Columbia Basin fish (anadromous and resident) and wildlife populations have been in decline for a century. The decline has been broadly recognized as serious for at least five decades, and large investments have been made over that period of time in attempts to halt and reverse the decline. With the first ESA listing of a Columbia Basin salmon stock in 1991, the awareness and concern intensified, and the investments in recovery and mitigation increased even further. In FY98, the direct investment in the Council’s program is about $143 million/year (CBFWA 1997) and flow manipulation to enhance survival of migrating salmon smolts creates an indirect cost due to foregone electrical power generation that may amount to an additional $150-180 million/year (NPPC 1994). In spite of these expenditures, the salmon continue to decline and additional listings under the federal Endangered Species Act have been proposed. Against this background of apparent failure, it is logical to ask whether there is some basic qualitative flaw in the recovery and mitigation efforts, or whether the failure is due to insufficiency in the amount of the investment. It was in this mix of uncertainties that the Northwest Power Act was amended to require an evaluation of the program and its implementation.
The Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) was formed in January 1997 to implement that evaluation. We have, during our first six months of operation as a committee, reached the following general conclusions:
- There is a noticeable discrepancy between the mix of projects actually funded and the ISRP’s interpretation of the intent and priorities in the FWP
- There is a somewhat greater discrepancy between the mix of projects actually funded and the Fish and Wildlife Program (FWP), if the recommendations from recent scientific panels (Snake River Recovery Team, Upstream, Return to the River, and the National Fish Hatchery Review Panel) are considered.
- Although the Council and BPA have project and proposal tracking systems that are adequate for administrative purposes, they did not provide adequate information for a detailed and comprehensive analysis of proposal quality, project quality, or program accomplishments.
- If changes in the tracking and information system are made, and if a new annual funding cycle is announced soon enough, it will be possible to conduct a detailed review of individual projects and program implementation in 1998.