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Fish and Wildlife Service Completes Biological Opinion on Corps’ Interim Operations Plan at Woodruff Dam


September 6, 2006

Jeff Fleming, 404-679-7287
Gail Carmody, 850-769-055

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today released a biological opinion on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Interim Operations Plan (IOP) for water releases at Jim Woodruff Dam into the Apalachicola River, saying it would neither affect survival of the four listed species nor preclude their future recovery.

The IOP describes how the Corps is currently managing available water for release at Woodruff Dam. It was developed over the last several years through informal consultation between the Service and the Corps, and is designed to reduce effects to listed species while also meeting the Corps’ responsibilities to provide water for flood control, navigation, hydropower, recreation, water quality, and fish and wildlife. The Corps requested that the Service consult on the impact of the IOP to listed species in March, 2006. The four species that the Service reviewed in the Biological Opinion are the Gulf sturgeon, fat threeridge mussel, purple bankclimber mussel and Chipola slabshell mussel.

The opinion authorizes a limited loss of individual fat threeridge and purple bankclimber mussels, particularly when flows below the dam drop below 10,000 cfs. However, the Service’s lengthy analysis shows the Corps’ operational plan has both beneficial and negative effects on the species. The Service does not expect any loss of Gulf sturgeon and Chipola slabshell under the IOP.

Under the IOP, the Corps will ensure a minimum flow below the dam of 5,000 cfs during all times of the year. This target has been in place for many years for system operational reasons including protection of a water intake at Schultz power plant; it is also important to the conservation of imperiled species.

Previously, when flows were between 8,000 cfs and 10,000 cfs, the Corps proposed to store 30 percent of the basin inflow and release 70 percent. Under the biological opinion, the Corps will not store basin inflow when inflows are less than 10,000 cfs.

The Corps must also identify ways to minimize harm as new information is collected, develop modifications to the IOP that provide a higher minimum flow to the Apalachicola River when reservoir storage and hydrologic conditions permit, evaluate current status of sediment transport and channel stability in the Apalachicola River so harm to mussels in vulnerable locations could be minimized, and develop a monitoring program for mussels in the action area.

The Service biological opinion makes a number of additional recommendations for discretionary conservation actions that would enhance conservation of mussels and Gulf sturgeon. The entire biological opinion and questions and answers about it are available at on the Service’s web site.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

Map of ACF Basin showing location of the Corpsí damsBiological Opinion and Conference Report on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
Mobile District, Interim Operating Plan for Jim Woodruff Dam and the Associated
Releases to the Apalachicola River -- (pdf)

Questions and Answers, September 5, 2006, Biological Opinion on
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Interim Operations Plan (IOP) for
Jim Woodruff Dam and associated releases to the Apalachicola River -- (pdf)


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