A significant deadline passed in mid-December in the work of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to amend its Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. December 13 was the deadline for submitting proposals to amend the Program, last revised in 2014. By law, the Council revises the Program at least every five years; the current Program dates to 2014.
In a May 16, 2018 letter the Council called for recommendations to amend the Program, received a total of 51 sets of recommendations by the December 13 deadline, and then posted them here on the Council’s website for public review and comment through February 8. The December deadline set a clock ticking for the Council, which by law must adopt a revised program within one year of receiving recommendations.
At its regular meeting in December, the Council reviewed a schedule for the Program amendment process prepared by its Fish and Wildlife Division staff. After the deadline passes for receiving comments on the recommendations, a draft program will be prepared and then made available for public comment by the summer. Public hearings on the draft Program will be conducted in the four Northwest states, probably in August and September, and following the hearings a final draft of the Program will be prepared. Final approval of the revised Program is scheduled for December 2019.
One important question the Council asked in the letter requesting amendment recommendations was whether to comprehensively rewrite the current, 2014 Program or focus instead on a specific set of key issues and make only minor changes, or none at all, in other parts of the program. That will depend on what is recommended. The Council will discuss the amendment recommendations in detail at its regular January meeting.
The Program directs more than $250 million annually to projects designed to protect, mitigate, and enhance fish wildlife and related spawning and rearing habitat of the Columbia River Basin that have been affected by the construction and operation of hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River Basin. The money comes from electricity sales revenue of the Bonneville Power Administration, the federal power marketing agency that sells the output of federal hydropower dams in the Northwest.