The Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council is the most comprehensive fish and wildlife mitigation and restoration effort in the world.
Since 1982, the Council’s program has directed the investment of more than $3 billion of electricity revenues to improve fish passage at hydropower dams, acquire and improve fish and wildlife habitat, boost fish production using hatcheries, monitor and evaluate the success of these efforts, and improve scientific knowledge through research.
Early programs focused on mainstem Columbia and Snake river hydropower system improvements for ocean-going fish, including water management and fish passage at dams. Over time as the hydrosystem improvements were implemented, the program began to place a greater emphasis on habitat, including restoration projects throughout the American portion of the Columbia River Basin. Later programs reflected the changing needs and dynamics in the basin, and include expanded restoration and mitigation efforts for losses of resident fish and wildlife and their habitat as a result of the hydropower system. Key stream reaches were protected from hydropower development, and the Council promoted scientific research to guide its decisions, as well as management decisions of the region’s fish and wildlife agencies and tribes.
In 2000, the Council adopted a new program framework of goals, objectives, and strategies at different geographic levels, including subbasins. The program also considered habitat, hydropower, hatcheries, and harvest when identifying areas for mitigation and restoration. This framework continues to be the basis of the Council’s 2014 Program, with increased emphasis on adaptive management [see Program Framework].
The Council’s programs have served as a foundation for federal action agencies (Bonneville Power Administration, the Corps of Engineers, and the Bureau of Reclamation) seeking to recover Endangered Species Act-listed species in the basin. The Council’s recommendations for dam operations and its strategies for habitat restoration and hatcheries were incorporated into federal biological opinions and recovery plans, and standards developed by the Council’s two panels of independent scientists continue to provide the basis for evaluating the success of salmon and steelhead recovery efforts.
The majority of work conducted under the Council’s fish and wildlife program is focused directly on protecting, mitigating and enhancing salmon and steelhead affected by the development and operation of the hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River basin. The Council and the region recognize that many other species were adversely affected as well. Therefore in this program the Council included strategies specific to certain species including sturgeon, lamprey, and eulachon.
While we are pleased that the Council’s program has played such an important role in recovering and rebuilding fish and wildlife species, we also note that many of the projects that implement the program are aging and are in need of additional operational and maintenance funding. The Independent Scientific Advisory Board cautions that these investments may also be threatened by outside influences. These circumstances present unique challenges for the Council, and demonstrate the need to be flexible and responsive in a changing world. For example, the Council is aware of the impact, present and future, of non-native species, toxic contaminants, and climate change on fish and wildlife in the Columbia Basin.
The Council’s role as a planning, policy-making, and reviewing body continues to evolve. Currently, the Council sees an opportunity to be an information broker and to assist the coordination among fish and wildlife managers. The Council is the logical body to identify and provide regional leadership and coordination on a variety of fish and wildlife issues, including the need to establish a long-term strategy to protect the region’s substantial investments and to prioritize future investments.
We are honored to assume that task.
Bill Bradbury, Chair
Jennifer Anders, Vice-Chair
W. Bill Booth
Jim A. Yost