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Economic and dam related articles

Senator Crapo Wants More Bucks for the BiOp

by Bill Rudolph
NW Fishletter, June 30, 2003

Federal, state and tribal officials paraded before a Senate subcommittee last week re-iterating what they have been saying about the hydro BiOp in other public venues of late, namely, that itís really working despite a recent federal ruling that invalidated it. The June 24 hearing was chaired by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), who used his position on the Environment and Public Works subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water to stump for more federal funding, to carry out the 2000 hydro BiOp, "even in these difficult budgetary times."

Bob Lohn, Northwest regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries was on hand to tell the Senate that short-term funding was adequate if the budgeted research and evaluation funding comes through, but long-term, "itís difficult to say."

As the watershed-level subbasin planning effort goes forward in the Columbia Basin, said Lohn, the region will have a much better idea of future costs, when problems are identified that "need fixing,"

Lohn said the Administration's funding for salmon recovery is enough for the time being. He took issue with some tribes and environmental groups who have argued that federal support is much too small. "In recent months," said Lohn's written testimony, "a number of parties have asserted that federal agencies lack the financial resources to recover salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin, citing needs in the range of $800-900 million per year. We believe the federal dollars identified in the President's budget submittals for Fiscal Year 2003 and Fiscal Year 2004 are adequate to do the job."

The June 24 hearing gave BPA Administrator Steve Wright a chance to mend fences with the Power Planning Council. The council had fired off a scathing letter to other senators complaining that Wright's June 4 testimony before the Senate's Indian Affairs subcommittee wasn't consistent with budgetary facts.

Wright's quick synopsis of the post-2001 funding period ruffled council feathers when he said their project approval process had created expectations of more money being available than the annual $140 million commitment for funding the fish and wildlife program, neglecting to mention that BPA itself had initially developed higher budget expectations.

In his written testimony, Wright went into more detail at the Crapo hearing, noting that that F&W expenditures forecast by BPA were originally as high as $180 million. But he was clear to say that the forecasted overage "was the result of a number of complex factors. It was not the result of poor planning by the Council."

Wright echoed Lohn's testimony that the record runs over the last few years were the result of BPA-funded improvements to juvenile fish survival, habitat, hatchery management and harvest control, along with favorable ocean conditions.

Wright said fish enhancement, with an annual cost of more than $600 million, ranked as one of BPA's three largest responsibilities, along with power supply and transmission service. He also noted BPA's BiOp obligations are priorities, but would not preclude discussion with states and other parties about planning for long-term funding of the fish and wildlife program.

But Wright said BPA wasn't the only agency liable for fish recovery efforts. "... it is important to keep in mind that BPA expenditures for salmon recovery are mitigation for the power effects of the dams ... not for the impacts caused by other users of the river basin," Wright said. "Every contributor to the salmon problem has a share of the responsibility for achieving improved recovery."

Judi Danielson, chair of the Power Planning Council also testified at the Crapo hearing. She said the council was concerned that reduced funding could possibly jeopardize BPA's ability to meet its legal requirements under the Northwest Power Act and the ESA, pointing out the importance of giving equal priority to ESA-listed fish and non-listed fish in the fish and wildlife program

Related Pages:
Council Unhappy with BPA Head's Senate Testimony by Bill Rudolph, 6/30/3

Bill Rudolph
Senator Crapo Wants More Bucks for the BiOp
NW Fishletter, June 30, 2003

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