BIOLOGY COMMITTEE MEETING SUMMARY
12/03/98

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Biology Committee Meeting

December 3, 1998, USFWS, Lakewood, CO

ATTENDEES: Larry Crist, Tom Pitts, John Hawkins, Art Roybal, Tom Nesler, Paul Dey, Robert Forrest, Frank Pfeifer, Tom Czapla, Angela Kantola, Chris Kelleher, Mark Fuller, George Smith, Henry Maddux, Kathy Holley, Pat Nelson.

Action or "to-do" items are identified by a ">."

Recommendations to the Management Committee are in ALL CAPS.

Items for upcoming meeting agendas are identified by an asterisk (*).

CONVENE: 9:20 am

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

2. Approval of November 18th meeting summary - The summary was approved as written.

3. Updates - Angela Kantola reported that 1200 gallons of crude oil spilled Tuesday/Wednesday in the White River below Rangely. The Service's contaminants specialists from Grand Junction have been responding, but have not found any oiled birds or dead fish at this point. Tom Nesler said the revised version of Colorado's private stocking regulations will be posted to the listserver next week. Comments or letters of support may be sent by the end of December to Tom Nesler or directly to the Commission (scheduled to discuss this on January 14-15). The aquaculture industry likely will oppose the 6500' limit as excessive, so letters of support as well as appearance at the Commission meeting will be helpful. >Several Committee members said they'd submit letters of support.

4. Review of proposed SOWs for importance of tributaries and recommendations for selection - John Hawkins commented that he appreciated having the principal investigator (PI) names removed (thus limiting bias in reviewing the scopes of work). Tom Czapla recommended the third proposal, but noted that he has concern regarding what the proposal says that the final report will provide. The third proposal also was recommended by the peer reviewers. Tom Nesler agreed with the reviewers' concern about whether the report can be delivered in the time proposed given all that the PI has said will be included. Tom Pitts agreed this is the best proposal but said he thinks the PI's need to include staff that can address issues of sediment transport. The Committee accepted the third proposal and asked that the PI's strengthen input of geomorphic expertise. Leo Lentsch said the PI's references to previous tributary work seems a little selective, and he hopes the PI's will broaden their selection in their review. Tom Czapla said the PI's are Tyus and Saunders and >he will ask them to address the geomorphological expertise, then will post a final SOW to the listserver.

5. Review/approval of revised Yampa nonnative fish removal SOW (#98) - The Committee asked John Hawkins to clarify the narrative on the methodology (population estimates). Tom Nesler noted that before this work can go forward, CDOW has to find someplace to put the fish (they'll be working to finalize this between January and March) as well as get permission for access from local landowners. The SOW also should mention that any response detected in ISMP will be included in the evaluation. The overhead is charged by LFL to BOR, so that should be made clear (also, the overhead cost on page 8 has the first two numbers transposed). Tom Pitts said he's fine with this SOW as long the Management Committee's late report policy is followed (that is, as long as the PI's have no overdue reports or they've provided adequate explanation). The Committee approved the SOW with the foregoing revisions. >If the PI's have overdue products without adequate explanation, Henry will make recommendations to the Management Committee.

6. Review/comment on revised channel monitoring scope of work - George Smith explained that the modification is to include work on embeddedness begun by Doug Osmundson. The work can be accomplished within the existing budget. Tom Pitts asked >George Smith to have the geomorphology peer review panel to review the embeddedness report and this scope to make sure that we're on the right track in continuing the embeddedness monitoring. Any revisions they recommend will come back to the Biology Committee.

