Bonneville Power Administration says
by Ted Sickinger
Even as it faces court mandates to make measurable progress in fish restoration, the Bonneville Power Administration is proposing to trim spending on wildlife programs due to a tight budget and higher than anticipated spending by the contractors who carry them out.
The federal power marketing agency has asked some of its largest contractors to cut spending by 10 to 15 percent in 2012 and 2013. They say it's a temporary blip in programs where spending has been ballooning, and won't affect commitments to mitigate the impact of the region's hydroelectric dams on endangered runs of salmon and steelhead, as well as lamprey, sturgeon and other wildlife.
The proposed cuts as well as the rapid growth in BPA's wildlife spending are causing angst among its many constituents, from public utilities customers to tribes and government agencies that depend on the agency for research funding.
Some recipients targeted for cuts say they didn't overspend, that BPA's cash flow crisis stems from its own lack of financial controls, and that rushing into cuts could ruin programs they spent years building.
Further, while BPA has long stressed it has the money to meet all its commitments, contractors worry the agency's closed-door negotiations with individual contractors mask an effort to permanently cut commitments that, while important for fish survival, don't directly help satisfy court mandates.
"We're disturbed by the lack of transparency," said Joel Moffett, treasurer of the Nez Perce Tribal executive committee.
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