Interjurisdictional Fish Conservation/Fish Passage
Migratory Bird Conservation
Clear Lake, Texas Ecological Services Field Office
Corpus Christi, Texas Ecological Services Field Office
Arlington, Texas Ecological Services Field Office
The Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office
Arizona Ecological Services Field Office
Bloomington, Indiana, Field Office
Chicago, Illinois, Field Office
Columbia, Missouri, Field Office
East Lansing, Michigan, Field Office
Green Bay, Wisconsin, Field Office
Rock Island, Illinois, Field Office
Marion, Illinois, Sub-Office
Reynoldsburg, Ohio, Field Office
Twin Cities, Minnesota, Field Office
Arkansas, Conway Field Office
Jacksonville, Florida Field Office
Florida, Vero Beach Field Office
Georgia Field Office
Frankfort, Kentucky Field Office
Lafayette, Louisiana Field Office
Jackson, Mississippi Field Office
Asheville, North Carolina Field Office
Raleigh, North Carolina Field Office
Puerto Rico, Caribbean Field Office
Charleston, South Carolina Field Office
Cookeville, Tennessee Field Office
Chesapeake Bay Field Office
New York Field Office
Long Island Field Office
Maine Field Office
New England Field Office
Pennsylvania Field Office
Southwest Virginia Field Office
Virginia Field Office
West Virginia Field Office
Migratory Bird Conservation
Anchorage Field Office
Juneau Field Office
Fairbanks Field Office
Threatened and Endangered Species
Programmatic/Land Management Review
Bear River Settlement: The Bear River, which flows from Wyoming, through southeastern Idaho and into Utah and the Great Salt Lake, is an important regional habitat for fish and wildlife resources. There are also two National Wildlife Refuges that depend on Bear River flows and several state wildlife management areas that are also linked hydrologically in this area. Bear River flows into and out of Bear Lake, a large fresh water body shared by the States of Idaho and Utah. Bear Lake is home to Bonneville cutthroat (BCT) as well as four endemic fishes including the Bear Lake sculpin, Bear Lake white fish, Bear Lake cisco and the Bonneville whitefish.
Bear River is heavily developed for hydropower and irrigation, yet remains a prime habitat for native fishes and is also an important recreation resource. The current proposal for a new dam and powerhouse at Oneida Narrows (FERC No. 12486) would inundate over 4 miles of mainstem Bear River habitat, and has the potential to alter flows and water quality downstream. Pacificorp, which recently relicensed all of its Bear River hydropower projects, developed a settlement agreement with the Service and other partners to conserve, protect, and restore habitat for BCT in Bear River reaches affected by its projects. Pacificorp and signatories to the Settlement consider the development of new hydroelectric facilities on the Bear River a threat to ongoing conservation efforts for this species.
The Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) will continue to work with Pacificorp and other signatories to the Settlement to conserve and restore BCT in the Bear River. Regarding the proposal for a new hydropower project at Oneida Narrows, the SRFWO will work within the FERC process, providing comments and conservation recommendations which address potential project effects on BCT and other fish and wildlife resources of the Bear River. The SRFWO’s Eastern Idaho Field Office will lead coordination efforts with other concerned parties, including the Utah State Office of the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Mid-Snake River Hydroelectric Projects Settlement Implementation: A settlement agreement between Idaho Power Company and the Service was signed in 2004. Shortly thereafter, the FERC issued new licenses for five Middle Snake River hydroelectric projects (Shoshone, Bliss, Upper Salmon, Lower Salmon, and CJ Strike). The Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) has been intimately involved in implementation of the Settlement, particularly carrying out studies and analysis to better quantify load following effects on listed aquatic snails. We provided funding for research, completed this year, for studies carried out by Montana State University. Idaho Power, in close coordination with the Service, is also conducting studies, the final of which are planned for 2008. Projects are being operated run-of-the-river for the life of the license or until the company brings forward substantial evidence that load following can be carried out while still conserving and protecting listed Snake River snails, particularly Bliss Rapids snail and the Snake River physa. The Service-led snail technical teams include representatives of several universities and State and Federal agencies and they are working in an advisory capacity to the Company. With much of the field and lab data now gathered as of 2007, the technical teams are organizing, reviewing and analyzing the information as a basis for hydroelectric operational decisions in 2008-9. It is noteworthy that the license and associated section 7 consultation for these projects were challenged in court and the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of the Service and the FERC in August 2006.
Mid-Snake River Hydroelectric Projects License Implementation: The Idaho Power Company began implementation of their recreation plans for the Mid-Snake and C.J. Strike Projects, completing section 7 consultations for proposed improvements to boat ramps and concentrated camping sites. The Company worked with the Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) to design and implement numerous surveys for listed aquatic snails in the areas to be affected, and implemented components of their License Articles for habitat acquisition and the operation of the existing wildlife management areas related to the C.J. Strike Project. The SRFWO continues to participate with the management advisory committee for the C.J. Strike Wildlife Management Areas, with an emphasis on promoting efforts to remove invasive exotic species and restore native shrub-steppe and riparian habitats for the benefit of migratory birds. The Company purchased a 170 acre wetland and riparian tract to be managed to mitigate for the effects of flow fluctuations on springs, wetlands and riparian habitats downstream of the C.J. Strike Project. The SRFWO is currently working with Company to develop a fish and wildlife management strategy for the newly acquired property.
Malad Hydroelectric Project: This year, the Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) continued to work with Idaho Power Company and Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) to implement terms of the new license for the Malad project that was issued in 2005. SRFWO provided guidance and field assistance for surveys, flow implementation and maintenance activities. Importance resources in the Malad River include listed Bliss Rapids snails as well as native trout. The license requires installation of a fish ladder at the lower dam; section 7 consultation was completed in the spring and construction commenced in June of 2007 with a completion date target of early 2008. The ladder represents a joint effort between Idaho Power, FWS, IDFG, and IDEQ, and will help restore connectivity for fish and other aquatics in this important tributary. A second ladder at the upper dam is planned later in the license period upon successful completion and operation of the lower dam ladder.
Hells Canyon Relicensing: Although there were no formal settlement proceedings underway for the Hells Canyon hydroelectric complex relicensing in 2007, the Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) put considerable effort into informal settlement discussions with the licensee, Idaho Power Company, and coordinated discussions on numerous other activities associated with the pending license. In January, we completed a significant effort under the 2005 Energy Policy Act, a detailed sufficiency review of alternative 10(j) and section 18 alternatives put forth by the Company. We participated in extensive meetings with the Company and NOAA Fisheries in an effort to resolve outstanding fish and wildlife issues, particularly those related to the threatened bull trout.
Two major issues remain unresolved at the time of this report. First, we have been unable to reach agreement with the Company on terms and conditions aimed at assessing and mitigating effects of load-following operation on downstream aquatic and riparian resources (including bull trout, sturgeon, Pacific lamprey, fall Chinook, and invertebrates). Second, the Environmental Protection Agency rated the Draft Environmental Impact Statement released by FERC “environmentally insufficient” because they deemed analysis of temperature mitigation alternatives inadequate. The Service participated in numerous meetings regarding the feasibility and efficacy of a temperature control structure at the Complex to reduce temperatures downstream of the projects. Using an interagency agreement, we contracted with USGS to develop a report that would raise all relevant issues that should be considered in determining whether a temperature control structure at the Complex would result in improved conditions for aquatic species. The Company continues to dispute the need for such a structure as mitigation for the license, and discussions with the Company to date have not resulted in information adequate for the Service to make an informed opinion on the merits of a temperature control structure. In addition, we continue to disagree with the Company on a large number of other terms and conditions for mitigating project impacts on fish and wildlife, water quality, and terrestrial habitat.
On August 31, the FERC released its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed relicensing action. The SRFWO has yet to review that document. We anticipate a request for formal section 7 consultation for the complex. The Idaho and Oregon Divisions of Environmental Quality have not yet completed review of the Company’s application for Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certification, and may not issue the certification before December 31, which would result in the Company having to submit another application. FERC is not expected to render a final license decision until the water quality certification is issued.
Swan Falls Hydroelectric Project Relicensing: The current FERC License for Swan Falls Project is due to expire in 2010 and Idaho Power Company is likely to submit a draft License Application in the fall of 2007. The Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) have participated in pre-application and coordination meetings with IPC this past year in anticipation of this application. Swan Falls was substantially modified and upgraded in the last 20 years; IPC has proposed very little change in either configuration or operations. Our concerns center on flow (peaking) effects and degraded water quality on white sturgeon and important wildlife habitat extending downstream to Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge. Other than limited sturgeon habitat (a remnant sturgeon population remains), native fish habitat is degraded. The downstream reach was formerly habitat for fall Chinook salmon as recently as 1958.
Shoshone Falls Hydroelectric Project License Amendment: The Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) reviewed an application to amend the existing Shoshone Falls license to expand powerhouse capacity at the facility. IPC received a new FERC license for this development in 2001. Downstream aquatic habitats could be degraded by the diversion of an additional 4,000 cfs of Snake River flows, and there may be impacts to listed snails in the construction area as well. An additional issue is the aesthetic effect of more diversion into powerhouse, as Shoshone Falls is important to the local tourist economy. We believe this project has limited viability in economic terms. If implemented, the action could have long term negative effects as flows in the Snake River continue to decline due to consumptive water use upstream and the perceived inability to curtail this use and protect instream public values.
Arrowrock Hydroelectric Project: Originally licensed in the late 1980s, the Arrowrock hydroelectric project has not yet been constructed, and during 2007 the FERC revoked the license. Via Congressional action, the licensee (an irrigation district) has been given until 2009 to submit a license amendment request and begin project construction. The hydroelectric project would involve retrofitting an existing Bureau of Reclamation storage dam with turbines to generate a small amount of electricity. The Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) worked extensively with the Licensee and Reclamation in 2007 and succeeded in resolving all issues associated with the project, particularly in terms of impacts to bull trout. The SRFWO issued a Preliminary Biological Opinion for the project in August. We anticipate the FERC will seek public comment on the proposed amendment, which we would provide, followed by finalization of the BO in the event that FERC grants that amendment.
Priest Rapids Hydroelectric Project Relicensing: The Upper Columbia Fish and Wildlife Office (UCFWO), amongst other resource agencies and Tribes, signed the Priest Rapids Salmon and Steelhead Settlement Agreement in December 2005. The Agreement resolved all issues between the licensee, Grant PUD, and the other signatories related to Salmon and Steelhead in connection with the continued operation of the Priest Rapids Hydroelectric Project (Project). Since Agreement was signed, staff from the UCWFO, through the Priest Rapids Coordinating Committee, has been involved in the implementation of this agreement. This agreement entails measures for fish passage, hatchery compensation, and tributary enhancement. The Service also issued a biological opinion for this hydroelectric project in March 2007 to minimize impacts to bull trout over the course of the next license term. The Service anticipates that a new license for this project will be issued in latter months of 2007 (FY 2008).
Rocky Reach Hydroelectric Project Relicensing: The Service signed the Rocky Reach Hydroelectric Project Settlement Agreement in February 2006. Parties to the relicensing participated in settlement talks from 2004-2005 and reached agreement on all resource-related issues in February 2006. Staff from the Upper Columbia Fish and Wildlife Office (UCFWO) will be active participants in the implementation of this agreement once a license order has been issued. This action is anticipated to occur in the latter months of 2007 (FY-2008). Concurrently, the UCFWO is drafting a biological opinion for this project to minimize the impact of project operations on bull trout over the course of the new license term.
Boundary Dam Hydroelectric Project Relicensing: In FY 2007, Upper Columbia Fish and Wildlife Office (UCFWO) staff continued to be involved in the relicensing of the Boundary Dam Hydroelectric Project on the Pend Oreille River in Washington. The project is the largest hydroelectric facility (1,040 MW) owned and operated by Seattle City Light (SCL). SCL is using the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Integrated Licensing Process for this relicensing effort. Trust resources in the project area include bull trout, grizzly bear, and migratory birds (including bald eagles). Various studies recommended by the UCFWO and other federal and state resource managers are now underway, including several pertaining to the presence of bull trout and their movement patterns and movement above and below the dam. The outcome of these studies will be used by the UCFWO to formulate appropriate mitigation measures to protect and/or minimize the impact of the project on bull trout, bald eagles, and other trust resources.
Box Canyon Dam Hydroelectric Project: During FY 2007, Upper Columbia Fish and Wildlife Office (UCFWO) staff continued to be actively involved in implementing FERC license articles for the Box Canyon Hydroelectric Project, Pend Oreille River, Washington. The project is owned and operated by the Public Utility District No. 1 of Pend Oreille County (PUD), and was relicensed in 2005. The FERC license includes the Service’s May 21, 2004, section 18 fishway prescription, as well as an array of fish and wildlife mitigation measures recommended under section 10(j) Federal Power Act. During FY 2007, the UCFWO worked cooperatively with the PUD, U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Kalispel Tribe of Indians (Tribe), and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to implement fish and wildlife mitigation stipulated in the FERC license. In January 2007, a stay was issued by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court, pertaining to certain aspects of the License, including the Service’s section 18 fishway. Most wildlife mitigation was not affected by the stay. In March 2007, the Service, BIA, and USFS entered into Court ordered mediation with the PUD and in July, a tentative Agreement in Principal (Agreement) of settlement was reached between all parties. The UCFWO is presently revising the section 18 fishway to conform to the terms of the Agreement. Under the Agreement, the fishway will continue to provide upstream and downstream passage for bull trout, mountain whitefish, and westslope cutthroat trout at Box Canyon Dam and Calispell Creek Pumping Plant. In the meantime, the UCFWO remains involved in implementing mitigation measures that will benefit migratory birds (including bald eagles), grizzly bears and other wildlife.
During FY 2007, the Upper Columbia Fish and Wildlife Office (UCFWO) continued their involvement in the relicensing of the Spokane River and Post Falls Hydroelectric Projects (Projects), owned and operated by Avista Utilities. During the relicensing process, the UCFWO’s highest priority has been the implementation of reasonable and appropriate mitigation measures to support the recovery of federally listed threatened bull trout, and westslope cutthroat trout (a species of concern); compensate for the continuing loss of riparian habitat and other wildlife habitat, including that of the recently de-listed bald eagle either inundated or affected by Project operations; and to insure increasing human activities and developments associated with the reservoir do not negatively affect wildlife use and productivity in the Project area. In March 2007, staff conducted section 10(j) Federal Power Act (FPA) dispute resolution discussions with the FERC concerning mitigation measures recommended by the Service in FY 2006, that were not adopted in FERC’s January 2007 DEIS for the Projects. The outcome of the Service’s section 10(j) FPA dispute resolution was addressed in FERC’s August 2007 FEIS. Most of the Service’s resource issues submitted under section 10(j) FPA pertaining to wetland protection and restoration, erosion, migratory birds, and noxious weeds were adopted by FERC in their FEIS as proposed license conditions or attached as section 4(e) FPA conditions. Over the term of the new license (expected to issue in FY 2008), mitigation measures will protect, restore, or conserve 3,488 acres of wetland habitat, 72 acres of upland habitat, 14.8 miles of riparian habitat, and 7.5 miles of lake shoreline. Also, improved in-stream flows will be provided to protect native fish in a 48-mile segment of the Spokane River. In addition, the FERC is presently conducting section 7 ESA consultation with the Service for the Projects.
Lewis River Hydropower Project Relicensing: Western Washington Fish and Wildlife Office (WWFWO) staff have been working with multiple stakeholders for the past 7 years resulting in a comprehensive Settlement Agreement that provides watershed-scale conservation benefits for the entire Lewis River watershed for the life of the FERC license, which is expected to be 50 years. Early involvement was a key in building a partnership with 24 signatories of the Settlement Agreement, which included PacifiCorp, Cowlitz PUD, NOAA Fisheries, the Forest Service, the Cowlitz and Yakama Tribes, the Washington State Departments of Fish and Wildlife, Skamania and Clark Counties, American Rivers, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Trout Unlimited.
Work has been ongoing, and in late FY06 (too late for reporting), staff completed a biological opinion on the effects of a 50 year license for the Lewis Project on northern spotted owl and their critical habitat, bald eagle, and bull trout. The license, expected to be issued in 2007, will open up 170 miles of spawning and rearing habitat for Chinook and coho salmon, and increase connectivity for bull trout from our Section 18 fishway prescriptions.
The fishway designs, which staff participated in developing, will decrease injury and mortality to listed bull trout and all anadromous fish passing through the system. Staff also worked on projects that will be provided through the term of the license: salmon carcass placement above the dams to provide marine nutrients for fish, riparian vegetation and mammals; wildlife habitat management plans to improve habitat for elk, migratory birds, manage invasive species, protect riparian habitat, and enhance habitat for cavity nesting and old growth dependent species on 20,000 acres of project lands. The license will include acquisition and protection of at least 98 acres of wetlands that will provide nesting and foraging habitat for numerous migratory bird species and amphibians; 1,730 acres of uplands to provide winter forage and calving habitat for elk, 1020 acres of riparian and shoreline acres to provide complex aquatic habitat for salmon and bull trout and riparian vegetation to provide nesting and foraging habitat for a variety of migratory birds.
In stream flows will be improved on 3 miles river in the bypass reach and about 20 miles of river below Merwin Dam. Instream flows will increase spawning, rearing, and foraging for Pacific salmon species and other forage species for bull trout. WWFWO staff also took part in the evaluation of restoration projects that will be funded through the license for watershed and salmon enhancement groups. These restoration projects will increase the complexity of habitat for rearing salmonids and bull trout.
WWFWO staff evaluated the bull trout genetic, monitoring and survey work being done to build a baseline of information intended to help determine the success of bull trout conservation measures to be conducted by the utility over the term of the license.
Baker River Hydroelectric Project Relicensing: Western Washington Fish and Wildlife Office (WWFWO) staff has been working with multiple stakeholders for the past 7 years resulting in a comprehensive Settlement Agreement that provides watershed-scale conservation benefits for the entire Baker River watershed for the life of the FERC license, which is expected to be 50 years. Early involvement was a key in building a partnership with 24 signatories of the Settlement Agreement, which included Puget Sound Energy, NOAA Fisheries, the Skagit Cooperative (representing three local tribes), Washington State Departments of Fish and Wildlife, Ecology, and Skagit and Whatcom Counties, the Town of Concrete, American Rivers, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Trout Unlimited, and The Nature Conservancy, and several citizens.
Work has been ongoing, and in FY07, staff completed a biological opinion on the effects of a 50 year license for the Baker Project on northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet and their critical habitat, bald eagle, bull trout, grizzly bear and Canadian lynx. The license, expected to be issued in 2007, will open up 10 miles of spawning and rearing habitat connectivity for bull trout from our Section 18 fishway prescriptions and improve access to spawning and rearing habitat, and decrease injury and mortality, for bull trout, and Chinook, coho and sockeye salmon, all anadromous species.
WWFWO staff also worked on projects that will be provided through the license: 78 miles of road abandonment to increase core habitat for grizzly bears; salmon carcass placement above the dams to provide marine nutrients for fish, riparian vegetation and mammals, nest platforms to increase nesting success of common loons and osprey; management plans and roost surveys to protect bald eagle habitat and nesting; land management plans to manage invasive species on project lands, reduce human disturbance to nesting marbled murrelets and northern spotted owls, and enhance habitat for cavity nesting and old growth dependent species on nearby Forest Service lands.
The license will include acquisition and protection of at least 34 acres of wetlands that will provide nesting and foraging habitat for numerous migratory bird species and amphibians; 415 acres of uplands to provide winter forage and calving habitat for elk, 95 acres of riparian and shoreline acres to provide complex aquatic habitat for salmon and bull trout and riparian vegetation to provide nesting and foraging habitat for a variety of migratory birds.
In stream flows on 40 miles of river below Lower Baker Dam will be provided to increase spawning, rearing, and foraging for Pacific salmon species and other forage species for bull trout. Because the project is surrounded by Forest Service land, where habitat is expected to benefit the listed species covered in the Biological Opinion, the license will provide funds to the Forest Service for managing land for these species. WWFWO staff will also take part in approving restoration projects that will be funded over the term of the license to benefit anadromous fish, threatened and endangered species, and migratory birds.
WWFWO staff evaluated the bull trout genetic, monitoring and survey work being done to build a baseline of information intended to help determine the success of bull trout conservation measures to be conducted by the utility over the term of the license.
High interest continues in Idaho regarding the development of both large- and small-scale wind facilities. Public Utility Commission discussions with large- and small-scale developers (>10 MW and <10MW, respectively) and the major utilities (e.g., Idaho Power Company) regarding the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, has slowed the level of construction of authorized private facilities.
Final Regional Conditions for Nationwide Permits in the Honolulu District: During FY 2007, the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) reissued all existing Nationwide Permits (NWPs), six new NWPs, General Conditions, and definitions with some modifications. The Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office (PIFWO) Coastal Conservation Program and Conservation Planning Assistance staff worked productively in the Honolulu District to develop Regional Conditions to provide additional protection for the aquatic environment in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S Possessions in the Pacific. The PIFWO helped craft an acceptable definition of Coral Reefs that the Corps included as a Regional Advisory for projects proposing work in accordance with any of the NWPs. The PIFWO also developed a list of Standard Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Fish and Wildlife aimed at avoidance and minimization of project-related degradation of water quality and adverse impacts to fish and wildlife resources. The Corps incorporated the list of 12 BMPs as Regional Condition 13 for application to all NWPs as applicable. The measures address erosion control, sedimentation, weather and tidal conditions, coral spawning, compensatory mitigation, oil and other contamination, invasive species, and other factors.
