Under Section 4(h) of the Northwest Power Act, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council oversees the development, amendment, and implementation of a program to "protect, mitigate and enhance" fish and wildlife adversely affected by the development and operation of the hydroelectric facilities on the Columbia River and its tributaries, known as the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. The Council most recently amended the program in 2009.
In the years 2002 to 2005, the Council led a planning effort to develop "subbasin plans" for the tributary subbasins of the Columbia basin, containing specific objectives and measures for the program at the subbasin level. The effort culminated in 2004-05 as the Council amended into the Fish and Wildlife Program the management plan elements of the subbasin plans for nearly all of the Columbia’s tributaries.
Planners in a handful of tributaries did not complete subbasin plans at that time. The Council left open the possibility of further amending the program if subbasin plans came in at a later date, and has continued to support in the Fish and Wildlife Program the development of subbasin plans for tributaries still without plans.
In September 2009, the Council received a proposed subbasin plan for the Bitterroot River subbasin in Montana. The Montana Water Trust acted as lead planning entity for the Bitterroot plan, working with more than a dozen governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations as partners and coordinating and consulting with many more. The planning team recommended the Bitterroot subbasin plan for adoption into the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Program.
At this time, in September 2010, the Council is adopting the management plan elements of the Bitterroot River Subbasin Plan into the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Program. This document explains the Council’s disposition of the Bitterroot subbasin plan recommendation, and also explains how the Council responded to the public comments it received on the recommended program amendment. Note that the Council’s subbasin plan decision in 2005 included a lengthy discussion of the Council’s subbasin planning effort, the purpose and structure of subbasin plans, the legal requirements for amending the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Program, required findings on the recommended subbasin plans, and responses to comments on the proposed amendments. .
The 2005 decision document is incorporated here by reference, and its detail will not be repeated here. This subbasin plan decision document should be considered a supplement to the earlier decision document. Both decision documents are formally part of the Fish and Wildlife Program along with subbasin plans themselves.