Conservation Planning Assistance Narratives - 2007
Habitat and Resource Conservation
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Choose Conservation Planning Assistance Narratives from the following regions.
Region 1
CA, HI
ID, NV
OR, WA
Region 2
AZ, NM
OK, TX
Region 3
IL, IN
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OH, WI
Region 4
AL, AR
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REGION 1

FERC Hydropower

Wind Power

Transportation

Water-Related Development

Interjurisdictional Fish Conservation/Fish Passage

Migratory Bird Conservation

Military

Large Scale, Landscape Level Conservation Planning

REGION 2

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

REGION 3

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

REGION 4

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

REGION 5

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

REGION 6

Energy

Transportation

Water Supply/Delivery

Restoration

Streamlining

Migratory Bird Conservation

Fish Passage

Other

REGION 7

Anchorage Field Office

Juneau Field Office

Fairbanks Field Office

REGION 8

FERC Hydropower

Energy

Flood Control

Water Supply

Streamlining

Threatened and Endangered Species

Programmatic/Land Management Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

Wells Hydroelectric Project Relicensing:  During FY 2007, the Upper Columbia Fish and Wildlife Office (UCFWO) was actively engaged in the preliminary stages of relicensing for the Wells Hydroelectric Project, located on the mid-Columbia River.  The UCFWO, in addition to other natural resource agencies and Tribes, have assisted in crafting study plans which address resource impacts related to water quality, salmon and steelhead, bull trout, Pacific lamprey, white sturgeon, and wildlife resources.  

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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. 

Spokane River and Post Falls Hydroelectric Projects Relicensing (Avista Utilities): 

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.

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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.

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Wind Power

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.

  • Federal Projects:  The Cotterel Mountain facility has been authorized, but no construction has occurred to date.  Additional large facilities in the Owyhee Mountains (2) and on Brown’s Bench (in SC Idaho) are in the planning phases; meteorological data is currently being collected.  Major issues include sage grouse, migratory birds, native plant communities, and unique geographical areas of high resource values.  The Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) is currently communicating with the BLM to determine appropriate procedures to address these developments early in the planning process.
  • Private Projects:  The Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office (SRFWO) provided technical assistance to county planning and zoning commissions for several small-scale proposals regarding facility siting, applicable Federal laws (MBTA), the need to consider landscape-level planning, and native wildlife implications.  The Service’s draft national guidance serves as the basis for our recommendations.  PURPA discussions and their relevance to the cost of ancillary facilities (transmission lines) continue to slow on-the-ground development.

Transportation

  • State Route 167 Extension Project, Washington:  The SR-167 Extension Project will construct a new 4-lane highway through the Puyallup River Valley.   As a result of early planning by the Western Washington Fish and Wildlife Office (WWFWO) during the NEPA phase of the project, the Washington Department of Transportation and the Federal Highways Administration developed and incorporated an innovative approach to handling stormwater flow control, which will benefit Chinook and coho salmon, cutthroat trout and migratory birds. The project restores 182 acres of riparian habitat along Hylebos and Wapato Creeks and provides at least 34 acres of wetland mitigation. 

Water-Related Development

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.

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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.

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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:

  • There are listed Bliss Rapids snails present on the hatchery property and we have coordinated on hatchery projects with potential to affect the species.  The hatchery manager has worked with the SRFWO as we assessed the status and distribution of snails on the property, and has worked closely with us in the monitoring of water quality and other habitat conditions. 
  • Hagerman and the Magic Valley (LSRCP Hatcheries) have experienced declines in spring water quantities and we have worked together with the hatchery manager and Regional Office staff on that issue, as well as in the forum of Idaho’s Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer management planning.
  • We worked with the hatchery manager and members of the Idaho Aquaculture association on the EPA’s proposed NPDES permit for aquaculture discharges. 

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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.

Military

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.

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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 Reclamation Operations and BO Implementation:  As part of the 2005 Biological Opinion for BOR operations in the Upper Snake River, numerous studies were initiated to evaluate effects to bull trout and listed Snake River snails.  These studies, designed to answer questions specifically regarding listed species, have significant implications for aquatic species in general, and their associated habitats.  It is anticipated that results from the studies will modify operations at BOR facilities, using an adaptive management approach, to minimize impacts to listed and non-listed aquatic species, and associated riverine and reservoir habitats.  Staff turnover and budgetary constraints within BOR have necessitated a reprioritization of monitoring tasks, but we are confident that all requirements will be met.  Regular coordination meetings have occurred, are planned for the future, and have aided in providing focus on conservation needs as outlined in the BO.
  • Forestry:   The SRFWO, together with NOAA-Fisheries, the State of Idaho, Nez Perce Tribe, and others are working toward a section 6 (ESA) agreement that would provide coverage for actions carried out under the Idaho Forest Practices Act, which under the SRBA would be amended to reduce risks to listed fishes.  The geographic scope is the Clearwater and Salmon River Basins.
  • Flows:  An interagency team is working to determine and secure flows necessary for supporting listed salmon and bull trout in the Salmon River watershed.  A primary issue is diversion of water for irrigated agriculture which results in dewatering of streams required for recovery of the listed fishes.  Watersheds have been prioritized and the SRBA agreement calls for establishing and securing flows in order of those priorities.  The State, NOAA, and FWS have been reviewing options for proceeding with NEPA and section 7 consultations for the proposed agreement.  The state of Idaho is already pursuing on-the-ground implementation of flow restoration projects.

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. 

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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. 

Region 2

Chocolate Bayou Navigation Channel Dredged Material Management Program (DMMP)
Category:  Transportation (Federal navigation channel)
Location:  Chocolate Bayou, West Galveston Bay, Texas

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;
(3) remaining 153.5 acres planted, awaiting dewatering by weir structures under construction, expected to be functional FY 2008; and, (4) 4,500 linear-feet newly-created or newly-protected bay shoreline vegetated with Spartina alterniflora sprigs.

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)
                  Chocolate Bayou Navigation District (local sponsor)
                  Galveston Bay Foundation (bay shoreline planting sponsor)
                  INEOS Employees Environmental Group (bay shoreline planting participant).

Gulf Intra-coastal Waterway (GIWW) Maintenance Dredging (Galveston Causeway to Brazos River Harbor) and Green’s Lake marsh nourishment feature
Category:  Transportation (Federal navigation channel)

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
recreate semi-isolated ponds which may maintain fresher salinity regimes, thereby more beneficial to water birds.  Current trends toward increasing GIWW bankside erosion, existing marsh opening-up via “drowning”, and conversion of existing brackish areas to saline are expected to be stopped or reversed.  Priority species expected to benefit include northern pintail, mottled duck, gadwall, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, American widgeon, clapper rail, black rail, and seaside sparrow.

Partners:   U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District
                West Bay Landowners Association

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Sabine-Neches Waterway (SNWW) Improvement Project
Category:  Transportation (Federal navigation channel)
Location:  Lower Neches and Sabine Rivers, Texas and Louisiana

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
                Sabine-Neches Navigation District

Jefferson County Drainage District 6 Taylors Bayou Flood Relief Project COE permit
Category:  Flood Control
Location:  Green Pond Gully and Taylor Bayou, Texas

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

Exxon/Mobil Golden Pass Liquid Natural Gas Terminal and Pipeline
Category:  Energy
Location:  Jefferson, Orange and Newton Counties, TX and Calcasieu Parish, LA

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

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Corpus Christi, Texas Ecological Services Field Office

Matagorda Ship Channel Improvement Project - Beneficial Uses Working Group (BUG)
October 2006 through August 2007
            Category:  Transportation

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
Navigation District (CCND) through a permit from the COE is developing this project.  The
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) representatives participated in scheduled BUG meetings, attended public meetings which presented various components of the project to the stakeholders, and reviewed models, draft plans and other products from the CCND consultants which provided the scientific basis for the alternatives being presented in the Draft EIS.  The Draft EIS was published in May 2007, and is still in review.  Calhoun County Navigation District is seeking to complete the development of the Final EIS by the December 2007.  

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.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Terminals and Pipeline Projects Update
            Category:  Energy/Streamlining

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,
certain marine mammals, and inter-jurisdictional fish.  Applicants for LNG facilities and related pipeline construction projects were required to consult with the Service on projects potentially affecting any of these resources.  The Service also consulted with LNG project proponents on projects potentially affecting fresh water or marine resources and water quality.

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.

South Texas Natural Resources Partnering Team – FY 2007
Category:  Streamlining

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
CCESFO and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) biologists assisted Navy personnel with the installation of seven all-weather signs highlighting birds and other wildlife that use habitat in and along the shoreline of NAS-CC.

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
U. S. Navy in South Texas.

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Arlington, Texas Ecological Services Field Office

Central City, Fort Worth, Texas
                        Category:  Flood Control

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
Fort Worth and the Republican Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri.  On November 20, 2004, Congress authorized $110 million towards completion of the study.  The on-going project would make more than 800-acres available for new urban waterfront development and create 60 miles of new paved trails and interpretive areas.  The locally preferred plan currently proposes restoration of five terrestrial wildlife habitats across 296.2 acres [(aquatic (5.27 acres), riparian woodlands (133.11 acres), grasslands (65.84 acres), upland woodlands (76.92 acres), and emergent wetlands (15.02 acres)] to improve habitat diversity and quality, benefiting a variety of resident and migratory wildlife species.

Dallas Floodway Extension (DFE)
Category:  Flood Control

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.

Johnson Creek, Arlington, Texas
Category:  Flood Control

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.

Gulf South Pipeline Company – East Texas Expansion Project (FERC)
Category:  Energy

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. 

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Gulf South Pipeline Company – Gulf Crossing Project (FERC)
Category:  Energy

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.

Mid-continent Express Pipeline Company - Mid-continent Express Pipeline Project  (FERC)
Category:  Energy

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.

Various Gas/Oil Exploration and Pipeline Projects (FERC)
Category:  Energy

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.

Mitigation Banks

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
migratory birds.  These large blocks of restored habitat are used to compensate for small, dispersed impacts to wetlands and assorted waters of the United States associated with energy exploration, transportation projects, and general development.  In FY 2007, developers from mitigation banks purchased 374.4 acre/credits and 5,495 feet/credits.  The availability of these banks streamlines the permitting process by involving state and local agencies as well as entrepreneurial and Federal partners well before the impacts to aquatic resources occur.

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The Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office

Transportation Streamlining
The Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office (OKESFO) continues to work with the Federal Highways Administration and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) to develop a programmatic approach to endangered species conservation, including section 7 consultation under the Endangered Species Act.  This approach will address potential impacts to federally-listed species from the replacement of multiple state bridges in the state of Oklahoma.  Conservation measures to avoid impacts to federally listed species are being developed and will be incorporated in to project plans.  Those projects for which adverse impacts to listed species are unavoidable will be addressed individually and separately from the remaining projects.  The programmatic approach will streamline the ODOT’s environmental review process while ensuring that conservation measures to avoid impacts to listed species are included, early on, in project plans.

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.

National Environmental Policy Act Activities
Category:  Streamlining

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:
The ODOT continued to work with the OKESFO and other members of the Mitigation Bank Review Team to establish a mitigation bank in northeast Oklahoma.  The primary purpose of the mitigation bank is to compensate for likely unavoidable impacts to wetlands attributable to future bridge replacement and other transportation projects.  The Oklahoma Department of Transportation, through early planning efforts among the COE, EPA, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, and the OKESFO, a piece of property was purchased that not only has high potential for wetland restoration and enhancement but is ideally located for long-term management by a capable party.  The property occurs within the floodplain of the Verdigris River and is adjacent to the existing Oologah Wildlife Management Area, an area already managed by the ODWC.  Oklahoma Department of Transportation is in the final stages of completing the final mitigation banking instrument.

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Arizona Ecological Services Field Office

Mitigating Development Impacts – Interagency Coordination
The Arizona Ecological Services Field Office continues to actively coordinate with the COE in regards to an expanded scope of impact analysis to assess the affects of upland development on the biological integrity of jurisdictional waters.  We are attempting to ensure the application of assessment techniques and mitigation criteria that will empirically demonstrate preservation
and/or replacement of biological function.  This approach would result in substantial benefits to Arizona’s biotic communities, particularly desert ecosystems which are under tremendous development pressure.

Region 3

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).

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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. 

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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. 

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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

Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway Navigation Study:  The Service’s East Lansing, Michigan, Ecological Services Field Office continues to participate and lead aspects of a bi-national partnership that seeks to establish baseline conditions for the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway System.  Working with Transport Canada, Environment Canada, U.S. Corps of Engineers, and others, the Service assists in constructing a baseline analysis that quantifies the engineering actions, economic impacts and environmental consequences for continued operation of the navigation system in its current configuration.  Work proceeds via three delivery teams: economics, engineering, and environment, with the East Lansing Field Office providing a co-lead role and expertise for the environmental delivery team. This year a draft of the Main Report and the Environmental Delivery Team Report has been readied for a fall release, with favorable initial reviews for the Environmental Report.

Restoration on Rouge River in Dearborn, Michigan:  In April 2007, the Service’s East Lansing, Michigan, Ecological Services Field Office provided a draft Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (FWCA) Report to the Detroit District of the Corps of Engineers addressing the Corps’ proposed Upper and Lower River Rouge Project.  Authorized under Section 1135 of WRDA, the Corps’s project study is to consider restoration and enhancement opportunities on a section of the Rouge River in urban Dearborn, Michigan, which was channelized and lined with a concrete bottom as part of the original flood control project.  The Service’s FWCA Report provides a description (based on a literature search and site visit) of fish and wildlife resources and habitats of the area (including endangered species); a discussion of potential impacts of the project alternatives on these resources; and a discussion of suggested restoration, enhancement, and conservation measures for proposed project alternatives.

Overall, the Service supports concrete removal as part of Project Alternative 4, with adaptive management of the hydraulic consequences of Alternative 4’s other features (floodplain construction and side-stream wetlands).  If later hydraulic studies show that the backwater effect, if any, generated by the in-stream structures of Project Alternative 5 are compatible with the on-going need for flood control, the Service would prefer to support Alternative 5.

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.

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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. 

The SAMP committee also provided preliminary approval for restoration of a 126-acre site that is currently hayed grassland and degraded wetland.  The site will be restored to a matrix of intermittent stream, floodplain forest, shallow marsh, shrub-carr, wet meadow, upland forest, and other upland habitat areas.  The performance goals for the restoration site include species richness of migratory birds, small mammals, and herpetofauna.  Once restored, the site will be accessible for 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.  

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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). 
In 2007, the MMRP expanded reach planning to the remaining four MMR reaches: St. Louis Reach (miles 160-200), Crain's Reach (miles 80-120), Hamburg Reach (miles 40-80, and Dogtooth Reach (miles 0-40).  Staff of the Service’s Marion, Illinois, Ecological Services Field Office, along with Fisheries and Refuge Program staff, has actively participated in all reach planning teams, providing valuable technical assistance. 

The draft reach plans divide each reach into several manageable sub-areas.  Land use classification, soils, and flood frequency data have been compiled for each sub-area.  Terrestrial and aquatic habitat changes from the early 1800's to the present provide insight into habitat restoration possibilities.  Goals and objectives for each sub-area have been established based on the Corps' Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program Science Panel goals and objectives and the MMRP Partnership Plan objectives.

Next steps will involve integrating the results of a hydrogeomorphology study that is currently underway and completing sub-area prioritization for each reach utilizing measurable ranking criteria (e.g., habitat scarcity, restoration potential, connectivity, etc.).  Key partners in this planning effort include the American Land Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. 

Habitat Restoration Planning in the Middle Mississippi River:  The Service’s Marion, Illinois, Ecological Service Field Office recently completed a Draft Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act Report for the Herculaneum Reach Wing Dike Modification Project.  The project area is located between Upper Mississippi River miles 156.3 and 149.7 in Monroe County, Illinois, and Jefferson County, Missouri.  The Corps of Engineers considers this reach their “prototype” for maintaining the 9-foot navigation channel.  By 1966, various river training structures constructed by the Corps had constricted this reach to an average width of 1800 feet and lowered the riverbed by 8 feet.  Continued construction from 1967 to 1969 narrowed the river channel further to 1200 feet and lowered the riverbed an additional 3 feet.  By 1971, the low-water riverbed in this reach was on average 11 feet lower than in 1889.  The river training structures are so effective that the Corps rarely has to dredge in this reach to maintain the navigation channel.

Constricting the Mississippi River channel in such a way has reduced the amount of sidechannel and shallow water habitats available to aquatic resources, including the endangered pallid sturgeon.  In recent years, the Corps has been working with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the states to evaluate various reaches of the Mississippi River in order to restore and enhance aquatic habitat.  Part of this effort was the completion of a dike inventory and analysis of the entire Middle Mississippi River in 2002.  This study identified 4 dike fields with 29 structures as occurring within the 7-mile-long Herculaneum Reach. 

The evaluation was taken one step further in 2003 with completion of a Hydraulic Sediment Response Study (micro-model) to evaluate various alternatives for modifying dikes to restore aquatic habitat while maintaining the integrity of the navigation channel.  The best alternative identified the possibility of restoring 3 separate sidechannels which will total approximately 3.0 miles in sidechannel length.  Additionally, shallow water, sandbar habitat will develop adjacent to the sidechannels which will further increase habitat complexity in the reach.

The Carterville Fisheries Resources Office has been conducting pre-project fisheries monitoring in this reach.  During Year 1 of monitoring, a total of 3,331 fishes of 54 species were captured.  This included 2,149 adults (49 species) and 1,182 young-of-year (29 species).  Within wing dike habitats, the most abundant adult species were emerald shiner and common carp.  The most abundant young-of-year species were freshwater drum and channel shiner.  It is anticipated that restoration of habitat complexity will benefit large river fish of concern to the Service, including pallid sturgeon, shovelnose sturgeon, and paddlefish.  A strong post-project monitoring component is recommended as part of the project in order to fully evaluate project assumptions and to make adjustments to future projects accordingly (i.e., adaptive management).
In addition to habitat-associated impacts from Corps activities in this reach of the Middle Mississippi River, the area has also been impacted by unauthorized releases of lead and heavy metals from the Doe Run Lead Smelter facility in Herculaneum.  The potential presence of contaminated sediments was a consideration during project development.  To avoid the potential to remobilize and transfer contaminants downstream, no modifications will occur within the dike fields in the vicinity of Joachim Creek.  Additionally, data gathered by the Fish and Wildlife Service Contaminants Program indicates that the concentrations of lead and other heavy metals in the areas where dike modifications will occur have been reduced to levels such that adverse effects are not likely to occur to fish and wildlife resources.  However, the Service has recommended additional deep-core sediment sampling in the areas where sidechannels are predicted to form to ensure contaminant levels remain below concentrations of concern. 
Planning for this project is expected to be completed in 2008, with construction to begin soon after authorization of the Navigation and Environmental Sustainability Program in the next Water Resources Development Act.  Partners involved in this project include the Army Corps of Engineers, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Formal Consultation on Use of Explosives to Remove Rock from the Middle Mississippi River Benefits More Than Just Endangered Species:  In February, the Service’s Marion, Illinois, Ecological Service Field Office completed formal consultation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) regarding a proposed project to remove rock pinnacles and outcroppings from the Middle Mississippi River (MMR) through the use of explosives.  The biological opinion for the project concluded that the proposed project is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the endangered pallid sturgeon.  The Service concurred that with implementation of conservation measures, the project would not be likely to adversely affect the endangered least tern or threatened bald eagle.

The project is necessary to ensure a 9-foot navigation channel is maintained and to prevent groundings or collisions by barges.  Should a barge containing oil or other chemicals come in contact with the rock pinnacles or outcroppings, a major environmental disaster could occur.  Due to drought conditions in the late 1980's, the Corps removed millions of tons of rock from the Grand Tower Reach and Thebes Reach of the MMR to maintain a 9-foot navigation channel.  The current prolonged drought conditions have led to record low water levels.  New technology utilized by the Corps indicates that the blasting in the late 1980's did not remove all the rock pinnacles and outcroppings from the channel.  As a result, the Corps is proposing to complete the task.
Prior to initiation of consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Corps conducted several meetings and conference calls with the Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the Missouri Department of Conservation in order to develop conservation measures for the pallid sturgeon and to develop a disposal plan that would minimize impacts to the species and possibly improve fisheries habitat.  The conservation measures should ensure that impacts to pallid sturgeon and other fisheries resources are minimized to the greatest extent possible.

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.

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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. 
 
The proposal to dam Sugar Creek sparked immediate controversy within the environmental community. The project would result in the loss of 6.2 miles of Sugar Creek, one of the last remaining free flowing streams in southern Illinois with good water quality. At the time, the stream habitat supported good populations of the state endangered Indiana crayfish and possibly the last remaining population of the state threatened least brook lamprey in Illinois. To add to the concern, the lake would flood approximately 400 acres of forest and 40 acres of wetland habitat. Although not documented, the area was likely occupied by the federally endangered Indiana bat and the northern copper belly water snake, a species of concern previously proposed for federal protection.
 
Since 1994, the Corps of Engineers issued the Section 404 permit twice and was twice sued by non-governmental organizations. The Courts remanded the permits, citing the Corps’ inadequate compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The Corps consequently prepared an Environmental Impact Statement and two Addendums. Throughout this time period, staff from the Service’s Marion, Illinois, Ecological Services Field Office; Rock Island, Illinois, Field Office, and the Regional Office provided technical assistance to the Corps and the City of Marion to develop a suitable wetland mitigation plan, a lake shoreline development plan, and stream discharge plan to protect fish and wildlife resources and water quality. Additionally, formal consultation was completed for the endangered Indiana bat. However, the Service has maintained a strong position that although the Service would not further pursue elevation of any permit decision, the Service objected to permit issuance based on the existence of less environmentally damaging alternatives to building the lake, including tapping into water at Rend Lake, a Corps reservoir located just north of Marion. The City of Marion likely had some inkling about the Corps’ decision to deny the permit as the City completed a water supply deal with Rend Lake last October.
 
Although the Corps denied the permit, substantial damage has been done to the fish and wildlife resources on the proposed project area.  During the intervening years and court battles, the City had cleared much of the forested habitat and riparian corridor adjacent to Sugar Creek. This has resulted in a high degree of channel instability and erosion that has highly degraded the stream. It is uncertain whether Indiana crayfish or least brook lamprey continue to exist in the stream. Additionally, the City owns much of the land in and around Sugar Creek which would have been flooded by the lake. There is no indication at this point what the City intends to do with this land. It can only be hoped that over the long term, the riparian corridor along Sugar Creek will be allowed to reestablish and perhaps the stream channel may begin to return to some semblance of its pre-disturbance condition.  Key partners involved with the Service in the effort to conserve resources in the project area include the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

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. 

