The 1996 amendments to the Northwest Power Act, which added Section 4(h)(10)(D), directed the Council to oversee, with the assistance of the Independent Scientific Review Panel, a process to review projects proposed for funding by Bonneville, and to appoint additional peer review groups. The panel comprises 11 independent scientists. The ISRP will review proposed projects and make recommendations to the Council as to whether these proposals are based on sound scientific principles, benefit fish and wildlife, have a clearly defined objective and outcome with provisions for monitoring and evaluation of results, and are consistent with the priorities in the program [see the risk uncertainty matrix]. As part of this review, the ISRP considers the projects’ prior-year results, and accomplishments. The Council allows for and encourages public review and comment on the ISRP’s recommendations. The Council will then make final recommendations to Bonneville on projects to be funded. In doing so, the Council fully considers the ISRP’s recommendations, explains in writing its reasons for not accepting ISRP recommendations, considers the impact of ocean conditions on fish and wildlife populations, and determines whether the projects employ cost-effective measures to achieve program objectives. Section 4(h)(6)(C) of the Northwest Power Act requires the Council to adopt program measures that “utilize, where equally effective alternative means of achieving the same sound biological objective exist, the alternative with the minimum economic cost.”
The project review process is a required and critical component to implementing Bonneville’s portion of the Council’s fish and wildlife program for anadromous fish, resident fish, and wildlife, including subbasin plans and other planning documents associated with the program. The reports and recommendations from project reviews increase transparency and accountability of project deliverables, durations, reporting requirements, performance metrics, and expectations. Whether the project is new or ongoing, project review results in a stronger project to benefit fish and wildlife and the region in most cases.