BIOLOGY COMMITTEE MEETING SUMMARY
03/30-31/99

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FINAL Summary

Biology Committee Meeting

March 30-31, 1999, Grand Junction, CO

ATTENDEES: Larry Crist, Tom Pitts, John Hawkins, Tom Nesler, Frank Pfeifer, Angela Kantola, Kevin Christopherson, Pat Nelson, Chris Keleher, Kathy Holley, Tim Modde, Melissa Trammell, Tom Chart, Bob Muth, Sue Moyer, Gerry Roehm, Steve Meismer, Pete Cavalli, Keith Rose, Paul Dey, Robert Forrest, Tom Czapla, Art Roybal, Ray Tenney, Tom Pruitt, and Mike Hudson.

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 (*).



March 30, Convene: 10:15 a.m.



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



2. Approval of Feb. 10-11 meeting summary - Minor revisions were made; >Angela Kantola will post the revised summary to the listserver.



3. Review/Approve draft final reports

a. Distribution and recapture of razorback sucker stocked in the middle Green River in 1995 (Day & Modde) - Tom Nesler asked why no conclusions were included. Tim said he would add a conclusion statement. Kevin suggested that some of Gordon Mueller's work should be cited; Tim agreed. Noting that the executive summary implies that not enough fish were stocked to evaluate, Kevin questioned the recommendation regarding stocking larger fish (with no mention of stocking greater numbers). Tim will address this. Tim revised the conclusions and the Committee made some minor comments and approved the report and the recommendations as final with those revisions.

b. Flaming Gorge Studies: Assessment of Colorado pikeminnow nursery habitat in the Green River Reports A, B, C & D (Trammel, Christopherson, et al.) Tom Nesler noted that the "B" report recommends that a primary consideration for a flow recommendation should be to form and maintain as many secondary backwaters each year as possible, but that seems to contradict what's said in report "C." The authors will modify that recommendation (pg. B-28). Tom Nesler questioned the basis for the conclusion regarding nonnative fish (page XV), since the data from this report didn't find a strong correlation. Melissa will delete the first sentence. On page XVII, the report says that habitat availability is not a good predictor of year class strength; based on this, Tom Nesler said the Committee may want to consider whether we can support including habitat indices into the IMO's. John Hawkins asked about the recommendation on page XVIII of the synopsis section regarding matching of the timing of the Green and Yampa river peaks. Kevin said they would clarify that this refers to creating Colorado pikeminnow habitat. Paul Dey asked what measure of turbidity the authors recommend including in ISMP (page IX); Melissa said they're recommending considering adding a qualitative visual assessment and will make that clear (and also combine the first two recommendations to make it clear that they believe any backwater that has depth or turbidity to provide suitable cover should be considered). The Committee accepted the recommendations and approved the report with the inclusion of the foregoing changes. Frank reminded the Committee that the final step for approved reports is printing them in final and distributing them, and reports stay on the "overdue reports" list until this step is completed.

c. Investigations of Potential razorback sucker and Colorado squawfish spawning in the lower Green River 1994 & 1995 (Chart) - Frank asked the Committee how important they believe it is to increase effort to collect razorbacks in the lower Green river? Tom Nesler said that he doesn't see this as a very high priority. The Committee didn't mind retaining the recommendation, but will consider it's relative priority. Frank said that the recommendation to identify and initiate propagation actions seems to imply starting a separate broodstock; Tom Chart will clarify this. Tom Nesler asked that the recommendation to "give this population a higher priority for recovery actions" spell out what recovery actions they're recommending (e.g., incorporate adults or larvae from the lower Green into the Middle Green broodstock). The Committee approved the report and recommendations with the inclusion of the foregoing changes.

d. Aspinall studies: annual assessment of Colorado pikeminnow larval production in the Colorado River, Utah 1992-1996 (Trammel & Chart) - The Committee recommended that both English and metric flow measurements be included in the executive summary and conclusions/recommendations sections of all reports. The Committee approved the recommendations and the report as final with the inclusion of the foregoing change regarding units of measurement.