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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:
   1.  Maintaining a face-to-face relationship with members of the coal mining industry,
   2.  Strengthening relationships with its partner resource agencies,
   3.  Educating the mining industry about the Service’s trust resources,
   4.  Gaining a better understanding from industry about the mining process, and
   5.  Discussing ways to protect trust resources while maintaining viable mining operations.

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.
 
A pool-scale drawdown involves a seasonal decrease in water levels at the navigation dam to mimic the low-flow cycle in the upstream reservoir that no longer occurs naturally.  Drawdowns expose sediments, which dry out and improve reproduction of aquatic vegetation.  They are a low-cost way to improve large areas of shallow aquatic habitat that support fish and wildlife on the Upper Mississippi River.  Drawdowns in Pools 5 and 8 restored/enhanced approximately 1,300 and 2,000 acres of aquatic vegetation, respectively.  In addition to improving aquatic vegetation for migratory waterfowl and other species, the projects were also designed to maintain the federal 9-foot channel project for commercial navigation, minimize adverse effects on river recreation, and educate the public on the environmental benefits of drawdowns.

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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.

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Region 4

Arkansas, Conway Field Office

Transportation Projects in Arkansas
The 2007 International Conference on Ecology and Transportation (ICOET) was hosted by the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Arkansas Field Office.  The mission of ICOET is to identify and share quality research applications and best management practices that address wildlife, habitat, and ecosystem issues related to the delivery of surface transportation systems. ICOET is the primary forum for an international gathering of the foremost experts in the field of transportation development, related scientific study, and administrative processes that can enhance both the project development process and the ecological sustainability of transportation systems.

On May 20–25, 2007, over 330 researchers and practitioners from more than 15 countries converged in Little Rock, Arkansas, on the edge of the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains, to share information and experiences around the conference theme of "Bridging the Gaps, Naturally." The "The Natural State" of Arkansas provided outstanding accommodations and a magnificent natural environment for the conference.  Service personnel organized an overnight pre-conference float trip on the scenic Buffalo National River which was a huge success among participants as well as a mid-week BBQ social with a local caterer and live bluegrass band.  In addition, it was the responsibility of Service personnel to plan and execute a field trip of more than 120 participants to the heart of the Mississippi Delta.  This field trip highlighted several complex transportation projects currently underway in Arkansas and culminated in a tour of the White River National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters in St. Charles, Arkansas where participants viewed three multi-media presentations regarding ecological concerns of transportation projects in Arkansas and how those concerns are being addressed through cooperative conservation.  Overall the conference was a huge success and received outstanding reviews from participants and organizers alike.

Alligator Gar  in Arkansas, an Interjurisdictional Focal Species
The Service, in cooperation with the University of Central Arkansas, has increased our knowledge of the alligator gar to the level that we may now be able to develop a life history, habitat use, and a status assessment for this species within the next few years. This hard-won goal was achieved by some intensive field work, and with cooperation among the members of the Service-coordinated Alligator Gar working group.

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.

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Fayetteville Shale Gas Development - Central Arkansas
Fayetteville Shale Gas development in central Arkansas has happened quickly, and the rapid development of this industry has caught many state and federal regulatory and conservation agencies by surprise. Our office responded by participating in the cooperative development of conservation-oriented Best Management Practices, but we found that a lack of communication with applicants and their subcontractors did not always insure that these practices would be implemented on the ground. We also identified numerous state and federal clean water act and water quality violations, and reported these finding to the appropriate regulatory agencies.

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.
Despite the challenges associated with the development of a new industry and cross-agency cooperation, we have had and are maintaining a good working relationship with both state agencies and the gas companies. While we do anticipate some minor setbacks as new companies come into the industry, and as personnel changes occur, we believe we can all continue to work together, particularly over the long term.  Our cooperative efforts are preventing, or at least minimizing, negative impacts of countless acres and miles of streams, riparian areas, lakes, wetlands, and uplands in the Ozarks of Arkansas.

Conservation in Arkansas’ Karst Region
In 2005, a cave crayfish found on private lands was determined through taxonomic (Wittenberg University) and genetic (Missouri Dept. of Conservation) analysis to be Cambarus aculabrum. This site brought known population sites to four.  The first step to conservation of this species and its habitat was to conduct a recharge zone delineation study.  While conducting informal consultations with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department and Waste Management in 2006, concern was expressed that their individual projects could threaten groundwater and habitat within the predicted recharge zone.  During a coordination meeting which included the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC), and The Nature Conservancy, all organizations agreed to cooperate and pay for a recharge delineation study.  Results of the study concluded neither proposed project threatened the species, but it clearly demonstrated the need to coordinate with the community of Tontitown and Elm Springs.  Potential threats from a gas fired power plant were resolved through an informal process. During ongoing coordination with the communities, we have consulted with them on recent sewer and water projects which threatened groundwater, and are developing a set of “Community Growth Best Management Practices for Conservation of the Elm Springs/Tontitown recharge zone” in coordination with city councils, and the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission.  The BMP’s are currently under review by the communities and are being recommended for adoption into city planning ordinance.  A similar set of BMP’s was adopted in 2005 by a neighboring community to conserve the Cave Springs Cave recharge zone.

In 2007, we were contacted by an Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission steward alleging development activities threatened the recharge zone of the endangered cave crayfish, Cambarus zophonastes.  Once the landowners were identified, we established a meeting date to discuss the issue, only to find out they were under investigation by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality for permit violations related to water quality impairment.  Our meeting in the field identified the threats, requirements for abatement, and a timeline for correcting the threats.  We drafted a letter to ADEQ outlining the issue, and the agreed to plan for correction.  A second on site meeting occurred which involved ADEQ, ANHC, AGFC, the landowners, and the Service where threats were discussed and a corrective implementation schedule was established.  ADEQ was satisfied with the abatement of threats, the landowners were pleased as they did not receive a citation, and the threat to the recharge zone was greatly reduced.  This case demonstrates a basic idea: proactive intervention leads to positive conservation action.

Ozark Gas Transmission - East End Expansion Project
The Ozark Gas Transmission, LLC (OGT) East End Expansion Project proposes to construct approximately 180 miles of 36 inch diameter natural gas pipeline; approximately 8 miles of 24 inch pipeline extension; receiver and compressor stations; three new interstate pipeline interconnects; and one tie-in facility.  The expansion project is primarily located in Arkansas, but also includes a small portion of Mississippi.  The Arkansas Field Office organized and worked closely with a multi-agency and organization group (Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, EGIS, Cache River NWR, US Army Corps of Engineers, TNC, ECO) to provide consistent recommendations for right-of-way adjustments and stream/wetland bore locations to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and OGT.  The outcome of the working group meetings was a unified recommendation from the natural resource agencies and organizations. 

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.

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Jacksonville, Florida Field Office

Bald Eagle Monitoring Guidelines in Florida
The Jacksonville Field Office developed (in conjunction with the Vero Beach and Panama City Field Offices) the 2007 Bald Eagle Monitoring Guidelines which are posted on our website.  This document provides an avenue for project proponents to move forward with projects during bald eagle nesting season under certain circumstances, while providing FWS and the state wildlife agency with important information regarding bald eagle behavior and tolerances to development and other assorted human activities.  Project proponents who follow the monitoring recommendations in the Guidelines are providing positive benefits to the bald eagle while moving forward with their project. 

Clearance Letter for Communication Tower Projects in Florida
The Jacksonville Ecological Services Field Office, Jacksonville, Florida developed a Clearance Letter for Communication Tower Projects that it has posted on its website.  The letter contains information that enables cell tower permit applicants to evaluate their projects for potential adverse impacts to the bald eagle, Federally listed species and migratory birds.   The letter identifies conditions under which such projects may proceed without such adverse impacts to certain Federal trust resources, and when further consultation and coordination with our office is necessary.  The conditions are consistent with the latest guidelines and information on communication towers, migratory birds, threatened and endangered species, and the bald eagle.   The clearance letter has expedited the review and approval of most communication tower projects and reduced office workloads while continuing to insure the protection and conservation of Federal Trust Resources.  

Florida, Vero Beach Field Office

Programmatic Consultation Planning: Natural Resources Conservation Service
Conservation Practices: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides cost-share funding and technical assistance to private land owners for conservation practices through voluntary programs such as the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).  As a Federal agency, to ensure compliance with section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the NRCS Florida State Office desires to (1) streamline the consultation process, and (2) provide guidance to staff in making effect determinations for threatened and endangered species associated with implementing these Conservation Practices.  The NRCS has identified 139 conservation practices applicable to their Florida programs.   

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.

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Working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in South Florida
Wood Stork and Eastern Indigo Snake:  The South Florida Ecological Services Office and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District (Corps) have been working together on efforts to streamline both the 404 wetland permit review process and consultation process for federally listed species associated with the Corps’ wetland permitting program.  An element of this effort culminated in the implementation of two effect determination keys for selected South Florida counties by letter from the Service to the Corps on March 23, 2007.  These keys provided a multi-county up-front programmatic concurrence with a determination of “may affect, not likely to adversely affect” (NLAA) for the threatened eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi) and the endangered wood stork (Mycteria americana) for projects involving freshwater wetland impacts, provided that specific species protection criteria are met.  

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
The Service has worked with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to implement land conservation practices in Central Florida.  These conservation practices include rotational grazing, prescribed burning, fencing, nutrient management and pest management.  During FY 2007, the NRCS has consulted with the Service for land conservation practices that benefit over 10,500 acres of freshwater wetlands and 32,000 acres of upland cattle pastures.  Additionally, the conservation practices are implemented in habitat suitable for the endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus).  The Service recognizes prescribed burning as a conservation measure that is beneficial to the Florida grasshopper sparrow.  We anticipate that these land conservation practices will augment our recovery efforts for the Florida grasshopper sparrow.

Lake Okeechobee Muck RemovalThe 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
Florida Department of Transportation:  The Service’s Vero Beach Field Office continues to work with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to implement their Efficient Transportation Decision Making Process (ETDM).  The ETDM process allows the Service to provide early input on proposed transportation projects in the State of Florida.  The purpose of the ETDM Process is to expedite the review of transportation projects and reduce the cost of the project development and permitting process, while promoting transportation projects that result in fewer impacts to fish and wildlife resources.  The FDOT has provided funding for the past four years to support a biologist position in the Service’s Vero Beach Office exclusively dedicated to the review of transportation projects within our area of responsibility.  Our current funding agreement will provide support for this position through September 30, 2008.  The Service is working with the FDOT and the Federal Highways Administration to develop a new funding agreement that will extend funding for another five years through September 30, 2013.  Consequently, the Service is working cooperatively with the FDOT to protect fish and wildlife while ensuring that needed transportation projects are not unnecessarily delayed.  This fiscal year, the Service has reviewed and provided comments on approximately 90 transportation projects in south Florida.  Our recommendations will help the FDOT design projects that avoid and minimize impacts to federally listed species and fish and wildlife habitat to greatest extent practicable.

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 LightDuring 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.

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Everglades Restoration Program
West Indian Manatee Conservation - Protection Guidance and Barrier PlanThe Service continues to work with south Florida partners to protect West Indian manatees (manatees) though Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) implementation. 

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:

  1. Assess manatee risk at existing and future water control structures.
  2. Prevent manatee access to canals.
  3. Eliminate or reduce manatee entrapment injury and death.
  4. Implement if manatees become entrapped.
  5. Actively rescue and relocate manatees from the high risk canal system.

Concurrently, the Task Force developed a plan to install barriers on strategic structures to prevent manatee canal access.  Barrier plan conservation benefits achieved include:

  1. Installation of 7 barriers at 3 structures south of Lake Okeechobee preventing manatee access to 178 canal miles in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
  2. Elimination or reduction of manatee risks from 9 CERP construction projects.
  3. Plans to block 17 additional culverts in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties to prevent manatee access to 152 canal miles in the Water Conservation Areas and southern Everglades.

* 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.
 
Picayune Strand Restoration Project:  The Picayune Strand Restoration Project (PSRP) is restoring 86 square miles (55,000 acres) of drained and degraded former wetlands in western Collier County, Florida.  Among other conservation benefits, the PSRP is improving downstream estuaries in the Ten Thousand Island mangrove ecosystem and restoring habitat for Florida panthers, West Indian manatees, wood storks, bald eagles, red-cockaded woodpeckers, Everglade snail kites, eastern indigo snakes, and American crocodiles.

With $38 million from the Department of Interior and other funding, PRSP partners*:

  1. Acquired roughly 20,000 parcels.
  2. Installed 19 culverts through Tamiami Trail (US 41) to improve sheetflow to the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge
  3. Backfilled and plugged the 7-mile long Prairie Canal on the PSRP eastern boundary with Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park.
  4. Remediated nearly 33 acres (50 percent) of chlordane-contaminated soil, to date.
  5. Removed debris (e.g., buildings, tires, trash, vehicles) from more than 160 sites.
  6. Restored 65 miles (4,700 acres) of roads to natural grade.
  7. Recycled asphalt removed from paved roads to repair gravel roads.
  8. Modified a Draft Ten-Year Management Plan.
  9. Mapped exotic forest plants.
  10. Manage exotic vegetation in all construction areas.
  11. Provide hunting opportunities under a FWC Wildlife Management Area agreement.
  12. Harvested cabbage palms and pines in road corridor slated for future road removal.
  13. Future restoration will backfill and plug another 33 canal miles, remove an additional 175 road miles, and continue contaminant remediation.

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:

  1. Create 109 acres of shallow-sloped littoral zone which will provide wood stork foraging habitat and benefit other wading birds and wildlife species.
  2. Enhance 4,130 acres of submerged tapegrass beds in the upper Caloosahatchee estuary.
  3. Restore nearly 71,000 acres of downstream estuarine habitats (e.g., mangroves, coastal marshes, tidal flats, bays, and submerged aquatic vegetation).
  4. Benefit estuarine dependent organisms like anchovy, redfish, black drum, spotted seatrout, oysters, pink shrimp, blue crab, waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, seabirds, migratory birds, and threatened and endangered species such as West Indian manatees and wood storks.
  5. Improve Caloosahatchee estuary salinity gradients by providing essential dry season flows and potentially reducing peak wet season flows.
  6. Improve water supply for restoration, agricultural, and urban needs.
  7. Provide environmental education, recreation, and tourism opportunities.
  8. Benefit federally managed (e.g., J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR) and designated (e.g., Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program) areas, state aquatic preserves (e.g., Matlacha Pass, Estero Bay, Pine Island Sound), and numerous other local parks and recreation areas.

* 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:

  1. more than 300 restoration projects,
  2. six comprehensive Ecological Conceptual Models and associated narratives,
  3. a SWFFS Restoration Mapping GIS-Access Linked Database,
  4. more than 50 Management Measures that include benefits to fish and wildlife,
  5. a Benefits Analysis Matrix,
  6. an Issues Matrix,
  7. a comprehensive set of Ecological and Hydrological Performance Measures,
  8. methods to quantify ecological benefits including Habitat Suitability Indices, and other methods to evaluate project alternatives. 

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
Morgan Falls Hydroelectric Project:  This project, owned and operated by Georgia Power Company (GPC), is undergoing FERC relicensing.  The National Park Service, Georgia ES, and GPC have signed an Agreement in Principle and are in the process of signing a Settlement Agreement.  Although there are no aquatic federally threatened and endangered species issues at this project, the Settlement Agreement contains Georgia ES recommendations for enhancement measures to restore shoal bass (Micropterus cataractae), an Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint endemic and Georgia species of concern, as well as terrestrial invasive exotic vegetation removal and containment of the exotic Asian rice eel (Monopterus albus). 

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 2006, Georgia ES worked with FERC and Southern Liquid Natural Gas (SLNG) on construction of a 176- mile natural gas pipeline from Chatham County, Georgia to Clay County, Florida.  The pipeline would link the Elba Island Liquefied Natural Gas terminal in Savannah with customers in Jacksonville, Florida, and affect eight Georgia coastal counties. Most of the new pipeline followed existing rights-of-way and avoided environmentally sensitive areas. However, during construction, consultants at a Cypress Pipeline site in Charlton County discovered an additional gopher tortoise colony containing Eastern indigo snakes. Georgia ES biologists worked with SLNG and a private land owner to develop a plan to protect burrows containing snakes during pipeline construction activities or tree removal operations. The tortoise colony was within a power line right-of-way.   

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
2007 marked a landmark year for landscape-level planning efforts and novel advances in assessing and controlling indirect effects of transportation projects on listed aquatic species in the Etowah River basin.  Results from draft Etowah HCP research modeled the effects of stormwater discharge on listed Cherokee, Etowah, and amber darters.  Using this new information, Georgia ES worked with Federal Highway Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation on three projects that incorporated innovative stormwater infiltration into their designs, the first such efforts in Georgia that incorporated such recommendations.  One project, the I-575/State Route 20 interchange expansion, broke ground in 2007, incorporating three permanent stormwater infiltration ponds into the project design.  The US 411 Connector, a Presidential Priority Project, also incorporated stormwater infiltration into the design, as did the Old Alabama Road expansion.  The new stormwater infiltration systems of these improved roadways cleanse stormwater so that the road functions as if it were forested rather than paved, eliminating indirect, chronic effects to listed fish species and their habitats for up to 1.5 kilometers downstream.

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
Georgia ES continued to work with applicants for six new water supply reservoirs in Georgia to ensure project impacts on listed and other aquatic species are minimized and fully mitigated.  The Corps of Engineers, Georgia ES, and review agencies are evaluating most of these proposed reservoirs using methodology that they developed to streamline the permitting process, yet ensure applications have adequate alternative analyses, purpose/need statements, and hydrologic data.  Alternative analyses for the two proposed reservoirs in the Etowah Basin are based on models, developed for the draft Etowah Habitat Conservation Plan, that take into account projected fragmentation of listed fish habitat, as well as length of stream inundated. 

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Restoration in Georgia
Georgia ES has served as an integral member of the review team for over 50 approved commercial mitigation banks in Georgia that have protected or restored 20,717 acres of wetlands and 124 miles of stream corridor throughout the State.  Georgia ES continues to work with commercial bankers on 37 other banks in various stages of development; these banks would protect or restore an additional 1600 acres of stream and 80 miles of stream corridor. 

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 continues to provide technical assistance on cell tower projects in order to minimize impacts to migratory birds.  Most of these projects are handled either by a preprinted sticker attached to the applicants letter, a written signoff on the applicants letter, or a species list or direction to Service and State web sites with species-specific information. Exceptions to this were projects that where the presence of endangered species on site was known or expected.

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
Georgia ES and the University of Georgia recently published a paper in the Southeastern Naturalist , The effects of management strategies on the reproductive success of least terns on dredge spoil in Georgia (Southeastern Naturalist 6(1):27-34).  This project began as a transfer project with the Savannah District, Corps of Engineers, to determine when the Corps could operate the Andrews Island spoil disposal site in Brunswick without disturbing nesting least terns.  Georgia ES’ six-year study documented least tern nesting from April to mid June and showed that artificial nesting sites for these birds can be improved by management actions, such as tilling the site to reduce soil compaction and remove vegetation, installing an electric fence to exclude predators, predator trapping, herbicide application to remove vegetation, limiting access to the site.  Management actions on these man-made nesting areas may be increasingly important as natural habitat for beach-nesting birds continues to decline in availability and quality.

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 currently is developing stream crossing software to assist consultants and engineers in designing road crossings of streams (http://www.fws.gov/athens/stream_crossing/).  Recent research in a single north Georgia basin by personnel at the University of Georgia and US Geological Survey estimated that 34% of all culverted crossings, and over half of the crossings constructed with pipes, were impassable to small-bodied fish. Most of these were culverts installed in the past decade.  Undersized culverts are unable to accommodate high flow events without increasing water velocity exiting the pipe;  increased water velocity can hinder fish passage through the culvert and generally results in downstream scour that erodes stream banks and leaves the culvert perched (i.e., with a waterfall at the culvert outfall).  Oversized culverts tend to lower water depth in the culvert at baseflow, often resulting in flows that are too shallow to allow fish passage.  Georgia ES’ website will provide engineers and consultants with 1) information to properly design a culverted crossing,
(2) alternatives to conventional pipe-culvert designs, and 3) an online calculator that allows the user to determine if the culvert size and percent it will be embedded will pass flows without impeding fish passage.

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.

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Conservation with Military Partners in Georgia
The Fort Benning Army Installation is home to one of thirteen Primary Core Recovery Populations for the red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW). In the 2007, Georgia ES issued a biological opinion that concluded the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) projects (i.e., about 30 cantonment area projects, 16 range projects, 120 miles of road or tank trail, a vehicle recovery area, etc.) would not challenge the RCWs viability on the Installation. However, the action and effects, were significantly different than the initial projects. Two years of collaboration between the Army and Georgia ES resulted in project modifications that will result in loss of 32 RCW groups and roughly 4,800 acres of habitat. Although this level of loss is large, the benefits from the collaborative process assures the Army that it can continue to carry out its mission for training while appropriately conserving RCWs . Additional benefits include creation of new alliances to help with future challenges and a commitment to develop strategic recovery actions, including more effective and timely landscape restoration plans. Furthermore, the satisfactory conclusion of the consultation reaffirmed for the Army the need for early and frequent communications to resolve challenges. They also recognize that the Service is a proactive partner and not a just regulator; and that with early planning, most projects can be implemented to achieve both military readiness and conservation benefits.

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 has been a part of the Georgia Team put together by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to develop plans for three priority estuarine sites identified in TNC’s Carolinian Ecoregional assessment:  North Carolina Banks and Sounds, Winyah-Santee-Sewee Estuarine Complex, and Altamaha-Ogeechee Estuarine complex. Georgia ES attended three workshops to assist the TNC staff as one of the state/regional experts.  The first workshop was focused on (1) key ecological targets, (2) target viability and status, and (3) threats.  The second workshop focused on priority coastal threats and appropriate conservation and restoration strategies.  Threats considered included:  housing and urban development, commercial and recreational fishing, sources of altered hydrology, dredging, climate change and invasive species.  The third workshop developed indicators and measures, such as how to monitor and evaluate the identified targets and how to measure the impact of strategies on the targets and threats.  This effort will help bring attention to the Georgia coast and facilitate our participation in the Service’s Coastal Program. 

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:
Throughout 2007, the Kentucky Field Office (KFO), Louisville District Army Corps of Engineers (ACE), and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), worked together to improve the 404 Clean Water Act permitting process for transportation projects.  This multi-agency coordination effort has resulted in the development of a Letter of Permission (LOP) permit process designed specifically for transportation actions.  The intent of this new process is to: 1) provide a streamlined approach to the review and issuance of ACE permits to applicants; 2) encourage the applicant to coordinate with agencies during the development stages of a project; 3) identify trust resource issues earlier in the process; 4) provide resource agencies adequate information in order to provide substantial recommendations in advance to further avoid and minimize effects to waters and species; and 5) improve inter-agency coordination. 

