BIOLOGY COMMITTEE MEETING SUMMARY
01/19-20/99

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Biology Committee Meeting

January 19-20, 1999, UDWR, Salt Lake City, UT



ATTENDEES: Larry Crist, Tom Pitts, John Hawkins, Tom Nesler, Paul Dey, Robert Forrest, Frank Pfeifer, Tom Czapla, Angela Kantola, Kevin Christopherson, Mike Hudson, Henry Maddux, Chuck McAda, Bob Muth, Tim Modde, Tom Pruitt, Angela Kantola, Keith Rose, John Shields, Chris Keleher, Gerry Roehm, Bill Miller, Ray Tenney, and Rick Hammel.



Action or "to-do' items are identified by a ">."

Recommendations to the Management Committee are in ALL CAPS.

Items for upcoming meeting agendas are identified by an asterisk (*).



January 19, Convene: 10:00 am



1. Additions/revision to agenda - The agenda was revised as it appears below.



2. Approval of December 3 meeting summary - Changes: Mark Fuller was not at the meeting, Leo Lentsch was. Kathy Holley's list server comments need to be incorporated into #12. Concerns expressed were those of the Biology Committee, not just Frank's and Reclamation's, as implied in the notes. >Larry will provide more information tomorrow morning. Pending minor changes, the meeting summary is final.

3. Finalize recommendations from Pitlick's report - The report was approved but without recommendations. *Tom Pitts asked to table this until the next meeting (2/10-11/99) because the water users have not had a chance to look at it. No other Committee members had outstanding issues.



4. Review report, Distribution, relative abundance, and environmental correlates for age-0 Colorado squawfish and sympatric fishes in the Colorado River (McAda and Ryel). (Available since 11/5/98.) Change squawfish to pikeminnow. Tom Pitts raised a question on the 3rd and 4th conclusions: early in study had low run off and sedimentation in bars, later high flows scoured bars. Drift information indicates moderate and high flow years had good larval collections. Chucks McAda thinks the cleaning of the cobble is important to the production. Clarify "in years with low run off" (#7) rather than after years with low run off. Chuck will rewrite that there was size-dependent mortality when fish went into the winter small. Clarify within-year versus among-years for winter survival. Pitts suggested that the Coordinated Operations study should be looking at this. There appears to be a 2-year effect, Kevin Christopherson noted that Tom Chart also is seeing a 2-year effect, and wondered if it should be incorporated into the recommendations. Discussion led to leaving it as a conclusion for others to look at. Chuck did not have a good idea of a control experiment (Recommendation #2), so the recommendation might be to continue monitoring to confirm the 2-year effect. Tom Nesler suggested an expansion of the recommendation to identify habitat features that are important and a way to test them. Compare Haines population estimate with ISMP, not catch per seine haul. Recommendation is that ISMP should be looking for 1994 year class coming on. Aging of young adults may be necessary. Chuck revised the conclusions and recommendations per the foregoing discussion, and the Biology Committee subsequently approved the document as final.



5. Status reports:



a. Draft reports under revision - Kevin Christopherson handed out UDWR Report Status list (and a revised version the next day). Flaming Gorge (33 and 39) studies will be submitted. Jack Schmidt's geomorphology of Deso-Grey is in draft. Basically there's a three-step process: 1) addressing reviewers comments; 2) integrating the geomorphology; and 3) synthesizing all the information. A target date is needed to get the reports from the Salt Lake City office to the Biology Committee. Part of the concern is how much integration is involved. A third chapter to synthesize the information as a separate chapter. Check the minutes #10. Project 33 needs due dates to the Biology Committee Incorporate coordinator's review time (2 weeks later). On project #43, Trammel and Anderson have not yet met to do their integration. Angela Kantola distributed copies of the most recent "overdue reports" list.



b. Flaming Gorge and Aspinall Integration reports - Larry Crist said they will incorporate all comments received on the Flaming Gorge report by February 1; it will go to the Biology Committee by March 1; then a draft biological opinion will be available by the end of the calendar year. Frank said completion of the Aspinall integration report will depend on when the remaining Utah reports are received.



c. Genetics reports - Tom Czapla distributed a letter from Bruce DeMarais saying he would submit the Gila report by March 15, 1999. Tom also distributed a revised draft of the Colorado pikeminnow genetics report, which is being distributed to the Biology Committee and the Genetics Panel at the same time. The Biology Committee will discuss the report after they receive the Panel's comments. Tom Czapla distributed Douglas' 1995 morphological report with the 1997 peer review comments. *The Committee will discuss this at their next meeting (the report has already been published in a journal).



d. Green River Stocking Plan - Henry commented that he thought Leo was going to give his office a copy early so that they could meet with the State and work out any bugs before it came to the Committee, but that didn't happen. Kevin Christopherson distributed copies of the draft report for Committee review. *Henry asked that this report be a priority for review and approval at the next Committee meeting. >Tom Czapla said he'll provide a copy of this report to the ad hoc propagation facilities group so that they can begin to consider facilities needs.



