Kootenai Tribe of Idaho

P.O. Box 1269

Bonners Ferry, ID 83805

Ph# (208) 267-3519

Fax (208) 267-2960

 

 

The Hon. Michael D. Crapo, Chairman

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water

406 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510-6175

 

RE: Written Testimony of the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho before the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water regarding Implementation of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s 2000 Biological Opinion for Listed Anadromous Fish regarding Operation of Federal Columbia River Power System

 

Dear Senator Crapo:

 

The Kootenai Tribe of Idaho appreciates all of the work you have done on behalf of the Tribe and on behalf of all Idaho and Northwest residents.  The Tribe also appreciates your attention to the complex issues concerning implementation of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) 2000 biological opinion for listed anadromous fish regarding operation of the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS).

The Tribe’s activities in the Columbia River Basin focus mainly on implementation of appropriate measures in the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s biological opinion for the Kootenai River white sturgeon and bull trout and collaborative, community-based approaches to restoration of other resident fish and wildlife species. The Tribe recognizes, however, the interconnectedness of the Basin ecosystem and the necessity of anadromous fish recovery to Basin restoration. Moreover, the challenges facing the Tribe in resident fish and wildlife recovery are similar, if not identical, to those facing anadromous fish recovery.

The Tribe would like to point out its efforts in overcoming these challenges. As you know, the Kootenai Tribe was instrumental in working with local governing bodies to form the Kootenai Valley Resource Initiative (KVRI) in order to restore and enhance the resources of the Kootenai Valley. The mission of the KVRI is to improve coordination of local, state, federal and Tribal programs to restore and maintain social, cultural, economic and natural resources. It utilizes a number of subcommittees to work with the group as appropriate to accomplish the tasks at hand. We are excited about the possibilities this sort of collaboration can achieve. This type of cooperation among all stakeholders is the only way to ensure proper implementation of the biological opinions and achieve restoration of the Basin as a whole.

As with all things, however, improvements can be made to enhance and increase the successes of the Kootenai Tribe and KVRI and others throughout the Basin. Your assistance in improving coordination among the Tribes and the federal agencies, increasing stability in fish and wildlife funding and increasing accountability will greatly further this work. Additionally, emphasizing the importance of not only fully implementing appropriate measures in the biological opinions, but also of preventing species from becoming listed, will help to ensure that our Northwest ways of life will survive for future generations.

The Tribe would like to point out the challenges facing the Basin. The Tribe agrees that the Bonneville Power Administration’s (BPA) cuts in the Northwest Power Planning Council’s Fish and Wildlife Program and the lack of appropriations for habitat improvements threaten species recovery. The following suggestions are intended to address this problem of unreliable and uncertain funding.

            BPA and the other federal agencies must develop, through collaboration with the Tribes and the states, a process to establish permanent and appropriate funding levels to meet Treaty and trust obligations and the mandates of the Northwest Power Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and the Clean Water Act. The costs for fulfilling these responsibilities should be allocated among federal agencies and funding sources for paying these costs clarified in accordance with the law.

            The Tribe also suggests that much needed stability for the fish and wildlife managers can be achieved by entering into multi-year contracts with BPA for funding of projects. The Basin recently switched from an annual review process to a three-year rolling review process for project recommendation and approval. The rolling review process was intended to streamline the process and allow fish and wildlife managers to spend more time restoring the Basin and less time stranded in paperwork and processes. The next logical step would be to provide three years of funding for a project that has been approved for three years. Unfortunately, BPA refuses to enter into multiple year contracts with fish and wildlife managers, limiting contracts to one-year periods. In actuality, refusal to enter into multiple year contracts has resulted in fish and wildlife managers continuing to spend more time in processes and less time restoring the Basin.

            Many in the Basin feel that the Northwest ratepayers are paying more than their fair share for implementation of the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, National Historic Preservation Act and other legal responsibilities.  Throughout the rest of the United States, fulfillment of these national responsibilities are funded by the federal government under federal authority and by state governments under state authority. In the Columbia River Basin, however, the other federal agencies and the states look primarily to BPA for funding.  Thus, ratepayers are required to bear the entire burden for the Columbia River Basin as well as their share of the national burden. Congress needs to recognize its responsibility, step forward and provide adequate appropriations to ensure federally mandated programs are fully funded in order to accomplish habitat improvement, clean water and species recovery and not force the Basin to bear more than its fair share.

            In addition to the need for national fairness in funding, there exists a need for Basin-wide fairness. An important example of the deficiency in equitable Basin-wide funding is the failure to include Idaho in the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund. Anadromous fish do not recognize state boundaries. It is a biological fact that these species historically migrated to and from the headwaters of the Columbia River and its tributaries. Despite this biological fact, Idaho does not receive its fair share of funding to insure proper recovery of anadromous fish native to its waters.

            The Tribe believes, however, that no level of funding will successfully ensure species recovery if collaboration among the Tribes, states, federal agencies and other stakeholders does not improve. Consistent with its belief that collaboration is the key to species recovery, the Tribe, in addition to its efforts with the KVRI, works closely with its sister Tribes in the Basin. One forum for this collaboration is the Upper Columbia United Tribes (UCUT), consisting of the Colville, Spokane, Kalispel, Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai Tribes. The UCUT recognizes the interconnectedness of the Columbia River Basin and coordinates management activities to ensure that the actions of one do not harm the goals of another.

            The KVRI is an example of a community-based, collaborative effort in the Basin. Unfortunately, this type of cooperation does not occur at all levels in the Basin to the extent that it should. While the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority has worked hard toward collaboration among fish and wildlife managers, more needs to be done to ensure that the limited resources of the Basin are devoted to species recovery and restoration rather than processes and litigation.

            The Tribe suggests that greater intergovernmental cooperation can and should be fostered through the development of a regional governance group that would include representation from the Tribes, federal agencies and the states, and that would connect these governance efforts with local community-based approaches to species restoration. The Tribe urges the Committee to encourage the federal agencies to immediately begin negotiating a formal and comprehensive role for the Tribes. Such a regional governance group would further Basin restoration and species recovery and move the region toward a more collaborative effort.

The Tribe thanks the Chairman and Committee for the opportunity to address species recovery and restoration in the Columbia River Basin. The Tribe also wishes to express its appreciation for the Chairman’s commitment to being “hands-on” with the KVRI’s efforts at home in Idaho as we continue to work diligently toward collaboration.

 

Sincerely yours,

 

 

 

Gary Aitken, Sr.

Chairman