Meeting focus is Columbia River Basin program

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Congress passed legislation nearly 40 years ago that authorized the states of Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to form the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

Among other things, the law required the council to develop a fish and wildlife program for the Columbia River Basin.

On Wednesday evening, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council will hold a public hearing in Kalispell to solicit comments about a proposed revision to the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. The meeting will be from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Red Lion Hotel.

The council’s fish and wildlife program directs more than $250 million a year “to protect and enhance fish and wildlife in the Columbia River Basin that have been affected by the construction and operation of the hydropower dams,” according to a news release.

In Northwest Montana, that includes projects in the Flathead River system, Flathead Lake and the Kootenai River. In fiscal 2018, funding for Montana totaled $16.7 million. Projects were implemented primarily by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

The federal Bonneville Power Administration pays for the projects that implement the council’s fish and wildlife program.

Every five years the council revises the fish and wildlife program in a public process.

In July, it released a draft addendum for the 2014 program.

According to the council, a few key elements of the addendum are:

• Provisions for evaluating the program’s performance and improving implementation.

• Refined goals for salmon and steelhead, resident fish, wildlife and ecosystem function.

• Calls to include consideration of the implications of climate change on the fish and wildlife program.

• Mitigation of the impacts of the Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams on salmon and steelhead.

• Support for continuing efforts to halt the spread of zebra and quagga mussels.

The draft addendum is posted at www.nwcouncil.org

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