Draft Scoping Document: Council Review of Corps' Mainstem Capital Construction Program


The Council has been directed by Congress, in the Conference Report accompanying the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1998, to review "the major fish mitigation capital construction activities proposed for implementation at the Federal dams in the Columbia River Basin." The Council is directed to conduct this review with the assistance of the Independent Scientific Advisory Board (ISAB).

Purpose of Review

The review of the Corps' Columbia River Fish Mitigation Program (CRFMP) is expected to be largely of a scientific, or technical, nature. The Congressional report language references the CRFMP appears "to reflect the pursuit of multiple restoration strategies, some of [which] may not be adopted, rendering expensive measures obsolete." Hence the purpose of the capital construction review is to identify the need for multiple passage strategies and whether some strategies can be modified or even eliminated for technical reasons.

Goal and Objectives of Program

CRFMP fish passage improvement projects are directed largely by measures contained in the NMFS 1995 Biological Opinion, although it also considers and implements actions called for in the Council's 1994 Fish and Wildlife Program and the tribes' 1995 Anadromous Fish Restoration Plan, Wy-Kan-Ush-Mi Wa-Kish-Wit - Spirit of the Salmon. The general goal for mainstem fish passage, as stated in the NMFS 1995 Biological Opinion, is for the Corps to implement all reasonable measures for the operation and configuration of the Federal Columbia River Power System that will reduce mortalities of listed fish (juveniles and adults). The biological objectives of mainstem fish passage actions are to minimize a) delays at dams and b) the passage of fish through turbines by c) providing high survival alternative passage routes supporting salmon smolt-to-adult survival ratios that foster long-term population growth.

The interim performance objective for CRFMP juvenile passage improvements is to achieve at least an 80 percent fish passage efficiency and a 95 percent survival rate rate for fish passing at each dam, while keeping total dissolved gas levels within the limits of state water quality standards. In addition, the performance objective for upstream passage is to ensure a high degree of adult passage success by maintaining adult fish facilities within criteria established in the Corps' Fish Passage Plan, and make facility improvements, where necessary.

Scope of Review

The scope of the review includes identification of those elements (projects/measures) that should be reviewed plus the types of policy and technical questions/issues that should be addressed. Questions or issues of a policy nature will be addressed by the Council, while technical/scientific questions will be forwarded to the ISAB for consideration. A review of the Corps' CRFMP indicates there are over 50 different projects or measures in the Corps' program, which are either in the implementation (capital construction) or study/investigation phase. The review will focus primarily on capital fish passage improvements proposed for implementation rather than on those already underway or those which are in the research phase. The exception will be a technical review of three capital improvement projects that were controversial this year in the System Configuration Team (SCT) deliberations of the Corps' FY 1998 CRFMP budget. Those projects include: 1) the Bonneville Dam second powerhouse juvenile bypass improvements, particularly the bypass outfall relocation; 2) installation of extended-length screens at John Day Dam; and 3) further development and testing of the surface spill bypass prototype system at Lower Granite Dam.

The CRFMP projects can be placed into several larger categories such as surface bypass, juvenile fish bypass improvements, spill bypass and dissolved gas abatement, smolt transportation, reservoir drawdown/dam breaching and adult fish passage. Because of the large number of individual projects and the complexity of many, it is suggested the review should focus on an evaluation of the major passage strategies, in order for it to be completed in the limited amount of time available.

Schedule for Review

The review is scheduled to be completed by June 30, 1998. Three initial scoping meetings have been held with the region's fishery agencies and tribes and other interested parties, including a consultation with the Council at its November 18, 1997, working session in Spokane, Washington. A formal consultation was held with CRITFC member tribes on November 21, 1997, that included some discussion of this review effort.

This paper serves as a draft scoping document, which incorporates public comments received to date. It will be distributed in early December to those parties who attended the earlier scoping meetings, as well as other interested parties. At the same time, it will also be forwarded and reviewed by the members of the SCT and ISAB. A series of public meetings will then be held to solicit additional comments on the draft scoping document and the review in general.

