Wednesday, October 1, 2014

BPA provides $40M for wildlife projects

Money will pay for habitat loss from hydroelectric dams

Express Staff Writer

Due to an agreement signed Tuesday between the state of Idaho and the Bonneville Power Administration, $40 million will be made available over the next 10 years to buy and maintain wildlife habitat in the southern part of the state.
    The agreement is a product of the Northwest Power Act of 1980, which requires BPA to provide money to mitigate fish and wildlife habitat lost due to construction of hydroelectric dams in the Columbia Basin. The mitigation is funded by ratepayers.
    BPA spokesman Kevin Wingert said the recent agreement is the final step of a series of deals that have provided payments to Idaho for wildlife mitigation.
    “We’ve long been involved in habitat restoration to address mitigation in southern Idaho,” Wingert said. “We [BPA and Idaho] agree that this is what’s left.”
    He said the agency is still working with the Shoshone-Bannock and Paiute tribes to provide additional mitigation funding through them, as required by the Northwest Power Act.
    Of the total contained in the new agreement, $22 million will be used for restoration, acquisition and stewardship costs associated with new projects (at least 8,588 acres), $4 million will be used to administer the program over the next 10 years and the remaining $14 million will be placed in a state endowment fund to pay for perpetual management of about 8,700 acres already protected by the mitigation program.
    The agreement was based on recommendations made by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, whose members are appointed by the governors of Columbia Basin states.
    “Idaho is pleased to have this resolved,” Idaho Council member Bill Booth said. “Our state will take an ecosystem approach in selecting, restoring and managing the properties that are acquired.”
    No one was immediately available at the Department of Fish and Game to provide information on where new habitat is likely to be acquired.
The agreement is intended to mitigate the impacts from development of federal dams in southern Idaho (Anderson Ranch Dam on the South Fork of the Boise River, Black Canyon Dam on the Payette River, and Palisades and Minidoka dams on the Snake River). The agreement also includes operational impacts of Deadwood Dam on fish and wildlife.
BPA markets wholesale electrical power from 31 federal hydro projects in the Columbia Basin, one nonfederal nuclear plant and several other small nonfederal power plants. The dams are operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. About a third of the electric power used in the Northwest comes from BPA.
    BPA has spent nearly $13.8 billion since 1978 to support Northwest fish and wildlife recovery.

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