Northwest Power Planning Council
 

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September 22, 2000

TO: Council Members
FROM: John Ogan and Doug Marker
SUBJECT: Decision document for Council Fiscal Year 2001 Recommendations to Bonneville

LINKS: Excel spreadsheet of specific budget decisions

I. Introduction

The 1996 amendments to the Regional Act (Act) direct the Council to make recommendations to Bonneville on how to expend its annual fish and wildlife budget. The Council has made such recommendations to Bonneville in the last five fiscal years. For Fiscal Year 2001, however, substantial changes were made to the project solicitation, review and selection process. That is, the Council instituted a limited province-based solicitation and selection process -- the "rolling review" -- in place of the unlimited basin-wide solicitation and selection process used in Fiscal Year 2000 and prior years.

While the Councilís funding recommendations will contain familiar elements, such as recommendations on the start of year budget, the change to the "rolling review" alters the Council recommendation process in some ways. The primary change is that the Council recommendation on what projects to fund is bifurcated -- part one is a recommendation on which ongoing projects to "renew" contracts for, and at what amount. The second part will be a recommendation on which projects to fund in the provinces that are subject to the detailed ISRP review in Fiscal Year 2001. This year, the Columbia Gorge and Inter-Mountain provinces are in that detailed review, and the Council will make recommendations regarding those provinces late this year.

In addition to the changes required as a result of the transition to the rolling review process, the Councilís Fiscal Year 2001 recommendations will need to be informed by several other factors. Specifically, these include the expiration of the current federal fish and wildlife funding Memorandum of Agreement at the end of Fiscal Year 2001, the release of a draft hydrosystem Biological Opinion, and the current status of the Fish and Wildlife program amendment. The detailed discussion of the elements of the Councilís FY 2001 recommendation identifies, where appropriate, how these issues may affect the Councilís recommendations for Bonneville funding in Fiscal Year 2001.

The general "roadmap" for this first part of the bifurcated Fiscal Year 2001 decision is generally as follows -- the Council will make recommendations to Bonneville to size the base budget that is committed under the terms of the MOA (Element 1); the Council will then make recommendations on how much of that budget should be allocated to ongoing projects (Element 2); then, with an understanding of what remains in the budget, the Council will evaluate the type and possible size of additional new funding needs from Bonneville in Fiscal Year 2001, and make recommendations on how to meet those fish and wildlife obligations (Element 3).

II. Elements of the Council Fiscal Year 2001 Funding Recommendation.

There are three core issues (each contains sub-issues) that the Council must address in its Fiscal Year 2001 recommendation. These are identified and very briefly described below to introduce the Council to the nature of its considerations. Each of these issues is expanded upon in section III of this document, where staff recommendations are also provided.

Element 1: Statement of Council understanding of available base BPA budget.

Bonnevilleís base annual budget for the direct program is $127 million under the current funding MOA. Each year, that figure is adjusted according to a suite of planning assumptions made about the amount and availability of carry-forward funds from previous years, and use of other reserves. Both CBFWA and Bonneville have provided Council statements on the planning assumptions for use of funds to add or subtract from the $127 annual base. The Council will need to make recommendations on these assumptions in order to establish a figure for the start of year annual budget. Each of these assumptions is discussed, and staff recommendations are provided in section III.

Element 2: Council recommendation on renewing budgets for FY 2001 funding for ongoing projects basinwide;

There are two provinces involved in the Fiscal Year 2001 project review and selection process (Columbia Gorge and Inter-Mountain). Only those provinces may propose new projects or add to the scope of existing projects approved in prior years. All other provinces are required to maintain effort with existing projects (no new project starts unless through "early action" or other similar type program yet to be defined and approved). The Councilís ongoing project renewal process is a project management review of the ongoing project proposals to ensure that they are staying within the scope of prior approvals, and laying out their expenditure plan in an accountable and strategic manner. The staff has completed this review at a "coarse-screen level" and suggests that the Council provide guidance to Bonneville to apply at the contracting level as a "fine-screen" review. Having completed this review, the staff recommendation is for the Council to recommend funding for the ongoing projects as specified in the Table A attached to this document.

