NOAA Fishereis Nears Completion of 2003 BIOP Findings Reportby Mike O'Bryant
Columbia Basin Bulletin - April 4, 2003
A report by NOAA Fisheries assessing how well an implementation plan by dam operators is likely to meet the operators' 2000 biological opinion obligations in fiscal year 2003 is nearly complete and could be released as early as the end of next week.
The federal fisheries agency each year assesses the agencies' one- and five-year BiOp implementation plan hydrosystem, habitat, hatchery, harvest and research activities to determine how well they meet BiOp requirements. The report is titled, "Findings Regarding Adequacy of the FCRPS Action Agencies, 2003 Annual Implementation Plan." FCRPS refers to the Federal Columbia River Power System.
While he won't talk about the details of the findings report until it is complete, Chris Toole of NOAA Fisheries did say at this week's interagency Implementation Team meeting in Portland that NOAA Fisheries had seven general concerns about the three actions agencies' implementation of the BiOp. The action agencies are the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration.
"There are seven main issues, tied to particular RPAs (Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives), that raise concern with NMFS," Toole said. "All are delayed, but all for good reasons and the action agencies have plans to deal with the delay."
He said NOAA Fisheries received the Implementation Plan on Nov. 6, 2002, but that the agency needed a summary of the detail broken down by RPA, which it received Dec. 5. It completed a draft findings report Jan. 14, 2003 and has been working with the action agencies since then to refine the report. One issue that slowed the findings report is the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's "reprioritization" process that reduced the amount of spending on BiOp measures.
Of the seven issues, three are for hydroelectric RPAs, two are for habitat RPAs and two are for research, monitoring and evaluation RPAs.
Jim Ruff, of NOAA Fisheries, said the RPA asked the Corps to explore new methodology at the dam that would allow for more flexible flood control drafts. The current flood control methodology requires drafting the dam to an elevation of 2,411 feet, but without greater flexibility the reservoir may not refill in early summer, he said.
NOAA Fisheries' John Palensky said the Council has up to one year to approve the plans after they are submitted. The key would be for the Council to speed up that approval process, he said.
"These are the broad issues," Toole said. "We are still working out the details. The final report also will deal with the overall implications with these delays."
Implementation Team: www.nwr.noaa.gov/1hydrop/hydroweb/rif.htm
NOAA Fisheries, Northwest Region: www.nwr.noaa.gov
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