7. Genetics Management Plan - Discussion of remaining issues that need to be resolved to finalize plan and recommendations from committee on best way to proceed. Tom Czapla went over the recent changes and noted remaining issues to be resolved on pages 13 and 14. >Tom Pitts said he'd meet with Robert Wigington to resolve their differences on the language in the second paragraph under Section IV and send/post it to the Committee by next Friday. In the first paragraph, under Section IV., instead of "first priority," the sentence will be restated as a goal. >Committee members will review the rest of the revisions to the plan and get any comments to Tom Czapla by December 17. If the comments can be adequately addressed, then >the Program Director's office will submit the revised plan to the Genetics panel for review. If comments are extensive, then Tom Czapla will contact Larry Crist to arrange a Committee conference call or meeting. John Hawkins commented that he thought a Table 4 would be added to more clearly identify augmentation priorities. Tom Nesler noted that it's not clear in the text versus in Table 2 how we'll be applying the IMO numbers. >*Tom Czapla said he'll send out an annual propagation operation plan for this year to before Christmas and the plan will be on the agenda for the next Biology Committee meeting.

8. Review/approval of revised Colorado stocking plan - Tom Nesler reviewed the changes based on Biology Committee recommendations and Doug Osmundson's and Robert Wigington's concerns. Tom Pitts asked why genetic swamping (second sentence of the second paragraph on page 17) is a concern if we follow the Genetics Management Guidelines. >Tom Nesler will note the procedures in the Genetics Management Guidelines that are intended to minimize that risk. Tom Pitts asked what is meant by "if the stocked fish leave the area?" in the second sentence of the next paragraph. >Tom Nesler will change this to say "stocking would be reevaluated" (rather than discontinued). On page 6, Tom Pitts asked what we're going to do about humpback chubs. Leo emphasized the need (as pointed out in the IMO document) to improve our information on the humpback life history. >Tom Nesler will add a sentence saying that humpback stocking may be considered later. >Tom Nesler will change "squawfish" to "pikeminnow." At John Hawkins' request, >Tom Nesler will emphasize the 3-year check point (page 4). >Leo said he'd provide Tom Nesler with a few other minor comments. Tom Pitts provided a few comments on recommendations 1 & 8) Tom Pitts asked if the plan is recommending revising the IMO's for Colorado pikeminnow. >Tom Nesler will clarify that. Leo Lentsch noted that the document shouldn't say there's no basis for the relatively high sex ratio (pg. 16). The Committee accepted the plan with the foregoing changes. >Tom Nesler will make the revisions and finalize the document.

9. Colorado squawfish translocation - Discussion of potential impacts of proposed translocation of Colorado squawfish in upper Colorado River on concurrent population estimates for the species and recommendations to management committee. Doug Osmundson's memo suggests options that would allow the translocation to go forward, but lessen the impact on the population estimates. The Committee discussed the options, and considered the need for translocation in light of progress to construct fish passage and planned stocking under Colorado's stocking plan. The majority of the Committee agreed to the translocation using the compromise option Doug presents in option 3 (take fish from the third pass only and supplement these numbers with additional effort after the third pass is complete). >John Hawkins will file a minority report because he supports Osmundson's recommendation not to translocate. >THIS WILL BE FORWARDED TO THE MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE.

10. Clarification of report reviews from last meeting - Leo asked the Committee if the model of the Osmundson 15-Mile Reach report (separate chapters) is acceptable for the Flaming Gorge studies that need synthesis and integration. The Committee agreed the Osmundson report is an appropriate model. Leo noted that additional comments on the reports were due to him by November 25; none were received.

11. Levee removal project report update - With regard to the Management Committee's request for a synthesis report on the last two years of data; Leo said that Todd Crowl became ill and they just got the last of his input yesterday. The first 6 chapters of the report are done, they're working on the last chapter, and >Utah should be able to mail the report tomorrow. This isn't a completion report, so it won't be peer reviewed, but the Program will use the report in helping to determine how to proceed with levee removal. Pat Nelson said he would like comments from the Committee on the report with regard to how levee removal should proceed.

