1. "Inadequate" project proposals (3)
a. As an issue for the Fiscal Year 1999 funding recommendation (3)
b. Fiscal Year 2000 and beyond (5)
c. Independent audit (6)
2. Changes in priority -- nine projects recommended for funding by the ISRP that were not recommended for funding by CBFWA (8)
3. Funding for development of program framework (11)
4. Artificial production issues (12)
a. Deferring conclusions on artificial production projects pending the completion of the artificial production review (12)
b. Resident fish substitution with non-native species (13)
c. Captive broodstock activities (15)
5. Watershed restoration project concerns for Fiscal Year 1999/setting a deadline for requiring that watershed restoration projects be guided by watershed assessments (17)
a. Issues relevant to the Fiscal Year 1999 funding recommendation (17)
b. Fiscal Year 2000 and beyond (19)
6. Recommendations for law enforcement funding (21)
7. Treatment of "non-discretionary" projects (23)
8. Biological studies of gas supersaturation (25)
9. Coded-wire tags (27)
10. Lamprey project (30)
a. New research projects (30)
b. Existing project (31)
11. Coordination funding (32)
12. Budget management issues (33)
a. Issue underlying assumptions about available budget amount (33)
b. Possible budget reconciliation issue (33)
c. Issues relevant to operation and maintenance costs and overhead costs in general (34)
d. Staff costs (FTEs) not connected to projects (34)
13. Protection and enhancement of mainstem habitat (36)
14. Earmark budget for innovative work (37)
15. Wildlife program recommendations/integrating wildlife and fish habitat protection/coordinating fish and wildlife programs (39)
16. Costs of drawdown mitigation at Hungry Horse and Libby (40)
17. Columbia Basin Bulletin (41)
18. Reform of the project review process (42)
a. Program reviews/multi-year funding -- grouping projects into umbrella programs for review and multi-year funding recommendations (42)
b. Additional ISRP recommendations for improving the project selection process/reporting of results and adaptive management improvements (43)
c. Other suggestions for improving the project selection process/focusing project solicitation for new work (44)
1. "Inadequate" project proposals
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Independent Scientific Review panel's report is the fact that the Panel found approximately 40percent of the project proposals to be "inadequate," including slightly over 20percent of the projects recommended by CBFWA for funding. The ISRP did not recommend that these projects not be funded.
"This does not mean that the purpose of the project was not important or that the ISRP is making an official recommendation not to fund. We are simply noting for the record that the proposal was technically not adequate; thus the project must be considered not scientifically supportable at this time." Review of the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program for Fiscal Year 1999 as directed by the 1996 Amendment to the Northwest Power Act, Report No. ISRP98-1 (ISRP Report), p. 27.
The Panel summarized its specific concerns with project proposals (all projects, not just those labeled inadequate) in Appendix A to the report. General comments about the problems with the proposals and suggestions for improvements can be found at ISRP Report, pp. 11-13, 23-25. The only "recommendations" that the Panel actually makes in this regard are aimed at improving proposals for next year: "The ISRP recommends that the Council communicate to the basin's project managers the importance of the annual proposals in determining its funding priorities. The Council should make it clear that inadequate proposals submitted in 1999 will not be funded." ISRP Report, p. 24. The ISRP also recommended that "[t]o help make project peer review a routine part" of implementation, "the ISRP recommends revision and distribution of the SRG's guidelines on peer review of proposals and projects. The revisions should address problems in proposal quality identified in the 1997 and 1998 ISRP reviews." ISRP Report, p. 11.
The Council has two types of issues to address. One set of issues concerns whether and how to respond to these comments as part of the Fiscal Year 1999 funding recommendation. The other is whether and how to respond in the Fiscal Year 2000 review process and beyond.
a. As an issue for the Fiscal Year 1999 funding recommendation
The first issue for the Council is whether and how to react to the ISRP comments in making funding recommendations for Fiscal Year 1999. It is unlikely that the Council can or should use its limited staff resources to review the technical/scientific merits of all of the individual projects and make funding recommendations on a project-by-project basis. There are two obvious bookends -- ignore the comments altogether for Fiscal Year 1999 and concentrate on next year, or recommend no funding in Fiscal Year 1999 for any project with an inadequate proposal. Middle-ground possibilities have included making a distinction between new projects and on-going projects and/or recommending that Bonneville and the managers address problems identified by the ISRP in the process of contracting.
The Council's Fish and Wildlife Committee and the Council staff focused on the possibilities of this latter approach for Fiscal Year 1999 -- a Council recommendation that the project sponsors and Bonneville use the statements of work for the Fiscal Year 1999 contracts as the place to begin addressing technical comments and deficiencies raised by the ISRP in Appendix A. Note that Appendix A includes critical comments and suggestions for improvement even for project proposals notlabeled as inadequate. This approach would not distinguish between projects labeled "adequate" and "inadequate proposal" -- the Council would be asking Bonneville and the project sponsors to try to address any technical comments made in the appendix. The technical work groups that CBFWA used to evaluate watershed and other projects also raised technical concerns about projects that should be reviewed and addressed as part of this effort. The concept is not that the Fiscal Year 1999 statements of work would have to come back before the Council for review and approval before funding can commence. Instead, the Council would oversee this activity by requesting that Bonneville and the project sponsors report back to the Council about the efforts to respond to the ISRP and technical groups? technical comments and improve the quality of the projects and their descriptions. One concern has been that some of the critical comments in Appendix A are not the kind of technical criticisms that can be addressed by improving aspects of the project or its description, but instead are programmatic in nature and go to the heart of the underlying concepts (for example, the conclusory criticisms of the underlying basis of the resident fish substitution projects). These kind of comments could be addressed, if appropriate, in considerations of the program framework and amendments, not in the annual funding context.
Both Bonneville and CBFWA commented that having the Bonneville staff work with contractors to address these comments is probably a reasonable approach. Bonneville added that it "will need clear programmatic guidelines from the Council" and has concerns about possible "staffing implications."
Council Recommendation: The Council recommends that Bonneville and the project sponsors begin addressing in this year's contracting process the technical concerns about project design, description, administration, monitoring and evaluation, and reporting of results noted by the ISRP and the technical work groups used by CBFWA. The suggested elements of this approach:
- As a first step, the Council has already begun the work of combing through the ISRP comments to extract and compile those that are technical in nature and susceptible to being addressed in contracting and implementation, as compared to those comments that raise general policy issues. The Council staff will also see that the CBFWA technical work groups? comments are compiled for review. After review by the Fish and Wildlife Committee, the document listing the projects and the relevant comments would then go from the Council to Bonneville, the project sponsors and CBFWA, with a letter describing the Council's recommendations for how to begin addressing these concerns. The intent has been to develop the extracted list of comments before the Council's funding recommendation if possible, and to have those comments accompany the Council's funding recommendation decision.
- As part of the contracting process, Bonneville and the project sponsors would address these comments. This might mean simply obtaining or developing missing information and improving the description of the project. Or, it might mean modifying the project tasks as needed to respond to technical criticisms (for example, improving the monitoring and evaluation element). The Council's expectation is not that every concern will be definitively resolved in the Fiscal Year 1999 statements of work and contracts. Our expectation instead is that the technical concerns be recognized and responded to, by stating how the concerns are or will or might be addressed and on what time frame.
- For watershed habitat projects, the process would also be used to address the watershed assessment questions raised by the ISRP, discussed below as part of issue no. 5a. For projects that consist only of staff support or technical FTEs, this would be the time to begin tying those activities and costs to functional projects, as discussed below in issue no. 12d. And this might also be a time for a review of operation and maintenance costs and overhead costs, as discussed below in issue no. 12c.
- For each project, Bonneville personnel would write an adequate description of how Bonneville and the project sponsors responded to the technical comments and addressed any of the other issues noted above. Bonneville would collect these responses and the actual statements of work into a periodic report to the Council and CBFWA. We expect that on occasion broader management or policy issues will emerge during a good faith effort to address what seemed to be technical comments. This should not be a reason to hold up funding in Fiscal Year 1999. Instead, the issues should be flagged for further discussion by the Council.
- The Council will not be called upon to approve these reports or the modified projects or descriptions before Bonneville funding for the projects can go forward in Fiscal Year 1999. The Council will instead ask staff to review the reports for the purpose of reviewing the progress of the effort, and would periodically brief the Council.
- During the Fiscal Year 2000 project review, CBFWA, any technical workgroups, the ISRP, Bonneville and the Council would all be reviewing projects in part to see how successfully the project descriptions responded to this year's technical comments.
The Council has been discussing the possibility of asking an auditing firm to review in more depth a representative number of contracts, to see how successfully Bonneville and the project sponsors were able to respond to these comments and improve project descriptions and projects. Because the auditors might also be asked to review various budget and contract management issues, in part as a follow-on to the Moss-Adams report on contract management from last year, this issue is discussed separately below as issue no. 1c.
b. Fiscal Year 2000 and beyond
The second issue for the Council is whether and how to address this problem for the Fiscal Year 2000 process. The ISRP recommends revising and distributing the Scientific Review Group's guidelines on peer review and project proposals and, especially, sending a signal about the importance of the proposal by making a commitment to recommend against funding in Fiscal Year 2000 for inadequate proposals.
For something this potentially serious, it would seem appropriate to take steps beyond just the distribution of guidelines to address the concerns. This might include organizing workshops or other forms of interaction between ISRP members and the managers and other project sponsors to make clear what information is needed to make an adequate proposal for the panel's scientific review and whether the current form is adequate for conveying that information. The project proposal form may need some revision (and in fact revisions are under consideration), especially if there is a big push (discussed below) to aggregate projects into their larger programs and review as programs for multi-year funding recommendations -- the current proposal form is not well adapted for describing aggregate programs and their constituent parts. The ISRP noted in its report that it is considering revising its review criteria to take into account the differences among the types of projects, an effort that might further help reduce the disconnect between the project proposals and the panel's review and which might also benefit from an interaction with the managers. Council, CBFWA and Bonneville staff have created a workgroup to consult with the ISRP on any necessary revisions to criteria. Finally, project sponsors have commented that it would help if the ISRP stated more clearly what criteria they use to decide that a project proposal is inadequate -- people reviewing the panel's report have noted project proposals that received similar narrative criticisms in Appendix A and yet different categorizations of adequacy.
At bottom, however, the Council had to decide if it wanted to follow the ISRP's recommendation and send a signal now that "inadequate proposals submitted in 1999 will not be funded." An approach this strict would require a far better definition than we have now of what "inadequacy" means. An alternative for Fiscal Year 2000 has been a continuation (if it seems to be working) of the approach outlined above for dealing in Fiscal Year 1999 with "inadequate proposals" and technical criticisms, perhaps with a ratcheting up of the requirements for addressing these concerns before funding can go forward.