6. Genetics Management Plan - Tom Czapla distributed a revised plan with an outline of how he addressed the comments he received. Tom Pitts questioned why the lower Green River razorback stock is considered priority 2 when it is shown as declining with a high probability of extinction. John Hawkins noted that we haven't made clear what the priorities mean (stocking priority or something else?). Frank Pfeifer said he sees them as priorities for developing broodstock; and that stocking plans, not this Genetics Management Plan, identify the needs for stocking. John Hawkins said he believes this document should contain a "decision tree" for whether or not to bring fish into refugia and/or stock them. The Committee discussed the columns in tables 2-4 and made recommendations for changes. >Tom Czapla will make these revisions and submit the document to the Genetics Panel for review.



7. Removal of razorback suckers from Green River for broodstock development (see January 5,1999 e-mail to committee from Tim Modde/Tom Czapla and September 1-2 Biology Committee meeting summary for background) - Tim Modde noted concerns that: 1) we may be removing more male razorbacks than necessary; and 2) razorbacks brought into the hatchery from the wild should be put back in the wild if they don't spawn the first year. Frank encouraged keeping proven female spawners in the hatchery because: 1) Green River razorbacks may be used to produce fish to stock in the Colorado River; and 2) we may have to do half-sibling matings for the Green River if we're unable to attain the 25x25 individual paired matings. The Committee agreed that all females collected pre-spawn will be brought into captivity, fish that don't spawn (males or females) will be returned to the wild. Up to (but not exceeding) three males will be collected for every female collected, and used as needed for crosses this year, after which sperm will be collected from all males and cryo-preserved. All males will subsequently be returned to the wild. For post-spawning collections, we'll keep all suspected females collected up to about 2 weeks post-spawning. If we achieve the 25x25 matrix, we'll still bring fish in because they can be used to produce fish for Colorado River stocking. All adult razorbacks collected from the wild will be held at Ouray NFH (not At Wahweap as was discussed previously when Ouray did not have adequate facilities).



The Committee discussed the 1998 razorback lot with 10,000 fish and decided to grow them one more year because we have the capacity at Wahweap. In future years, if we have lots with excessive fish, we may consider stocking larvae into depressions, etc., if we become space-limited.



The Committee discussed collecting larval razorbacks with light traps; Tim and Kevin will look at ways they can coordinate this effort.



>The Program Director's office (Tom and Angela) will summarize the foregoing into a policy and send it to Larry who will distribute it.



8. Utah's Stocking Plan - Mike Hudson gave an overview of the plan, which is for razorbacks in the Green and Colorado rivers in Utah, and also addresses bonytail stocking (from a facilities standpoint). (The plan also notes that there's no need to stock Colorado pikeminnow in Utah.) Mike said the plan's three alternatives have two assumptions: 1) the desired number of individuals can be produced; and 2) that natural reproduction and recruitment occurs in the population. Alternative 1: Stock age-1 razorbacks in the spring, and anticipate meeting the IMO goal by the seventh year. This alternative uses currently available facilities. Alternative 2: Under this alternative, the age-1 fish to be stocked under Alternative 1 would be allowed to grow out another year, and the IMO goal would be met in the tenth year. This alternative also uses currently available facilities. Alternative 3: Under this alternative, the age-1 fish to be stocked under Alternative 1 also would be allowed to grow out another year, but the IMO goal would be met in the eighth year if grow-out facilities were doubled at Wahweap.



Frank questioned counting on plan's second assumption since the wild population isn't really recruiting now. Mike countered that the problem right now is that we have too few fish for recruitment and that we have very high predation rates. Tom Pitts questioned the reason for stocking fewer fish than needed to achieve the IMO targets, and thus taking longer to achieve the IMO's (understanding, of course, that the IMO's are not recovery targets). The Committee encouraged Utah to run some scenarios where natural recruitment doesn't kick in right away, and Utah agreed.



Tom Nesler noted two major inconsistencies in Colorado and Utah's plans (different survivorship curves and the use of IMO's as the targets) and suggested that we need to justify why we're taking different approaches.



Utah will assume that they'll try to begin the stocking this year (so that's the starting point). >Committee members will submit comments to Utah (preferably via the listserver) by COB on Wednesday, January 27 and Mike Hudson will try to get a revised draft to the Committee before the *Feb. 10-11 meeting.



9. Prioritization of Capital Projects - *>Henry Maddux will put together a list for the Committee to consider at their next meeting, with emphasis on growout ponds to meet the needs of the stocking plans.



10. Nonnative screening - Tom Nesler noted that we may need to develop standard criteria for nonnative screening. How are Utah and Wyoming implementing the nonnative procedures? Kevin said Utah has been taking a case-by-case approach, and takes into consideration the likelihood that a screen will be maintained. Tom said that right now in Colorado, we're holding a private landowner to a higher standard (3/32") than we're contemplating on Highline (1/4" due to cost and feasibility). However, evaluation on a case-by-case basis has some merit because impacts depend on where the pond is located, what nonnative species may escape, the release pattern, etc. Tom Nesler said that meanwhile, their bottom line will be aiming for a net reduction in nonnative fish escapement. Henry said he does think we need to develop a criteria and that >this should be a priority for the nonnative fish/instream flow coordinator.