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES): Idaho is one of five states that have not assumed primacy in permitting under the Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). In 2007, considerable effort was expended by the Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) on the review of the proposed general permit for aquaculture in Idaho. Idaho is one of the primary American producers of farmed trout and other varieties of commercially grown fishes. The EPA has proposed (delayed) renewal of a five-year permit, last issued in 1999, affecting both commercial and government aquaculture, including two FWS hatcheries. The SRFWO worked extremely closely with FWS Fisheries Program staff to provide extensive comments during the permit renewal process. Among many concerns was the EPA’s failure to provide data regarding impacts of the discharges on federally listed aquatic snails in the Middle Snake River, where the majority of hatcheries to be permitted are located. Because the data were either not collected or were not assembled and analyzed, the EPA is unable to provide sufficient information to initiate formal consultation for the proposed permit issuance. We are working with Fisheries and representatives of the aquaculture industry to identify mutually-acceptable solutions that account for the broader issues of water quality in the Middle Snake River and conservation of listed snails.
In addition, the SRFWO reviewed a number of other NPDES permits, including a general permit for groundwater pollution remediation and several for municipal discharges. Many of these permits have similar issues as the aquaculture permit, and similar data gaps have resulted in our inability to conclude consultation.
Corps of Engineers CWA Section 404 Permitting: The Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) worked closely with the Corps of Engineers on many projects throughout the state. Early project planning and coordination on these projects has resulted in reductions in potential impacts to listed species, as permit reviews are often completed in conjunction with section 7 consultation requirements, and has reduced impacts to other aquatic species, the habitats on which they depend, and the functionality of aquatic systems. Significant effort has been expended addressing snail issues in the Snake River associated with stream bank development, predominantly for recreational facilities. Survey efforts for Snake River snails associated with project development have added to our knowledge base regarding snail distribution in the Snake River and its tributaries. Projects potentially impacting coldwater habitats and adjacent riparian areas have been examined, via the 404 permitting process, for bank stabilization and protection of private property, development of private property, and efforts associated with maintenance of transportation infrastructure.
Bureau of Reclamation Yakima River Basin Water Storage Project: In FY 2007, Upper Columbia River Fish and Wildlife Office (UCFWO) staff exchanged data information needs with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) related to the preparation of a Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act Report (CAR) for the Yakima River Basin Water Storage Project. This project entails the proposed implementation of the Black Rock and Wymer water storage reservoirs. The Service submitted a Draft CAR to Reclamation in August 2007. The Service expects that its final CAR will be issued to Reclamation on September 30, 2007.
Pend Oreille Lake and River Regional General Permit: In FY 2007, the Upper Columbia River Fish and Wildlife Office (UCFWO) worked with the Walla Walla District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to authorize a one-year extension of Regional General Permit No. 27 (RGP-27). RGP-27 authorizes construction of small boat docks and boat lifts in Pend Oreille Lake and River, Idaho. The UCFWO negotiated an exclusion zone (from RGP authorization) along one mile of shoreline in Scenic Bay (Lake Pend Oreille) to protect important kokanee spawning habitat, a forage species for threatened bull trout. The UCFWO also requested and the Corps included, mandatory conservation measures that protect aquatic species, including bull trout during construction work (e.g., use of wood blocks and bubble curtains when driving piling for docks). Other provisions (such as additional exclusion areas) included in RGP-27 at the request of the UCFWO, provide protection for migratory waterfowl and bald eagles.
City of Tenino, Washington, Waste-water Treatment Plant: The City of Tenino, Washington, proposes to construct a new waste-water treatment plant on a 20-acre parcel of degraded Puget lowland prairie, which is a regionally rare habitat. Construction of the new facility would result in a permanent loss of approximately 4 acres prairie habitat. The Western Washington Fish and Wildlife Office (WWFWO) partnered with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy, and negotiated with the City of Tenino. As a result of this coordinated effort, the City of Tenino agreed to place 6 acres of prairie into a permanent conservation set-aside, and to control the spread of non-native vegetation on the undeveloped portion (16 acres) of the parcel. This will ensure that high-quality prairie habitat will be maintained on the site over the long term to benefit federally listed, candidate, and regionally rare species.
Interjurisdictional Fish Conservation/Fish Passage
Irrigation and Fish Conservation on the Sawtooth National Recreation Area: In the upper Salmon River Basin on the Sawtooth National Forest, there are numerous threats to bull trout and listed salmon associated with irrigated agriculture. Reduced stream flow is the primary issue, and there are associated concerns with entrainment in unscreened ditches and diversion structures that are barriers to fish passage. In 2007, the Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) continued implementation of the 2006 Agreement in Principal with the Forest and the State of Idaho. A major accomplishment was an agreement with the State that assures that water rights belonging to the Forest Service will remain instream and not be diverted by downstream users. Negotiations are underway with private landowners to arrive at mutually-beneficial actions that benefit listed fishes and meet landowner interests and needs.
Fisheries Restoration and Irrigation Mitigation Program (FRIMA): The Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) continue to evaluate FRIMA-funded projects intended to resolve irrigation on private lands and fish entrainment issues. Coordination among Federal agencies to implement these projects has decreased entrainment and passage problems for listed fish, predominantly in eastern and central Idaho. Early coordination is currently in place regarding the conversion of a flood irrigation system to a piped sprinkler system. Current irrigation practices at Race Creek (tributary to the Salmon River) have the potential to negatively impact listed anadromous salmonids and bull trout.
Fish Conservation on the Salmon Challis National Forest: In response to litigation against the Salmon-Challis National Forest, the Forest Service, in 2002, agreed to consult on the effects to listed fishes, including bull trout and salmon, of authorizing irrigation diversions on Forest Land. That section 7 consultation was to involve submission of eleven watershed-scale Biological Assessments to the Service and NOAA-Fisheries over a period of five years. None of those consultations have been completed and only four of the eleven BAs have been submitted, none of them sufficient for initiating consultation. In recent conversations with Regional mangers from the Forest Service, the Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) tentatively agreed to a strategy to assess watershed needs, particularly in regard to altered stream flows related to irrigation diversions. The strategy would focus on fish conservation needs and flow modeling instead of on the consultation process; cooperative watershed assessment work would be staged over a period of years. This strategy would allow ample opportunity to negotiate with irrigators to reach resolution of fish conservation problems rather than simply assessing impacts. This could represent a significant workload for the SRFWO in coming years, as well as being an opportunity to achieve conservation on the ground.
National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Fish Screen Installation Projects: The Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) reviewed a number of NRCS-funded fish screen installation projects, and have served with them and IDFG on a fish screen oversight committee. The Service has delegated authority to IDFG to install approximately 30 screens per year under our section 6 authorities. A similar program is being developed with the NRCS, involving about 5 screens per year. In addition, efforts are currently underway to develop a programmatic approach to installing fish screens on U.S. Forest Service lands. The Forest Service program of work will likely conclude with section 7 consultation.
Fish Passage: The Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) is involved in a number of efforts across the Snake River Basin to restore passage for bull trout and other salmonids where human caused barriers have limited or precluded access to suitable habitat. SRFWO is working with the U.S. Forest Service and BLM under a programmatic consultation for road crossings that would provide coverage for up to 156 projects annually across Idaho. In addition, we are working with the Idaho Transportation Department on efforts to assess and correct “wildlife linkage” conflicts associated with roads, including fish passage barriers.
Cross Program Coordination with Fisheries Resources: The Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) continues to work under a cooperative agreement with the FWS Fisheries Resources Program to assist in completion of procedural requirements for facilities improvement projects at Lower Snake River Compensation Plan (LSRCP) hatcheries in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. Under that agreement, Conservation Planning Assistance biologists serve as LSRCP’s consultants for regulatory review and environmental compliance for their capital development projects, including the completion of NEPA documents, and the development and negotiation of terms associated with permit applications. SRFWO also develops and finalizes documents required for compliance with the Endangered Species Act, including section 7 consultation and section 10 recovery permits.
The SRFWO also continues to work closely with the manager of the Hagerman National Fish Hatchery on a number of issues:
Migratory Bird Conservation
Final Environmental Assessment for Air Force Disposal of Johnston Atoll: Through close collaboration between the Coastal Conservation Program, Conservation Planning Assistance, Environmental Contaminants Program, and Refuge staffs, the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office (PIFWO) was able to work productively with the US Air Force (AF) on Preliminary, Draft, and Final Environmental Assessments (EA) for AF Disposal of Johnston Atoll. As a result, critical decisions were incorporated in the July 2007 Final EA. These decisions were not identified in the Draft EA and included (a) AF pursuit of an option to transfer Johnston Atoll property directly to the Department of the Interior (DOI), (b) AF acknowledgement that liability and responsibility for contamination due to Department of Defense (DOD) mission activities will most likely be retained by DOD subject to transfer negotiations, (c) AF intention that ownership and control of U.S. waters would be retained by the U.S. Government under all disposal scenarios, and (d) AF acknowledgement of the Service’s request that the entire atoll be transferred for management as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS). These decisions respond positively to major concerns expressed by the Service in early comments, adequately address how natural resources of the atoll can be effectively managed as part of the NWRS, and set the stage for Headquarters discussions with the AF and DOI on the terms and conditions for transfer. Incorporation of Johnston Atoll into the NWRS will result in the conservation of approximately 690 acres of upland (including 73 acres in the existing Johnston Island NWR), 5 miles of shoreline, and 32,123 acres of shallow coral reefs that provide important breeding, resting, and foraging resources for a multitude of migratory birds and other species.
Final Report on Fish and Wildlife Resources at US Army Kwajalein Atoll: The Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office (PIFWO) completed a final report to the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) on the latest Inventory of Endangered Species and Other Wildlife Resources at the Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA), Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). This inventory is required by the USAKA Environmental Standards (UES) and its scope includes the terrestrial and coral reef habitats at all 11 islets for which the US has a use agreement with the RMI for defense activities. The report summarizes observations of the distribution and condition of USAKA Species of Special Concern, which are identified in the UES. These include species listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and by RMI statutes. The report also includes numerous general and islet-specific conservation recommendations to assist USAKA with the comprehensive management of terrestrial and marine fish and wildlife resources. The report is being used as the official record of species and habitats of concern at USAKA until this record is updated with the results of the next inventory pursuant to requirements of the UES. During the year, the results of the final report were incorporated into the latest edition (11th) of the UES along with other updates provided by the Service as a member of the USAKA Implementation Team.
Large Scale, Landscape Level Conservation Planning
Completion of Workshops on Federal Assistance for Coral Reef Conservation: In 2005, the Director had instructed Service staff to provide outreach in the form of workshops to State and Territory members of the US Coral Reef Task Force (CRTF) on Federal Assistance Opportunities for Coral Reef Conservation. Florida and Caribbean workshops were conducted in the summer of 2005, and three of four Pacific workshops were held in Hawaii, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in the summer of 2006. The final workshop was held in American Samoa in August 2007 in conjunction with the most recent meeting of the CRTF. The Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office (PIFWO) organized and led the planning for all of the Pacific workshops. In addition to the Service, participating entities included the Department of the Interior Office of Insular Affairs, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Utilities Service, US Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Highway Administration, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and the American Samoa Department of Commerce and Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources. Workshop topics were designed to meet the specific needs of American Samoa and included watershed management, coral reef research, capacity building, law enforcement, and development of locally based non-governmental organizations. Opportunities for both grant and non-grant types of assistance were identified. Approximately 70 people from private and public sectors attended the workshop, including the Governor, several department heads, and legislators.
Snake River Basin Adjudication (SRBA) Settlement Agreement: The Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) is involved in the three primary components of the Agreement. Involvement in 2007 was diminished from 2006 because of lack of funding and slowed progress by the interagency groups implementing the agreement.
Bureau of Land Management: The Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) is working closely with the BLM to apply conservation measures developed and agreed to in conservation agreements for their existing land management plans. Many species addressed in the conservation agreements are no longer listed, but our assumption is that the conservation measures will still be applied to the numerous plans currently under revision. Regardless of species status, measures in the agreements include project implementation criteria to assure actions protect or contribute to conservation of species, commit the BLM to implement recovery actions, and provide a mechanism to complete inventory and assessment for the species. There are approximately 7 land use plans that are currently being revised, or are planned to be initiated in the near future. This cooperative work has been a successful, constructive way to deal with outdated land use plans that did not anticipate species and habitat issues, while accounting for procedural and budget limitations to BLM amending Land Use Plans or developing new ones, and ensures some measure of protection is provided to these species outside of the realm of the ESA. In addition to land management plans, the SRFWO has coordinated with the BLM on numerous activity-level plans. These step-down plans are often prompted by direction and guidance identified during the development of the larger land management plans.
U.S. Forest Service: In 2007, the Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO), together with Upper Columbia Fish and Wildlife Office (UCFWO) and the Helena ES Field Office worked with several Forest Service Region 1 National Forests as they developed land management plans under the 2005 revised planning rule. Of particular interest was structure and content of plans in terms of long-term certainty for conservation of fish and wildlife and their associated habitats, with particular interest in threatened, endangered, and proposed species. Given the “aspirational” nature of those plans, in contrast to existing land management plans which are more prescriptive, the agencies were working to determine how best to provide a reasonable level of assurance that fish and wildlife resources would be considered consistently across space and time during plan implementation. This work is on hold pending resolution of litigation against the Forest Service regarding the planning rule.
Throughout the year the SRFWO worked with the Boise National forest on implementation of the 2003 Forest Plan Revision. Of particular interest were their Watershed Assessment and Restoration Strategy, and aggressive work to evaluate watershed conditions and identify restoration needs. SRFWO participated in planning, funding, and implementing a number of projects to restore fish habitat and to resolve passage problems associated with road crossings and other human caused barriers. The Mores Creek project, a cooperative effort involving the Forest, Service, Trout Unlimited, State of Idaho, and others will restore several miles of stream habitat severely impacted by placer mining in the 1800s and first quarter of the 20th Century.
Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer Comprehensive Aquifer Management Planning: In 2007, Idaho’s governor called for collaborative development of a management plan for Idaho’s Eastern Snake River Plain aquifer. Water quantities in the aquifer have declined, resulting in water right disputes among ground and surface water users. The declines also pose a threat to listed Snake River snails, particularly spring-dependent species. Along with the Bureau of Reclamation and several State agencies, the Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) is participating in the management planning process in an advisory capacity. The plan is expected to be completed in late spring 2008.
Idaho Invasive Species Council: The Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) is a member of Idaho’s Invasive Species Council, commissioned by Idaho’s governor to facilitate coordination of cooperative management of alien animals and plants. The Council is nearing completion of an Aquatic Nuisance Species Management plan. Invasive species being addressed by the Council include Eurasian water milfoil, New Zealand mud snail, and quagga mussel.
Bald Eagle Management: With the final delisting of bald eagle, its management became a function and responsibility of the Conservation Planning Assistance Program. Two focus areas are Valley county and the Deer Flat NWR. Following the delisting, the Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) worked with landowners (Federal and private) in Valley County whose proposed developments may affect nesting eagles. SRFWO worked with Idaho Parks and Recreation, Bureau of Reclamation, Tamarack Resort, and Boise State University to develop and fund a study examining nesting eagles in the county and potential eagle impacts resulting from increasing land development. The study focuses on an area where numbers of nesting eagles and nest productivity have declined precipitously in recent years. The work will include investigation of potential toxicity causes for the declines. Likewise, at Lake Lowell, including Deer Flat NWR, investigations will continue into the relationship between nest failures and mercury poisoning in eagles.
Habitat Protected/Conserved/Restored: (1) 154 acres open bay enclosed within beneficial use (BU) cells for intertidal marsh creation; (2) .5-acres Marsh created Fiscal Year (FY) 2007;
Expected Benefits: (1) 156 acres restored intertidal marsh/sheltered estuarine lagoon habitat expected to provide -prime nursery habitat for important marine commercial-recreational species, including brown shrimp, white shrimp, blue crab, spotted seatrout, red drum, southern flounder, Gulf menhaden; (2) sheltered lagoon provides habitat for Gulf saltmarsh snake, diamondback terrapin, and wintering habitat for waterfowl, including northern pintail, gadwall, green-winged teal, American widgeon, northern shoveller, and canvasback.
Protected bay shoreline stops ongoing erosion of native coastal prairie tract estimated to be eroding at 3 feet/year, thus saving .21-acre native coastal prairie in 10 years. Coastal prairie species locally include bobwhite, eastern meadowlark, mottled duck, northern pintail, blue-winged teal, snowy egret, and (potential) Attwater’s prairie chicken.
Partners U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District (Federal sponsor)
Location: Green’s Lake, GIWW, West Galveston Bay, Texas
Habitat Protected/Conserved/Restored: A 7,500 linear-feet reach of GIWW shoreline subject to accelerating bank erosion and an adjacent 1,650-acre brackish-to-saline marsh tract, formerly high-quality fresh-to-brackish Central Flyway wintering waterfowl habitat, will be somewhat protected from further erosion and nourished by maintenance dredged material. In recent years, the Green’s Lake marshes have suffered from bank erosion leading to increased saltwater intrusion into former brackish and intermediate marsh and marsh ponds. Project development with state agency, National Marine Fisheries Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) planning staff, and coordination with local landowners, led to currently authorized and recently awarded maintenance dredging contract which will deposit approximately 150,000 cubic-yards of material along 7,500 feet of GIWW shoreline and adjacent marsh.
Expected Benefits: Material is expected to raise elevations of drowning/eroding marshes and
Partners: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District
Habitat Protected/Conserved/Restored: Project planning with COE, Sabine-Neches Navigation District, state and Federal agencies has been ongoing since 2000. Draft EIS, Feasibility Report, and Service Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act Report completed in FY 2007. Selected Plan incorporates over 3,500 acres of BU and mitigation area brackish marsh, intermediate marsh, freshwater marsh, and possibly freshwater swamp, designed to provide aquatic habitat benefits for hundreds of commercially and recreationally-important species. Hydrodynamic-salinity modeling and habitat design efforts since 2003 have resulted in the design of a deepwater draft navigation channel project which shows some small salinity level elevation to existing high-salinity areas and minimum or actual improvements to salinity levels in more-sensitive low-salinity areas.
Expected Benefits: 3,500+ acres of brackish to fresh habitats expected to significantly increase project area populations of numerous aquatic wildlife species, including king rail, purple gallinule, great egret, snowy egret, pileated woodpecker, mallard, mottled duck, northern pintail, wood duck, muskrat, raccoon, and river otter.
Partners: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District
Habitat Protected/Conserved/Restored: As mitigation for the permit, a conservation easement will be placed on 538 acres of wetlands within a 640-acre tract located adjacent to Spindletop Bayou. (The remainder of the 640-acre tract is entirely wetlands and was previously designated as partial compensation for impacts associated with another project.) An additional 1,925.74 acres within the Green Pond detention facility will also be placed under a conservation easement. The detention facility includes a mix of forested wetlands and uplands that have been identified by state and Federal resource agencies as a locally unique landform and ecologically important area. A 40 acre wetland shelf within the channel and 4 acres of riparian wooded corridor will also be created.
Other Agencies: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; Texas Water Development Board; Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
Habitat Protected/Conserved/Restored: As mitigation for their project, Golden Pass Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) has purchased an 829.09 acres forested tract and transferred ownership to The Big Thicket National Preserve (Preserve). The tract, located adjacent to the Preserve, contains 195.45 acres of forested wetlands, 7.55 acres of emergent and scrub shrub wetlands, 18.84 acres of forested riparian corridor and 603.16 acres of upland mixed-age pine stands.
Other Agencies: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; COE, Galveston District; U.S. Coast Guard; National Marine Fisheries Service; Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept.; Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
Corpus Christi, Texas Ecological Services Field Office
The Corpus Christi Ecological Services Office (CCESFO) and the Clear Lake Ecological Services Office have been participating in this interagency working group. The Calhoun County
The proposed project, to deepen and widen the existing Matagorda Ship Channel, will have a significant impact on the human environment relative to handling and placement of new dredge material and in the future, maintenance material above the amount generated by the maintenance of the existing channel. Additionally, CCND has been asked by the BUG to address the impact of the deepened channel on the salinity of Matagorda Bay. Lavaca Bay, a secondary bay system to Matagorda Bay, has significant oyster reefs. Furthermore, Lavaca Bay was a designated superfund site, which over the last decade, has been the subject of considerable remediation efforts. Calhoun County Navigation District was also tasked by the BUG with evaluating the projects' potential to adversely impact any remediation sites, as well as explore opportunities to use dredge material beneficially to support remediation efforts. Coastal erosion is an issue of concern throughout Texas coastal areas, including the shorelines of the Matagorda Bay system. There is general support for a proposed project feature, to protect important marsh and seagrass habitat in Keller Bay from continued erosion. Because this feature would be perpendicular to the Matagorda Ship channel, increasing its size also significantly increases the construction and other costs, such as pumping distance of dredge material that would be used to create the marshes within its levees.
Residents along the southern shoreline of Matagorda Bay support a beach nourishment project although the placement of material would be a one-time BU of new work dredge sand. Also, salinity modeling identified impacts to oyster resources of the bay system, and the BUG is working with CCND to identify appropriate mitigation for expected impacts.
Since 2004, the CCESFO has coordinated with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as a cooperating agency in its development of EIS for LNG facilities along the Texas Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. To date, the CCESFO has reviewed various aspects of 10 LNG facilities including EIS and related documents for off-shore and on-shore re-gasification facilities, pipelines, and graving dock facilities for the construction proposed in the Gulf of Mexico.
As a cooperating agency, the Service has the responsibility for the conservation, protection and enhancement of fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats, including the principal trust responsibility to protect and conserve migratory birds, threatened and endangered species,
The Calhoun LNG Project in Lavaca Bay, near Point Comfort, Calhoun County, Texas was the only facility requiring review this fiscal year. In August 2007, the CCESFO staff reviewed and provided final comments on the Calhoun LNG. The FERC issued a Final EIS for the project, which is to provide facilities for importing, storing, and vaporizing LNG and delivering natural gas via interstate and intrastate pipelines as well as supplying natural gas to Formosa Hydrocarbons Company and Formosa Plastics Corporation. Terminal construction would permanently affect 73 acres of land and the pipeline would require approximately 97.7 acres for a permanent easement. Approximately 2,700,000 cubic-yards of sediment would be dredged for the marine terminal area and placed in bay placement areas, filling 11-acres of inter-tidal wetlands. To minimize impacts of dredge material placement in the open bay, Calhoun LNG proposes to use the material to cap mercury-contaminated sites and enhance the recovery of Lavaca Bay. The pipeline would permanently impact approximately 2.63 acres of forested wetlands. As forested wetlands mitigation, Calhoun LNG proposed in-kind preservation or mitigation bank credits. The dredge material placement plan and mitigation plan are draft and staff recommended finalization prior to issuance of the dredge and fill permit from COE.
