Council recommends 100 research projects focused on Columbia River Basin fish and wildlife

The Council today recommended 100 projects, some new and some ongoing, to improve scientific knowledge about fish and wildlife throughout the Columbia River Basin. The projects are part of the Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program and would be funded by the Bonneville Power Administration as part of its responsibility to protect and enhance fish and wildlife affected by hydropower dams in the basin.

The Council did not recommend budgets for the projects, leaving that for Bonneville to negotiate with the project sponsors, who include fish and wildlife agencies, Indian tribes, and university-affiliated researchers. However, Bonneville has earmarked as much as $81.2 million for this group of research, monitoring, and evaluation projects in its fish and wildlife budget for Fiscal Year 2012, which begins October 1 of this year. The duration of the projects varies from one to five years; projects could be funded for their duration or for a portion with a requirement for review before approval of additional funding.

"These projects were reviewed and approved by the Council’s Independent Scientific Review Panel to ensure they are based on sound science and are consistent with the goals and objectives of the Council’s fish and wildlife program," Council Chair Bruce Measure said. "Members of the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee were able to find about $2.8 million in annual savings in this group of projects that the Council will pass along to Bonneville with its recommendations."

Nearly half of the projects — 48 total — address planning, development, operation, and maintenance of fish hatcheries funded through the Council’s program. These include projects to investigate the effectiveness of hatcheries and the effects of hatchery fish on those that spawn naturally.

"The key question that continues to be asked about hatcheries, both those funded through the Council’s program and others, is whether the production of hatchery fish harms fish that spawn naturally," Measure said. "One of the projects we will consider further aims to address the question by creating a panel of experts that will be called the Columbia River Hatchery Effects Evaluation Team. This team would not duplicate other recent hatchery evaluations, but build on that body of work to help improve decisionmaking about hatcheries in the future."

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council is a compact of the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington and is directed by the Northwest Power Act of 1980 to prepare a program to protect, mitigate, and enhance fish and wildlife of the Columbia River Basin affected by hydropower dams, and a companion power plan to assure the Northwest an adequate, efficient, economical, and reliable power supply.