BIOLOGY COMMITTEE MEETING
Biology Committee Meeting
February 10-11, 1999, Grand Junction, CO
ATTENDEES: Larry Crist, Tom Pitts, John Hawkins, Tom Nesler, Robert Forrest, Frank Pfeifer, Angela Kantola, Kevin Christopherson, Henry Maddux, Pat Nelson, Doug Osmundson, Chris Keleher, Dave Soker, Vince Lamarra, Ron Ryel, Ray Tenney, Rick Anderson, Kathy Holley, Tom Pruitt, Tim Modde, Chuck McAda, and Keith Rose.
Paul Dey, Tom Czapla, Art Roybal participated in part of the meeting via conference call.
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 (*).
February 10, Convene: 10:20 am
1. Additions/revision to agenda - The agenda was revised as it appears below.
2. Approval of January 19-20 meeting summary - Approved as final.
3. Discussion/Approval of Pitlick's Recommendations - Pitlick's recommendations (in his report "Geomorphology and hydrology of the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers and implications for habitats used by endangered fishes") are not to be stand alone flow recommendations, but will be used by the Service when developing or refining flow recommendations. Tom Nesler asked about the conclusion regarding channel narrowing, whether it is only due to flows or could be a result of diking. >Frank will ask Pitlick if he wants to consider adding language to clarify this. The Committee approved the report and accepted the recommendations.
4. Discussion/Approval of Osmundson Report "Longitudinal Variation in Temperature and Fish Community Structure in Upper Colorado River: Implication for Colorado Pikeminnow Food Availability and Range Extension" - Tom Nesler asked why the report focuses on the native prey community when smaller pikeminnow did not have native fish in their stomachs. Doug replied the abundant native prey may be more important in larger pikeminnow. When biomass was calculated it didn't include fish in the backwaters. They only looked at fish larger than 100-150 mm. Nesler asked how we could use this information to increase carrying capacity in the lower river. Tom Nesler asked if the decrease in body mass of bluehead suckers from spring to fall could have been because of an increase in bluehead abundance. Nesler asked about the report's 40 ATU hypothesis. Do we need to test this before proceeding with passage? Doug said that the area will have value as adult habitat, but maybe not the same densities as the Grand Valley. It also will benefit razorbacks, probably even more than pikeminnow. Nesler said there could be a lot of implications if the 40 ATU hypothesis is correct. Most Biology Committee members felt that there will probably be more use by pikeminnow than what is suggested in the report. Nesler pointed out that Doug's analysis was that system would support 1000-1200 pikeminnow based on the current system and that we will need to consider this information when we revisit the IMO's. Kevin pointed out that we will also have to consider nonnative fish biomass.
Tom Pitts had concerns with conclusions 1 & 2 -- what fish were they referring to? Doug will clarify this and also clarify which conclusions apply to the Colorado River, Gunnison River, or both. Instead of just saying "strata 1" include a description of where this is (just in the conclusions, so the conclusions can stand alone). Number 15 includes increasing productivity and amount of preferred habitats in important areas; it should include examples of management activities that would accomplish this. Downstream decline in bluehead condition is noted in report -- are there any other things that could cause this besides productivity. Doug said it could be temperature/food combination (bioenergetics).
Kevin asked what this implies with regards to management in Utah. Reconnecting productive areas may be something to consider
The report was approved as final, with the minor changes.
5. Discussion/Approval of Lamarra Report "Longitudinal Variation in the Trophic Structure of the Upper Colorado River" - Vince apologized for not including a response to peer review comments. Tom Nesler asked what Vince meant when he said some reaches of the river were phosphate limited and others were nitrate limited. Vince said it depends whether these are from point or nonpoint sources. Vince does not believe that the system is limited by either nutrient, but, rather, that it is light limited (suspended sediments). Another factor would be to remove sediments from runs. Are chlorophyll A levels affected by Aspinall on the Gunnison? Vince responded that it was likely due to clearer water. Nesler asked about decreasing from 37 habitat types down to just runs and riffles and Vince replied the change was to make it comparable with Osmundson's report where he basically partitioned things into riffles and runs. Also they chose to look at primarily the dominant habitat types (runs and riffles). More habitat types were shown just to illustrate that there is habitat variety. Vince will add language to clarify this. He also hopes to be able to extrapolate to river mile and correlate this with Doug's results. A synthesis report will be coming out that will tie all this information together.
