As part of an agency-wide effort to control costs, the Bonneville Power Administration has identified cuts in funding for the Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program beginning in the current fiscal year.
While the cuts have the potential to weaken implementation of some aspects of the Council’s 2014 Fish and Wildlife Program, Bonneville’s January 2018 Strategic Plan includes an objective to “hold the sum of program costs, by business line, at or below the rate of inflation through 2028.” This objective is further elaborated in the Strategic Plan: “In addition, because fish and wildlife costs make up a significant portion of power costs, this strategic goal includes taking a more disciplined approach to managing the total cost” of the Council’s fish and wildlife program, which Bonneville is required by the Northwest Power Act of 1980 to fund.
Last May Bonneville Administrator Elliott Mainzer and senior Bonneville managers identified a total of about $30 million in potential cuts in fish and wildlife spending, and while the cuts to date don’t total that much the budget-cutting is considered a work in progress.
Bonneville’s fish and wildlife budget includes two general types of costs: 1) direct (expense) annual funding of projects, and 2) obligations for debt (capital) financing of projects over time. Bonneville began Fiscal Year 2018 budgeting a total of $310,000,000 in expense funding, and of that amount $33,483,000 was directed to the Lower Snake River Compensation Plan. After within-year adjustments, the actual funding amounts for Fiscal Year 2018 were $248 million in expense funding, $31 million for the LSRCP, and $31 million in capital investment obligations. Capital investments in Fiscal Year 2019 are not significantly affected by the funding reductions.
In a memo discussed at the Council’s December meeting, the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Division staff outlined the following budget cuts in the current fiscal year, as reported by Bonneville:
- A total of $2,714,309 was cut from 12 projects in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2019, which began October 1. See Attachment 1, Page 11, of the memo for a list of the projects and cuts.
- A total of $3,269,316 will be cut from 14 projects, beginning January 1, 2019, the start of the second quarter of the 2019 fiscal year. See Attachment 2, Page 15, of the memo for a list of those projects and the cuts.
- Reduce funding for the Columbia Basin Water Transaction Program by $800,000 in Fiscal Year 2019, down from an original estimate of $1 million. The program uses Bonneville funding to acquire water rights voluntarily from willing landowners to address chronically diminished stream flows in Columbia River tributaries.
- Reduce funding for the fish and aquatic habitat information management and data-sharing project known as StreamNet (www.streamnet.org) by $82,512, and reduce funding for other data management efforts.
- Reduce Lower Snake River Compensation Plan (LSRCP) funding by about $2.3-$3 million. In Fiscal Year 2018, Bonneville provided about $30 million for the LSRCP, which pays for raising salmon and steelhead in hatcheries to partially mitigate fish losses caused by the four federal dams on the lower Snake River.
- Permanently eliminate most funding for the habitat monitoring programs known as the Columbia Habitat Monitoring Program (CHaMP) and the Integrated Status and Effectiveness Monitoring Program (ISEMP). These projects were funded at just over $7 million in Fiscal Year 2017, and their budgets were first reduced in Fiscal Year 2018 with the goal of contracting these projects for about $1.5 million in Fiscal Year 2019.
- Reduce Bonneville funding of conferences by 50-percent in 2019 and eliminate it in Fiscal Year 2020, and reduce travel and conference registration fees for sponsors of Bonneville-funded projects.
- Reduce funding by 50 percent for the Columbia Basin Bulletin, an electronic newsletter of fish and wildlife topics, and eliminate funding in 2020.
- Reduce funding for Columbia Basin Fish Accords totaling $3.6 million compared to 2018 levels. In October, Bonneville signed four-year extensions of the 2008, 10-year Accords with six tribes and two states.