Perpetual land protection efforts are one of the most effective ways to address losses of resident fish and changes to other freshwater species. This includes conservation easements, land purchases, or other long term measures. When purchasing land parcels, priority should be given to those that connect healthy riparian and stream habitat, as these will improve fish habitat resiliency as climate change and climate variability take effect.
- In areas of the basin where quantitative assessments of native resident fish losses have been completed, and mitigation based on native resident fish is not feasible, perpetual land acquisitions should be used, at a minimum ratio of 1:1 mitigation to lost distance or area, to benefit fish habitat as a primary tool for mitigation and settlement.
- Whenever possible, resident fish mitigation through habitat acquisitions should take place through settlement agreements that have clear objectives, a plan for action over time, a committed level of funding that provides a substantial likelihood of achieving and sustaining the stated mitigation objectives, and provisions to ensure effective implementation with periodic monitoring and evaluation. Resident fish mitigation agreements should be permanent or span multiple years and be long-term in duration. These agreements should include:
- Measurable objectives, including the estimated resident fish habitat losses addressed by acquisitions
- Demonstration of consistency with the policies, objectives, and strategies in the Council’s program
- Adherence to the open and public process language found in the Northwest Power Act, including measures to address concerns over additions to public land ownership and impacts on local communities, such as a reduction or loss of local government tax base or the local economic base, and consistency with local governments’ comprehensive plans
- When possible, provide protection for riparian habitat that can benefit both fish and wildlife, and protection for high-quality native habitat and species of special concern, including endangered, threatened, or sensitive species
- Assurance for effective implementation of the agreement, with periodic monitoring and evaluation (including a periodic audit) and reporting of results; at a minimum, annual reports to Bonneville must continue in order for the Council to evaluate the mitigation benefits
- Assurance of long-term maintenance of the habitat adequate to sustain the habitat values stated in the agreement for the life of the project (this is a requirement), along with a committed level of funding that provides a substantial likelihood of achieving and sustaining the resident fish mitigation objectives
- Adequate funding for operation and maintenance
- Resident fish mitigation agreements may include the protection of undegraded or less degraded habitat or, in appropriate circumstances may include protection and improvement of degraded habitat when necessary for effective mitigation. In the latter case, any mitigation agreements with Bonneville should include sufficient funding to enhance, restore, and create habitat functions and values for the target species of resident fish on acquired lands that are degraded.
- Resident fish mitigation agreements may represent incremental mitigation based on individual habitat acquisitions. However, where a resident fish loss assessment has been developed for a particular hydropower facility or for an entire subbasin using the best available scientific methods and the loss assessment has been accepted as part of the program, the Council encourages mitigation settlement agreements.
- The Bonneville Power Administration will require, wherever possible, that resident fish mitigation agreements through habitat acquisitions include a management plan with clear objectives; a plan for action over time; a committed level of funding that ensures long term maintenance to sustain the stated mitigation objectives; and provisions to ensure effective implementation with periodic monitoring and evaluation.
Management plan and operation and maintenance funding
- Resident fish mitigation agreements shall include a management plan agreed to by Bonneville and the management entity adequate to sustain the minimum credited habitat values for the life of the project. Agreements shall include sufficient funding for operation and maintenance over the long term to demonstrate a substantial likelihood of achieving and sustaining the mitigation objectives.