The South Texas Natural Resources Partnering Team (Team) is an interagency group, formed in 2003. The Charter for the group contains the following mission statement:
“The South Texas Natural Resources Partnering Team will identify and implement innovative solutions to natural resource issues involved with meeting Navy operational readiness and stewardship goals in South Texas.”
The Team meets quarterly to review and update the Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans (INRMP) for each of the three Navy installations in South Texas, to review other projects and issues that could affect natural resources on Navy property, and to seek out opportunities for the Navy to more effectively attain their stewardship goals.
In FY 2007, the Team completed the 5-year updates of the INRMPs in a timely and cost-effective manner. Part of the success of this effort can be attributed to the regular meetings of the Team and their approach to the implementation of the INRMP as a living document.
The INRMP for Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas (NAS-CC) called for development and installation of environmental education signs. The signs were developed by NAS-CC personnel in coordination with members of the Team. In April 2007 representatives of the Team, including
In November 2006, CCESFO biologists, the Service’s State Botanist, and TPWD biologists assisted the Naval Air Station Kingsville team with the annual monitoring effort of the South Texas Ambrosia (Ambrosia cheiranthifolia). This effort completes the third year of monitoring following the development of a management plan by the Navy, with the assistance of the Service, for this endangered plant.
The Service will continue to be an active participant in the South Texas Natural Resources Partnering Team because of the value-added through the regular coordination, open discussion, and pro-active management of fish and wildlife resources under the stewardship of the
Arlington, Texas Ecological Services Field Office
In 2007 the COE announced that they intend to publish a Supplement to the January 2006 Final EIS for the Upper Trinity River Central City project due to the request by the sponsors, Tarrant Regional Water District and the City of Fort Worth, to combine Central City and the Riverside Oxbow projects. The Sponsors believe that there would be greater opportunities for valley storage alternatives and wildlife habitat restoration by merging these two projects and making changes in both plans. The COE requested that the Service provide additional analysis on existing conditions of the sponsor’s proposed valley storage mitigation sites and impacts associated with combining the two projects, and provide recommendations for mitigation and ecosystem restoration. The Central City project is the second of several feasibility studies in Tarrant County, Texas, to be conducted over the next few years as part of the comprehensive Clear Fork and West Fork of the Trinity River Interim Feasibility Study. Fort Worth voters overwhelmingly passed a bond proposal to provide $5.9 million to fund certain aspects of the master plan. The project has the strong support of U.S. Representative Kay Granger of
The Service assisted the COE, Fort Worth District in evaluating approximately 1200 acres of potential mitigation lands for the DFE project and to assure that adequate terrestrial acreage and habitat management techniques are utilized to meet the required environmental mitigation as described in the 1999 DFE EIS. The DFE project was initiated by the COE in January 1991 to reevaluate the feasibility of extending the existing Dallas Floodway downstream to the vicinity of Five Mile Creek for improving flood control. Further reevaluation was necessary in 1997 because many of the original authorized project features (i.e., levees and flood control channels) lacked economic feasibility, and environmental mitigation was not adequately identified during previous planning studies. The Service provided a FWCA report on the DFE in February 1999. Subsequently, the COE completed the DFE General Reevaluation Report and Integrated EIS that same month. The COE published the final Supplement 1 to the DFE EIS, which addressed cumulative impacts of reasonably foreseeable similar projects in the same geographic area of the authorized DFE in the May 9, 2003, Federal Register. Approximately 200 acres have been acquired by the City of Dallas for mitigation purposes to date. However, some small tracts of land identified in the Final EIS and Record of Decision apparently are no longer practical to acquire due to higher planned uses, or they may not be practical to use for environmental mitigation due to existing levels of contaminants.
The COE requested that the Service assist in evaluating and developing habitat management measures for lands the City of Arlington, Texas, has identified to replace approximately 90 acres of land that were de-authorized by Congress (SEC. 134) as ecosystem restoration in the Johnson Creek Project. The COE has also requested that the Service reevaluate the analysis that was previously conducted for the Johnson Creek restoration project concentrating efforts on Meadowbrook, Julia Bergen and Vandergriff Parks. The 90 acres that were de-authorized are located within the planned commercial Glory Park and the new Dallas Cowboy’s football stadium project areas in Arlington, Texas.
Participation in the development of Gulf South Pipeline Company’s East Texas Expansion Project has been a major endeavor of the ARLESFO initiated September 2005. In its original form, this FERC project transversed portions of Texas and Louisiana but has since been expanded to cross the entire state of Louisiana extending into Mississippi. This has required coordination between three states and two regions, and this office has maintained a presence during all phases of project design. Within the Texas portion of the proposed pipeline, a total of 3 miles were determined to have potential to impact upland and bottomland forested areas and approximately 6 acres of wetlands. The ARLESFO offered guidance on the avoidance and minimization of these impacts suggesting that the pipeline route avoid these high-quality habitats whenever possible, minimization of rights-of-way (ROW) widths, and to expand the use of planned directional boring to include all water bodies whenever practicable.
Gulf South’s Pipeline Company’s Gulf Crossing Project proposes to install over 500 miles of natural gas pipeline originating near Sherman, Texas and extending north and eastward to Bennington, Oklahoma and then to the Transco Station 85 in western Mississippi. The ARLESFO has offered technical assistance throughout the process, which has required coordination with Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Within the Texas portion of the pipeline route, concerns were raised over numerous potential wetland and waterbody impacts including a vast wetland area near the confluence of the Sulphur River and White Oak Creek associated with TPWD White Oak Creek Wildlife Management Area. This area, within TPWD’s East Texas Black Bear Conservation and Management Plan, has been determined to be important for re-establishment of the threatened Louisiana black bear in Texas. Recommendations were made to avoid wetlands, waterbodies and other specified sensitive habitats throughout the pipeline route and to utilize minimization methods when impacts were unavoidable. The recently received Administrative Draft EIS indicates that these sensitive resources would be avoided spatially or by methods such as horizontal directional drill (HDD). The HDD technique would be utilized extensively within the large wetland area associated with the White Oak Creek Wildlife Management Area. The ARLESFO is currently in informal consultation on the endangered American burying beetle and awaiting the results of surveys to be provided October 2007. The ARLESFO will continue to provide support to FERC and its consultants regarding this project.
The Mid-continent Express Pipeline Project would originate in Bennington, Oklahoma and then follow a route largely identical to the ROW proposed by Gulf South for their Gulf Crossing Project. The ARLESFO raised many identical concerns to those regarding the aforementioned project. The ARLESFO also recommended that FERC carefully evaluate the cumulative impact of the permitting of multiple pipelines within a single, large ROW with regard to extent of impact and timing of construction.
The ARLESFO also received approximately 35 additional requests for technical assistance regarding new and ongoing gas/oil exploration and pipeline projects. In many of these cases, this office responded with recommendations to avoid/minimize impacts to sensitive resources and has held numerous meetings with interested parties. In 2007, this office also ended the issuance/renewal of “Sensitive Area/Endangered Species Review Procedures for FERC Projects in North Texas,” sometimes known as a “blanket clearance agreement,” for certain construction activities. Instead, we recommend that applicants evaluate individual proposed actions for proper section 7 determination on a case-by-case basis.
Every year, the ARLESFO assists in planning and reviewing mitigation bank proposals that set aside thousands of acres of habitat from development in perpetuity for protection, conservation, or restoration. This year, the ARLESFO’s efforts, combined with our mitigation banking partners, yielded 5,238.7 wetland acres, 38.6 riparian miles, 175.7 riparian acres, 32 in-stream miles, and 142.4 upland acres. The mitigation banks are usually adjacent to major waterways used by the many species that are currently suffering from habitat fragmentation, especially
The Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office
To that end, the OKESFO and ODOT worked together to fund a full-time employee to assist in implementation of this effort. An agreement was finalized in 2007 that provides funding for a full-time biologist position located within the OKESFO. The position was staffed in August and we are currently in the process of training our new transportation biologist.
Many of the environmental review requests received annually by the OKESFO involve individual projects in the process of completing compliance with the NEPA. A high percentage of those projects generally has little or minimal impact to important fish and wildlife resources and will ultimately be categorically excluded under NEPA. However, the action agency continues to seek Service comment to ensure that specific environmental resources, such as wetland protection and floodplain management are addressed individually or collectively before the categorical exclusion takes effect.
In the past, reviewing these projects consumed a significant amount of staff time. The OKESFO historically averaged about 1,200 to 1,400 requests annually. Instead of continuing to review these projects individually, particularly where specific review and analysis by the Service was not needed, we provided planning guidance and other technical assistance on our office’s website. Information and resource materials on most environmental resources were made available for review and downloading from our website.
Agencies and their cooperators could now have almost instant access to relevant planning information. Included was a list of projects for which our past reviews have indicted that those projects would have little or no impact on the environment. Agencies would no longer need to send those types of projects to the OKESFO for review or comment. In addition, we provided three training workshops to agencies and cooperators on the use of the material. Consequently, the number of projects submitted to the OKESFO has declined. We intend to continue efforts to streamline the environmental review process and plan to complete an expanded section on life history of Oklahoma’s threatened and endangered species.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation Mitigation Bank:
Arizona Ecological Services Field Office
Mitigating Development Impacts – Interagency Coordination
Bloomington, Indiana, Field Office
Proposed 1300-acre Residential Golf Course Development in Indiana: The Service's Bloomington, Indiana, Ecological Services Field Office reviewed a proposal for a 1300-acre residential golf course development (Stonebridge) south of Indianapolis. The project site contains 900 acres of mostly rugged, forested topography dissected by streams. The initial proposal indicated that up to 300 acres of forest would be removed, resulting in substantial impacts to streams. The project site is adjacent to an Indiana bat capture site and within about 2 miles of a primary nursery roost. Service staff inspected the site on two occasions and conducted a fish survey on the central perennial stream, Crooked Creek. The Service initiated informal Section 7 consultation with the Corps of Engineers for the Section 404 permit, and although the project is currently on hold, anticipates that formal consultation will follow. Service coordination on this project has resulted in a reconfigured design that reduces forest loss and fragmentation and stream impacts compared to the original plan.
Wind Power Development in Indiana: In FY 2007, the Service's Bloomington, Indiana, Ecological Services Field Office (BFO) became heavily involved in review of wind power development proposals. Service staff began attending the quarterly meetings of the Indiana Wind Power Working Group and learned that wind power development is starting up in Indiana in a substantial manner. Two projects are in the works, and many more are expected. Service staff from BFO and the Northern Indiana Sub-office (with assistance from Jeff Gosse and Bob Russell of the Regional Office) met with the project sponsors for the first major new wind power development to be located in Benton County. The project footprint overlays an Audubon Important Bird Area which, along with surrounding areas of northeast Indiana and northwestern Illinois, provides the world's most important spring staging area for migrating American golden plovers (a species of High Concern under the US Shorebird Conservation Plan). Based on the most recent estimates, 20 to 30 percent of the entire global population of this species forages on this project site during a period of a few weeks in spring. Due to the significant wind resources in Benton County, the potential for cumulative effects is a major concern. The Service is working with the project sponsors to implement conservation measures and compensatory measures for the species.
RexEast Natural Gas Pipeline Project in Indiana: The Service's Bloomington, Indiana, Ecological Services Field Office (BFO) continued to coordinate on the multi-state RexEast natural gas pipeline project. Service staff worked with the Rockies Express East consultants, Natural Resources Group (NRG), to develop an Indiana Bat Habitat Assessment and Survey Plan to evaluate the entire length of the pipeline corridor in Indiana (approximately 175 miles) for suitable summer habitat. The Plan uses a three-step approach to determine habitat suitability and bat presence/absence along the proposed survey corridor, consisting of: (1) a quantitative field survey of forested tracts, (2) a qualitative assessment of habitat in coordination with the Service, and (3) mist net surveys and telemetry studies to determine occupancy and locations of nursery colony trees. The field office used its GIS system and various data including 2005 orthophotographs to further refine proposed locations for mist-net surveys. Ultimately, the Service requested surveys on approximately 45 separate locations. A preliminary report from NRG indicates that as of July 15, 2007, 11 adult female and three adult male Indiana bats had been captured and 12 roost trees had been located through radio-telemetry. Service staff will continue to work with NRG and Rockies Express East on endangered species issues related to the project, including possible site visits, during the autumn of 2007. The field office also anticipates providing comments on wetlands and other important habitats as part of the Section 404 review process (contact Forest Clark).
Chicago, Illinois, Field Office
Wetland Conservation in Chicago Area: In FY 2007, the Service’s Chicago, Illinois, Ecological Services Field Office reviewed and commented on 79 Pre-Construction Notices and Public Notices (PCNs and PNs) for proposals to be authorized by the Chicago District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The proposals included residential and commercial developments, bridge and culvert replacements, shoreline stabilization and road improvement projects. Total impacts for these projects included 42.08 acres of jurisdictional wetland loss. Based in part on field office comments, the compensation required to offset these impacts totaled 287.80 acres of mitigation, resulting in a mitigation ratio of over a 6.5:1. Sustained Service involvement in the Corps regulatory program, including recommendations that additional mitigation and/or higher mitigation ratios be required for a number of the projects reviewed, was likely a major contributing factor in such a high mitigation total being obtained. Mitigation options include onsite mitigation, offsite mitigation, and the purchase of bank credits at one of several mitigation banks in the six-county Chicago area. Mitigation measures include wetland restoration, enhancement, or creation, as well as stream bank stabilization and in-stream measures.
Aquatic Invasive Species in Great Lakes and its Tributaries: In response to concerns about the impacts of aquatic invasive species on the Great Lakes and its tributary waterways, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley directed his staff to research how the City could help through a regulatory ordinance. Staff of the Service’s Chicago, Illinois, Ecological Services Field Office served on the technical committee to help draft an ordinance. The resulting draft ordinance prohibits the possession of 13 animal species and 14 plant species considered to be aquatic invasive species.
Service Participation in Environmental Education, Chicago: The Service’s Chicago, Illinois, Ecological Services Field Office participated in the Regional and State Envirothon Competitions, a high school environmental competition organized by the National Association of Conservation Districts. High school teams consisting of 5 students competed in the areas of Wildlife, Aquatics, Soils, Forestry, and a special topic; this year being Alternative and Renewable Energy. A field office biologist served as the instructor for the Aquatics session at the local Land Use Council 16 competition and also served as the instructor for the Wildlife session at the State competition. This was the ninth year that the Service has provided an instructor.
Landscape-Scale Planning in Chicago Area: Staff of the Service’s Chicago, Illinois, Ecological Services Field Office represent the Service on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee assembled by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). The purpose of the Committee is to help guide CMAPs efforts as they update the Regional Plan. The Service is striving to ensure that the updated plan will focus heavily on Green Infrastructure (including identifying a system of natural habitat preserves that will help conserve the biodiversity of the region) and will identify best management practices that will help protect water quality.
Columbia, Missouri, Field Office
Oil and Gas Pipeline Projects in Missouri: The Service’s Columbia, Missouri, Ecological Services Field Office has been intensely involved in reviewing three major pipeline projects. Two are 42-inch-diameter natural gas pipelines (Rockies Express East and West) and one is a 36-inch-diameter crude oil pipeline (Trans-Canada Keystone). These are very long oil/gas pipelines crossing state, regional, and national boundaries in the case of Keystone. Missouri is the only State where all three pipelines meet or converge. These actions have been a significant workload issue for the field office, involving coordination on both pre- and post-issuance of a certificate by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the Rockies Express pipelines and pre-EIS review with the State Department on Keystone. Significant mitigation/conservation opportunities exist with these projects, in large part due to Service involvement in early planning and relationship building with the applicants and consultants. Work on Rockies East and Keystone will continue for the next two fiscal years. The certificate for Rockies Express West has been issued by FERC and the field office is finalizing several mitigation components of this project with the project consultants.
Bagnell Dam (Osage River) Hydropower Project, Missouri: The culmination of eight years of work by the Service’s Columbia, Missouri, Ecological Services Field Office associated with the relicensing of the Bagnell (Lake of the Ozarks) hydropower project by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ended with FERC issuing the license in March 2007. Service involvement resulted in the development of several significant environmental improvements for the Osage River that will greatly reduce impacts of this hydroelectric operation on downstream aquatic species, including federally endangered pink mucket and scaleshell mussels. The most notable changes involve the overall flow regime and quality of the release water. Base flow will be substantially increased and daily and seasonal flow patterns will more closely resemble a natural stream, stimulating the reproduction of fish and mussel populations. Turbine upgrades and other operational changes will increase the dissolved oxygen in the Osage River below the dam to a level safe for aquatic life. Dissolved oxygen levels currently drop to near zero during summer power generation. Additionally, annual funding will be provided to help further restore mussel populations and habitat in the Osage River for the next 40 years. These conservation measures were developed while maintaining project purposes and protecting critical lake levels for recreation use on Lake of the Ozarks.
Several of the conservation measures in the license became reality soon after issuance – especially the substantial modification in discharge-instream flows to benefit the listed mussels, other mussels, and the overall aquatic habitat in the 80 miles of the Osage River below the dam. There were other immediate benefits to the riparian zone of the river resulting from flow modifications. The field office will continue to expend considerable effort on post-license actions, including several directly relating to measures addressed by the Service in the Biological Opinion, Settlement Agreement, and license.
Windpower Development in Missouri: Missouri, especially the NW section of the State, has become a major area for windpower. The Service’s Columbia, Missouri, Ecological Services Field Office received 12 windpower development proposals for review in the last year. The field office is collaborating with one windpower cooperative to assess the potential impact of its project on migratory birds. The Service has completed two field sampling trips to the site and will continue to collect data through 2008. In 2007, the Missouri Legislature passed a bill (which was signed by the Governor) that requires an incremental amount of Missouri’s energy to come from renewable energy (ultimately to be 20 percent). This measure has generated considerable interest by various corporations (domestic and foreign) and capitol ventures in the development of windpower projects in Missouri. Several windpower projects received by the field office in FY 2007 could have major wildlife impacts, especially one large project proposed to be built in the middle of the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Mystic Prairie Conservation Opportunity Area. The field office is working with the Service’s Private Lands staff, MDC, and others involved in the Mystic Prairie partnership to help develop measures that would reduce impacts from this windfarm. Many of the proposed windfarms (including the above farm in the Mystic Prairie) are located in the part of the State that contains the best summer roosting habitat for the Indiana bat, a federally endangered species. Indiana bat surveys conducted at two windfarms this summer confirm Indiana bats roosting and foraging at the same location proposed for wind turbines. There is a high probability that construction and operation of windfarms at several of the proposed locations could result in mortality of Indiana bats, as well as of non-listed bats.
Development of Alternative Energy Sources in Missouri: In addition to receiving 12 windpower development proposals for review over the last year, the Service’s Columbia, Missouri, Ecological Services Field Office has also seen a substantial increase in the number of proposed actions for development of ethanol and other bio-fuel facilities. In just the last three months of FY 2007, the field office received 10 proposed projects for review. Many of these projects, especially ethanol plants, are proposed to be located on the two major rivers in the State (the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers) to take advantage of water-based transport of grain, fuel, and by-products. Of course, the other reason for locating on a stable water supply is to be able to meet the huge demand for water required to produce ethanol.
Implementation of Missouri’s Comprehensive Wildlife Strategy: In FY 2007, the Service’s Columbia, Missouri, Ecological Services Field Office began assisting the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) with implementation of its Comprehensive Wildlife Strategy, principally in relation to the Conservation Opportunity Areas (COA). The Service is involved in several COAs and has started discussions with MDC on how to best utilize the mutual capabilities of the two agencies in reviewing/mitigating development actions impacting biological diversity/integrity of the COA’s.
Flood Control/Protection in Missouri: Through most of FY 2007, the Memphis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continued to purchase mitigation lands within the St. John – New Madrid Flood Control Project in the Missouri Bootheel (1,595 acres acquired in FY 20007 for wetland mitigation) and develop restoration/management plans for parcels acquired over the last three years. On September 12, 2007, the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled against the Corps on one critical piece of the lawsuit brought by Environmental Defense and National Wildlife Federation. Judge Robertson ruled that the Corps was arbitrary and capricious in how it manipulated information on fishery habitat losses and how the Corps characterized the value of its plan to compensate for these losses. The Judge issued an order with the opinion enjoining the Corps from proceeding with the project and instruction the Corps to deconstruct portions of the project that had been built. The Corps is currently determining how it will proceed in light of this court decision and has informed the Service that it has stopped with its plans to continue purchasing and restoring mitigation lands in the project area.
Programmatic Approaches to Streamline Environmental Reviews in Missouri: The Service’s Columbia, Missouri, Ecological Services Field Office is working on a programmatic approach to streamline the review of various housing and community actions (e.g., those associated with grants from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the Economic Development Administration). The field office receives hundreds of these requests per year, most of which have little resource impact or return. Anticipated completion of this effort is late September to early October 2007. The field office expects that this programmatic approach will save considerable time for biologists, supervisor, and administrative personnel to work on higher priority conservation actions. In FY 2008, the field office will explore, develop, and implement additional programmatic approaches to low impact/low resource return actions.
