​Re: Comments for Northwest Power and Conservation Council

​Re: Comments for Northwest Power and Conservation Council

Comments on process to amend the Fish and Wildlife Program, including the Protected Areas Program

Dear Council Members Bradbury, Anders, Booth, Karrier, Lorenzen, Rockefeller, Smith and Yost,

Alpine Lakes Protection Society, American Rivers, American Whitewater, Cascadia Wild, Center for Environmental Law and Policy, Columbia River Bioregional Educational Project, Columbia Riverkeeper, Columbiana, Conservation Northwest, Friends of the White Salmon River, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, Hydropower Reform Coalition, Idaho Rivers United, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, The Lands Council, The Mountaineers, Native Fish Society, North Cascades Conservation Council, Olympic Forest Coalition, Oregon Natural Desert Association, Oregon Wild, Pacific Rivers Council, Save Our Wild Salmon, Sierra Club, Spokane Riverkeeper, Washington Wild, WaterWatch of Oregon, Wild Steelhead Coalition, and Wild Washington Rivers, (the Conservation Groups) appreciate the opportunity to comment on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s (NWPCC) process to amend the Fish and Wildlife Program, and we write in particular to support the Protected Areas Program. We urge the Council to strengthen the Program by addressing current river protection needs, data, and science. This includes new Endangered Species Act listings and expected changes to Pacific Northwest rivers and headwater streams due to a changing climate.

The Protected Areas program is an important part of rebuilding fish and wildlife populations that have been damaged by hydroelectric development throughout Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. To date, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), charged with issuing hydropower permits and licenses to utilities and private developers, has followed the recommendation of the Council and has declined to issue a single hydropower license for a project located within a Protected Area. However, this has not stopped hydropower developers from seeking to build new projects throughout the region, and in Protected Areas in particular.1 A strong Protected Areas program remains critically important as hydropower developers continue to pursue projects in these areas.

Additionally, a 2012 analysis by the Council has determined that the need for new hydropower in the future is limited as sources of energy (primarily wind) often exceed regional energy needs.2 The Pacific Northwest is likely to continue producing more electricity than it needs in the spring and early summer, when demand for power usually is relatively low and the supply of existing hydropower and wind power can be high because of seasonal storms and the annual snowmelt runoff in the region’s rivers. Further, forecasts show that conservation measures can account for 85% of the power needed to meet future energy demand in the Pacific Northwest.3 It is not in the public interest to build new and unneeded hydropower dams in areas that the Council has long determined to be special enough to require protection. As a result, we strongly encourage the Council to deny any recommendation that would weaken the program . In addition, Conservation Groups make the following recommendations:

  1. Prohibit exemptions in Protected Areas, as in the 2009 Fish and Wildlife Program. Protected Areas cover just 20% of the Northwest’s river and stream mileage. Denying any attempt at an exemption from a Protected Area meets the Council’s responsibilities to maximize policy and program benefits and minimize process costs.
  2. The Council should send a letter to hydropower developers within 30 days after any preliminary permit is issued for a project proposed to be located in a Protected Area. The letter will notify the permittee that their project is located in a Protected Area, outline what Protected Areas are and what the implications are from FERC and Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). Currently, permittees are required to contact the Council when they receive a FERC permit for a project within a Protected Area. Unfortunately, many developers are unaware of the implications, and invest a great deal of resources before realizing that they are unlikely to receive a final license from FERC and will not be able to connect to the BPA system.
  3. In order to ensure that Protected Areas protect all fish and wildlife, we recommend that the Council assure that Protected Areas include bull trout habitat, and that the designation be expanded to include this habitat if it currently does not. Listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened in 1999, bull trout are now found in less than half of their historic range and in greatly reduced numbers. As a species that depends on relatively pristine stream and lake habitat, it is vital to expand Protected Areas to include area identified as critical habitat for bull trout. Moreover, because bull trout also use the Columbia River mainstem, they have been harmed by the development of the hydropower system and mitigating for that impact through the fish and wildlife program is appropriate.

Finally, Conservation Groups support technical upgrades to the Protected Areas database system and consolidating the list of Protected Areas, so long as the substantive elements and structure remain intact. Doing so will make it more user friendly and accessible to the public. We support additional funding for these needed upgrades.

Thank you for considering our comments on Protected Areas and the Fish and Wildlife Program amendments.

Sincerely,
Rick McGuire, Alpine Lakes Protection Society

rckmcguire@gmail.com

Michael Garrity, Washington State Conservation Director American Rivers
mgarrity@amrivers.org

Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director American Whitewater
okeefe@americanwhitewater.org>

Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director Cascadia Wild jlaughlin@cascwild.org

Suzanne Skinner, Executive Director Center for Environmental Law and Policy sskinner@celp.org

Stuart Rick Gillespie, Vice President, Secretary Columbia River Bioregional Educational Project rickg@columbiana.org

Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director Columbia Riverkeeper bv@columbiariverkeeper.org

Jere Gillespie, President Columbiana j.columbiana@gmail.com

Mitch Friedman, Executive Director Conservation Northwest mitch@conservationnw.org

Pat Arnold, President
Friends of the White Salmon River greenpastures@gorge.net

Lisa Moscinski, Deputy Director Gifford Pinchot Task Force lisa@gptaskforce.org

Rich Bowers, Northwest Coordinator Hydropower Reform Coalition Rich@hydroreform.org

Kevin Lewis, Conservation Director Idaho Rivers United kevin@idahorivers.org

Joseph Vaile, Executive Director Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center joseph@kswild.org

Mike Peterson, Executive Director The Lands Council mpetersen@landscouncil.org

Leann Arend, Interim Executive Director The Mountaineers leanna@mountaineers.org

Michael Moody, President
Bill Bakke, Science and Conservation Director Native Fish Society mike@nativefishsociety.org bmbakke@gmail.com

Karl Forsgaard, President
North Cascades Conservation Council karlforsgaard@comcast.net

John Wooley, President Olympic Forest Coalition woolley@tfon.com

Dan Morse, Conservation Director Oregon Natural Desert Association dmorse@onda.org

Steve Pedery, Conservation Director Oregon Wild
sp@oregonwild.org

Greg Haller, Conservation Director Pacific Rivers Council greg@pacificrivers.org

Joseph Bogaard, Executive Director Save Our Wild Salmon joseph@wildsalmon.org

Bill Arthur, Deputy National Field Director Sierra Club
bill.arthur@sierraclub.org

Rick Eichstaedt, Executive Director/Attorney Spokane Riverkeeper
ricke@cforjustice.org

Tom Uniack, Conservation Director Washington Wild
tom@wawild.org

John DeVoe, Executive Director WaterWatch of Oregon john@waterwatch.org

Bob Margulis, Executive Director Wild Steelhead Coalition bob@wildsteelheadcoalition.org

Andrea Matzke, President Wild Washington Rivers amatzke@gmail.com

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