Sustainability report notes Council successes

A new report by the National Research Council proposes a decision-making framework for government policy-makers and regulators for decision-making related to long-term sustainability of natural resources and highlights the successful collaboration of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and the Bonneville Power Administration to protect and enhance fish and wildlife affected by hydropower dams in the Columbia River Basin.

Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages, produced by the Committee on Sustainability Linkages in the Federal Government, begins with the premise that federal agencies are not well-organized to address sustainability challenges such as ensuring sufficient fresh water, food, energy, housing, health, and education while maintaining ecosystems and biodiversity for future generations. To develop its decision-making framework, which includes social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainability, the committee met with experts at public sessions across the nation including one in Seattle in February that addressed sustainability challenges and government responses in Puget Sound and the Columbia River Basin. Phil Rockefeller, a Washington member of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and chair of the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee, gave a presentation about the Council and its work at that meeting.

The report includes a favorable review of the Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program (on Pages 56 and 57), noting that the program has “protected and restored habitat for both anadromous and resident fish, launched innovative hatchery and harvest programs, and raised annual fish counts, although not to the very high levels that preceded dam construction.” The report also says the Council “has been successful at integrating decision-making across diverse sectors — energy, habitat restoration, irrigation, and cultural practices — and at engaging diverse publics.”

In a sense, the Council’s planning emphasizes sustainability, even though the word is not in the Northwest Power Act, the 1980 law that authorized the four Northwest states to create the Council. The Power Act directs the Council to produce a Northwest Power Plan to assure the region an adequate, efficient, economical, and reliable power supply, and a program as part of the power plan to protect, mitigate, and enhance fish and wildlife affected by hydropower dams in the Columbia River Basin, the largest contributor to the regional power supply.

Among its recommendations, the committee said a national sustainability policy should be developed to guide executive agencies in addressing governance linkages on complex sustainability problems. The committee also recommended that government agencies should support innovations in efforts to address sustainability issues by identifying key administrative, programmatic, funding, and other barriers and developing ways to reduce them.