Biology Committee Meeting

July 15-16,1999

Fish and Wildlife Service, Lakewood, CO

Participants: Frank Pfeifer, Tom Pitts, Tom Nesler, Kevin Christopherson, Larry Crist, John Hawkins, Art Roybal, Angela Kantola, Tom Czapla, Bob Muth, Henry Maddux, Tom Chart, Kevin Bestgen, Dan Beyers, Pat Nelson, Chris Kelleher, Debbie Felker, George Smith, Joe Lyons, Tom Ryan, Ed Wick, Kirk LaGory, Rich Valdez, Gary Burton, and Brian Cluer.

Thursday, July 14

CONVENE - 10:15 a.m.

1. Additions/Revisions to the agenda - The agenda was revised as it appears below.

2. Approval of June 3 meeting summary - The summary was approved as written.

3. Discussion of and recommendations on the draft FY 2000 work plan (a spreadsheet containing Biology Committee comments on the scopes of work will be posted to the listserver by Angela Kantola).

a. Instream flow identification and protection -

(84) Henry Maddux noted that the Duchesne scope of work has been revised (the revised scope was distributed to the Committee). Kevin said the biggest change is that they will wrap up the field work in FY 2000 and begin some of the analysis since they believe some of the questions have been answered (e.g., adult shocking and larval fish work). The remaining fieldwork will emphasize radiotelemetry (24-hour tracking and increased aerial tracking) to better determine fish movement and microhabitat use. Tom Nesler said the working hypotheses for at least objectives 1 &2 should relate to how flows are being evaluated. Will this allow us to assess and refine instream flow recommendations? Larry asked what the point of the curve break analysis was, if all you have is winter use by adult pikeminnow.

(NEW) Tom Nesler expressed concern that the new fluctuating flow effects scope of work appears to assume that backwaters are the preferred overwinter habitat, and suggested that we need to test that assumption. The most important part of the first year of this work should be to demonstrate that sampling the portion of the population that uses backwaters is indeed a representative sample of the overall population. Tom Pitts said he wants to make sure that Reclamation can provide the necessary test flows for this study. Larry Crist said he thinks they can.

b. Habitat restoration -

(CAP-6, LR) The Committee reduced the FY 99 annual report analysis by half (the data still need to be analyzed, so some funds are needed, but since an annual report won't be done, the full amount shouldn't be needed).

(CAP-6, Weed Mgmnt.) Art Roybal volunteered to review the weed management plan being developed on lands acquired and/or restored for endangered fishes. It was suggested that an interagency agreement be developed between the FWS and public land management agencies (e.g., BLM) for noxious weed management. Western can supply examples of past interagency agreements for noxious weed control written with land management agencies.

(NEW) Razorback survival in floodplain - The Program Director's Office recommendation to combine the UDWR and USFWS scopes of work was not followed. Pat said he had envisioned parts of what both UDWR and USFWS have proposed. The Committee asked how the information would be used, whether enough larval fish would be available, etc. Pat said he sees the purpose of this work is to demonstrate larval survival to a size where they have a strong chance of survival. The Committee discussed the project at length and came to the conclusion that most of this work should be delayed by a year. However, the field sampling of the 3 sites in the UDWR proposal should be incorporated into the levee removal scope of work.

c. Reduce nonnative fish and sportfish impacts - No comments on this section.

d. Propagation and genetics management -

(25) Bonytail reintroduction - The Committee thought monitoring should be part of a larger effort to monitor the fishes stocked under the Utah stocking plan, but later agreed to fund most of this work.

(29c) Kevin said Wahweap needs a minimum of $114K.

(NEW) Frank disagreed with the PD office comment, noting that the proposed translocation has very little to do with completion of passage. The Committee agreed and recommended funding this study in FY 2000.

e. Research, monitoring, and data management -

(22) Tom Czapla said that ISMP is still something of a "black box." John Hawkins noted that the sites monitored under 22f are important in making recommendations for Flaming Gorge operation. Larry Crist also questioned some of the monitoring priorities as reflected in the Program Director's recommendations. The Committee had a long discussion on the merits of the various components of the ISMP (CPUE, population estimates, drift sampling, etc.) After agreeing on sampling components for FY 2000, the Committee discussed how to come to more complete agreement on what ISMP will be long-term. >The Committee decided they need to be the ones to resolve that, so they will take it up again in August. Meanwhile, >Kevin Bestgen will work on a population estimate for Colorado pikeminnow in the Colorado River using existing ISMP data (for $7,000 to be transferred in FY 2000).

ADJOURN 6:00 p.m.

Friday, July 16

CONVENE 7:30 a.m

Angela Kantola distributed a revised draft FY 2000 budget table containing the Biology Committee comments.

4. Discussion/Approval of draft final reports:

a. Flaming Gorge Synthesis report - Bob Muth gave a brief overview of the report. Larry Crist noted that the report recommends flows for the endangered fishes, not operational requirements for Flaming Gorge dam.