Element 3: Council expectations for program budget in FY 2001 to meet new needs in the interim prior to adoption of subbasin plans in next phase of Program amendment.

Fiscal year 2001 is the final year of the funding MOA. Absent agreement of the MOA parties, in consultation with the Council and Tribes, this agreement establishes Bonnevilleís fish and wildlife funding obligation through Fiscal Year 2001. A replacement funding agreement has not been developed. However, in principles developed for its current rate submission Bonneville has committed to "meet all of its fish and wildlife obligations, once they have been established," and it has developed the means to do this in its proposed rate structure.

Even thought the current MOA applies (absent agreement to deviate) through Fiscal Year 2001, there are two reasons why the Bonneville fish and wildlife funding principles developed for the 2002-2006 rate period are relevant to the Councilís Fiscal Year 2001 recommendation. First, with the move to a rolling review format, the Council will be making recommendations for projects in the Columbia Gorge and Inter-Mountain provinces that may span three years -- absent a change in the review process, the funding recommendations that will be made by the Council for these provinces later this year will form the base allocation for those areas through Fiscal Year 2004. Second, it is evident that Bonnevilleís post Fiscal Year 2001 fish and wildlife funding obligations are starting to take shape. The first phase of the Councilís draft program has been released, and a draft hydrosystem Biological Opinion and Reasonable and Prudent Alternative and accompanying conceptual Recovery Plan ("All H Paper") have been released. Finally, two of the provinces will complete their detailed provincial review later this year, and each has developed "Subbasin Summaries" that identify fish and wildlife needs in each subbasin in the province. These Subbasin Summaries are being reviewed and used by the ISRP as a basis for the recommendation it will make to the Council for projects proposed in those provinces later this year.

The Council may choose to make recommendations at this time on the funding of fish and wildlife needs that it sees developing in Fiscal Year 2001 and beyond.

III. Detailed Discussion of the Elements of the Councilís Fish and Staff Recommendations

A. Discussion of Recommendation Element 1 (Overall Available Budget) and Staff Recommendations

There is annually $127 million available under the MOA setting forth Bonnevilleís direct program funding commitment this year. Fiscal Year 2001 is the final year of the term of that MOA. As in prior years, there are a number of carry-forward or reserve items that may augment or subtract from the base $127 million available.

As requested by the Council, the CBFWA has submitted a draft Annual Implementation Work Plan of Ongoing Projects (July 14, 2000). That proposed work plan makes several assumptions about the use of carry-forwards, reserves, etc. for the purposes of establishing the base Fiscal Year 2001 budget.

CBFWA assumed that the base $127 million available for Fiscal Year 2001 would be augmented in the following ways:

  1. $1.7 million in interest from unspent FY 2000 funds
  2. $1.9 million from the Contingency/Inflation Reserve
  3. All unallocated placeholders be made available (approximately $4.3 million)
  4. $5 million to be made available through de-obligating funds from completed projects
  5. Make the $1 million reserve established in FY 1998 for Hydrosystem Biological Opinion requirements for steelhead available
  6. Make the $2.589 million reserve established in FY 96 for ESA related research available

Bonneville provided written comments on CBFWAís draft ongoing project workplan, including specific comments on these budget assumptions. Bonneville agrees with the first two assumptions made by CBFWA (a. and b.) takes specific exception to the remainder of the assumptions.

Regarding item c., the assumption that all unallocated placeholder funds be made available for allocation to ongoing projects, Bonneville notes that this will leave little or no funds available for contingencies that may arise throughout the year. Bonneville recommends that some amount be left in each placeholder to provide contracting flexibility and to meet contingencies.

Next, regarding item d., Bonneville comments that the reconciliation process for closed fish and wildlife projects is ongoing, and to date, $750,000 has been identified that can be made available for reallocation in Fiscal Year 2001. Bonneville states that it has redoubled its efforts to de-obligate funds from completed projects, and will work towards the CBFWA estimate over time. In the meantime, Bonneville recommends that the amount of funds secured to date be used as the appropriate assumption.

