Biology Committee Meeting

August 31 - September 1, 1999

Fish and Wildlife Service, Grand Junction, Colorado

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, Paul Dey, Pat Nelson, Chris Kelleher, George Smith, Rich Valdez, Tom Pruitt, Keith Rose, Quint Bradswisch, Mike Baker (Reclamation), Dave Soker, Doug Osmundson, Ron Ryel, and Ray Tenney.

Tuesday, August 31

Convene: 1:15 p.m.

1. Additions/revisions to the agenda - The agenda was modified as it appears below.

2. Approval of July 15-16, 1999 meeting summary - Approved as final.

3. Discussion/approval of draft final reports:

a. Floodability Assessments of Private Land Sites along the Green, Gunnison, and Colorado Rivers (Volume I A) - The summary of these standard floodability assessments was approved as final with one revision: recommendations scattered through the report will be summarized in a separate section.

b. Post-Restoration Sedimentation and Erosion Monitoring Evaluation for Green River Floodplain Habitat Restoration Sites near Vernal, Utah (Volume II A) - Comparison with changes observed in main channel morphology will be brought into this report. Pat explained that integration of the information in this report with biological results will take place in the levee removal evaluation reports. Results to date suggest that restoring the sites by breaching the levees on the downstream end has provided habitat for adult native and endangered fishes, but not larval fishes. We'll have to try opening areas on the upstream side to see if we can begin to entrain larval fishes. Tom Nesler asked if we have selection criteria for floodplain restoration sites; Pat replied that we do and >agreed to post those to the listserver again.

c. Biochemical Genetics of Endangered Colorado Pikeminnow from the Green, Yampa, Colorado and San Juan Rivers. Williamson, Morizot and Carmichael. The report was approved as final. Czapla will > notify authors about distributing a final report.

d. Facility Needs for the Production of Endangered Fishes of the Upper Colorado River. Tom Czapla noted that if we pursue development of additional facilities, we need to remember that most Ouray and Wahweap have reached capacity of their available water supplies. Frank asked what the report means where it says "once fish have been stocked in riverside ponds or similar locales they are considered stocked"? This will be clarified. In the Utah column of the table, the numbers will be modified to show the number of acres needed if we used hatchery ponds. The report needs a complete grammar check, and also should use either inches or millimeters, but not both interchangeably. The report should identify what percentage of the goals we're currently meeting. Under the table at the end, the report needs to clarify what is meant by "Do some grow out at current ponds and rest in "new" ponds." The report also should contain recommendations on maximum usable pond size. >Tom Czapla will revise the report based on these and other written comments and subsequently re-submit to the Biology Committee via the listserver by September 15.

4. Update/Discussion of Recovery Goals. Rich Valdez presented the plan/process for developing recovery goals for the endangered fishes throughout the Colorado River basin. With input from the Recovery Team and this Committee, Rich is developing recovery goals that will identify desired population size and structure for each population segment of each species based on genetic considerations and habitat availability. The goals will relate closely to down-listing and de-listing criteria. The recovery goals are to be developed by April 30, 2000, after which they will be published in the Federal Register for public comment. The goals will be in the form of a range of numbers, population structure, and demographics, and also will include recommendations for tracking progress toward these goals. The goals will be developed in the following steps: 1) meet with Recovery Team and Biology Committee; 2) determine the existing status of the species; 3) determine the genetic and demographic viability; 4) evaluate "self-sustainability" of populations; and 5) develop recovery goals. Rich would like to meet with the Biology Committee again in mid- to late November (preferably prior to Nov. 29-30, when he meets with the Recovery Team) to provide a first draft of the recovery goals for discussion. Rich said that in the process of developing these goals, they will consult with in-basin biologists who have the best knowledge of the fish status, and with a variety of geneticists and population ecologists. As soon as Rich identifies the population segments, he'll send that to the Biology Committee for comment (probably around the end of September).

