STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD
COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to provide a written statement on S.1522, to reauthorize the Fisheries Restoration and Irrigation Mitigation Act of 2000 (FRIMA) for fiscal years 2008 through 2014. The Administration supports the principles of FRIMA as one of the tools to conserve and restore native anadromous and resident fish populations in the Pacific Northwest.
On November 13, 2000, Congress enacted Public Law 106-502, the Fisheries Restoration and Irrigation Mitigation Act (FRIMA). This Act created a voluntary fish passage partnership program administered by the Department of the Interior. The geographic scope of the FRIMA program is the Pacific drainage area of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and western Montana.
For decades, state, tribal, and federal fishery agencies in the Pacific Northwest have identified the screening of irrigation and other water diversions, and the resultant improvements to fish passage as an effective and important means to protect, recover, and restore native anadromous and resident fish populations. Irrigation districts in the Pacific Northwest also recognize that poorly-designed or unscreened water diversions result in fish mortality. Nearly 80 percent of water diversions in the Pacific Northwest are unscreened, and many have passage obstructions that pose a major risk to juvenile and adult threatened and endangered fish, including salmon, steelhead, bull trout, cutthroat trout, and Klamath basin suckers.
The FRIMA program is carried out by the Service on behalf of the Secretary of Interior, and the program focuses on screening water diversions and improving fish passage. FRIMA projects can result in nearly 100 percent survival of fish at what were often impassable and deadly water control structures. The program promotes both sustainable agriculture and sustainable fisheries and has strong support from both the public and the states – it is an example of the cooperative approach needed to restore depleted, native fish stocks.
The States of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, along with tribal and local governments have worked closely with the Service to assure projects are carefully evaluated and prioritized before being funded. Local and state governments have shown a strong commitment to the program, investing their own staff time and dollars to ensure projects are well designed and properly implemented. The FRIMA Steering Committee, made up of state, tribal, and federal representatives, ensures a collaborative approach to program implementation. FRIMA projects have involved the active participation and support of over 200 partners who make up the wide array of conservation districts, counties, cities and towns, irrigation districts, tribes, resource conservation and development councils, and environmental organizations that support this program. One indication of the strong support for this program is the amount of local cost share for FRIMA projects. Although the legislation only requires a non-federal cost share of 35 percent, the local cost share for the FRIMA program has averaged 55 percent.
From fiscal years 2002 through 2006, 121 FRIMA projects have been funded, 59 of which have been completed. In addition, there are many more acceptable projects with partners that are willing to provide their cost share amount. Through 2004 (the most recent year for which summary accomplishment reports are available), FRIMA projects protected 656 miles of stream, fixed 15 fish barriers, installed 68 fish screens, conducted nine inventories, completed five pre-design analyses, and developed one database.
The Administration supports the principles of FRIMA and recognizes that, in some instances, BPA funds are treated as non-federal cost share amounts. However, more study and evaluation is needed to determine whether Bonneville funds should be counted toward the non-federal component of FRIMA.
In conclusion, FRIMA projects contribute to our efforts to restore and conserve anadromous and resident fish populations in the Pacific Northwest. The FRIMA program is cost-effective and operates in a collaborative, partnership-driven manner with private landowners, non-governmental organizations, community leaders, and local, state, and tribal governments. The Administration supports the principles of FRIMA and looks forward to working with the Committee to address concerns with the legislation.