Dear Interested Party:
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks proposes to use facilities at Sekokini Springs to aid in the recovery of genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout populations in the Flathead River drainage. The proposed activities at Sekokini Springs are a component of Bonneville Project 1991-019-03 (Hungry Horse Mitigation), which addresses fishery losses caused by the construction and operation of Hungry Horse Dam in the Flathead Basin. This project also implements habitat restoration, fish passage improvement, off-site mitigation and monitoring pertaining to Hungry Horse Mitigation and includes enhancement and restoration at numerous tributaries in the basin.
A master plan, as the first step in the Major Project Review process for this project, was prepared by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the Bonneville Power Administration and submitted to the Council on November 3, 2004. The proposed Sekokini Springs site will provide rearing areas for donor fish whose progeny will be released to targeted restoration streams. Additionally, the site will provide isolation facilities within which wild spawners can be held for collection of milt for infusion into the existing state broodstock to introduce additional genetic complement. In addition, there is an educational component of the project to promote public awareness of the conservation of native species, particularly westslope cutthroat trout.
Council staff has prepared this issue paper and invites comment on both this issue paper and the master plan. In particular, public comment is requested on key issues listed in the issue paper. The issue paper is not intended to constrain alternatives the Council may consider or limit Council action on this project.
Oral comments on the issue paper can be made at the Council's April 12 - 14, 2005 meeting in Boise, Idaho, and at the Council's May 10 - 12 meeting in Walla Walla, Washington. Written comments will be accepted through May 13, 2005. Comments should be mailed to Mark Walker, Director of Public Affairs, at the Council's central office in Portland referencing Council Document 2005-04. In addition, the master plan has been submitted to the Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP), and their review is anticipated in April. Based on comments and reviews received, Council staff will develop a list of alternative actions that will be considered by the Council. At the July 12 - 14, 2005 meeting in Portland the Council will consider whether to approve the Sekokini Springs Natural Rearing Facility and Educational Center Master Plan.
Thank you for your interest in the Council's review of this project.
Stephen L. Crow
 The Council (September 1997) adopted a policy that built upon the master plan element of the 1995 Program to ensure that 1) new artificial production projects would be considered by the Council while the Artificial Production Review was under way, 2) ensure that these projects would be considered in the context of their roles and potential impacts within specific subbasins, and 3) receive the detailed scrutiny recommended by the ISRP prior to approval. This policy was known as the "Three-Step Review." It called for "new production initiatives" to follow a basic development process that has three main steps or phases: (Step 1) conceptual planning, represented under the 1995 Program primarily by master plan development and approval; (Step 2) preliminary design and cost estimation, and environmental (i.e., National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act) review; and (Step 3) final design review prior to construction. In adopting the Three-Step Review process, the Council agreed with the ISRP's recommendation to make use of independent peer review for projects as they move through each stage of the process. On October 18, 2001 the Council adopted an updated review process called the Major Project Review process that incorporates the three-step review process (Council Document 2001-29).