Review of the BPA Reimbursable Account Programs in the Columbia River Basin

as Requested in the Senate-House Conference Report on FY99 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill

In 1998, the U.S. Congress’ Senate-House conference report on the FY1999 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill included a new assignment for the Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP or Panel) and the Northwest Power Planning Council (Council). The ISRP was to review the fish and wildlife projects, programs, or measures included in federal agency budgets that are reimbursed by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and to make funding recommendations to Congress. The ISRP was directed to determine whether the proposals are consistent with the scientific criteria in the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act as amended in 1996, and provide a report to the Council by April 1 of each year. The Council, in turn, must report to the Congress annually by May 15. 

The ISRP was constrained in this first year review of the reimbursable program by the lack of lead time for the review and by an already ambitious work schedule from January to June 1999 through our ongoing commitment to review the direct-funded program (mandated by the 1996 amendment to the Power Act). Consequently, our 1999 review is limited to a description of the program elements and recommendations to reschedule and improve the review for the next year. To accomplish those two tasks, we relied on help from Council staff, Council briefing documents, and on recent assessments of various program elements by other review groups including the Independent Scientific Advisory Board (ISAB). For this year, we decided to define the scope of the new directive—what constitutes the reimbursable program—and develop an approach to the review that will yield a thorough scientific evaluation without compromising the ISRP’s other assignments. In addition, key programs that will be evaluated in subsequent years are described. For this report we have adopted the term “Letter/Memo”, which has been used in the past by the ISAB for reports to administrators with a low level of detail where time for preparation was short.

We have attached Appendix A, which provides more information on the basis for the ISRP assignment, and Appendix B, which provides some preliminary information on selected projects we examined as an exercise to help define the scope of the assignment.

A first task of this year’s ISRP review has been to clarify distinctions between the “reimbursable” and direct-funded accounts in the overall fish and wildlife funding from BPA and to identify the specific reimbursable accounts that could be scientifically reviewed. The distinction between direct-funded and reimbursable projects proved to be unclear. The reimbursable category contained projects with several distinct legislative histories and in some cases funding has shifted in recent years between direct and reimbursable accounts. Thus, this initial fact-gathering about what constitutes the reimbursable accounts has been a major task in itself (aided greatly by Council staff), and has consumed much of the allotted time. The complexity of the situation is illustrated by Figure 1 (page 5).

There are four major components of the reimbursable program that we have identified at this time:

  1. Columbia River Fisheries Mitigation Program (Corps of Engineers)
  2. Fish and Wildlife Operations and Maintenance Budget (Corps of Engineers)
  3. Lower Snake River Compensation Plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and
  4. Leavenworth Hatchery (Bureau of Reclamation).

The first component has already been reviewed by the Independent Scientific Advisory Board, and a brief summary of that review is included in this report in Appendix A.