Institutional Recommendation 4

Fish and Wildlife Program Funding

Establish a new state and tribal fish and wildlife entity using Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) funding.

Current Status

The mechanisms for funding fish and wildlife mitigation in the Columbia River Basin evolved significantly since the Spirit of the Salmon Plan was drafted in 1995. Since then:

  • Congress passed legislation mandating creation of an Independent Scientific Review Panel to appraise fish and wildlife expenditures under the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act (Northwest Power Act), which authorized the development of a fish and wildlife program.
  • The Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NPCC), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and Columbia Basin tribes entered into a Memorandum of Understanding guiding the operations and their mutual oversight of an Independent Science Advisory Board. (The Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program is developed under the auspices of NPCC, while Endangered Species Act recovery is administered by NMFS.)
  • The federal courts clarified BPA’s obligations to adopt rates sufficient to fund implementation of the Fish and Wildlife Program adopted by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and to act consistently with the program in its funding decisions.
  • BPA adopted Cost Recovery Adjustment Clauses in its rate proceedings to guarantee that ratepayer funding would be available to implement its legal responsibilities and commitments.
  • A number of tribal, federal and state parties adopted Columbia River Basin Fish Accords setting forth 10-year project funding commitments to implement the Northwest Power Act, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and other legal requirements.


As part of the 2008 Columbia Basin Fish Accords, BPA and the tribes are still seeking improved certainty and stability regarding BPA commitments to implement fish and wildlife mitigation activities in partnership with the tribes, including additional and expanded actions to further address the needs of ESA-listed anadromous fish. The Accords brought significant certainty to the entities that entered into these agreements. However, BPA made several incorrect assumptions in developing its FY 2012 and FY 2013 fish and wildlife budgets. As a result, BPA has asked a number of regional parties to reduce fish and wildlife expenditures not secured by Accords commitments, threatening project implementation.

While the tribes welcome scientific review, repeated review of long-established projects or programs with proven track records that are mandated by legal agreements and federal mitigation obligations has reached the point of diminishing returns. Furthermore, since the vast majority of production programs under the Northwest Power Act are tribal programs, and since the scientific review of these programs largely focuses on conservation concerns, these reviews may be inconsistent with the five conservation principles established in U.S. v. Oregon. (For the conservation principles, see the final paragraph of Sovereignty and Consultation).

New and Modified Actions

  • The entities mentioned above must continue to work closely together to coordinate their funding and project implementation responsibilities.
  • Fish (and wildlife) resources should not bear the burden of government entities’ limitations to forecast funding needs or to make commitments to provide those funds in a durable manner.
  • The region must continue to plan for and implement its commitments to non-listed fish (and wildlife) species.
  • Scientific review of projects must be holistic in nature and not unfairly focus on tribal production programs.
  • Scientific review of long-established, mandated programs must be restructured as partnerships that lead to more successful programs.
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