Subbasin Plans: Guiding Fish and Wildlife Recovery
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council (Council) recently completed one of the largest locally led watershed planning efforts of its kind in the United States, an effort that resulted in separate plans for 58 tributary watersheds or mainstem segments of the Columbia River. The plans identify priority restoration and protection strategies for habitat and fish and wildlife populations in the United States portion of the Columbia River system. Planning occurred in far-reaching parts of Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and Montana of the vast Columbia River basin. Various local planning groups, recovery boards, and Indian tribes developed the plans, including Canadian entities where the plans address transboundary rivers. The effort spanned 2 years of intense administrative process, including independent scientific review and public scrutiny of the plans. The plans were completed on time and under budget. The next steps are to implement the plans over the next several years based on priority areas and populations identified in the plans.
The Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program directs more than $140 million per year of Bonneville Power Administration electricity revenues to protect, mitigate, and enhance fish and wildlife affected by hydropower dams. Many types of projects implement the fish and wildlife program. These include improving and protecting habitat, improving fish passage at dams, rebuilding naturally spawning fish populations through the careful use of hatcheries, and researching factors that affect fish and wildlife survival. This enormous amount of work is now coordinated through strategic plans for each major tributary and distinct main-stem segment of the Columbia River. In 2004 and 2005, the Council adopted the 58 subbasin plans into the fish and wildlife program to provide direction for projects and project-funding decisions in the future. The plans were developed collaboratively by state and federal fish and wildlife agencies, Indian tribes and watershed councils with Bonneville funding, and Council guidance. Subbasin plans ensure that projects to implement the program are planned and evaluated principally at the local level. Subbasin plans direct fish and wildlife and water quality management activities funded by Bonneville and also provide the context in which the Independent Scientific Review Panel reviews project proposals for funding through the program. Subbasin plans integrate strategies and actions funded by others, thus ensuring that each plan serves the Council’s purposes under the Northwest Power Act and also accounts for Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act requirements, and other laws governing natural resource management, as fully as possible.