Council recommendation: The Council is not stating at this time that it will automatically recommend against funding for a project proposal labeled inadequate by the ISRP in its Fiscal Year 2000 report. Project sponsors, Bonneville and CBFWA should be on notice that this is what the Council may end up recommending next year. But if so, there is work that needs to occur first. The Council is directing its staff to work with CBFWA, the managers, project sponsors, the ISRP and Bonneville, through the use of the peer review guidelines, integrated workgroups, interactions between the project sponsors and ISRP members, project workshops and the like, to improve the mutual understanding of what information is needed to make an adequate proposal for the ISRP's scientific review; whether the current form is adequate for conveying that information, and if not, how the form needs to change; and what constitutes an "inadequate" proposal. In addition, if the approach to addressing technical concerns at contracting described above for Fiscal Year 1999 seems to work, the Council will at least be inclined to continue its use for another year, with the possibility of more strict requirements for addressing any concerns raised, such as requiring that "inadequate proposals" demonstrate how they have addressed such concerns in the contract statements of work before the Council agrees to a recommendation for funding.
c. Independent audit
As noted above, the Council has been discussing the possibility of asking an auditing firm to review in depth a representative number of contracts. One purpose would be to evaluate how successfully Bonneville and the project sponsors were able to respond to the technical comments from the ISRP and the technical workgroups and thus improve project descriptions and projects. The auditors might also be asked to review for various fiscal and contract management concerns, in part as a follow-on to the Moss-Adams report on contract management from last year.
Council recommendation: The Council recommends that Bonneville reserve up to $50,000 in the Fiscal Year 1999 budget for the purposes of funding an audit of a subset of direct program contracts, for technical, fiscal and contract management purposes. The Council, in consultation with Bonneville and CBFWA, will develop and recommend a procedure for an independent audit of a significant number of projects approved for funding in Fiscal Year 1999. Developing the audit procedure will include describing the purposes of the audit, developing criteria and guidelines for the audit, describing a process to select the auditor, and selecting a set of contracts for review or developing a procedure for selecting contracts for review. The Council expects the audit to be completed in a timely fashion during Fiscal Year 1999, so that the auditor's report can help guide the Fiscal Year 2000 project selection process and be used in developing guidelines and reviewing programs for multi-year funding. The Council does not intend the audit to be punitive, and will use the audit results to work with Bonneville and the managers to improve project design and implementation and reduce costs, complementing the contract management review performed last year at the Council's request by Moss-Adams.
2. Changes in priority -- nine projects recommended for funding by the ISRP that were not recommended for funding by CBFWA
The ISRP recommends that nine projects totaling $2.6 million be funded in Fiscal Year 1999 despite being labeled a low priority for funding in CBFWA's work plan. One of the nine projects is considered by Bonneville to be non-discretionary (UW modeling support), but was cut by CBFWA. The remainders are either new research projects or watershed projects. The reasons given by the ISRP for supporting these projects include supporting the work of watershed assessments, a priority already identified by the ISRP, and innovative approaches to address mainstem or tributary problems. (Note: The ISRP in a separate recommendation promoted funding for "innovative work" -- see below -- but this is not the sole nor even the main basis for the nine project funding recommendations discussed here.)
The immediate issue has been how to approach this recommendation. Consistency with the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program is an issue, but it seems plausible to link most or all of these projects to Program measures. That is not the same as deciding that these projects represent priority actions or unmet needs under the Fish and Wildlife Program. The Council may not have the staff or resources to effectively engage in a project-by-project review of the technical/scientific merits of these proposals, except in the most superficial way (e.g., the ISRP recommended funding for Project No. 9047, yet the Appendix A comments are quite critical of the project, which will make it difficult to recommend this new activity). CBFWA, in its comments on the ISRP report, summarized and further explained why the managers do not recommend altering the funding priority for these nine projects.
The question for the Council has been whether there is a consistent and principled way to approach the funding recommendations in a collective way. Various alternatives considered included:
- deferring to the ISRP and recommending funding
- deferring to the fish and wildlife managers for a recommendation
- recommending that the managers reserve room in the Fiscal Year 2000 budget to fund some or all of these projects
- agreeing with the ISRP priority on watershed assessments and thus recommending funding for those projects on the list that involve watershed assessments, or recommending funding for the research projects on the list while working out a more coordinated approach to watershed assessments (see issue no. 5 below)
Another possible approach, and one more consistent with the Council's overall approach to Fish and Wildlife Program implementation, is to examine whether these project-specific recommendations actually indicate a "gap" in the implementation of the Program, a gap that the Council might decide is a priority to address (for example, that more of the implementation effort needs to go to watershed analyses to support watershed restoration expenditures).
In last year's process, the ISRP identified specific unmet measures in the Program and recommended that projects to implement those measures be funded. The Council requested that Bonneville reserve funding to initiate work and competitively solicit proposals for that work. This approach worked well as a way to identify gaps in the Program and solicit projects to address those gaps.
Below, at Issue 14, this memorandum discusses the ISRP's recommendation to reserve funding for new and innovative proposals. The ISRP proposed that a certain amount of funding be dedicated to initiating promising new approaches or alternatives to existing work. The staff and the Fish and Wildlife Committee see this approach as a promising way to support promising new projects.
The primary concern of the staff and Fish and Wildlife Committee members has been that the ISRP did not provide extensive explanation as to why it favored these specific projects. More precisely, whatever the specific reasons given by the Panel for favoring each of these nine projects, the ISRP's report did not explain why the Council should consider these nine projects as of higher priority than other projects recommended for funding, which would be the result as other projects would have to be deleted from the workplan to make room in the budget.
In discussing these issues, Council staff realized that a process is needed to ask the ISRP for clarification of recommendations in its reports. Enough time needs to be allowed for the preparation by the Council of a written question and for the Panel to reconvene, consider the question and arrive at consensus for a response. Enough time is also needed to obtain public comment on the response. Council staff believed there was insufficient time for a formal request by the Council to resolve this issue.
Council recommendation: The Council does not recommend these nine projects for funding. (Note: One of the nine -- Project No. 9105100, Monitoring and Evaluation Statistical Support for Life Cycle Studies -- is one of the projects classified as non-discretionary by Bonneville. Thus the question of its funding is different than the other eight. It is discussed below in the context of non-discretionary project, issue no. 7.)
Figuring out how to handle this type of recommendation from the ISRP has been a learning experience for the Council and its Fish and Wildlife Committee and staff. The Council expects the ISRP to identify what the Panel considers, from a scientific perspective, to be priority work to implement the Fish and Wildlife Program. But given how this process is organized, the Council has a difficult time considering project-specific recommendations if not placed in a programmatic or systematic context. Thus in future reports, the Council requests that the Panel provide guidance to the Council beyond stating the merits of the specific projects and a recommendation to fund. The Panel should also explain how such projects address key needs or gaps in Fish and Wildlife Program implementation and why the Panel believes the projects it is recommending for elevation to funding should be of a higher priority than projects that might be displaced, on the basis of a more sound scientific approach to implementing the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program.
On the other hand, the Council also recommends to the fish and wildlife managers and CBFWA that in the process of putting together the draft workplan for Fiscal Year 2000 next year, CBFWA should give careful consideration to recommending funding for these nine projects and to the Program areas that these projects represent. If CBFWA decides not to recommend funding for these projects, it should provide an explanation why not.
The Council will also work with the ISRP and others to develop a policy or protocol for seeking additional guidance from the ISRP after the ISRP's report but before the Council's funding recommendation.
3. Funding for development of program framework
The Council, NMFS and others are working to develop a comprehensive scientific framework for the Council's Program and other fish and wildlife programs and decisions in the basin. In early August the Council recommended that Bonneville allocate $849,000 in available Fiscal Year 1998 funds to the first phase of the framework development process, which should provide funds for the work into at least the first few months of Fiscal Year 1999. The current estimate is that the framework could require an additional approximately $1.5 million to carry the work through the rest of Fiscal Year 1999. Council staff are working with other regional entities to refine these estimates further.
It is not clear whether all or most or none of that money must come out of the existing direct program budget. Given that this is a framework intended to guide decisions across the spectrum of the Bonneville fish and wildlife funding commitments, there are good arguments as to why at least a significant amount of the funding could or should come from other parts of the budget. Bonneville representatives commented that they believe it would be most appropriate for the rest of the funds for the framework to come from the direct program. CBFWA took the opposite view in its comments. Discussions on this topic continue with Bonneville and others within the context of the Bonneville Fish and Wildlife Budget Memorandum of Agreement, which does allow for the prioritization and reallocation of money from one budget category to another under certain defined procedures.
If the Fiscal Year 1999 direct program account must be the source for framework funding, this is another priority and reallocation issue for the Council, the managers and Bonneville -- funding the framework could very likely mean deferring other projects in the Fiscal Year 1999 workplan.
Council recommendation: The program framework is priority work for the Council and the region. Thus the Council recommends that Bonneville provide the necessary funding to complete the framework development process. If that means the necessary funds have to come out of the direct program budget, the Council will have to work with Bonneville and CBFWA to make space in the budget. But the Council continues to recommend to Bonneville that funding from budget categories other than the direct program is appropriate (or to put it another way, that money from other accounts be re-allocated to augment the direct program for this purpose). Thus the Council will continue working with Bonneville, the managers and others to try to reach an agreement for Bonneville to fund at least a significant portion of the remaining budget needs for the framework from the funds in another account, such as by reallocating unspent amounts from the capital expense portion of the budget under the Bonneville fish and wildlife budget Memorandum of Agreement.
4. Artificial production issues
a. Deferring conclusions on artificial production projects pending the completion of the artificial production review
The ISRP reviewed the production project proposals, found a number of artificial production projects to be inadequate, provided useful project-specific comments in Appendix A, and drew some distinctions between programs from the quality of their proposals. However, the Panel deferred making any recommendations on artificial production projects until after the completion of the comprehensive review of artificial production. Note that the Panel did not recommend that the Council or Bonneville defer funding; the panel's use of the term "defer" applied to the panel's review:
"Defer. The use of this outcome was restricted to the hatchery programs. Our conclusions regarding the funding of specific hatchery programs are deferred until after the comprehensive review of artificial propagation has been completed." ISRP Report, p. 27; see also p. 91.
Last year, in response to ISRP recommendations and other factors, the Council recommended the initiation of the artificial production review as well as the application of an interim review process for new production proposals pending the completion of that review (what is known as the "3-step" process). The Council chose the interim review approach in lieu of a complete moratorium on funding new production initiatives pending the completion of the artificial production review. The issue has been whether to maintain that approach for Fiscal Year 1999. CBFWA, Bonneville and others all commented that the Council ought to stay the course.
