This is the Council rule that provides for mitigation of wildlife losses at hydroelectric projects in the Columbia River Basin. It represents what is likely to be the largest wildlife enhancement program ever undertaken in the Northwest.
The rule was adopted by a 7 to 1 vote at the Council’s October 1989 meeting, and became final at the November meeting with the adoption of the Council's written response to those who commented on the wildlife proposals. The “Response to Comments” is included in the report.
In addition, some Council members have clarified their positions on the wildlife rule, and their individual comment are included.
The wildlife rule now becomes a formal amendment to the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. As such, it will be implemented by the Bonneville Power Administration and other agencies guided by the program.
These agencies will begin to redress damage done to wildlife by 13 Columbia Basin hydropower dams for which habitat loss statements have been submitted. The rule also provides a process for dealing with other dams as other loss statements are presented.
Highlights of the rule include the following:
- The rule sets an interim goal for wildlife mitigation. Given uncertainties about the region's ability to achieve a long-term goal, an interim goal was established. This goal calls for mitigation of approximately 35 percent of the lost habitat units over 10 years. There appeared to be general consensus that 35 percent was well within the losses that could be attributed to hydropower. This is a change from the initial proposal which called for an interim goal of mitigation for up to half of the habitat losses allocated to hydropower. During the 10-year period, the Council will focus on wildlife resources with the highest priori ty. A long-term goal would be considered after all remaining mitigation plans have been submitted.
- The rule provides for independent audit of the loss statements prior to their final acceptance. Not everyone agreed on the magnitude of the losses presented by the wildlife agencies and tribes. Therefore, they will be reviewed by an independent consultant. The loss statements that have been submitted will be used as sufficient evidence of losses in or der to begin mitigation efforts, but their final number could be changed when the audit is completed.
- The rule calls for mitigation plans to be evaluated against specific standards. These include a showing that the plans complement existing activities, are the least costly way to achieve the objective, are supported by the best available. scientific knowledge , address specific wildlife losses (e.g., tribal) in areas that formerly had salmon and steelhead runs, protect species of special concern , provide habitat that may benefit both fish and wildlife, and address concerns over public land ownership and local communities (e.g., loss of tax base) .
- The rule establishes an advisory committee to set wildlife priorities. The committee will be chaired by Council staff and include members from representative agencies, tribes, utilities, and conservation groups. The committee will review mitigation plans from an overall basinwide perspective and make recommendations to the Council on the order of priority over a period of years.
- The rule calls for Council review of wildlife loss assessments and mitigation plans. All mitigation plans will be reviewed and approved by the Council before implementation by Bonneville.
- The rule provides for Bonneville Power Administration funding and implementation of mitigation plans. Upon Council approval, Bonneville will implement wildlife measures in priority order at federal projects. Bonneville will invite wildlife proposals and evaluate them according to whether they complement existing activities, are the least costly method to achieve an objective, protect habitat or species that would not be available without prompt action, encourage partnerships to reduce project costs, have measurable objectives, and do not impose others' funding responsibilities on Bonneville.
We hope the enclosed information is useful to you. Please feel free to call if you have questions.
Dulcy Maliar, Director Public Involvement