Tom Pitts asked about conclusion 4B -- it needs clarification between habitats and habitat areas. Vince will clarify. Pitts said recommendation No.1 should identify what components should be monitored and why on an annual basis. Vince will clarify. Vince also will clarify what strata the recommendations are referring to. Recommendations need clarification on what hydrologic events are being referenced. Recommendations need to be more specific in what they are trying to achieve -- be specific regarding what additional information needs to be collected. The report needs an executive summary (Vince has sent one out and will include it in the revised report.)
Nesler asked how the Program can improve the river based on this report. Vince said what needs to be done is flush the run habitats, thus increasing invertebrate production. This discussion will have to occur when the reports are integrated (Osmundson's, Pitlick's, and this one). This information could be used in establishing water quality standards, particularly with regards to sediments. The bottom line is to increase productivity, we must decrease suspended sediments and increase light penetration.
John Hawkins asked why backwaters were not really discussed as a primary habitat. Vince pointed out that surface area of backwaters is not that great during baseflows when the mapping occurred. Vince said that because of size of runs compared to backwaters, runs still produce more biomass of organisms. John was concerned that some of these small areas may be critical to certain lifestages of endangered fishes; the authors agreed.
>Vince will post a rewrite of recommendations to the listserver for further comment (within two weeks). The report was approved as final.
6. Discussion/Approval of Douglas Report "Gila Morphology" - Larry Crist recommended finalizing the report as is (it pre-dates the Program's report format requirements, and it's already been published in a peer-reviewed journal). The Committee agreed and accepted the report as final. Larry Crist noted that Don Buth's allozyme report is still outstanding and that Larry is still holding payment for that. A working draft final report was completed, but Larry doesn't believe anything else will be received. *>Tom Czapla will provide the Biology Committee with a copy of the document for discussion at an upcoming meeting.
7. Discussion/Approval of Modde/Anderson Report "Determination of Habitat Availability, Habitat Use, and Flow Needs of Endangered Fishes in the Yampa River between August and October" - The Committee needs to see a revised version before this report can be approved (Paul Day and Tom Nesler's comments need to be incorporated). >The Program Director's office will distribute the Miller report and the River District's report; Gerry Roehm is preparing hydrology analysis based on the CRDSS runs that should be out soon. The Committee discussed with Rick Anderson the meaning of the 93 cfs. flow recommendation. Rick distributed tables summarizing 82 years of flow records at the Maybell gage. During this period, flows were < 93 cfs. 9.6% of the time. In the 17-year period of CRDSS models, 5 years would be of concern under the carve-out scenario. Rick clarified that the report recommendation is to maintain the historical frequency of years with minimum flow under 93 cfs, and noted that the model shows that frequency would increase under the carve-out scenario. Tim Modde said the report does not judge whether or not it's appropriate to reduce spring peak flows in order to avoid increasing the frequency of years with a base flow <93 cfs. Rick suggested that there would be ecological ramifications with increased frequency of decreased base flows. John Hawkins asked if any curve break analysis was done to see if there's a break above 300 cfs and Rick said they did some gross analysis in 1996 that looked at 500 cfs. Tom Nesler asked if Rick believes this report should affect CWCB's base flow water right and Rick replied that he thinks the 88 cfs should be increased to 93 cfs (Tom Pitts cautioned that this would require a new filing). The mean monthly flow needs to be 150 cfs at least 70% of the years. Gerry is preparing a package that will help explain all of this. >Rick and Tim will try to clarify the meaning of the 93 cfs in the revision. In consideration of the large standard deviations (almost half of the mean) Chris Keleher pointed out that a large proportion of the river may be below the curve break with a grand mean of 93 cfs, and that there is no statistical difference between the curve break points for runs, riffles, or pools. Tim and Rick will revise the report and mail hard copies to the Committee on Friday afternoon, February 26. It will be discussed again at the next meeting.
8. Utah Stocking Plan - Mike Hudson said he received comments from Robert Forrest, Chris Keleher, Tim Modde, Tom Pruitt and Tom Czapla. Major changes in this revision: the facilities discussion was dropped; alternatives with and without recruitment occurring in the river have been considered; and it has been clarified that the IMO levels are not a definitive number that define recovery. Tom Pitts asked about the difference survival estimates in Utah and Colorado's plans. Mike said they've kept their number, since that's what's used in the IMO document, but that this is something that can be adjusted for over time. The Committee discussed the pros and cons of stocking one vs. two-year old fish. Frank emphasized the success they've had on the San Juan River with 2-year old fish. Tom Czapla endorsed putting age-1 fish into depression wetlands and letting them grow there for a year or two. Utah believes it's appropriate to try stocking 1-year old fish (per Alternative #4) and see how it works. Tom Pitts asked that they add the numbers or total weight of fish that would have to be raised under their recommended alternative. >Mike Hudson will do this within a week so that the propagation work group can use the numbers to determine facilities needs. The Committee discussed spring versus fall stocking and generally agreed to fall stocking. >Utah will revise the plan and recommendations and send out to the Committee by February 19. Comments are due back to Utah by March 5.