Based on all comments received on the draft scoping document and Council policy direction, staff will prepare a final work plan for the capital construction review and present it to the Council for review and approval at its meeting in Olympia, Washington, on January 13-14, 1998. In addition, a technical background paper on the CRFMP will be developed and presented by mid-January to both the Council and ISAB to provide needed background information. The technical background paper will rely heavily on information contained in chapter 3 of the CBFWA's multi-year implementation plan, which was developed by the SCT, as well as updated information.

After the Council approves a final work plan, it will be implemented by forwarding the relevant technical/scientific questions to the ISAB for its consideration and review. From mid-January until mid-May 1998, both the ISAB and the Council will review and analyze the scientific and policy issues related to the CRFMP, respectively. It is anticipated the ISAB review panel may request members of the region's fishery agencies, tribes and the Corps of Engineers to present relevant technical information during the panel's deliberations on certain projects, particularly concerning the three controversial projects of 1997. On May 19-20, 1998, at the Council meeting in eastern Washington, the ISAB review panel will present its scientific findings in a report and Council staff will present options on policy and technical issues to the Council.

Following the ISAB report of its findings, the Council will provide for further public comment on the ISAB review report and relevant policy issues in a series of public meetings and in the SCT over the last two weeks in May. At the June 9-10, 1998, work session in Spokane, Council staff will present a draft final report to the Council for its review. A final report, including identification of the technical and policy issues addressed during the review, scientific findings, and options on policy issues, will be prepared, reviewed and approved by the Council at its June 30, 1998 meeting in Montana. The Council's final report will then be forwarded to Congress.

Coordination for Review

The Council intends to utilize the regional System Configuration Team (SCT) to provide technical input throughout the capital construction review process. Additional coordination with the region's fish and wildlife agencies and Indian tribes will be provided with CBFWA staff assistance. In addition, staff will also compile a list of entities not represented on SCT who are interested in participating in the review of mainstem fish passage capital construction projects for consultation during the review process.

Public Comment on the Review Scoping Document

Staff will continue to build on the mix of formal and informal discussions and consultations to solicit additional input on the scope of the review. Copies of the Council-approved draft scoping document will be distributed by fax, mail and e-mail on December 10th. In addition, staff will make presentations and listen to comments according to the following schedule proposed by Public Affairs (additional meetings and presentations may be scheduled as time and interest allow):

December 17th  9 AM

 3 PM
4 PM
System Configuration Team Meeting
Capital Review only
5th Floor Conference Room 525 NE Oregon Street, Portland, Oregon
Anadromous Fish Managers Caucus Meeting
Artificial Production Review
Corps Capital Review
2501 SW First Avenue, Suite 200, Portland, Oregon
December 18th   4 PM Northwest Energy Review Transition Board Meeting
Corps Capital and Artificial Production Reviews
851 SW Sixth Avenue, Suite 1100, Portland, Oregon
January 6th 10 AM   Northwest Power Planning Council Central Office
Corps Capital and Artificial Production Reviews
851 SW Sixth Avenue, Suite 1100, Portland, Oregon
January 9th 1 PM West Coast Ridpath Hotel
Corps Capital and Artificial Production Reviews
W. 515 Sprague Avenue, Spokane, Washington

Staff also is working with the Public Power Council, the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition and the Columbia River Alliance to ensure that these groups' members have an opportunity to review and comment on the draft scoping document. Finally, staff is attempting to arrange opportunities for CRITFC staff and members to provide comments. As of the packet deadline, nothing specific had been arranged. At a minimum, staff will continue to work with CRITFC staff on an informal basis to ensure that the Council is made aware of CRITFC's major concerns.

Questions for Review

Technical or scientific questions submitted to the ISAB will be separated from policy questions, which will be addressed by the Council. A set of possible questions are included below as examples. Actual questions will be developed by the Council in consultation with the ISAB and the region's fishery managers and others.

