• NOAA Fisheries Biological Opinion for operation and maintenance of the Columbia River System Operations 

    The 31 federal dams in the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) have fueled the region's economic growth for more than 75 years, providing nearly 40 percent of the region's electric power supply as well as flood risk management, irrigation, navigation, and recreation. 

    The Columbia River System (CRS) is made up of 14 of the FCRPS dams that are operated in a coordinated manner to meet the Congressionally-authorized purposes of the dams, including the conservation of fish and wildlife species (both those listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and those that are not). Numerous biological opinions (BiOps) on the CRS operation and maintenance have guided operations for ESA-listed species since the first Columbia Basin stocks were listed. NOAA Fisheries, as the regulatory agency for ocean fish, is responsible for BiOps for anadromous fish (salmon and steelhead).  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is the regulatory agency for native fish, including bull trout and sturgeon, and issues BiOps governing actions for those fish. 

    Many factors have contributed to the salmon's decline, including overharvest, hatchery practices, degraded habitat and ocean conditions. Under these CRS BiOps and other laws and authorities, the federal Action Agencies (Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Bureau of Reclamation) carry out a wide range of actions to help listed fish at all stages of their lifecycle. This includes fish passage improvements, tributary and estuary habitat improvements, hatchery funding, predation management actions and many more to, improve river conditions and promote better survival past dams.


    March 29, 2019: The 2019 NOAA Fisheries CRS BiOp. NOAA Fisheries issued a final Biological Opinion on the continued operation and maintenance of the Columbia River System (CRS) on March 29, 2019 (2019 CRS BiOp) .  The 2019 CRS BiOp is based on the proposed action contained in the Action Agencies’ Consultation Package (2018 Consultation Package) . The 2018 Consultation Package contains a suite of actions that generally carried forward the actions from the Reasonable and Prudent Alternative in the 2008 NOAA Fisheries BiOp, as supplemented in 2010 and 2014.  The proposed action includes:

    • Continuation of the system operations for Congressionally-authorized purposes including flood risk management, fish and wildlife conservation, irrigation deliveries, and power system management. 

    • Continuation of the tributary habitat improvement program, targeting interior basin ESA-listed species.

    • Continuation of the estuary habitat measures to improve rearing habitat for juvenile salmonids

    • Continued funding conservation and safety-net hatchery programs (site specific operations are covered under separate BiOps).

    • Continuation of the predator management programs for marine mammals, avian, and pikeminnow predators.

    • Continuation of a targeted research and monitoring program.

    • Continuation of the adaptive management framework

    The 2019 CRS BiOp also incorporates the operation as described in the 2019-2021 Spill Operation Agreement  that resulted from collaboration between the Action Agencies, the states of Washington and Oregon, and the Nez Perce tribe. The operation will implement a flexible approach to providing additional spill as a tool intended to support spring juvenile fish downstream passage in concert with managing the CRS for multiple Congressionally-authorized purposes to assure the Pacific Northwest an adequate, efficient, economical, and reliable power supply.

    The 2019 CRS BiOp considerd the effects of the proposed operation and maintenance of the CRS and related conservation actions on 13 species of salmon and steelhead along with other ESA-listed species under NOAA Fisheries’ jurisdiction.  For the 13 salmon and steelhead species and eulachon, NOAA Fisheries concluded that the effects of the actions are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of these species or destroy or adversely modify their designated critical habitat. NOAA Fisheries also concurred with the Action Agencies’ determination that the effects of the action are not likely to adversely affect threatened green sturgeon and endangered Southern Resident killer whales because all pathways of effect to these species are either discountable or insignificant.

    This BiOp replaces the 2008 NOAA Fisheries BiOp, as supplemented in 2010 and 2014. The Action Agencies intend to implement the action as described in the 2019 CRS BiOp until the Action Agencies sign their Records of Decision at the completion of the ongoing National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process  and associated ESA consultations with NOAA Fisheries and USFWS.