Regarding items e. and f., the ESA related reserves, Bonneville recommends that they are left in Place. Bonneville states that conversations with NMFS suggest that these funds may be needed for work under the current Biological Opinions in Fiscal Year 2001.

Staff Recommendations on Element 1

The staff recommends that the Council continue its past practice of delivering annual budget recommendations to Bonneville that is balanced with funds available in the fiscal year. The first part of the two-part annual recommendation that the Council will make is for recommendations for funding ongoing projects that have been previously reviewed and approved by the ISRP, CBFWA and Council ("renewals").

Staff recommends that the Council accept the recommendations made by CBFWA on items a. and b. for purposes of planning. Bonneville does not take issue with these, and there are no policy issues from the Councilís perspective inherent in these assumptions. The staff recommends that the Council accept the assumptions recommended by Bonneville for items c. through f., subject to the following guidance.

For item c., the use of all unallocated placeholder funds, the Council does not believe that Bonnevilleís concern that there will be no funds available throughout the year for contingencies will be realized. Rather, as is seen in the discussion below regarding Element 2 of the Councilís recommendation, the available budget is not fully allocated when the ongoing projects are adjusted to stay within the bounds of the renewal process. In addition, the Council believes that additional funds will be made available to deal with in-year contingencies by the continuing reconciliation process that Bonneville has committed to. These funds will returned to placeholders as they are identified, and Bonneville should be encouraged to aggressively and expeditiously complete this reconciliation.

For items d. and e. staff recommends that these reserves be maintained for ESA purposes as recommended by Bonneville and not be made available for allocation to other ongoing project renewals. Again, these additional funds are not needed to bring the renewal component within the known available budget once the projects are properly scaled to comply with the instructions provided for the renewal process (discussed below in section related to Element 2). However, the Council should make this recommendation with the following admonition to Bonneville and NMFS.

It is worth noting that the NMFS is a member and active participant in CBFWA. CBFWAís draft workplan for ongoing projects was approved with consensus by its membership as part of the regional project solicitation, and review process used for implementing the Councilís program. Thus, it is difficult to understand how or why NMFS, as a CBFWA member, acquiesced in releasing a draft budget that called for the reallocation of these ESA reserves, but later, in separate "recent conversations" with Bonneville and Council staff, opined that these funds would be needed for ESA purposes, and would not be available for reallocation as stated in the CBFWA budget. In future years, the coordination between NMFSí ESA- based requirements and the Councilís program will require full participation in the regional process from NMFS and the Action Agencies. This is particularly so for implementing the type of off-site habitat work proposed under the draft hydrosystem Biological Opinion. The ESA implementing and Action Agencies will need to be diligent in identifying ESA based needs in a timely way, and working those into the annual funding process along with all other work proposed under the Councilís program in any given year in the regional process. That type of participation and diligence is not evidenced in what seems to be mutually exclusive positions taken by NMFS this year on the use of these funds.

Finally, the staff proposes that the following project-by-project table, attached as Table A, be recommended to Bonneville as its start of year available budget for the renewal of ongoing projects in Fiscal Year 2001.

B. Discussion of Recommendation Element 2 (Renewing Ongoing Projects) and Staff Recommendation

In February the Council started an interim renewal process for ongoing projects in the program. An "ongoing project" is a project that has been reviewed by the ISRP, CBFWA, and Council in a prior project selection process, and is the subject of a contract with Bonneville. The process is called "interim" because it is the process by which project budgets are established prior to their detailed review and approval in the rolling provincial review process.

Project sponsors submitted budgets for their ongoing work on May 1, 2000. In an effort to assist in implementing the Councilís fiscal accountability strategy for project management, sponsors of ongoing projects broke down the components of each project into four phases: planning and design, construction and implementation, operation and maintenance, and monitoring and evaluation. This strategy was to define separate budgets for the "phases" of major projects. The proposed ongoing project budget form asked for cost estimates in two ways: by task and by materials, labor, indirect charges, etc. Bonneville has designed its budget management systems to support this fiscal accountability strategy. Project sponsors were asked to submit their renewal proposals to Bonneville in this format. They have done so and added more detail on costs by objective and task.

