The Council is requesting recommendations for a plan for the mainstem of the Columbia and Snake rivers, to be adopted as an amendment to the Council's Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, as follows:
The role of the mainstem plan in the comprehensive revision of the program
Under the Northwest Power Act, Congress charged the Council with developing and periodically amending a fish and wildlife program for the Columbia River Basin to protect, mitigate and enhance fish and wildlife affected by the development and operation of hydroelectric facilities while assuring the Pacific Northwest an adequate, efficient, economical and reliable power supply.
In 2000, the Council adopted a set of amendments to the fish and wildlife program to begin what will eventually be a complete revision of the program. In the first phase of the amendment process, the Council reorganized the program around a comprehensive framework of scientific and policy principles. The fundamental elements of the program as revised are the vision, which describes what the program is trying to accomplish with regard to fish and wildlife and other desired benefits from the river; basinwide biological objectives, which describe in general the fish and population characteristics needed to achieve the vision and the ecological conditions needed to support the population objectives; implementation strategies, which will guide or describe the actions needed to achieve the desired ecological conditions; and a scientific foundation, which links these elements and explains why the Council believes certain kinds of actions should result in desired habitat conditions and why these conditions should improve fish and wildlife populations in the desired way.
The program amendments in 2000 set the stage for subsequent phases of the program revision process, in which the Council will adopt more specific objectives and action measures for the river's mainstem and the tributary subbasins, consistent with the framework elements already adopted. The Council intends to incorporate these specific objectives and measures into the program in locally developed subbasin plans for the more than fifty subbasins of the Columbia River and in a coordinated plan for the mainstem Columbia and Snake rivers. The purpose of this call for amendment recommendations is to begin the process for developing and adopting the mainstem plan into the program.
Expectations for the elements of the mainstem plan
The role of the mainstem plan and the Council's expectations for the elements of that plan are described in the Fish and Wildlife Program as amended in 2000, in the section on Basinwide Hydrosystem Strategies and in the section entitled Schedule for Further Rulemakings. The 2000 Fish and Wildlife Program is available on the Council's website, and also available by contacting the Council at (503) 222-5161 or (800) 452-5161.
As described in the program, the mainstem plan will contain the specific objectives and action measures that the program calls on the federal operating agencies and others to implement in the mainstem Columbia and Snake rivers, including operations of the hydrosystem, to protect, mitigate and enhance fish and wildlife affected by the development and operation of the hydroelectric facilities. The plan may include, as appropriate, objectives and measures for water management, flow regimes, spill, reservoir elevations, water retention times, adult and juvenile passage modifications at mainstem dams, fish transportation, systemwide coordination, protecting and enhancing mainstem spawning and rearing areas, and operational requirements to protect resident fish and wildlife. The hydrosystem objectives contained in the mainstem plan also should provide guidance to the Council's subbasin planning process, establishing for the subbasin planners the expectations of the program for mainstem survival of fish that spawn in tributaries but rear and migrate through the mainstem. The Council will also analyze mainstem recommendations to ensure that the Council adopts objectives and measures for mainstem system operations that protect, mitigate and enhance fish and wildlife while also assuring the region an adequate, efficient, economical and reliable power supply.
Along with this request for recommendations, the Council is releasing a brief memorandum describing four points that interested parties should consider as they develop recommendations for a mainstem plan. Those four points cover:
- consistency with the program framework elements, especially the role of a mainstem plan in a multi-species, habitat-based program
- power supply considerations
- the relationship of the mainstem plan of the fish and wildlife program to the recently released biological opinions on hydropower operations
- long-term objectives and strategies for the mainstem
Procedure for developing and adopting the mainstem plan into the program
Under the Northwest Power Act, the Council is required to give written notice of a request for recommendations for program amendments to the region's federal and state fish and wildlife agencies and Indian tribes. This letter serves as the required notice.
The Power Act also allows federal and state water management agencies, the region's electric power producing agencies and customers, and the public to submit recommendations for program amendments. This letter is an invitation for other interested parties and members of the public to submit recommendations.
All recommendations should be accompanied by information and data in support of the recommendations. All recommendations submitted will be made available for public review and comment. Based on the recommendations and comments, the Council will formulate a draft set of program amendments, and make the draft amendments available for public review and comment. The Council will then decide on final program amendments based on the recommendations, the supporting documents and the views and information obtained through public comment and consultations with the various agencies, tribes and power customers in the region. The Council will decide on the program provisions consistent with the standards in Section 4(h) of the Power Act. The Council will also evaluate mainstem plan recommendations for consistency with the programmatic and basinwide elements of the program adopted in 2000.
Recommendations for mainstem plan amendments must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. on June 15, 2001. Please submit your recommendations either (1) by mailing a hard copy and a disk containing an electronic version in either Microsoft Word or Rich Text Format (RTF) to Mark Walker, Director of Public Affairs of the Northwest Power Planning Council, 851 SW Sixth Avenue, Suite 1100, Portland, Oregon 97204, or (2) by email at email@example.com.
