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Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinion

The operation of the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) affects eulachon and the following 13 species of Columbia River Basin salmon and steelhead listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The operation of the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) affects eulachon and the following 13 species of Columbia River Basin salmon and steelhead listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

  • Lower Columbia chum salmon
  • Lower Columbia Chinook salmon
  • Lower Columbia coho salmon
  • Lower Columbia steelhead
  • Middle Columbia steelhead
  • Snake River fall-run Chinook salmon
  • Snake River spring/summer-run Chinook salmon
  • Snake River sockeye
  • Snake River steelhead
  • Upper Columbia spring-run Chinook salmon
  • Upper Columbia steelhead
  • Willamette River spring-run Chinook
  • Willamette River steelhead

The ESA requires the agencies that operate the FCRPS (FCRPS Action Agencies) to ensure that their actions are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species, nor result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat.

The three FCRPS Action Agencies are the Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration, and the Bureau of Reclamation. The FCRPS Action Agencies consulted with NOAA Fisheries on the effects of FCRPS operations on ESA-listed species. The resulting FCRPS Biological Opinion (2008) guides the Action Agencies in operating the FCRPS and requires a series of mitigation measures, called Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives (RPA), to address effects on ESA-listed salmon, steelhead, and eulachon.

The actions in the FCRPS Biological Opinion are, in general, a 10-year operations and configuration plan for the FCRPS facilities, as well as the mainstem effects for various other hydro projects on Columbia River tributaries operated for irrigation purposes. The FCRPS Biological Opinion sets performance standards of 96 percent average per-dam survival for spring migrants and 93 percent for summer migrating fish. Additional actions includes habitat, hatchery, predation management, and harvest actions to mitigate for the adverse effects of the hydrosystem, as well as numerous research, monitoring, and evaluation actions to support and inform adaptive management decisions.

Regional state and tribal entities oversee the implementation of the FCRPS Biological Opinion through the Regional Oversight Implementation Group, consisting of senior policy representatives from federal agencies, the States, and tribes.

We updated the 2008 FCRPS Biological Opinion with the Adaptive Management Implementation Plan in 2009 and a Supplemental Biological Opinion in 2010. We subsequently developed a 2014 Supplemental FCRPS Biological Opinion to address a 2011 Court Remand Order requiring the agency to re-examine the 2008 and 2010 Biological Opinions and requiring more specific identification of habitat actions planned for the 2014-2018 period of the Biological Opinion. We adopted the 2014 Supplemental FCRPS Biological Opinion on January 17, 2014. Related documents are provided below.

Letters of Authorization for Research

NOAA Fisheries must issue a letter of authorization for research on ESA-listed species. As part of the FCRPS Biological Opinion, research on critical uncertainties enables us to address the effects of the FCRPS on ESA-listed species in the Columbia basin. Since this research impacts ESA-listed salmon, steelhead, and eulachon, it is included in the analysis and accounted for in the "Incidental Take Statement."

Projects receiving letters of authorization are required to follow certain handling criteria to minimize take and develop an annual report describing the actual take levels observed.

For a project to be eligible for a letter of authorization, it must meet the following requirements:

  1. research specifically required in the FCRPS Biological Opinion or the associated Adaptive Management Implementation Plan; or
  2. data produced by the research must be adequate to justify the amount of take requested.

We also recommend that the proposed research be reviewed by a regional fisheries review panel, such as the Independent Scientific Review Panel and Studies Review Work Group.

For more information please contact Chris Magel at Chris.Magel@noaa.gov.

Dam & System-wide Improvements

Mitigation Actions


Last updated by West Coast Regional Office on July 05, 2024