9. Bonytail Pit- tag issue - Utah got good survival on their bonytails at Wahweap and now has about 34,000 fish. The FY 99 SOW calls for fall stocking of only 20,000, but Wahweap needs to get rid of 10,000 to make room this spring, then stock the other 24,000 fish this fall. We only have enough funds programmed for 20,000 Pit tags. John Hawkins expressed concern about not following our established stocking protocols. Frank noted that another option would be to take them back to Lake Mohave. Since we don't have the equipment, perhaps we could borrow or rent the coded wire tag implanting equipment (>Tom Czapla will determine if this can be done). >Tom Chart will post something to the listserver on the benefit of stocking these additional fish. *Then the Committee will discuss this again at their next meeting. Coded wire tag readers would need to be purchased for FY 2000.
10. Biology Committee report format and process - Angela Kantola noted that the format calls for a "findings" section instead of results and discussion. The Committee agreed it should be changed to results and discussion (either separate or combined, per the writer's desire). Angela said that in one part of the report review process, it calls for the original SOW to be sent with the report and in another it calls for the most recent approved SOW. Angela will change it so it refers only to the most recent approved SOW. One principal investigator (Bob Burdick) thought it was too burdensome for peer reviewers to be asked to send a copy of their review to the Program Director's office, but the Biology Committtee disagreed, and left this as is.
11. Pikeminnow translocation minority report - Frank noted that John Hawkins provided a minority report to the Management Committee and the Management Committee subsequently agreed to defer the translocation (contrary to the Biology Committee's recommendation). Tom Nesler was disappointed that the minority report was not shared with the Biology Committee in a timely manner so that individual members could have discussed it with their Management Committee members . Tom said that when minority reports are filed, time needs to be allowed for Biology Committee members to read them and discuss them with their Management Committee members. Tom suggested that if the decision not to translocate fish was made because of the potential impact on the population estimate for the biological opinion, then perhaps we shouldn't operate Redlands in the interim because 10% of the population has passed over Redlands. Henry Maddux noted that the lack of information to be gained from the translocation was as big a factor in the Management Committee's decision as the effect on the population estimate. The Committee agreed that minority reports need to be filed no more than 2 weeks after the Biology Committee meeting where the majority/minority decision was made. >Henry Maddux will make this a point of information at the next Management Committee meeting. >The Committee agreed to recommend the translocation for FY 2000 Program Guidance.
12. White River report concerns - Tom Pitts said the water users further reviewed the report, found some inaccuracies and also have concerns about some of the recommendations. The description of Kenney Reservoir operation is not based on current information. The flow duration curve should be a flow exceedance curve. Validity of the pre and post-dam hydrology is questionable since 5 of the 10 years of post-dam were drought years. With regards to the recommendations, the report doesn't contain information to support: limiting daily fluctuations below Taylor Draw Dam to 5%; water conservation and clean-up through tax subsidies, etc.; or acquiring water rights for instream flows. Pitts said he thought we'd closed the issue of building passage at Taylor Draw and doesn't see the point of reopening that discussion, as suggested in the recommendations. >Tom will provide specific written comments on these to Utah next week. >Kevin will discuss these with the authors to see if changes along these lines will be acceptable. The Committee supported retaining the 5% daily fluctuation limit if it can be supported in text. The Committee feels that Taylor Draw Dam passage is a low priority, so if the authors intend on making that recommendation, they need to provide information that supports it. With regard to instream flow protection, Utah should clarify that this should be through instream flow protection mechanisms in Colorado and Utah. The recommendation on water clean-up should be removed. If Pitts and Utah can come to agreement, then the Committee doesn't need to see the revisions. >With regards to the term metapopulation, Kevin will make revisions and get Tim Modde and John Hawkins approval of that section. The report was accepted as final with these changes.
13. Discussion of draft FY 2000 Program Guidance - Henry Maddux outlined highlights of the recommended guidance, and the Committee provided the following comments:
Habitat restoration - Frank expressed concern about the delay in getting passage at Price Stubb. Pat said Reclamation plans to restore passage as early as this fall. >Pat Nelson will check on the status and provide an update to the Committee. Henry outlined changes in the floodplain restoration program which include moving ahead with breaching levees at high-priority floodplain terraces and experimentally lowering levees on the upstream end at one or more sites. Tim Modde expressed concern about Reclamation getting the floodplain restoration work at Johnson Bottom and Leota complete before spring runoff. Pat said Reclamation has promised to get these done by then. >Pat will provide a written list of all the projects with schedule concerns (including the hatcheries at Ouray and Grand Valley) to the Management and Biology committees in advance of the March 3 Management Committee meeting, and >Angela Kantola will make sure this is on the agenda for that meeting.