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
In FY07, the Kentucky Field Office (KFO) worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), Cumberland River RC&D, University of Louisville Stream Institute, private landowners, and other partners to complete the 404 permitting, NHPA, and ESA compliance portions of this restoration project.  The KFO coordinated the landowner contacts, many of the permitting issues, and all of the ESA compliance issues (with the Cookeville (Tennessee) Field Office) necessary to get the first phase of the project permitted so that construction could begin in September 2007.  This stream restoration and enhancement project will improve habitat for a population of the federally-threatened blackside dace (Phoxinus cumberlandensis) at a cost of more than $1,000,000.00.
 
Lafayette, Louisiana Field Office

Streamlining Hurricane Recovery Efforts In Louisiana
The Louisiana Field Office (LAFO) is providing large-scale planning input, habitat analysis, and mitigation plan development to the Corps of Engineers (Corps) as part of “Task Force Hope”, a Federal initiative to provide 100-year hurricane protection to the Greater New Orleans area. 

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
The LAFO has been involved in the NEPA and/or Corps 404 permit process for 11 large-scale energy projects including 3 liquefied natural gas facilities, 4 interstate natural gas and 2 carbon dioxide pipelines, and 2 natural gas storage facilities totaling hundreds of acres of wetlands.  Our expeditious review has resolved threatened Louisiana black bear, piping plover, and red-cockaded woodpecker issues, as well as migratory bird issues, minimized wetland losses, and avoided impacts to NWRs and State-designated Natural Areas.

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
The LAFO continues to assist the New Orleans District Corps with their channel operations and maintenance (O & M) program, which is the largest O & M program in the nation.  In FY 2007, we provided guidance on 18 projects, whereby approximately 14.5 million cubic yards was used to restore, protect, and/or create hundreds of acres of coastal wetlands and restore nesting and wintering habitat for wading birds, shorebirds, and sea birds including Federally-listed piping plover and brown pelicans. 

Restoration Permits in Louisiana
In FY 2007, the LAFO commented on 205 Corps (404) permit requests.  Final permit decisions were negotiated on 66 actions, with a 99.9% acceptance rate for Service recommendations.  Over 2,500 acres of compensation (mostly habitat restoration on mitigation banks) was required.  During FY 2007, the LAFO participated in the review and development of 22 mitigation bank projects, approving 9 tracts for habitat restoration, totaling 1,839 acres.

Louisiana Coastal Restoration
Coastal Louisiana wetland losses threaten nationally important waterfowl, endangered species, colonial waterbird, coastal fisheries, and 10 NWRs encompassing more than 300,000 acres.  The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act of 1990 is administered by a multi-agency State and Federal Task Force.  In FY-2007, that Task Force approved 3 projects for construction, benefiting 1,542 acres of coastal marsh and 1.1 miles of shoreline. 

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.

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Jackson, Mississippi Field Office

Restoration – Corps of Enginieers – MsCIP, Mississippi
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in formulating the Mississippi Coastal Improvement Program (MsCIP). At the Corps request the Service agreed to become a cooperating agency for the EIS and active participant on the Environmental Team in preparation of the Comprehensive report. The Environmental team has been assisting the Corps in designing MS gulf coast restoration measures, evaluating the impacts and benefits of those measures and also evaluating the impacts of proposed hurricane protection measures (levees, surge gates, and seawalls) being developed by the Corps.  Many environmental restoration projects have been proposed and the Service was an integral part of the creation of those restoration plans. A Service representative has been co-located with the Mobile Corps District and works on a daily basis with the environmental team leader. We have also participated in the actual writing of the Comprehensive plan and EIS which will be combined to create an integrated document.

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
The Yazoo Backwater Project (Pumps Project) is a major Corps of Engineers flood control project in the lower Mississippi River (MR) Delta.  The project purpose is to pump interior floodwaters that occur behind the MR mainline levees into the main river channel.  This controversial project was authorized in 1941, and is opposed by numerous national environmental organizations.  The selected plan would adversely impact over 125,000 acres of wetlands within the two year floodplain.  The Corps is preparing the Final Supplemental EIS for public release in the fall of 2007.  The Service provided a final Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act report to the Corps on October 23, 2006, and recommended a nonstructural flood damage reduction plan.  The Service provided its final Biological Opinion on the effects of the project on the endangered pondberry plant on March 14, 2007.  The Department of Interior intends to refer the final SEIS to the Council on Environmental Quality if Service concerns are not adequately addressed in the final SEIS (expected in October 2007).

Streamlining – Katrina Recovery in Mississippi
The MS Field Office initiated coordination with the Governor’s office, the Mississippi Development Authority, and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality on establishing conservation banks in south Mississippi for the federally threatened gopher tortoise.  The State of Mississippi has received Katrina recovery money to improve and expand water and wastewater infrastructure into northern, rural portions of the MS Gulf Coast. The groups involved are working towards establishing procedures to ensure that secondary development associated with this water infrastructure does not impact gopher tortoises, as well as to establish conservation banks for situations where gopher tortoises need to be relocated.  The MS field office believes this programmatic approach will not only benefit the gopher tortoise, but will also assist in streamlining rebuilding efforts on the MS gulf coast.

Energy Projects in Mississippi
In 2007, the Mississippi Field Office continued to see a significant increase in the amount of new FERC regulated natural gas pipelines proposed in Mississippi.  The MS FO consulted and coordinated with FERC on eight new pipeline projects within MS.  Most projects are still ongoing, and three pipeline projects required formal consultation under Section 7 of the ESA.  The MS FO has also seen an increase in the amount of proposed natural gas storage caverns, as well as a new DOE proposed strategic petroleum reserve storage cavern near Richton, Mississippi.

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Asheville, North Carolina Field Office

Hydroelectric and related projects in western Carolina
Early consultation and advanced planning is key to conserving fish and wildlife resources and to respond to the highest priority resource needs in relicensing of FERC-regulated hydropower projects.  As the Federal Power Act, and FERC policy and practices continue to change, the Service is challenged to respond to the tremendous volume of relicensing requests.  In addition, we continue to see requests for review of many non-project uses of FERC project areas, as well as compliance and monitoring of issued licenses.
                            
1.  FERC Relicensing:  FERC has developed what it portrays as a more streamlined, Integrated Licensing Process (ILP) for relicensing hydropower projects.  In the Southeast, we have seen only a few relicense proceedings under this new process (Morgan Falls, GA; Pacolet, SC).  Duke Energy has recently elected to follow the ILP in for the Keowee-Toxaway Hydroelectric Project (P-2503; NC/SC).  Even 3 years prior to the required start-up time for relicense studies; Duke has contacted the USFWS to begin to understand the potential scope and impacts of the project.  In close coordination with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, we have had site visits, and plan to focus our efforts on some key issues (fish entrainment), important habitats (river shoals), and ecological processes (seasonally-variable instream flows). 

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.

 

 

 

Title

Grantee

Funded

Calderwood Bypass mussel reintroduction - Phase I

Tennessee Tech Univ.

$29,360

Recovery status of 2 federally protected extirpated fish species in Abrams Creek, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mtns NP

$38,869

Proposal for re-establishment of Blotchside logperch into Tellico River and Citico Creek

Conservation Fisheries

$20,000

Exotic species removal in the Southwestern Portion of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mtns NP

$54,000

Acquire conservation easements at priority parcels - Lundsford Tract

Foothills Land Conservancy

$30,000

Status and Control of an Invasive Asian Earthworm

Great Smoky Mtns NP

$20,505

TOTAL

 

$192,734

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:

  1. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  2. U.S. Forest Service
  3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  4. Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
  5. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
  6. Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians
  7. The Nature Conservancy of Tennessee
  8. National Parks Conservation Association
  9. Tennessee Clean Water Network
  10. American Rivers

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

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Corps Permitting - McDowell County Green Infrastructure Initiative
In March 2006, we received a copy of a Nationwide Permit application submitted by McDowell County for the installation of about 34,000 linear feet of water line from the town of Marion to Nebo (a rural township within the county).  The application stated that due to a contamination of wells in the area, the water lines would be needed to supply potable water to the area.  During our review of the project area, we discovered that there was potential habitat for dwarf-flowered heartleaf (federally listed as threatened), and we discovered that the water lines would be installed through a very rural area.  We provided comments to the county requesting species surveys and requested that the secondary and cumulative effects of the water line be addressed.  We believe that the water line will increase the development of the rural area and therefore those impacts should be addressed.  After several months of correspondence, the county and their designated consultant refused to survey for listed species and refused to address any cumulative or secondary impacts of the proposed project.  During a survey of the project area, no listed species were found within the proposed alignment but we found a population of dwarf-flowered heartleaf in close proximity to the proposed water line alignment.  We contacted the consultant and informed them that the secondary effects of the water line could potentially impact federally listed species but we would agree that the waterline project will not directly affect any listed species if the county would meet with us to discuss future projects, impacts, and mitigative measures that could be employed to ease the consultation process in the future.  After several phone conversations and written correspondence, the county agreed to meet with us to discuss these issues.  We coordinated and organized a meeting with McDowell County Manager and planners to encourage the implementation of a Green Infrastructure plan, protective ordinances, and possible mitigation bank.  We used a Green Infrastructure approach for my presentation on conservation issues, advanced planning, and future development in the area.  We chose this approach because of its broad definition and because the preservation of interconnected network of natural areas provides a wide array of benefits to natural resources and people alike.

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
The Raleigh Field Office had a very productive year in FY 2007.  We made significant progress in focusing our program activities on strategic priorities, as identified in the Field Office Strategic Plan and as reinforced in the recently finalized Regional Priorities.  We have also made significant progress in assessing and refining our program focus within the Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC) framework.  We have also continued and strengthened our emphasis on achieving conservation delivery through cross-program and landscape level multi-partner collaborations.  As a result of these efforts, our end-of-year data will show that while the number of “widgets” (e.g., technical assistance requests received /complete) is down, on-the-ground accomplishments for priority trust resources are up.  Our projections for 2008 and 2009 reflect an anticipated continuation of those trends.  The narratives that follow highlight a few of our significant accomplishments (lead programs are indicated in parentheses). 

Coastal Carolina-Virginia Watershed Project
The Raleigh Field Office, Columbia Migratory Bird Office, South Atlantic Fisheries Coordination Office, Edenton National Fish Hatchery, Southeast Virginia Field Office, and 11 National Wildlife Refuges in eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia, collaborated to launch the Coastal Carolina-Virginia Watershed Project CCVWP.  The Project will focus on putting Strategic Habitat Conservation principles into practice within the Roanoke, Tar, Neuse and Cape Fear river basins. 

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.

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Navy Outlying Landing Field, North Carolina
The Raleigh Field Office, Columbia Migratory Bird Office, Red Wolf Recovery Program Office, and Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge joined forces to review and comment on the U.S. Navy’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for a proposed Outlying Landing Field (OLF).  The purpose of the OLF is to provide Navy F-18 Superhornet pilots a facility to practice aircraft carrier landings.  Over 30,000 touch-and-go operations would occur at the facility annually (mostly at night).  The Navy’s preferred site for the OLF was in close proximity to Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, which annually provides wintering habitat for up to 80,000 snow geese, 25,000 tundra swan and thousands of other waterfowl.  The proximity of the proposed facility to the Refuge would have put Navy pilots in close low-altitude contact with thousands of large birds; posing a high risk to both the birds and the pilots.  Additionally, noise from the facility would have disturbed waterfowl roosting at the refuge, and feeding on surrounding farm fields.  The noise would have also adversely affected the refuge visitor experience.  Finally, the facility and training operations would have adversely affected the only wild-living population of the endangered red wolf.  The comments provided by the Service, including comments delivered at a public hearing by Director Hall, were instrumental in informing the public and elected officials of the adverse effects of the project, and energizing local, state, and national leaders to oppose the Navy’s preferred site.  As a result, the Navy is now actively pursuing alternative sites for the facility.  This cross-program effort also resulted in greatly enhanced public recognition of, and support for, the Refuge and its wildlife resources.  This will result in long-term protection of priority trust resources including the Refuge, wintering waterfowl, and red wolves. 

North Carolina Sandhills Conservation Partnership
The Sandhills Sub-Office of the Raleigh Field Office produced significant accomplishments again this year through the North Carolina Sandhills Conservation Partnership (NCSCP).  The primary stakeholders in the NCSCP are; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army at Fort Bragg, U.S. Army Environmental Center, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, North Carolina Division of Forest Resources, The Nature Conservancy, Sandhills Area Land Trust and the Sandhills Ecological Institute.  The Sandhills has a substantial public land base including three military installations with approximately 165,000 acres as well as lands owned by three state agencies totaling approximately 65,000 acres.  The mission of the NCSCP is to coordinate the development and implementation of conservation strategies for the red-cockaded woodpecker, other native biota, longleaf pine and other ecosystems in the Sandhills of North Carolina. The NCSCP continues to seek input from over 18 stakeholder organizations as it continues to develop a landscape-level strategic conservation plan for the Sandhills.

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 “seamlesslyrestore 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
Chatham County is located in central North Carolina, on the eastern edge of the Piedmont physiographic province in the upper reaches of the Cape Fear River basin.  Areas in Chatham County have been identified in NC’s State Wildlife Action Plan, the Nature Conservancy’s Piedmont Ecoregional Plan, the Triangle Greenprint, and the Service’s CCVWP as a high priority for conservation efforts in the piedmont.  In addition, the North Carolina Strategic Conservation Plan developed by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has identified the Haw, Rocky, and Deep Rivers, which flow through the County, as some of the highest priority watersheds for aquatic wildlife conservation throughout the entire state.  A significant portion of the range of the Cape Fear shiner is in Chatham County.  The Cape Fear shiner has been identified as a focus in the Regional Priorities and the Strategic Plan for the Raleigh Field Office. 
 
Rapid population growth is fueling urbanization, changing the area’s rural character, and threatening its natural resources. There is still a window of opportunity to plan properly for the anticipated population growth in a way that will allow for economic development while protecting the resources that make this area so special.
 
A significant Biological Planning milestone was reached this Fiscal Year with the formation of the Chatham Conservation Partnership (CCP).  The CCP represents the interests of many organizations and individuals in realizing a vision for Chatham County where both natural resources are conserved and economic development is realized.  These entities have recognized the importance of coordinating efforts to avoid duplication of effort and missed opportunities.  The mission of the CCP is to develop and implement strategies for a community conservation vision that builds awareness, protection and stewardship of Chatham County's natural resources.  Over the next Fiscal Year the CCP will move into more detailed Biological Planning and Conservation Design activities.  Through these efforts the Service will achieve significant conservation benefits for trust species, including the Cape Fear shiner.  This effort is also an excellent example of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife and Endangered Species programs working together on identified priorities. 

FERC Hydropower Relicensing on the Yadkin and Pee Dee Rivers, North Carolina
As part of the relicensing of two hydropower dams on the Yadkin and Pee Dee rivers, the Raleigh Field Office successfully negotiated a settlement agreement with Progress Energy to ensure safe, timely and effective passage of American shad and American eel over the life of the new license (approximately 40 years).  Under the agreement, approximately 220 miles of riverine habitat will be re-opened for American shad spawning, and 3,489 miles of habitat will be re-opened for use by American eel.  This numbers will be reflected in TAILS when the prescription is finalized to reflect the settlement agreement, which is expected in FY 2008. 

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. 

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Puerto Rico, Caribbean Field Office
 
Puerto Rico: The Northern Watershed
The northern watershed of Puerto Rico consists of the limestone (karst) and volcanic areas between the Arecibo and Manatí rivers.  It is located within the subtropical wet/rain /lower montane wet and rain forest life zones, the most extensive life zone found in the island.  The karst region originated in the marine environment and geological processes have created spectacular landforms, such as the haystack hills or “mogotes”, which are unique formations in the United States.  Although this region was deforested for centuries for agricultural activities, at the present time the karst region of Puerto Rico holds the most extensive forest canopy cover in the island (USDA 2001).  The northern karst region supports a high number of resident and migratory populations of animals, a high number of endemic plant species and a high number of state and federally-listed species.

Within this area there are twenty four municipalities including, Aguadilla, Isabela, Quebradillas, Camuy, Hatillo, Arecibo, Barceloneta, Florida, Manatí, Vega Baja, Vega Alta, Dorado, Moca, San Sebastián, Lares, Utuado, Adjuntas, Jayuya, Ciales, Orocovis, Corozal, Morovis, Naranjito, and Barranquitas.

 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
During Fiscal Year 2007, the Caribbean Field Office succeeded in the conservation of approximately 500 acres of dry forest in the southern karst region of Puerto Rico.  The Municipality of Ponce requested technical assistance from the Service to evaluate zoning permits for two residential developments in the El Tuque area in Ponce.  These residential projects had the potential to adversely affect several forested drainages and creeks, as well as native dry limestone (karst) forest which is habitat occupied by the  endangered Puerto Rican nightjar (Caprimulgus noctiherus).  Our biologists worked together with the regulatory agency and the applicants to modify their projects to allow the applicant’s needs and at the same time incorporate into the projects conservation of important habitats for the protection resources.  The conservation of dry forest habitat is the most important recovery activity identified in the Service’s Puerto Rican nightjar recovery plan and it is also an important habitat to many other resident and migratory species.  The conservation of these forested hills and drainages will also contribute to
conserving native fish and wildlife resources, including water bodies associated with this hill system. 

Working with Municipalities to Conserve Habitat through Land Use Plans in Puerto Rico
In Puerto Rico, some of the Municipal Governments developed and implemented Land Use Plans as a planning effort to balance development and conservation.  During FY 2007, our office reviewed Land Use Plans from the Municipalities of Villalba, Morovis and Vieques.  Technical assistance and conservation recommendations were provided to the municipalities regarding proposed changes in the use to lands within their jurisdiction.  In certain cases, the variations consist of changing the zoning of areas previously classified for conservation to a zoning category that would allow development.  In other instances the proposed zoning changes would result in additional conservation areas.  This year the Municipality of Morovis proposed amendments to reclassify several small parcels originally designated for conservation to accommodate urban development within the urban boundaries and to preclude spreading direct and indirect urban development effects to forested areas.  Since the federally-listed Puerto Rican boa (Epicrates inornatus) is known to occur within the area, the Service recommended the conservation of a 119-acre land parcel with forested riparian habitat to compensate for the possible effects related with the proposed zoning changes.  Additionally, on several individual projects the possible effects were reduced by conserving habitat within their proposed development projects.  The Municipality and project developers agreed to conserve these areas to benefit the boa and collaborate with our efforts toward the recovery of this endangered species.

Protection of Streams & Riparian Habitat in Puerto Rico
We provide technical assistance to the Commonwealth agencies such as the Puerto Rico Planning Board and the Puerto Rico Department of Housing during the permit decision making process.  For years, we have been expressing our concerns about the practice of eliminating drainages and natural stream beds as the standard design for urban developments. The elimination of forested habitat along streams by canalizations and culvert construction to accommodate residential and commercial developments has been an increasingly common practice in the island.  We consistently have made them aware of the importance of these areas in providing habitat and wildlife corridors for birds and amphibians by identifying potential effects such as runoff increasing by the proliferation of hard surfaces, removal of the filtering capacity of riparian vegetation, and the increase of flooding to communities located downstream have also been discussed with agencies and development project’s proponents.  Also, the Puerto Rican boa (Epicrates inornatus) have also been reported to be “very common” along streams on tree branches on tree branches (Schwartz and Henderson 1991).  As a result of this effort and the development of good relationships with Commonwealth agencies, we have achieved the conservation of approximately 400 acres of riparian zones within boa habitat that will also serve to improve water quality, will provide wildlife corridors and will help reduce flooding events.

Charleston, South Carolina Field Office

FERC Relicensing in South Carolina
Santee-Cooper Hydroelectric Project, Santee-Cooper Rivers, South Carolina, FERC No. 199.    The Service submitted Preliminary Section 10(j) and 4(e) Terms and Conditions and a Section 18 Fishway Prescription on May 8, 2006.  The licensee requested the new Trial-Type Hearing Process for six issues of material fact.  The pre-hearing conference with the Administrative Law Judge was held and the pre-hearing favored the Service’s position.  The Service, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Santee-Cooper signed a settlement agreement in May 2007.  The Service submitted their Modified Section 18 Fishway Prescription in June 2007 which directly reflects the settlement agreement.  The settlement agreement includes a new instream flow regime below the Santee Dam, fish passage at the Santee and Pinopolis Dams, and agreement on 4(e) conditions which will be identified as 10(a) conditions in the agreement.  These conditions will provide robust enhancements at the Santee National Wildlife Refuge.  Passage at the Santee Dam and enhanced passage at the Pinopolis Dam will provide anadromous fish access to over 171 miles of historic riverine spawning habitat.

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Transportation Projects in South Carolina
The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have published the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the southern phase of I-73, a congressionally mandated transportation project.  SCDOT and FHWA have been collaborating with multiple state and federal agencies, including the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), for the past several years create a context sensitive solution for this 44 mile long project which represents a potentially significant impact to the natural environment.  This phase of I-73, as proposed, crosses three counties in northeast South Carolina, multiple floodplain and other wetland systems as well as important upland habitats.  Impacts to the environment will extend well beyond the obvious direct impacts producing significant secondary and long term cumulative impacts.

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
Savannah Harbor Expansion.  The Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Ports Authority are pursuing deepwater navigation expansion to support container shipping through Savannah Harbor, Jasper County, South Carolina and Chatham County, Georgia.  Service involvement (coordinated effort between Ecological Services and Refuges) in the NEPA and planning process has resulted in steering the studies and documents to address issues of significance to the Service and partners.  Service goals include avoiding or minimizing significant impacts to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.  Expected impacts include salinity increases which would degrade valuable striped bass habitat, tidal freshwater wetlands and waterfowl habitat on the refuge.  Partners include U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Georgia Ports Authority, U.S. Geological Survey, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and several NGO’s.
 
Savannah River Flow Regime.  The Service continued our partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Georgia and South Carolina Departments of Natural Resources, the Corps of Engineers, University of Georgia, and Ducks Unlimited to formulate flow regime recommendations for the Savannah River.  Flow in the Savannah River below Augusta is largely controlled by three large Corps dam and lake projects. We worked with these partners to develop draft flow recommendations.  Some recommendations have been implemented and we will continue working with The Nature Conservancy and the Corps to evaluate the flow recommendations.  In stream habitat has been improved in 110 river miles.  Trust resources that benefit include migratory birds, American shad, blueback herring, hickory shad, striped bass, shortnose sturgeon (endangered), robust redhorse and a variety of mussel species.  

