The Council revises its Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program every five years, and because the last revision was three years ago, in 2014, it’s time to begin thinking about the next revision, tentatively scheduled to begin next spring. Once the Council issues a call for recommendations to amend the Program, by law the revision must be completed within one year. Hence, the next Program would be completed in 2019.
To that end, this month the Council issued a series of questions to the Independent Scientific Review Board (ISAB), a panel of 11 scientists the Council shares with NOAA Fisheries and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, to consider during a review the panel will conduct of the 2014 Program. For the upcoming amendment, the Council is considering a focus on key issues and areas of Program implementation that would benefit most from updated recommendations. These potentially include wildlife mitigation including accounting for losses and gains resulting from hydropower dam construction and operations; the Program’s investment strategy and priorities; data management and reporting; and general Program accountability. The Council would consider all recommendations, not just those regarding the focus areas.
The questions to the ISAB address 1) the effects of climate change and invasive species; 2) the best indicators for reporting Program progress; 3) achieving Program objectives; 4) the use of life-cycle modeling; 5) improving juvenile and adult fish passage survival at dams; 6) whether there are further improvements in fish survival from investments in habitat and hatcheries in tributaries, the mainstem Columbia and Snake, and the estuary; and 7) refining smolt-to-adult survival objectives in the Program.
The Council is also interested in the ISAB’s advice about improving implementation of the Program in light of current financial uncertainties at the Bonneville Power Administration that might result in reductions in Bonneville’s investment in the Program, at least for a period of time.