East Lansing, Michigan, Field Office
The supported alternatives would, if selected and implemented, remove the concrete in over a two mile section of the river, such that for each existing cross-section from the edge of the riverbanks to the normal (mean) water surface elevation (NWSE) (approximately 574.3 feet National Geodetic Vertical Datum 29), the concrete lining would be eliminated. This would require removal of approximately 37 feet of concrete from the upper edge to NWSE on each side of the river, which represents about a 7-foot vertical drop in the upper edge elevation of the concrete lining. The Corps proposes to leave the concrete “V” channel that comprises the riverbed unaltered to provide for adequate flood flows and discourage channel erosion. The addition of floodplain habitat, side-stream wetlands, and instream structures would benefit many of the species historically found in the area (see paragraph below).
Historic accounts document more than 60 native fish species, including brook lamprey, American eel, lake herring, minnows, catfish, northern pike, brook silversides, sticklebacks, sculpin, and various sunfish and perch species. Several other species, such as lake sturgeon, muskellunge, white bass, lake whitefish, and smallmouth bass, have been found in neighboring streams or connecting systems, including the Detroit River, and were most likely present in the Rouge drainage area. Forty-nine species of reptiles and amphibians are known to occur within the Rouge River, the watershed or its associated wetlands. Rarer species generally associated with the Rouge drainage system include the small-mouthed salamander; Blanchard’s cricket frog; the spotted, wood, Blanding’s and eastern box turtles; Kirtland’s water snake, eastern massasauga rattlesnake, black rat snake, and eastern fox snake. The Rouge River watershed serves as an important migratory bird stopover site. Ninety-one species, including neo-tropical songbirds, waterfowl, and raptors, have been documented. Habitat for many of these species is located in the floodplains and wooded riparian corridors, much of which is public parkland. The riparian and wooded corridor also provides habitat for a variety of mammalian species, including raccoons, skunks, mink, and red, gray, fox and flying squirrels (Beam and Braunscheidel 1998). It is also possible that the federally endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) may have used forested areas for summer roosting and breeding.
Partners involved in this effort include but are not limited to the Detroit District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wayne County (local sponsor) Michigan DNR, University of Michigan Dearborn.
Green Bay, Wisconsin, Field Office
Enbridge Energy Pipeline Project in Wisconsin: Enbridge Energy is constructing two parallel crude oil pipelines within a 321-mile long existing pipeline easement in Wisconsin. The project is to be constructed completely within the existing permanently cleared easement, but is also expected to result in temporary impacts to over 1200 acres of wetlands within a cleared temporary workspace. During review of this project the Service’s Green Bay, Wisconsin, Ecological Services Field Office recommended that compensatory mitigation be provided by Enbridge to offset temporal impacts to wetland habitats. The total acreage of requested compensatory wetland mitigation was calculated based upon the expected interval between disturbance and recovery within each of the emergent, scrub-shrub and forested wetland habitats. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers included the requested 165 acres of restored wetland habitat as compensatory wetland mitigation in a condition in the final permit. Based on Service recommendations, the Corps also included a permit condition designed to avoid or minimize impacts to nesting migratory birds resulting from land clearing activities for pipeline construction.
Lake Sturgeon Spawning Habitat Protection – Fox River Hydropower Project, Wisconsin: sturgeon are a species of special concern in Lake Michigan and the third largest spawning aggregation of sturgeon from Lake Michigan occurs below the DePere Dam located on the Lower Fox River tributary to Green Bay. Hydropower operations at Thilmany Paper Company’s DePere plant had the potential to completely dewater these spawning grounds during lake sturgeon egg incubation and larval development.
The Service’s Green Bay, Wisconsin, Ecological Services Field Office Service has been engaged in the FERC licensing process for this project since 1999, conducting fish surveys, flow measurements, and providing information about the effects of hydropower operations on the sturgeon spawning grounds. Based on the information provided by the Service, the FERC-issuance license required Thilmany to develop an operational plan to protect lake sturgeon.
The initial draft plan that was submitted by the company to FERC did not ensure sufficient flows to keep the sturgeon spawning habitat covered with water during the crucial time period. After two years of negotiations and a jointly-conducted experimental flow study, Thilmany and the Service and were able to reach agreement on an operational plan that ensured that water remain in the spawning area when it was needed to protect spawning and larval development. The plan has adaptive management components that will allow for modifications to be made as our understanding of the hydrological processes at the dam and lake sturgeon usage of the downstream habitat improve.
Advanced Regional Wetland Planning Continues to Protect Wetlands in Wisconsin: The Service’s Green Bay, Wisconsin, Ecological Services Field Office provides technical review of wetland compensation sites through the Superior Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) committee. The committee, consisting of members from five local, state, and federal agencies (including the Service) approved the preservation and enhancement of a 456-acre site in Superior, Wisconsin, as mitigation for approximately 52 acres of wetlands lost. The site will be protected for wildlife habitat and non-motorized recreation.
Rock Island, Illinois, Field Office
Cooperative Conservation on the Upper Mississippi River System: The Service’s Rock Island, Illinois, Ecological Services Field Office has been coordinating with three Corps of Engineer Districts and other Region 3 Mississippi River project offices in anticipation of a river restoration program covering more than 1,200 miles of the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Construction is expected to begin in FY 2009 if a Water Resources Development Act is approved during this session of Congress. The Navigation Environmental Sustainability Program (NESP) would authorize significant navigation improvements (e.g., 1,200-foot-long locks & over $200 million in mitigation) and more than 1,000 habitat improvements projects estimated at more than $5.1 billion over 50 years. In FY 2007, Rock Island Field biologists Jon Duyvejonck and Robert Clevenstine served as team leaders coordinating Region 3 assistance to the Corps’ activities. In addition, biologists and managers from the Service’s Marion, Illinois, and Twin Cities, Minnesota, Field Offices, the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, the Mark Twain National Refuge Complex, and the LaCrosse and Carterville Fishery Resource Offices also provided technical support. Service staff provided technical assistance to the following activities: NESP Science Panel, fish passage projects at Lock and Dams 22 and Melvin Price, navigation improvements at La Grange Lock and Dam, Locks and Dams 22 and 25, the UMR Forest Management Plan, the Pool 18 reach plan, shoreline protection, and attendance at program planning activities such as the Navigation Environmental Coordinating Committee (NECC) meetings. The Service continues to enjoy a close productive relationship with Corps staff involved with NESP.
Coordination on Development of Marina in Guttenberg, Iowa: The Service’s Rock Island, Illinois, Ecological Services Field Office has been working with the City of Guttenberg, Iowa, and the Riverfront Development Task Force toward the completion of studies and the permit review process for development of a marina in Guttenberg’s historic downtown area. Over the past two years the Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources have coordinated with marina developers in order to reduce the potential impacts of the proposed marina on wetlands and the endangered Higgins eye pearlymussel. The city’s willingness to coordinate and redesign and reduce the scope and size of the project to avoid impacts to the mussel bed was significant to the completion of the permit process. The marina was re-designed to be constructed behind the shoreline instead of removing the shoreline and subsequently destroying the mussel bed along the shoreline. This re-design reduced the overall number of available marina slips by more than a third, eliminated additional seasonal docks, and re-located a fueling station inside the marina and behind a berm to reduce spill concerns. The amount of dredging required for the project was reduced to the entrance of the marina only, almost eliminating the direct impacts to the bed that were initially expected. A four to one mitigation ratio was used to mitigate wetland impacts associated with this project. The positive changes in project plans resulted from meetings and coordination over a two-year period with the project applicant. The Service appreciates and recognizes the willingness with which the City of Guttenberg and the Riverfront Development Task Force approached this cooperative effort in order to avoid and minimize impacts to natural resources and threatened and endangered Federal and State listed species.
Environmental Streamlining of Corps (Rock Island District) Permit Reviews: The Service’s Rock Island, Illinois, Ecological Services Field Office has been streamlining its responses to Corps of Engineers Section 10/404 permits. The Rock Island District Corps of Engineers has developed mitigation guidelines that the field office supports. Many of the actions proposed which have adverse impacts on fish and wildlife can be sorted into similar features. The field office has consolidated its responses to these similar features and has been using the services of a STEP graduate student to assemble letters based on sorted impacts and referral to the Corps’ Mitigation Guidelines. The field office has also informed Corps staff that the field office will no longer provide responses to routine Section 10 or Nationwide permits unless listed species may be affected. Corps staff will alert the field office on actions of significance.
Service Participates in Award-Winning Highway Planning Effort in Illinois: The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has announced winners of the 2006 Exemplary Ecosystem Initiatives awards. The Illinois Department of Transportation (ILDOT) was honored to have the Illinois 29 Project selected for this award. The 35-mile-long project corridor runs from IL 6 near Mossville in Peoria County to Interstate 180 in Bureau County. The highway lies between bluffs and bluff-top farmlands to the west and the Illinois River to the east. Two-lane IL 29 is being studied for expansion to four lanes. ILDOT congratulated all of the cooperating agencies, the Service, the Illinois DNR, USEPA, and the Corps, for their hard work on this project. The interagency team, which includes staff from the Service’s Rock Island, Illinois, Ecological Services Field Office partnered with ILDOT through early planning guided by the NEPA/404 merger agreement to minimize construction impacts on surrounding ecosystems and to develop minimization and mitigation strategies. An impressive array of natural resources is located within the IL 29 study area: Illinois Nature Preserves and Natural Areas, an Illinois Land and Water Reserve, and approximately 6,000 acres of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Fish and Wildlife Areas. The properties offer recreational opportunities and provide habitat for wildlife species like the bald eagle and plant species like the threatened decurrent false aster. A wide variety of measures to protect natural resources have been incorporated into the IL 29 project, from the various design features (narrow median, split profile, and split interchange), to the incorporation of about 30 wildlife passages for mammal and amphibian/reptile protection at road-kill hot spots, to the habitat mitigation components which includes the eventual transfer of approximately 734 acres to ILDNR. More information about this project can be found at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/ecosystems/il06.htm.
Marion, Illinois, Sub-Office
Strategic Habitat Conservation in the Middle Mississippi River: In 2006, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with assistance from the Middle Mississippi River Partnership (MMRP), initiated “reach planning” for the Middle Mississippi River (MMR). The intent of the reach plans (assessments) is to begin to identify and focus habitat restoration efforts in the MMR, including the floodplain. These initial efforts focused on the Harlow Reach (river miles 120-160).
The formal consultation for this project contributes to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plan and Strategy. The pallid sturgeon is listed as a Species in Greatest Need of Conservation in Illinois and the Middle Mississippi River is a Priority Conservation Area. The formal consultation contributes to the Streams Campaign Action #3, which is to protect, restore and enhance near-stream and instream habitats and processes. Additionally, part of the action area for the consultation falls within the Cape Hills Conservation Opportunity Area identified in the Missouri Comprehensive Wildlife Strategy. The formal consultation contributes to the Missouri Comprehensive Wildlife Strategy by protecting existing mussels, native fish, and invertebrates.
Corps Permit Denied for Lake on Sugar Creek in Southern Illinois: The long saga and controversy over a proposal to build a lake on Sugar Creek in Williamson and Johnson Counties, Illinois, may be over. On June 27, 2007, the Louisville District of the Corps of Engineers issued a letter denying the City of Marion the permit required to build the proposed water supply reservoir, closing the most recent chapter in the lake development proposal dating back to 1994. The idea of building a lake on Sugar Creek dates back to the mid-1980’s. However, in 1994 the proposal resurfaced with the City of Marion proposing to build a new, approximately 1200-acre water supply reservoir. The City had been directed to pursue new options for water supply by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and had exhausted avenues to obtain water from Devil’s Kitchen Lake on Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.
Reynoldsburg, Ohio, Field Office
Service Streamlines Consultation and Coordination on Energy Projects in Ohio: Columbia Gas Transmission and the Service’s Reynoldsburg, Ohio, Ecological Services Field Office have partnered to streamline consultation and review of the numerous gas projects implemented in Ohio every year. During FY 2007, the field office and Columbia Gas entered into a programmatic agreement that categorized and prioritized projects for review, based on proposed resource impacts. For example, projects that occur in existing maintained right-of-way and did not impact streams or wetlands were exempted from review by the Service, while a project that would involve stream or wetland impacts or impacts to trees or previously undisturbed areas would be subject to individual review. Included in this agreement were streamlined Section 7 consultation procedures as well, which identified particular areas of the state where listed species are of concern. In particular, consultation on projects that were within townships with bald eagle nests were streamlined by implementing a “phone call” consultation to determine if a project was located within ½ mile of a bald eagle nest. If not, verbal concurrence was provided, and no additional consultation was necessary. This approach has allowed the field office to focus more effort on projects having a greater potential to affect resources of concern to the Service. During FY 2007, Columbia Gas processed 54 projects under the programmatic agreement that did not require additional consultation with the Service. The field office estimates that approximately 40 hours of staff time was saved by implementing this agreement. Columbia Gas has also been very satisfied with the outcome of the agreement and has requested an extension of the agreement through the next fiscal year.
Service and Corps of Engineers Protect Resources in Ohio: During FY 2007, the Reynoldsburg, Ohio, Ecological Services Field Office reviewed and evaluated alternatives for several Corps of Engineers (Corps) projects: Lorain Harbor Dredging Material Maintenance Plan (DMMP); Cleveland Harbor DMMP; and Dover Dam Safety Assurance Project. In response to these projects, the Service provided Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act Reports. The Corps provided transfer funds to the Service that supported staff time to complete these reports.
The Lorain Harbor DMMP was initiated by the Corps to address future maintenance needs of the Harbor as well as safe and beneficial disposal of the dredged material as the existing confined disposal facility (CDF) nears capacity. The entire Black River Watershed is considered an Area of Concern, but recent improvements in water quality have occurred and more positive uses of the dredged material are being sought. Concerns about aquatic impacts as well as effects on a great blue heron rookery located at the potential beneficial use site were examined.
Similarly, the Cleveland Harbor DMMP examined the issues of dredging and dredged material disposal, including use of existing CDFs and beneficial use of dredged material. The Service concurs that the Preferred Alternative can be developed in an environmentally acceptable manner, provided that best management practices be fully implemented in the watershed, beneficial uses of dredged spoil be fully utilized, and existing CDFs be modified to maximize their capacities. Service recommendations are, at a minimum, postponing the need to construct a new CDF that would occupy about 60 acres of near-shore Lake Erie habitat.
The Dover Dam Safety Assurance Project on the Tuscarawas River addresses the dam’s lack of conformity to the Corps’ current design standards for high hazard dams. The Fish and Wildlife Service addressed the Corps’ list of alternatives, in particular the preferred alternative, and made recommendations to protect valuable fish and wildlife habitat, possibly including endangered mussel habitat in the tailwater reach of the river. The Service recommended a mussel survey for the federally endangered clubshell mussel (Pleurobema clava) along a 2-mile segment of the river that may be impacted by the project and associated access roads. Service recommendations will likely help to preserve a significant portion of riparian habitat along this stretch of the river.
Service Relies on Partnerships to Advance Landscape-level Wetland Conservation in Ohio: Ohio has lost over 90 percent of its wetlands since European settlement and continued development in the state threatens the remaining 10 percent. As the Conservation Planning Assistance (CPA) branch of the Division of Ecological Services intensifies its focus on watershed, landscape, and regional-level planning, the Reynoldsburg, Ohio, Ecological Services Field Office (ROFO) has grasped the opportunity to shape wetland conservation at the watershed, regional, and landscape scale by emphasizing its contributions to Ohio’s Mitigation Bank Review Team (MBRT).
Bolstered by recent participation in the national pilot workshop on MBRTs, which was developed and presented by the Nation’s leaders in the field, ROFO biologists have undertaken a renewed focus on wetland mitigation banking. The field office envisions its participation in the critical, science-based review and approval of wetland mitigation banks offered by the MBRT process as an invaluable component of the Service’s mission to conserve the Nation’s wetlands. Ensuring scientifically sound wetland mitigation, developed on the scale of hundreds of acres and serving mitigation needs across several 8-digit watersheds, greatly improves efficiency over project-by-project review of mitigation proposals. The Ohio MBRT oversees approximately twenty active and proposed mitigation banks encompassing nearly 2,000 wetland acres in two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Districts. As an integral member of the MBRT, ROFO is excited to be able to offer its unique expertise in management of fish and wildlife resources to help shape mitigation bank plans. The field office values its excellent relationships with the other MBRT agencies and looks forward to utilizing these partnerships to further enhance the quality of mitigation for unavoidable impacts to Ohio’s remaining wetland resources.
Service Participating in Collaborative Review Process for Coal Mining Proposals in Ohio: Spurred by the February 10, 2005, Memorandum of Understanding among the Office of Surface Mining, Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers and the Fish and Wildlife Service, which encourages the agencies to develop a streamlined integrated coal mine permitting processes, the Service’s Reynoldsburg, Ohio, Ecological Services Field Office has been taking its resource protection responsibilities directly to its MOU mining partners. As part of the integrated permit process, field office biologists have been joining resource agency partners in visiting potential surface coal mine sites with mining companies to identify important natural resource issues and explore ways of addressing any potential conflicts between mining activities and natural resource conservation well before any permit applications are submitted.
The Reynoldsburg Field Office has found that participation in these field meetings results in a host of benefits, including:
Service biologists have often found that differences of opinion can be addressed and resolved during these field meetings. By tackling potential conflicts early in the planning process with face-to-face dialog, the parties to the MOU are able to avoid most last-minute difficulties and promote a more efficient and effective permitting process. The Reynoldsburg Field Office is pleased with the results of the integrated permitting process and is excited to continue this valuable interaction with the coal industry and partner agencies into the foreseeable future.
Twin Cities, Minnesota, Field Office
Water Level Management on the Upper Mississippi River for Environmental Restoration: The Service’s Twin Cities, Minnesota, Ecological Services Field Office provided key biological expertise, consultation, and review of an innovative water level management program on the Upper Mississippi River. This program, involving environmental drawdowns in Pools 5 and 8 on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, recently won a “Seven Wonders of Engineering” award from the Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers. These drawdowns were accomplished though planning by the Water Level Management Task Force, an interagency partnership comprised of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; U.S. Geological Survey; Fish and Wildlife Service; Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa Departments of Natural Resources; commercial towing industry; and private citizens. The award will be presented on February 23, 2007, to the project sponsor, the St. Paul District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages water levels on the Upper Mississippi River for the federal 9-Foot Channel Project.
Rehabilitation and Enhancement of Long Meadow Lake in Minnesota: The Service’s Twin Cities, Minnesota, Ecological Services Field Office worked closely with the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge to provide environmental review and design assistance for the Long Meadow Lake Habitat Rehabilitation and Enhancement Project (HREP). This project was completed during FY 2007 in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District. A new water-control structure at the outflow to the wetland will result in the restoration of a more natural hydrologic regime within Long Meadow Lake, benefiting 1,300 acres of emergent and submergent marsh. The structure provides the Refuge with the ability to manage the Lake for wading birds, waterfowl, shorebirds, and other aquatic species despite the input of stormwater from the City of Bloomington. Additionally, the water-control structure allows the Refuge to discharge excess stormwater and prevent the backflow of high water from the Minnesota River into Long Meadow Lake.
Service Collaboration in Minnesota Wetland Mitigation: Habitat for Fish and Wildlife Service trust resources such as migratory birds and aquatic species disappears each year due to wetland development in Minnesota. In an effort to address this issue, the Service’s Twin Cities, Minnesota, Ecological Services Field Office has been an active partner in the State’s wetland mitigation banking process through technical assistance on the ground as annual coordination with and review of the Board of Water and Soil Resource's (BWSR) process for evaluating and purchasing wetland credits to replace those lost through county and state road projects.
This banking system is used by both state (BWSR) and federal (Army Corps of Engineers) wetland development permitting agencies, as well as the Fish and Wildlife Service, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to address wetland replacement statewide. This year alone, the state of Minnesota will spend over $6 million dollars to acquire replacement credits for a portion of the 286 unmitigated acres of wetland development currently on the books.
Ecological Service’s staff in Minnesota recently provided intensive review and comments on the state's first attempt to procure wetland credits through a bid process. The intent of the new process was to assess the market value of wetland mitigation and resulting “credits,” as well as to document the interest in wetland banking within each of the "service areas"-- large watershed designations within the state designed to replace wetland functions within the same watersheds where impacts occur. Cooperation and coordination with the other state and federal resource agencies will continue to promote an efficient, up-to-date wetland replacement process that translates to on-the-ground recovery of a diversity of quality wetlands and associated upland buffers statewide. In addition, this effort will aid the coordinating agencies in promoting and/or retaining species diversity through replacement of habitat within the same watersheds where project impacts occurred.
Arkansas, Conway Field Office
Transportation Projects in Arkansas
Alligator Gar in Arkansas, an Interjurisdictional Focal Species
We were able to locate and capture pre-spawn staging alligator gar in the Fourche LaFave River in Arkansas. This critical information was then used to search for spawning locations - and the Service captured the first documented juvenile Alligator Gar in Arkansas. These juvenile fish prove that spawning is actually occurring in state.
We then intensified our efforts in the spawning areas, and have gathered even more important information about the life history of the Gar. This information includes a number of spawns; takings by bow fishermen during spawning, observed spawning; the collection of eggs, larvals, and juveniles; and documented habitat use. We were able to continually follow and collect fish as they moved throughout the river system. We are currently documenting fish passage/isolation due to falling water levels and fish passage impediments. Finally, we have documented three size classes that indicate that spawning occurred at three different times in the past year.
Mammoth Springs National Fish Hatchery (NFH) is ‘growing out’ approximately one dozen individuals for egg/sperm stockpiling protection. Any future tagging/stocking and genetic information will be provided and shared with other university researchers, along with our Warm Springs NFH. Furthermore, methods and information obtained in Arkansas is now being shared with other members of the workgroup and is being applied elsewhere. Our knowledge and understanding of the life history and behavior of alligator gar is now increasing daily.