Policy Context for Review

A technical review of the CRFMP does not necessarily represent purely scientific questions. Instead, the review needs to be conducted within a policy context that relates to an eventual set of system configuration decisions affecting the use or relevance of fish passage facilities at existing mainstem dams. Accordingly, it is necessary to establish some policy sideboards for the review effort. For example, the question of the value of installing extended-length screens at particular mainstem dams is only important if the projects are to remain operating in their existing condition.

The Council is charged to balance the region's need for an "adequate, economical, efficient, and reliable" power supply, with its obligation to "protect, mitigate and enhance" the fish and wildlife of the Columbia River Basin. Accordingly, the Council will establish the policy context for the review of the CRFMP with regard to the possible future system configuration alternatives of mainstem hydroelectric dams. The policy context could be specified as different possible futures concerning the configuration of mainstem dams. For example, the following three future alternative scenarios are proposed to provide sideboards for the review:

  1. All existing mainstem dams remain in place and operational for the foreseeable future.
  2. All dams remain in place except that the four lower Snake River projects are breached to provide a natural river condition in the Snake River.
  3. All dams remain in place except that a lower Columbia River project, such as John Day Dam, is breached or lowered.

The questions outlined below can then be analyzed for each of these three future scenarios. The final determination as to which system configuration alternative to implement would continue to be a regional and national policy decision to be made within the next several years.

Technical Elements of Review

Congressional language calls on the Council to conduct the review "with assistance of the ISAB." The Council intends to use the ISAB review panel for scientific review of technical questions and issues related to the CRFMP. The work product from the ISAB would include responses to the technical questions and issues submitted by the Council and related scientific findings. Possible general and specific technical questions that might be addressed by the ISAB review of the Corps' CRFMP follow.

General Questions

1. What is the rationale behind the use of mainstem fish passage facilities on the Columbia/Snake rivers?

2. How does the concept of mainstem fish passage fit within the context of the Columbia River ecosystem?

3. What is the record of effectiveness of fish passage facilities to mitigate for the effects of mainstem hydroelectric dams?
xx— What are the positive impacts of fish passage facilities?
xx— What negative impacts have the facilities incurred?

4. What are the major research questions associated with improving mainstem fish passage?

5. How does the existing level of scientific uncertainty affect the use and management of mainstem fish passage measures?

Specific Questions

1. In reviewing the Corps' mainstem capital construction projects in general, the Council asks that the following specific projects be used as examples or models for examining issues:

xxa) Installation of extended-length screens at John Day Dam;
xxb) Further development and testing of the surface bypass prototype at Lower Granite Dam;
xxc) Bonneville Dam juvenile fish bypass improvements, including the relocation of bypass outfall; and
xxd) Dissolved gas abatement program.

2. What is the relative effectiveness of different fish bypass strategies to mitigate for the effect of mainstem dams?
xxa) What is the scientific basis for comparing different mainstem fish passage strategies?
xxb) Are there significant limitations in the scientific basis for evaluating different fish passage strategies?
xxc) What is the relative likelihood of any of the proposed fish passage strategies to achieve the goals of the NMFS Biological Opinion, the Council's fish and wildlife program, or the tribes salmon restoration plan?

— Does the measure proposed for implementation, or the range of potential implementation alternatives, have a high probability of achieving the expected biological benefit (salmon survival improvement) without undue risk to other anadromous and/or resident fish populations?

— Do some strategies provide potentially interim (short-term) biological benefits while longer-term system configuration strategies are being evaluated, selected and implemented?

Policy Elements of Review

Policy questions related to the CRFMP will also be identified during the review. The Council, in consultation with other regional and federal parties, will need to address relevant policy issues or questions. Possible policy questions that might be addressed by the Council during a review of the Corps' CRFMP include:

  1. Does the expected biological outcome warrant the expenditure for implementation?
  2. Is there a potential conflict in implementing a measure with ESA-related federal responsibilities? With Council's fish and wildlife program? With the tribal restoration plan?
  3. Other policy questions?
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