Cookeville, Tennessee Field Office

Energy Projects and Threatened and Endangered Species in Tennessee
Personnel of the Cookeville Field Office and the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) continue to implement the 2006 “Coal Mining in Tennessee: Minimum Guidelines for Development of Protection and Enhancement Plans for the Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis)”.  As a result of the use of these guidelines, 13 coal-mining related projects were coordinated in FY 2007, involving nearly 1,500 acres of permitted mining area in Tennessee.  Additionally, Service personnel continued coordination with OSM in the development of guidelines for the blackside dace (Phoxinus cumberlandensis) protective measures.  These guidelines will provide a consistent framework for the design and implementation of protective measures for the dace during coal mining projects and a draft of the guidelines is currently being implemented in association with two mining permits.  Using the Indiana bat guidelines as a model, the Tennessee Division of Forestry (TDF) is gathering threatened/endangered species data in an effort to focus on “hot spots” throughout Tennessee and species that will receive extra attention in those areas.  Personnel of the FWS, OSM, TDF, and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency met during a site visit to Chuck Swan Wildlife Management Area to discuss measures that may be recommended by TDF to loggers and silvicultural experts.  Additionally, in cooperation with Region 5 and Virginia Tech University, Cookeville Field Office staff assisted in the organization of a symposium on coal mining and the aquatic resources of the Clinch River and Powell River watersheds of southwestern Virginia and northeastern Tennessee.  The symposium brought together representatives of the coal mining industry, local officials, regulatory agencies, and academic researchers in a collaborative effort to share current knowledge and concerns related to mining and the preservation of the aquatic fauna in these watersheds.

Hydropower Projects and Threatened and Endangered Species in Tennessee
The Cookeville Field Office coordinated and consulted with the Tennessee Valley Authority regarding operation and maintenance activities conducted at that agency’s water control structures in the Tennessee River Basin, an area including portions of seven states.  Sixty-five species were addressed in the TVA’s biological assessment of its operation and maintenance activities, with nineteen species included in the biological opinion for the activities.  As a result of this consultation, TVA will modify operations at three of its dams to improve conditions for four listed species – three mussels and one fish – and critical habitat for one listed mussel.  The changed operations should result in improved water temperature, more stable water levels, and less sediment deposition throughout much of the system.  These changes will potentially improve habitat in 148 miles of river, benefiting numerous listed and non-listed species.  For example, the 14 miles of improved habitat in the mainstem of the Tennessee River below Wilson Dam supports not only 2 of the species addressed in the biological opinion, but also 30 other species of mussels.  Additionally, the TVA and CFO are hopeful that changed operations will alleviate an ongoing contaminant problem in the area below Wilson Dam.  Over a ten-year period, TVA will provide $2.6 million in funding for recovery activities for four listed species – two mussels and two fish.  A technical working group comprised of various partners, including the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, will oversee implementation activities using an adaptive management approach. 

Restoration in Tennessee
The Cookeville Field Office continued to serve on the oversight/management team of the non-profit Tennessee Stream Mitigation Program.  The purpose of the Program is to facilitate adequate and scientifically sound mitigation of regulated stream impacts, particularly those related to Tennessee DOT projects.  During FY 2007, contracts were issued for eight projects that will result in restoration of 82,963 linear feet of stream channel and riparian corridor, mitigating 47,343 linear feet of impacts.  Three additional projects are approved and in the design phase for an additional 8,660 linear feet of restoration that will mitigate 5,745 feet of impacts.  Partners involved in the Program and implementation of this year’s projects include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (Water Pollution Control and Natural Area divisions), Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Division of Natural Areas, West Tennessee River Basin Authority, and the cities of Knoxville and Nashville. 

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.
 
Watershed-level Planning in Tennessee
Cookeville Field Office personnel are currently engaged with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Tennessee Valley Authority, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation in a watershed-based planning effort in Tennessee.  The purpose of the Tennessee Watershed State and Federal Agency Core Team effort is to ensure data sharing and monitoring capabilities and cooperative planning efforts between our agencies in EPA's Priority Watersheds in Tennessee.  These priority watersheds were identified and prioritized based on the amount of documented water quality impairments and EPA's need to develop watershed-based plans to remove impaired waterbodies from the Section 303(d) list for Tennessee.  Similar efforts are underway in other Southeastern (EPA Region IV) states.  Our cooperative efforts in FY 2007 included a preliminary agreement to develop a pilot project that will be proposed for funding by the agencies in FY 2008.  This project will have direct benefits for Service trust resources (endangered species).

Region 5

Chesapeake Bay Field Office

King William Reservoir, Virginia
CBFO participates as a lead member of the Interagency Mitigation Team for the King William Reservoir project, a regional water supply project permitted in 2005 in the York River Basin of Virginia.  In its quest to compensate for the loss of an entire stream valley wetland complex, including 403 acres of wetlands, the Team is sorting through sites to finalize, approve, and implement a complete mitigation package, using elements of Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC).  The mitigation will provide at least 806 acres of wetland restoration/creation, compensation for 21 miles of stream loss, ecological monitoring, reduced impact on migratory fishes at water intake, population monitoring and protection of Federally listed plants, 315 acres of wetland preservation, and 700 acres of upland restoration and preservation.  CBFO also is helping to devise the protocol for long term mitigation monitoring, a precedent changing 20 year period for palustrine forested wetlands in this project.

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.
Point of Contact:   Janet Norman     410-573-4533

Transportation Mitigation and Stewardship Package for U.S. 301 Project in Maryland
A multi-agency, cross-programmatic highway planning effort in Maryland was initiated in January 2006 with the U.S. 301 Waldorf Transportation Project in Charles County and portions of Prince George’s County, Maryland.  This project could impact up to 41 acres of wetlands and 15,000 linear feet of streams in the Zekiah Swamp, Mattawoman Creek, and Port Tobacco River watersheds.  The wetland systems are of high value to fish and wildlife.  The streams are rated as fair to poor quality in their current condition.

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.   
 
The SHA funding package will be used to fund the staff that will develop the new conservation planning model for highway planning. Recently the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and SHA hosted a conference on Green Infrastructure and how it could be used on large transportation projects such as the US 301 Waldorf Transportation Project.  The CBFO continues in its strong partnership with SHA, DNR, The Conservation Fund, and the EPA to insure the success of the Green Infrastructure planning strategy for future highway projects.  Hopefully this partnership at the State and Federal level will lead to future Green Infrastructure projects throughout the State of Maryland.
Point of Contact:  Bill Schultz            410-573-4586

Participation in Environmental Stewardship and Transportation Infrastructure Project Reviews (Executive Order 13274) in Maryland
The Intercounty Connector is an 18 mile highway on new alignment that connects I-95 with I-270 in Montgomery County, Maryland.   The CBFO Conservation Planning Assistance staff worked with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, and eight other state and county agencies to develop an environmentally acceptable Intercounty Connector transportation corridor.  Although the project alignment avoids and minimizes environmental impacts to the greatest extent practicable,  there is still a significant impact to natural resources, i.e.18 acres of forested wetlands, 30 acres of emergent wetlands, 32 acres of floodplains, 38,000 linear feet of stream channel, 83 acres of parkland, and 289 acres of upland forest habitat.   SHA will mitigate for all environmental impacts, including mitigation for impacts to the upland forest.  

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.  
Point of Contact:  Bill Schultz            410-573-4586

Atlantic Coast of Maryland Shoreline Protection Project
CBFO has been assisting the Corps of Engineers with the planning of this project since 2003.  A Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act Report on the project was prepared in January 2007.  The main objective of the project is to identify sources of sand to supply up to 15,000,000 cubic yards to satisfy the need for beach replenishment along approximately 9 miles of shoreline at Ocean City, Maryland from about 2010 until the year 2044.  After reviewing a large number of candidate sand source sites located up to approximately 13 miles off the Maryland coast, the Corps originally proposed the use of four offshore shoals.  As a result of information supplied by the field office staff that demonstrated substantial commercial and recreational fishing activity at one of the sites, the plan was revised.  Recommendations were also made to minimize the impacts of sand removal on physical habitat values.  Information from an aerial survey of waterbirds of the coastal region between New Jersey and Virginia conducted by the CBFO during the winters of 2002 and 2003 was also supplied to the Corps to help characterize the level of bird use of the candidate shoal sand sources and to assess potential impacts.  The environmental resource information and recommendations provided by the Service were incorporated into the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement issued in May 2007, which appears to have been generally well received.
Point of Contact:  George Ruddy   410-573-4528

Conservation on Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland
Landscape level restoration activities are planned for the Upper Chesapeake Bay, in the Lower Susquehanna/ Gunpowder, Patapsco focal area, through  CBFO’s coordination with U.S. Army, Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on mute swan control.

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.
Point of Contact:   Janet Norman   410-573-4533

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New York Field Office

St. Lawrence River Basin Fish Passage and Habitat Restoration, New York
The NYFO has for another year continued extensive work in the St. Lawrence River Basin, the “outlet” for the Great Lakes Basin, including specific work on design and implementation of eel ladders, reviewed projects for certification as green power sources, and provided technical assistance to ensure that fish and wildlife resources in the largest subwatersheds draining the northwest Adirondacks are conserved as hydropower licenses are renewed.  In addition, mitigation projects funded through the Fisheries Enhancement, Mitigation and Research Fund (FEMRF) associated with the FDR project relicensing are underway, including successful construction and a first season’s monitoring of the 200‑acre Delaney Bay fish passage and marsh restoration project.

American Eel Passage in New York
The NYFO has worked with hydroelectric licensees to implement upstream passage for American eels throughout New York.  The largest ladder, at the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project, was installed by the New York Power Authority in 2006 and has passed over 16,000 eels in two seasons.  Ladders have been installed by Brookfield Power at the Varick plant on the Oswego River and the Schaghticoke plant on the Hoosic River.  The Service has also participated in helping design and locate other ladders on the Oswego and Hoosic Rivers, as well as on the Raquette River.  Participating licensees, in addition to Brookfield, include the City of Oswego, Algonquin Power, and Mercer Companies.  When all of these 14 ladders have been installed, we will have opened up 100 miles of new habitat in the St. Lawrence and Hudson River drainages to the American eel, as well as improved access to hundreds of additional river miles and thousands of acres of lacustrine habitat in the Lake Ontario/St. Lawrence River Basin.

Green Hydropower in New York
The owner of the Champlain Spinners Hydroelectric Project at the entrance to Lake Champlain approached the Service for approval for certification as a Low Impact Hydropower operation.  The Low Impact Hydropower Institute certifies projects as “green,” allowing them to charge a higher rate for the energy produced.  In order to receive approval, the licensee must demonstrate that they complied with all resource agency conditions.  Since this project was exempted in the early 1980s with no conditions, we worked with the licensee to bring the project into compliance with other projects around New York.  This green certification will allow the owner to continue operating the plant.

Oswegatchie Watershed Evaluation of Hydropower, New York
Three projects, encompassing eight hydroelectric developments on the Oswegatchie River, commenced relicensing during 2007.  The three licensees are Brookfield Power, Cellu Tissue Corporation, and Hampshire Paper Company.  Collectively, the projects affect over 90 miles of the Oswegatchie River and nearly 1,600 miles of drainage area, including numerous wetlands.  The state-listed lake sturgeon and American eel are two key fish species of concern.  The Federally-listed Indiana bat is also found in the vicinity of these projects.  The Service will be working with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York Rivers United, the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Park Agency, and the National Park Service to develop license conditions that protect and enhance fish and wildlife resources, improve recreational opportunities, and ensure a continued supply of renewable energy.  New licenses for all three projects should be issued in 2012.

New Hydropower Project - Massena Electric Dam, New York
The NYFO is involved in a controversial new hydroelectric project located on the Grasse River, a tributary to the St. Lawrence River.  The applicant, Massena Electric Department (MED), has proposed a 2.5 MW facility that will also serve as an ice control structure to allow ALCOA to cap PCB-contaminated sediments rather than dredge them.  Since the Service and most of our partners are on record as opposing capping and preferring dredging as the PCB remediation measure, we are concerned that the hydroelectric licensing process will be used to facilitate an inappropriate remedial action.  The project is marginally economically feasible without ALCOA’s financial participation.  In addition, the hydroelectric project itself will block upstream and downstream movements of American eel and the state-listed lake sturgeon, as well as flooding important riffle habitats and potentially impacting the state-listed eastern sand darter.  The area where the new dam is proposed has been designated as a Significant Coastal Habitat by New York State, a designation which could be jeopardized by construction of this project.  The NYFO is working closely with other state and Federal agencies, NGOs, and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe to ensure that potential project impacts are properly evaluated and that the relicensing study process is not short-circuited in an attempt to bring the project on-line before the Environmental Protection Agency makes their final remediation decision.

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Delaney Fish Ladder, New York
Using funds established by a FERC Settlement Agreement, a three-foot high, 300-foot long sheet pile dam and fish ladder were installed in Delaney Bay marsh by Partners for Fish and Wildlife and Ducks Unlimited staff in October 2006.  Delaney Bay is located in an embayment in the fourth largest island in the Thousands Island Chain in the St. Lawrence River.  The water management regime for the St. Lawrence Seaway creates conditions that encourage cattails to out‑compete native sedges.  The dam will provide suitable water levels to restore native vegetation and encourage muskrat herbivory in this 180-acre marsh.  A fish ladder was installed in the dam to allow fish to move into the marsh.  Ducks Unlimited also restored 60 acres of grassland habitats on the uplands adjacent to the marsh with funds received from the North American Wetlands Conservation Program, which will benefit grassland bird species.  The Thousand Islands Land Trust purchased a conservation easement on 135 acres of the property surrounding the marsh to protect the unique coastal habitats.  When the Thousand Islands Biological Station conducted their annual spring spawning surveys for northern pike and muskellunge in the St. Lawrence River, they found the highest number of fish behind the new fish ladder at Delaney Bay.  Other species noted were snapping turtles, painted turtles, and spring peepers.  Grassland bird species observed include Henslow's sparrow, upland sandpiper, bobolink, and sedge wren.  This significant habitat restoration was made possible because many Service partners matched talented staff and multiple funding sources to benefit the resources.

Owasco Flats Watershed Protection in New York
In another part of the massive Great Lakes/St. Lawrence River Basin, Owasco Flats (Flats), a 4-square mile area located at the south end of Owasco Lake, Cayuga County, New York, includes a large palustrine, floodplain, forested/scrub shrub wetland, the Owasco Lake Inlet, and agricultural fields.  In this work, the NYFO provided technical assistance to a grass roots conservation effort by serving on a steering committee lead by the Finger Lakes Land Trust and included members of the Central New York Planning Board, Cayuga County, Owasco Flats Nature Reserve, Inc. (OFNR), local landowners, and other stakeholders.  The Steering committee conducted public opinion surveys and produced an ecological survey of the Flats entitled, “Owasco Flats Conservation Planning and Stakeholder Survey Project.”  The report revealed that there is considerable consensus among stakeholders to take steps to conserve the Owasco Flats by making a strong commitment to improve wildlife habitat and water quality, recreational public access, and prevent further floodplain development.  NYFO recognizes this as an opportunity to preserve, restore, and enhance high quality wetlands in the Flats.  Partners for Fish and Wildlife contributed to this effort by installing a water control structure as part of a wetland restoration project to improve fish and wildlife habitat on land owned by OFNR.  The Service is currently partnering with The Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology to develop geographic and land use data in a GIS format that will be used to evaluate land use planning, make regulatory decisions, and provide conservation benefits in the Owasco Lake watershed.

St. Lawrence River Basin Strategic Planning- focused interjurisdictional fish restoration
In order to provide direction for dispersal of the mitigation funds, the FEMRF Fisheries Advisory Committee lead by the USFWS Project Manager is developing a strategic approach that will insure that the funds will be used as effectively as possible to compensate for the long‑term impacts of the FDR Dam on the St. Lawrence fisheries.

Interjurisdictional Fish Conservation Strategy – a Large-Scale Approach in New York
Using the FEMRF, the Service developed a conservation strategy to benefit interjurisdictional fish impacted by the Moses‑Saunders hydropower dam across the St. Lawrence River, in consultation with the New York Power Authority, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, New York Rivers United, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, the U.S. Geological Survey, and stakeholders in St. Lawrence County.  The species impacted by the power project are also targeted for recovery in 18 comprehensive plans developed by international conservation groups on both sides of the St. Lawrence River.  The strategy will be now be implemented with FEMRF support.  During the next 2 years, staff from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry will implement Phase I of the strategy to evaluate quantity and quality of available habitat, create bathymetric maps of suitable spawning habitat, and develop models to provide a toolkit of restoration options.  The results of Phase I will determine where implementation (Phase II) should occur to maximize species response.  The total acres of wetland habitat to be restored will be determined by potential habitat quality and willingness of landowners to allow the conservation actions.  Phase III will include monitoring and adaptive resource management.

Tidal Hydropower – examining a pilot project on the Hudson River/New York Bight
The first operational tidal turbine in the United States was installed in the East River alongside Manhattan in late 2006.  The Roosevelt Island Project, sponsored by Verdant Power, consists of an initial six turbines to test the power production capabilities and environmental impacts of this type of power.  This type of energy production is novel and may provide reliable power with fewer impacts to fish than conventional hydropower.  The Service is working closely with the State of New York, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - Fisheries, Environmental Protection Agency, and the developer to monitor project impacts on anadromous fish and migratory birds.  Verdant hopes to eventually install 100 or more turbines in the East River.  Preliminary permits have also been issued for five other tidal power projects proposed in New York waters.

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Wind Energy in New York
Wind energy development is growing at a fast rate, particularly so in New York State.  Every year the NYFO reviews dozens of new projects across the state, including offshore proposals.  Unfortunately, competition for the best sites often precludes careful and thorough study of potential impacts to wildlife.  Recognizing the need for consistent and rigorous pre‑ and post‑construction monitoring protocols, the NYFO, along with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA), held a wind energy and wildlife issues workshop.  The goal of this meeting was to review projects statewide and develop information which would help project sponsors gather appropriate data.  As a follow up to the workshop, NYSERDA provided funding for several studies at one project location which would be applicable to many sites in the state.

Department of the Army Compatible Use Buffer Program at Fort Drum 
The Service is working with the Department of the Army at Fort Drum, the State of New York, Ducks Unlimited, and local land trusts to conserve habitat and establish protective buffers between military facilities and adjacent habitat and development (Compatible Use Buffers - ACUB - Program.).  The partners have discussed the potential for encroachment on Fort Drum training facilities from surrounding development, the potential for land acquisition and/or landowner conservation easements to provide noise, visual, and vegetative buffers, and the potential to restore wetland and grassland on private or public lands in the vicinity of Fort Drum which would increase habitat for migratory birds, endangered species such as the Indiana bat, and restore fish passage.

Army Construction and Training at Fort Drum:  USFWS provides technical assistance to develop a programmatic impact-assessment approach
Fort Drum completed their first mist-netting survey for Indiana bats in August 2007.  The survey was conducted in the cantonment area (brigade barracks and other facilities such as restaurants, maintenance facilities) of Fort Drum where several new facilities are currently being constructed or proposed as part of the Fort Drum expansion.  The survey identified known roost trees and captured several Indiana bats.  This information will be used by the Corps to determine the potential effects on Indiana bats as a result of construction activities and wetland impacts regulated under the Clean Water Act.

Service Assists Army with technical assistance in landscape-level planning in Fort Drum INRMP renewal process
NYFO biologists met with Fort Drum Natural Resource Department to discuss the 2000 Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan (INRMP) which is currently being updated.  Fort Drum has identified natural resources on the 115,000‑acre military base including wetlands, streams, and grasslands.  This information will assist land use planners and natural resource biologists in applying landscape level design practices to protect fish and wildlife, including endangered species.  Fort Drum is committed to protecting endangered and threatened species, improving fish passage, protecting migratory birds, providing public recreation such as hunting and fishing, and connecting fish and wildlife habitats on and off base.  

Transportation Project Streamlining in New York
NYFO biologists serve as points of contact for the Metropolitan Planning Organizations that have been implemented by NYSDOT and FHwA as a result of SAFETEA-LU.  In 2007, biologists participated in approximately 10 pre-planning and pre-design meetings with transportation organizations.  Technical assistance at this planning level results in streamlining permit processes, minimizing impacts to wetlands, waterways, fish and wildlife, and threatened and endangered species.

Compensatory Mitigation for Transportation Projects in New York
The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) met several times this year with the NYFO and other interested agencies to discuss development of a regional wetland mitigation bank.  A bank site has been proposed in central New York State by NYSDOT, however, they needed guidance on the limits of where qualifying projects could be located.  Their original service area of the bank was the entire state.  The Service and the Environmental Protection Agency stressed the need to replace wetland functions in the same watershed as where wetland loss would occur.  NYSDOT has agreed to this approach.

New York State Wetlands Forum
The New York Field Office is active with this Forum that serves to increase awareness of wetland values and encourage communication about wetlands between various stakeholders across the state.  The annual meeting in Lake Placid drew over 200 attendees to discuss wetland issues on diverse topics such as endangered species, fish passage, stream restoration, legislative updates, invasive species, and watershed planning.  The forum is able to efficiently reach a wide range of interested parties, including the agencies which regulate work in wetlands and other waters of the U.S.; resource agencies which provide technical assistance on how to avoid, minimize, or replace lost wetland functions; agencies and other parties interested in wetland and stream restoration; non‑governmental organizations; and other parties including the regulated public.

Great Sacandaga Lake Watershed Planning, New York
The NYFO participated in watershed planning by serving on the Great Sacandaga Lake Advisory Council.  This group was formed to identify and review projects in the watershed which would benefit water quality, fisheries, and recreation.  Project funding comes from an annual appropriation from the owner of a hydroelectric facility operating at the outlet of the lake.  Public education, fish stocking, water quality monitoring, and recreational access improvements are examples of projects being undertaken on one of New York's largest inland lakes.

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Long Island Field Office

2007 Fire Island to Montauk Point (New York) Reformulation Study (FIMP)
Throughout FY 2007, the Long Island Field Office, with support from the New York Field Office, continued participation in the “reformulation” of the FIMP erosion and flood control project.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and local sponsor, New York State, have already expended in excess of $26 million on modeling and other planning efforts to improve predictions about how the south shore of Long Island (including a vast barrier island system, coastal bays, estuaries, and islands) and “mainland” tidal streams, wetlands, and intertidal mudflats will perform with or without various project alternatives.  Since Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent failure of engineered flood protection mechanisms, the Corps has been under increasing pressure to either promulgate plans to protect the south shore from the risks of just about any storm damage, to approach the issue using a new paradigm – to create a storm damage protection project which uses natural process restoration to provide storm protection over the long term, well beyond the 50‑year project life, for an 83‑mile stretch of coastline, 26 miles of which are within the boundaries of the Fire Island National Seashore (FINS).  The public’s increasing concerns about global warming and sea level rise coincide with the FINS General Management Plan development as well as the FIMP planning.