Based on this preliminary reconnaissance, we intend to expand our efforts in the following years to other parts of the state and region. We will track the species to determine its status, behavior, and will assist the state in development of a management plan. The information we are obtaining may also assist the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in refining their regulations to better conserve and/or manage the species. We are also working in cooperation with two other alligator gar projects on the White River and Ouachita River systems by sharing information and providing technical assistance.
All of these goals have been achieved with no project-specific funding. This successful outcome was the direct result of the cooperation and initiative of the Service and the workgroup. Previous researchers have looked for alligator gar in Arkansas for years with little or no success, but a few months of cooperation accomplished what had not been done in years of previous effort.
We hope to obtain funding to continue and expand this project in the near future. The incredible amount of information we have already obtained underscores the likely significant return on future investment in this project. We recently obtained end-of-year State Wildlife Grant funding for the University of Central Arkansas for this project and will continue to support funding for expanding this effort further. The information obtained from this project will be invaluable in documenting the effects of federal projects on the Gar, and in justifying and supporting the importance of future conservation, restoration, and fish passage efforts along floodplains and streams throughout the Lower Mississippi River Valley. Ultimately this information will help prevent the further decline of alligator gar, and will serve the broader goal of the conservation and restoration of numerous associated habitats and species.
Fayetteville Shale Gas Development - Central Arkansas
Following these findings, public reports, and requests for action, we helped prompt both state and federal agencies to take further action. The Corps of Engineers and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality stepped up their enforcement activities, and these agencies worked to educate the applicants about their environmental and conservation compliance responsibilities. In addition, the Arkansas state legislature and state agencies moved quickly to develop new regulations and permits to be more all encompassing and to close inadequate ‘loopholes’. The gas companies have welcomed these developments, but our office, along with other federal and state agencies, will have to continue to provide direction and education to this new industry. Otherwise, it is clear that water quality, fish spawning, benthic ecology, and ecosystem function could be damaged from routine exploration and extraction.
Conservation in Arkansas’ Karst Region
Ozark Gas Transmission - East End Expansion Project
This is an ongoing project and final acres/stream miles protected is difficult to accurately assess at this time. However, OGT has modified their right-of-way to 1) avoid the Cache River NWR, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Wildlife Management Areas and NRCS WRP easements; 2) minimize wetland, stream and forest fragmentation impacts; and 3) added bore locations to avoid Ivory-billed Woodpecker habitat adjacent to Bayou DeView and the Cache River based on natural resource agency recommendations. OGT also is boring the White River which will avoid impacts to the federally listed pink mucket, scaleshell, and fat pocketbook. OGT will be contracting mussel surveys for named stream crossings to avoid impacts to species of concern.
Jacksonville, Florida Field Office
Bald Eagle Monitoring Guidelines in Florida
Clearance Letter for Communication Tower Projects in Florida
Florida, Vero Beach Field Office
Programmatic Consultation Planning: Natural Resources Conservation Service
The South Florida Ecological Services Office is working with NRCS, along with the Service’s Panama City and Jacksonville field offices, to accomplish these goals, which will benefit the Service as well in terms of consultation efficiency and a greater potential for species protection and recovery through NRCS programs.
Interagency workshops were conducted on April 17-19, May 22-24, and July 9-11 of 2007. Workshops centered on evaluating individual NRCS conservation practices and their standards for implementation for potential effects to threatened and endangered species and their habitat. There are 139 NRCS Conservation Practices applicable to Florida. The work product will be a document containing these conservation practice, guidance, and criteria for effect determinations with species and species habitat protection recommendations. This information will be provided in a comprehensive matrix table of conservation practices, effect determinations for each practice, and recommended species habitat protections included as components of the effects determinations. NRCS is expected to provide an official request for state-wide Service approval of this process in September 2007.
Working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in South Florida
In this continuing effort to reduce correspondence in effect determinations and responses, the Service, in coordination with the Corps, is preparing an addendum to the initial letter implementing this programmatic approach. This addendum will expand the range of the use of this programmatic concurrence opportunity to all counties in South Florida and will include more specific analysis for wetlands mitigation, and foraging analysis compensating for wood stork habitat impacts.
Habitat Conservation and Restoration in Florida
Lake Okeechobee Muck Removal: The Service worked with several other agencies to conduct a “quick turn-around” concurrence for the Lake Okeechobee muck removal project. The scope of the project was to remove muck off the lake bottom in certain predefined areas while the lake levels were unusually low. The project was time sensitive due the threat of rain. The Service requested the applicant avoid all vegetation as this was in Everglade snail kite critical habitat. The muck was removed and stored in temporary disposal areas which were potential habitat to Audubon’s crested caracara. Our close working relationship with the Corps and applicants allowed the project to be completed on time and without impacts to threatened or endangered species.
Babcock Ranch Community: The Service is reviewing the Babcock Ranch Community project. The project site was previously part of the Babcock Ranch, which totaled 91,362 acres. The State of Florida and Charlotte and Lee Counties formed a partnership for the purchase of 73,575 acres of the Babcock Ranch to be held by the State of Florida and Lee County in perpetuity. This publicly owned portion of the ranch is known as the Babcock Ranch Preserve. The remaining 17,787 acres were privately purchased to construct the Babcock Ranch Community, a proposed self sustainable, environmentally conscious, mixed use community.
As part of the project construction, the applicant proposes to fill and excavate 404.63 acres of wetlands and to alter 7,756.86 acres of uplands. As compensation for wetland impacts the project will provide both on-site and off-site mitigation. On-site mitigation includes 2,467.36 acres of wetland preservation and enhancement, 439.90 acres of wetland creation, 4,588.26 acres of upland preservation and enhancement, and the installation of two control structures to elongate the hydroperiod of two large wetland systems. Off-site mitigation will occur within portions of the previously reviewed 16,925-acre Mitigation Park and includes 2,374.06 acres of wetland enhancement and preservation and 2,626.13 acres of upland enhancement and preservation. The 7,495.2 acres of upland and wetlands on-site, the 5,000.19 acres of upland and wetlands off-site and the publicly owned 73,575 acres provides a significant contribution towards the Service’s goal of establishing a large tract of contiguous and preserved lands suitable for a Florida panther population expansion north of the Caloosahatchee River, specifically within the Fred C. Babcock-Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area (WMA)/Western Fisheating Creek region.
Transportation and Energy Coordination in Florida
As an example of our work, we are working with FDOT to design a proposal to four-lane U.S. Highway 29 in Collier County to minimize impacts to habitat of the endangered Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi). We are also working with the FDOT and other state, county, and local agencies to locate and construct new crossings for panthers and other wildlife in south Florida.
Florida Power and Light: During the past fiscal year, the Vero Beach Field Office reviewed several proposed energy projects. These projects included a proposal by Florida Power and Light (FPL) to construct a new coal-fired power plant in Glades County, Florida. However, this proposal was recently denied by the State of Florida’s Public Service Commission. Technical assistance was also provided to FPL for their plans to construct 5 new wind turbines at the Port St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant in St. Lucie County, Florida.
Office of Pipeline Safety: The Vero Beach field office has been working cooperatively with the Service’s Washington D.C. office in developing “Best Management Practices” (BMPs) for the Department of Pipeline Safety (DPS) to follow when conducting emergency repairs to existing pipelines. The BMPs were designed to help the DPS avoid adverse impacts to federally listed species, and minimize impacts to fish and wildlife.
Everglades Restoration Program
The Service initiated a CERP Interagency Manatee Task Force* (Task Force) in 2003 to develop comprehensive manatee conservation guidance. Among other actions, Task Force partners evaluated the existing extensive Central and Southern Florida canal system to determine how manatees move through the canals and which water control structures provide access. Subsequently, the Task Force identified specific protection guidance to reduce or eliminate manatee canal access as well as associated injury or mortality, cold water temperature exposure, and insufficient forage risks. The manatee protection guidance includes actions to:
Concurrently, the Task Force developed a plan to install barriers on strategic structures to prevent manatee canal access. Barrier plan conservation benefits achieved include:
* Task Force partners include the Service, Army Corps of Engineers, South Florida Water Management District, U.S. Geological Survey, Everglades National Park, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management representative.
With $38 million from the Department of Interior and other funding, PRSP partners*:
PSRP baseline monitoring (hydrology, aquatic fauna, panthers and panther prey, wading birds including wood storks, vegetation, and estuarine indicator species, i.e., oysters, fish, and crabs) provided critical direction to guide habitat restoration. A panther prey study yielded important new information on deer and panther activity patterns. Digital camera monitoring documented at least 12 adult panthers during the 16-month study, as well as two family groups in 2005 and four family groups in 2006-2007. At least one female panther denned on the PSRP site in 2007. Camera monitoring also documented black bear, bobcat, coyote, and other wildlife. Planned West Indian manatee baseline and construction monitoring will identify potential PRSP effects to manatee refugia at a downstream marina basin.
* PSRP conservation partners include the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), the Army Corps of Engineers, the South Florida Water Management District, the Florida Division of Forestry, and the U.S. Geological Survey.
C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir Project: The 10,602-acre C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir Project (C-43 Reservoir) in Hendry County, Florida, will improve the quantity, timing, and distribution of freshwater flows to the Caloosahatchee Estuary by capturing Caloosahatchee Basin runoff and Lake Okeechobee water releases. Service staff and conservation partners* cooperatively developed plans and designs for the C-43 Reservoir which will:
* C-43 Reservoir conservation partners include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the South Florida Water Management District, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission among other partners.
Southwest Florida Feasibility Study: The $12-million Southwest Florida Study (SWFFS), conducted by the Service and conservation partners*, provides comprehensive regional planning alternatives for addressing water resource problems and opportunities in southwest Florida. The 4,300 square mile SWFFS study area encompasses all or part of 6 counties, 2 major drainage basins, and 11 municipalities.
Service staff played central roles in all phase of the SWFFS including development of:
Once a plan is selected, the Service will continue to work with the Corps to prepare an integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement to address ecosystem protection and restoration; water flows; future agricultural, environmental, and urban water supply and demand; socio-economic resources; aquifer recharge; conversion of public conservation lands to water storage areas; water quality; flood protection; land acquisition; fish and wildlife resources; cultural resources; and fragmentation and loss of habitat.
* SWFFS conservation partners include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the South Florida Water Management District, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other partners.
Georgia Field Office
FERC Hydropower Projects in Georgia
Lake Blackshear Hydropower Project: This project, owned and operated by Crisp County Power Commission, also is undergoing FERC relicensing. Enhancement measures developed by Georgia ES and Georgia Department of Natural Resources include an alternate flow regime that will benefit spring-spawning aquatic species, a new turbine to enhance downstream dissolved oxygen levels, and a mussel monitoring plan.
Energy Projects in Georgia
In 2007, FERC and SLNG proposed the Elba III Project. This project would add additional tank facilities at Elba Island in Savannah, Georgia and more pipeline along the South Carolina and Georgia borders. Georgia ES, FERC, and SLNG have reached an agreement to allow coastal streams crossings without building coffer dams. The dam building, meant to reduce impacts to aquatic habitat, was actually increasing the sedimentation and erosion of the streams.
Georgia ES worked with TVA and local power companies on four new powerlines in the upper Coosa Basin to design stream crossings and develop right-of-way maintenance procedures to minimize short- and long-term project impacts on five listed fish and six listed mussels in the Etowah, Conasauga, and Coosawattee Basins.
Georgia ES biologists worked with Department of Energy representatives, CH2MHill, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and Range Fuels in Soperton, Georgia on plans to construct and operate a new thermochemical cellulosic ethanol plant. DOE will be providing $76 million for Range Fuels to build this plant. Gopher tortoises are known at two locations on this site.
DOE, Range Fuels and CH2M Hill have rearranged the plant layout to exclude the areas with tortoises and potential Eastern indigo snakes.
Transportation Projects in Georgia
Georgia ES worked with the Federal Highway Administration and Georgia Department of Transportation to improve section 7 consultation on road projects. Georgia ES, on an earlier project, requested FHWA and GDOT install five in-stream, real-time water monitoring stations that assess the effects of construction on pH, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen. We currently are analyzing and using data from these monitoring to refine our recommendations to reduce the effects of development projects on listed species. In the past, GDOT performed manual monitoring of turbidity when working in listed-species streams, an extremely costly process that produced dubious results. Preliminary results of the data collected show that special erosion control measures GDOT implements provide adequate control at work sites; these data will allow GDOT and FHWA more flexibility under section 7, at a time and cost savings for all parties.
Water Supply Projects in Georgia
Restoration in Georgia
However, many of the stream mitigation bank locations were selected without regard for how the upstream watershed would develop, how upstream urbanization would affect stormwater runoff and water quality, whether the site was adjacent to or provided a corridor between other protected lands, or whether aquatic species utilizing or colonizing the site would be fragmented from other populations due to culverts, dams, poor habitat or other factors that could affect aquatic movement. Georgia ES has been working with the Savannah District Corps of Engineers, EPA, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Department of Transportation, The Nature Conservancy, and Georgia Wetlands Trust Fund to find ways to encourage location of banks and other habitat restoration projects in important watershed focus areas, such as areas important for recovery of endangered and threatened aquatic species or streams identified as priority by GADNR. Within each watershed focus area, we are establishing champion streams where new stream restoration or preservation projects in the basin should be concentrated, so that, ultimately, the entire sub-basin is protected. In areas without champion streams, we are encouraging placement of projects adjacent to other protected stream reaches or in headwater streams to enhance long-term stream stability. This is a unique way to use private entrepreneurial money to restore public resources.
Georgia ES, at the request of the Savannah District, Corps of Engineers, is rewriting stream mitigation guidelines to include a landscape level assessment of potential restoration sites. Mitigation sites under the new plan will be focused in the champion reaches and other reaches where the upstream watershed is largely protected or where the local government has adopted ordinances/land planning measures that will limit the impact of upland development on stream health. Georgia ES is making similar assessments in evaluating potential locations for conservation banks to protect listed fish species in the Etowah basin.
Georgia ES continues to participate in the Interagency Burn Team (IBT) created in 2001 to draw together all of the required resources to conduct prescribed fire for the benefit of fire-dependent-ecosystems and imperiled species associated with these systems. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy and the Georgia Forestry Commission are the primary cooperators. The IBT utilizes resources from all partners to exchange in-kind services to conduct prescribed burns. The IBT has burned between 1000 and 2000 acres on private lands to benefit imperiled species, and the number of acres burned on lands held by IBT cooperators has increased from a total of 257 acres in 2001 to 6966 acres in 2007. Numerous rare plants and animals benefit from these burns including Eastern indigo snake, gopher tortoise, red-cockaded woodpecker, Canby’s dropwort, hairy rattleweed, and a suite of other rare species.
Streamlining Regulatory Processes in Georgia
Georgia ES coordinated with the Savannah District, Army Corps of Engineers, to revise Regional Conditions for the 2007 Nationwide Permits. The new Regional Conditions contain specific guidelines for designing, sizing, and embedding culverted road crossings to promote the safe passage of fish and other aquatic organisms (see http://www.fws.gov/athens/stream_crossing/stream_crossing_reg_cond.htm). Since the new Regional Conditions were approved in March 2007, Georgia ES has actively reviewed over 70 projects with road crossings and provided comments that either resulted in positive design changes or design clarification on nearly 45% of applications. As a result, newly-installed culverts are less likely to be undersized, to alter flow velocity or water depth, and/or to become perched; all of these factors provide direct benefit to movement of interjurisdictional fish and other aquatic organisms.
In an effort to facilitate recovery efforts for imperiled freshwater mussels, Georgia ES has continued to partner with the Panama City FO to field-test the Draft 2005 “Freshwater Mussel Survey Protocol for the Southeastern Atlantic Slope and Northeastern Gulf drainages in Florida and Georgia.” In 2007, the survey length portion of the protocol was tested. Based on the resulting data, a final version of the protocol will be produced in fall of 2007. Additionally, Georgia ES conducted a week-long mussel survey blitz within the Conasauga River Basin, which harbors six federally-listed mussels, to supplement locality information for these species.
Migratory Bird Conservation in Georgia
In 2007, the Navy started implementing a plan to enhance migratory bird habitat at the Kings Bay Submarine Base in St. Mary’s, Georgia. Georgia ES, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the Navy at Kings Bay Sub Base partnered to regulate the Navy’s dredge spoil ponds for increased security measures, and to provide birds with feeding, nesting, and roosting sites. Security patrol views are restricted by uncontrolled growth of plants on the spoil sites. Reduced water levels at these sites also results in lost of habitat and feeding areas for birds. In 2006, the Navy funded the FO’s development of a dredge spoil management plan. The Navy will also implement this plan at other naval facilities. Transfer funds from the Navy funds from the Navy will be used to monitor the success of this project.
Anadramous Fish Conservation/Fish Passage in Georgia
Georgia ES is working with FWS Fisheries, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, GDNR, National Marine Fisheries Service, South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and The Nature Conservancy to develop an Alabama Shad Restoration and Management Plan for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, as well as working with GDNR to develop an American Shad Restoration and Management Plan for the Altamaha River Basin. When finalized in FY08, these documents will focus on opportunities for improved fish passage and flow regimes, as well as experimental stocking.
Georgia ES is participating with other ES offices, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, NOAA and others on the Atlantic sturgeon reintroduction plan for the St. Mary’s River. Individual work groups will continue to meet and finalize their part of the plan. A management plan is nearing completion.
Fish passage funds granted to the Southeastern Wood Producers Association (SWPA) were used to construct wooden bridges that were contributed to the Georgia Forestry Commission, Temple Inland, Bowater Incorporated, and Bristol Timber Company. Each bridge consists of three panels measuring four feet wide by twenty feet long. SWPA held two workshops on bridging timber harvest roads where loggers were able to view the bridges, understand their application, and learn where bridges could be purchased. Bowater used their set during a timber operation and provided favorable comments about the design and ease of use. Bowater will conduct a meeting for its logging contractors this fall with a demonstration of the bridges in use. The Georgia Forestry Commission will use one set for logging conducted in threatened and endangered fish habitat and will loan the other to logging companies. Temple – Inland plans to implement a bridge loan program to logging contractors and will educate them on use of the bridges at a contractor meeting later in 2007. Bristol Timber Company used their bridge several times to cross perennial and intermittent streams without any sediment or debris getting into the stream. This project has brought a comprehensive focus to Best Management Practices to protect rare aquatic species and minimize the impacts of logging roads on fish passage in the targeted region.
Conservation with Military Partners in Georgia
Georgia ES reviewed and approved Fort Stewart's request to renew their existing Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP) for another 5 years. Fort Stewart's INRMP is an excellent example of a good working plan and some of the most significant accomplishments include increasing the red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) population from 201 groups in the year 2001 to 279 groups this year, improvements to RCW habitat with prescribe burning, assessing Ft. Stewart's 1300 potential breeding ponds for flatwoods salamanders, and a research project involving some of Ft. Stewart’s Eastern indigo snakes. The Service also believes that the INRMP can continue to be effective and is beneficial to listed species on the installation.
Landscape Planning in Georgia
Georgia ES was asked to identify the three most important estuaries on the Georgia Coast for the Southeastern Aquatic Resources Partnership (SARP) Habitat Committee. We were tasked to prioritize the coastal areas that are most important because of the rapid development that is occurring on the coast. Georgia ES identified the Altamaha River estuaries as the most important to migratory birds and other wildlife. This area would include the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve. Second choice was the marshes around the Cumberland Island/Kings Bay Subase area for their extensive area of coverage and the threat of new high density development and large marinas. Third choice was the marshes in the area of the Ogeechee River and the Little Ogeechee River because of the rapid residential development and the sprawl of Savannah and Richmond Hill. These waterways and associated marshes empty into Ossabaw Sound with Wassaw NWR to the north and Ossabaw Island (State) Heritage preserve to the south. This is a sensitive area that will be increasingly threatened by stormwater and nonpoint source pollution inputs.
Frankfort, Kentucky Field Office
Development of a Letter of Permission Permitting Process for Highway Projects in KY:
Although the LOP has not yet been issued by the ACE allowing for issuance of a permit under this new process, it has widely been accepted by all agencies with several aspects of the process currently being incorporated into the planning and development of approximately twenty-one transportation projects requiring a 404 permit. Adoption of the LOP process for this small group of test projects has proven to be beneficial. The KFO and other agencies are now involved in the advanced planning of projects and are given the opportunity early on in this process to provide technical assistance, especially for mitigation and listed species issues. The KFO anticipates that the intention and overall benefits of this new process will be fully implemented once the LOP is finalized by the ACE.
Mill Branch Stream Restoration Project, Kentucky
Streamlining Hurricane Recovery Efforts In Louisiana
Through programmatic streamlining efforts, The LAFO continues to expeditiously assist the Corps, FEMA, EPA, LDOTD, LDNR, and LDEQ in their hurricane recovery efforts. During FY 2007, we protected trust resources by providing technical assistance on over 110 hurricane-related actions including 59 disaster-relief Coastal Barrier Resource Act determinations.
Energy Projects in Louisiana
Through pre-development consultation, the LAFO, along with the Louisiana Geologic Survey and the LDNR, have minimized impacts to valuable coastal wetlands while expediting permits for oil and gas exploration work. In FY 2007, 81 proposed well sites (potentially impacting over 130 wetland acres) were reviewed under this early-planning effort.
Migratory Birds and Endangered Species Conservation in Louisiana
Restoration Permits in Louisiana
Louisiana Coastal Restoration
In addition, the LAFO is working with the Corps, NRCS, EPA, NMFS, LDWF, LDNR, and several NGOs on the feasibility-level planning efforts for the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) projects. Those LCA projects are designated as "Critical Near Term" projects for achieving landscape-scale coastal wetland restoration.