A number of project sponsors have inquired as to whether the ISRP's deferral of conclusions about production projects until the completion of the artificial production review indicates that the Council and/or the ISRP expects the artificial production review to develop project-specific implementation and funding recommendations -- in essence, to replace or supplant the ISRP's statutory responsibility with regard to review and recommendations for these projects. That is not how the Council understands what is expected of the artificial production review. The review may develop scientific and policy recommendations about the appropriate use or uses of artificial production in the basin, recommendations that if implemented might require changes in current production activities. It is unlikely the artificial production review will make specific funding recommendations about individual projects. More important, whatever recommendations do come out of the artificial production review will not be self implementing. That is, these recommendations will go to the existing planning and implementation and funding processes (whether in Congress, in the agencies, or at the Council) for possible implementation under existing laws and procedures. The relevant issue will be whether any recommendations that come out of the artificial production review will provide useful guidance to the ISRP, Council or CBFWA in reviewing production projects and making recommendations about funding.
Assuming the Council will stay with the same approach, Council staff has been continuing its on-going work with project sponsors and Bonneville to ensure that the planned production activities and budgets for Fiscal Year 1999 are consistent with the interim, multi-step review process. For just one example, for Fiscal Year 1999 the lower Columbia production/fisheries project (Evaluate Columbia River Select Area Fisheries -- Lower Columbia River; Project #9306000) proposes to increase production of coho and spring chinook. Production that was on-going before Fiscal Year 1998 escaped the interim review process for new production; this proposal for new additional production will need to go through the interim review process. Staff has already worked with the affected entities to initiate that review.
In some cases, projects still in the review stage are budgeted for construction and even operation and maintenance and monitoring (or projects that have finished planning and are awaiting review may have planning money in the budget). This has been done to maintain budget capacity to initiate projects without mid-year budget revisions. This practice has been questioned in last year's review process and in the Committee and staff discussions. Where appropriate under the interim review procedure, the Council staff will request a more specific accounting of funding needs relevant only to the appropriate project approval stage (for example, a specific budget for planning and design up to the final construction approval milestone).
Council recommendation: The Council recommends the continuation of the interim review of new production as developed last year. Staff will continue to work with Bonneville and the project sponsors to define where projects are in that process and to address scientific and financial issues.
As with all other projects, project sponsors and Bonneville should address technical comments raised in Appendix A to the ISRP's report or in CBFWA's technical workgroup review during the contracting process, as described in issue no. 1a above. This will also be the time to review whether projects are budgeted for activities and amounts that are beyond their current review stage and, if so, to determine what is the more realistic budget needs for the project in Fiscal Year 1999.
b. Resident fish substitution with non-native species
In last year's report, the ISRP recommended that "substitution projects, particularly those using non-native species, be viewed cautiously because their implementation may pose significant threats to native resident fish species. Therefore, individual substitution projects should be reviewed by the artificial production review panel prior to authorization." The Council responded that "[s]ubstitution projects that propose to introduce non-native species (or use artificial means to produce native fish) will be reviewed by the Council, with the assistance of the artificial production peer review group, as part of the interim review process for new production (the "3-step" process) before the Council makes a final funding recommendation for implementation and operation. Existing substitution projects that produce non-native species (and that use artificial means to produce native fish) will be reviewed in the comprehensive review of artificial production."
In the project comments in the Appendix A attachment to this year's report, the Panel again raised categorical concerns with the use of non-native stocks as part of the resident fish substitution mitigation initiatives funded under the Program. These comments have raised a great deal of concern among the managers and project sponsors working on these initiatives in the blocked areas.
While the Council takes the ISRP's comments seriously, these comments cannot be addressed in the Council's Fiscal Year 1999 funding decision, for a number of reasons. First, the ISRP did not make these comments the basis of any specific recommendation to the Council. As discussed above, the ISRP did not recommend any new approach to production issues in this year's funding review, deciding to defer further consideration of production issues until after the completion of the artificial production review. The Council recommends the same for Fiscal Year 1999. That is, the Council's recommendations from last year concerning the interim review process and the artificial production review will remain in force -- which means that no new and particular focus on funding for resident fish substitution projects will be part of the Fiscal Year 1999 funding recommendation.
Second, many of these Appendix A comments are programmatic and foundational in nature, not comments about technical defects in the project proposals. These types of comments are not amenable to being addressed in the Fiscal Year 1999 contracting process described in issue no. 1a above. (What technical comments there are on the resident fish substitution projects should be addressed in that process.)
And third, given that these programmatic comments raise concerns about an accepted direction in the existing Program, these issues should be raised for consideration in forums that are dealing with programmatic concerns, such as the artificial production review and the framework development process, and ultimately would need to be the subject of a program amendment process.
Council recommendation: This is not an issue for the Fiscal Year 1999 funding recommendation. The Council does have guidance for future project reviews: The Panel might consider another approach to reviewing these projects. The ISRP's categorical uneasiness with non-native species resident fish substitution prevented the Panel from being able to provide the kind of useful technical comments about specific project designs that are possible if the reviewers can provisionally accept the underlying premises of the work. Yet the Council did accept into the Program the concept of resident fish mitigation in the blocked areas using non-native as well as native species in these altered ecosystems. Until and unless the Council changes the Program on this point, these initiatives will remain part of the Program as funded. The Council requests that the Panel, for the purposes of the annual reviews of projects to implement the existing Program, provide comments about the quality of project designs and implementation.
This does not mean that the Panel has to end up agreeing with the ultimate scientific conclusions and management decisions that have been made. If the ISRP believes that its understanding of sound science principles requires that it criticize the use of non-native species for resident fish substitution as a mitigation strategy in these areas, the Panel should report these scientific criticisms of the underlying concept. But if so, the panel's comments will need to be more extensive and explicit. The comments this year are conclusions for a complicated issue -- how to provide for fisheries mitigation and restoration in these drastically changed areas blocked to anadromous fish. This matter has occupied the time and attention of a number of scientists and analysts and policymakers over more than the last decade. If the Panel is going to provide meaningful scientific analysis and critique of this effort, it needs to engage the issues at a similarly high level of complexity and background considerations.
As with all other projects, project sponsors and Bonneville should address technical comments about the resident fish substitution projects raised in Appendix A to the ISRP's report or in CBFWA's technical workgroup review during the contracting process, as described in issue no. 1a.
c. Captive broodstock activities
The direct program includes a number of captive broodstock and captive rearing activities and evaluations, including an on-going systemwide assessment of captive broodstock technology by the National Marine Fisheries Service that requires more than $1 million each year. (The Council's policy guidance document for the Fiscal Year 1998 funding recommendation contained a list and summary of all of the captive broodstock projects.) The Council's funding recommendation last year called for a review of the captive broodstock program, primarily to determine whether implementation was moving ahead without a full consideration of the feasibility and appropriate application of the technology.
One recommendation that came out of that review was that NMFS should work with the relevant fish and wildlife agencies and tribes to propose, based on what it has learned from its on-going assessment, a set of at least interim standards or guidelines for the application of captive broodstock technology, to be presented to the Council and the region for review by August 1, 1998. An April 1998 letter from the Council Chairman to NMFS indicated that the Council would condition its recommendation for further funding of the systemwide assessment project (Project No. 9305600, requesting $1.2 million in Fiscal Year 1999) on the development of these standards. August 1 has come and gone, and NMFS did not present to the Council a proposed set of captive broodstock implementation standards. A letter from a NMFS representative indicated that NMFS would have something to the Council and others for review before the end of the summer. NMFS informs the Council staff that these standards and protocols are still under internal review.
Developing an accepted set of standards or protocols for the use of this technology is critical to the Council's support for new captive broodstock or captive rearing initiatives, which seem to rise up unforeseen with increasing frequency. For example, the Nez Perce Tribe and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recently made the Council aware of a possible emergency in the Tucannon in terms of the dramatically low numbers of returning spawners, which the agency and tribe are inclined to respond to with captive propagation efforts.
Council recommendation: Consistent with the Council's understanding at the end of the captive broodstock review, Council support for continued funding for NMFS? systemwide assessment project is dependent on NMFS, working with the other anadromous fish managers, producing for review an appropriate set of interim standards or guidelines for the application of captive broodstock technology. Without the development of an acceptable set of standards for the application of captive broodstock technology, the Council will not recommend funding for any new captive broodstock or rearing initiatives, absent a demonstrated emergency, and may return to the underlying question of Bonneville funding of captive broodstock research and implementation under the Council's Program.
The Council reaffirms a recommendation from last year's funding decision and program review -- captive propagation initiatives proposed for funding under the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program remain subject to the "three-step" interim review process for new production initiatives.
5. Watershed restoration project concerns for Fiscal Year 1999/setting a deadline for requiring that watershed restoration projects be guided by watershed assessments
Continuing a theme from last year's report, the ISRP objected that too many watershed project proposals "did not give sufficient evidence of being preceded by a watershed assessment." Without this information, the Panel is "unable to judge whether the projects were worthwhile, or whether they would result in expensive, high-maintenance projects whose effectiveness was limited." The Panel did not, however, recommend that any specific watershed projects not be funded for lack of an explicit tie to a watershed assessment. Instead:
"The ISRP recommends that the Council set a deadline of 2 to 3 years after which no habitat projects will be funded unless they are preceded by and consistent with a watershed assessment, and the relationship of the project to that assessment clearly stated. Prior to that deadline, the Council should fund only those proposed projects that address the questions and concerns listed in Section V-C.3 Habitat Restoration." ISRP Report, Section V(C)3.1, p. 94.
The Council faces two types of issues from this recommendation, one set regarding the funding decision in Fiscal Year 1999, the other with regard to the direction of the watershed program in Fiscal Year 2000 and beyond.
a. Issues relevant to the Fiscal Year 1999 funding recommendation
The first set of issues concerns the habitat project funding recommendations for Fiscal Year 1999. The ISRP recommends that the Council recommend for funding only those "proposed projects" that can address the "questions and concerns" identified by the Panel. This reference to "questions and concerns" is to the panel's discussion of the information that would be produced by an appropriate description of how a project relates to a watershed assessment:
"Washington State and the two large federal land management agencies (USFS, BLM) both employ formal watershed assessment protocols. We took a broad view of watershed analysis and did not require explicit reference to the use of formal protocols. We merely looked for some indication that the habitat restoration proposals had considered their proposed activities in the context of the drainage system as a whole and had used existing watershed information to develop a technical justification for their efforts. Unfortunately, many projects were deficient in this regard.
"Specifically, many proposals did not contain information on:
- The distribution of the species of interest within the watershed, in relation to the location of the proposed restoration activity. That is, was the project sited correctly relative to the behavior and distribution of the organism(s) of interest?
- How the proposal related to other restoration efforts within the watershed. Were restoration activities complementary or would there be potential conflicts?
- Whether the proposal would promote the restoration of normative ecological processes within the watershed.
- Whether the proposal had considered the alternatives of passive restoration (e.g., letting the stream or riparian zone restore itself through successional habitat recovery) vs. active restoration (assisting the recovery process through intervention activities such as riparian plantings or instream structure placement).
- Whether any steps were being taken within the watershed to correct the source(s) of problem(s).
- What evidence suggested that the proposed activity would actually correct a significant limiting factor to natural production.
