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Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Sign with Feds
$61 Million Fish Restoration Agreement

by Staff
Columbian Basin Bulletin, November 14, 2008

(AP photo) Adult chinook salmon swim past Bonneville Dam. New tracking of young salmon downstream surprised scientists. The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes on Nov. 7 signed an agreement with federal agencies that makes available approximately $61 million over 10 years to help rebuild populations of Snake River spring/summer chinook and Snake River steelhead in Idaho's Salmon River basin and Snake River sockeye and native Yellowstone cutthroat in the upper Snake River.

The funding will allow the tribes to restore habitat, manage land for wildlife and native fish, supplement nutrients in streams and develop and operate scientifically-managed hatchery additions to contribute to the recovery of salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act as well as boost non-listed fish.

The memorandum of agreement builds on federal funding commitments made in May when pacts worth nearly $1 billion over the next 10 years were signed with four other Columbia River tribes and two states.

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, based in southeastern Idaho, were the first to petition the National Marine Fisheries Service (regionally known as NOAA Fisheries) to list Snake River sockeye salmon as endangered under the ESA.

The Snake River sockeye stock were officially listed in November 1991, the first of 13 Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead stocks to ultimately receive ESA protections. Snake River steelhead and spring/summer chinook are among those listed stocks.

The MOA signers say the agreements promote an ongoing collaborative relationship that was kindled during a 2 ½-year, court-ordered process to strengthen NMFS' plan for assuring the Federal Columbia River Power System doesn't jeopardize listed salmon. U.S. District Court of Oregon Judge James A. Redden in May 2005 declared NOAA's 2004 FCRPS BiOp illegal and ordered that it be rewritten. While federal agencies made the final decisions in the ESA's BiOp consultation process, Redden required that the views of states and tribes be considered.

A new BiOp was released May 5, just a few days after the initial MOAs were signed.

The bulk of the funding for the so-called "Columbia River Fish Accords" will come from the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets power generated in the federal Columbia/Snake river hydro system. The FCRPS includes dams operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation.

The agreements state that the states' and tribes' planned work, in combination with actions outlined in the recently released FCRPS and upper Snake BiOps, satisfy the federal government's obligations under the ESA, Clean Water Act and Northwest Power Act as regards federal Columbia/Snake River dams for the next 10 years and that the parties will work together to support these agreements in all appropriate venues.

"The agreements also marked a turning point for the parties, ushering in a collaborative partnership rather than continuing with an adversarial relationship," according to the Shoshone-Bannock record of decision signed Nov. 6 by BPA Administrator Steve Wright.

The $61 million agreement with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes includes approximately $2.9 million (expense) for ESA listed species and $2.4 million (expense and capital) for fish and wildlife habitat protection and enhancement annually. It also includes a one-time capital expense of $7.75 million for hatchery facilities.

The agreement calls for the Crystal Springs Hatchery, an existing BPA property in southern Idaho on the Snake River, to be outfitted to allow the production Yellowstone cutthroat trout, spring/summer chinook, steelhead and sockeye. The facility, to be upgraded at an estimated cost of $7.75 million, will be owned and operated by the tribes and funded by BPA to meet identified supplementation goals.

The capital project will specifically address supplementation actions outlined in the FCRPS and Upper Snake River Basin BiOps.

The tribes' new supplementation program is designed to increase abundance, productivity, distribution, and diversity of naturally spawning populations of Snake River steelhead and spring/summer chinook and to reintroduce the stocks to historical habitats in the Salmon River subbasin where they have become extirpated. The Salmon River flows into the Snake, which later joins the Columbia.

They propose to introduce sockeye salmon parr and/or eyed-egg equivalents, annually into non-utilized, Sawtooth Valley critical habitat to increase the spatial distribution, productivity, abundance and genetic diversity of the endangered stock. Of five nursery lakes in the central Idaho valley, only three are now being used in recovery efforts.

The tribes would like to infuse sockeye in unused Yellowbelly Lake, which "exhibits the highest total zooplankton biomass relative to the other Sawtooth Valley lakes, presenting a unique opportunity for rearing endangered Snake River Sockeye salmon," the MOA says. In addition to the healthy food supply the lake does not have a nonnative population of kokanee, which compete with sockeye for that zooplankton.

The tribes will work to restore the ecological features associated with a natural river ecosystem to ensure the protection, preservation and enhancement of rights reserved by the tribes under the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868.

The 10-year funding commitment is for new, ongoing or expanded projects. They include:

Salmon, Steelhead and Bull Trout Projects

Resident Fish and Wildlife Projects Under the terms of the agreement the funding for the Southern Idaho Wildlife Mitigation Project would jump from $380,000 last year to $1.655 million in each of the next 10 years.

The program was created to mitigate for habitat losses associated with FCRPS hydropower development in southern Idaho. To date it has protected 8,441 acres.

Expense funds allocated by BPA will provide for administrative, operations and maintenance contracts to identify potential properties for habitat protection, determine appraised value, approach potential sellers, work with BPA staff to acquire property, and maintain and enhance project lands.

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are located along the Snake River at Fort Hall Indian Reservation near the southeastern Idaho city of Pocatello. They trace their ancestry to nomadic bands whose aboriginal territory includes the salmon-bearing headwaters of the Salmon River and other Snake and Columbia river tributaries to the dry plains of the Central Basin and Great Basin.

In May, the Corps, BPA and Bureau signed a 10-year agreement with the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Separate agreements were signed with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation, the State of Idaho and the State of Montana.

The agreements include actions in habitat, hatchery and research, monitoring and evaluation that aim to improve the prospects for recovery of listed salmon and steelhead. They also are intended to protect non-listed fish from becoming endangered.

The Fish Accords supplement the "biological opinions" for listed fisheries and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's fish and wildlife program. They provide common goals and priorities for hydro system mitigation; additional hydro, habitat and hatchery actions; greater clarity about biological benefits and secure funding for 10 years.

Wright said that the projects will enhance the region's overall fish restoration efforts, making mitigation for the hydro system significantly more effective through a common approach.

For specific details of the memorandum of agreements and the types of projects involved, please visit:

Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Sign with Feds $61 Million Fish Restoration Agreement
Columbian Basin Bulletin, November 14, 2008

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