These proposed ongoing project budgets were referred to CBFWA for review by subregional teams in May and June. The subregional teams reviewed the proposed tasks for each project, recommended deferral of tasks they identified as new work and confirmed budget recommendations for each project. This work culminated in the June 14, 2000 draft Annual Implementation Work Plan for Ongoing Projects that has been submitted for the Councilís consideration. The Council staff has reviewed that workplan and is proposing further revision to the numerous FY 2001 project budgets. The fact that the Council staff has done additional work is not to suggest the work completed by CBFWA and its members was insubstantial -- rather, it was very appropriate and helpful. CBFWA built upon and improved the efforts of sponsors to define projects by phase to assist in implementing the project management fiscal accountability guidance given by the Council last year. However, upon careful review, it was evident to Council staff that the proposed in the draft workplan needed to have an additional screening to ensure that it was staying within the confines of the renewal process.

A fundamental point that must be underscored, is that the renewal process is established to renew funding for work or activities identified in projects that have already received ISRP review and specific Council recommendation. This means that new, expanded, or different work or activity that has not been specifically approved by the Council should not be proposed, and the same will not be approved, as part of the ongoing project renewal process.

We wish to be very clear about what is meant by "specific Council recommendation." This clarity is required because project sponsors have occasionally argued that proposed projects, or elements of proposed projects have been "reviewed by the ISRP." While true, this is not the end of the inquiry. Once submitted in response to a solicitation, those proposals are often pared down at CBFWA, certain elements are often reduced or recommended against by the ISRP, and the Council ultimately makes a recommendation for a project, along with a specific budget derived from the tasks or work that it is recommending. Thus, while the there may certainly be projects that include work or activities that have been reviewed by the ISRP at some point in the past because it was included in a proposal as originally submitted, if that work or activity was not specifically identified for funding by the Council, and subsequently contracted for, it will not be renewed in this process.

Moreover, new, expanded, or different work, even if contemplated or suggested by the sponsors for out-years in projects that were previously approved by the Council in a prior fiscal year, will not be recommended for funding by the Council -- again, because the Council has never made multi-year funding recommendations in the past, such out-years work could not have been "specifically approved" in prior years. Again, this new, expanded, or different work within ongoing projects must be reviewed by the ISRP and complete the detailed planning and review process of the province based rolling review before the Council will consider recommending it for funding. The integrity of the province based rolling review process, and the increased scientific and fiscal accountability it brings to the process, requires a rigid application of this construct.

Staff Recommendations on Element 2

The staff recommendations on Element 2 of this part of the annual funding recommendation for Fiscal year 2001 contains three parts. Part 1 is a recommendation for the Council to approve the staffís application of seven criteria to the ongoing project budgets proposed in the CBFWA draft Annual Implementation Work Plan for Ongoing Projects, as reflected in an attached table and narrative; Part 2 is a recommendation regarding the establishment of certain placeholders accounts within the known available Bonneville direct program fund; and Part 3 is a recommendation regarding specific projects or issues related to specific projects.

Recommendation Part 1

The proposed budgets for ongoing projects have been reviewed to ensure that they are remaining within the confines of the ongoing project renewal process. Said another way, the ongoing projects have been screened to ensure that new work and new initiatives are being held for the appropriate detailed province review. The Council staff applied the following standards, in a relatively course-screen evaluation to the projects to accomplish this:

  1. Was the project scope limited to that specifically approved in FY 2000?
  2. Does the project propose funding in anticipation of ESA requirements, fish and wildlife program requirement, or other requirements before those requirements have been finalized or made binding?
  3. Do funds previously committed remain available for the scope of work approved in FY 2000?
  4. Does the proposal commit the program to substantial additional funding in future years that has not been approved in full in a Council action previously?
  5. Is capital construction spending proposed out of sequence with a projectís three-step review track?
  6. Is the budget increase for the scope of work approved in the FY 2000 greater than 5%?
  7. Is the project scheduled to be completed with existing funds?