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
Local Navigation Channel Maintenance Environmental Compliance Suffolk County, Long Island, New York, came to the Corps this year with a request to reauthorize approximately 24 long‑term (10 year) permits to perform periodic maintenance dredging of navigation channels for which the County is requested by local municipalities to undertake maintenance functions.  Since the last time the permits were authorized, the County has experienced increased pressure to provide far‑better project and habitat information, and indeed, to modify their operating procedures to avoid and minimize environmental impacts. 

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
LIFO personnel continue to participate in the Southern New England-Long Island Sound Waterbird Working Group activities.  The group continues to address region‑wide status of waterbird populations, New York City Harbor Herons program, impacts of tidal power/turbine projects, the Waterbird Conservation Plan, and Important Bird Area Plan. 

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.

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Maine Field Office

Service provides technical assistance to the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission
Assistance was provided in the ongoing review of an application by Plum Creek for a “concept plan” to cover a large area in the Moosehead Lake region of northern Maine.   The concept plan, if approved, would allow a variety of commercial and residential developments to occur on approximately 20,500 acres of Plum Creek lands.  A “balance” conservation easement on approximately 90,000 acres of working forested is offered to provide a public balance between the proposed developments and conservation of natural resources.  An additional area of working forest conservation easement is offered for sale by Plum Creek on approximately 295,500 acres.  We also provided LURC with extensive technical review comments related to Canada lynx, bald eagle, other migratory birds, and wetlands and made numerous suggestions for how to avoid and minimize impacts on species and habitats.  If the concept plan is approved, we would then be involved with the review of individual development projects, which is likely to also involve federal review under the Clean Water Act.

Lower Saco River Settlement Agreement, Maine
The parties to the agreement include FPL Energy, NOAA-Fisheries, Maine Department of Marine Resources, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Saco River Salmon Club and Swans Falls Corporation.  The settlement agreement covers operational changes, a schedule for the installation of fish passage facilities and other fisheries management activities associated with seven hydroelectric projects.  These actions will affect 44 miles of the Saco River, including access to 12,489 acres of American shad habitat; 50,600 acres of alewife habitat; 4,239 acres of Atlantic salmon habitat; and 2,547 acres of brook trout habitat.

Settlement discussions cover five hydroelectric projects on the Presumpscot River, Maine
The discussions included the S.D. Warren Company, Maine Department of Natural Resources, American Rivers, and the Friends of the Presumpscot River.  The parties have signed a term sheet and a settlement framework agreement that provides the basis for a settlement agreement, which will be completed by February 2008.  The settlement agreement will include the removal of a water supply dam as well as a trap-and-truck operation, a schedule for the installation of fish passage facilities, and interim downstream passage measures for the hydroelectric projects.  The settlement agreement will affect 12 miles of the Presumpscot River, including 417 acres of American shad and blueback herring habitat and 645 acres of Atlantic salmon habitat.

Lower Penobscot River (Maine) Settlement Agreement
The Maine Field Office initiated work on the next phase of the settlement agreement that will acquire and decommission three hydroelectric projects on the Penobscot River.  The Penobscot River Restoration Trust, a non-profit organization established under the settlement agreement, is expected to exercise its option to acquire the projects in 2008.  Once acquired, two of the dams will be removed and a fish bypass will be constructed at the third.  This year we were involved in providing technical assistance to identity and review the studies and engineering design that will be needed to decommission the projects and in supporting the Service’s contribution of $1 million to the acquisition fund.  The provisions in the settlement agreement, including the decommissioning of the three projects, will significantly improve access for 11 species of fish to 500 river miles of the Penobscot River watershed.  

New England Field Office

Merrimack River FERC Relicensing Restores Passage and Flows to 63 River Miles
FERC issued a new license for the Merrimack River Project which encompasses three dams (Amoskeag, Hooksett and Garvins Falls) on the Merrimack River in New Hampshire.
The license required fish passage facilities that were included in the Service’s Section 18 Fishway Prescription.  The license also required a change from peaking/store-and-release operation to run-of-river operation, minimum flow releases to the three project bypass reaches, and required protection of riparian buffers on all PSNH riverfront lands, all recommended by NEFO.

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
In 2007, a number of important habitat restoration and protection projects were funded through the Fifteen Mile Falls Project’s Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund (MEF).  The MEF was established as part of the relicensing of the multi-dam project and NEFO sits on the advisory board overseeing project review and approval. Funded projects in 2007 (totaling over $597,000) include substantial riparian lands, wetlands and uplands protection in the Upper Connecticut River region.  These land projects are aimed at protecting key sites, but also to build on existing Conte Refuge, state land and other protected acres to preserve large forest blocks and connect isolated protected areas.  Over 135 acres of wetlands, 3,380 acres of uplands, 16 miles of riparian buffer and 1.5 miles of instream habitat restoration projects were approved and are ongoing on the Connecticut River and its tributaries.   

Fish Passage Projects and Improvements Move Forward in New England
NEFO’s efforts on a number of hydropower projects have paid off with progress on fish passage improvements.  At the Turners Falls Project (Connecticut River-MA), plans for a new gatehouse entrance were finalized and will be completed in late fall 2007.  This a key project for passage and restoration of shad to 46 upriver reaches and tributaries and to overall shad restoration.  Plans were also finalized and construction is underway for a new fish lift for the Fiske Mill Project (Ashuelot River-NH). Lastly, fish passage facilities were completed in April 2007 at the non-jurisdictional Tunnel Project, located on the Quinebaug River in Connecticut. Fishways were required at Tunnel as part of a Memorandum of Agreement signed by the Service, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, and the hydroproject owner. Implementing passage at Tunnel restores passage to over six miles of spawning and/or rearing habitat for American shad, river herring and American eel.

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Energy Projects in New England
NEFO staff have actively participated in the development of wind siting guidelines in Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. The objective of these guidelines is to assist wind developers to identify potentially acceptable sites using a variety of iterative screening tools and preconstruction studies. These guidelines will assist developers, local planning boards, and others alike by identifying in a single comprehensive document the applicable regulations, regulatory agencies, and regulatory criteria that pertain to wind project development in the state. These programmatic processes provide the Service the opportunity to identify our major generic concerns with land-based wind projects (habitat/fragmentation, waters/wetlands impacts and collision injury/mortality to birds and bats). In addition, we get the opportunity to identify preconstruction studies that will provide the Service and others with the necessary information to review projects in a regulatory queue without the need to request additional data. These programmatic guidelines have the potential to increase protection for fish and wildlife, while simultaneously reducing workload for developers and the Service.

Streamlining Regulatory Processes in New England
NEFO staff have actively participated in the development and modification of programmatic general permits for the States of New Hampshire and Vermont. These programmatic general permits replace the Corps nationwide permits in both states. The Service obtains enhanced opportunities to review activities that may have a small footprint in waters/wetlands but may have significant secondary impacts. Whereas most nationwides have a threshold at 1/3 or ½ acre, the New Hampshire and Vermont programmatic general permits have a threshold set at 3,000 square feet, and both include a special condition allowing for the Service to request a kickout for projects with smaller footprint (< 3,000 square feet), but which may have effects that are more than minimal. Both permits contain special conditions and allowable thresholds that are tailored to each state’s environmental programs and which increase the effectiveness and efficiency of each for applicants and review agencies. These programmatic general permits provide prospective applicants with a set of clearly articulated criteria and thresholds from which to plan their project to avoid or minimize direct and secondary impacts to jurisdictional areas and thereby reduce regulatory burdens on themselves and agencies. This results in less process and greater resource protection.

Pennsylvania Field Office

Windpower in Pennsylvania
PAFO continued to represent the Service on the “Pennsylvania Wind and Wildlife Collaborative,” a multi-agency/stakeholder group.  This year, the collaborative focused on assisting the Pennsylvania Game Commission as it developed a cooperative agreement for wind developers.  In return for expedited review of their projects by the PGC, developers commit to prescribed pre- and post-construction wildlife monitoring.  As a consequence of the agreement, wind companies and the public are seeking a higher level of involvement from PAFO in wildlife study design, interpretation of results, and guidelines on project siting. 

Service Coordinates Upper Delaware River (PA, NJ, NY) Conservation
PAFO is working with multiple partners to address flow allocations for the Upper Delaware River, with special attention to protecting the federally-listed, endangered dwarf wedgemussel.  The flow strategy considers aquatic habitat, recreational fishing and boating, public water supply, and spill mitigation, and is a first step towards improving flow management within the limitations of the current New York City reservoir water withdrawal policy.  Partners include the National Park Service, Delaware River Basin Commission, Army Corps of Engineers, New York Department of Environmental Conservation, U.S. Geological Survey, and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. 

Service Participates in Review of Proposed Susquehanna River (PA) Dam
PAFO is working with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, New York Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Service’s Mid-Atlantic Fishery Resources Office and Regional Engineering Division concerning a proposed inflatable dam on the North Branch of the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  PAFO and its agency partners have identified a number of feasible alternatives to accomplish the project goal of enhancing economic development and river-based recreation, since another dam on the Susquehanna would compromise more than 40 years of work and $75 million that have been invested in restoring American shad to this watershed.   The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to make its final permit decision.

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Transportation Projects in Pennsylvania
PAFO has a biologist assigned full-time to transportation projects through a cooperative agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation pursuant to the Transportation Equity Act of 2005 (SAFETEA-LU).  This allowed effective early involvement in 23 major transportation projects, resulting in the avoidance of over 30 acres of wetlands and compensation for 19 acres of unavoidable wetland loss.  In addition, PAFO is:

  • serving on a technical advisory committee that is developing a new process for linking transportation planning and NEPA that will bring environmental considerations into the early planning phase, where avoidance and minimization of impacts to significant resources can be accomplished more effectively.
  • serving on the steering and technical committees for the Resource Lands Assessment, a central repository for State-wide data sets that can be used to build maps showing significant environmental resources.  Metropolitan planning organizations, regional planning organizations, and land use planners will be able to use these data make informed decisions on future projects.  The system will include a green infrastructure layer that will help identify mitigation opportunities and minimize the effects of fragmentation from new highways and development.
  • assisting development of long-range transportation development plans for 14 metropolitan and regional planning organizations that will facilitate coordination with resource agencies concerning potential conflicts with natural resources, and mitigation options for unavoidable impacts. 

Southwest Virginia Field Office

Species-Specific Protective measures for Coal mine (Energy) projects in Virginia
In cooperation with the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, Virginia Department of Mines Minerals and Energy’s Division of Mined Land Reclamation (DMLR), and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, SVFO and VAFO have written a draft Species Specific Protective Measures document for the coalfields region of southwestern Virginia.  This document was completed in 2007 and, in response to terms and conditions of the 1996 Biological Opinion and Conference Report on the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, provides guidance on implementing actions that will best assure federally listed aquatic species and their habitats are protected in concert with co-occurring coal mining operations currently vital to the economies of the Central Appalachians.  These measures, which have been submitted for management signature by each participating agency, will enhance protection of 26 federally listed aquatic species occurring within the 1,322 square mile Clinch/Powell River basin in Virginia.  Habitats will also benefit.  For example, we estimate implementation of riparian buffer protective measures will protect or maintain at least 10 miles of headwater stream corridors per year, which, in turn, will maintain ecological services such as nutrient transport and hydrologic stability provided to downstream areas inhabited by listed biota. Once adopted by the Virginia DMLR, the protective measures will streamline interagency coordination required for effective review of coal mine permit applications, freeing Service staff to focus more attention on other significant listed species and habitat issues, including development of protective measures for listed terrestrial species occurring in the coalfields, such as the Indiana bat and Virginia big eared bat.

Virginia Field Office

Pigg River Watershed (Virginia) Management Plan:
The VAFO continues to work with partners in the development of a Watershed Management Plan for the Pigg River Watershed in Franklin and Pittsylvania Counties.  The goal of the plan is to restore water quality in the Pigg River to benefit the citizens of the counties and to support the recovery of river’s aquatic fauna.  Examples of important aquatic fauna found in the river are Roanoke logperch (Percina rex) - federally endangered, Roanoke bass (Ambloplites cavifrons), riverweed darter (Etheostoma podestemone), Roanoke hog sucker (Hypentelium roanokense), orangefin madtom (Noturus gilberti), and bigeye jumprock (Scartomyzon ariommus) - all species of greatest conservation concern identified in Virginia’s Wildlife Action Plan.  The final Watershed Management Plan will include:  1) baseline conditions of the watershed which includes locations of major sediment sources, excessive bacteria, stream impediments, major water withdrawals, mining, urban runoff, boundaries, and major land uses, etc., 2) detailed, prioritized recommendations for stream and water quality restoration in the Pigg River watershed, and 3) guidance for Federal, state, and local governments to restore, maintain, and monitor water and stream quality in the watershed.  Upon completion of the Watershed Management Plan, the VAFO will continue to work with their partners on the implementation.  Partners include Franklin County, Blue Ridge Soil and Water Conservation District, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. 
Points of contact:       William Hester            804-693-6694 ext.134
                                    Kimberly Smith           804-693-6694 ext.126

Virginia State Water Quality Standards: 
VAFO is working with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) on amendments to the State Water Quality Standards and is a member of the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee for the Water Quality Standards Triennial Review.  Many naturally impaired swamps in eastern and southeastern Virginia were placed by the U.S. EPA on Virginia’s Clean Water Act 303(d) Total Maximum Daily Load Priority List due to dissolved oxygen and pH impairments.  In order to recognize the natural variances in swamp dissolved oxygen and pH, a new class of waters, swamp waters, was included in the State Water Quality Standards. 
The VADEQ acting on recommendations made by VAFO will refine the Virginia water quality standards with narrative criteria to reflect natural conditions of swamp waters and yet remain protective of their diverse and sensitive fauna.

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.

Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge 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. 
Point of contact:  Cindy Kane 804-693-6694 x 109
Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge - photo credit to Susan Lingenfelser

Virginia Field Office Works with FERC to Improve Water Quality: 
The Virginia Field Office (VAFO) is working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and other partners to improve water quality in the upper Roanoke River in Virginia.  VAFO is advocating watershed restoration that would decrease siltation upstream of two hydropower reservoirs operated by American Electric Power Company.  These efforts would improve water quality in the upper Roanoke River, restore habitat for the endangered Roanoke logperch (Percina rex), and maintain water storage capacity in Leesville and Smith Mountain Lakes.
Point of contact:  William Hester 804-693-6694 ext.134

 

Conservation Management of the Clinch and Cumberland River Systems:  A Collaborative Discussion on Coal Mining and the Aquatic Environment in Appalachia:
The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and their partners, hosted a symposium to engage stakeholders in discussions of coal mining and the conservation of the rare aquatic biota in the central Appalachians on September 5-7, 2007 in Abingdon, Virginia.  Service Programs from two regions, R4 and R5, participated: Endangered Species, Contaminants, and Project Planning biologists.  Other symposium participants included federal, state, non-government organizations, and academia.

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.
Point of Contact:  Jess Jones 540-231-2266

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West Virginia Field Office

Ohio River Basin Fish/Mussel Habitat Partnership (West Virginia Field Office):
Working in partnership with the Fisheries program and others, the West Virginia Field Office (WVFO) made substantial progress during FY07 developing the Ohio River Basin Fish/Mussel Habitat Partnership consistent with the objectives of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan (NFHAP).  This initiative will benefit many native freshwater mussel species and their hosts, including federally listed threatened and endangered mussels, as well as unlisted species.  This initiative also will benefit water and habitat quality in West Virginia and 10 other states throughout the Ohio River basin.  Partners include state fisheries and wildlife diversity programs, non-governmental organizations, academia, and private industry.  The partnership has received recognition as a candidate partnership and will be presenting information to the Board of Directors of the NFHAP in early October. 

American Eel Conservation in West Virginia and Maryland
During FY07, the WVFO continued to work cooperatively with the Chesapeake Bay Field Office, the Regional Office, Allegheny Energy (AE), the National Park Service, and the Corps of Engineers to fully restore American eel (Anguilla rostrata) passage throughout the entire Potomac River watershed.  Monitoring has confirmed that over 6,000 eels have used the upstream eelway recently installed at the Millville Hydropower Project on the Shenandoah River.  In addition, working with the Regional Office Engineering Division, we have developed project design alternatives to install eelways on Dams 4 and 5 (two historic dams owned by the National Park Service) and have begun National Environmental Policy Act coordination to evaluate the alternatives.  Working through the Appalachian Partnership Coordinator, we obtained over $50,000 in fish passage funds to help pay for the construction of these eelways.

The Service Provides Technical Assistance to Other Agencies in West Virginia
The WVFO provided technical assistance to the Corps of Engineers and West Virginia Division of Natural Resources to implement restoration work on 30-40 miles of the Kanawha River (a navigational river), including habitat surveys; paddlefish (Polyodon spathula), shovelnose sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus), and freshwater mussel reintroductions; and habitat restoration for juvenile fish and mussels.

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.  

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Region 6

Evaluating Impacts of Hydrocycling In Nebraska
The Nebraska Field Office along with Regional Office staff, have been involved in ongoing consultation with Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District (CNPPID) on the effects of their hydrocycling operations on the three federally listed species and designated critical habitat in the central Platte River.  Through informal consultation, it was determined that hydrocycling may adversely affect the whooping crane, least tern, and piping plover and adversely modify critical habitat for the whooping crane.  It was also determined through the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program (Program) consultation that their hydrocycling operations may negatively impact expected benefits of the future Program.  An agreement was reached between CNPPID and the Service on a modified hydrocycling regime that would minimize the identified adverse impacts.  A biological opinion on the agreement, along with an Incidental Take Statement, was completed and submitted to FERC in early 2007.  Formal action by FERC is pending. 

FERC Licensing in Nebraska
Since FERC license issuance in1998, the Nebraska Field Office (NEFO) regularly consults/coordinates with Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District (CNPPID) and Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) on their 20 plus environmental license articles that related to protection/restoration of federally listed species and their habitats and other resource issues.  Regular NEFO involvement is required by many the license articles to insure that the Districts are Endangered Species Act compliant and are implementing sound fish and wildlife management practices and operations on Project lands in the Platte River basin in Nebraska (e.g., implementation of a Joint Monitoring Plan on Project lands, Cottonwood Ranch Habitat Restoration Plan, Jeffery Island Habitat Restoration Plan, Kelly Ranch Management Plan, Management Plans for Terns and Plovers, Protection Plans for Eagle Sites, Land and Shoreline Management Plan, and Recreation Management Plan). 

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
In FY 2007, the Utah Field Office coordinated with project proponents on several FERC hydroelectric projects: 1) the American Fork Hydroelectric Project is being decommissioned by PacifiCorp.  The Utah Field Office has been involved in review of the decommissioning plans and through close coordination with the project proponent the Office has been able to reduce project costs and improve the environmental benefits of the decommissioning; 2) the Boulder Hydroelectric Project was issued a new license in FY 2007 requiring Colorado River cutthroat trout fishery restoration and release of instream flows to benefit the population; and 3) the Hyrum City Hydroelectric Project is in the process of being relicensed and the Utah Field Office and other State and Federal agencies are currently negotiating for fish passage at the project diversion dam as well as for permanent instream flows.

Energy

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
Coordination between the Service’s Utah Field Office and the BLM Utah State Office in FY 07 has resulted in development of plant species-specific conservation measures for oil and gas development to ensure effects on species of special concern are avoided or minimized.  Inclusion of these measures during energy development activities ensures that potential effects to these species are insignificant or discountable, in part by avoiding impacts to sensitive habitats and avoiding disturbances during crucial life history seasons (e.g., flowering).  The office is engaged early in the planning process with the BLM and energy companies to discuss and reach agreement on measures to conserve species during project planning and preparation of documents pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  Incorporation of these measures into project plans and NEPA documents up front has streamlined and shortened the environmental compliance process and reduced conflicts and legal challenges. The office continues to work with the BLM and resource agencies to develop and implement off-site mitigation for unavoidable impacts to species and habitats from energy development.

Oil and Gas Development – Coordinating Conservation with BLM in Wyoming
Section 365 of the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 2005 establishes a Federal Permit Streamlining Pilot Project with the intent of improving the efficiency of processing oil and gas use authorizations on Federal lands.  Pursuant to EPAct, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has collocated staff in Bureau of Land Management (Bureau) pilot offices in Buffalo and Rawlins Wyoming.  Additionally, to better meet the energy related needs of the Bureau’s non-pilot offices and continue to manage the Service’s staff assigned to those pilot offices, in early 2007, the Service placed the energy program leader in Pinedale Wyoming to allow for more widespread Service involvement in the Bureau’s energy streamlining efforts with priority centered on the actual pilot offices.  The Buffalo pilot office has been staffed with one Service biologist for three years while the Rawlins pilot office has been staffed with one biologist for one year.  However, the Rawlins staff member was recently selected as the Service’s representative on the Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative team in Rock Springs; therefore, the Rawlins pilot office position is currently vacant.  In August of 2007, the Service added two additional staff biologists in the Service’s Cheyenne Field Office to assist in the Bureau’s pilot office streamlining effort in both Buffalo and Rawlins.  The Service is also actively recruiting a staff member to be once again collocated in the Rawlins pilot office.  Once staffing is complete it is anticipated that biologists, assigned to the Service’s energy program, will work to ensure that the Bureau meets their responsibilities under EPAct and that fish and wildlife resources, in Wyoming, are conserved.  

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.