"Without this information, the ISRP was unable to judge whether the projects were worthwhile, or whether they would result in expensive, high-maintenance projects whose effectiveness was limited. We strongly encourage all future habitat restoration proposals to include statements that address the six items listed above."ISRP Report, pp. 92-93.
The question has been whether the Council wants to hold watershed projects to this or a similar standard before recommending Fiscal Year 1999 funding? And if so, what is the appropriate mechanism for that review -- request for reformulated proposals for technical or staff review, or leave this to the project sponsors and Bonneville to address at contracting, with Council staff oversight? Should a distinction be made where CBFWA recommends initiating new habitat restoration work?
Fish and Wildlife Committee and staff discussions focused the most attention on the idea of trying to address these concerns for Fiscal Year 1999 in the contracting process, as part of the procedure outlined in issue no. 1a above with regard to technical criticisms of projects. Bonneville agreed with this approach in its comments; the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recommended that these questions be addressed in the Fiscal Year 2000 project descriptions.
Council recommendation: The Council recommends that, as part of the contracting process described in issue no. 1a above, the statements of work for the Fiscal Year 1999 watershed project contracts should include a statement that describes, in a succinct fashion (perhaps a long paragraph or two on each point), what information there is about the project that responds to the six points identified as important by the ISRP. In addressing these six points, project sponsors should make use of any existing subbasin plans and other appropriate information. Project sponsors and Bonneville should also work at the same time to address any technical criticisms of the projects from the ISRP's Appendix A or the Watershed Technical Work Group. The Council does not require that these statements of work be brought back before the Council for approval before contracting, only that the Council be kept advised on progress. This work should help indicate for this year and next where the information base is adequate vs. where attention and funds are needed to provide the type of supporting information that is necessary for watershed projects. It would also help us all understand whether the ISRP has identified the right types of information relevant to watershed projects in the basin.
b. Fiscal Year 2000 and beyond
The second set of issues for the Council concerns the future -- should the Council make the type of commitment recommended by the ISRP that after a certain date no watershed project will be recommended for funding without a demonstrated link to a watershed assessment? One issue the Council and others need to address is what are the standards for watershed assessments and what information should be presented from them. The ISRP's comments quoted above are a point to begin that discussion. Another question has been whether the Council should consider recommending in Fiscal Year 2000 or beyond that a certain amount of the budget be reserved for watershed assessment work, with focused solicitations or decisions in consultation with CBFWA as to the basins of highest priority for this work.
CBFWA, Bonneville and others all commented on the need to define what constitutes an acceptable "watershed assessment"; CBFWA further commented that it continues to work with Council staff, Bonneville and others to "define regional criteria for watershed assessments." Bonneville, CBFWA and others also commented that, in Bonneville's words, "a number of watersheds already have such assessments by other names or substantial work completed that could be used to create such assessments." CBFWA added that it continues to work with others here as well "to compile a reference list of existing watershed assessments."
Council recommendation: The Council agrees with the ISRP -- within two to three years the Council will not recommend funding for watershed projects without a demonstrated link to a watershed assessment. There is work to complete before that time, especially in three areas -- (1) defining what is meant by a watershed assessment; (2) making clear where we already have adequate watershed assessments; and (3) where we do not have adequate watershed assessments, providing at least a share of the funding needed to develop those assessments.
Working with others, CBFWA should complete in time for next year's review process its efforts (described above) to "define regional criteria for watershed assessments" and to compile a reference list of existing watershed assessments, including watersheds that already have such assessment information by another name or substantial work completed that could be used to create functioning watershed assessments (such as in existing subbasin plans). This work can dovetail with an analysis being prepared by Council staff for Council review later this fall of the watershed project package funded under the program. The staff review will focus on three specific areas -- application of program elements and prioritization process principles to the watershed package, watershed coordination, and the concept and use of watershed assessments. Based on these efforts, the Council may make recommendations related to the future funding of watershed projects in later funding cycles and perhaps in program amendments.
In the Committee and staff discussions, concerns have been raised about whether formal watershed assessment efforts throughout the basin might require such a significant amount of money and human effort at the expense of actual restoration work as not to be worth the gain. The Council takes at face value the ISRP's comments about taking a broad or functional view, rather than a highly technical view, of what is appropriate watershed assessment information that can support watershed restoration activities. Drawing from last year's funding recommendation, the Council has understood this to mean a body of information about a watershed that is evaluated in a watershed-wide context to "describe the habitat conditions in the watershed as well as the priority needs and opportunities for habitat restoration for the stocks inventoried in that watershed." The point is not to prescribe a specific form or elements of a watershed assessment, but instead to focus on what type of information is needed to support a project for funding -- in the words of the ISRP, to ensure a sufficient level of watershed information so that habitat project descriptions can demonstrate "that the habitat restoration proposals had considered their proposed activities in the context of the drainage system as a whole and had used existing watershed information to develop a technical justification for their efforts." Assessment work of this type should be a manageable burden for the direct program budget and consistent with the approach laid out in the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program. Gathering the watershed assessment information can be balanced appropriately with restoration work and can in fact be developed over a period of time in conjunction with the beginning of restoration activities.
Once the work is completed to define what is meant by a watershed assessment and to determine where we already have existing assessments, the next task will be to support in some fashion whatever work is needed to develop adequate watershed assessments in the basins that are lacking. The Council requests of CBFWA that it strongly consider allocating a portion of the Fiscal Year 2000 and Fiscal Year 2001 budgets to help prioritize and complete the needed watershed assessment work, possibly with focused solicitations.
6. Recommendations for law enforcement funding
CBFWA included in its draft workplan a placeholder totaling $1,741,775 reserved for law enforcement activities, tentatively assigned to four tribal law enforcement programs:
- Umatilla Tribes (9092) $246,505
- Nez Perce Tribe (9202409) $425,236
- Shoshone-Bannock Tribes (9202408) $193,980
- CRITFC (9202401) $876,054
- The important point to note is that the Council does not yet have a law enforcement funding recommendation from CBFWA -- CBFWA has reserved the placeholder and is still working to see if it can produce a consensus funding recommendation on law enforcement.
Last year, the Council recommended that Bonneville funding for the existing law enforcement program be discontinued. The ISRP decided not to review the law enforcement proposals because of the Council's decision last year. However, the Council did state that it would "consider proposals to fund specific law enforcementtasks that are tied to the core purposes of the Act, do not present an ?in lieu? issue under the Act, and are associated with activities funded under the Council's program, such as protecting habitat investments." With an eye toward this guidance, preliminary project analysis by Council staff has indicated that the CRITFC project is primarily intended for mainstem harvest enforcement, education and deterrence. The Nez Perce and Umatilla Tribes? projects combine fisheries/harvest enforcement with education and enforcement of habitat regulations and protection of habitat improvements in the Umatilla, Grande Ronde, John Day, Walla Walla, Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia rivers. The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes? project focuses on protecting habitat restoration investments in the Salmon and Snake rivers through enforcement and education, including protection of adequate water flows through enforcement of and education on fish screens, water rights and water quality laws.
CBFWA commented that it is still working to try to develop consensus criteria that can ensure that "conservation enforcement" projects meet the Council's concerns. The existing law enforcement proposals may be modified to meet this criteria. CBFWA hoped to provide a consensus funding recommendation to the Council by mid-September, before the Council takes final action. Bonneville has encouraged the Council "to take a close look at the potential benefits for protection of adult salmon" from fisheries law enforcement programs, "particularly in the instance of tribal law enforcement, where additional funding sources are not readily available." To do so would probably require a reversal of the position the Council took last year, rather than a fleshing out of last year's guidance as to where the Council believed its responsibilities lie.
Council recommendation: On the basis of the information that the Council has now, the Council does not recommend reserving an amount in the Fiscal Year 1999 budget for law enforcement projects. The Fish and Wildlife Committee has indicated to Brian Allee of CBFWA that if and when CBFWA develops a recommendation on funding for law enforcement tasks, the Committee will consider that recommendation. The Council directs the staff to work with project sponsors, CBFWA and Bonneville to further describe the types of law enforcement activities the Council might conclude are appropriate for Bonneville funding under the Council's Program. If CBFWA does in fact present the Council with a funding recommendation for law enforcement activities, the Council staff, in consultation with project sponsors, Bonneville and others, will need to review these project proposals in more depth to determine if they are consistent with the Council's guidance from last year, an effort that may also require the Council to define more precisely what it meant by the elements in last year's general guidance. There would also be an issue for how to fit funding for such projects into the already allocated Fiscal Year 1999 budget. This review would commence with a funding recommendation from CBFWA. Agreeing to review a CBFWA recommendation is not a commitment that the Council will make a funding recommendation for law enforcement activities in Fiscal Year 1999.
7. Treatment of "non-discretionary" projects
In its draft workplan, CBFWA assumed reductions or elimination for projects defined by Bonneville in the past as "non-discretionary," at a total reduction of over $1,200,000. (Note: This discussion of "non-discretionary" projects refers to a series of projects relevant to analysis of system operations and configurations. It does not include the resident fish production facilities that Bonneville has labeled non-discretionary.) For example, CBFWA recommended not funding four University of Washington projects that provide modeling and statistical support and analysis (Project Nos. 9098, 8910800, 9105100, and 9601900) and total over $900,000 that Bonneville has identified as non-discretionary. CBFWA also recommended significant reductions in the proposed budgets for five other projects in this category (ranging from a $3,000 reduction in one to over $100,000 on two projects).
Of the projects that CBFWA recommended for elimination, the ISRP recommended funding for one (No. 9105100); gave "moderate support" (but no recommendation for funding) to two others (Nos. 8910800 and 9601900); and concurred in the CBFWA recommendation to eliminate the fourth (No. 9098). On the other five projects, the ISRP labeled one project as an "inadequate proposal" with quite critical Appendix A comments (No. 9700200, concerning UW technical support for PATH) and included critical comments for a number of others.
Bonneville recently provided to the Council and CBFWA a description of what these projects accomplished in the past year. CBFWA sent a letter to Bonneville on June 2 seeking a formal definition and justification for the non-discretionary label for these projects. CBFWA commented that it has not yet received a reply. Bonneville did provide comments to the Council that included a detailed description of the project objectives and rationale for non-discretionary classification fortwo of the projects (9105100 and 9601900) that CBFWA recommended for elimination. Bonneville also commented that it welcomes regional discussion of these projects, and will take the comments and recommendations of the Council and others seriously. At the same time, Bonneville emphasized that these are support activities Bonneville relies on and that "the final determination must be based on Bonneville's assessment of how to best meet its statutory obligations as a federal agency."
One issue for the Council has been whether to recommend that Bonneville not fund projects recommended for elimination or reduction by CBFWA and concurred in by the ISRP. Another issue for the Council has been whether and to what extent it recommends that Bonneville respond to the criticisms of these projects in the Appendix A comments or accept recommended changes in these projects or their budgets. And if Bonneville were to fund these projects as identified by Bonneville, another issue for CBFWA and the Council has been to identify how to fit these projects into the budget, given that CBFWA left them out.
