In 2005 the Council completed one of the largest locally led watershed planning efforts of its kind in the United States, an effort that resulted in separate plans for 58 tributary watersheds or mainstem segments of the Columbia River. These subbasin plans were developed collaboratively by state and federal fish and wildlife agencies, Indian tribes, local planning groups, fish recovery boards, and Canadian entities where the plans address transboundary rivers. The planning effort was guided by the Council and funded by the Bonneville Power Administration.

Subbasin plans identify priority restoration and protection strategies for habitat and fish and wildlife populations in United States portion of the Columbia River system. The plans will guide the future implementation of the Council’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, which directs more than $140 million per year of Bonneville electricity revenues to protect, mitigate and enhance fish and wildlife affected by hydropower dams. Subbasin plans will provide this guidance by providing the context in which proposed projects are reviewed for funding through the Council’s program.

Subbasin plans also integrate strategies and actions funded by others, thus ensuring that each plan serves the Council’s purposes under the Northwest Power Act and also accounts for Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act requirements, and other laws governing natural resource management, as fully as possible.

Process to review and adopt subbasin plans

Subbasin plans were received through May 2004, reviewed and adopted from December 2004 through June 2005, and amendment findings completed and Council-approved in September 2005.

In May 2004, the Council received subbasin plans as recommended amendments to its fish and wildlife program. Under the Northwest Power Act, Congress charged the Council with developing and periodically amending a fish and wildlife program for the Columbia River Basin to protect, mitigate and enhance fish and wildlife affected by the development and operation of hydroelectric facilities while assuring the Pacific Northwest an adequate, efficient, economical and reliable power supply.

In 2000, the Council adopted a set of amendments to the Program to begin a comprehensive revision of the Program. In those amendments, the Council reorganized the Program around a comprehensive framework of scientific and policy principles. The fundamental elements of the revised Program framework are the vision, which describes desired accomplishments regarding fish and wildlife; the basinwide biological objectives, which describe physical and biological changes needed to achieve the vision, consistent with the scientific principles; implementation strategies, which will guide or describe the actions needed to achieve the desired ecological conditions; and a scientific foundation, which links these elements and explains why the Council believes certain kinds of actions should result in desired habitat conditions and why these conditions should improve fish and wildlife populations in the desired way.

Adoption of a coordinated plan for the mainstem Columbia and Snake rivers consistent with the overall Program framework was the second step in the comprehensive revision of the Program. The Council completed the mainstem amendments in 2003.

Subbasin plans constitute the third step in the complete revision of the Program. The Council solicited recommendations for Program amendments in the form of subbasin plans so that the Council could adopt into the Program more specific biological objectives and measures for tributary subbasins and specific mainstem reaches. The Council intends to incorporate these specific objectives and measures (in the form of implementation strategies) into the Program through locally developed, integrated subbasin plans for up to 62 subbasins and mainstem reaches of the Columbia River.

The subbasin plans will become the source of specific actions and projects recommended by the Council for Bonneville funding and implementation, and will provide the context for the review of proposals for funding by the Independent Scientific Review Panel and the Council.

Subbasin plans are intended to contain three elements: a technical assessment, an inventory of past and current efforts, and a management plan of objectives and strategies. The Council will review all components of a proposed plan, but only the management plan component will be formally adopted as part of the fish and wildlife program.

The Council accepted written public comment on the recommended subbasin plans through August 2004.

The Council will review the subbasin plan recommendations, and the views and information secured through the comment period and consultations with interested parties throughout the Columbia Basin. Based on that review, in the Fall of 2004 the Council will develop and publish a set of draft Program amendment subbasin plans. The public will be provided an opportunity for review and comment on those draft amendments, and the Council will take that comment into account when it makes its final decisions for adopting subbasin plans into the Program in the Winter of 2004/2005.

Past steps:

  • May 28, 2004 — Draft subbasin plans submitted
  • June 4 - Aug 12 — Scientific and public reviews
  • Aug 13 - 17 — Council develops "key issues" list from reviews
  • September — Subbasin plans grouped into 3 categories: Track 1) adoptable, Track 2) "need additional work", and Track 3) "alternate timeline"
  • Oct 1 - Nov 22 — Planners respond to comments
  • October — Council releases draft amendments on 23 (was 29) "adoptable" subbasins for public review
  • Oct/Nov — Public hearings/comments on draft amendments
  • December — Council adopts 23 final amendments and releases next set ("Track 2") of 29 draft amendments
  • February 2005 — Council adopts 25 "Track 2" final amendments