Criterion 1: Project Scope. The scope of the project should not expand beyond that which was specifically approved by the Council in Fiscal Year 2000. To determine the appropriate scope, the sponsor and Bonneville should consult the final Fiscal Year 2000 workplan recommendation (Council document 2000-6), and three-step review documents formally approved by the Council, and prior yearsí contracts. If questions about appropriate scope of the project remain after resort to these documents, Bonneville should consult with Council staff to either resolve the issue, or arrange for Council determination of the matter.

Criterion 2: Anticipating requirements before they are binding. There is a draft program and draft ESA related documents that have recently been released. Ongoing project sponsors have, in a substantial number of cases, anticipated needs for personnel, coordination, planning, or other needs based on these (and perhaps other) documents. Increases in capacity to meet these needs should not be provided as part of the renewal process. Rather, increases to meet these needs should be dealt with programmatically when they are in fact made certain. This will prevent the subjective project-by-project estimation of the cost of such requirements, which is not likely to be cost-effective. Moreover, identifying and allocating the costs of requirements imposed by such programs in a uniform and programmatic way brings should foster accountability in those in a position to develop mandates that will require funding from others.

Similarly, some projects have sought increases in funding to address criticisms or issues raised by the ISRP in prior reviews. The desire to make improvements at this time in response the an independent critique is laudable. However, the appropriate time to detail the manner by which the sponsor proposes to respond to those critiques, and the costs for those responses, should await the detailed provincial review.

Criterion 3: Substantial funds on hand for scope of work: There are some cases where funding commitments have been made to projects in prior years for the scope of work proposed but those funds remain unspent. Where substantial commitments from those prior years remains (50% or more of aggregate of prior years commitments) to complete the scope of work previously approved, additional Fiscal Year 2001 funds should not be provided. If the sponsors believe that FY 2001 funds will be required notwithstanding the funds on hand, they should articulate the rationale to Bonneville, and Bonneville should consult with Council staff.

Criterion 4: Proposal brings substantial future funding commitments. There are some ongoing projects in the three-step review that certainly carry the possibility of substantial out-year construction and other costs, and these have been previously recognized by the Council in various three-step decision documents. This criterion does not apply to those projects in the three-step review and they should proceed as outlined in the step approval. However, there are other ongoing projects that contemplate a major future commitment of program resources that have not been formally acknowledged by the Council. The Council believes that projects that contemplate a funding commitment of $1million or more in the next three years in construction or other major capital investment, and depend upon that future commitment as a primary justification for the currently proposed project, should not be funded . The Council believes that major initiatives, and irretrievable commitments towards them, should await at least until they are reviewed in a subbasin context in the provincial review process, and perhaps even in a subbasin plans.

Criterion 5: Increases greater than 5% for same scope of work. First, the renewal process will not expand upon previously approved work scope. Decisions and approvals to fund new activities, expanded activities, and redirect project work must be made during the full province review. Second, the Council recommends against automatic cost increases being approved in the renewal process. In some cases, even where project scope seems to have been maintained, sponsors estimate higher costs. These increased costs should be specifically identified and justified in a provincial review (again, all province reviews are scheduled to begin by July 2001). Therefore, expansions of proposed budgets greater than 5% for the same scope of work approved in FY 2000 are presumed inappropriate for the renewal process. The Council recommends that project budgets be maintained at approved FY 2000 levels, and that those projects seeking a greater than 5% increase during contracting, it should be carefully scrutinized by Bonneville relative to the other criteria 1 through 5.

Criterion 6: Project scheduled for completion with previously committed funds. If a project sponsor or the Council recommendation has maintained that a project would be completed with FY 2000 or previously committed funds, no FY 2001 funds should be committed.

Criteria 7: Link artificial production funding to the appropriate three-step approval. There are several ongoing artificial production projects at various stages in the Councilís three-step review process. Some of these projects have included a request for construction when it does not appear, based on their position in the three-step review sequence, that construction will likely occur in Fiscal Year 2001. Ongoing project budgets should be limited to accomplish the activities realistically contemplated for FY 2001 in the applicable step documents approved by the Council.

