BPA Announces $9 Million 'Blue Mountain' Spending Planby Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - July 26, 2002
The Bonneville Power Administration announced Wednesday plans to invest $9 million a year for three years in carefully selected fish and wildlife projects in southeast Washington and northeast Oregon.
The agency will contract with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Nez Perce and Umatilla tribes, soil and water conservation districts and others who are leading local projects to recover and preserve fish and wildlife.
These contracts will support current and new projects to assist fish migration in tributaries, enhance fish habitat and monitor existing populations in order to meet BPA's requirements under ESA and the Northwest Power Act to mitigate for the impacts of the federal hydropower dams.
"The Northwest Power Planning Council recommended the projects to BPA based on scientific merit and the assurance that ratepayer funding is going to those efforts that achieve the greatest biological benefit for the least cost," said Steve Wright, BPA administrator.
Many of these projects will benefit Endangered Species Act-listed fish, such as spring chinook and steelhead, added Wright.
Sponsors in Washington and Oregon will use the money to implement six new projects and continue important work on 20 projects currently under way. Twenty-four of the projects deal with spring and fall chinook and steelhead, fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act. All of the projects are part of a larger, ongoing fish and wildlife mitigation and recovery effort for the Blue Mountain Province, which includes the northeastern portion of Oregon and a small part of Washington and Idaho
One of the key projects in the Blue Mountain Province is the Asotin Creek Model Watershed Program. The NWPPC selected this as the model watershed in Washington. It involves partnerships with local landowners, the county conservation district and other state and local agencies to enhance habitat. This is done by returning streambeds to a more natural state, limiting access to riparian areas by farm animals and planting vegetation to provide shade.
The projects were selected from among many proposed in the province. BPA and the Council solicited proposals in 2001, which were then reviewed by an independent scientific review panel. The Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority also reviewed the proposals to ensure that they were biologically effective and were consistent with the council's fish and wildlife program. The projects were also judged as to how well they answered priorities under the Endangered Species Act.
The NWPPC in April recommended that $10.7 million in projects be funded during fiscal 2002 in the province. The funding decision announced this month by BPA defers decisions on a number of the projects recommended by the Council.
Two wildlife habitat acquisition projects are on hold until BPA can determine whether they qualify for funding as responses to NMFS' 2000 biological opinion. Bull trout projects are also deferred until Bonneville can determine the level of responsibility the federal hydrosystem might have for that resident fish's plight. Bull trout are listed under the ESA.
Funding for a set of research, monitoring and evaluation projects has also been deferred to see how they might fit in with an effort to develop a regional RM&E plan.
For more information on all the projects and their locations, go to www.cbfwf.org/province.htm.
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