Propagation and genetics management - With regards to the review of hatchery facilities in FY 2000 (project #100), Henry said this was requested by the Management Committee, but he thinks it might be better to wait and do this after a couple of years of operation at all the new facilities. The Committee agreed and recommended deleting this for FY 2000.
Research, monitoring, and data management - The Committee noted that project #22A1 should be titled "ISMP Coordination and Reporting." Project 22A4, Yampa humpback chub population estimate, does need to be revised, but based on pursuing a juvenile index in FY 2000 if enough adults still are not collected in FY 1999. Tom Czapla emphasized that the *Biology Committee needs to have a lengthy discussion of ISMP goals and objectives. >Tom Czapla will draft a document framing the questions and outlining some recommendations to jump-start the Biology Committee on this. Czapla will share this draft with John Hawkins, Chuck McAda, and Tom Pitts to get their input before it goes to the Biology Committee. This document needs to clearly identify what ISMP is doing now and outline potential additional recommendations.
The Committee recommended additional new starts for:
- Translocation of Colorado pikeminnow above the Colorado River diversions.
- The Committee discussed the proposed new start from Art Roybal of Western to assess presence and habitat use of overwintering age-0 Colorado pikeminnow in the upper Green River. Committee members asked how simple use or absence data could be related to operation of Flaming Gorge. They key question seems to be that if YOY pikeminnow are using these backwaters during the winter, then how do Flaming Gorge fluctuating flows affect their movement, condition, and survival? The Committee agreed that a study of the effects of winter flow fluctuations on overwinter survival of YOY Colorado pikeminnow would be appropriate Program guidance. Art Roybal will work with Larry Crist, Bob Muth, and Tom Czapla and provide revised Program guidance on this to the Biology and Management committees.
John Hawkins suggested a new start to develop a population estimate for Colorado pikeminnow in the Green/Yampa river by sampling them with fyke nets as they enter and leave the Yampa River spawning area. Frank said he thought we agreed to do one population estimate at a time, thus it would be appropriate to start this after the Colorado River estimate is completed. John recommended that we get ahead of the curve and do one site as a pilot study to see how the fyke net approach would work. Henry asked what getting an estimate of just the spawning population will tell us. John replied that's the population we're primarily concerned with, that this would give us an annual estimate, and that over several years, you would hope to gain understanding of year-to-year variation. Most of the Committee agreed that this would be appropriate new start for FY 2001, but not FY 2000 guidance. If Colorado has extra GOCO funds, the Committee would certainly encourage them to begin a pilot study on this. John feels strongly about the need for a pilot study, so he plans to submit this as an unsolicited new start.
14. Discussion of Revisions to RIPRAP - Biology Committee members outlined their concerns with the draft revised RIPRAP. Henry Maddux provided an additional revision to page 42 of the RIPRAP for evaluation of the nonnative fish screen on Highline Reservoir. >Tom Pitts said he will provide comments to the Biology and Management committees, and the Program Director by February 19. Art Roybal and Paul Dey said they would do the same if they have concerns.
John Hawkins provided several comments. On page 17 (text section), the Program Director has recommended an addition to the end of the last paragraph, John suggests adding: ", based on an evaluation after 3 years." The Committee agreed. With regards to deleting "as guided by the Genetics Management Plan," on page 26, 42 and 45, John said the environmental groups believe the yes/no table in the Plan does guide which stocks will be augmented. Frank countered that the Genetics Management Plan only identifies broodstocks to be developed, not stocks to be augmented. The Committee agreed with Frank and believes that the forthcoming stocking plans will address John's concerns. >John Hawkins will provide a minority opinion to the Biology and Management committees by February 19. John noted that bonytail introduction on the Yampa and Colorado are characterized slightly different, Tom Czapla will check the bonytail augmentation language on pages 30 and 42 to make sure they match.
Larry Crist asked if development of an adaptive management program for Flaming Gorge would be an appropriate revision to the RIPRAP as a way of addressing future flow refinements. Henry and others endorsed this idea, but recommended that it be incorporated in the synthesis report and then consider adding to the RIPRAP next year after people have had an opportunity to see the recommendation in the synthesis report.