12. Input and comments on NIWQP selenium remediation planning proposals - Pat said that NIWQP is ready to begin experimental selenium remediation in endangered fish habitat, and they would like our input on their proposals to make sure that the targeted sites and approaches won't interfere with Program recovery activities. All the pilot remediation projects will come through the Biology Committee for review. Frank Pfeifer asked what happens if the Committee recommends against a particular site or remediation approach. Pat said that if the Program believes a particular remediation activity would adversely affect the endangered fishes or their habitat, then it would not behoove NIWQP to proceed with it. Frank suggested that the Program Director's office write a letter to NIWQP saying the Biology Committee does not support the language in the draft problem statement that says: "Selenium concentrations...are impairing reproduction in some endangered fish" and "Providing a healthy environment ... requires... and selenium remediation." These statements are not based on fact. The Biology Committee would support a statement that elevated selenium concentrations may be impairing reproduction. The Committee also requests that NIWQP discontinue using the draft problem statement as it currently reads in public meetings. The Committee asked the >Program Director's office to write the letter.

13. Kenney Reservoir report revision: The Committee approved the report as final with the changes Tom has proposed.

14. Report Review: Effects of flow regulation and ice formation on overwinter nursery habitat and survival of Age-0 Colorado squawfish in the Green River (submitted to BC 9/15) - Deferred. (Being revised based on peer review comments. If Biology Committee members have comments now, those also may be submitted for incorporation in this current revision.)

15. Report Review: Geomorphology and hydrology of the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers and implications for habitats used by endangered fishes (submitted to BC 10/19) - The Committee agreed this report went through the review process that was in place at the time it was sent out for review. Frank said he brought to Pitlick's attention that the report does not have a recommendations section and Pitlick said he didn't have any recommendations. Tom Pitts said he thinks succinct statement of conclusions is needed. Frank agreed. Objective 4 needs to be more clearly addressed. The report was approved with the foregoing modifications.

16. Report Review: Green River Channel Monitoring Field Data Collection, Yampa and Little Snake Rivers (submitted to BC 10/29) - Tom Nesler noted that the reference to Yampa Canyon cross section variability doesn't belong in the Conclusions section. Tom Czapla commented that the recommendations should include monitoring for the Little Snake River. >Robert Forrest will provide additional written comments. The Committee approved the report with the foregoing revisions.

17. Report review process - The Committee reviewed a marked-up copy of the report review process and recommended that the PIs, not the Program Director's office send the reports out for review. Leo suggested that at the Biology Committee review step, it would really help if Committee members submitted written comments before the meeting so the PI can tell the Committee how he or she plans to address them. Others disagreed that this is feasible and necessary, but agreed that it could be added as an "if possible" statement. >Angela will finalize the process and send it out on the listserver.

18. Biology Committee Chairmanship - How best to handle, committee discussion and recommendations to Management committee - Tom Nesler said that he's okay with the current approach as long as all voting members take their turn (at least eventually; the Committee will understand that someone might not be able to serve in a year when they have a particularly heavy workload). Larry Crist suggested that one way of reducing the workload would be to make the vice-chair position more active. Henry said the Program Director's office will continue to help with draft meeting summaries and input on the agenda. Leo said he doesn't really concur with the recommendation to continue with the current approach, but he won't stop the Committee from going in that direction. Leo noted that the BLM facilitator has been very helpful on desert tortoises. Frank Pfeifer was elected as chair (beginning in February) and Art Roybal was elected as vice-chair. Larry Crist will serve as chair through the end of January.

19. Leo recommended that the chair of the Implementation Committee send a letter of thanks to Gary Burton and Mike Carnevale for their participation on the Biology Committee . >The Program Director's office will take care of this.

Upcoming agenda items (the next meetings are January 19-20 in Salt Lake City and February 10-11 in Grand Junction).

*Tim Modde has asked about the Committee's decision to bring all razorbacks into captivity; in light of the ratio of males to females, Tim would like the Committee to discuss whether some of the males can be used for radiotracking in the Duchesne River in association with the Duchesne scope of work. (>The Committee would like to see a written proposal from Tim). (The Committee would like to address the Duchesne scope and this recommendation as joint items.)

*Nonnative fish control at Highline Reservoir (>Tom Nesler will post something to the listserver on this).

ADJOURN 3:45 p.m.

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