Tom Pitts asked how future development on tributaries was handled in this report. Bob replied that they assumed very little future development on the Yampa and White rivers and acknowledged that if that changed, then the recommendations would need to be revisited. Tom said he thinks the Duchesne River depletions need to be factored into the hydrology in the report, as do the High Savery depletions on the Little Snake River. The hydrology also needs to acknowledge that future depletions will occur on the Yampa River (the 50,000 acre-feet being discussed in the Yampa Management Plan). Others agreed. Tom Ryan clarified that this report focuses on the fish needs, not how you meet those needs. Others countered that the report does indeed contain recommendations for operation of Flaming Gorge dam (and many consider that acceptable, but didn't want those recommendations to be misinterpreted as operational constraints).

Kirk emphasized that they identified the magnitude and frequency of peak flows needed in reach 2 & 3 and then outlined how to operate Flaming Gorge to meet those. It appears that we need to address whether the target flows for reach 2 are correct. The Committee recommended that the authors delete clause on second line of page 5-18 that says "limited to maximum power plant levels."

Tom Nesler said the authors need to make sure that citations for reports that were draft, but are now final, are still accurate citations. They also should strengthen the language that links the biology and the hydrology in Chapter 4.

Ed Wick strongly recommended restricting the daily fluctuations currently allowed in Lodore. The authors will clarify the text so readers can better understand the flow recommendations as they relate to the 0.1m stage change.

The report needs to acknowledge other recovery actions being undertaken in addition to Flaming Gorge flow recommendations (see WAPA's comments) in Chapter 1. John Hawkins said we need to be developing charts that show the flows we predict and the flows we actually get. (Others agreed, but noted that this requirement belongs in the Biological Opinion, not in this report.) With regards to entraining larval fish in some floodplain sites, it's not the duration of flooding that's important, but the river needs be rising to get the larval fish to drift in.

Include the chapter authors in the final report.

Lengthy discussion continued and comments were noted by the report authors.

>Written comments on the report are due to Bob Muth by Friday, August 13. >At the Biology Committee's August 31 meeting, the authors will let the Committee know when they can provide a revised report (or perhaps just the portions that are changed). >Comments also should be circulated to the rest of the Biology Committee, also (the easy way to do this is just to post them to the fws-coloriver listserver).

b. Effects of Flow Regulation and Ice Processes on Overwinter Nursery Habitat of Age 0 Colorado Pikeminnow in the Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam - Valdez, Cowdell. Tom Nesler expressed concern that the report assumes that backwaters are the most important winter habitat. This assumption needs to be made clear. Also, should reference Utah's reports that have looked at other habitats. The report goes right from discussion to recommendations. A bulleted conclusion section needs to be added. The report also needs an assessment of whether or not the objectives were achieved. With regard to the recommendations, Tom asked about number 4 (regarding unnecessary energy expenditures when ice processes affect the backwaters), since we don't know what percentage of the fish are using the backwaters. >Rich will move this to the discussion section or qualify to explain that it's not based on hard data. The Committee accepted the report with the understanding that >the foregoing changes will be made.

c. Overwinter Survival of Age 0 Colorado Pikeminnow in the Green River, Utah 1987-1995 - Valdez and Cowdell. The same format changes need to be made to this report. >Angela Kantola will modify the biology report format requirements to make sure they clearly state that an assessment of whether or not objectives were met is required, and that conclusions should be in bullet format. Other minor changes were suggested and noted by the author. Recommendations #2 and #5 also are based on the premise that backwaters are the most important winter habitat. Recommendation #5 needs to be clarified. The Committee accepted the report with the understanding that >the requested changes will be made. Rich will finalize both of these reports by August 15.

d. Channel Narrowing of the Green River near Green River, Utah: History, Rates and Processes of Narrowing. - Allred and Schmidt. Report needs a distinct list of conclusions, and the recommendations need to be in their own section. The Committee accepted the report with the understanding that >the requested changes will be made. >Kevin will communicate this to the authors.

e. CSF Genetics report - Williamson, Morizot and Carmichael - Deferred.

5. Recovery Goal Process - Henry noted that at the last Implementation Committee meeting Colorado asked, and the Committee agreed, that we accelerate development of the specific recovery goals. Rich has been hired to work with the Recovery Team to get these done, then on to the Service, who will then take them through the public approval process. (Chuck McAda is the new chair of the Recovery Team). Rich said he's scheduled to meet with the Recovery Team in late August, wherein: they'll talk about the scope of work and provide input on the proposed approach (which includes a genetic and a habitat component); Rich and Ron Ryel will provide a sample scenario for a given subpopulation(s) to illustrate how they'll develop the recovery goals (e.g., Colorado pikeminnow recovery in the Green River); and the group will discuss how this process can be applied basinwide. Rich said he thinks it would be appropriate to do the same thing with the Biology Committee. The Biology Committee will allow an hour to an hour and a half to begin discussing the facilitation of recovery goals at their August 31 meeting.

6. Next meeting - August 31, 10:00 a.m in Grand Junction. This meeting may be extended to Wednesday, September 1 (>Art Roybal or Frank will poll the other Committee members via the listserver about adding another day). >Frank Pfeifer will arrange a meeting room.

ADJOURN - 1:45 p.m.