e. Determination of habitat availability, habitat use, and flow needs of endangered fishes in the Yampa River between August & October (Modde, Miller & Anderson) (also have short discussion here concerning other Yampa reports relevant to the "Need for Augmentation" question.) - Tom Nesler noted that the report still refers to humpback chub as a morph not as a species. Tom wondered if the Service might have concerns about this. Tom Nesler noted that the hypothesis that evening movement is related to feeding still doesn't discuss the possible alternative hypothesis of the cover of darkness, but if the authors don't believe that mention is warranted, he can live with that. Figure 5.1, on page 93 should explain that "number of transgressions" means the number of days the flows were less than 93 cfs. Tom Pitts noted the last three recommendations basically say go out and make calculations based on hydrology, but they don't say why. Tim will incorporate the current recommendations #3, & 4 into one recommendation to "Identify shortages in meeting the recommended 93 cfs low flow." Tim also will clarify what is meant in recommendation #5 (using the language that better explains it in the Feb. 26 response letter). In recommendation #1, add that the management plan should identify options for meeting the low flow recommendation. Recommendation #2 should be clarified to say that the frequency of low flow events under 93 cfs should not increase above the historic record. Tim revised the recommendations and the Committee approved the report and recommendations with those and the foregoing revisions.

Tom Pitts noted that the Biology Committee's 1996 recommendation, "not to store water during spring peak flows on the Yampa in order to augment low flows in the summer or fall" may restrict consideration of additional storage as an option. Since this report suggests considering all alternatives for augmenting low flows, Tom Pitts asked the Committee to rescind our previous recommendation and conclude that storage (from the spring peak) should be considered as one of the options (so that we can then weigh the trade-offs). Frank disagreed, saying we don't have data to support an argument that augmenting base flows with high spring flows would be good for endangered fish recovery. In fact, the data we do have suggests it would be detrimental to recovery efforts to deplete spring peak flows. Other Committee members stated the negative effects of reducing peak flows in the Yampa would also cause recovery problems in the Green River. Keith Rose pointed out that if a storage reservoir is needed, it needs to meet NEPA Purpose and Need on it's own merits and not be tied to endangered fish recovery. The Committee agreed with Frank that we don't have any new information that allows us to change our 1996 decision.

f. Flow effects on humpback chub population in Westwater Canyon (Chart) - The table of contents needs to include the Executive Summary. In the conclusions section, where positive correlations are noted, the correlation factors should be cited. An analysis of historical flow frequency needs to be added (because it's used as a basis for recommendations in the report). Under the fifth item on page 43 where it says "would likely negatively impact," Tom Chart will substantiate that statement and take out the word "likely." With regard to the population estimates on page 44, Tom Nesler asked Tom Chart if he believed the Westwater humpback chub populations could be increased 5-fold (which is what's called for in the IMO's). Tom Chart said that although he thinks we do need to improve our population estimate, he still doesn't think the population could be increased to the IMO levels. Under the first recommendation, the authors will cite the years that the historic flow record refers to. They also will better define wet and dry years (perhaps using something other than snowpack). The Committee approved the report and recommendations with the inclusion of the foregoing revisions.

g. Evaluation of nursery habitat availability & Colorado pikeminnow young-of-the-year habitat use, in the Colorado River, Utah, 1992-1996 (Trammel & Chart) - Tom Nesler questioned the first conclusion under objective #1; Melissa will clarify that she means larval abundance (since "reproductive levels of adults" implies something much broader). The Committee approved the report and recommendations with the inclusion of the foregoing revision.

h. Fish community investigation in the lower Price River, 1996-1997 (Cavalli) - The first sentence of the executive summary (re: historical abundance of pikeminnow, etc.) needs to be qualified (anecdotal data), as does the statement regarding razorback sucker historic abundance on page 15. Frank questioned the sentence in the 1st paragraph on page 14 which says that the Price River is at least as important as any other tributary in the system. This should be changed to "as other similar-sized tributaries in the system" or something similar. Total river miles sampled need to be included in the executive summary. With regard to objective #4 (habitat sampling), Committee members asked if the five sites were representative of the overall habitat and recommended including an explanation of how these habitat sample sites were selected. Frank recommended including a summary of historic hydrograph information (amount of water that the Price historically contributed to the Green, amount that's currently contributed). Keith said that the Bureau's Provo office has this data available. The comment on page 13 that says "successful reproduction of suckers was documented, but it's not clear if pikeminnow spawn" should be modified to say that they found no evidence of pikeminnow spawning in the Price River. The Modde citation about the Duchesne River needs to be clarified, also (no radio-tagged fish were documented in the Duchesne in the winter). Paul Dey asked why no recommendation was made to stock razorbacks; and Pete replied that Paul Holden felt strongly that small rivers are not appropriate places to stock razorback suckers. The Committee suggested that recommendations 1, 2, and 4 be made more specific. The Committee approved the report and recommendations with inclusion of the foregoing revisions.

