Outdoors / Sports

Idaho could get $22 millions for wildlife habitat mitigation

Idaho officials and the Bonneville Power Administration are close to finishing a settlement agreement to bring $22 million to the state over the next 10 years for the purchase of wildlife habit to help mitigate for impacts caused by construction and operation of federal dams on the Snake River and tributaries, a release from the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Bulletin reported.

The goal is to purchase 8,588 acres of habitat with the promised Bonneville funding. The IDFG has purchased 8,722 acres previously.

Additional acres may be purchased as the funding allows, but costs would not exceed the agreed amount. The state will seek out cost shares from other entities in order to help stretch the budget.

Bonneville, which markets power generated in the Northwest federal hydro system, will fund the new property acquisitions at a rate of $5 million per year for fiscal years 2015-2017, $2.5 million in both 2018 and 2019 and $2 million in habitat spending is predicted for 2020.

The federal agency will also fund a "stewardship account" of $12 million that the state will control and draw on to pay for maintenance and operation of habitat bought in the past and future with Bonneville funding. Another $600,000 is due each year for the next 10 years for pre-acquisition and administration costs.

In return, BPA will be absolved of its wildlife mitigation obligation to the state for impacts from its dams in southern Idaho.

That mitigation debt for dam construction and loss of inundated lands has been calculated by the state, Bonneville and involved tribes to be 33,290 acres, of which 50 percent (16,645 acres) must be paid to the Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife according to an allocation agreement. An additional 665 acres will be included to address operational losses.

Under the agreement, F&G stipulates that Bonneville's settlement will satisfy its obligation for wildlife mitigation in southern Idaho.

Idaho and BPA entered a mitigation agreement in 1997 to address the effects of dams on wildlife and wildlife habitat in southern Idaho. That agreement established the roles, responsibilities, and commitments of each party to implement wildlife mitigation projects. Purchases already made came under that agreement.

The proposed settlement outlines the total acreage obligation, including the past purchases and those expected to take place in the future.

BPA and the state of Idaho are inviting the public to review and comment on the proposed settlement that defines both parties' commitment to protect and conserve wildlife habitat in southern Idaho.

The draft agreement will be open to public comment for 30 days. BPA and Idaho will decide whether to sign a final agreement this fall.

(c)2014 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

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