Oct 24, 2012

How Budget Cuts to the PTAGIS Program May Affect You

Due to lower than expected revenues and unexpected high invoice totals for current Fish and Wildlife Programs (FWP), Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has recently issued spending cuts to many FWPs including the PTAGIS program. There have been a few articles explaining these cutbacks in more detail including this one from the Columbia Basin Bulletin: http://www.cbbulletin.com/422796.aspx.

This article is our best attempt to give notice of how recent budget cuts will impact the PTAGIS program and the community.  Our staff has done a remarkable job maintaining the integrity and continuity of the 24-year-old PTAGIS dataset while concurrently developing, testing and deploying the next generation technology that is critical to the success of this on-going program for the foreseeable future.  We are in the final phase of this multiyear effort and we will require your cooperation and patience to complete these tasks with even fewer resources.

The following sections outline the program deliverables most likely affected by the budget cuts and steps we think the community can take to help us mitigate the impact. 

PTAGIS Database and Website

Because of the decrease in funding and the escalating cost of support and licensing for the current Unix database platform, we will decommission the current PTAGIS web site, including the QueryBuilder reporting tool, as early as the end of March 2013.

We ask that all researchers as soon as possible create an account in the new replacement website (currently in beta) and recreate your data reports using the advanced reporting features.  When the website moves to production mode, your queries will not be lost. Please view the online training videos and documentation to get up to speed and provide us with constructive feedback in the online forums to help make the smoothest possible transition.  We are working on method for you to export your queries to aid in creating new queries on the replacement website.

We are coordinating with projects that require large portions of the PTAGIS dataset to recreate a suitable replacement for the telnet reporting tool and TMT files. A plan to deploy a mirrored PTAGIS database in the cloud to serve these requests more efficiently has been postponed.

PTAGIS will now have to rely on Commission resources to host the new website and most of our development platforms. We may experience some growing pains and performance issues while operating on these virtual servers. Please notify us if the new website seems to be running slow and have patience while we work with IT staff to optimize these resources the best we can.

PIT Tag Distribution

The Tag Distribution System (TDS) used to inventory and distribute PIT tags to BPA’s Fish and Wildlife Programs (FWP) will also be decommissioned next year due to support and licensing costs. We will do our very best to have a replacement distribution process; however, given our current workload we most likely will have to transition to an interim system of spreadsheets and email until it is ready for production use. We ask that all FWP sponsors be prompt and patient during this transition period to ensure ample lead time for the delivery of their tags.

PTAGIS Field Software

Development of the next-generation tagging software, P4, is postponed and we will have to rely on the aging P3 software for at least another year. We will be emailing surveys to the community late next year to help us scope the requirements of this project. Some of the infrastructure for this new program has been already developed with M4 (next-generation interrogation software) and we anticipate a fairly quick development process once it is started.

We ask users of P3, MiniMon and other PTAGIS software to help us by using the new online forums in the new replacement website to post technical support questions. We hope these forums will reduce phone calls and eventually provide a searchable knowledgebase to answer common questions. Feel free to answer forum questions and share your valuable (and civil) insight to other members in the community.

Technical Coordination

We will be limiting travel to and participation in regional meetings and technical forums. Ad hoc requests such as the evaluation and integration of emerging RFID technologies will be deferred.  BPA has recently indicated to us the support of PIT tag-related projects on the Willamette River is outside the scope of this program.

We will rely on the PIT Tag Steering Committee (PTSC) to be our ‘eyes and ears’ in the Basin and provide us with ample guidance during this critical period of the Program. If you have any concern or questions, please feel free to contact me or your PTSC representative.