The Council staff has applied these six criteria to the ongoing projects proposed in the CBFWA draft workplan. A table summarizing the result of this review is attached as Table B. The allocation of project budgets by phase is defined in the attached spreadsheet. The staff recommends that the Council to Bonneville that it contract for these ongoing projects consistently with these budgets, or propose revisions in consultation with Council staff. Contracts should require closer accounting of actual project costs by the phases and objectives in the project proposals. In addition, staff recommends that Bonneville be asked to apply the six criteria to all projects during contracting. The review conducted by the Council staff was a relatively coarse-screen, and in order to ensure that all projects are equally reviewed, Bonneville should use the guidance provided here to apply the six criteria to all ongoing projects during contracting.

For those ongoing projects in the Columbia Gorge and Inter-Mountain provinces currently in the detailed province review, the Council recommendation for funding at the levels reflected in Table B is provisional. If those projects are expanded, reduced, or eliminated as a result of the full CBFWA/ISRP/Council province review process that is scheduled to conclude in December or January, budgets will be adjusted accordingly in the Councilís recommendations. (Again, the Councilís recommendations on the Columbia Gorge and Inter-Mountain provinces, is part 2 of its Fiscal Year 2001 recommendations to Bonneville required under the Act. The Councilís recommendations under 4(h)(10)(D) will not be complete until that second part of the recommendation is provided to Bonneville).

Recommendation Part 2

Council staff recommends that the Council recommend that Bonneville plan for the following placeholders in its known Fiscal Year 2001 annual direct program budget:

1. Maintain the ESA existing placeholders, including the placeholder for Hydrosystem Biological Opinion requirements for steelhead.

As indicated above, NMFS and the Action Agencies are encouraged to integrate their ESA related fish and wildlife needs that it expects Bonneville to fund with the Councilís annual prioritization process. A successful and meaningful integration requires these agencies to anticipate their ESA-related project needs in advance of the annual prioritization process, and to actively participate in that process by submitting their proposals for full review and integration along with other proposals for Bonneville other fish and wildlife funding. The five-year plan identified in the draft 2000 Hydrosystem Biological Opinion can lay the groundwork for further defining the annual needs that can be proposed in the annual review. Further, to the extent possible, NMFS and that action agencies should seek to align the implementation of its ESA projects in a manner consistent with the schedule for the province based rolling review. At the present time, all provinces with listed salmonids (including the Columbia River Estuary Province) are scheduled to begin their provincial reviews by July 2001.

2. Establish a placeholder for funding the design of a data management and analysis system for the Columbia basin.

Data management and analysis in the Columbia basin has been the subject of independent reviews, and its improvement and reform is a high priority of the Council. As part of its Fiscal Year 2000 recommendation regarding PATH projects, the Council committed to work with others in the region to propose a data management and analysis system with certain attributes (see Council document 2000-6, p. 62). The Council recommends that a placeholder in the amount of $900,000.00 be established in the known available Bonneville Fiscal Year 2001 budget. This figure represents the amount of funds not spent on proposed PATH related projects in Fiscal Year 2000 due to the completion of those projects as recommended by the ISRP.

3. The Council has expressed an interest in Bonneville establishing a placeholder to fund activities associated with developing subbasin plans that may be adopted into the Councilís program in a future amendment proceeding. The Council should determine if it wants this, and how much that placeholder should be.

Recommendation Part 3

There is a small number of specific projects with issues not related to those discussed above that require Council consideration and likely consultation with the sponsor and Bonneville. Therefore, recommendations are not ready for these specific projects at this time. The intent is to provide a Council recommendation on these projects by its December meetings.

1. 1998-115-25 (YIN); YKFP Design and Construction.

Issue: Council needs to seek additional information on and consider the sponsorís proposal to develop office building, interpretive center and Klickitat facilities at this time.

2. Clearwater Watershed Project

Issue: Council needs to seek information and consider addition of implementation budgets pending completion of watershed assessment activities.

3. 1996-042-00 Salmon Creek Project

Issue: Council needs to seek information on and consider the proposalís plan that seeks significant new commitment of program funds in coming years.

There are three other projects that are seeking reallocations. These are being considered by the Council as separate agenda items at the Spokane meeting. The Councilís recommendations on the following projects, will be reflected in the final version of this document, as appropriate.