Stephen L. Crow
Guidelines for developing recommendations
This memorandum accompanies the Northwest Power Planning Council's request for recommendations for the elements of a mainstem plan for the Columbia and Snake rivers, to be adopted as an amendment to the Council's 2000 Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. As described in the request letter, recommendations for mainstem plan amendments are due by June 15, 2001. The purpose of this memorandum is to highlight four points the Council asks that you consider as you develop mainstem plan recommendations.
Consistency with the basinwide provisions in the Council's program, especially the role of the mainstem plan in a multi-species, habitat-based program.
The Council will evaluate mainstem plan recommendations for consistency with the program framework elements adopted in 2000, including the vision, biological objectives, habitat and hydrosystem strategies and underlying scientific principles. The foundation of the 2000 Fish and Wildlife Program is a long-term vision for the basin of "a Columbia River ecosystem that sustains abundant, productive and diverse communities of fish and wildlife, allowing for mitigation across the basin for the adverse effects to fish and wildlife caused by the development and operation of the hydrosystem and providing the benefits from fish and wildlife valued by the people of the region." The Council emphasized that the program is "habitat-based": "Wherever feasible, this program will be accomplished by protecting and restoring the natural ecological functions, habitats, and biological diversity of the basin."
Parties submitting recommendations should consider how to implement this general direction as the Council moves into the more specific elements of the program. In other words, how do more specific objectives and measures for the mainstem fit into a multi-species, habitat-based program? The Council suggests that the recommending parties consider and recommend objectives for the types of habitat conditions and ecological functions needed for adequate spawning, rearing and migration in the mainstem for the various fish and wildlife populations and communities that use this area of the river for all or parts of their life cycle. Parties submitting recommendations should then consider evaluating whether the actions and operations currently taking place in the mainstem will allow for these conditions, and if not, recommend changes in operations and other measures needed to achieve these habitat objectives. If sufficient information does not exist to support recommendations for objectives and measures for mainstem habitat conditions, parties submitting recommendations should recommend objectives and measures for the types of research and analysis necessary to develop the necessary information.
Power supply considerations.
The Power Act requires the Council to adopt program measures that protect, mitigate and enhance fish and wildlife "while assuring the Pacific Northwest an adequate, efficient, economical and reliable power supply." Mainstem system operations are the key point of integration between the fish and wildlife program and the Council's power plan and the power supply considerations of the Act. The region's current power supply difficulties make this a key issue in 2001. The 2000 amendments to the program emphasized that the option of curtailing fish and wildlife operations during emergency situations should not be used in lieu of establishing an adequate and reliable power supply. Parties submitting recommendations should consider (a) what are the appropriate operations for the hydrosystem to meet both the needs of fish and wildlife and the power supply needs of the region; (b) what other actions the Council might consider recommending to resolve the region's power supply problems, as part of a larger review of the current power plan; and (c) how should the Council evaluate the power supply impacts of proposed operations and on what basis will the Council be able to reach the necessary conclusion that it is adopting a fish and wildlife program that truly does protect, mitigate and enhance fish and wildlife while continuing to assure the region an adequate, efficient, economical and reliable power supply.
The relationship of the mainstem plan of the fish and wildlife program to the recently released biological opinions on hydropower operations.
The National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently released biological opinions specifying hydrosystem operations necessary to protect fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The Council does not intend to ignore or duplicate the work that went into developing these opinions by asking for, reviewing and adopting its own full array of operational measures for the hydrosystem, whether consistent with the opinions or not. Instead, the Council asks parties submitting recommendations to focus their attention on (1) analyzing whether the operations specified in the biological opinions satisfy the multi-species fish and wildlife mitigation requirements and the power supply standards in Section 4(h) of the Northwest Power Act, including the mitigation objectives for anadromous fish, resident fish and wildlife described in the 2000 Fish and Wildlife Program; (2) if not, what changes in these opinions should the program recommend to the federal agencies to satisfy the Power Act and fish and wildlife program without becoming inconsistent with the Endangered Species Act; and (3) where the opinions allow for flexibility and adaptive management in implementation, what recommendations should the program contain to assist the federal parties in implementing these opinions so as to meet the Power Act and program requirements as well.
Long-term objectives and strategies for the mainstem.
The 2000 Fish and Wildlife Program included a long-term vision and a recognition, in the hydrosystem strategies, that the region may be in need of long-term and broadly-focused planning regarding the current constraints on system operations, especially water management, that might limit our ability to satisfy the various purposes and benefits people in the region want from the river. This revision of the fish and wildlife program presents an opportunity for participating parties to think about the mainstem and hydrosystem over a longer planning horizon -- twenty or fifty years -- as well as recommending shorter-term objectives and measures. Recommending parties might consider topics such as flood control needs and requirements; possible changes in the limitations on the purposes of managing water under the Columbia River Treaty; the requirements, opportunities and challenges of considering broader habitat needs in the mainstem, such as mainstem spawning and rearing habitat, estuary and plume impacts; and the region's long-term energy and capacity power system needs in the context of a radically changing energy industry, the structure of which may have important implications for fish and wildlife.