The Fish and Wildlife Committee asked staff to arrange a meeting with Bonneville and CBFWA personnel to try to hammer out a common approach to these projects. That meeting took place on September 4, without resolution.
Council recommendation: First, the Council is deferring a recommendation, pending further review, on Project No. 9098, the project that CBFWA recommended for elimination and the ISRP concurred. The Council will be making a final recommendation on this project at a later time. The Council does not have funding recommendations for the rest of these projects, recognizing simply that Bonneville has the authority to decide to fund activities Bonneville believes are necessary to meet its various legal and system operation requirements.
Second, the Council recommends that Bonneville treat these projects like all others with regard to addressing the ISRP's Appendix A comments, as described above in issue no. 1a. This means that for the projects the ISRP criticized, Bonneville has a burden to explain how it is addressing these comments and why it believes these activities need to continue. The Council continues to be concerned about duplication of effort with some of these projects, especially the database collections, and about the value of others of these activities to regional decisions on operating and configuring the hydrosystem.
Third, the Council recommends again that Bonneville shift these activities to a clear "task and time" accounting approach, meaning that costs are accounted for by specific task assigned, so the Council can understand and better comment on the value and cost effectiveness of the various tasks. Bonneville should hold the funding levels for these projects to the levels funded in Fiscal Year 1998 until this shift takes place. The Council directs staff to work with Bonneville to help accomplish this work.
Finally, many of these projects are tied to the PATH process, and the Council recommends that PATH receive a thorough fiscal and management review as soon as possible, with the additional expectation that the Independent Scientific Advisory Board will be conducting a scientific review of PATH this year.
8. Biological studies of gas supersaturation
In its original Fiscal Year 1998 recommendations, the Council recommended that funding for gas supersaturation projects be held pending the development by the Dissolved Gas Team of a coordinated research plan for the gas supersaturation evaluations. The Council's recommendation included a provision for review by the Independent Scientific Advisory Board and review and approval by the Council before the Council would recommend project funding. The Council later agreed to scaled-back but continued funding in Fiscal Year 1998 for gas supersaturation evaluation efforts, especially two on-going projects (No. 9300802, CRITFC, and No. 9602100, USGS), pending the development and review of the research plan.
The Dissolved Gas Team produced a proposed research plan. According to information compiled by the Council staff, the Gas Team has presented its research plan to CBFWA and to the Implementation Team, but there has not yet been a formal request for ISAB review. Meanwhile, NMFS recently provided comments to the Corps of Engineers that echoed last year's ISRP comments criticizing the continuing study of the causes and effects of gas supersaturation when the physical causes and engineering solutions are known and the general biological detriment of high gas supersaturation is well proven.
The ISAB just completed a report on its review of the Corps of Engineers? Gas Abatement Program. CBFWA has been waiting for the ISAB to conclude its review of the Corps? gas program. CBFWA will then finalize its own plan or approach to gas research and evaluation, to be based on the Gas Team's proposed research plan, the ISAB's review of the Corps? program, and CBFWA's own internal discussions. CBFWA expects to complete its evaluation 60 days after receiving the ISAB report (around November 30).
Pending the completion of the research plan, however, CBFWA recommended for Fiscal Year 1999 the last year of funding for one of the two on-going projects (No. 9300802, CRITFC), as well as another year of funding for the other (No. 9602100, USGS) -- essentially a continuation of the approach the Council and CBFWA settled on for Fiscal Year 1998. (Note that while USGS has requested funding for Fiscal Year 2000 as well, CBFWA is recommending that this project receive only a final year of funding in Fiscal Year 1999.) The ISRP labeled both project proposals as adequate and concurred in the funding recommendation. The issue for the Council is whether this is an appropriate course in Fiscal Year 1999. The Council staff understands that neither project requires funding until March of 1999.
Council recommendation: The Council is deferring a funding recommendation, although the Council does recommend holding in reserve the amount of money needed for these two projects in Fiscal Year 1999. (The draft workplan from CBFWA originally recommended approximately $900,000 for these two projects. The Council understands that because of the availability of carryover and for other reasons, the project sponsors and Bonneville now recognize that the actual need for these two projects in Fiscal Year 1999 funds may be substantially less than the originally recommended amount. What the Council intends is that Bonneville reserve the amount of funding actually needed, up to the originally recommended amount.) By midway through the fall, the Council and others will have reviewed the ISAB's report on the Corps? gas program, followed by a CBFWA decision on a research plan, drawn from the Dissolved Gas Team's proposed plan and the ISAB report. At that time CBFWA may update its recommendation for Fiscal Year 1999 funding for these two projects or other projects. It may be that the ultimate recommendation by the Council is to fund the last year of these two projects. But since the projects do not require a funding decision until the first part of 1999, deferring that decision until the ISAB and CBFWA finish these tasks is a prudent course.
9. Coded-wire tags
Another issue left over from Fiscal Year 1998 concerns Bonneville funding for coded-wire tagging and recovery. Bonneville funds a coded-wire tagging and recovery program under four contracts, the largest administered by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC). The program grew to more than $2 million in Fiscal Year 1997 and then $2.4 million in Fiscal Year 1998. For Fiscal Year 1999, CBFWA recommended a further increase to $2.655 million (the project sponsors asked for $2.78 million).
The Bonneville funding is a contribution to a coast-wide effort for coded-wire tagging. Coded-wire tags are a useful monitoring tool for the region, but the information from them is not clearly linked to specific information needs under the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program. Coded-wire tags are now used primarily, though not exclusively, for harvest management and evaluation of artificial production facilities. Concerned about the relevance of the Bonneville funding effort to the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program, in the Fiscal Year 1998 funding recommendation the Council called for its staff to work with Bonneville and the affected agencies and others to review the coded-wire tag program. The goal of the review was to analyze whether and how the coded-wire tag information obtained by virtue of Bonneville funding under the Council's Program is relevant to information needed for the Program and Bonneville's obligations under the Power Act. The ISRP in this year's report further recommended "that the various projects related to the large scale use of coded-wire technology be incorporated into an umbrella proposal, subjected to independent review, and placed on a multi-year funding track."
The review has not yet been completed. What we have learned is that millions of fish are tagged (and where they are tagged) and that reams of data from the tags are collected. Much of the tagging that Bonneville pays for occurs at Mitchell Act hatcheries below Bonneville Dam, hatcheries that are not only not part of the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program, but also not a mitigation funding responsibility of Bonneville's under any other budget category or statutory obligation. The fact that fish are tagged in non-Program hatcheries is not necessarily an impediment to the funding of the tagging under the program, if the information obtained from the tagging is relevant and useful to the Program. Relevance to the Program has not been established. The information from the tags is used mostly, as noted, for harvest management and for evaluating artificial production practices and contributions to harvest, especially including Mitchell Act and Lower Snake River Compensation Plan production. The information does have other uses -- PATH analysis includes lots of information from coded-wire tags, for example. But the current sticking point for the Council and Bonneville is the extent to which the information from coded-wire tagging is used to answer "our" questions, that is, the relevance of the use of coded-wire tags to information needs under the Program, such as for monitoring and evaluation of Program production and habitat activities, monitoring indicator or index stocks as part of an information base needed to support the Program's focus on improvements in natural production above Bonneville Dam, information on the contribution of supplementation to natural production, the mainstem hypotheses experiment in Section 5.0 of the Program, etc.
In other words, does the extent of information currently gained from coded-wire tags relevant to the Program justify the level of funding support from Bonneville for coded-wire tags? Even if the eventual answer is no, this would not automatically mean the Council would recommend a reduction in funding, although that would be one option. It might also mean that to the extent that information needs for the Program are not being met, further review might provide the Council an opportunity to bring about changes in the way information is obtained and used to better fit the needs of the Program. One initiative the Council has always been after is the development of a comprehensive approach to monitoring and evaluation of the Program's activities -- coded-wire tags could be an essential tool in that effort.
At the end of July, 1998, PSMFC provided a host of information and a set of recommendations for proceeding, summarized as: consolidate the four Bonneville coded-wire tag contracts into a single contract; create a multi-agency steering or coordinating committee to coordinate coded-wire tag efforts in the Columbia, similar to what exists for PIT tags; organize a small working group to analyze the relationship of the coded-wire tag program to an overall fish and wildlife monitoring and evaluation program and report by June 1999; and fund the program in Fiscal Year 1999 at the Fiscal Year 1998 level plus unspent funds. More detail on these recommendations is provided below. CBFWA and agency personnel involved in the coded-wire tag program provided subsequent comments modifying to some extent the PSMFC recommendations, including restating a recommendation for the funding level originally recommended by CBFWA for Fiscal Year 1999.
As with the law enforcement program last year, the Council's concerns have little to do with whether the coded-wire tagging is "effective" on its own terms or not. Once again, the Council's main concern is that the connection of this funding to the needs of the Fish and Wildlife Program and to the Power Act obligation for mitigation of hydropower impacts is tenuous. In a time of tight budgets, when important mainstem actions and research and tributary habitat and natural production activities are not being funded, using Bonneville funding under the hydropower mitigation obligation of the Power Act and the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program for coded-wire tagging efforts that do not have clear relevance to the Program is at best a very low priority.
Council recommendation: In accordance with the ISRP and PSMFC recommendations, the Council first recommends the consolidation of the coded-wire tagging projects under a single-contract.
Second, the Council agrees that there ought to be a multi-agency committee to coordinate coded-wire tagging efforts in the basin. Comments from other agency personnel indicate that such a group may already, if informally, be operating. If necessary, PSMFC should more formally organize and coordinate this group. Such a coordinating committee should consist of the hatchery managers and fish biologists who can work out the day-to-day management operations of the coded-wire marking and recovery -- making sure that tags for marking are ordered and delivered where they need to be, that observers are on location, that tags were collected and delivered, etc. This coordinating committee would not be responsible for determining the purposes of the coded-wire tag program, nor deciding what fish to tag and why.
Third, determining the relevance of the coded-wire tag efforts to the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program -- and if possible, shifting that effort to better meet the needs of the Program -- depends in part on a better definition of a monitoring and evaluation plan for the basin that is responsive to the information needs in the Council's Program. PSMFC recognized this point in their submission, noting that "to determine the relevancy [of the coded-wire tagging] to the Fish and Wildlife Program and Bonneville's level of funding, it is necessary to have an overall monitoring and evaluation program in order to see how the program ?fits in.? Currently this does not exist." Waiting for the completion of a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation plan before tackling the coded-wire tag problem does not make sense, since this is a goal the Council and others have been trying to reach for years without success, and especially since a monitoring and evaluation plan at this time would have to be provisional or interim pending the completion of the revised Program framework. But tackling the coded-wire tag problem without considering broader monitoring and evaluation concerns also does not make any sense.