Project 2000-017-00, Steelhead Kelt Reconditioning.

Request: add $73,990 to CBFWAís recommended budget

Project 1999-003-01, Evaluate Spawning of Salmon Below the Four Lowermost Mainstem Dams.

Request: add $414,697 to expand the scope of work

Project 1999-088-00, Water Right Acquisition Program.

Request: $140,000 to restore FY 2001 funding for the Oregon Water Trust project not included in CBFWA budget.

Staff recommends that the Council defer a recommendation on these projects until it makes its decision on the primary renewal package. The projects are listed here primarily to indicate to the Council that there are a few project specific items that it needs to work through that could effect the renewal budget that has been proposed.

C. Discussion of Recommendation Element 3 (FY 2001 New Needs) and Staff Recommendations.

Fiscal Year 2001 is the final year in the term of the current funding MOA. Thus, unless the parties to the MOA, in consultation with the Council and Tribes, agree to expand the budget, the available budget for Fiscal Year 2001 will be as presented in Table A. At the same time, however, there is the strong possibility that additional fish and wildlife needs will be realized during Fiscal Year 2001. These include ESA based fish and wildlife needs (see e.g. the draft 2000 Hydrosystem Biological Opinion, Reasonable and Prudent Alternative) and additional needs to implement fish and wildlife program amendments that will be adopted by the Council this fall. These fish and wildlife needs were not contemplated when the MOA was developed and signed in 1996.

With specific reference to the draft fish and wildlife program, the Council is proposing that Bonneville fund a suite of "early action" projects that meet certain criteria. The draft program also proposes that Bonneville fund a program for acquiring land and water, and that the specifics of this program be developed by January 1, 2001. Similar "fast start" and "safety net" projects are contemplated in the draft ESA documents recently released, and those documents also contemplate land and water acquisitions for ESA purposes.

In addition to the "new needs" contemplated in those new fish and wildlife plans, it is important to remember that the provincial review process requires the Council to make funding recommendations for the Columbia Gorge and Inter-Mountain provinces later this year that will cover fiscal years 2001 through 2003. Thus, it may not be appropriate for the sponsors in those areas or the Council to be sizing the opportunity in those areas against the funding constraints of the current MOA that will end in September 2001.

The final piece of necessary context, is to recognize that a successor MOA has not been developed, and no formal negotiations to establish Bonnevilleís funding commitment either within or beyond Fiscal Year 2001 are underway. Rather, Bonneville has adopted principles it relies upon when the issue of expanding the direct program budget is discussed. Those principles primarily state that Bonneville "will meet all of its fish and wildlife obligations once they have been established" in the next rate period. When asked whether or not it would be willing to augment the amount of direct program funding in Fiscal Year 2001, Bonneville has indicated a willingness to consider this, but on two conditions: 1) that it believes that the region must demonstrate that it has made a full good-faith effort to meet its fish and wildlife needs within existing the existing MOA budget; and 2) that the region present an agree upon plan for a fish and wildlife program.

The Council has been encouraged by some, and particularly the fish and wildlife managers, to make some initial inquiries with Bonneville about its funding commitments for Fiscal Year 2001 and perhaps beyond. These formal and informal recommendations and requests are reflected in the Councilís draft program. The draft program calls upon Bonneville to provide an interim additional funding commitment to the program indexed to inflation since 1996. The draft program suggests that this interim adjustment could be revisited in a more comprehensive discussion about the appropriate longer-term funding commitment to the program can be informed by more fully developed subbasin plans that will be developed in future program amendment proceedings.