i. State of Utah stocking plan for endangered fish species of the upper Colorado River basin (Hudson, et al.) - Tom Nesler and Frank Pfeifer commented that the plan seems to offer too many options, rather than recommending one. The Committee recommended simplifying the plan to offer just the one preferred alternative (stocking both small and large fish in an experimental approach). Tom Nesler commented that using the IMO's as the target number for Utah's section of the Colorado River creates a consistency problem because Colorado's targets for their section are based on percent of biomass. The Committee discussed this at length. Mike suggested taking different approaches in Colorado and Utah, and then concentrating on the follow-up evaluations to see how they work. Utah will add a section or paragraph that discusses the differences between the Utah and Colorado plans. This also should address the uncertainty in the IMO numbers. The "current population estimate" (page 6) needs to be qualified (cite the Modde estimate, then explain that the 175 number comes from survival rates used in the IMO's). John Hawkins asked Mike to clarify the sentence that says fish will be checked before release (page 4) to say what will be done if fish don't meet the health protocol. Page 7 discusses what to do if sufficient adults cannot be collected from the middle Green River population; it should clarify the nearest neighbor population (Mohave because not enough fish available from the Colorado broodstock). John Hawkins emphasized that the Program needs to put some real effort into determining how stocking will be evaluated. The reference to "indefinite stocking" (if it's not removed with the extraneous alternatives) will be clarified (Utah is not recommending indefinite stocking). The last paragraph on page 12 should say that subsequent monitoring will then evaluate and evaluation will be done... An executive summary needs to be added to the plan. The Committee asked that these revisions be made and a final version be provided prior to approval. >Utah will provide a revised report by April 15.



4. Land acquisition update - Dave Soker gave a brief update on recent successes in land acquisition activities and distributed copies of the brochure they've developed outlining the bottomland restoration program.



5. Highline screening update - Ray Tenney showed the group the kevlar netting material for the nonnative fish screen at Highline Reservoir. Ray recommended that given the high cost of these kinds of nets, we may want to evaluate the level of nonnative fish escapement before installing them on other reservoirs. Considerable discussion also probably needs to be had regarding the value of the subject sportfisheries, other ways ti reduce escapement, etc. .



6. Coded wire tagging update - Tom Czapla said that 80,000 tags are being shipped to Wahweap and 20,000 to Ouray. Someone from Arizona Game and Fish will help Wahweap tag their 36,000 bonytails next week, then will go to Ouray the following week to assist with tagging 7,000 razorbacks. For FY 2000, we'll need to budget for a tagging machine and detectors.



7. ISMP objectives - Tom Czapla said that the he, Bob Muth, and Henry Maddux are meeting on April 7 to draft strategy/objectives for the Biology Committee's consideration. >Tom will send this draft to the Committee by April 15.



8. Genetic management plan and Colorado pikeminnow genetics reports - Tom Czapla said he has received no comments on the Genetics Management Plan from the Genetics Panel, and from only a few people in the Program. All comments must be submitted by April 7 (via listserver so that everyone has them). Tom Czapla will call the panel members and find out if they will be submitting comments on this plan or the pikeminnow report by April 7 (and will post them to the listserver if they do). >Tom Czapla will revise the document as quickly as possible and provide a revised document to the Committee, presumably by April 15 (if the comments are not too extensive).



9. Buth's draft genetics report - Tom Czapla distributed the report. Tom Czapla will call Buth and ask if this is the report he's sending to the Committee for approval; if the report has been peer-reviewed; if he wants to finalize it, if he's comfortable with it being peer-reviewed in its current state, etc. About $2,000 is still being held and won't be paid until the report is finalized. >Tom Czapla will post what he learns to the listserver.



