A number of species in the Northwest are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In our operational area these species include primarily bull trout, particularly in western Montana. Avista consulted with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service regarding the ESA during relicensing of both the Spokane River and Clark Fork hydroelectric projects.
The restoration of wild fish stocks, particularly bull trout, is a key part of the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement. The result is a collaborative native salmonid recovery program with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Native American tribes and the states of Idaho and Montana on the lower Clark Fork River, consistent with requirements of the FERC license.
Key Clark Fork activities in 2010 included:
With respect to other fish species, on our Spokane River Project we implemented ramping rate and minimum flow operations at our facilities, as agreed to with fishery agencies and included in our license. We also submitted a five-year fishery protection and enhancement plant and performed the following habitat assessments:
Avista’s Water Quality Certification for our Spokane River Project FERC license, issued under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, requires Avista to develop a wetland and riparian habitat protection and enhancement plan for the purposes of “identifying, evaluating and undertaking wetland and riparian protection, restoration, creation, and enhancement projects.” A five-year plan was submitted to FERC on March 26, 2010, and approved by FERC on Oct. 5, 2010.
Currently Avista is partnering with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, United States Forest Service and Ducks Unlimited to undertake a potential wetland and riparian habitat improvement project along the St. Joe River approximately 10 miles upriver from the town of St. Maries, Idaho. This project consists of habitat restorations on a combined total of 124 acres of Idaho Department of Fish and Game property and Avista Corporation property. Project alternatives are being analyzed in 2011 with anticipated habitat improvements being completed in 2012.
Section 4(e) of Avista’s Spokane River license requires Avista and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe to collaboratively prepare a Coeur d’Alene Reservation wetland and riparian habitat plan providing for the restoration of at least 1,368 acres of wetland, riparian and associate upland habitat. The plan was submitted to FERC on June 18, 2010, and approved by FERC on Oct. 5, 2010.
In 2010 Avista and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe began evaluating and identifying quality mitigation projects and properties on the reservation that could add improvements to the wetland, riparian and upland habitats within multiple watersheds on the reservation.
Avista also has ongoing programs to reduce harm to raptors, including hawks, ospreys and bald eagles, by minimizing nesting on transmission and distribution line structures, providing nesting platforms, taking remedial action in the event of bird injury, and training employees in raptor identification and protection.
As part of our Clark Fork Project License, Avista monitors and protects bald eagle nest sites, to ensure there are no project-related human activities that could harm eagles. Avista also prepared and will implement a bald eagle management plan to protect bald eagles related to the Spokane River Project. We submitted that plan to FERC on May 7, 2010.
This plan includes: