The Northwest Power and Conservation Council this week begins a once-every-five-years process of reviewing the largest regional fish and wildlife program in the nation, one that last year paid for nearly $250 million in habitat work, hatchery operations, hydropower system fish-passage improvements, research and related activities in the Columbia River Basin.
The Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, which is funded by the federal Bonneville Power Administration under authority of the Northwest Power Act of 1980, is designed to protect, mitigate, and enhance fish and wildlife, and related spawning grounds and habitat, of the basin that have been affected by hydropower dams. Bonneville's direct spending on projects that implement the program totaled $248.9 million in Fiscal Year 2012.
Under the Power Act, the Council largely bases the program on recommendations of state and federal fish and wildlife agencies and Indian tribes in the Northwest, but anyone can submit recommendations to the Council. Beginning this week, the Council will accept recommendations through July 19. After that, the Council will develop a draft program by mid-November and make it available for public comments through mid-January 2014, and then adopt the new program in April.
The program has evolved over time from its initial focus in 1982 on improving hydrosystem passage for salmon and steelhead to the extensive and multi-dimensional program it is today. The last revision was in 2009.
This time around the Council is interested in encouraging a regional conversation about the future direction and oversight of the program. Among many questions for this conversation are:
· What should be the focus of the program over the next decade?
· In what way should the Council exercise its responsibilities to maximize policy and program benefits and minimize process costs?
· In what way can the Council and the regional program be more effective, efficient and streamlined, and generate more value?
More information, including a letter requesting recommendations and directions for submitting them, is available on the Council's program-amendment webpage,www.nwcouncil.org/amend.