In response the destructive hurricanes of 2005, Congress directed the Corps to develop comprehensive coastal wetland restoration and hurricane protection plans for all of coastal Louisiana. The LAFO has been intensively involved in this effort, through the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Project (LACPR). The LAFO and other natural resources agencies (NMFS, EPA, NRCS, DNR, LDWF, and Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program staff) have worked to programmatically assess landscape-level wetland benefits for 3 existing coastal wetland restoration plans, and to develop 1 to 2 new restoration plans designed to achieve coastal ecosystem sustainability. They have also modeled potential impacts of a number of proposed coast-wide hurricane-protection levee alignments.
Jackson, Mississippi Field Office
Restoration – Corps of Enginieers – MsCIP, Mississippi
MsCIP has emphasized the use of non-structural and environmental solutions due of local sentiment and an inherent understanding of risk associated with living on the coast. The public made it clear from the beginning that they did not want large structural measures. However, the mandate from Congress requires such measures to be evaluated. Because of the intensive involvement of the Service with the Corps throughout this process, we have been able to avoid many major impacts. For example, we were able to avoid CBRA units, National Wildlife Refuges, and other sensitive ecosystems like the Pascagoula River Marsh. In one instance where a proposed buyout/restoration project overlapped a CBRA unit, we consulted with the Regional Office, Washington Office, and Solicitor’s office to determine if that project would be exempted under Section 6A of the Act. It was determined that the project would not only be exempted, but would benefit the Unit by removing residential structures and subsequently restoring the property. Another example of beneficial cooperation was by the potential incorporation of a proposed buyout area into the Grand Bay NWR. The area is adjacent to the Refuge but was not originally included in the acquisition boundary because of the residential nature. The Refuge is now in the process of incorporating this area into their boundary in order to obtain the property once the Corps has completed the buyouts and restoration of the site.
Currently the Environmental appendix is undergoing preliminary review. We are also working to evaluate benefits of environmental restoration of 4 areas included in an advanced buyout proposal. All preliminary drafts for the entire comprehensive report are due to the Contractor for formatting on August 28, 2007. Many of those sections have already been submitted. There will be a preliminary agency review beginning the first week of September continuing through October with comments due back to the Corps on October 27. Agency comments, Independent Technical review comments, and internal comments will be addressed and included in the final draft which will be available for public review on December 15, 2007. Final State and Agency review will begin April 8, 2008. The Final Report will be provided to Congress on November 8, 2008.
Yazoo Backwater Project, Mississippi
Streamlining – Katrina Recovery in Mississippi
Energy Projects in Mississippi
Asheville, North Carolina Field Office
Hydroelectric and related projects in western Carolina
We are currently working with Duke Energy to define the range of potential impacts, and thereby the scope of required studies. We plan to conduct a reconnaissance trip to define the extent of bypassed reaches, determining how to accommodate diadromous fish habitat requirements in the future, ensuring that the project operations attain water quality standards. This advanced planning will be a key to development of adequate mitigation to offset continuing environmental impacts of this hydroelectric project.
2. Tallassee Fund: The Tallassee Fund was created to address the unavoidable ongoing and cumulative impacts of the operation of the Tapoco Hydroelectric Project (P-2169). The Fund was established as part of a settlement agreement signed by USFWS, and is a requirement of the new hydroelectric license issued to Alcoa Power Generating, Inc., and will provide for conservation activities in the Lower Little Tennessee River Valley near the Chilhowee and Calderwood developments.
During 2007, the Tallassee Fund agreed to fund six (6) projects. These projects will further the purposes of the Fund by helping to recover imperiled aquatic fish and mussel species, restore extirpated plant and animal populations, protect riparian corridors and habitat, and control invasive exotic species.
The Tallassee Fund provides $100,000 annually for the forty (40) year term of the license. These first projects were funded from a Fund balance from 2005 and 2006. The geographic scope of Tallassee Fund includes the Lower Little Tennessee Valley in the vicinity of the Calderwood and Chilhowee developments. The mitigation fund will address project-related land and water conservation needs in the Lower Little Tennessee watershed downstream of the Tennessee – North Carolina state line.
The Tallassee Fund is administered by a Board consisting of one authorized representative each from:
Mark Cantrell, biologist with the Service’s Asheville NC Field Office, has served as the Chair of the Board for the past 2 years. The Tallassee Fund is maintained in an account administered by David McKinney of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
3. Anadromous Fish Conservation/Fish Passage- Santee Accord: We have worked hard to develop and implement diadromous fish restoration using a basin-wide approach. We have used models from other river basins to inform our plans. One example of the cooperative approach that we have taken is our efforts to implement the “Santee Diadromous Fish Restoration Plan”. The Ecological Services Field Offices in Asheville, North Carolina, and Charleston, South Carolina, have work closely with the Division of Fisheries South Atlantic Fisheries Coordinator, Raleigh North Carolina, to plan hydroelectric relicensing efforts, field investigations, and fish passage for the basin.
To facilitate cooperative restoration of the interjursidictional fish resources, we have formed “The Santee Cooperative Accord”. The Santee Accord is a collaborative approach among utilities, and federal and state resource agencies, to address diadromous fisheries protection, restoration, and enhancement in the Santee River Basin. The mission of the Santee Accord is to facilitate understanding, protection, enhancement, and restoration of sustainable diadromous fish populations while maintaining a balance of the multiple uses of member hydro projects within the Basin. Though still early in the process, we have already identified some mutual goals and objectives to fulfill the consultation requirements of Section 18 of the Federal Power Act and ultimately incorporate fishway prescriptions. We intend to establish a technical forum for addressing diadromous fishery resource problems, and protection, restoration, and enhancement opportunities in the Santee Basin. We will do this by protection and enhancement of riverine and riparian habitats and aquatic habitat diversity in the Basin while balancing hydroelectric project uses. We anticipate the Santee Accord will enhance and restore diadromous fish populations (American shad, American eel, Blueback herring, Shortnose sturgeon, Striped Bass) through access to historic spawning and nursery areas while providing safe, timely, and effective upstream and downstream passage at dams or other obstacles that impede riverine migrations.
The Santee Accord seeks to ensure consistent, scientifically-based, and effective terms and conditions addressing diadromous fish protection, restoration, and enhancement for hydroelectric projects within the Basin licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The advantages for resource agencies are that the Santee Accord implements a comprehensive science-based program for diadromous fish study, understanding, protection, and enhancements. The primary benefit to the licensees is to maximize the opportunity for success of constructed fishways at each hydroelectric facility where required based on the best science and a shared consensus of the Accord members. Fishway facilities will be based on an appropriate combination of approaches including but not limited to monitoring, scientific research, and agreed-upon biological criteria. It is the intent of the Santee Accord to maximize the effectiveness of Agency prescriptive authority by incorporating a joint agency/utility, enhanced deliberative and scientific approach to fish passage. As a result, we expect that the resource will benefit from improved knowledge of those specific needs and will increase the opportunity for successful protection, mitigation, or enhancement of targeted diadromous fishes in the Basin.
Because of the schedule of the various project relicensings within the Basin, there is an opportunity to combine and coordinate these efforts through a comprehensive, basin-wide diadromous fish protection, restoration, and enhancement program. The Accord presents an unprecedented opportunity for gathering and sharing information and resources in the Basin. In addition, there is also an opportunity to implement a more coordinated application of resource management objectives from the various state and federal resource agencies. The Accord provides a science-based decision-making framework and process that will improve the opportunity for successful diadromous fishery protection, restoration, and enhancement
Corps Permitting - McDowell County Green Infrastructure Initiative
Stakeholders involved and invited to the meeting included McDowell County personnel, the Army Corps of Engineers, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC One), Environmental Protection Agency and the Service. In the early planning stages, we considered including regional planning organizations, metropolitan planning organizations, county commissioners and public citizens in the meeting. However, we decided that the first meetings should be held with only a small group of stakeholders. We did not want to make the meeting feel like a pressure situation for the County Manager nor did we want the County to presume that we were trying to force our recommendations and concerns on them. As previously stated, one of the main goals was to establish a line of communication and begin to build a trusting relationship.The meeting was held on January 31, 2007. All who attended agreed that the meeting was successful especially in opening up communication between the agencies and McDowell County. (Though some goals were met, we still have a long way to go). The meeting ended with an agreement that a subdivision ordinance would be drafted and proposed to the County Commissioners by the County Managers office within the next couple of months and the Service would be given an opportunity to review and comment on ordinances; county owned land north of Lake James would be evaluated to potentially be placed into conservation with hiking trails (preserved open space), the county Manager stated that he would like for the County planner to coordinate with the Service and present the green infrastructure presentation to the planning board. Most positive note was the county’s enthusiasm toward creating a countywide mitigation bank that would “bank” mitigation credits from activities such as preserving upland and riparian areas, enhancing/restoring stream channels and stream banks, etc to use as mitigation toward future impacts.
There have been some positive changes in the work groups since the first meeting. During a recent follow up phone call with the County Manager’s office, we were informed that approval for a subdivision ordinance is currently being pursued and an agenda for the creation of a subdivision ordinance is being established to be presented to the Board of Commissioners and Planning Commission at the March meeting. The county manager stated that if permission to move forward is granted (and he felt positive that it would) then they would begin coordinating with us for information and contacts to establish the ordinance and for Green Infrastructure presentations to the planning commission as well as the board of commissioners. We received a phone call from a county planner for new information and to catch-up on latest issues. He was looking for additional information regarding Green Infrastructure and the economic benefits associated with land conservation. We put together a package of web links, informative booklets, and studies that we have been collecting with such information and sent them to the county planner.
Because of our efforts, McDowell County is beginning to move in a positive direction for resource protection. As stated, abandoned railroads are being converted to trails, county land is being converted to a public park with a network of trails, and the preservation of green space is being required within developments. With a green infrastructure assessment, the county could prioritize areas for development and areas to focus conservation efforts. This information could also be used by conservation organizations to determine where they should focus on acquiring land. Water quality will hopefully improve as land adjacent to high quality waters is preserved or developed with fewer impacts. As the Mud Creek project expands, hopefully some of the benefits of the restoration activities will be seen by more people, which will increase the understanding of the importance of healthy streams.
Raleigh, North Carolina Field Office
Overview of Conservation Planning Assistance in Raleigh, NC Field Office
Coastal Carolina-Virginia Watershed Project
Through the CCVWP all Service programs in the project area will work with external partners to identify and pursue strategic conservation of priority trust resources. Toward that end, Service personnel from Ecological Services, Refuges, Fisheries, and Migratory Birds representing North Carolina and Virginia, achieved an important Biological Planning milestone this year by joined numerous other partners in forming the Albemarle-Pamlico Conservation and Communities Collaborative (AP3C). The mission of the AP3C is to: Develop approaches that integrate economic and ecological resilience for the lands, waters, and communities of the Albemarle-Pamlico region. Recognize the challenges presented by economic and social distress, climate change, population change, and increasing risks to public health. Implement collaborative, sustainable solutions for regional well-being.
The participating organizations and agencies recognize the following goals of the AP3C: 1) develop a shared vision of the region’s future, based on natural resource analyses, changing land use and development patterns and the projected long-term impacts of the region’s challenges; 2) market the shared vision within the regional community at large and to local, state and federal entities and to non-traditional partners; 3) undertake conservation measures based on the vision for the future by targeting both regulatory and incentive programs that address these challenges by improving the management of private and public lands; and 4) promote economic and community development opportunities compatible with the shared vision through community collaborations.
Through the AP3C, the Service will achieve priority objectives at a landscape level related to Refuges, Fisheries, Migratory Birds, and Endangered Species. Additionally, the strong focus of the AP3C on sustainable communities will enable the Service to engage partners in efforts to connect people with nature. Also, the AP3C is the first conservation collaborative in the Raleigh Field Office work area to explicitly take on the challenges associated with climate change; because while the Albemarle-Pamlico area is highly threatened by rising sea levels, it also others significant opportunities for carbon sequestration through restoration of hydrology to deep peat wetland systems.
There were also many specific significant accomplishments within the CCVWP landscape this Fiscal Year; a few of which are highlighted below.
Navy Outlying Landing Field, North Carolina
North Carolina Sandhills Conservation Partnership
The NCSCP is near completion of its Sandhills Conservation Plan. The final Sandhills Conservation Plan will include: a reserve design identifying and ranking those areas of the Sandhills that are critical for red-cockaded woodpecker recovery and to sustain other identified conservation targets, such as federal species of concern (FSC) or State Species at Risk (SAR); a landscape-scale resource management strategy emphasizing collaborative methods to “seamlessly” restore and manage longleaf pine communities across ownership boundaries; land protection strategies and options necessary to acquire in-perpetuity protection of lands identified in the reserve design; a communications plan to ensure continued coordination among stakeholders and support of the general public; a GIS model to assist in designing the Sandhills conservation reserve, implement management recommendations and to monitor success of the various strategic components of the plan (i.e. biological and non-biological outcomes).
To date, the NCSCP has been successful in identifying and acquiring key parts of the Sandhills landscape which either serve to buffer the core public lands or provide habitat serving as corridors linking key areas of high biological value. Since 2000, fee simple ownership or conservation easements have been purchased over 12,740 acres of new lands which are now under in-perpetuity protection and management to benefit red-cockaded woodpecker recovery as well as other flora and fauna of interest. Using the reserve design as a guide, the NCSCP acquired an additional 10 properties totaling 437 acres of upland habitat in FY 2007.
Staff from the Service’s Sandhills Sub-office is also working with other regional partners to create a series of regional land use suitability models to be used to guide local land use decisions across 11 counties. The NCSCP’s conservation reserve design is an integral part of this large scale planning effort which has the goal of balancing economic development with conservation of natural areas and working lands.
Chatham Conservation Partnership, North Carolina
FERC Hydropower Relicensing on the Yadkin and Pee Dee Rivers, North Carolina
Both species are identified as Focal Aquatic Species for the Southeast Region, and diadromous fish restoration is an identified priority in the Raleigh Field Office Strategic Plan. The agreement also furthers the goals of the 2006 Restoration Plan for the Diadromous Fishes of the Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin. The agreement engages the Service, Progress Energy, North Carolina and South Carolina in a collaborative effort to restore these fisheries over the next 40 years. Reaching this agreement also involved extensive cross-program collaboration, as the Raleigh Field Office received essential and outstanding support from the South Atlantic Fisheries Coordination Office, Ashville Field Office, Southeast Regional Office, Northeast Regional Office, and the Office of the Field Solicitor.
In terms of SHC, the 2006 Diadromous Fish Restoration Plan represented a significant Biological Planning accomplishment, by identifying broad restoration goals, priorities and strategies for the Basin through a collaborative process. The elements of the settlement agreement constitute the details of the Conservation Design element of the fisheries restoration efforts for a significant portion of the Basin. Additionally, the settlement contains a robust monitoring element and embraces an adaptive approach to the restoration effort. In 2008 and 2009 we will move into the Conservation Delivery and Monitoring phases of the process as FERC issues the final license and the elements of the settlement agreement begin to be implemented.
Puerto Rico, Caribbean Field Office
During fiscal year 2007, our Field Office Project Evaluation Program received, coordinated, and completed 118 requests for technical assistance for several Municipalities and Commonwealth agencies. Different project activities evaluated by our office included development, wastewater treatment facilities, telecommunication towers, transportation, land use plans, restorations, water supply and NPDES. Recommendations on conservation measures on vegetation protection and restoration (e.g., re-forestation with native and endemic species); riparian restoration and water quality improvement (bank stabilization, stream buffer establishment and maintenance), among others, were provided. These conservation measures are to protect, enhance, and expand habitats to assist recovery of 23 listed species in the northern watershed of Puerto Rico.
Conservation in Southern Karst Region of Puerto Rico through the Project Review
Working with Municipalities to Conserve Habitat through Land Use Plans in Puerto Rico
Protection of Streams & Riparian Habitat in Puerto Rico
Charleston, South Carolina Field Office
FERC Relicensing in South Carolina
Transportation Projects in South Carolina
Considering the magnitude of this project’s potential impacts and the unique nature of its development, the Service and its transportation partners have created a special compensation package distinctive from all other transportation projects in South Carolina. Unable to fully utilize the standard mitigation procedures, the collective partnership agreed to compensate impacts by concentrating on impacts to the major watersheds in the project corridor and developing a method to adequately compensate for all impacts. Compensation will be considered using a landscape scale approach with a goal of no net loss of habitat or wetlands. In addition, any lands acquired in the compensation package must be directed toward public ownership. Another driving factor in the mitigation discussions is the project’s potential to impact black bear movements and migration.
Corps of Engineers Projects in South Carolina
Cookeville, Tennessee Field Office
Energy Projects and Threatened and Endangered Species in Tennessee
Hydropower Projects and Threatened and Endangered Species in Tennessee
Restoration in Tennessee
While all these projects conserve a variety of habitats used by various sensitive species, one project conserves a listed crayfish and another project (Kyle’s Ford) protects from sedimentation the most biologically diverse mussel bed in the world. Through extensive coordination and consultation with various partners, including the Nashville District of Corps of Engineers, the Cookeville Field Office was actively involved in issuance of a Corps permit to the Tennessee Stream Mitigation Program for the project on the Clinch River at Kyles Ford in Hancock County, Tennessee. The project involved regrading and stabilizing an eroding riverbank, planting trees in the floodplain, and closing a back chute that had formed as a result of bank erosion. The project prevents further erosion of the riverbank and sedimentation on shoals downriver. The Clinch River at Kyles Ford contains populations of the slender chub and pygmy madtom, 14 listed mussels, and three candidate mussels. It is also designated critical habitat for the slender chub.
Chesapeake Bay Field Office
King William Reservoir, Virginia
As part of the Federal-Commonwealth team, CBFO conducts field visits and reviews newly proposed mitigation sites, proposes innovative mitigation techniques, evaluates the appropriateness of existing mitigation banks, and provides comments on conceptual and final designs for wetland and stream mitigation. CBFO’s longtime involvement in and technical knowledge of this project will ensure that vital mitigation elements are included in the final design and implementation, despite major turnover of Corps project staff and consultants.
Transportation Mitigation and Stewardship Package for U.S. 301 Project in Maryland
CBFO is a member of an Interagency Work Group which selects highway alternatives and mitigation projects for highways in Maryland. The Conservation Planning Assistance and the Stream Habitat and Restoration Branches of the CBFO, teamed with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and The Conservation Fund on a $500,000 landscape level funding proposal to develop a land preservation, wetland creation, stream restoration, stormwater retrofit and water access package for the US 301 Waldorf Transportation Project consistent with SHC elements.
Participation in Environmental Stewardship and Transportation Infrastructure Project Reviews (Executive Order 13274) in Maryland
Stream mitigation includes the restoration of eight streams, removal of fish blockages at three sites, and five stormwater management retrofits. The parkland impacts will be replaced with 240 acres of forest and meadow land at four sites. The 289 acres of upland forest destroyed will be mitigated with the purchase and preservation of a 458 acre site (340 acres of forest and 118 acres of agricultural land to be reforested).
SHA has also agreed to additional environmental stewardship projects to mitigate for impacts of past highway construction. These additional projects include 26 stream restoration projects, 2 wetland creation projects, 16 stormwater retrofit projects, 21 stormwater Best Management Projects, and 9 fish passage projects. This package of environmental stewardship projects is the most comprehensive environmental mitigation project ever negotiated by the CBFO and is guided by SHC elements.
Currently CBFO is reviewing the construction plans for the proposed mitigation and stewardship projects. CBFO involvement resulted in the selection of six high quality wetland creation sites, five stream restoration sites and two stormwater management pond sites. We also eliminated four poor quality wetland creation sites, eight stream restoration sites, four best management practices sites and two fish passage projects. The eliminated sites and projects offered few benefits to fish and wildlife resources. The CBFO recently negotiated with SHA for a box turtle relocation project and research study that will cost approximately $400,000 to $500,000. The box turtle is a species in rapid decline due to road construction, land development, predation by raccoons, skunks, and dogs, mowing, and human capture. We believe that this is a first box turtle study paid for by a Department of Transportation in Region 5.
Atlantic Coast of Maryland Shoreline Protection Project
Conservation on Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland
Non-native mute swans, with rapid population growth, are destroying valuable submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) habitats found in APG’s undeveloped waters. The mute swans within the isolated wetlands of APG are serving as source populations for the rest of the Upper Chesapeake Bay. These mute swans at APG are threatening to nullify the extensive efforts of Maryland DNR to control mute swans elsewhere in the Bay, and restore other SAV beds for native waterfowl and aquatic communities. APG has had sightings of approximately 300 mute swans during the summer of 2007, with a total population on the installation estimated to be higher.
The Service is assisting APG in rewriting policies in their Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan (INRMP) update to address appropriate mute swan control measures on the installation. These revisions will ensure that the procedures for long-term mute swan control persist in the management of APG wetlands even as staff turnover occurs. CBFO has given our technical support and endorsement of mute swan control procedures, along with Maryland DNR, to the Commander of APG in briefings. CBFO stays involved with APG staff to assist them in other aspects of their successful waterfowl and wetlands management.