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Rockies Express-Western Phase Natural Gas Pipeline Project:
The Nebraska Field Office (NEFO) is the lead Service field office for coordinating the Rockies Express-West Pipeline project (REX-West).  REX-West is a 710-mile long 42-inch natural gas pipeline that begins in western Wyoming and crosses Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri.  A final EIS was issued in March 2007 and approval to construct by FERC in June 2007.  The NEFO spent considerable amount of staff time coordinating with FERC, other Service field offices, State agencies, and the project proponent to assure that the project would not adversely impact federal trust fish and wildlife resources, including federally listed species.  The NEFO provided the Colorado Field Office technical and regulatory support for the programmatic biological opinion that was written to cover South Platte River water depletions.  Further, since the pipeline project was going to be constructed during the migratory bird nesting season, the NEFO drafted a Conservation Agreement (CA) with Rockies Express Pipeline, LLC to provide benefits to migratory birds from impact of the pipeline project.  However, due to the company’s lack of attention to provide the NEFO information for the CA, the CA was not finalized.  This resulted in the project proponent spending additional time conducting surveys for nesting birds, thus delaying construction in those areas.  However, approximately 4,500 acres of grassland, 1,000 acres of forest, and 65 acres of wetlands in the five State areas are to be restored, enhanced, or created as part of the 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)
The Nebraska Field Office (NEFO) is the lead Service field office for coordinating the Keystone and Cushing Pipeline project.  This pipeline project is a 30-inch, 1,070-mile long pipeline coming out of southern Alberta, Canada and traveling south through North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois that will transport 435,000 barrels of crude oil from the tar sands of Canada.  The Cushing project is a crude oil pipeline beginning in Oklahoma and traveling north through Kansas and combining with the Keystone pipeline in southern Nebraska.  A President’s Permit will be issued by the Department of the State (State Department) after an EIS has been issued.  Construction is anticipated to begin in mid 2008.  A draft EIS was published by the State Department in August 2007.  The NEFO has been coordinating with Service field offices, refuges, regional offices, and project proponents to assure that impacts to federally listed species, designated critical habitats, candidate species, nesting migratory birds and refuge lands are avoided or minimized.  Through Service coordination with Trans Canada Keystone Pipeline, LP and their project consultant (ENSR), approximately 15 miles of pipeline will be rerouted to avoid impacts to Service wetland easements in North Dakota.  

Nebraska Resources Company Natural Gas Pipeline:
The NEFO has been working with the Natural Resources Company and its consultants to avoid or reduce the impacts of a 150-mile long, 20-inch natural gas pipeline that begins in south-central Nebraska and moves north to northeast Nebraska.  The proposed pipeline is being built in the Rainwater Basin (RWB) Complex as well as the lower Platte River Valley.  The RWB Complex occupies a 4,200-square mile are in 17 south-central counties in Nebraska.  RWB wetlands are naturally formed where clay-bottomed depressions catch and hold rain and runoff water.  In 1986, the RWB wetlands were given a priority 1 ranking as being the most important wetland resource in Nebraska.  The RWB provide important spring and autumn habitat for five to seven million ducks and geese including 90 percent of the mid-continent population of greater white-fronted geese, 50 percent of the mid-continent population of mallards, and 50 percent of the continent population of northern pintails.  Additionally, the RWB provides migrational habitat for 200,000-300,000 shorebirds representing over 30 different species as well as over 257 species of birds.  Records reveal that the 42 percent of the confirmed observations of the endangered whooping crane have occurred in the RWB, which represents the highest whooping crane use days of any other United States migrational habitats.  The bald eagle is also known to use the RWB wetlands for hunting and roosting areas.   The NEFO’s work thus far has resulted in the proposed pipeline avoiding all existing RWB wetlands, including those owned and managed by the Service.  Additionally, the project proponent has agreed to cross the lower Platte River via horizontal directional drilling the pipeline and avoiding impacts to least terns, piping plovers, and pallid sturgeon.  The federal nexus for this project is a Department of the Army permit. 

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
The North Dakota Field Office (NDFO) has been proactive in relation to wind energy development in North Dakota.  We are participating in a joint Wind Power Work Group with Region 3, Region 6, and the WO to discuss current wind power issues and explore innovative cross-program solutions.  We have also coordinated discussions between Service field offices in the 2,500 mile long Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping crane migration corridor to begin to look for ways to ensure that whooping crane protection is considered in project development.  A database of existing and proposed wind tower locations was constructed for North Dakota.  This baseline data along with species habitats, species occurrences, and wind potential will be used to assist in advising wind tower developers within the state on siting, pre- and post construction monitoring. 

Wind energy: Coordinating Conservation at the South Dakota Field Office
Work by the South Dakota Field Office on wind energy projects increased substantially in FY 2007.  Several projects (Navitas’ White Wind, PPM Energy’s MinnDakota, Acciona’s Tatanka, BP/Clipper’s Titan,  Babcock and Brown’s Wessington Springs) are ongoing to be completed in 2007 or 2008,  and additional projects are anticipated to be initiated in 08 as well.  One request by Western Area Power Administration for  formal consultation regarding Wessington Springs wind farm (issue:  whooping cranes) was received in August 2007.  Highmore Wind project (in place since 2003) was informed of potential impacts whooping cranes along with recently obtained map of whooping crane migration corridor.  Tatanka wind farm, which crosses the North Dakota/South Dakota border and is partially on a Refuge managed grassland easement is under construction with consent of refuges, but without Ecological Services input.  Information regarding other potential farms has filtered in sporadically, but without formal contact with this office.  A few letters to USDA on individual wind turbines proposed by landowners have been sent, with more anticipated for FY 08. 

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Wind energy: Coordinating Conservation at the Utah Field Office
The Utah Field Office has been involved in three wind energy development projects in FY 07.  On two of the projects, coordination has occurred directly with individuals or companies with no apparent Federal nexus to begin assessing the environmental effects of the wind turbine projects. We are currently involved in the UPC wind development project occurring on BLM lands.  All MET towers associated with the projects have been required to be marked with Firefly Flapper bird flight diverters to avoid collision impacts to migratory birds and threatened and endangered bird species. 

Increased Railroad Expansion to Accommodate Coal Deliveries - Nebraska:
The Nebraska Field Office (NEFO) saw a 260 percent increase in FY-2007 from FY-2006 regarding the number of projects involving the expansion of railroads in order to accommodate the delivery of coal to the eastern United States.  Three projects through the Nebraska Sandhills region by BNSF Railway Company would result in the impact of 36 acres of the endangered American burying beetle (ABB).  Since the project required a Department of the Army permit by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the NEFO consulted with the Corps.  Also, the NEFO worked with the University of Nebraska-Kearney, who implemented the trap and relocated conservation measure to move ABB from harms way during construction activities.  To offset the loss of ABB habitat, the NEFO negotiated an agreement between the BNSF and the Sandhills Task Force whereby BNSF funded the acquisition of a conservation easement and restoration and management cost of approximately $32,000 to the Task Force for 36 acres of ABB habitat.  This project has resulted in other similar agreements being developed for other railroad projects.

The Service Coordinates Conservation in Coal Development Processes – North Dakota:
The NDFO is a member of the Wetlands Advisory Committee in cooperation with the ND Public Service Commission, ND Natural Resources Trust, U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the ND Game and Fish Department.  This committee provides technical assistance, direction, and evaluation for surface coal mine reclamation activities.  The NDFO reviewed the final bond release application for a 193 acre tract, including 46 acres of restored wetlands and 147 acres of grasslands.  The tract will be turned over to the Service in fee title for management as a Waterfowl Production Area after final bond release. 

The Service Coordinates Conservation in Coal Development Processes – South Dakota:
The South Dakota ES Office continues to work on the DM & E railroad which proposes to transport coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming through South Dakota and Minnesota. Extensive impacts would occur along existing and new build railroad Rights of Way.  This project is gearing up for a large rebuild and extension of an existing line and now has reapplied for a 404 permit that will require approximately 400 acres of wetland mitigation.  Numerous opportunities exist to get quality mitigation of wetlands and uplands that may be impacted by the project. 

The Service Coordinates Conservation in Coal Development Processes – Utah:
The Utah Field Office continues to participate in an interagency team (BLM, Forest Service, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and Utah Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining) to facilitate interagency communication (previously fairly poor) and communication with coal mine operators on wildlife resource issues.  This has led to much improved relationships and better communication between agencies, and has clarified to the mine operators the steps involved the environmental compliance and permitting process.  In FY 07, The UTFO was actively involved with this team in developing a formalized Raptor Nest Mitigation Plan for one mine that anticipates its subsurface mining activities to threaten escarpment failure (due to ground subsidence) and risk the loss of one or more golden eagle nests.  The plan provides a step-by-step guide for the operator for each nest, what mitigation actions could be taken, the point at which coordination with the resource agencies should be initiated, and the situation under which a permit would be required.  This plan is the first of its kind and may serve as a template for other area mines that have similar subsurface operations.

Ethanol and Bio-fuel Facilities in Nebraska:
The NEFO reviewed 28 ethanol and bio-diesel plant proposals for impacts to federal trust fish and wildlife resources.  With both State and federal tax incentives for renewed energy sources, coupled with the State of Nebraska being a large producer of grain crops, there has been a steady increase in the number of ethanol plants being constructed.  Impacts to fish and wildlife resources include effluent discharges to nearby streams as well as the need for large volumes of surface and groundwater to feed the plants.  The consumptive use of water can result in depletions to both streams and wetlands.  Several of these proposed projects result in the depletions to the Platte River system.  Further, there is a major incentive for landowners to put marginal lands into crop production due to the increase demand.  This results in areas such as wetlands, grasslands, riparian corridors being lost for crop production, especially Conservation Reserve Program lands. 

Wolf Creek Nuclear Generating Station Relicensing, Kansas: 
Kansas ES FO is coordinating with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the applicant to evaluate the Wolf Creek Nuclear Generating Station’s (WCNGS) application for an operating license renewal from NRC.  The existing license will expire in March 2025 and the requested renewal would add an additional 20 years to the license.  The site encompasses 9,818 acres, of which only 135 acres are occupied by generating and support facilities.  Coffey County Lake, the station’s cooling reservoir, occupies another 5,090 acres and approximately 105 miles of high-voltage transmission lines are covered under the NRC license.  Potential impacts to the federally- threatened Neosho madtom and a candidate species, the Neosho mucket (a clam), from Neosho River water withdrawals to supplement cooling reservoir volumes are being addressed in the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement which is expected in mid-October, 2007. 

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.

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Lincoln Electrical System Transmission Lines, Nebraska
The Nebraska Field Office worked closely with the Lincoln Electrical System and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to site a set of transmission lines away from a saline wetland and stream complex that provides habitat for the endangered Salt Creek tiger beetle.  A set of new transmission lines were originally proposed to extend across an approximately 500-acre saline wetland and stream complex.  Siting the transmission lines across the complex would have resulted in negative affects to the Salt Creek tiger beetle and other wildlife during construction and maintenance and would have also impeded wetland management at the site.  The transmission lines were shifted to the south approximately one mile and now extend across a cropfield to avoid saline wetland and stream habitats.

Transportation

Transportation Environmental Resource Council (TERC), Colorado: 
The Colorado Field Office has actively participated on this Council which was initiated in 2002 by the Colorado Department of Transportation to improve the relationships between the transportation agencies and environmental and natural resource agencies.  The goal of the TERC is to improve communications among agencies concerned with transportation development efforts, to discuss key environmental issues, opportunities and concerns and to resolve policy issues in a timely and mutually-beneficial manner.  A major concern at the time regarded policy differences on appropriate endangered species compliance and mitigation requirements.  Through this forum many of the concerns and misunderstandings have been addressed.  Other members have included the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife.  The TERC meets approximately quarterly, and the Colorado Field Office is preparing to host the next meeting in October.

Vail Pass Overpass, Colorado 
The Colorado Field Office has been working with the Colorado Department of Transportation, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and the Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project on the location, configuration, funding, and installation of a vegetated wildlife overpass on Interstate 70 in the vicinity of Vail Pass.  The I-70 corridor is a critical linkage area for wildlife, including the Canada lynx.  Two lynx have been killed on I-70 in the vicinity of the proposed project, and the Service, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Federal Highway Administration are interested in mechanisms to avoid future lynx mortalities, and to improve connectivity across I-70.  CDOT is interested in learning soon where the best location is for such a structure, and developing design features, in the event that funding to construct the overpass becomes available.  We are serving on the committee that is refining and prioritizing research and monitoring goals that will assist in answering these questions.

Central Shortgrass Prairie Initiative:
The Central Shortgrass Prairie Initiative is a mechanism to preserve large blocks of shortgrass prairie on Colorado’s eastern plains and provide upfront mitigation for highway projects.  The project was conceived by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), and developed by CDOT, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Service, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW).  Implementation of the initiative will result in advance mitigation for ongoing maintenance activities on the existing highway system on the eastern plains.  Prior to the initiative, CDOT conducted site-specific habitat assessments on a project-by-project basis and each project required consultation (informal or formal) with the Service.  Species addressed by the initiative are all candidate, proposed, threatened, endangered, and other declining shortgrass prairie species likely to be affected by CDOT’s ongoing maintenance and upgrade activities.  Implementation of the initiative has resulted in more meaningful conservation of the included species and their habitat than the previous site-specific project reviews.  The Service benefits from a decreased work load and an improved method of conserving many listed or at-risk species on Colorado’s eastern plains.  Formal consultation was completed on the initiative January 12, 2004.  To date, CDOT has purchased easements on three properties located in various portions of Colorado’s shortgrass prairie region that will protect many of the species addressed in the consultation.  The procurement of one additional property is necessary to fulfill their section 7 obligation.  To date CDOT has “debited” the bank for 229.45 acres of the 15,160 acres available.

Pagosa Skyrocket (plant) Conservation in Colorado
In 2007, the Grand Junction, Colorado Field Office participated, for the third year, on a working group set up to conserve the Pagosa skyrocket (Ipomopsis polyantha), acandidate species with a listing priority of 2.  The group includes local volunteers, the Town of Pagosa, Archuleta County, USFWS, USFS, BLM, Colorado DOT (CDOT), Southwest Land Alliance, CO Natural Heritage Program, The Nature Conservancy, Southern Ute Tribe, CO Rare Plant Technical Committee, CO Native Plant Society, 4H Club members, La Plata Electric Association and the Denver Botanic Garden.  The goal of these efforts is to preclude the need to list the species.  The need for action was precipitated by a utility corridor in the highway ROW.  The utility company needed CDOT's permission to get access.  The working group came up with a plan to minimize damage to the skyrocket in the ROW for the project which included specifications for revegetation. 

Yankton Bridge Construction Conservation Measures, Nebraska
The Nebraska Field Office (NEFO) has been involved in an informal consultation on the construction of a new bridge crossing the Missouri River, between Yankton, South Dakota and Cedar County, Nebraska.  The current, historical Meridian Bridge has been identified unsafe for motorists and plans are to convert the old bridge to a pedestrian bridge after the new bridge is built.  Project proponents include the Federal Highway Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), South Department of Transportation, and the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR).  Potential adverse impacts of the proposed project to the endangered pallid sturgeon, least tern, and scaleshell mussel, threatened piping plover and previously listed as threatened, bald eagle, include construction occurring during the onset of spawning, nesting, and habitat destruction in an area regarded as a Species Management Action Priority Area.  As a result of the coordination between NEFO and the project proponents, several conservation measures have been incorporated into the project plan, including surveys for the scaleshell mussel, bald eagles, least terns and piping plovers.  Construction timing restrictions have also been implemented to benefit the pallid sturgeon in an area thought to be heavily used by the species as well as to avoid impacts to migratory bird nesting.  Additionally, the construction contractor and NDOR have cooperated to utilize borrow in such a way as to begin the restoration of a chute onsite at the project that will function as a backwater and eventually a functional chute.   Several natural resource agencies have come together to protect this ecologically important area with the help of the NDOR, FHWA, and the project contractors.  These resource agency participants include the Service, National Parks Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks.

Mitigation Banking for Transportation Projects in Nebraska
In FY-2007, the Nebraska Mitigation Banking Review Team (MBRT), which the Nebraska Field Office is a member, evaluated the mitigation banks that the Nebraska Department of Roads and Federal Highway Administration have built and used for mitigation wetland impacts.  Based on the review, there are 21 mitigation banks that have been certified by the MBRT that total over 500 acres of wetlands restored or created.

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American Burying Beetle Research on Transportation Projects, Nebraska
The Nebraska Field Office has provided assistance to a number of projects that would adversely impact the federally endangered American burying beetle on several transportation projects. Conservation measures were developed to offset the adverse impacts of subject projects on the endangered American burying beetle through surveys, site preparation to deter the species, and performing the capture/relocation procedure to remove beetles from the active project area. The conservation measures also provided a secondary benefit by improving range maps used in future consultations.  Additionally, due to the amount of transportation projects in the current known range of the species, the Nebraska Department of Roads funded a research grant to the University of Nebraska at Kearney to assist in obtaining information on this little known species’ behavior and use of right-of-way as habitat.  

Best Management Practices for Transportation Projects to Avoid or Minimize Adverse Impacts to Nebraska Streams and Waterways:
The Nebraska Field Office and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission have worked together to develop some recommended Best Management Practices (BMPs) for transportation projects that have the potential to impact streams and waterways in Nebraska that would affect native fish.  The construction process involved in bridge building and culvert installations have a high potential to impact fish and wildlife trust resources.  These BMPs are now recommended for all projects (not only transportation related) that involve temporary or permanent impacts to Nebraska streams.  The Federal Highway Administration has strongly recommended that Nebraska Department of Roads implement these BMPs into federally funded transportation projects.

Bald Eagle Nesting on Nemaha County, Nebraska Project:
The Nebraska Field Office (NEFO) has been involved with several county bridge replacements and repairs project.  One specific project was near a historic and active bald eagle nest adjacent to the Middle branch of the Nemaha River, a tributary to the Big Blue River in Nemaha County, Nebraska.  Due to the close proximate of the nest to the bridge project, the Nebraska Field Office worked closely with the Federal Highway Administration, Nebraska Department of Roads, and Nemaha County Highway Department to find a solution to getting the bridge work done while the eagle was nesting and prevent further delays.  Delays by the County due to other projects and weather resulted in the public that uses this bridge to involve their State and Federal representatives.  Conservations measures identified by the NEFO were implemented by the County and construction continued while the eagle nested.  Three eaglets fledged from the nest.

Incorporating Conservation in Transportation Planning Processes in North Dakota
The North Dakota Field Office is working with the North Dakota Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to improve fish passage on tributaries affected by highway construction projects.  The standard design of multi-barrel box culverts has been modified to direct low flows into a single channel, thus maximizing the opportunity for fish passage on small tributaries that provide important forage fish habitat.  This design improvement is a direct result of a collaborative effort between highway engineers, environmental planners, and Service biologists.

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
The third  year under an existing programmatic formal consultation (Biological Opinion issued April ‘04) with South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) and Federal Highway Administration was completed in FY 2007 and an annual report was submitted by SDDOT.  Streamlining was generally successful.  Revisions to the biological opinion (BO) are needed and reinitiation of consultation occurred in August 2007 to be completed in FY 2008.  Over 30 projects were appended to the BO in FY 2007.  Approximately 30 additional SDDOT projects were reviewed.

Incorporating Conservation in Transportation Planning Processes in Utah
The Utah Field Office participated in early project planning for several large transportation projects, including several proposed new alignments, including Mountain View Corridor, Provo Airport Connector, and the East-West Connector.  The office participates in interagency committees to oversee and implement mitigation on highway projects that have been approved, including the Legacy Parkway Science Team, the Legacy Parkway Preserve Management Team, and the Highway 6 Mitigation Team. The office has been involved with discussions with Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) regarding the need for a DOT-funded FWS biologist position to be devoted to transportation projects.  A position statement (white paper) has been submitted to UDOT towards this effort and discussions are continuing.  The UTFO has been involved from the early planning stages in UDOT’s effort to create a wetland mitigation bank in Utah County.  This need is in anticipation of the many transportation projects and associated wetland impacts in that area.  The UTFO participates on an interagency Wildlife Crossing Team which reviews upcoming road improvement projects and makes recommendations on wildlife crossings.  This enables UDOT to incorporate wildlife crossing needs early in the road planning process, greatly increasing the chance of the recommendations being adopted.  Staff participate in regular meetings with UDOT, FHWA, and resource agencies to discuss upcoming projects and concerns. 

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Water Supply/Delivery

Aspinall Unit of the Colorado River Storage Project on the Gunnison River:
The Bureau of Reclamation is proposing to reoperate the Aspinall Unit of the Colorado River Storage Project on the Gunnison River to provide flows appropriate for the endangered Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius), razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus), bonytail (Gila elegans), and humpback chub (Gila cypha).  The Service is a cooperating agency in the EIS process and the Grand Junction ES office actively participates in the EIS meetings that are held on a regular basis.  Other cooperating agencies and partners include the Western Area Power Administration, National Park Service, State of Colorado, Platte River Power Authority, Colorado River Water Conservation District, Upper Gunnison Water Conservancy District, the Nature Conservancy, Western Resource Advocates, and other interested parties.  Reoperation of the Aspinall Unit dams would provide a more natural flow regime in the Gunnison and Colorado rivers that would assist in restoring approximately 300 miles of riparian and aquatic habitat.  Approximately 200 miles of this habitat is designated critical habitat for the endangered Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker.  Critical habitat reaches for the endangered bonytail and humpback chub are also contained within the 200 miles.  Species that would benefit from a more natural flow regime would be all species dependent on riparian habitat, including migratory birds.  The aquatic habitat restoration and floodplain habitat provided from a more natural flow regime would benefit the four endangered fishes within their critical habitat.  The planning time frame for this project will span over the next 4 – 5 years.  The Service will be preparing a Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act Report during the planning period.

Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Project, Colorado
Pursuant to the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, the Lakewood, Colorado Field Office (COFO) is working closely with the Omaha District, Corps of Engineers and local project proponents on the Chatfield Reservoir Storage Reallocation Project, a plan to expand the reservoir’s water storage capacity by up to 21,000 acre-feet.  The COFO is a cooperating agency on the Feasibility Report and EIS; participates in Technical Group meetings related to fish and wildlife issues; and coordinates with the Corps, their consultant, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife regarding resources present, potential impacts of the project, and mitigation measures.  The COFO anticipates developing a FWCA report for the project in FY '08.

The Platte River Recovery Implementation Program: 
The Platte River Recovery Implementation Program (Program) is a programmatic agreement between the states of Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).  The Program will satisfy the Endangered Species Act requirements for all water users in the basin by addressing the impacts of all surface and ground water projects existing as of July 1, 1997, and by providing 130,000 to 150,000 acre-feet of water per year on average in times when flows are less than the Service target flows within the Program’s first increment (first 10 to 13 years).  An additional Program goal is to restore and protect 10,000 acres of suitable habitat between Lexington and Chapman, Nebraska.  The Program also has a robust adaptive management that would allow for review and adjustments to Program offsets in subsequent increments. DOI Secretary, Dirk Kempthorne, signed the record of decision for the Program on September 27, 2006, and the Program was implemented on January 1, 2007.  Nebraska Field Office (NEFO) staff were primary authors of a programmatic biological opinion (PBO) on the Program and co-authors on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  In addition, NEFO staff worked with other Service field offices and State game and fish agencies to prepare a Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act report for the Platte River Program, in conjunction with the Platte River Program EIS and PBO.  Potential impacts to fish and wildlife species as a result of the Program were analyzed and mitigation measures identified. 

