Final Review of Arrowleaf/Methow River Conservation Project

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In a December 21, 2001 memorandum, the Northwest Power Planning Council (Council) requested that the ISRP conduct additional review of the Arrowleaf/Methow Proposal. The purpose of this review is to re-consider the project's consistency with the High Priority Solicitation, under which it was originally approved for partial funding as well as the biological benefits expected to be secured for listed species by acquiring the site. This additional review was proposed by BPA in response to new information observed by the ISRP and a BPA representative during a site visit in late October 2001 suggesting that lack of water in the Methow might limit the benefits claimed for listed species of spring chinook and steelhead.

Methow River at Arrowleaf Property

The proposal was first reviewed by the ISRP in December 2000 as part of the High Priority project selection process. It was reviewed ahead of other high priority proposals because of the timeline involved in the potential land acquisition. It was asserted that if not acted upon by December 21, 2000, the conservation opportunity would be lost to other development alternatives. At that time, according to the proposal, there would be simultaneous closing in which TPL would purchase the property from the developer, convey the conservation easement to WDFW and sell four lots to conservation buyers. The budget for purchase is listed as $16.4 million, and the conservation easement, which is the subject of the proposal, is $3.75 million.

In its initial review, the ISRP stated:

The ISRP was unanimous in viewing the acquisition of the Arrowleaf property as an important opportunity that should be seized upon by the Council and the Bonneville Power Administration. The Arrowleaf property is clearly a desirable property with many wildlife and habitat features that approximate pristine condition. The proposers clearly describe the importance of the property, its near pristine condition, its position as a link between upper and lower habitats (particularly salmonid habitats), and the negative ecological consequences of not obtaining the property.

However, the ISRP noted that the proposal was lacking in many details, and it would have been better to review the proposal in the context of the Provincial Review Process. The ISRP expressed concern that exceptions to larger more formal processes, such as the Provincial Review Process, can erode the quality and consistency of the scientific review process in the Basin. ISRP review of the Arrowleaf proposal outside of the Provincial Review Process combined with the short time available for the proposal review, necessitated complete dependence upon the 20 page written proposal, without the benefit of an oral presentation by the authors, during which questions and answers would have been possible, and without the benefit of a site visit that would have provided a "ground truth" reference for evaluating the proposal.

With this report, the Arrowleaf proposal has essentially completed the full review process recommended by the ISRP and adopted by the Council for province reviews (written proposal, oral presentation, site visit, and response loop).

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