New York Field Office
St. Lawrence River Basin Fish Passage and Habitat Restoration, New York
American Eel Passage in New York
Green Hydropower in New York
Oswegatchie Watershed Evaluation of Hydropower, New York
New Hydropower Project - Massena Electric Dam, New York
Delaney Fish Ladder, New York
Owasco Flats Watershed Protection in New York
St. Lawrence River Basin Strategic Planning- focused interjurisdictional fish restoration
Interjurisdictional Fish Conservation Strategy – a Large-Scale Approach in New York
Tidal Hydropower – examining a pilot project on the Hudson River/New York Bight
Wind Energy in New York
Department of the Army Compatible Use Buffer Program at Fort Drum
Army Construction and Training at Fort Drum: USFWS provides technical assistance to develop a programmatic impact-assessment approach
Service Assists Army with technical assistance in landscape-level planning in Fort Drum INRMP renewal process
Transportation Project Streamlining in New York
Compensatory Mitigation for Transportation Projects in New York
New York State Wetlands Forum
Great Sacandaga Lake Watershed Planning, New York
Long Island Field Office
2007 Fire Island to Montauk Point (New York) Reformulation Study (FIMP)
For most of 2006, the Corps went behind closed doors after a half dozen years of slow progress through interagency technical assistance groups, an interagency formulation group, and occasional joint field investigations. When the Corps emerged in November 2006, it had produced an executive summary formulation report to provide a pared down list of potential project alternatives to carry forward. Just to be clear, this includes alternative approaches to management of three major Federal navigation channels at Fire Island Inlet, Moriches Inlet, and Shinnecock Inlet, as well as smaller inlets associated with smaller coastal ponds of Long Island's eastern end, 83 miles of barrier island and coastal beach habitat, the 3 major coastal bays (collectively identified as the South Shore Estuary Reserve by the New York State Department of State), and the low‑lying, densely‑populated south shore of Long Island proper.
In the last year before the Corps went behind closed doors, we had collectively developed a Vision Statement, ultimately signed by our Assistant Secretary, which was to have provided a framework for development of alternatives likely to be acceptable to the Department of the Interior (DOI), State agencies, and local government.
Since November 2006 we have been trying to move forward with reevaluation of that report and its conclusions and recommendations. We have participated in 3 major meetings; formulated a new executive level group to maintain pressure on the Corps to resolve the issues; participated in numerous conference calls and staff level meetings; and developed and reviewed a dozen or so draft position documents. Our involvement includes review of the project’s likely effects on Federal trust species and their habitats under the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, AND continuing informal consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. In short, what the draft formulation report proposes is antithetical to specific recovery tasks outlined in the recovery plans for both the piping plover and seabeach amaranth, and the Vision Statement over which we labored over for so long. Partners in this landscape‑scale project development include the Department of the Interior – Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance and Fire Island National Seashore, Department of Homeland Security – Federal Emergency Management Agency, Environmental Protection Agency - Region 2, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-Fisheries, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), New York State Department of State, The Nature Conservancy, the Corps’ Planning, Operations and Maintenance and Planning Divisions, the Corps’ North Atlantic Division, and local interest groups, including the Fire Island Association of Landowners.
A Programmatic Conservation Approach with Suffolk Co., NY Dept. of Public Works
In addition, because these permits cover many of the tidal creeks around a relatively small geographic area, essential analyses are needed of the cumulative impacts of dredging on fish spawning sites and the additive effects of dredged material placement on approximately 20 breeding sites for colonial waterbirds, including the Federally‑ and State‑listed (threatened) piping plover.
Partners assisting the County currently include the Corps, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Long Island Field Office and Long Island National Wildlife Refuge; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-Fisheries; the New York State Department of State’s Coastal Zone Management, both the local wetland permitting staff and endangered species staff; staff from Congressman Bishop’s, Senator Clinton’s, and Senator Schumer’s offices; and the National Park Service’s Fire Island National Seashore.
Specific issues of concern include timing of dredging (fall, winter, spring) and potential impacts on essential fish habitat and other fish spawning habitat; frequency of dredging; quality and quantity of material placed in suitable habitat for colonial waterbirds and piping plover nesting areas; identification of alternative materials placement sites; development of long‑term agreements to protect suitable habitat if piping plovers and other species, including State‑listed species, colonize sites maintained by the materials placement; and cumulative impacts of this dredging in addition to the Corps work maintaining the Federally-authorized channels, including those leading up to the Federally‑authorized inlets, and the Intercoastal Waterway. The Service will provide input pursuant to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, and the Endangered Species Act Section 7.
Landscape-Level Colonial Waterbird Conservation Activities, Long Island
In addition, LIFO personnel assisted in the annual New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC)-administered Long Island Colonial Waterbird and Piping Plover Survey. The survey is a Long Island-wide effort to quantify plover, tern, and black skimmer populations. These data are essential in assessing the recovery status of Federally‑ and New York State-listed species. In addition, this information is crucial for impact analyses to take place at dozens of proposed project development, permit authorization, and project construction activities each year by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Planning and Operations and Maintenance Divisions.Staff from many of our partners on Long Island are also working together with the NYSDEC and The Nature Conservancy on ways to deal with management of colonial waterbird predators, including, but not limited to, gulls, fox, and feral cats. Predator management is a highly charged political topic which we are working on in partnership with our New Jersey and New England Field Offices. This partnership also involves conducting several listed species/colonial waterbird steward training sessions at strategic locations across the south shore of Long Island. Each summer, State, Federal, county, other local governmental landowners, and non-governmental agencies collectively attempt to minimize adverse impacts to the Federally- and State-listed species which breed and grow on the barrier beaches on the South Shore of Long Island. These multiple-use areas are used by fishermen, surfers, beach-goers, bird watchers, and millions of visitors who enjoy the beach environment. Extreme care must be taken that recreational uses do not conflict with breeding colonial waterbirds, including the Federally‑listed roseate tern and piping plover, or the Federally-listed seabeach amaranth. These conservation measures contribute towards species recovery if successful and also protect State species of concern including terns, black skimmers, American oystercatchers, and other shorebirds.
Finally, when possible we pair up with partners such as the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge, The Nature Conservancy, and The Krusos Foundation, to develop restoration projects to maintain early successional habitat for species of concern. One project this year involved a restoration plan to enhance piping plover, common tern, least tern, and black skimmer breeding habitat at Sand City/Hobart Beach in the Town of Huntington, Suffolk County, New York. The Service’s Refuge Division provided equipment and labor in this endeavor.
Another unique project does not involve habitat restoration, but rather attempts to deal with conflicts between colonial waterbird breeding activities and the beach‑loving public living at Breezy Point Cooperative (Coop). Besides being home to piping plovers, the Coop also hosts one of the largest State-listed common tern and black skimmer colonies in New York State. With our assistance, the Coop installed string canopies over several walkways on the private beach community to minimize conflicts between breeding terns that dive‑bomb intruders and beach users. The LIFO coordinated with the Coop and Gateway National Seashore to improve colonial waterbird breeding areas at the National Seashore. Past land management practices by the National Seashore resulted in bird colonies abandoning the breeding areas for the Coop beaches that have been cleared of excess vegetation and which are, but for the thousands of human visitors, ideally suited for colonial waterbird breeding.
Maine Field Office
Service provides technical assistance to the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission
Lower Saco River Settlement Agreement, Maine
Settlement discussions cover five hydroelectric projects on the Presumpscot River, Maine
Lower Penobscot River (Maine) Settlement Agreement
New England Field Office
Merrimack River FERC Relicensing Restores Passage and Flows to 63 River Miles
As a result of these requirements, anadromous shad, river herring and lamprey and catadromous American eel will have access to 42 miles of the Merrimack and its tributaries, unregulated flows have been restored to 57 miles of the Merrimack River, over a half-mile of dewatered river has been re-watered for fish, and 119 acres of riparian lands will be protected. This license represents the type of large-scale and multi-resource restoration that can be achieved during hydro relicensing.
Fifteen Mile Falls Project Fund supports large-scale habitat protection in the Upper Connecticut River region
Fish Passage Projects and Improvements Move Forward in New England
Energy Projects in New England
Streamlining Regulatory Processes in New England
Pennsylvania Field Office
Windpower in Pennsylvania
Service Coordinates Upper Delaware River (PA, NJ, NY) Conservation
Service Participates in Review of Proposed Susquehanna River (PA) Dam
Transportation Projects in Pennsylvania
Southwest Virginia Field Office
Species-Specific Protective measures for Coal mine (Energy) projects in Virginia
Virginia Field Office
Pigg River Watershed (Virginia) Management Plan:
Virginia State Water Quality Standards:
Dissolved oxygen in swamps varies throughout the day and the season. To demonstrate this variance the VAFO surveyed and sampled swamps throughout Virginia. The VAFO collected more than 600 measurements for dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, specific conductivity, and total dissolved solids at 32 locations over 18 months on the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Despite low dissolved oxygen and pH, the Great Dismal Swamp supports a diverse aquatic fauna throughout the swamp.
The VAFO also surveyed reaches of the Dragon Run Swamp and found thousands of the freshwater mussel species, Elliptio complanata, of all age classes. Freshwater mussels can survive acute periods of drought and low dissolved oxygen levels in water. The mussels need higher levels of water and dissolved oxygen for long term survival and reproduction. The discovery of the freshwater mussels shows there is a significant variation in the swamp’s water level and amounts of dissolved oxygen throughout the seasons.
The federally listed endangered Roanoke logperch (Percina rex) is found in Butterwood Creek. The creek braids through and is bounded by swamp waters. The swamp waters are documented to have low dissolved oxygen and pH levels. The logperch requires well-oxygenated waters and a pH near neutral. The natural daily and seasonal variation of pH and dissolved oxygen allow for the species to thrive in the waters fed by the swamp.
Virginia Field Office Works with FERC to Improve Water Quality:
Conservation Management of the Clinch and Cumberland River Systems: A Collaborative Discussion on Coal Mining and the Aquatic Environment in Appalachia:
The intent of the symposium was to foster better understanding of coal mining technology and aquatic resource conservation, and mitigation opportunities and priorities. The symposium included sessions on freshwater fauna and their environmental requirements, water quality, coal mining technology, chemistry and toxicology of coal-related processes, abandoned mined land impacts, and innovative environmental control technologies. The geographic focus area is the Tennessee and Cumberland River basins, with an emphasis on the Clinch, Powell and Big South Fork Cumberland River systems. Given the nation’s energy needs and commitment to environmental quality, we are at a critical crossroads to conserve the globally significant fish and mussel faunas of these unique river systems while continuing to supply coal to the energy market.
Through constructive and positive collaboration among industry leaders, natural resource agencies, regulatory agencies, and public stakeholders these goals can be accomplished. The symposium had platform and poster presentations of original research or reviews on mining effects on the aquatic environment, stream recovery and restoration, and clean coal technology.
West Virginia Field Office
Ohio River Basin Fish/Mussel Habitat Partnership (West Virginia Field Office):
American Eel Conservation in West Virginia and Maryland
The Service Provides Technical Assistance to Other Agencies in West Virginia
The WVFO assisted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in developing Standard Local Operating Procedures for Endangered Species (SLOPES) associated with consultation on COE nationwide permits. The SLOPES focus on avoidance and minimization of impacts to federally-listed species, critical habitat, and to proposed and candidate species. Final document preparation by the Corps of Engineers is underway. When implemented, SLOPES will streamline consultation through use of standardized methods to identify when listed species may be impacted by an activity and how to address those impacts.
During FY 07, the WVFO continued to conduct Clean Water Act compliance investigations through an established Interagency Agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency. Illegal discharges of fill material into wetlands and other waters of the U.S. were resolved throughout the state of West Virginia in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, and West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection. As a result of our efforts during FY 07, several violations have been resolved through compliance which will result in wetlands being restored to their pre-disturbed conditions. Among these was a large violation at the Rubenstein Juvenile Detention Facility which severely damaged approximately 5 acres of high altitude, sphagnum bog-type wetlands, and requires ongoing involvement to ensure that adequate and appropriate restoration occurs.
Evaluating Impacts of Hydrocycling In Nebraska
FERC Licensing in Nebraska
In addition, Loup Public Power and Irrigation District (LPPD) has requested early, informal consultation for the relicensing of their hydropower plant on the Loup River (a tributary of the Platte River). Their FERC license will expire in 2014 and at least three listed species are known to potentially be adversely impacted by the project. Nebraska Field Office staff conducted a site inspection of the facilities in 2007.
Hydropower Licensing in Utah
Oil and Gas Development – Coordinating Conservation with BLM via Pilot Offices: The Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming field offices have all hired biologists for Pilot Field Offices (co-location of agency field biologists with BLM biologists) pursuant to the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This continues to result in an increase in consultations and coordination on oil and gas projects throughout the four states. Through the BLM Pilot Field Office Program, the Service’s Grand Junction, Colorado Field Office has worked with the BLM in a proactive manner to address listed species (12 listed in the Pilot Office boundaries), migratory bird, and wetland issues in the Office’s issuance of approximately 400 Applications for Permits to Drill and authorization of numerous pipeline projects. This position has also allowed an opportunity to provide early input on larger planning efforts (Roan Plateau RMP/EIS, CO BLM state office migratory bird policy, Oil Shale programmatic EIS). These planning efforts have habitat for greater sage-grouse, Colorado River cutthroat trout, and several listed and candidate plants, and affect 4 listed fish in the Colorado River.
The Grand Junction Field Office is a cooperating agency with four BLM Field Offices in their revision of their Resource Management Plans that are being revised to deal with the increased energy development in Western Colorado.
Oil and Gas Development – Coordinating Conservation with BLM in Utah
Oil and Gas Development – Coordinating Conservation with BLM in Wyoming
Oil and Gas Development – Coordination at Buffalo, Wyoming BLM Pilot Office: In fiscal year (FY) 2007, the Bureau of Land Management’s (Bureau) Buffalo Field Office continued to be at the fore-front of Wyoming’s energy development boom processing more than 60 percent of the applications for permit to drill (APD) statewide, or approximately 40 percent of all on-shore APDs in the country. In Wyoming, energy development has the potential to adversely affect listed and proposed species and to significant alter important prairie and sagebrush habitats. Section 365 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 established a Federal Permit Streamlining Pilot Project with the intent to improve the efficiency of processing Federal oil and gas development authorizations. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has staffed the Buffalo Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Pilot office with one biologist for 3 years. In FY07 the BLM reinitiated section 7 consultation for the Powder River Basin Oil & Gas Project (PRB) pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act, 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) based on changes to the project. In March of 2007, the Service completed a new, more streamlined informal and formal programmatic consultation for the project. This consultation further streamlines section 7 consultations relative to the already streamlined process in the previous programmatic consultation for the BLM while simultaneously enhancing interagency coordination at the project planning stage. This innovative method of section 7 consultation expedites site-specific consultations which are completed in a matter of days or weeks, instead of months. Consequently, section 7 consultation did not delay oil and gas development in the Powder River Basin and the enhanced on-the-ground coordination and project planning that resulted, enhanced trust species conservation. This year the Service’s Buffalo Pilot Office completed 37 formal and 11 informal consultations under the PRB programmatic and conducted approximately 123 technical assistance events. Without the financial support provided by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, current Service funding levels would preclude Service personnel, in Wyoming, from completing section 7 consultations on these proposals in the expedited manner.
Rockies Express-Western Phase Natural Gas Pipeline Project:
Additionally, the Kansas Field Office (KSFO) worked with the consultant to expedite construction of the line across several stream segments inhabited by the federally-endangered Topeka shiner. The KSFO assisted the applicant by sampling upstream and downstream of the proposed crossings and determined that shiners were present at one of the sites. The applicant has agreed to avoid take and adverse impacts to shiners by seining and relocating any shiners present upstream and downstream of the crossing site immediately preceding excavation of the pipeline trench, and restoring channel morphology (width/depth/pools/riffles/substrate) at the crossing to pre-project conditions. The KSFO will assist the applicant during excavation of the trench and laying of the pipeline by taking the lead for the seining and relocation effort.
Keystone and Cushing Pipeline Project (multiple states and Canada)
Nebraska Resources Company Natural Gas Pipeline:
Wind Energy in Colorado The Colorado Field offices conducted section 7 consultations for Federal agencies’ (FERC, DOE, WAPA, etc.) approval of several oil or gas pipeline, electric transmission line, and wind projects in eastern Colorado. They also provided technical assistance to private wind energy companies on migratory bird trust resource issues at several proposed development sites in eastern Colorado. A sit visit a major wind energy development project was conducted for senior FWS Regional and Washington office staff to become more familiar with siting and wildlife issues associated with windpower development in Colorado. The Field off will continue to work with the Colorado Division of Wildlife and environmental consultants to develop siting protocols for projects in Colorado.
Wind energy: Coordinating Conservation at the North Dakota Field Office
Wind energy: Coordinating Conservation at the South Dakota Field Office
Wind energy: Coordinating Conservation at the Utah Field Office
Increased Railroad Expansion to Accommodate Coal Deliveries - Nebraska:
The Service Coordinates Conservation in Coal Development Processes – North Dakota:
The Service Coordinates Conservation in Coal Development Processes – South Dakota:
The Service Coordinates Conservation in Coal Development Processes – Utah:
Ethanol and Bio-fuel Facilities in Nebraska:
Wolf Creek Nuclear Generating Station Relicensing, Kansas:
KS ES FO is also working with the applicant to determine the cause of repeated bald eagle nest failures at Coffey County Lake every year since 2000. One avenue of investigation being conducted by the applicant is chemical analyses of power plant cooling water discharges and radionuclide analyses of a bald eagle carcass salvaged as a result of a vehicle collision. Up to 100 eagles also overwinter at Coffey County Lake. KS ES FO and the applicant are hopeful that these investigations will determine whether current plant operations need changed to lessen exposure of eagles and other migratory birds to chemical and other contaminants.
Lincoln Electrical System Transmission Lines, Nebraska
Transportation Environmental Resource Council (TERC), Colorado:
Vail Pass Overpass, Colorado
Central Shortgrass Prairie Initiative:
Pagosa Skyrocket (plant) Conservation in Colorado
Yankton Bridge Construction Conservation Measures, Nebraska
Mitigation Banking for Transportation Projects in Nebraska
American Burying Beetle Research on Transportation Projects, Nebraska
Best Management Practices for Transportation Projects to Avoid or Minimize Adverse Impacts to Nebraska Streams and Waterways:
Bald Eagle Nesting on Nemaha County, Nebraska Project:
Incorporating Conservation in Transportation Planning Processes in North Dakota
The North Dakota Field Office is working with Wetland Mitigation Bank Review Team to complete an analysis of three wetland restoration sites that will be used to mitigate unavoidable impacts associated with transportation projects. The wetland restoration sites will generate approximately 270 acres of wetland mitigation credits.
The North Dakota Field Office received a grant from the Federal Highway Administration to evaluate highway wetland mitigation sites. The FHWA’s Environmental Streamlining Grant is funding a graduate student research study through the University of North Dakota to assess wetland functions at on-site mitigation areas created within the highway right-of-way and off-site wetland restoration areas. In addition to funding this study, the Service provided guidance concerning study design, site selection, and wetland assessment methodologies.
FY-07 marked the second year that the North Dakota Department of Transportation provided funding through a reimbursable agreement to the North Dakota Field Office to ensure a priority review of highway planning and construction activities throughout the state. The funding provided by the reimbursable agreement is a significant contribution to the FO budget. The agreement has served as a vehicle to improve coordination early in the planning process. The agreement has been renewed for FY-08.
Since 1993, the water surface elevation of Devils Lake has risen 26 feet, inundating roads, cropland, and farmsteads, and the lake continues to expand. The Federal Highway Administration has implemented a comprehensive interagency planning process to maintain the surface transportation system, including state highways and tribal roads on the Spirit Lake Nation Reservation. FHWA estimates that the project will result in the loss of approximately 50 acres of wetland habitat. The North Dakota Field Office is working with FHWA and the participating agencies to quantify impacts and develop a wetland mitigation plan to offset unavoidable losses.
Incorporating Conservation in Transportation Planning Processes in South Dakota
Incorporating Conservation in Transportation Planning Processes in Utah
Aspinall Unit of the Colorado River Storage Project on the Gunnison River:
Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Project, Colorado
The Platte River Recovery Implementation Program:
Platte River Environmental Account:
Platte River Water Depletions:
Platte River Cumulative Impact Study:
North Platte Channel Capacity Improvement Project:
Red River Valley Water Supply Project, North Dakota and Minnesota
North West Area Water Supply (NAWS) Impact Assessment Team, ND Field Office
Water Supply/Delivery – Conservation efforts at Utah Field Office
The Utah field Office attended pre-scoping meetings for the Lake Powell Pipeline project and will be involved with project scoping, planning, impact assessment, and avoidance/mitigation assessments.
Project Review Reveals Impacts to Mitigation Area in Kansas:
Service Coordinates a Conservation Easement on the Missouri River:
Service Coordinates a Platte River Conservation Easement:
Platte Valley Weed Management Area:
Utah Partners for Conservation and Development:
Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative:
Nationwide Permits Regional Conditions for AOP and Invasive Species:
Stream Mitigation Guidelines- Service Helps Develop Guidelines in Kansas:
Impacts from Bridge Construction Work Platforms (Interagency Process Review Team) – Service Coordination in Nebraska:
Interagency Streamlining Efforts on Transportation Projects impacting Bald Eagle, Interior Least Tern, Piping Plover, and Whooping Crane:
Cedar River Bank Stabilization Project, Nebraska:
Northern Natural Gas Memorandum of Understanding, Nebraska
Lower Platte River Water Depletions, Nebraska:
Communication Tower Reviews Streamlined in Nebraska:
Advance Coordination of Clean Water Act Permits with Corps of Engineers in N. Dakota:
Garrison Diversion Unit, North Dakota:
In North Dakota, The Service and Reclamation have completed and signed the Arrowwood NWR Mitigation Completion Report for the Garrison Diversion Unit mitigation features on the refuge. The completion of this mitigation project will allow refuge managers the flexibility to independently manage over 3,500 acres of riverine wetland habitat to provide maximum value for migratory birds, including waterfowl and shorebirds.
Migratory Bird Conservation
Great Plains Supplement Wetland Testing, Kansas:
Improved Grassland Management at Smoky Hill Air National Guard (ANGR) Range, Kansas: The Kansas Field Office, in cooperation with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, reviewed the Smoky Hill ANGR’s Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan this past year. Based on our recommendations, the ANGR is eliminating the use of aerial spraying of the broadleaf herbicide Tordon 22K on native mixed-grass prairie ranges. In the past, Smoky Hill ANGR has used C-130 aircraft to treat up to 9,000 acres of native prairie to control the invasive musk thistle. Aerial application of Tordon is very indiscriminate and will kill many beneficial prairie forb species which are an important food source for grassland migratory birds. The ANGR will be implementing more discriminate efficient musk thistle control methods in this and future years. This action will enhance migratory bird habitat conservation on up to 9,000 acres of native upland prairie.