Platte River Environmental Account:
The Nebraska Field Office managed the Environmental Account (EA) in Lake McConaughy (a requirement of both Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District and Nebraska Public Power District’s FERC licenses) in its eighth year of operation.  This entailed working with the Irrigation Districts, Nebraska Department of Water Resources, and an EA Committee made up of numerous basin entities to determine when and how much water to release from a 125,000 acre-foot volume of water in the mainstem Platte River dam for the benefit of fish and wildlife resources with emphasis on three listed bird species in the central Platte River.  Extended drought in the basin and other structural limitations has continued to impede the Service’s ability to use the account for its intended purpose (i.e., benefit fish and wildlife in the central Platte River reach).  Substantial progress was again made in FY-2007 in pre-planning for future EA releases to produce a spring rise/pulse flow in the central Platte River.  Testing the ability of the EA to produce pulse flows is one of the top priorities of the Platte River Recovery Program.  EA flows were provided during the summer of 2007 to provide forage and protection of nesting least terns and piping plovers in the central Platte River.  This was the first year in over a decade that these two bird species fledged young from the central Platte River.

Platte River Water Depletions:
Records were maintained, and quarterly summaries were completed, for federal actions in Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming which resulted in water depletions to the Platte River system.  Water depletions to the Platte River system have been determined to jeopardize the continued existence of the Interior least tern, whooping crane, pallid sturgeon, and piping plover on the Platte River in Nebraska.  Depletions also destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat for the whooping crane on the Platte River in Nebraska.  The Nebraska Field Office had reviewed approximately 18 requests for consultation that could result in depletions to the central and lower reaches of the Platte River.  Of the 18 proposed actions, three actions which concluded formal consultation this fiscal year were projected to result in 41.6 acre feet in minor Platte River depletions.  The remaining projects are subject to ongoing consultation under the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, or withdrawn from federal review.  Total offsets for minor depletions were $1,539 which was debited from the minor depletions account. 

Platte River Cumulative Impact Study:
The Platte River Cumulative Impact Study (CIS) is a collaborative effort between the Nebraska Field Office (NEFO), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), University of Nebraska-Lincoln, U.S. Geological Survey and several other State and local government entities.  The CIS was developed to assess changes over time in infrastructure, land use, and water issues/hydrology and how these changes affect the lower Platte River (from the Loup River Confluence to the Mouth), its floodplain, and the bluffs corridor.  The CIS will assess past and predict future changes in the lower Platte River landscapes resulting from water and land development projects.  Past and future impacts to the least tern, piping plover, and pallid sturgeon habitats will also be addressed by the study.  The CIS modeling products should provide guidance on how best to apply future development and habitat restoration efforts.  The CIS is currently in Phase 2 of the 3-phase process.  Information from Phase 2 will be applied in a Phase 3 predictive model that will assist in identifying relationships between future resource utilization and impacts to riverine habitats.  The NEFO supported the CIS by attending planning meetings. A preliminary Phase 2 report will be issued by the Corps in October 2007, with a final report issued in March 2008.

North Platte Channel Capacity Improvement Project:
This is the first major construction project for the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program.  The purpose of the project is to improve the safe channel capacity from 1,980 cfs to 3,000 cfs at the North Platte River bridge near the City of North Platte.  The Nebraska Field Office provided the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program (Program) with an alternative that would not only meet the objection of the project (i.e., flow conveyance) but would also result in the restoration of approximately four miles of side channels intended to improve flow capacity in the North Platte River.  The Program’s initial alternative was a drainage project that would adversely impact fish and wildlife resources.  Construction activities are scheduled to begin in late 2007.

Red River Valley Water Supply Project, North Dakota and Minnesota
The North Dakota Field Office provided a final Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act Report to the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) to avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate potential fish and wildlife resource impacts in North Dakota and Minnesota from the construction and operation of the Red River Valley Water Supply Project (RRVWSP).  The Service and Reclamation have developed environmental commitments to be included in the project design that will protect wetland (1000 acres), prairie (3800 acres), and woodland (500 acres) habitats along water pipeline routes totaling over 4,800 acres.  The North Dakota Field Office is also coordinating with Reclamation and Refuges to avoid project impacts to approximately 119 wetland easements, 3 grassland easements, 3 FMHA easements, 1 easement refuge, and 1 Waterfowl Production Area. 

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North West Area Water Supply (NAWS) Impact Assessment Team, ND Field Office
The North Dakota Field Office is a member of the North West Area Water Supply (NAWS) Impact Assessment Team.  The Service evaluated 54 miles of proposed pipeline for potential environmental impacts and made recommendations to avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate for impacts to 14 stream channel crossings and approximately 80 acres of prairie pothole wetlands.  The team conducts field reviews of the project before, during, and after pipeline construction to evaluate the level of compliance with the environmental commitments and the success of required mitigation.

Water Supply/Delivery – Conservation efforts at Utah Field Office
The Utah Field Office continues: 1) to partner with Central Utah Project agencies to provide technical assistance during the construction implementation phase; 2) to work with the Bureau of Reclamation and other agencies to monitor effects of water facility operation on priority species and habitats and provide recommendations to conserve and protect them; 3) to work with the Salinity Control Program to assist the lead agencies in accomplishing their wildlife habitat replacement responsibilities; and 4) to work with the Utah State Engineer Stream Alteration Program to review permit applications and provide recommendations for priority species and habitats.  To streamline this effort, we have worked with the Stream Alteration Program and other resource agencies to compile a list of best management practices which are now incorporated into each permit.  With incorporation of these practices into each permit, we no longer need to provide project-by-project review and instead are able to concentrate on providing more comprehensive technical assistance on larger projects that have greater potential impacts to priority species and habitats.

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. 

Restoration

Project Review Reveals Impacts to Mitigation Area in Kansas:
While conducting a routine project review, Kansas Field Office (KSFO) staff realized that a proposed sewer line extension would traverse a mitigation area for another project from the same applicant, a city/county government.  The KSFO coordinated with the consultant and the Kansas City District, the Corps of Engineers (COE) to make them aware of the situation and explore alternatives.  In addition, it was discovered that mitigation for the original project had not been completed.  As a result, the permit for the sewer line extension was held in abeyance until the applicant completed mitigation for the original project and had an approved mitigation plan for impacts to the original mitigation area.  The COE thanked the KSFO staff member for bringing this matter to their attention.  Approximately 45 acres of riparian habitat will be preserved and enhanced in a rapidly urbanizing area and will benefit migratory birds as well as resident wildlife. 

Service Coordinates a Conservation Easement on the Missouri River:
A coordinated effort between the Nebraska Field Office, National Park Service, and U.S Army Corps of Engineers resulted in a private landowner donating a conservation easement along the Missouri River.  The conservation easement was donated as part of a penalty for violating the Clean Water Act.  The easement will result in the protection of nearly two miles of river frontage and approximately 121 acres of riverine channel habitats that benefit the least tern, piping plover, pallid sturgeon, scaleshell mussel, and other riverine fish and wildlife species.

Service Coordinates a Platte River Conservation Easement:
The Nebraska Field Office (NEFO), in coordination with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Nebraska Land Trust, a non-government organization, was instrumental in protecting an approximately 0.5-mile long, 100-acre parcel of riverfront property along the lower Platte River.  A violation of the Clean Water Act resulted in the EPA requiring the responsible party to acquire a conservation easement as part of the penalty and donate that easement to the Nebraska Land Trust.  The NEFO worked closely with the Nebraska Land Trust to identify a suitable parcel of property, conduct a site inspection, and prepare the terms of the conservation easement.  This effort may jumpstart local interest in other private landowners to donate conservation easements in the lower Platte River area.  The lower Platte River and its floodplain are under tremendous development pressure and provide habitat to the least tern, piping plover, and pallid sturgeon.

Platte Valley Weed Management Area:
The Platte Valley Weed Management Area (PVWMA) is a collaborative effort between the Nebraska Field Office (NEFO), University of Nebraska-Kearney, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and several state and local government entities.  The PVWMA represents 13 counties and includes portions of the central Platte and North Platte Rivers.  The invasive/noxious target species include phragmites, purple loosestrife, salt cedar, johnsongrass, and Russian olive all of which are known to degrade habitats of Platte River fish and wildlife species.  Phragmites has also been known as one of many factors that contributed to severely reduced flow conveyance in the North Platte River.  The reduced flow conveyance has inhibited environmental account releases intended to benefit listed species along the Platte River.  The NEFO provides project planning assistance to the PVWMA and coordinates PVWMA activities with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife staff.  In 2007, the PVWMA was awarded approximately $170,000 for invasive weed control including a Pulling Together Initiative and a Private Stewardship Grant awards.  The grant allowed for spraying of 810 acres of invasive weeds in the central Platte River.  Disking of sprayed sites will occur in 2008.  The grant also provided funding monitoring of different herbicide treatments.

Utah Partners for Conservation and Development:
The Utah Field Office (UTFO): 1) continues to be an active in the Utah Partners for Conservation and Development, a large interagency consortium that plans habitat restoration projects and coordinates resources to implement them.  The UTFO participates in the management committee and various regional working groups; 2) works closely with the Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation Commission and other resource agencies to plan and implement mitigation and conservation projects as part of the Central Utah Project; 3)  is a member of several Mitigation Bank Review Teams, and have been involved in FY07 in the development of two banks in the Great Salt Lake (GSL) ecosystem; 4) participates in several coordinating committees and watershed councils to discuss issues and coordinate conservation goals and efforts; 5) participates on Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) technical committees to assist in implementing Farm Bill programs that conserve and restore fish and wildlife habitat; 6) participates in efforts to develop appropriate native plant materials and methods for habitat restoration; 7) participates in efforts to manage invasive plant and animal species and restore habitats as these species are controlled or eradicated; 8) hosts regular meetings with the Corps of Engineers and other resource agencies to review policies and priorities for conservation of wetlands and coordinate wetland conservation measures and practices; 9) participates in the development of several Special Area Management Plans to assist communities in conserving priority wetland habitats while planning for growth and development; and 10) participates in the Great Salt Lake Goals project, an EPA-funded effort to assess the quality and quantity of wetlands in the GSL ecosystem, create a wetland monitoring program, and evaluate “alternative futures” for the GSL wetland areas.

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Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative:
In FY 2007, the Wyoming ES Field Office has been instrumental in developing and initiating implementation of the Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative (WLCI), a long-term (minimum 10 years), science-based collaborative effort to ensure Wyoming’s wildlife and its habitats are fully considered and addressed in the face of increasing land use pressures and activities in Wyoming.  The WLCI has been recognized for funding under the Department of the Interior’s FY 2008 American Landscape Initiative for Healthy Lands, Communities, and Economies, and is consistent with the Strategic Habitat Conservation approach that has been jointly developed with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).  The WLCI will address all fish and wildlife, including “at risk” species and their habitats at a landscape level, with specific emphasis on sagebrush, mountain shrub, aspen, riparian, and aquatic communities in Wyoming’s Green River Basin.  In FY 2007, partner agencies (Service, Bureau of Land Management, USGS, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Forest Service) formalized a MOU and chartered an executive committee to guide implementation of the initiative. The WLCI established several working groups to assist with planning and development of the Initiative, including an Implementation Team, a Science Technical Advisory Committee, and a Data and Information Management Working Group.  Because a key part of the WLCI is a scientific basis for conservation activities, the Wyoming ES Field Office has supported development of a Science Plan by the USGS by participating on panels at a Science Plan Workshop and providing review comments on the resulting draft Science Plan. With partner agencies the Wyoming ES Field Office also participated in a series of open houses in southwest Wyoming to introduce the initiative and begin building public support.  In August, the Wyoming ES Field Office located a full-time position in the WLCI office in Rock Springs to facilitate implementation of the initiative and communication with representatives of other agencies involved in the WLCI and the public.  The Wyoming ES Field Office also participates on the WLCI Executive and Science Technical Advisory Committees.  Additionally, the Wyoming Field Office supported the Bureau’s implementation of initial on-the-ground projects in FY 2007 and participated in outreach activities to develop projects for future years. The Wyoming ES Field Office has provided internal outreach, via the preparation of travel memos for the Secretary of the Department of Interior, and regular updates to Region 6 staff on progress and direction of the concept.  The Wyoming Field Office plans to expend a significant amount of effort on the WLCI in FY 2008 as it cooperates with partner agencies in accomplishing the goals of the WLCI and coordinates with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program to provide projects on private lands.

Streamlining

Nationwide Permits Regional Conditions for AOP and Invasive Species:
The Kansas Field Office successfully campaigned for the inclusion of conditions to prevent the transference of invasive species to or from project sites and for culverts to be installed in such a manner that aquatic organisms can pass though them both upstream and downstream.  We believe that without our involvement neither of these conditions would have been included in the Nationwide Permit Regional Conditions for Kansas.  Partners include Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Kansas City District, Environmental Protection Agency, and Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Stream Mitigation Guidelines- Service Helps Develop Guidelines in Kansas:
The Kansas Field Office has tried for several years to interest other agencies in drafting Stream Mitigation Standard Operating Guidelines (Guidelines) for the state of Kansas.  This year KSFO staff, along with staff from EPA Region 7, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and US Army Corps of Engineers - Kansas City District, formed the core technical group to draft the guidelines.  The Guidelines should result in better and more consistent mitigation and, we believe, will result in additional mitigation over what is currently being approved.  In addition, applicants for Section 404 permits will have the ability to use the Guidelines to get a sense of what mitigation will be required and plan their mitigation prior to submitting an application.  This will benefit the applicant in being able to include mitigation as part of their overall project and costs.  Partners include the US Army Corps of Engineers – Kansas City District, US Environmental Protection Agency, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services, Kansas Dept. of Agriculture – Division of Water Resources, Kansas Dept. of Heath and Environment, Kansas Dept. of Transportation, Kansas Dept. of Wildlife and Parks, Kansas Biological Survey, Kansas Water Office, State Conservation Commission, and the State Association of Kansas Watersheds.

Impacts from Bridge Construction Work Platforms (Interagency Process Review Team) – Service Coordination in Nebraska:
The Nebraska Field Office has been involved in an interagency review team working together towards understanding agency roles and responsibilities related to bridge construction and the applicable laws for such a project.  Recent compliance issues on several construction projects have raised concerns not only for the transportation agency but the resource agencies in regards to impacts to fish and wildlife.  The participants include the Federal Highway Administration, Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR), Nebraska Association of General Contractors, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  The team’s goal is to review NDOR’s current policies and implementations of bridge construction work platforms and conduct a “best practices” review of work platforms and related policies used by other states.  The team has also evaluated costs associated with the different types of work platforms that minimize cost and comply with environmental regulations and educated one another on their various roles and responsibilities.  The final outcome of this group will be policy recommendations to be incorporated into future NDOR construction. 

Interagency Streamlining Efforts on Transportation Projects impacting Bald Eagle, Interior Least Tern, Piping Plover, and Whooping Crane:
The Nebraska Field Office has been involved in the development of survey protocols for a number of species found near or on transportation related projects.  Survey protocols are now being implemented into transportation projects that have the potential to impact the bald eagle, interior least tern, piping plover and whooping crane.  These protocols were developed with the cooperation and participation of the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR), the USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC), and the Service.  NDOR receives federal funds from the Federal Highway Administration and also obtains Department of the Army (DA) permits on many projects.  These survey protocols are now easily implemented into the project early in the process review by NDOR and are also part of the construction contract.  Reports of the monitoring survey results are submitted to each agency many times on a weekly basis.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has also implemented these survey protocols as permit special conditions for the transportation associated DA permits.  Additionally, during the whooping crane spring and fall migration, the Service, with the assistance of NDOR and the Commission, have established a contact network so as to alert construction projects, particularly located within the Central Flyway, of known observations of the whooping cranes so as to not only prevent disturbing those birds that may be roosting near a project, but also in an effort to alert the construction project managers so as to prepare for the next day’s activities and plan ahead for any potential construction delays.

Cedar River Bank Stabilization Project, Nebraska:
With the assistance of Senator Chuck Hagel’s staff, the Nebraska Field Office (NEFO) has worked out streamline conservation measures with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to implement bank stabilization projects along Cedar River that are funded with section 319 of the Clean Water Act funds.  Conservation measures include:  1) assessment of whether erosion problems exist by a team made up of federal, State, and Natural Resource District biologists and engineers; 2) recommendations for the type of erosion control (i.e., bio-engineering, soft structures, hard structures) if a problem exists; 3) seasonal restrictions during whooping crane migration, bald eagle nesting, and migratory nesting season.  The NEFO became involved with the project through a proposed general permit for the Cedar River Basin for bank stabilization by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).  The NEFO raised concern with the Corps due to the lack of adequate measures for protection of federal trust fish and wildlife resources, including federally listed species.  Through the general permit review process, the NEFO found out that the projects were being funded through section 319 funds.  The NEFO requested EPA to consult under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. EPA refused, which led to the Corps not issuing the general permit.  After several recipients of the 319 funds complained to Senator Hagel’s office, his office persuaded EPA to consult with the NEFO.  The results of the NEFO’s efforts and conservation measures being incorporated into the section 319 grants and general permit has resulted in several miles of the Cedar River not being stabilized while protecting fish and wildlife resources.  The conditions of the 319 grants and general permit are regulated via the State and overseen by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission biologists, thus not requiring the NEFO to review each application and allowing its staff to work on other high priority work assignments.

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Northern Natural Gas Memorandum of Understanding, Nebraska
The Nebraska Field Office (NEFO) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Northern Natural Gas Company (NNG) to streamline pipeline repair and replacement projects in Nebraska that would have no effect on federal trust fish and wildlife resources, including federally listed species.  In addition, if work would occur during migratory bird nesting season, and habitat where the work would occur was suitable for nesting birds, surveys for nesting birds would be completed.  If active nests were found, work would not commence until the birds fledged.  In lieu of surveys, no work would occur in suitable habitat until after the nesting season.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requires NNG to consult with the Service for any activity involving natural gas pipeline repair or replacement.  The MOU will mean that the NEFO will not have to review hundreds of benign projects that we otherwise would be required to do.

Lower Platte River Water Depletions, Nebraska:
Nebraska Field Office staff along with Regional Office staff, Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, is in the process of developing streamlined consultation procedures for depletive water projects that will tier from the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program.

Communication Tower Reviews Streamlined in Nebraska:
The Nebraska Field Office (NEFO) reviewed over 200 communication towers proposals and provided comments to avoid or minimize adverse affects to federally listed species and migratory birds.  Several project proponents changed the design of their project from tall (over 200-foot tall) guy-wire towers to low (under 200-foot tall) self-supporting towers after consulting with the NEFO.  Many companies have been very cooperative in agreeing to build self supporting instead of guyed towers.  If guyed towers are constructed, the wires are marked with visual markers and the towers are lighted according to Service recommendations if possible.  The construction of self supporting towers helps to avoid adverse impacts to the whooping crane, least tern, bald eagle and piping plover, and other migratory birds.  In addition, the NEFO worked with several cellular telephone companies to develop criteria that if the companies’ projects met would reduce or eliminated the need for NEFO’s review.  The NEFO’s negotiation efforts with US Cellular and Viaero Wireless resulted in several hundred communication tower projects being cleared from NEFO review due to their benign impacts to federal trust fish and wildlife resources.  The NEFO’s negotiation efforts also resulted in the companies willing offering to either build shorter self-supporting towers in areas that the NEFO recommended may impact migratory birds or listed species. 

Advance Coordination of Clean Water Act Permits with Corps of Engineers in N. Dakota:
The North Dakota Field Office (NDFO) attends bi-weekly Corps of Engineers (Corps), Interagency Coordination Meetings (ICM).  The ICM provides the opportunity to discuss CWA 404 /Section 10 projects prior to the Corps official Public Notice process.  Early information exchange (pre-application meetings) between the resource agencies and project proponents results in projects being modified to reduce the environmental impacts to waters of the United States.

Garrison Diversion Unit, North Dakota:
The North Dakota Field Office coordinates the transfer funding agreements (approximately $714,000) for Service operation and management of over 23,000 acres of Garrison Diversion Unit (GDU) mitigation lands as well as Arrowwood NWR and Audubon NWR refuge mitigation features.  Staff are partnering with Reclamation and North Dakota Game and Fish Department (Department) in the Dakota Interagency Review Team (DIRT) to find ways to support management operations and\or maintain the ecological equivalency of the GDU mitigation and enhancement lands in the most cost-effective manner possible.  A DIRT committee charter was signed by Ecological Services, Refuges, Reclamation, and the Department to outline the mission, scope and boundaries, and goals and objectives for the DIRT. 

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:
Kansas Field Office staff participated on the team to test the Great Plains Supplement wetland delineation manual in comparison to the 1987 manual criteria.  The exercise was a great partnership building exercise for the participating agencies which included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.  The team studied floodplain wetlands, in-stream wetlands, seep and spring wetlands, saline wetlands, and playas--all important to migratory birds--in three regions of western Kansas.  Testing revealed that some wetlands under the 1987 criteria will not meet the criteria under the Great Plains supplement.

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:
The Nebraska Field Office (NEFO), in coordination with the Division of Migratory Birds and Law Enforcement (LE) developed a procedure for project proponents to follow that would keep them in compliance with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) during the nesting season.  Since MBTA does not allow for the unintentional take of eggs or young.  However, some construction projects can only be implemented during the nesting season.  Both the NEFO and LE recognized the need to allow some projects to move forward despite a minor level of take as long as the project proponent has addressed all possible measures to avoid and minimize take of migratory birds.  The procedures developed were approved by the Regional Director for Region 6 on January 5, 2007, and have been implemented successfully twice this past year.  This process emphasizes the need for early planning and avoidance before any type of take is allowed by LE. 

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Conditioning Clean Water Act Permits to Comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in Nebraska:
The Nebraska Field Office (NEFO) has worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) (Regulatory Program) to develop conditions for Department of the Army permits so that permittees comply with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).  The Corps permit condition requires permittees whose projects would impact suitable habitat for nesting migratory birds to conduct nest surveys and report their findings to both the NEFO and Corps.  The Corps then relies upon the NEFO to dictate the conditions to either continue constructing in accordance to the permit or wait until the eggs have hatched and young have fledged.  For those projects where a project proponent has taken measures to avoid impacting nesting migratory birds and only a small number of eggs or young of common bird species would be impacted, the NEFO would recommend the permittee follow the “Procedures for Compliance of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in Nebraska” that was approved by the Regional Director for Region 6 on January 5, 2007.