For this reason, the Council recommends the formation of a work group to consider the coded-wire tag program in the context of a discussion about monitoring and evaluation activities that can meet the Council's Program needs and dovetail with the developing framework. This would not be the same people as those who are part of the coded-wire tag coordinating committee. Group participants should instead be those at a different level of policy and scientific assignment, who have participated in similar efforts and who are working in or familiar with the developing framework -- people whose responsibilities should include a wide view of Program needs, resources, and management and policy strategies. The product expected from this group would include recommendations to the Council and others for how to direct the sensible use of coded-wire tags funded by Bonneville to meet Program needs and contribute to likely elements of basinwide monitoring and evaluation plan. As an example, this group could identify a comprehensive set of indicator stocks for which tagging is needed to satisfy the policy and management needs not only of the Council's Program (see Section 4.3), but also of other efforts in the basin that depend on coded-wire tag information, such as for the Pacific Salmon Treaty, PATH and any needs of NMFS and others under the Endangered Species Act. Marking of these stocks would then become a priority for the coded-wire tag program and should provide information to satisfy framework needs. The target date for receiving these recommendations would be June 1, 1999, and in any event, before the end of next year's project review process.
Either as part of this group's efforts, or as a separate discussion, the Council should request that managers justify the relevance of Mitchell Act production monitoring to the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program, and that the Fish and Wildlife Service justify the same for Lower Snake River Compensation Plan production monitoring. The discussion should also include investigating alternative funding sources for this monitoring, if the relationship or link to the Program is not made more obvious and persuasive.
Fourth, with regard to the activities to be funded and the level of funding in Fiscal Year 1999, until the coded-wire tag efforts funded by Bonneville are better linked to the Program, the Council recommends that the coded-wire tag program as funded by Bonneville not exceed the scope of work funded in Fiscal Year 1997. This scope of work should be funded at the Fiscal Year 1997 level (approximately $2 million total for the four contracts), with allowable increases in funding for legitimate and unavoidable cost increases as determined by Bonneville (but in no event higher than the amount recommended by CBFWA for Fiscal Year 1999). This budget allocation should be the cap for Fiscal Year 1999, and it should include (not be in addition to) the use of unspent funds allocated to the projects in Fiscal Year 1998 and before.
10. Lamprey project
a. New research projects
CBFWA's draft Fiscal Year 1999 workplan includes several new research projects. These projects have been and continue to be subject to scrutiny for Program consistency and ISRP concerns and to understand what long-term funding obligations they might carry.
One example concerns research or evaluations to determine the status of Pacific lamprey and identify possible restoration actions. The Council's Program, in Section 7.5F, called for the funding of a unified status report to the Council on Pacific lamprey populations and for the funding of any actions recommended in the report. Based on the 1995 status report, the direct program has included an on-going, cooperative project to develop lamprey restoration plans (Project No. 9402600). For Fiscal Year 1999, CBFWA recommends another $320,000 for this project. The ISRP criticized the project description as inadequate, but stated that the project has an adequate purpose.
CBFWA's draft Fiscal Year 1999 workplan also includes a recommendation to fund two new lamprey evaluation projects (No. 9057, an IDFG Clearwater project, and No. 9104, USFWS/WDFW project in the Lower Columbia), and "Tier 2" status for a third (No. 9147, ODFW lamprey research project). The ISRP found this latter project proposal to be inadequate, in part because of its lack of a relationship to the on-going project. The ISRP found the other two project proposals to be adequate, made favorable comments about their designs, and concurred in the funding recommendations from CBFWA, although the ISRP did state that its sole criticism of one project was "its lack of direct ties to other projects and mild explanation of programmatic need and relationships."
The issue for the Council has been whether it makes sense to initiate new lamprey research or evaluations while what was to be the umbrella or model exercise in determining lamprey status and possible restoration plans is not yet complete. This is especially true when the new projects are apparently not connected to or coordinated with the existing effort, did not originate in the careful lamprey status review that the Council went through in 1995, and (especially in the instance of the lower Columbia project) have unclear links to the impacts of the federal hydropower system and thus to a funding responsibility under the Act. CBFWA recommended funding for these two new projects because they cover geographic areas different than the ongoing project. CBFWA also recognized the need to coordinate new projects with the existing effort, to avoid redundancy, facilitate cross-learning and ensure that information is collected in a manner to be compatible. CBFWA and ODFW reaffirmed in their comments that the Council should recommend funding for the new lamprey projects "in order to apply the on-going effort to specific geographic areas," and that the Council direct the project sponsors to coordinate their efforts with the existing work. Bonneville, on the other hand, agreed with the idea of a collaborative review before initiating additional work.
Council recommendation: The Council recommends against funding for these new lamprey research and evaluation projects, for the reasons stated above -- it makes little sense to initiate new lamprey work while what was to be the umbrella or model exercise in determining lamprey status and possible restoration plans is still on-going, especially when the new projects are apparently not connected to or coordinated with the existing effort, did not originate in the careful lamprey status review that the Council went through in 1995, and (especially in the instance of the lower Columbia project) have unclear links to the impacts of the federal hydropower system and thus to a funding responsibility under the Act. If the fish and wildlife agencies remain interested in initiating new lamprey work, the project sponsors and CBFWA should assess the on-going effort and the new proposals in a coordinated way and recommend whether there is a need for a more detailed project review and possibly an expansion of the lamprey effort in Fiscal Year 2000.
b. Existing project
As noted above, the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program, in Section 7.5F, called for the funding of a unified status report to the Council on Pacific lamprey populations and for the funding of any actions recommended in the report. The existing lamprey project has been developing in phases. Phase I was a review of the available information and development of the status report, approved by the Council in 1995. The project is now in Phase II. Based on this 1995 status report, the on-going lamprey project has ever since been a cooperative effort to develop lamprey restoration plans (Project No. 9402600). Phase II has involved data gathering on abundance, distribution and limiting factors. It also includes the development of a work plan recommending actions to address lamprey needs, including habitat and passage improvements, the possible use of artificial production, and harvest management. The project managers hope to have the work plan and recommendations to the Council in 1999 for review and approval. Phase III would be implementation of this work plan. For Fiscal Year 1999, CBFWA recommended another $320,000 for this project. The ISRP criticized the project description as inadequate, but stated that the project has an adequate purpose.
Despite the fact that Phase II is the stage for developing restoration plans, and implementation is supposed to wait for Phase III, following Council review and approval of the restoration plans, the proposed Fiscal Year 1999 budget for this project appears to allocate 50 percent of the funds to planning and 50 percent toimplementation. The Fiscal Year 1998 budget had indicated that 80 percent of the money was to be used for planning and 20 percent for implementation. Responding to that concern, the Council, in project-by-project guidance for Fiscal Year 1998, reminded Bonneville and the projects sponsors that "Management and policy actions addressing habitat and passage improvements, artificial production, or harvest should be put on hold until the ad hoc committee work plan and recommendations are submitted, reviewed and approved by the Council." From the project description, it appears that project is getting out of sequence -- implementation is getting ahead of review and agreement on the restoration plans. The project sponsors have indicated in comments to staff that this is not so, that Bonneville and the project sponsors have not and will not expend funds on implementation activities until the plans and review are complete.
Council recommendation: The Council reaffirms its recommendation or guidance from last year -- Bonneville and the project sponsors should not expend funds on implementation activities before producing restoration plans for review and approval by the Council. If artificial production is part of the implementation effort -- and it is not clear whether it will be or not -- then these initiatives need to go through the interim review process for new production before implementation.
11. Coordination funding
CBFWA's draft workplan includes approximately $500,000 for reimbursement to agencies and tribes for staff time spent on participation in regional coordination. Currently, only travel expenses are reimbursed, and that happens through the CBFWA contract. The heart of the recommendation is an effort by the managers to set a standard policy for reimbursement of staff time spent on regional coordination and to fund such time directly instead of as part of individual project administration costs. The Council understands the recommended budget amount to be, in essence, a placeholder, while CBFWA and Bonneville work out the details as to who would be entitled to use this money, for what purposes and under what conditions.
Council recommendation: The Council recommends that the requested money ($500,000) be reserved as a placeholder pending further development of the proposal and review by the Council, as recommended by CBFWA. Over the next approximately two months (in time for Council review at its December meeting), CBFWA and Bonneville should develop a proposal for use of these funds that tightly defines the purpose and rules for allocation of money for coordination, including ensuring that there is no redundancy or duplication in funding for coordination. One of the assumptions of building indirect costs (overhead) into specific projects is that these costs partially pay for administrative time and policy development and oversight. Thus part of the analysis of this issue will require an examination and recommendation concerning the role of overhead costs.
12. Budget management issues
a. Issue underlying assumptions about available budget amount
CBFWA's draft workplan assumed a base budget of $132,139,423, over $5 million above the $127 million initial allocation in the budget agreement. CBFWA assumed that $1.6 million would be drawn from the "contingency" reserve, $2.1 million will be available from unused 1998 funds, and $1.4 million will be available from interest on unspent funds pursuant to the budget agreement. This raised an issue for Bonneville and the Council as to whether to accept these assumptions for the initial budget. At a staff-level meeting on August 27, Bonneville representatives indicated that their analysis made them comfortable with CBFWA's planning assumptions. There is no longer an issue here.
b. Possible budget reconciliation issue
The next issue concerned what to do from a budget standpoint about the various recommendations and concerns noted above that would add projects that need funding to CBFWA's draft workplan and subtract others. Even though the Council decided not to recommend adding to the budget the nine projects recommended by the ISRP, there remained the issue of the projected needs for framework development, which may have to come out of the direct program budget (see issue no. 3); the funding that is likely to be allocated by Bonneville to the non-discretionary projects beyond what CBFWA recommended (see issue no. 7); the addition of additional funding for the Columbia Basin Bulletin (see issue no. 17); the need to add in an additional $100,000 for the ISAB that CBFWA inadvertently left out, the $50,000 that the Council recommends be reserved to fund an independent audit of program contracts (see issue no. 1c), and others. On the other hand, the Council recommendations (e.g., law enforcement and lamprey projects) would allow for some corresponding deletions from the budget.
CBFWA included in its comments charts displaying an approach to budget revision which took into account a number of contingencies (such as whether or not the Council recommended funding for the nine projects). These comments have been helpful for the staff's analysis.
Council recommendation: Council staff prepared a preliminary assessment of the budget implications of the Council's recommendations. Indications are that the budget balances if funding for the framework is not added in. The Council will share the analysis with Bonneville and CBFWA.
