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200723600 - Strategic Adaptation of the Federal Columbia River Power System to Climate Variability and Change

Sponsor: Portland State University

Budgets: FY07: $490,430 | FY08: $491,812 | FY09: $477,808

Short description: The FCRPS must respond to climate variations and change. The project sponsors will develop much-needed hydrologic and economic models, remotely-sensed habitat metrics, and scientific understanding of FCRPS impacts on juvenile salmonids in the river, estuary and plume.

view full proposal

Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $0 | FY08: $0 | FY09: $0

Comment:

ISRP final recommendation: Fundable

Comment:

The region must begin to face the certainty of climate change and its effects on regional economies and salmonid recovery. This project addresses the critical need of adaptively managing the hydropower system to meet the demands of salmon survival and power production under conditions imposed by climate variability and long-term climate change. A stellar group of scientists, experienced with research in the Columbia Basin, have joined together to undertake the project. Importantly, they are planning to form an advisory group of river managers to help guide the work. This will increase the chances that the work will be relevant to hydrosystem operations and that it will be used to inform management decisions. Technical and scientific background: The sponsors address the critical problem of strategically managing the hydropower system to enhance salmon survival under conditions of climate change. This problem is undoubtedly one the region will have to deal with now and in the future. There is, thus, an immediate need to develop scientifically valid ways to address the problem. The overall objective of building models that allow for predictions of the effects of different hydrosystem operation scenarios on early ocean survival of anadromous salmonids is admirable. The very large scale of this integrated effort is probably unique. The decision support tools that are the ultimate goal of the project will assist in developing annual hydrosystem strategies as well as in-season adjustments in operations to improve early ocean survival. The payoff for this proposal could be quite significant. Rationale and significance to subbasin plans and regional programs: The proposed work is broadly consistent with the FCRPS Biological Opinion, the 4 H’s report, and to specific recommendations in the ISRP’s Retrospective Report. The sponsors did not point out relationships to the subbasin plans, specially the estuary plan. Relationships to other projects: The project is related to two ongoing NOAA-Fisheries estuary and plume projects, an National Science Foundation project, a US Army Corp of Engineers estuarine project, and a University of Washington climate impacts project. The sponsors propose to use information obtained by these projects for their work. Collaboration will be facilitated because a number of the sponsors are also investigators on these other projects. Objectives: The proposal contains very ambitious, but potentially valuable, objectives. The combination of efforts to model both the physical, biological, and economic aspects of climate changes on hydrosystem operations in an integrated fashion is an excellent idea. Few other projects have ever adopted such a big picture approach. The objectives are clearly defined and explicitly identify the steps and tasks needed to develop this complex model. Tasks (work elements) and methods: Methods for modeling the flow, plume characteristics, temperature, and nutrients/productivity are described in detail. The investigators have extensive experience conducting the kind of research outlined in this proposal and have published their work in respected peer-reviewed journals. That the "plume habitat metrics" for smolts have not yet been determined (p. 18) could be a problem if satisfactory measures of plume characteristics that can be clearly related to salmon performance are not found. The elements of Objective 3 - economic analyses - describe mostly what will be done, but not how they will be done (contrast this with the description of the physical modeling tasks). Monitoring and evaluation: The proposal identifies an innovative means of monitoring and evaluating progress - the formation of a Project Advisory Board composed of managers and scientists. If it works, this could be an effective way of monitoring progress on large scale, multi-species projects such as this one. The proposal ties with other projects with more explicit monitoring objectives such as NOAA-Fisheries estuary project. Facilities, equipment, and personnel: The investigators are highly competent, have received funding for and conducted extensive research on the Columbia River estuary and ocean, and have stellar records of publication. The facilities are adequate to conduct this work. Information transfer: The proposal does not go into much detail with regard to information transfer. In part 1, Section 1 there is a mention of web postings of models, images, and habitat metrics. The Project Advisory Board will apparently be a means of transferring information to FCRPS managers. The investigators all have long publication track records, so there will surely be peer-reviewed papers. Benefits to focal and non-focal species: This project could have very large benefits for focal species if tools to assist hydrosystem operators to optimize reservoir releases for fish survival and economic considerations are developed. The ability of the models to forecast decadal climate and ocean condition changes make the benefits of this project long-term. There is little discussion of the effects of the reservoir optimization scenarios on non-focal species (e.g., shad and other introduced games fishes). The proposal seems to be oriented toward spring migrants which raises the question of how hydropower system changes favoring spring outmigrants will influence other species, both resident (e.g., white sturgeon), migrant (e.g., fall chinook), and other native species.

State/province recommendation: MS: Do Not Fund

Review group: MSRT

Recommended budgets: FY07: (n/a) | FY08: (n/a) | FY09: (n/a)

Comment: There is an economic analyses contained in this proposal that would be suited for an IEAB review. The hydrologic model appears to be a reinvention of the wheel. The aspect of looking at climate change is on the mark and is included in the Council's work plan to include in power planning in the near future. The proposal will rely on a one dimensional temperature model and a new reservoir operations model that are not consistent with what the regional managers have agreed with.