is issued, new Accords will be reached after 2022.

"As a region, I think we'd be foolish to lose that," he said. -K.C. Mehaffey

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