This report provides the final comments and recommendations of the Independent Scientific Review Panel and Peer Review Groups for 99 proposals submitted for the 2010 Research, Monitoring and Evaluation (RM&E) and Artificial Production Categorical Review for the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. Part 1 provides programmatic comments and recommendations that apply broadly to general issues that were identified in multiple proposals during the ISRP reviews. Part 2 includes specific ISRP recommendations and comments on each proposal.
The ISRP found that of the 99 proposals submitted 38 proposals (38%) met scientific review criteria and 50 proposals (50%) met criteria with some qualifications. In addition, the ISRP found that 5 proposals (5%) did not meet criteria and felt that 5 proposals (5%) were not applicable for review at this time. One proposal had yet to address the ISRP’s request for a response. Overall, the projects are demonstrating improved data collection, analysis, and reporting. And the ISRP compliments the Basin's scientists, managers, and technicians for implementing a robust monitoring effort in a large geographic region with a complex legal and administrative structure. The program's RM&E and artificial production projects are providing data that will be useful toward supporting adaptive management of the Fish and Wildlife Program.
In addition to the 99 proposals reviewed for this report, 59 projects recently reviewed by the ISRP were included in this set to provide context for the other 99 RM&E and artificial production projects that had not been reviewed recently. The 59 projects constituted a "contextual" set of proposals and are associated with topical or geographic sub-regions. This was not an open solicitation. Only project proponents specifically identified by Bonneville and the Council were allowed to submit proposals. However, as a result of this review, gaps might be identified that could be filled by projects submitted through targeted and potentially competitive open solicitations.
In July 2010, a Council letter to the ISRP emphasized that in implementing the 2009 revised Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program (Program), the Council anticipated maximizing funding of on-the-ground mitigation efforts while conducting an efficient monitoring and research program to meet the priority needs of the region. The ISRP was asked to review RM&E and artificial production project proposals mindful of the Council goal to reduce duplicative and excessive research, monitoring, and evaluation, and of the Council’s intent to recommend adjustments to projects as needed and apply savings to on-the-ground work. The ISRP was asked to consider how and to what extent each project supported and was consistent with the following key policies, framed as questions:
· Is the project scale and resource commitment appropriate for the project’s objectives?
· For research projects, is a critical uncertainty being addressed? What is the hypothesis being tested, and is it prioritized in the Research Plan?
· Is the monitoring or research conducted by a project proportional to the biological risk or project success risk?
· Does the project contribute valuable data to inform one of the nine program-management questions from the working list proposed by the Council and the associated High Level Indicators?
· What are the major accomplishments of these projects, and are the data derived from the projects useful and relevant?
· Is the project part of a comprehensive monitoring program?
· Does the project fill a priority Program data gap, or is the project required by a biological opinion or a recovery plan for species listed under the Endangered Species Act?
· Does the project’s RM&E data have a reasonable certainty or a reasonable confidence level?
· Is the project consistent with the general principles of the Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG)?
· Are data produced by the project fully described, including metadata and methodologies used, easily available for public review, and capable of being used to aggregate data to an appropriate higher scale, such as a broader geographic scale or population scale?
· How should the Council consider the impact of ocean conditions on fish and wildlife populations in making its final recommendations to Bonneville?
To a large extent, the questions posed by Council are embedded in the ISRP’s standard scientific review criteria and have been incorporated in individual ISRP proposal evaluations. Those projects with "in part" and "qualified" ISRP assessments may have components that did not entirely meet the objectives of the guidance questions from Council. Important points of inconsistency are identified in individual proposal reviews.
The ISRP finds few projects where RM&E efforts were clearly duplicative or excessive. The ISRP does feel there is a need for better coordination and integration among projects, and for a strengthened emphasis on evaluation of field data, but the ISRP continues to find that the Fish and Wildlife Program would benefit from more, not less, high quality research, monitoring, and evaluation. The lessons learned from thoughtfully designed RM&E will contribute to the Program’s cost effectiveness and will improve the efficacy of future restoration actions.
The Council invites your comments by February 1, 2011
This report is part of the process the Council is conducting under Section 4(h)(10)(D) of the Northwest Power Act to review project proposals related to research, monitoring, and evaluation (RM&E) and artificial production to implement the Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. The Council asked the ISRP to review 99 project proposals in these two categories as part of this dual-category review. See more about the RM&E/Artificial Production Review.
Early in 2011 the Council will make final project funding recommendations to the Bonneville Power Administration on all the project proposals in these two categories. The Council will consider the information on the projects provided by the project sponsors, Bonneville, and others, the ISRP’s review reports, and any public comments the Council receives in making its final decisions. See sidebar for how to comment.