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NW Fishletter #390, February 4, 2019

[11] BPA Offers Final Update On 2019 Fish And Wildlife Program Cuts

After getting monthly reports on reductions to the Bonneville Power Administration's Fish and Wildlife Program, a committee of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council got a final update from the agency on Jan. 15 outlining a total of nearly $6.4 million in cuts to the program in 2019, affecting 35 projects.

Presented to the Council's Fish and Wildlife Committee, the cuts are part of Bonneville's agencywide attempt to control costs as outlined in its 2018 strategic plan to hold program costs at or below the rate of inflation through 2028. The effort is seen as an important strategy that will help BPA remain competitive in a changing market now flooded with sometimes cheaper renewable energy.

BPA officials had told the Council in March that they identified some $30 million in potential cuts to the program--or about 10 percent of its direct costs--with efforts focused on projects that did not directly impact fish or on finding ways to make projects more efficient.

A Council report on the cuts notes that "while the cuts to date don't total that much the budget-cutting is considered a work in progress." Some of the projects are on track to be eliminated after two years, with funding cut in half in 2019.

The reductions include cuts to the Lower Snake River Compensation Plan by between $2.3 million and $3 million. The program currently provides about $30 million for salmon and steelhead hatcheries to help mitigate for losses caused by four lower Snake River dams.

The Columbia Habitat Monitoring Program and the Integrated Status and Effectiveness Monitoring Program were reduced to about $1.5 million in 2019. Their budgets were already cut in 2018 after being funded at over $7 million in 2017.

Not considered part of the budget, the BPA's renewal of the Columbia Basin Fish Accords also reduced annual spending on these agreements with six tribes and two state governments by $3.6 million compared with 2018 spending. The BPA signed four-year extensions in October, but those agreements could be cut short now that action agencies plan to complete an environmental impact statement for Columbia River System Operations in 2020, a year ahead of schedule. -K.C. Mehaffey

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