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In November 1995, Congress directed the Council to review and report within 180 days on the most appropriate governance structure to allow more effective regional control over efforts to conserve and enhance anadromous and resident fish and wildlife within the Federal Columbia River Power System.
For discussion purposes, the Council developed several possible scenarios for this governance and then held a workshop in Portland on February 1-2, 1996, to explore alternatives with interested parties. The Council sent its final report to Congress on May 20, 1996.
We identified seven ways to improve fish and wildlife governance:
- Integrate the three existing fish and wildlife recovery plans (federal, tribal and the Council's).
- Establish clear responsibility for implementing the integrated plan.
- Establish dispute resolution mechanisms.
- Support watershed processes and integrate them into basinwide decision-making.
- Establish monitoring and evaluation programs that measure results and ensure accountability.
- Ensure credible scientific foundations for planning and implementation.
- Secure and allocate a reliable budget.
On May 20, 1996, the Council issued its final report to Congress. In its report, the Council noted that several initiatives are under way to improve the region's voice in management of the Columbia River hydropower system. For example, significant progress is being made in building independent scientific review into the decisionmaking process, in budget planning and prioritization and in coordinating implementation activities. Moreover, in part as a result of the dialogue generated by the review, a broad consensus has emerged on the steps the region needs to take to improve the way decisions are made and implemented. The Council believes the region can capitalize on these efforts by taking several further steps:
- First, there is broad consensus that federal, state and tribal fish and wildlife efforts should be consistent with each other. The Council supports and will continue to help facilitate efforts to bring sovereigns together periodically, on a basis of equality, to work toward a single fish and wildlife program, and to coordinate technical and policy aspects of implementation. Over the last year, federal, state and tribal entities have been working together in a more constructive manner. If these collaborative efforts fail, legislation will be needed. The Council recommends that an executive order be developed to help cement cooperation and greater consistency. An executive order should direct the federal agencies to implement the Council's fish and wildlife program insofar as permitted by their statutory responsibilities, and to provide detailed, written explanations if they diverge from the program.
- Second, if legislation is needed, the Council recommends that the federal agencies that govern operations of the hydropower system -- the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the federal fish and wildlife agencies (the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service) insofar as their activities affect hydropower operations -- be required to act consistently with the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, which was developed under the Northwest Power Act. Importantly, this change would not modify the Endangered Species Act.
- Third, the Council commits to play an active role in monitoring implementation of fish and wildlife mitigation measures. Based in part on the requirements of the Northwest Power Act, mitigation funding can be linked to progress in implementing a monitoring and evaluation program.
- On several other matters, particularly dispute resolution and integrated fish and wildlife budget management, the Council will continue to work with interested parties and report further to the Congress this fall.