The Committee recommended a new item (IIB3b4) to add evaluation of the of the Government Highline diversion screen in FY 04.
Tim Modde asked if the Committee wanted to discuss the RIPRAP items in the draft High Savery opinion. Frank emphasized that the Committee's charge is to make sure that the RIPRAP contains all of the items necessary to recover the fish, not relating items to Section 7 consultations. Keith Rose confirmed that Tim needs to work with the Cheyenne office as the Service's research representative on the Yampa if he has concerns about the draft opinion. Tom Nesler expressed concern about Colorado bearing the burden/pressure for Yampa River nonnative fish control (as identified as an RPA in the draft opinion) and thus, wonders if there are ways of sharing that burden (even if only financially) more evenly with Wyoming, since they're the ones developing the water. Tom Pitts clarified that since this item is already in the RIPRAP, there is no additional pressure.
15. Prioritization of Capital Projects - Henry Maddux provided a recommended list of capital projects to be funded if/when funds become available. Since BR is behind schedule on the 24 Road expansion, the Committee recommended using part of the 100K (set aside for expansion of 24 Road hatchery) to be used for the purchase of a pump for Wahweap water supply, and ask Reclamation to find a way to make up the shortfall for Grand Valley. >Henry Maddux will post this recommendation to the listserver. The Committee reviewed Henry Maddux's list and recommended the following priorities: 1) ensure completion funding for the Grand Valley 24 Road hatchery facility (from which the Committee recommended taking funds to purchase a pump for the Wahweap water supply); 2) purchase fish tagging equipment for coded wire tags; 3) accelerate fish passage at Price-Stubb and Government Highline diversions; 4) converting Leota 10 for use as a growout pond; 5) experimentally lower levees on the upstream end; 6) breech levees at terraces; 7) Ouray growout pond; and 8) expand Wahweap from to allow bonytail broodstock development (would probably require expansion of building for broodstock development and quarantine facilities). >The Program Director's office will get scopes of work and cost estimates developed for these so they'll be ready to go if and when funds become available
16. Channel monitoring scope of work - Strand and Trush provided comments on Doug's proposed continued depth to embeddedness work. Frank said Doug is assuming that depth to embeddedness can be a good indicator of productivity; Trush has suggested that it would be more prudent to first be absolutely certain that this is true. Tom Pitts said he read the comments and is comfortable with proceeding with the revised scope of work, but just asked Doug to consider Trush's comments on macroinvertebrate sampling and non-linear relationship of embeddedness to standing crop. The Committee agreed to make this work part of SOW 17 Channel Monitoring.
17. Annual Propagation Operation Plan - Tom Czapla introduced the draft plan, focusing first on the five recommended propagation/policy changes for 1999. 1) The Committee agreed that Wahweap should be the backup for middle Green River razorback sucker. 2) With regards to stocking excess broodstock in the river, Czapla noted the effect on Ne of stocking 9,500 excess fish from one lot into the river. The Committee already has agreed that's acceptable because the effect on the Ne will be equalized over time. The Committee will need to approve any other use of these fish (e.g., use by USU in predator-prey relationship studies). 3) Request to expand Wahweap from a growout facility to bonytail broodstock development (would probably require expansion of building for broodstock development and quarantine facilities). The Committee agreed >Czapla should work with Wahweap to develop a scope of work for this (for potential contingency in FY 99 or for FY 2000.) 4) and 5) - The Committee already has agreed to streamside spawning of Colorado pikeminnow and obtaining Lake Mohave razorback larvae for grow out and back up for meeting the 25 mated pairs design. Czapla then reviewed the elements of the 1999 plan for each facility and the Committee made minor comments on this and other sections of the plan. >Committee members will provide any additional comments on this document by February 19, then >Czapla will revise the plan based on the Committee's comments.
18. Schedule the next meeting - March 30-31 at the Service office in Grand Junction, start time will be 10:00 AM. Agenda items for upcoming meeting(s) include: Yampa River flow report, Utah stocking plan, Modde and Day report on the Green River, three to four other reports from Utah; the Buth razorback draft report, how to apply the IMO's (to subpopulations, populations, metapopulations), and ISMP objectives.
Todd Crowl requested moving the due date for IMO model maintenance to July instead of January in light of delayed funding. The Committee agreed. >Larry Crist will make sure the funds get transferred ASAP.
Noting that there does appear to be teeth in the Program's late report policy, Frank distributed a copy of the letter sent from the Management Committee to Utah regarding their late reports.
ADJOURN, February 11, 1999, 1:00 P.M.
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