City of Omaha, Nebraska Pedestrian Bridge - Lighting Considerations for Migratory Birds:
The Nebraska Field Office completed informal section 7 consultation on the development of the Omaha Pedestrian Bridge located in the Omaha metropolitan area, crossing the Missouri River.  The project proponents include the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the City of Omaha, and Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR).  Potential adverse impacts were identified for endangered pallid sturgeon, least tern, threatened piping plover, and previously listed as threatened, bald eagle.  Impacts to migratory birds due to the area being considered a major corridor were also identified.  During the environmental review process, the project area’s impact was determined to have no effect to listed species.  However, during development of the final design phase of this bridge, migratory bird concerns were again raised and the Service has worked with the City of Omaha on how this project could minimize impacts, specifically lighting.  The City has chosen to incorporate several of these recommendations into the lighting of the bridge including not using red beacon lights and minimizing illumination by specific use of directional lighting (only parallel lighting will be used, no vertical).  The City is still considering limiting lighting time periods during spring and fall migration seasons.

Rowe Sanctuary Transmission Lines, Nebraska:
The Nebraska Field Office partnered with the Dawson Public Power District, National Audubon Society, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, University of Nebraska at Kearney, and The Crane Trust to reduce mortality of migratory birds occurring at two transmission lines that cross the central Platte River.  Nearly two miles of transmission lines extend across the Platte River and its floodplain at the National Audubon Society’s Lillian Annette Rowe Sanctuary.  Avian power line diverters were installed on the transmission lines in the river channel and floodplain to reduce the level of mortality occurring in this area.  An abundance of sandhill cranes and waterfowl die or are severely injured following collisions with the lines as they use restored habitats at Rowe Sanctuary. 

Raptor Electrocution Streamlined Reporting and Problem Solving in Nebraska
The Nebraska Field Office (NEFO), in coordination with the Law Enforcement (LE) personnel and representatives from Nebraska Rural Electric Association (NREA), has developed a streamlined process for raptor powerline electrocution/collision reporting.  This streamlined process enables members of the NREA (i.e., rural public power districts [PPDs]) to easily report and fix powerlines at raptor electrocution/collision locations. Benefits from the streamlined reporting process were numerous and included:  a) a convenient yet effective reporting system for the PPDs; b) increased PPD awareness of the reporting system; c) quicker technical assistance response time from the NEFO; and d) efficient transfer system to LE for cases of potential criminal takings (i.e., shooting, poisoning, etc.).  Benefits to raptors include the structural modifications to power line facilities where an electrocution or strike of a raptor had taken place.  These efforts resulted in modifications to over 30 power line structure and reduction in the number of mortalities attributed to electrocution and strikes.   

Reducing Migratory Bird Collisions – Coordinating Studies in North Dakota
The NDFO is cooperating with Audubon NWR and Western Area Power Authority in conducting a bird collision study,  “Efficacy Testing of Line Marking Devices for Avian Collision Reduction” designed to evaluate the effectiveness of various types of bird flight diverters in reducing the incidence of birds being killed or injured by colliding with electric transmission lines.  The results of this study could have world-wide significance for the protection of migratory birds, especially those species with declining populations.  This six year, $1.3 million study is scheduled to be completed in October 2008.

Coordinating Migratory Bird Conservation with National Forest Service in Utah
The Utah Field Office has worked with the National Forests in Utah to develop a state-wide Memorandum of Understanding pursuant to E.O. 13186.  This has promoted good interagency conversation, and raised some important issues regarding incidental take and overall benefits to migratory bird species versus the loss of individual birds.  The MOU has not yet been finalized.

Fish Passage

Coordinating Fish Passage in Utah
The Utah Field Office has worked cooperatively with the US Forest Service, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and a local municipality to address fish passage needs at the diversion structure of a FERC hydroelectric project in northern Utah.  The Utah Field Office is also working with the Ute Indian Tribe, Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to provide fish passage at a tribal-owned diversion structure on the Duchesne River.

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Other

Schilling Wildlife Management Area Backwater Habitat Project, Nebraska:
The Schilling Wildlife Management Area (WMA) Backwater project is the result of a section 7 consultation and Department of Army (DA) permit review conducted by the Nebraska Field Office (NEFO) as a conservation measure for the Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD) of Omaha’s Department of the Army permit.  Conservation measures for the DA permit required the MUD to provide approximately $1 million for habitat improvement near the confluence of the Platte/Missouri Rivers to offset adverse impacts due to MUD’s well field expansion near the lower Platte River.  The Schilling WMA Backwater project is a created backwater area on the Schilling WMA that connects to the Plattsmouth Chute project for the benefit of the endangered pallid sturgeon.  Many fish species are expected to benefit from the new habitat, including bottom-dwelling species, which serve as a food source for pallid sturgeon. Juvenile fish of prey species will move from the backwater into the Missouri, where they will become available to pallid sturgeon. Implementation of the conservation measures recommended by the NEFO and construction of the project was complete in FY-2007.  The completed project resulted in a 9,300-foot long, 150-foot wide, 18-foot deep backwater channel northeast of Plattsmouth in Cass County.

Tri-Basin Natural Resources District Lost Creek Diversion #1 Discharge Management Plan, Nebraska
Lost Creek Diversion #1 is a cooperative effort between Tri-Basin Natural Resources District (NRD), Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District (CNPPID) and the Nebraska Field Office.  Landowners along Lost Creek in northern Kearney County, Nebraska suffer from high groundwater levels and periodic lowland flooding.  These landowners would benefit if Tri-Basin NRD could divert flood flows of Lost Creek into North Dry Creek, where they would reach the Platte just upstream from the Kearney (Hwy. 44) bridge.  Diverting these flows would reduce flooding and reduce high groundwater problems in the area of concern along Lost Creek.  The project can also supply water to augment Platte River streamflows for the benefit of federally listed threatened and endangered species and designated critical habitat.

Conservation Planning Assistance – FY07 Activities at South Dakota Field Office
Environmental Reviews: 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.  South Dakota ES Office reviewed NEPA documents for the Dakota Prairie Grassland’s Grand River Ranger District and the Hell Canyon and Northern Hills Ranger Districts of the Black Hills National Forest revised grazing allotment management plans.  

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.

Region 7

Anchorage Field Office

Using a Green Infrastructure Approach in Alaska’s Fastest Growing Area:
The CPA Program is in the early stages of developing a Green Infrastructure (GI) Plan in the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Borough.  About the size of West Virginia (24,000 square miles), the Mat-Su Borough is the fastest growing area in Alaska with the population doubling every 10 years.  At the same time, the Mat-Su’s hundreds of miles of streams are filled with hundreds of thousands of salmon that support recreational, commercial, and subsistence fisheries worth millions of dollars, as well as bald eagles and brown bears.  The first step was to sponsor a local course in March 2007, “Strategic Conservation Planning Using a Green Infrastructure Approach.” The class was well-received by all who attended (see list below).  The Borough is moving quickly to adopt the principles of GI, and now require that all private or public entities involved in public facility construction or community planning include a GI component.

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.  

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Cooper Lake Hydroelectric Project Relicensing - Alaska: 
FERC issued a new 50-year license for the Cooper Lake Hydroelectric Project, located near Cooper Landing on the Kenai Peninsula, in Alaska in August 2007.  The project is located in the Kenai River watershed, the most heavily utilized recreational river in Alaska.  People from all over the world fish the Kenai River for trophy salmon and trout, and the river supports significant commercial, sport and personal use fisheries.  FERC agreed with the negotiated Settlement Agreement, which is a win-win solution for all involved.  Cooper Creek fish habitat will be restored while power generation will be increased by about 10 percent.  Habitat and species benefits include restoration of 4.5 miles of Cooper Creek by making habitat conditions suitable for spawning and rearing of chinook, coho, sockeye, and pink salmon, and rainbow trout.  In addition, Chugach Electric has agreed to fund recreational and cultural enhancements and to manage the project transmission line to protect nesting migratory birds, brown bear denning, and wetlands habitats.

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). 
Partners Involved:  This license is the result of almost 5 years of work by the Service and our partners- Chugach Electric Association, U.S. Forest Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Departments of  Fish and Game and Natural Resources, Alaska Fly Fishers, Cooper Creek Coalition, Kenaitze Native Tribe, Alaska Center for the Environment, and American Rivers.

PacRim Chuitna Coal, Alaska
The CPA Program is engaged in early project planning on one of the largest landscape-scale mining proposals in Alaska.  The project would potentially impact substantial trust resources (see below), and exemplifies the role played by CPA to engage in development projects on behalf of other Service programs - in this case, the fisheries and migratory bird programs.  The Chuitna Coal project involves development of a 6,000-acre surface coal mine at the headwaters of the Chuit River, about 45 miles west of Anchorage, Alaska, near the Native Village of Tyonek.  The mine will produce 12 million metric tons of coal per year for 25 years.  This proposed project is the first mining area within the 20,571-acre Chuitna Coal Lease Area owned by PacRim Coal.  Development of the mine will require construction of support facilities, including an electric transmission line, road, an overland conveyor system, a housing complex and airstrip, a logistics center and coal export facility, an offshore island for unloading of equipment and materials, and a 10,000-foot trestle into Cook Inlet.

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:
The Anchorage Field Office, using a watershed approach, produced a Field Guide to Anchorage-Area Wetlands with the cooperation of our partners.  The Guide is a substantial revision of a popular book produced approximately 15 years ago by our office, and as a one-of-a-kind resource, the Guide will be widely used and requested by other agencies, teachers, and lay-people.  We have expanded the Guide to include representative wetland types, sites, and plant and animal resources within the entire developed Municipality of Anchorage, a color-coded pull-out map, and information on regulatory terms and processes.  The Guide will provide a much-needed tool for education and stewardship by resource agencies, local governments, and non-governmental organizations.  It is broadly useful to adults and children, teachers and students, residents and visitors, and the resource agencies, realtors, and developers who work in 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:
CPA biologists in the Juneau Fish and Wildlife Field Office worked with others to conduct a program-level review of 234 Small Old-growth Reserves (OGRs) that provide protected forest habitat across eight Forest Service Ranger Districts on the 17-million acre Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska.  In the past, small numbers of reserves were reviewed during NEPA analysis of individual timber sales. This year, all reserves were reviewed in a programmatic, interagency landscape analysis in advance of any timber sales.  By working outside the context of individual timber sales, the interagency group was largely able to avoid controversy over specific forest stands, as has often occurred in the past when proposals to modify OGRs conflicted with timber harvest or road construction plans in the Forest Service’s preferred alternatives.

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.

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Tongass Land Management Plan:
The Juneau Fish and Wildlife Field Office worked closely with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Tongass National Forest to propose and review changes to the Tongass Land Management Plan as part of a court-mandated amendment of the plan. Fish and Wildlife Service comments focused on the Tongass’s Conservation Strategy, which incorporates reserves, corridors linking the reserves, and standards that apply to timber harvest and other activities outside the reserves.

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:
After a lengthy collaborative effort among multiple state, federal, and local agencies, the Federal Aviation Administration signed a Record of Decision in April 2007 committing to a plan that will improve safety of the traveling public while fully compensating for projected losses to the high-value coastal wetland habitat that surrounds the Juneau International Airport. 

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 
The Chena Flats Greenbelt Project is a coalition of residents, property owners and government/non-government organizations seeking to conserve a corridor of wetlands and open space (approximately 700 acres) along the base of Chena Ridge in Fairbanks, Alaska.  The area is privately owned and surrounded by residential and light industrial development, but continues to be used by a variety of wildlife, snow machiners, dog mushers, skiers and walkers.  The coalition’s aim is to work collaboratively with property owners to conserve a portion of this area for the long-term benefit of the community and wildlife. The Fairbanks Conservation Planning Assistance program has actively supported this project by providing GIS support, fish and wildlife data, and technical assistance with grants and permits. 

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:
Collaborating with partners involved in land-use planning at the local level is one of the most important aspects of the CPA program’s shift towards large-scale planning.  An example of this new focus is the CPA effort to establish a watershed association covering the Fairbanks North Star Borough Area.  This association has effectively enlisted the cooperation of the Borough government, and state and federal agencies in the development of riparian management plan.  This work is in its infancy, but the steps have been put in place for the involvement of numerous groups, citizens and agencies to begin collecting the data and discussing the many options for conserving our valuable riparian habitats.  The Borough Mayor and Planning Commission have formally endorsed this effort.

America’s Arctic Focal Area, Alaska
The Fairbanks Field Office CPA program is spearheading a unified, landscape-level approach to conserving fish and wildlife on the North Slope of Alaska.  In collaboration with the North Slope Borough, other agencies, and other Service programs, the principles of Strategic Habitat Conservation will be used to, the Service is initiating workshops with our partners to define the most pressing conservation problems, identify key species, and design conservation action plans.  With climate change already affecting our trust resources, a unified effort by multiple agencies, governments and universities is needed. 

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Tundra Restoration, Alaska:
The Fairbanks Field Office, in cooperation with the oil and gas industry and other state and federal agencies, has developed a program that facilitates the restoration of abandoned drill pads, airstrips and roads on the North Slope of Alaska as new development projects are proposed.  The goal of this program is to begin restoring portions of the existing Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk oil fields as soon as possible, versus waiting until the entire area is abandoned.  By working with other state and federal agencies to identify potential restoration sites throughout the existing field, the industry now has a database of potential restoration sites to consider when planning new developments.  Companies have now accepted the process and routinely propose restoration roughly equivalent to the footprint of proposed new development. 

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.

Region 8

FERC Hydropower

Big Creek Alternative Licensing Process (ALP) Hydroelectric Projects, California
Overview.  On April 12, 2007 a Settlement Agreement was signed for the Big Creek Alternative Licensing Process (ALP) Hydroelectric Projects which consisted of Big Creek Nos. 1 and 2 Project (FERC 2175), Big Creek Nos. 2A, 8, and Eastwood Project (FERC 67), Big Creek No. 3 Project (FERC 120), and the Mammoth Pool Project (FERC 2085).  The Settlement Agreement marks the culmination of a 7-year process to relicense the Big Creek Hydroelectric Facilities located in Fresno and Madera counties within the San Joaquin Watershed in California.  The these projects consist of 7 major, 6 moderate, and 14 minor dams; forming 4 major, 6 moderate, and 14 minor reservoirs, forebays, and diversion pools; and affect 25 bypassed stream reaches involving 16 tributaries and over 135 miles of instream and riparian habitats.  The Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office lead this effort for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

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.

Species and Habitat  Instream flows have been established or increased to improve habitat for fish (rainbow trout, brown trout and hardhead) and other aquatic life (foothill yellow-legged frog, Yosemite toad, mountain yellow-legged frog) in Project streams.  The Agreements will also provide increased protection for special-status species (bald eagle, threatened valley elderberry longhorn beetle) within the Big Creek Project area and mitigate potential impacts that maintenance activities could have on wildlife and plant resources.

Klamath River Hydroelectric Project Relicensing, California and Oregon
The Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office, again, served in FY 2007 as the lead for the Fish and Wildlife Service on the PacifiCorp Klamath River Hydroelectric Project Relicensing in California and Oregon.  Potential resource benefits, in particular fish passage, associated with this Project are significant.  This included coordinating input and comments from the three Service Fish and Wildlife Offices and working closely with NOAA-Fisheries, Department of Commerce (DOC), and Department of Interior (DOI).  In addition to PacifiCorp, this license development has also included coordinating and working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Regional Hydropower coordinator, Native American Tribes (Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa Valley, Klamath Tribes, Quartz Valley Tribe and the Resighini Rancheria of California), California Department of Fish and Game, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Siskiyou County, and non-governmental partners.

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. 

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Discharge of Water from Pyramid Dam into Piru Creek, California
The Fish and Wildlife Service provided guidance to FERC on the manner in which water discharges from Pyramid Dam (for both hydroelectric generation and water supply) could be modified to benefit the endangered arroyo toad (Bufo californicus).  FERC and the dam operator agreed to use their control to simulate natural flows regimes that would restore habitat for the arroyo toad and remove non-native predators.  At the same time, downstream users of the water would get the allotments to which they were entitled and power generation would not be interrupted.  The move toward a natural flow regime involved FERC, water districts, local fishermen, conservation groups, and scientists.  The Service has been actively involved with this project for three years; since the problem with the unnatural flow from Pyramid Dam was brought to our attention and the FERC license renewal was pending.  Formal consultation on the relicensing under the Endangered Species Act section 7 was avoided by the agreement to simulate natural flows in Piru Creek.

Energy

Antelope-Pardee 500kv Powerline, California
The US Forest Service in California was considering the authorization of a 50-year Special Use Easement for Southern California Edison (SCE) to construct, maintain, and operate approximately 12.6 miles of 500-kV transmission line on Angeles National Forest (ANF) lands.  While much of the habitat in this area is characterized by chaparral that was subject to wildfires during the past 5 years and remains in varying states of succession, the project would cross several ephemeral and intermittent drainages, some supporting oak riparian habitat, and would result in temporary disturbance or permanent loss of habitat that supports the endangered California condor (Gymnogyps californianus), arroyo toad (Bufo californicus), and threatened California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii).  The Fish and Wildlife Service worked with the US Forest Service and SCE to develop protective measures for these species, such as pre-construction surveys, monitoring, training of construction personnel, work site restrictions, installation of visibility devices to prevent condor collisions, and implementation of the “Mitigating Bird Collisions with Power Lines:  The State of the Art in 1994,” collision-reducing techniques.  As a result of this collaboration, we were able to protect the federally listed species while expediting the construction of this much-needed energy transmission line.

Flood Control

Folsom Dam Safety and Flood Damage Reduction Project, California
Overview.  The Corps of Engineers has been conducting a multipurpose evaluation of opportunities to reduce flood risk and damage in the greater Sacramento area and the Bureau of Reclamation has been investigating dam safety issues at the Folsom Facilities.  Congress directed the two agencies to continue progress on their investigations toward a joint Federal project.  The combined project is assessing engineering solutions to address hydrologic control and seismic and static issues associated with the main dam and the earthen dikes.  Project benefits include expedited protection of public safety related to the structural integrity of the facilities and improvement of flood risk for the communities along the lower American and Sacramento rivers in 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
Overview.  In early January 2006, severe storms damaged levees in the Central Valley of California.  Water rose again in April and remained high in some parts of the system until June.  The Governor of California declared an emergency and the local District Commander of the Corps of Engineers acknowledged the severity of the damage and declared the repairs would be made on an emergency basis.  In total, 72 sites were identified as critical erosion sites.  In addition, repairs at 266 sites were deferred because they were either rural (44 sites) or non critical (222 sites).  In FY 2007, the critical erosion sites planning and construction was completed and planning for repair of the deferred sites was 90% completed.

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.

Water Supply

Kane Springs Groundwater Development Project, Nevada
Overview.  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposes to issue rights-of-way (ROW) to the Lincoln County Water District (LCWD) to construct and operate the Kane Springs Valley Groundwater Development Project in Nevada. BLM's approval of a ROW would allow LCWD to construct infrastructure required to pump and convey up to 5,000 acre-feet of groundwater from the carbonate aquifer of the Kane Springs Valley Hydrographic Basin for delivery to the Coyote Spring Valley area. Project facilities would be located in southern Lincoln County, Nevada, within or immediately adjacent to the utility corridor established by the Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation, and Development Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-424). Project construction would occur in three phases with 1 to 3 years between phases. Build out would include: up to 7 groundwater production wells, monitoring wells, up to approximately 13 miles of pipeline, a 50,000 gallon forebay water storage tank, a 700,000 gallon terminal storage tank, and approximately 13 miles of transmission line. The Service has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with BLM to participate as a Cooperating Agency in preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement for this project.
 
Partners.  Other partners include the Nevada Department of Wildlife and Moapa Valley Water District. 

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
In 2001, the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Irrigation Project (Project) in Oregon and California, which provides water to about 240,000 acres and 1,200 farms and ranches, was mostly shut down because there was insufficient water for endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers, coho salmon, and for the Project.  In an effort to minimize the effects of future droughts on the Project water users, the Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife Office has been working with the Bureau of Reclamation, Project water users, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and US Geological Survey to improve water supply forecasting, implement water conservation measure, look for additional water supplies, implement drought planning, and find new ways to manage the Project so more water is available for consumptive use while protecting federally listed species.  As a result of this planning, a new section 7 consultation for the Project has been prepared that will make the effects of drought less catastrophic. 

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Streamlining

Fremont-Winema National Forest Noxious Weeds Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Oregon
Invasive plants are currently damaging the ecological integrity of lands within and outside the Fremont-Winema National Forest.  The Fremont-Winema National Forest is preparing an EIS to address treatments of noxious weeds in Klamath and Lake Counties in Oregon.  Treatment areas encompass approximately 156,000 acres.  Within these areas, 22 different invasive plant species comprise 4,274 known and mapped invasive plant sites covering about 7,700 acres.   However, the spread of invasive plants is mostly unpredictable and actual locations of target species are likely to change over time.  Treatment Areas include National Forest System (NFS) lands, Forest Service Road rights-of-way through other ownerships, and, in some cases, adjacent private lands.  With private landowner cooperation, the proposal would provide the option to use federal funds to treat invasive plants on adjacent private lands both inside and outside the National Forest boundary.  Use of federal dollars on private land would be considered for high priority species, populations overlapping both ownerships, and sites with high potential for spread across boundaries, such as those in road corridors and areas burned by wildfire. 

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 Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife Office is working with the Fremont-Winema National Forest to address the risk of wildfire in the wildland urban interface around the community of Rocky Point, Oregon.  There are approximately 10,966 acres of federal and private lands within the boundary of the project area.  Forest Service lands total approximately 9,845 acres.  All the lands included in the project are covered by the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP).   The Westside project is primarily a fuel reduction project, but it is also intended to protect and improve northern spotted owl, bald eagle and Lost River and shortnose sucker habitat, and enhance old-growth forest characteristics.

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:
During FY 2007, the Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife Office worked with the State of Oregon, and federal and private cooperators to develop a better understanding of the biology and genetics of Klamath Basin bull trout.  Upon completion, this project will provide a more accurate description of genetic variation within and among local bull trout populations.

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 Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife reviewed the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Revision of the Resource Management Plans of the Western Oregon Bureau of Land Management Districts in FY 2007.  The DEIS analyzes the effects of management alternatives on 2.2 million acres of BLM-administered lands in western Oregon.  The BLM proposes to revise existing plans and replace the Northwest Forest Plan land use allocations and management direction to meet the objectives of the statutory mandate under the O&C Act.  The Klamath Falls Resource Area portion of the planning area contains 46,900 acres of O&C lands, 174,800 acres of public domain lands, and 3,200 acres of other public lands for a total of 224,900 acres.

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.

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Last updated: February 1, 2010
Fisheries and Habitat Conservation
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