Procedures for Migratory Bird Treaty Act Compliance in Nebraska:
Conditioning Clean Water Act Permits to Comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in Nebraska:
City of Omaha, Nebraska Pedestrian Bridge - Lighting Considerations for Migratory Birds:
Rowe Sanctuary Transmission Lines, Nebraska:
Raptor Electrocution Streamlined Reporting and Problem Solving in Nebraska
Reducing Migratory Bird Collisions – Coordinating Studies in North Dakota
Coordinating Migratory Bird Conservation with National Forest Service in Utah
Coordinating Fish Passage in Utah
Schilling Wildlife Management Area Backwater Habitat Project, Nebraska:
Tri-Basin Natural Resources District Lost Creek Diversion #1 Discharge Management Plan, Nebraska
Conservation Planning Assistance – FY07 Activities at South Dakota Field Office
Fire: The South Dakota ES Office worked closely with various National Wildlife Refuges in review of their prescribed fire management plan. Considerations for species such as the Dakota skipper were made during the interagency reviews. This species tends to respond positively if fire management is conducted appropriately but could also be subjected to adverse impacts from controlled burns if undertaken outside established parameters.
South Dakota ES Office worked with Bureau of Indian Affairs office in the Dakotas to provide assistance to that agency and specific Tribes as they develop fire management plans in accordance with the National Fire Plan. In addition, several Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) projects have been reviewed involving Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) projects on several Native American Indian Reservations in South Dakota. BIA prescribed fire plans have also been reviewed for impacts to listed species.
South Dakota ES Office reviewed several Black Hills National Forest projects requiring NEPA documentation which involved proposed actions to reduce mountain pine beetle infestation, manage fuels to reduce wildfire severity, and manage fuels within the Wildland Urban Interface and the restoration of hardwoods and meadows. Changed National Forest Plan direction (BHNF LRMP Phase II Amendment), Healthy Forest Restoration Act and/or the National Fire Plan were catalysts for the change in management described in these documents.
Anchorage Field Office
Using a Green Infrastructure Approach in Alaska’s Fastest Growing Area:
Habitat to be Protected and Expected Benefits: A GI approach meets the Director’s priority of “Landscape Conservation – Working with others” and will further compliment other ongoing work on the Director’s priorities for “Migratory Birds – Conservation and management,” “Aquatic Species – National Fish Habitat Initiative and Trust species,” and “Connecting People With Nature – Ensuring the Future of Conservation.” One of the Service’s five pilot NFHI projects nationwide is the Mat-Su Salmon Partnership, which also involves the Borough and many of our other GI partners.
Partners involved: The Service provided funding for a Borough planner to attend GI training at the National Conservation Training Center in late September 2006. Funding for the March course was provided by the Service and Mat-Su Borough, with technical assistance from the National Park Service through a Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program grant, and in-kind services from The Conservation Fund and NCTC. Over 80 attended all or portions of the class. Participants represented federal (National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Natural Resources Conservation Service), state (Alaska Departments of Transportation, Natural Resources, Fish and Game, and Environmental Conservation) resource agencies, local governments (Mat-Su Borough, City of Wasilla, Municipality of Anchorage, Mat-Su Community Councils), land trusts, nonprofit organizations, Native organizations, businesses, and local residents.
Cooper Lake Hydroelectric Project Relicensing - Alaska:
This project exemplifies successful application of the principles of Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC). The early biological planning stages included the identification of target species (i.e., salmon) and development of habitat criteria and objectives for those species. Data were gathered, and incorporated into several predictive models, including models of instream flow, hydrology, and habitat-temperature interactions. The conservation design of the project carefully utilized the results of those models to develop the mechanism of conservation delivery which provide more power for power generation and restores fish habitat. The project also includes long-term monitoring of the planned flow, temperature, and biological objectives with built-in mechanisms to take corrective measures if necessary (i.e., adaptive management).
PacRim Chuitna Coal, Alaska
CPA strives to engage early on all projects in order to incorporate avoidance and minimization measures at the project design stage. This also benefits project sponsors by preventing costly redesigns at later dates. On this project, early recommendations have already resulted in a redesign of the bulkhead dock facility to reduce potential impacts to nearshore salmon movements. Program biologists are also assisting the project sponsor to design the appropriate investigations for collecting necessary biological and hydrological information. As CPA engages on this landscape-level project, they will also utilize the principles of Strategic Habitat Conservation. At this juncture, program biologists are engaged in biological planning (identifying priority species, their habitats, and setting biological objectives, as well as developing species-habitat decision support tools) and monitoring/research (directing the collection of necessary data). Once the project sponsors begin defining their specific work proposal, Program biologists will use the above information to deliver conservation results (i.e., the avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures. And as with all projects of this magnitude, biologists will strive to ensure that long-term monitoring and adaptive management components are included as stipulations in any future project authorizations or permits.
Habitats and Species Affected: The project will directly or indirectly impact the entire 20,000+ acre watershed, including 99 miles of streams that support anadromous and resident fish. Development of the mine could lead to development of adjacent leases on approximately 40,000 acres owned by PacRim and other companies. Trust resources that could be potentially impacted include: large populations of migratory birds (ducks, geese, swans and bald eagles); anadromous fish (five species of salmon); resident fish (rainbow trout, Arctic grayling, Dolly Varden char and whitefish); stream flows and groundwater input to local streams and lakes; wetlands (several thousand acres); movements and migrations of adult and juvenile anadromous fish along the shoreline of Cook Inlet; and populations of terrestrial mammals important for subsistence users, including moose and black and brown bears. One of our major concerns is the uncertainty that the proposed large-scale reclamation efforts will not be successful. Approval of this coal strip mine would have significant adverse effects on fish and wildlife, the entire Chuit watershed, and upper Cook Inlet.
Partners Involved: We have been working with PacRim Coal and other agencies (EPA, Corps of Engineers, Alaska Departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Game) recommending baseline studies to quantify potential project impacts and devising ways to avoid and minimize impacts on trust resources. We will work with all planning participants to avoid and minimize impacts to our trust resources and to design compensation for unavoidable impacts.
Field Guide to Anchorage-Area Wetlands:
Partners Involved: Technical review and assistance has been received from numerous expert individuals and entities including Anchorage Audubon Society, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Anchorage School District, National Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and others. The Anchorage Soil and Water Conservation District and FWS Coastal Program dollars funded this project, which was led by a Conservation Planning Assistance biologist.
Juneau Field Office
Tongass National Forest Old-growth Reserve Reviews, Alaska:
Habitat and Resources Affected: The OGRs are an essential component of the Tongass National Forest’s Conservation Strategy on the Tongass, a plan designed to preclude the need for listing the Queen Charlotte Goshawk and Alexander Archipelago Wolf as threatened or endangered, and to protect essential habitat for other endemics and old-growth associated species such as marbled murrelets, brown bears, American marten, Prince of Wales flying squirrels, and Sitka black-tailed deer. The biologists looked for ways to retain the highest-quality habitat for old-growth dependent wildlife and analyzed opportunities to mesh the reserves with development activities such as timber harvest and highway corridors. Final locations for 191 Small OGRs (460,000 acres total) that protect 252,000 acres of productive old-growth forest were negotiated with the Forest Supervisor in May, 2007, and implemented in the Tongass Land Management Plan amendment in September 2007, adding approximately 40,000 acres to the forest-wide system of reserves. Final locations for the remaining 43 Small OGRs will require additional fieldwork and interagency review in the future.
Partners Involved: Primary partners include biologists from the U.S. Forest Service and Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Tongass Land Management Plan:
Habitat and Resources Affected: The Conservation Strategy’s overall goal is to protect old-growth-dependent wildlife across the 17-million-acre National Forest, which covers 85 percent of the Southeast Alaska panhandle. Among the species benefiting from the Conservation Strategy are several endemics, such as Queen Charlotte goshawks, Sitka black-tailed deer, and Alexander Archipelago wolves. Service biologists focused on old growth reserves (see narrative above), undeveloped corridors between adjacent reserves, 1000-foot beach buffers, standards for retaining goshawk habitat within timber sale areas, and identification of the highest-value areas for fish and wildlife conservation.
Juneau International Airport Runway Expansion Project:
Habitat and Resources Affected: The selected alternative will expand the runway safety area, and improve lighting and communication at the airport. Unavoidable habitat losses include 72 acres of tidal and estuary wetlands, including 13 acres within the Mendenhall Flats State Game Refuge. An agreed upon compensation plan to replace the full functional value of impacted acres will consist largely of selection and acquisition of vulnerable, high-value parcels. The mitigation plan uses a functional assessment of wetland values to compare areas lost to the runway expansion project with lands proposed for protection, at a ratio of 2 acres (or “functional capacity units”) acquired for every 1 acre (or FCU) lost. Top priority is replacement of Refuge lands through acquisition of private lands along the periphery of the Refuge through agreements with willing sellers. Other parcels with high conservation value, where acquisition and protection will also serve to maintain ecosystem function and connectivity, are also priorities for conservation easements or other means of permanent protection. The Service continues to work with the Southeast Alaska Land Trust and other members of the mitigation advisory panel to identify and prioritize lands for conservation protection.
Implementation of the mitigation plan is expected to benefit a variety of waterfowl, shorebirds and fish, such as Vancouver Canada geese, western sandpipers and coho salmon. Among the values to be replaced by the mitigation are recreational opportunities such as waterfowl hunting, hiking and birding. A fund of $5.2 million has been established to implement the mitigation plan.
Partners Involved: Federal Aviation Administration, Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Corps of Engineers, National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, USDA Wildlife Services, and the City and Borough of Juneau.
Fairbanks Field Office
Chena Flats Greenbelt Project, Alaska
Habitats and Resources Affected: These lowlands encompass some of the last natural open water and wet meadow wetlands remaining in the immediate Fairbanks area. In addition, the southern portion of the area includes a portion of the original town site of Chena, which members of the community would like to manage as a historic site and/or a small campground. The wetlands being protected in this effort are a mosaic of open water, wet meadow and shrub habitats that collectively support nesting sandhill cranes, rusty blackbirds, great horned and great grey owls, kingfishers, migrating tundra and trumpeter swans, and numerous other species of migratory birds. In addition, these properties are frequented by moose, lynx, and the occasional coyote.
Tanana Valley Watershed Association, Alaska:
America’s Arctic Focal Area, Alaska
Tundra Restoration, Alaska:
Habitat and Resources Affected: The tundra of this area is highly productive migratory bird habitat, particularly shorebirds, geese, sea ducks such as spectacled eiders, and numerous other species. This process will return areas to productive wildlife habitat much sooner than would be expected otherwise. An additional benefit is a reduction in the demand for gravel needed for new pads and road maintenance, which translates into less gravel mining. Reclaimed pads, roads and mine sites in the Prudhoe and Kuparuk oil fields will eventually provide nesting and brood-rearing habitat for numerous waterbirds, including listed spectacled eiders, white-fronted geese, a variety of shorebirds such as semipalmated sandpipers, golden plovers and red-necked phalaropes, and passerines such as Lapland longspurs and snow buntings.
Big Creek Alternative Licensing Process (ALP) Hydroelectric Projects, California
Partners. The Agreement is a result of the collaborative process between the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 45 diverse stakeholders, including Federal and State resource agencies, non-governmental organizations, recreational communities, local community members and groups. The Big Creek ALP Settlement Agreement Signing Organizations consisted of: American Whitewater, California Department of Fish and Game, Fly Fishers for Conservation, Fresno County Sheriff's Department, Friant Water Authority, Friends of the River, Huntington Lake Association, Huntington Lake Big Creek Historical Conservancy, Huntington Lake Volunteer Fire Department, Michahai Wuksachi, Natural Resources Defense Council, SAMS Coalition, San Joaquin Paddlers Club, San Joaquin River Trail Council, Shaver Crossing Railroad Station Group, Sierra Mono Museum, Sierra Resource Conservation District, Southern California Edison Company (SCE), Trout Unlimited, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, and the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Big Creek Hydroelectric Project System is fondly named the "hardest working water" in the West due its multiuse by many stakeholders in the area. The Big Creek ALP Collaborative signing organizations that worked over 7 years to develop the Settlement Agreement were appropriately referred to as the "Hardest Working Collaborative 2000-2007". The Big Creek ALP Hydroelectric System Projects are one of the largest relicensing efforts in the nation. The Settlement Agreement calls for extensive plans to mitigate Project-related effects on aquatic, terrestrial and cultural resources, and to improve land and recreation management.
Klamath River Hydroelectric Project Relicensing, California and Oregon
The Klamath River was once the third largest salmon-producing watershed on the west coast, supporting anadromous fish runs that included Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris), and lamprey (Lampetra sp.) These runs in turn supported significant commercial, recreational, subsistence, and Tribal harvests. Before Project dams were put in place, fish runs accessed spawning, incubation, and rearing habitat for hundreds of stream miles above the location of Iron Gate Dam, the current limit of upstream passage. The Klamath River watershed also provides important habitat for a variety of additional fish and wildlife species over which the Service has responsibilities and authorities.
In the upper portion of the Project, bull trout and two species of federally listed suckers are affected. Coho salmon are currently listed under the ESA for the Klamath River and are affected in the lower portion of the project and downstream. At present, fall Chinook salmon spawn and rear throughout the lower river and are of great importance to in-river recreational and tribal fisheries, ocean and in-river sport fisheries, and commercial fisheries throughout the North Pacific. Steelhead and coho salmon that spawn and rear throughout the lower river are also of economic, recreational, and cultural importance. The outflows and water quality impacts from the Project affect virtually all aquatic and riparian habitats and resources throughout the entire 190 miles of lower Klamath River.
With the provision of fish passage through the FERC process, there would be more than 300 miles of habitat for anadromous species including at least 50 miles of habitat for the federally-listed coho salmon above Iron Gate Dam. The Service has prescribed a total of 15 fishways for the Project. The Service is working to assist in the development of a new license which will provide protection of these species, mitigation for project impacts, and enhancement of fish and wildlife populations associated with the project.
In December of 2006, the Service filed comments on the FERC DEIS. In January 2007, DOI filed the modified fishway prescriptions (Section 18) and the Section 33 analysis drafted by the Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office. These were carefully coordinated with NOAA Fisheries to ensure that DOI and DOC filings were consistent. The Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office is also leading the Service’s Endangered Species Act section 7 consultation for the FERC relicensing and will complete the Biological Opinion in early FY 2008.
The Klamath FERC relicensing process has resulted in settlement discussions among 26 basin partners that encompass a number of non-hydropower related issues, including long term resolution of basin water allocation. These negotiations have brought disparate parties to the same table for the first time in years. It is expected that a settlement will be reached in November of 2008. We are optimistic that these discussions will result in win-wins that conserve fish and wildlife objectives.
We expect to provide technical assistance for settlement discussions with PacifiCorp and others in FY 2008 and will continue to take the lead role for this relicensing. Significant coordination and planning will be required for comments on FERC’s Final EIS as well as the legal challenges to fishway prescriptions that are expected in FY 2008.
Discharge of Water from Pyramid Dam into Piru Creek, California
Antelope-Pardee 500kv Powerline, California
Folsom Dam Safety and Flood Damage Reduction Project, California
Partners. Partners include the Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, California Reclamation Board, Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, and the City of Folsom.
Habitat Affected. The study area includes the greater Sacramento area mainly on the American River from its confluence with the Sacramento River upstream to Folsom Dam and lands surrounding Folsom Lake. Habitats impacted include oak woodlands, chaparral, riparian forest, seasonal wetlands, aquatic (lake, pond, creek, and stream), and annual grassland.
Expected Benefits for Habitat. The project would further minimize the catastrophic loss of roughly 2,300 acres of various habitats found on the Lower American River Parkway downstream of Folsom Dam if the dam failed. More importantly, the flood risk reduction portion of the project provides an alternative to a new dam (multipurpose or flood control only) located upstream of Folsom Dam which would inundate thousands of acres of riparian, chaparral, riparian, stream and forest habitats.
Species Affected. Listed species include the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, vernal pool crustaceans, and bald eagle. Some aspects of the project in the future will potentially affect the giant garter snake and delta smelt and anadromous fish. Other species affected include migratory birds and terrestrial species common to oak woodlands and riparian areas. Mitigation efforts are directed at maintaining movement corridors and the connectivity of existing blocks of habitat.
Central Valley Critical Levee Erosion Repairs, California
Partners. Partners include the Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, California Reclamation Board, California Department of Water Resources, California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, NOAA-Fisheries, Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Valley Flood Control Association, collectively known as the Interagency Flood Management Collaborative Program.
Habitat Affected. The study area includes the Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems. Habitats affected include shaded riverine aquatic cover, higher terrace riparian forest areas, scrub-shrub riparian, and annual grassland.
Expected Benefits for Habitat. The collaborative effort of engineers and scientists to develop erosion fixes which incorporate both structural stability features (rock and rock/soil mixture) for the levee and environmental features (plantings, woody debris, shallow riverside benches) is another step in developing repair templates which can be applied to future erosion repairs. Subsequent monitoring of these sites for response by fish and wildlife will allow for further refinement of methods in the future.
Species Affected. Listed species include federally listed delta smelt, giant garter snake, valley elderberry longhorn beetle and anadromous salmonids. Other wildlife affected includes migratory birds and terrestrial riparian species.
Kane Springs Groundwater Development Project, Nevada
Habitat Affected. Habitats in Spring Valley potentially affected by groundwater withdrawal include wetlands, wet meadow complexes, springs, streams, riparian and phreatophytic communities, including unique swamp cedar woodlands.
Expected Benefits for Habitat. The potential benefits for habitat are avoidance, minimization, and compensatory mitigation for lost habitat values.
Species Affected. Listed species potentially affected include Coccyzus americanus (Yellow-billed Cuckoo), Moapa coriacea (Moapa dace), Empidonax traillii extimus (Southwestern willow flycatcher), and Gopherus agassizii (Desert tortoise)
Expected Benefits for Species. Avoidance, minimization, and compensatory mitigation for lost habitat.
Klamath Irrigation Project Drought Preparedness Planning, California and Oregon
Fremont-Winema National Forest Noxious Weeds Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Oregon
This project will benefit listed species like the northern spotted owl indirectly by insuring that the native food sources the prey of this species consumes are available. The federally listed shortnose and Lost River suckers and bull trout will indirectly benefit from invasive species removal by allowing native vegetation to proliferate along stream banks. Additionally, the Oregon spotted frog, a federal candidate species, will benefit directly from this project because this species utilizes native vegetation in its egg laying habitat and for cover from predators.
The Service is working with the Forest early in the planning process to streamline consultation. Additionally the Service is assisting the Forest with a Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis that is identifying effects to all wildlife species of concern, not just the federally listed species.
Partners involved in the project include numerous private landowners who have land that borders the Forest and the Fremont-Winema National Forest.
Westside Fuels Reduction Project, Oregon
The Service is involved early in the project planning to help streamline the consultation process and to insure that federally listed species habitat needs are met while balancing the fuels reduction needs in the wildland urban interface.
Partners involved in this project include the Rocky Point Community Action Team and the Fremont-Winema National Forest.
Threatened and Endangered Species
Bull Trout Genetics Project:
This study combines a broad sampling of all local bull trout populations within the Klamath Basin, utilizing new, more variable microsatellite loci. The benefits gained will provide: 1) a better understanding of evolutionary relationships of these populations within the larger, range-wide bull trout genetic landscape; 2) an important tool when considering genetic rescue efforts (transferring fish among isolated populations); and 3) a better understanding of the impact of hybridization with brook trout on the genetic integrity of bull trout populations in the Klamath River basin. Data generated in this study will also be used to estimate the effective number of breeders in each population, allowing managers to quantify the rate at which genetic diversity has been lost in the populations and the rate of inbreeding.
Partners in this project include: the US Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife; and The Nature Conservancy. Other managers and landowners have expressed interest in participating in efforts to restore and recover bull trout and their habitat as opportunities occur.Seven Oaks Dam/Woolly Star Preserve Area
For over two years we have worked closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to implement a 100-year management and monitoring plan for the Woolly Star Preserve Area, a 764-acre mitigation site resulting from Endangered Species Act consultations for flood-control operations of Seven Oaks Dam in San Bernardino County, CA. In September 2006, we provided a hierarchical framework of goals and objectives for this adaptive-management plan, which will protect scarce alluvial-fan sage scrub habitats and maintain local populations of three federally listed species (San Bernardino kangaroo rat [SBKR], Santa Ana woolly star, and slender-horned spineflower). On-going FY2007 activities included assistance with preparation of long-term funding requirements, draft 5-year work plans, and several sections of the multi-species habitat management plan. Additionally, we provided a complete analysis and synthesis of the on-site SBKR survey efforts to date, which resulted in revised SBKR survey designs for 2007. We also provided recommendations and priorities for survey designs for the other listed species. Early refinement of these survey designs is a critical component of the management plan, because they will provide the information necessary to effectively monitor the species’ status and set habitat-suitability benchmarks for future habitat manipulations. We will continue to work with the Corps and other local stakeholders to integrate this plan’s implementation with adjacent Habitat Conservation Plans in the Santa Ana River wash.
Programmatic/Land Management Review
Revision of Bureau of Land Management Resource Management Plans in Western Oregon
The Service met with the BLM planners at a local level on several occasions to discuss management of threatened and endangered species, transportation, and riparian management. Species addressed in this project include Lost River sucker, shortnose sucker, bald eagle, northern spotted owl, Canada lynx, bull trout, Applegate’s milk-vetch, Pacific fisher, Mardon skipper butterfly, Oregon spotted frog, and western yellow-billed cuckoo.