If framework funding must come from the direct program budget amount currently available for Fiscal Year 1999, the Council staff will need to work with Bonneville and CBFWA to determine how to fit that funding in, including whether something must be deleted or deferred from the budget to make room. In that case, the Council will not unilaterally determine an approach to budget reconciliation and reallocation. If the analysis ultimately shows a budget balancing problem, the Council will ask CBFWA to review and recommend to the Council a revised budget that is balanced.
c. Issues relevant to operation and maintenance costs and overhead costs in general
In last year's funding recommendations, the Council noted a concern with the fact that the Council's program is creating an ever-increasing obligation for funding operation and maintenance, which may not be adequately accounted for and described. The issue for the Council was whether Bonneville and the project sponsors could better define what are appropriate operations and maintenance costs and ensure that long-term operations and maintenance obligations are accurately described and understood. The Council ultimately recommended "that Bonneville work with Council staff and project sponsors to develop better long-term operations and maintenance projections for projects prior to next year's funding process. The Council requests a report midway through this fiscal year on long-term operations and maintenance expectations. This task includes agreeing to standards for determining what are appropriate expenditures for operations and maintenance."
This work may have gotten lost in the shuffle of all the other work that flowed from the Fiscal Year 1998 funding recommendation. In any event, it did not get done. The need has not gone away, especially to define standards across the Program for what are appropriate operation and maintenance expenses (and the appropriate application of overhead costs). The ISRP noted the fact that project proposals for similar tasks carry very different budget estimates, and the Panel recommended that the Council "systematically evaluate budgets among projects for consistency and reasonableness." The Wildlife Working Group has already developed rigorous standards for determining appropriate operation and maintenance costs for wildlife projects.
Council recommendation: The Council recommends that the rest of the Program follow the lead of the Wildlife Working Group. Bonneville should work with the managers and project sponsors (and the Council staff) to develop better long-term operations and maintenance projections for projects, including "standards for determining what are appropriate expenditures for operations and maintenance." Something similar needs to occur for the appropriate application of overhead costs (see also issue no. 11). Developing these standards will be an especially important prerequisite to a shift to a multi-year review and funding recommendation procedure (see issue no. 18a). The Council expects progress on this recommendation before next year's Council decisions on project funding.
d. Staff costs (FTEs) not connected to projects
The ISRP also noted that some Fiscal Year 1999 proposals are for staff support without a tie to a specific project or connected to several projects. This, to the ISRP, was more than just a budget concern -- "the ISRP finds this practice to be inappropriate for technical evaluation of the proposed work and for creating a record of objectives and accomplishments." Thus the Panel recommended "that the Council require requests for staff funding be tied to a specific project proposal(s). The FTEs should be justified, their work described and the costs, and results tied to the objectives of a functional project." This fact had not escaped the notice of the staff -- a couple of these staff support "projects" have a budget in the million dollar range.
Council recommendation: The Council recommends that Bonneville begin to address this concern as part of the process of addressing other project concerns in the statements of work at contracting (see issue no. 1a above). Council staff will develop a list of these detached staff support projects. Bonneville and the project sponsors should begin, in the Fiscal Year 1999 contracting, the process of tying these requests to functional projects. This is also an issue that can be addressed as part of the work recommended to group projects for umbrella review (see issue no. 18a below).
13. Protection and enhancement of mainstem habitat
The ISRP recommended that the Council "place more emphasis on protection and ways to enhance habitat of the naturally reproducing salmon populations in the mainstem of the Columbia River." ISRP Report, Section V(B)2.b.2. The Panel did not tie this recommendation to any specific project or projects.
Last year, in response to similar concerns raised in the Return to the River report and in the ISRP report, the Council recommended funding to initiate two scoping studies, one on mainstem habitat and one on mainstem population structure. These projects are just about to begin. The Council is also engaged in a long-term process to redesign the scientific framework of the Program, in which mainstem habitat considerations will play a significant role. The issue is whether there is any other action that the Council can or should take at this time, as part of the Fiscal Year 1999 funding recommendation, to respond to this ISRP recommendation.
Council recommendation: The Council does not have an additional recommendation for Fiscal Year 1999 funding to address this concern. The Council agrees with the ISRP on the need for the Council and region to place more emphasis on protection and enhancement of mainstem habitat. The scoping studies on mainstem habitat and population structure are just getting underway. These are intended to provide guidance on how and where to place that emphasis; this was not an appropriate time to initiate new work. The program framework development process should also shed light on what is an appropriate approach to protecting and enhancing mainstem habitat.
14. Earmark budget for innovative work
The ISRP recommends that "the Council explicitly encourage innovative projects by earmarking a small percentage of its budget each year as seed money." ISRP Report, Section V(C)4; reasoning is at pp. 94-96 of the report. The Council treated this as less a recommendation aimed at this year (Fiscal Year 1999), since all the project proposals were in, than a recommendation for a change in approach for Fiscal Year 2000 and beyond.
(Note one point that might confuse readers of the ISRP report: The ISRP's discussion of innovative work includes a table of examples of innovative projects to illustrate the panel's point. This is not the list of lower-ranked projects recommended by the Panel for funding, a topic discussed above, although three of the projects are on both lists. And, the Panel did not recommend funding for this list of innovative projects -- the list is simply for illustration of the general point.)
One issue for the Council has been how to reconcile this recommendation with the Fish and Wildlife Program, which calls for specific actions and strategies and programs and not for funding in general for good ideas in fish and wildlife mitigation and recovery that have yet to make it into the Program. One possibility has been to focus a solicitation on unfunded gaps or needs in the Program and invite innovative proposals to meet those needs (see issue no. 18c below). Another possible approach would not reserve an amount in the budget for "innovative projects," but instead build into the project review criteria certain scoring advantages for innovative approaches.
The discussion with the Fish and Wildlife Committee focused on the idea of recommending that a budget amount be reserved in Fiscal Year 2000 and future years as seed money for new proposals -- that is, funding that would allow for significantly greater scoping or development of proposals for innovative work (not for implementation per se). The results of the scoping studies could allow the Council and CBFWA to determine if the work was not only innovative and potentially beneficial but also could address unmet needs in the Program.
Council recommendation: The Council recommends that in Fiscal Year 2000 CBFWA and Bonneville reserve a small amount of the direct program budget, not more than $2 million, as seed money for "scoping grants" to investigate promising new ideas, under the following terms. This recommendation has to be seen in the light of the Council's recommendation to otherwise shift this process away from a general call for new projects and to a more focused solicitation of projects to meet identified Program needs (see issue no. 18c). If these recommendations are followed, the result is that in Fiscal Year 2000 and beyond the Council and the other participants in this process would focus the project solicitation in four areas, loosely defined as:
- A call for descriptions of the on-going projects proposed for further funding, grouped appropriately for complete ISRP and CBFWA review. The Council is working with CBFWA and Bonneville on how to do this; the ultimate goal is to shift significant parts of the program to a multi-year review schedule (see issue no. 18a).
- Watershed project proposals to be reviewed through CBFWA's technical process and the ISRP, conditioned on further definition of required watershed assessments.
- Focused solicitations through the use of RFPs to solicit proposed projects to fill identified priority gaps in Program implementation (see issue no. 18c). Council staff would work with the managers to develop a statement of priorities for necessary work under the Program and then determine, after scientific review of the priority statement, the appropriate mechanisms for soliciting proposals for that work.
- A limited solicitation for new ideas and proposals for alternative approaches to existing work, solicited for competition for a limited amount for one-year "scoping" grants, perhaps of up to $100,000 from the total reserve of not more than $2 million. The purpose is to be able to investigate promising new ideas with a scoping report shortly after proposed, a report that can be evaluated for further Program investment. CBFWA would review and comment on the proposals requesting the seed money or scoping grants, with the ISRP making recommendations to the Council for a final list of scoping grants. Among the standards for choosing whether to approve the scoping grant would still be whether the proposal has some tie either to unimplemented elements of the Program or to promising new approaches to improve upon existing projects. If a scoping report indicates that a new idea or approach is promising, that project could then enter the prioritization process for implementation funds.
This approach would appear to limit access to the funding process, but could actually improve it in at least four respects: First, it would bring the process more in line with the overall approach set out in the Power Act -- the emphasis would be where it is in the Act on the underlying planning document, the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program, which Bonneville is trying to implement by funding projects. This is not simply a grants program for good project ideas. Second, it could concentrate the ISRP review where it is needed -- on the merit and soundness of ongoing efforts. Third, it should reduce the misunderstandings created by the artificial expectation that we are currently looking to initiate any good idea for fish and wildlife mitigation or restoration. Fourth, the Council can be more deliberate than it has in the past about initiating new work -- first investigating the promise, and then making more considered decisions to initiate work in chosen directions.
15. Wildlife program recommendations/integrating wildlife and fish habitat protection/coordinating fish and wildlife programs
The ISRP made several recommendations under the umbrella of comments about the wildlife mitigation program, all of them essentially repeats of recommendations made last year. ISRP Report, Section V(C)5, pp. 97-98. Two recommendations directly concern the wildlife program itself -- the program should "include an explicit scientific research component" that encourages "[i]nnovative monitoring and research proposals," and "additional scientific criteria [should] be added to those currently used to prioritize proposals for wildlife mitigation projects." The ISRP also recommended that "wildlife and fish habitat protection programs be better integrated and that projects be evaluated on criteria that favor those projects with documented benefits to both terrestrial and aquatic species." And finally, the Panel recommended that "specific mechanisms be developed to coordinate the FWP with other programs that have significant impact on fish and wildlife and their habitat in the Columbia River Basin." The ISRP did not tie these recommendations to specific Fiscal Year 1999 funding decisions.
Council recommendation: Efforts are already under way to try to respond to these comments and recommendations. For example, the Wildlife Working Group has just released a request for proposals for developing a beefed-up monitoring, evaluation and research component for the wildlife program. The group has also revised its project selection criteria in a way that should satisfy the ISRP. Moreover, the wildlife program does now include projects that provide integrated fish and wildlife habitat protection, such as the Squaw Creek, Pine Creek and Coeur d?Alene initiatives. More needs to be done to integrate anadromous fish, resident fish and wildlife values and habitat protection; this is in part one of the hopes for the multi-species framework development process. The Council has not identified any additional guidance or recommendations as part of the Fiscal Year 1999 funding recommendations.
16. Costs of drawdown mitigation at Hungry Horse and Libby
CBFWA raised an issue as to appropriateness of Bonneville funding of certain Montana mitigation projects out of the Bonneville fish and wildlife budget. Under an agreement with Montana's Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Bonneville provided fish and wildlife mitigation funding from the power supply budget to address the impacts of deep power-related drawdowns at Libby and Hungry Horse. MDFWP used the funding to initiate habitat improvement projects. Bonneville and MDFWP subsequently agreed that Bonneville had provided the agreed-upon mitigation, and that if MDFWP wanted additional funding for these two mitigation projects, the funds would have to come from another source. MDFWP decided to request additional funding for the two projects, at a cost of $700,000. CBFWA included these costs in the resident fish portion of the direct program budget for the Fiscal Year 1999 draft workplan. But CBFWA also raised the issue as to whether it was appropriate for Bonneville to transfer funding responsibility for these two projects from the power supply budget to the fish and wildlife budget.