10. Update on propagation facilities - Tom Czapla said the ad-hoc propagation group met two weeks ago. Although Wydoski estimated that about 1500 lbs. of fish could be grown per acre, based on current experience, the group believes that Ouray and Grand Junction facilities can grow about 750 lbs. per acre, and Wahweap can grow about 1000 lbs. per acre. The group believes that an additional ~300 acres of growout ponds will be needed to meet Colorado's plan for stocking razorback suckers. Quentin B. estimated that at least that much would be needed for the Utah plan. This doesn't seem right since the Utah plan calls for so many fewer fish; Kevin said he thinks that 25+ acres is a more accurate number. The group is working on figuring out the number of acres needed for bonytail. Leota 10 is being looked at for growout. Tom Pruitt noted that the Tribe is using growout ponds for razorbacks in the lower basin and is not seeing the survival that is found in controlled environment hatchery ponds. The ad hoc group also discussed how to produce the F2's and will draft recommendations on this (e.g., pedigree analysis). The propagation work group wondered if we could rely on Dexter for bonytail larvae and not have broodstock at Wahweap. Frank clarified that this Committee has already decided we want an upper basin broodstock at Wahweap, so relying on Dexter is not an option. The propagation work group suggested considering putting the razorback back-up broodstock at the golf course ponds in Page. However, Utah's policy on interstate fish transfer could restrict the ability to bring the fish back to Utah, so for now, the decision was made to keep the backup broodstock at Wahweap.

Tom Pruitt says he has 37 pikeminnow (from Green/Yampa stock used in chemo-reception study) in a pond he'd like to stock. The Biology Committee agreed to stock these fish (they are pit-tagged) into the Green River.

Tom Pruitt said the Ouray hatchery is in 3rd-party arbitration regarding how to solve the problem with the ozone purification system (it's producing permanganate). There's disagreement as to who pays for whatever alternative is selected to resolve the problem. The hatchery building will not be usable for 1999 production. Ouray has re-plumbed the old hatchery building so they can hatch out fry (but then will have to go into ponds or to somewhere else).

Frank Pfeifer said that the contractor's deadline for the Grand Junction pikeminnow hatchery facility is April 16; if they meet that schedule Frank thinks they'll be able to get the re-use system installed and have it ready for streamside-spawned pikeminnow by July 1.



11. Using radio-tagged razorback suckers in levee removal studies; chemoreception report in Program Guidance; request for excess larval razorback suckers.

Pat Nelson said the levee removal group has recommended stocking 36 radio-tagged adult razorbacks into three floodplain depressions along the Green River (to help us learn when in their life history they try to return to the river from the floodplain). There's no additional cost because Tim already has the tags and some of the monitoring will be part of the levee removal evaluation. Frank recommended holding the fish 10 days after radio-tagging, and the Committee agreed. Frank also recommended against mixing the groups (there are 12 fish from a control group; 12 from one chemoreception treatment; and 12 from another chemoreception treatment). The Committee approved going ahead with this stocking but asked for a more detailed description of what will be done (as an amendment to the levee removal SOW) >from Tim Modde by April 15 outlining the proposed monitoring schedule (not just aerial) (still with no additional funds). Ouray can implant the fish next week.

Angela Kantola said that the Program Director's office neglected the including $10K for the chemoreception final report in the FY 00 Program Guidance, but will add that.

Pat noted that FY 2000 Program Guidance calls for stocking some larval razorback suckers in the floodplain depressions; the levee removal evaluation group has asked if surplus larvae are available this year, they'd like to go ahead and put some into these depressions along with the other two size classes. The Committee thought the proposal had merit, but had many questions and asked to see >a scope of work by April 15 to consider at their April 30 meeting.

Kevin said USU would like 500 razorback larvae for a growout/survival experiment. >Kevin will ask for a scope of work for the Committee to consider. Frank asked about the bonytail conditioning report and Mike said he understands it will be done by July. >Mike will send copies of the existing chapters to the Program Director's office.



11. FY 2000 Program guidance - Art Roybal distributed a copy of the revised guidance on pikeminnow overwinter survival. In response to Tom Pitts' proposal to stock humpback chub (submitted to the Management Committee and rejected), the Program Director's office has prepared a scope of work and will develop a "white paper" strategy on humpback chub recovery by December 1999.



12. Schedule next meeting - April 30, 10 a.m. -4 p.m, Salt Lake City at UDWR (>Kevin will arrange a meeting room and try to find a caterer that could bring in lunch to save time).



ADJOURN, March 31, 1999, 11:45 p.m.

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