Rec. 12 - Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks

The aquatic environment in the Flathead and Kootenai subbasins is linked to the mainstem Columbia through the operation of the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS). The goalfor the Flathead and Kootenai River Subbasins is to restore and protect the abundance, productivity, and diversity of biological communities and habitats, particularly those containing native fish and wildlife populations. Establishment of normative environmental conditions in the rivers and reservoirs affected by the operation of the FCRPS is essential to accomplish this goal.

Fluctuating reservoir elevations and stream flows resulting from system operation directly affect the aquatic environment and associated riparian and wetland habitats. The abundance, productivity and diversity of fish and wildlife species inhabiting the headwaters of the Columbia River are controlled by their ecosystems. There is a need to operate dams to restore and maintain normative hydrologic conditions (conditions that mimic natural processes and minimize impacts on fish and wildlife). To achieve this, headwater storage projects need to be operated consistent with the variable flood control strategy (VARQ) and Integrated Rule Curves (IRC). Specifically, there is a need for reservoir refill to promote biological productivity in the reservoirs. Downstream, there is a need for a gradual ramp-down of river flows after the spring runoff to maintain stable discharges, especially during the biologically productive summer months, to benefit native species.

The following biological objectives (view 45kb Acrobat PDF file) represent an established multi-species, habitat-based plan to restore normative functions in the Columbia River headwaters, consistent with mainstem operations called for in the NMFS and USFWS 2000 Biological Opinions. These operational mitigation measures are a portion of the overall mitigation plans in the Flathead and Kootenai subbasins (Fraley et al. 1989; MFWP and CSKT 1991,1993; MFWP, CSKT and KTOI 1998). Associated projects targeting habitat restoration and fish passage improvements were not included herein, unless directly pertinent to mainstem Columbia operations.