Council recommendation: The Council concludes that there is no issue here. Bonneville and MDFWP representatives agree that Bonneville fulfilled its obligation to provide mitigation funding from the power supply budget. This is not a shift or reallocation of responsibility for funding these projects to the fish and wildlife budget -- Bonneville has no further obligation to provide funding for these projects from its power supply budget. The resident fish portion of the direct program budget is an appropriate source for the additional funding for these two projects, if prioritized for funding by the resident fish managers, as happened this year.
17. Funding for the Columbia Basin Bulletin
In Fiscal Year 1998, the Council recommended that:
"the Council, Bonneville and the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority form a team to assess current information sources, identify information needs, and develop a proposal for a coordinated system to meet those needs, including a proposal for a competitive selection process to select the contractor to develop and maintain the system."
Following the recommendation, the Council approved more specific guidance and an interagency committee developed and Bonneville issued an RFP regarding publication of an electronic newsletter covering development and implementation of fish and wildlife policy in the Columbia Basin. A final contract for the publication was awarded in April 1998. Approximately $90,000 reserved in the Fiscal Year 1998 budget was dedicated to the publication. Those funds will support the project until April of Fiscal Year 1999.
The contractor was unable to submit a proposal for funding for the remainder of Fiscal Year 1999 because he was not selected until after the deadline for submitting proposals for Fiscal Year 1999 funding was past. The issue for the Council has been whether to recommend additional funding for the project for the remainder of Fiscal Year 1999 (The contractor is expected to submit a proposal for ongoing support in the Fiscal Year 2000 solicitation process). It will require approximately $50,000 to continue the project through Fiscal Year 1999. Because no proposal was submitted due to the timing of the RFP process, CBFWA did not include this funding in its proposed budget. Comments about the Bulletin have been favorable, and objections to providing the additional funding have not surfaced. Both CBFWA and Bonneville commented positively about the value of the Bulletin, and CBFWA made room for this funding in the revised budget estimates it provided.
Council recommendation: The Council recommends that Bonneville provide the needed additional funding.
18. Reform of the project review process
Council recommendation: The Council and its staff have been engaged for some time in discussions about ways to improve the project review and selection process. Some of these ideas are described briefly below, focused especially on how the ISRP report overlapped or provided a context for reform efforts already under consideration.
These issues are not directly relevant to the Fiscal Year 1999 funding recommendation. Moreover, the Council has already indicated to the staff that these are issues to focus on. The point of the discussion here is to provide further guidance on these points and to describe future aspirations, rather than to state a specific Council funding recommendation.
a. Program reviews/multi-year funding -- grouping projects into umbrella programs for review and multi-year funding recommendations
An overarching theme in the ISRP report is the need to aggregate or coordinate a number of on-going projects into their logical on-going umbrella programs, review each umbrella program as a whole to determine how the pieces relate to each other and how the whole program holds together scientifically, and then place the program on a multi-year funding basis. The Panel made this comment with regard to the smolt monitoring program, the coded-wire tag projects, the white sturgeon studies, the PATH program, and the large supplementation programs:
V(B)2.b.1. The ISRP recommends that all the smolt monitoring activities be incorporated into an umbrella proposal that clearly justifies the various elements and defines their relationship to each other. The entire program should be subjected to programmatic review and placed on a multi-year funding track.
V(B)2.c.1. The ISRP recommends that the various projects related to the large scale use of coded-wire technology be incorporated into an umbrella proposal, subjected to independent review, and placed on a multi-year funding track.
V(B)2.c.2. The ISRP recommends that all the white sturgeon studies in the basin including headwaters be coordinated and subjected to independent review and placed on a multi-year funding track.
V(B)2.c.3. The ISRP recommends that the entire PATH program be subjected to independent review, the proposals more effectively coordinated and the entire set of proposals placed on a multi-year funding track.
V(C)2.1. The ISRP recommends that the individual project proposals that comprise parts of a single large supplementation project be incorporated under a single umbrella proposal and considered for a multi-year funding track. This recommendation assumes that the comprehensive review will recommend continuation of supplementation programs in the basin.
The Panel capped this discussion with the general recommendation that "the Council adopt a multi-year funding process for selected projects," suggesting a procedure for selecting and recommending programs/projects for multi-year funding at pp. 102-03. The Panel did not suggest specific criteria for approving projects for multi-year funding. CBFWA has been considering and has proposed principles for multi-year funding.
The Council agrees with the ISRP recommendation that the program needs to shift to a multi-year funding review process -- on the basis of a staff recommendation in June 1998, the Council directed the staff to consider this a high priority item for the staff's work on project funding.
The Council is not making any multi-year funding recommendations as part of its Fiscal Year 1999 funding decision. No projects have been grouped or presented for such a review yet, and there are a number of details and logistics to work out about the review process, including which projects to focus on first, how to conduct the scientific and fiscal reviews, and what should be the criteria for making a multi-year funding recommendation. Grouping projects appears to be relatively straightforward. Presenting the grouped projects for scientific review is more of a problem. The Council staff should work with CBFWA, Bonneville and others to further develop the process, working with the principles developed by CBFWA as a starting point, and then recommend an approach to the Council. The staff recommendations might include a recommendation as to which projects to focus on first, with the possibility of further defining the process through a model effort. The ISRP's recommendations singled out certain projects for grouping, review and multi-year recommendations; the Council will consider the recommendations of the Panel when making a decision where to begin. Presenting a set of projects for a multi-year review need not take place along with the annual review of the rest of the projects on the normal schedule. It may make more sense to space these reviews throughout the year. Thus it is possible the Council and others will organize the process and present a group of projects for review and recommendation during Fiscal Year 1999. Otherwise, this is a task for Fiscal Year 2000 and beyond.
With regard to the ISRP's specific recommendation that the individual project proposals that comprise parts of a single large supplementation project be incorporated under a single umbrella proposal and considered for a multi-year funding track, the Nez Perce Tribe has already contacted the Council about the possibility of working on a comprehensive multi-year review of the Nez Perce fisheries activities, which would include grouping the parts of supplementation initiatives. More generally, the Council recognizes that a number of the supplementation initiatives in the program are broken up into a series of separate contracts that make it difficult to understand or review the whole. Thus the Council will work with the project sponsors to group these contracts into their umbrella projects in time for next year's scientific review, whatever the progress on a multi-year review process.
b. Additional ISRP recommendations for improving the project selection process/reporting of results and adaptive management improvements
The ISRP is concerned about the lack of reporting of project results and accomplishments and how the information gathered every year about the program is used to improve the program. After commending the improvement in the CBFWA draft workplan, the ISRP report added:
"However, there are two troubling omissions: (1) there is little or no mention of accomplishments or progress towards meeting the objectives of the FWP; and 2) there is no mention of how the vast amount of information acquired each year through the FWP is used to improve the program. CBFWA's Annual Implementation Work Plan should report progress towards the FWP's goals and describe how information collected in previous years is being used to improve program implementation. This reporting should cover the program at the watershed and subbasin levels.
"The lack of reporting on accomplishments extends to the project level. Most proposals for continuing work did not sufficiently describe the project's results to date. This deficiency made it difficult for the ISRP to evaluate the productivity of the individual projects. Results, when given, were often in administrative terms rather than as technical descriptions or in terms of the FWP's goals. For example, the results of some habitat projects were reported as the number of structures placed in a stream. The goal of the FWP is not to maximize the number of structures placed in a tributary. The goal is to restore ecosystem health and return fish and wildlife to a part of their historical abundance; results should be presented in those terms. Had we adhered strictly to our criterion of a demonstration of adequate results, most continuing proposals would have been judged inadequate." ISRP Report, Section V(C)1, p. 90
Based on these considerations, the ISRP made three recommendations for improving this situation in the future: First, concerning the reporting of "past accomplishments" at a watershed and subregional level, the ISRP recommended that the Council "urge CBFWA to include in its Annual Implementation Work Plan a report of past accomplishments at the watershed and subregional/ subbasin levels. The accomplishments should be reported in terms of FWP goals" Second, regarding the "adaptive management" recommendation, the ISRP recommended that "the Council urge CBFWA to include in its Annual Implementation Work Plan a report that demonstrates it is using the information collected to improve program implementation (adaptive management) at the watershed and subregion/subbasin level. This report should include a description of the specific improvements in the program that resulted from information obtained through the program in previous years." Third, concerning the reporting of "results" from specific projects, the ISRP recommended that the Council "communicate to project managers that continuation of proposals will not be funded unless there is a technical summarization of past year's results sufficient for peer review."
The Council agrees with the recommendations; the issue is how to implement them. The Council, CBFWA and Bonneville are working to revise the project information form to make sure that information on results will be in project proposals. The Council will urge CBFWA to include in future draft work plans the recommended information on accomplishments and adaptive management.
c. Other suggestions for improving the project selection process/focusing project solicitation for new work
The Council, CBFWA, Bonneville and others are currently discussing a number of suggestions for improving the project selection process. Some of these suggestions overlap recommendations in the ISRP report, especially the recommendation to shift to a multi-year funding approach. Also under discussion is the idea of beginning the solicitation and review process earlier. The ISRP also complained about the shortness of the review process, although the long-term solution recommended by the ISRP was less to lengthen the process than to reduce its scope each year by making the multi-year review commitments. ISRP Report, p. 101.
One idea under consideration could expand the review process, by expanding the scope of the ISRP review to include the other parts of the Bonneville fish and wildlife budget (the capital projects and the reimbursable programs). The Council and others could manage this change only by reducing the extent of scrutiny of the direct program. Other topics under discussion include re-ordering the process and revising the project selection criteria. These topics are discussed in a June staff memo to the Council on possible revisions to the project review process.
One reform the Council recommends is the idea of focusing the solicitation of new projects. The current process solicits project proposals without identifying what new projects are needed to implement gaps or unimplemented areas of the Program. The open call for projects leads to numerous proposals for duplicative or low priority or non-Program work. There is no mechanism in the current process to first identify priorities for new work and then solicit proposals for that work. Last year the Council, in an ad hoc fashion, identified the need for new work in mainstem habitat, mainstem populations, and estuary/nearshore research. The Council recommended Bonneville set aside funds for this work and produce a Request for Proposals to address the identified gaps. The ISRP endorsed the targeted RFP approach and recommended that the Council "continue the practice of developing RFPs targeted to specific problems." ISRP Report, Section V(C)6.1, pp. 98-99.
The Council recommends that Bonneville and CBFWA consider this approach for Fiscal Year 2000, rather than simply another open solicitation for new projects. Council staff could work with the managers to develop a statement of priorities for necessary work and then determine, after scientific review of the priority statement, the appropriate mechanisms for soliciting proposals for that work. As noted in the discussion of the "innovative work" issues (issue no. 14), the Council also recommends that Bonneville and CBFWA develop a mechanism that offers small amounts of seed money to solicit and then scope or test promising new ideas. RFPs would be used to initiate identified needs, including follow-up to scoping studies that have demonstrated their worth, and then reviewed with the on-going projects in the project selection process.