Review of the 2014 Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program

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The Northwest Power and Conservation Council (Council) requested that the Independent Scientific Advisory Board (ISAB) evaluate the scientific merits of the Council’s 2014 Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program (Program) in time to inform amendments to the Program during 2018. In its review, the ISAB used previous ISAB reports, including earlier reviews of the Program, and other documents including the Council staff’s Program Implementation Assessment Report (NPCC Staff 2017). In the report, the ISAB evaluates the scientific merit of each of the 2014 Program’s strategies and makes suggestions for modifications to improve scientific aspects of the strategies. The Council asked the ISAB to answer seven questions as part of the review. Those questions and answers can be found just below the Executive Summary in the report. Overall the ISAB found that most sections of the 2014 Program provide sound scientific guidance for actions to mitigate for hydrosystem impacts and move toward recovery of fish and wildlife resources in the Columbia River Basin.

The ISAB found many strengths in the Program. Among these strengths is Mainstem Hydrosystem passage research, which focuses mainly on survival of anadromous salmonids. The ISAB also sees great value in the Program’s Protected Areas, which currently protect over 44,000 miles of rivers and streams of the Northwest from hydropower development, and the potential for the Stronghold Habitat strategy to protect native, wild, and natural-origin fish. The ISAB applauds the Program’s strategy for Anadromous Fish Mitigation in Blocked Areas as first steps toward reestablishing salmon and steelhead in one third of their original habitat. Public Engagement is also a strength of the Program as descriptions of strategy, rationale, principles, and general measures are well-articulated. Although it is not a specific strategy of the Program, the ISAB also supports the Council’s interest in life-cycle models, which the ISAB sees as key to evaluating many proposed changes in the system.

The ISAB also identified several major weaknesses including the majority of Program goals need corresponding objectives, key Program strategies lack monitoring or evaluation plans or funding, and the Program provides limited guidance and use of adaptive management. Approaches are available to improve strengths and address weaknesses. The ISAB recognizes that the Program is a living document, one that is evolving to incorporate new information and to meet ever changing conditions in the Basin. The ISAB hopes that its recommendations will prove useful to the Council, its staff, and others in the Basin as they develop the next Fish and Wildlife Program.