Federal, state and tribal partners have developed an agreement on how much water to spill for fish survival during operation of federal dams in the Columbia River Basin, the Bonneville Power Administration reported last week.

The agreement calls for flexible spring spill operation premised on achieving improved salmon survival while also managing costs in hydropower generation, the agency said.

Key supporters of the agreement jointly issued this statement:

“Collaboration is key to this new approach to Columbia River system management. Working together, the region’s states, tribes, and federal agencies have developed an approach that demonstrates environmental stewardship and affordable sustainable energy are not mutually exclusive.”

Parties to the agreement are the states of Oregon and Washington, the Nez Perce Tribe, the Bonneville Power Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. In addition, the states of Idaho and Montana reviewed the agreement and are supportive of the flexible operation.

The agreement covers up to three years of fish passage spill operations at eight lower Columbia and Snake River dams.

During this time, the agreement avoids litigation while the co-lead agencies complete the Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement Records of Decision.

The agreement calls for flexible spill operations that meet three objectives: Provide additional fish benefits by increasing spill; manage power system costs and preserve hydro system flexibility; and retain operational feasibility.

Specifically, these operations involve increased spill during certain times of the day for fish migration and lesser amounts for the hours when hydropower production is needed most.

The parties have agreed to engage in a transparent and collaborative manner to implement this agreement.

“This agreement is an important step forward for the parties and the region,” the BPA said. “Rather than focusing on our differences, we are working together on our shared objectives of improving salmon passage and providing affordable hydropower for the region’s electricity consumers.”

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