Stakeholders in the Pacific Northwest federal hydro power system have until next month to comment on a new 10-year operation plan released by US agencies.
The new updated proposed action (UPA) is the result of close collaboration between the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Bonneville Power Administration and the US Bureau of Reclamation and includes measures designed to protect and improve populations of endangered fish in the Columbia river.
The document was published in response to a decision last year that an earlier biological opinion, published in 2000, didn’t provide enough guarantees that salmon protection measures would be implemented.
According to a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) biological opinion, also released last week, the new proposals pose ‘no jeopardy’ to the continued existence of 13 populations of salmon and steelhead in the Columbia river basin.
If approved, the UPA would cost around US$6B over the next 10 years and would include specific measures including guiding devices at dams to improve fish passage, the use of removable spillway weirs and the reform of hatcheries to boost naturally spawning runs in critical areas. Summer spills are provisionally expected to stay the same although new regimes may be considered if they prove to be more economical.
NOAA Fisheries has set a deadline for comments of 8 October so that it can make revisions to the document before it releases a final biological opinion at the end of November.