Staff Recommendations

The draft fish and wildlife program and ESA documents suggest that there will be new fish and wildlife funding needs beginning in Fiscal Year 2001 that cannot be fully met within the funds available under the MOA. As indicated in Table A, after the ongoing projects budgets are renewed at the recommended levels, there remains $7.3 million in available funds. The staff expects more will be released when Bonneville completes a review of available carry-forward from Fiscal Year 2000. The new needs contemplated by draft fish and wildlife plans recently released include:

  1. A one time commitment for "early action" projects that begin to be implemented in Fiscal Year 2001. It is difficult extremely difficult to size this budget for this initiative. Suggestions have ranged from $5 to $10 million to several hundred million dollars.
  2. Dedication of up to $20 million to a land and water acquisition program. A similar amount will be dedicated each year for at least the term of the amended fish and wildlife program.
  3. Funds to initiate new work identified and reviewed in the province reviews of the Columbia Gorge and Inter-Mountain provinces. By the end of this year, both of those provinces have gone through the detailed process of developing Subbasin Summaries for each river in the province, site visits with the ISRP, and written and oral proposal presentations with the ISRP, and CBFWA management review. That review will yield proposals for both ongoing and new work for the next three fiscal years in each subbasin in the province.

The Council may choose to recommend how the $7.3 million remaining from the existing Fiscal Year 2001 budget be allocated or reserved. The Council may want to consult with CBFWA and others. The Council could make a recommendation to Bonneville for dedicating these funds to three categories of new needs identified above, and may even wish to provide a priority among those items. The Council may also consider if it wants to reserve some of these funds for subbasin planning or other needs in Fiscal Year 2001. However, the Council and the region as a whole should guard against viewing the fact that it appears that discretionary funds remain available in the Fiscal Year 2001 budget. The reality is that the bulk of this balance was made available by deferring work into Fiscal Year 2002 or beyond that ongoing projects are on track to complete. Thus, when the ongoing work in the program is properly viewed with a multi-year perspective, there is not truly a surplus of funds beyond what is needed to complete that work -- most of those funds will need to be available for ongoing projects beginning in FY 2002.

Turning to one of the "new needs" contemplated in the draft program, language there recommends that Bonneville provide the fish and wildlife program an interim increase. The staff recommends that such an increase should be linked to the province based review sequence. That is, the increases would be dedicated to each province as they come up on the province based rolling review schedule (all provinces are due to begin review by July 2001). This opposed to an immediate program-wide increase in Fiscal Year 2001 that would need to be allocated and then folded into proposals that would require ISRP and Council review. The amount that would be dedicated to each province would be a percentage over that provinceís current base budget allocation. The funds would be made available for planning purposes going into the review, but would not be guaranteed as committed until the projects using them are reviewed by the ISRP and Council, and recommended to Bonneville. This gives those in the review a real planning figure to work with while maintaining the quality and accountability for all expenditures.

For example, if the selected index shows that the upward adjustment should be 25%, and the Columbia Gorge base budget in Fiscal Year 2000 was $8 million, Bonneville would be asked to commit an additional $2 million for planning purposes to that province in Fiscal Year 2001. This commitment would not automatically be spent. Rather, expenditure of those funds would continue to be subject to final Council decision (after ISRP review) on the proposed projects.

Alternatively, the Council could de-couple the interim program increase called for in the draft program from the new project needs identified in the province reviews. If this is done, the Council may wish to reserve some amount of the $7.3 million in funds remaining after ongoing work is renewed for new or expanded effort identified in the Columbia Gorge and Inter-Mountain provinces.

In summary, although there are funds remaining in the known available direct program budget after ongoing work for Fiscal Year 2001 is renewed, new needs for Fiscal Year 2001 contemplated in draft regional plans, and identified in the province review will almost certainly total more than that remaining balance. The CBFWA and Council both having worked very hard to maintain the line on the budgets of ongoing projects through the application of the seven criteria discussed in section II above. The Council may decide to recommend that Bonneville dedicate and prioritize the balance of available Fiscal Year 2001 funds to new needs using recently released draft fish and wildlife plans as a reference. Finally, the "interim" program adjustment is proposed in the draft program could be linked directly to the detailed province review process, and "ramp in" over time as that process continues.

Structured in this manner, the Council can evaluate if it should enter into discussions with Bonneville on the additional funding needs in Fiscal Year 2001 for items such as a land and water acquisitions program, "early action" projects, and new needs flowing from the province reviews. The Council could do this having looked first to exhaust the available budget, and with an eye towards how recently released draft plans are defining Bonnevilleís fish and wildlife obligations for FY 2001 and beyond.