5. Update on management of Escalante State Wildlife Area - Pat Nelson outlined CDOW's proposed development plan for Escalante SWA. Escalante covers several thousand acres, and the heart of it is probably one of the best flooded bottomlands left on the Gunnison River. CDOW's plan includes a proposal to remove a section of levee and lower a service road to increase the area and frequency of inundation around the oxbow. The Committee agreed that Pat should ask Reclamation develop a cost estimate for doing this work and that Pat should develop a scope of work for the Biology Committee's review. The Committee expressed concern that CDOW's proposal to create 12" wetland/waterfowl ponds might still not prevent over-wintering, and potential escape of nonnative fish.

Adjourn: 4:45 p.m.

Wednesday, September 1

Convene: 8:00 a.m.

6. Discussion of ISMP and it's future direction - Frank noted that Kevin Bestgen hopes to have some results from his pikeminnow population estimate from ISMP data for the Committee to review within the next few months.

Ron Ryel gave a presentation on types of population estimate models. We've been using closed models because open models require a high recapture rate and several years of sampling. Ron reviewed the various closed models and advantages and applications of each. The Committee discussed the effects of trap avoidance and release sites on recapture rates and independence between samples. Ron illustrated how varying capture probability and the number of sample periods affects the standard error of the population estimate. Since we're more concerned about the population being lower than our estimate, we probably want to focus more on having a tighter lower confidence interval. Rich noted that all this emphasizes the need for an ongoing, consistent monitoring program. John Hawkins recommended careful consideration of the variables that affect our probability of capture, noting that we may be able to use our knowledge to increase capture probability. Doug noted that because of the many variables that affect capture probability, he recommends developing population estimates by monitoring for two years (as opposed to estimating the population one year out of every five, for example).

Frank said we clearly want to make population estimates that we can measure against our recovery goals. Do we also want to continue to measure catch per unit effort (ISMP) for adult pikeminnow? The Committee agreed to keep the adult ISMP in place for another year. The next question is do we still want to use CPUE to monitor young-of-the-year, or do we want to try to make YOY populations estimates, instead? Demographics will be one aspect of recovery goals, thus it will be helpful to somehow measure YOY fish. The group agreed that fall trend data (CPUE) (as opposed to population estimates) are adequate for YOY, and should be done annually. However, we still want to proceed with our experimental, small-scale YOY population estimates scheduled for FY 2000.

The Committee agreed that the work planned for FY 2000 is on track (although we do need to send out the request for a proposal for pikeminnow population estimate on the Green River). When we get the results from Kevin Bestgen's work and see the recovery goals, then we'll want to discuss this again (primarily as it relates to the FY 2001 work plan), perhaps through a panel at the researchers meeting. Rich suggested that we need to improve our humpback chub monitoring. Ron said that we need to clarify what is and isn't ISMP. The group agreed that ISMP is the work that measures the biological parameters identified in recovery goals. The habitat component of monitoring needs to be discussed once we see how it fits in recovery goals.

Kevin asked if there's opportunity to use marked stocked fish in the population estimates? Ron said that you still have to capture the fish a first time to use them in mark/recapture studies, and also noted that stocked fish don't count toward the recovery goal number (although their surviving young will count when they become part of the population).

7. Update on Status of Flaming Gorge Report - Bob Muth said he'd received a number of additional comments on the report (most of which were posted to the listserver), and that he expects comments from Tom Pitts, Utah, and CUWCD shortly. >Larry Crist will post Cooper's comments to the listserver. >Bob Muth will post CWCB's comments. Robert Wigington has requested some of the raw hydrologic data so that their hydrologist (Brian Richter) can do some additional analysis. However, the integration team will continue with their work to address comments and revise the report since they don't know when or if TNC will provide additional comments. If the team just has to revise certain sections of the report, that revision will be done by early November. If more extensive revisions are needed, that would be done by early December.

8. Discussion on next year's annual researchers meeting - The meeting is Utah's responsibility this year. The date will be January 25-26. >Kevin Christopherson will determine a location send out a call for papers by mid-September. Themes/sessions/topics this year will include: nonnative fish control (> Bob Muth will organize); update on recovery goals; and instream flows.

9. Schedule next Biology Committee meeting - November 23 in Denver from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. >Angela Kantola will arrange for a meeting room at or near DIA. Recovery goals will be the main agenda item. Tom Chart will replace Larry Crist on the Committee for Reclamation as of this next meeting. Frank thanked Larry Crist for his past efforts on this committee.

Adjourn: 10:30 a.m.