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Letter to Mark Hatfield from Donald Sampson, Chairman of the Umatilla Confederated Tribes

July 16, 1996

Senator Mark O. Hatfield, Chairman
Senate Appropriations Committee
S-126 Capitol Building
Washington, DC 202510-6025

Dear Senator Hatfield:

It has come to my attention that Senator Gorton has included an amendment to the Energy and Water Development appropriations that could severely disrupt the progress that the region has made since passage of last year's appropriation with its requirement of a report on regional governance by the Northwest Power Planning Council.

The Gorton amendment to the Northwest Power Act, as passed by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, would require that the NPPC appoint an Independent Scientific Review Panel comprised of five members chosen from a list submitted by the National Academy of Sciences who have no financial interest in projects to be funded by BPA on the basis of certain cost-effectiveness and evaluation criteria and the Council is required to incorporate the views of the panel or prepare a written finding for not accepting the recommendation. The Council is further required under the amendment to make a final recommendation for project funding and must consider ocean conditions in making its recommendations.

The amendment is flawed because it would disrupt the delicate balance established in the Regional Act that distinguished the planning function from the implementation function and recognized the responsibilities of the fish and wildlife agencies and tribes for protection and enhancement of fish and wildlife. Further the amendment:

  • would dismantle existing procedures that were developed through a comprehensive review and comment process by the NPPC in the region. The prioritization process for direct fish and wildlife funding has been refined during the last six years through practice and through extensive discussion between the agencies and tribes and the NPPC. The NPPC scientific review process, the ISAB preceded by the ISG, was established through almost ten years of practice.

  • amends the Regional Act and was developed without hearings or any fact-finding procedures as a rider to an appropriations bill. You are of course aware of the effort devoted to the crafting of the Regional Act in 1980. Further, the Northwest Power Planning Council's Report on Regional Governance discusses its own regional efforts to establish a review panel with assistance from the National Academy of Sciences, it does not recommend any modification of that effort.

  • is at odds with the basic philosophy of Section 4(h) of the Regional Act which took account of the expertise of regional state and federal fishery agencies and tribes in the protection, mitigation, and enhancement of fish and wildlife. The Council and BPA share responsibility for the cost-effective use of ratepayer funds and have developed an oversight process that is accepted by the fish and wildlife agencies and tribes. The Council in response to the need for good science established the ISAB in conjunction with federal agencies, particularly the National Marine Fisheries Service.

  • will create a new layer of bureaucracy between the Council's planning functions and the fishery agencies and tribes implementation functions that will add to the primary difficulty identified in the Regional Governance Report: lack of implementation.

  • creates the likelihood of an impasse halting salmon recovery efforts by elevating the National Academy-nominated panel to the same status as the agencies and tribes. The Regional Act currently accords special deference to agency and tribal measures and requires findings when the Council fails to adopt a recommendation measure. This provision was extensively interpreted by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. By extending the same deference to a separate scientific body, the amendment creates the likelihood of conflict and potential impasse that could only be resolved by the federal court, in the case of the Regional Act, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

  • elevates one scientific outlook above others arbitrarily. The National Academy of Sciences through the National Research Council was not recognized by most parties as an impartial arbiter of Columbia River salmon issues. The main writer for hydro issues in its most recent report, Upstream: Salmon and Society in the Pacific Northwest, was a consultant for utilities and the direct service industries. There are currently four scientific reports on salmon recovery authored by the National Research Council, the National Marine Fisheries Service (Bevan), the NPPC (ISG) and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. To elevate one approach above the others without any formal congressional review is highly arbitrary and nonproductive.

  • would contradict the Senate's interest in "more effective regional control over efforts to conserve and enhance" fish and wildlife because it would place the National Academy of Sciences in a key role for appointing scientists who serve as decision-makers in a manner that could politicize the NAS and confuse the roles of the NPPC and the fishery agencies and tribes.

In summary, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation urge you to oppose Senator Gorton's misguided effort to amend the Regional Act through the appropriations process.



Donald G. Sampson, Chairman
Board of Trustees

DGS: hsm

cc: Northwest Power Planning Council