Adjourn 5:00 p.m.



January 20, Convene: 8:30 am



11. 11. Review report Determination of habitat availability, habitat use and flow needs of endangered fishes in the Yampa River between August and October (Anderson, Irving, Miller and Modde) - Tim Modde introduced the report, discussing the curve break methodology used, and emphasizing that the 93cfs is a recommendation for baseflow management, not an absolute minimum flow recommendation. Below 93 cfs, there's a rapid loss of habitat available to the fish. The 93 cfs is really a reference gage. (Tim noted that where the report still refers 93 cfs as a "minimum flow recommendation" in the report, that will be changed). Tim said he and Rick Anderson view the 93 cfs recommendation somewhat differently (Rick believes flows should not be allowed to drop below 93 cfs, whereas Tim believes flows can go below 93 cfs based on the historical record), so that's why the recommendation is written the way it is.



Tim outlined two elements of fish passage in this study: barriers to return migration; and movement between riffles during baseflows. >The Committee asked about the physical passage study, and Ray Tenney said he would distribute copies of the USGS hydraulic study on passage to the Committee members. For informational purposes, >Ray also will send the Committee members a copy of Bill Millers' final report on the telemetry portion of this study (the data from this report are incorporated into the Anderson, Irving, Miller, and Modde report).



Paul Dey distributed written comments. Bill Miller outlined the process/reasoning used to select the hydraulic/channel variables used in the curve break analysis. The Committee asked several questions about (and discussed at some length) passage, habitat analyses, and use of previously collected data. Tom Nesler suggested that the executive summary should refer to presumed foraging behavior in the discussion of nighttime riffle activity. Tom Nesler pointed out that the report refers to recovery of the Yampa River endangered fishes, implying that the Yampa River populations are currently inadequate, yet we haven't identified where the Colorado pikeminnow and humpback chub are at now and where they need to be. Henry suggested that the report instead refer to contribution to recovery of the species as a whole. Paul questioned the large gaps in the lower range of the flow simulations (20 cfs instead of 5 or 10 cfs) (see page 42), and suggested that finer scale modeling might be appropriate around the range of the 93 cfs reference number (Paul will discuss his question with Rick Anderson who did these runs). John Hawkins asked if simulations should not also have been run over a larger range (through 500 or 600 cfs instead of just to 300 cfs) to see if other curve breaks may occur above 300 cfs. Frank suggested the report needs to make a stronger connection between the 93 cfs reference point and the biology of the fishes in order to strengthen the authors' argument that a water management plan is needed to prevent baseflows from increasingly dropping below that point in future years.



Written comments are due to Tim (either directly or via the listserver) by February 5, with copies to Rick Anderson (rick.anderson@state.co.us), who is not subscribed to the listserver. *The Committee will discuss this report again at their next meeting.



12. Discussion of potential need for baseflow augmentation in Yampa River during late summer and early fall. (Recommendations requested by Management Committee) - Before the Committee can address this question again, they need to consider Tim's final report as well as the hydrology information pending from Ray Tenney. Until that time, the Committee's previous position stands (baseflow augmentation from peak flows is not required). In March, the Management Committee has to make a decision on whether to continue with the Yampa Management Plan.



13. Review of proposed FY 99 Duchesne SOW - This will be on the regular scope of work approval schedule in the future, so the draft FY 2000 scope will be due in April 1999. Working hypotheses, tasks, and objectives that already have been addressed should be identified as such (perhaps via a matrix that identifies which tasks are being addressed in which years). The Committee requested some minor revisions to the scope of work. Tim noted that although this study will use curve break analysis such as on the Yampa, they also will be collecting more habitat availability data through the hydroacoustic mapping. Committee members again stressed the need to make a strong connection to the biology of the fishes. Tim emphasized that when we look at what fish are doing now to make that connection, we're often observing fish behavior in sub-optimum habitat. Tom Pitts asked that >the geomorphic portion be reviewed by the geomorphic review panel and that the Biology Committee be provided copies of their comments. In light of the expense of radio-telemetry of razorbacks (in terms of potential mortality), John Hawkins encouraged additional on-the-ground monitoring of telemetered fish. Frank recommended that we fulfill our broodstock management goals (as defined by the Committee yesterday) before using any fish for radiotelemetry, and Tim agreed. The Committee approved the scope of work with the modifications discussed. >Any specific additional comments may be submitted to Tim with a copy to Kevin Christopherson by January 28. >They will modify, finalize, and distribute the scope of work.



Tim asked the Committee if they would approve attaching external transmitters to razorbacks as part of a USGS study on the Green River spawning bar and the Committee said no.



ADJOURN: Noon

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