Projects & Activities
Since the TXFWCO has been reestablished their work has been well received by state and other federal agencies. TXFWCO collaborates with other agencies and private entities to implement conservation projects of the National Fish Passage Program (NFPP), the National Fish Habitat Action Plan (NFHAP), as well as establish monitoring plans for several endangered species in Texas.
Big Cypress Bayou American Paddlefish Restoration Project
The Big Cypress Bayou American Paddlefish Restoration Project proposes to evaluate habitat restoration efforts for 40 river miles of Big Cypress Bayou and 27,471 surface acres of Caddo Lake, and their impacts on reintroduction efforts for the Texas state-threatened species, American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula). The American paddlefish is endemic to the Big Cypress Bayou and Caddo Lake, in the Red River drainage. In 1959, Ferrell’s Bridge Dam was completed creating Lake O’ the Pines, and the paddlefish fishery began to decline, and by the 1980’s no paddlefish have been collected.
As early as 2004, a number of stakeholders started meeting to develop a plan for Big Cypress Bayou and for Caddo Lake to establish a more naturalized flow regime, to enhance upland and swamp forest dynamics, bayou channel maintenance, and habitat for native aquatic and terrestrial fauna. These stakeholders include the Caddo Lake Institute (CLI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Northeast Texas Municipal Water District NETMWD, USGS, TPWD, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Cypress Valley Navigation District (CVND), the City of Jefferson, United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and others.
In March of 2013, the precursor of the project started with the release of tagged paddlefish into the area. Each tag will have a unique signal allowing the determination of each fish’s movements over the period of a year. Three stationary telemetry sites have been chosen within the study area. The data recorders located within the telemetry towers will record movement of the radio tagged fish past the towers.
This project also extends into the classroom for students in 20 schools connected with the Jefferson City based Collins Academy. With each fish having a unique tracking device the students have named the fish and will be able to track their fish and follow along with the research. You can follow along with us by visiting the tracking map located at: http://nwrcwebapps2.cr.usgs.gov/paddlefish/Map
The Caddo Lake Institute also has created a page for tracking information on the project at: http://caddolakeinstitute.us/paddlefish_press.html
Phantom Spring Ciénega Restoration Project
Phantom Spring, owned by the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), is an isolated spring located near the west Texas town of Balmorhea. Spring flow from Phantom Spring has continually declined since flow measurements began in the 1940s. Corresponding aquifer levels in Phantom Cave have dropped 2.5 feet in elevation in the last 10 years.
The aquatic habitat in the small spring ciénega at Phantom has been maintained by a pumping system since 2001. The submersible pump system circulated water to the spring pool from about 75 feet back in Phantom Cave. The system was not regularly monitored and the small check dam constructed to maintain water in the spring pool was leaking so severely that the pump system needed constant adjustment to maintain a target water level in the pool. The system experienced several short-term pump failures resulting in extreme conditions in the pool; with a small amount of stagnant water remaining until pumping could be resumed.
In 2011, the TXFWCO and its partners, the Desert Fish Habitat Partnership, the United States Bureau of Reclamation, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and others, completed a habitat restoration project which tripled the size of the ciénega, sealed the leaky check dam, installed two new “spring” water delivery systems, and installed a backup generator and alarm system.
Alamito Creek Restoration Project
The Alamito Creek Preserve Team, consisting of individuals from the TXFWCO, the Trans Pecos Water and Land Trust (TPWLT), Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (PFWP), and TPWD, seek to restore the grassland in the Alamito Creek watershed by removing approximately 200 acres of mesquite and other non-native grasses, and reseeding with native grasses. The invasive vegetation is thought to be lowering the water table and reducing flows in the creek. The creek contains perennial pools that support populations of endemic fishes, amphibians, aquatic invertebrates, and a healthy riparian habitat. As Texas suffers through a period of exceptional drought, the perennial pools are at great risk of disappearing. The lack of water and the deterioration of quality of the remaining water will threaten the native aquatic species. The Conchos pupfish, Chihuahua shiner, and the Mexican stoneroller are indigenous to Alamito Creek and listed as Threatened by the State of Texas.
Devils River Minnow Monitoring
The Devils River minnow Dionda diaboli (DRM) is a threatened fish (USFWS 1999) endemic to a small portion of the Rio Grande drainage basin in Texas and Mexico (Hubbs and Brown 1956; Garrett et al. 1992). Historically, DRM occurred in the Devils River drainage, in three creeks in Texas, and in two small streams in Mexico (Garrett et al. 1992). In 1989, Garrett et al. (1992) found DRM only in the Devils River and in two creeks in Texas and speculated that reduced water flow had diminished the abundance and range of the fish. In 2001, a population had been discovered in Pinto Creek, Kinney County, Texas (Garrett et al. 2004). While the preferred habitat of DRM is fast moving, spring-fed water over gravel (Harrell 1980; Garrett et al. 1992), they tend to be found most often at confluences of spring runs and streams rather than in the springs themselves (Hubbs and Garrett 1990). The TXFWCO conducts two sampling trips per year to monitor the Devils River minnow populations in Texas.
Clear Creek Gambusia
The TXFWCO is working with the Austin Ecological Service Office (AESO), Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery (IDNFH), Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, and others to secure the habitat of the endangered Clear Creek Gambusia at Wilkinson Spring. The species has been of conservation concern since its discovery in 1953, and its Federal Protection predeates the current (1973) Act, and was listed under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966. The species is currently located in a single pool encompassing an area of about 0.35 acres. Clear Creek was seperated into four pools with the construction of dams in the early part of the century. Due to degredation of the dams the pool is currently being invaded by the wetstern mosquitofish which threatens the genetic integrity of the Clear Creek gambusia with hybridization between the species. The pool in which the Clear Creek gambusia reside is on private land and the landowner entered into a cooperative agreement with the USFWS to repair the dam and secure the habitat of the species. The dam is set to be reconstructed.