Minutes of the Southern Division Reservoir Committee meeting

held on July 23-24, 2008 (Cedar Key, Florida)

Old business:

  • minimal Symposium book proceeds because AFS will fund publication costs
  • the Symposium book is in good shape, AFS publications office has been good
  • most papers were accepted and proofs have/are being sent to authors
  • editors are still working with a few authors
  • shooting for a December 2008 publication date

New business:

  • SARP and the Reservoir Committee
    • Robinson gave an overview:
      • follows the North American Waterfowl Management Plan
      • there are 8 objectives, 7 are related to reservoirs
      • if reservoirs are not in the plan they will get no attention
      • each objective needs specific targets (numbers to shoot for, what, and when)
      • targets are specific and help procure funding/protection for priorities
      • the steering committee is looking for these by the end of 2008
      • they would like proposals for a few reservoir projects
      • projects will get prioritized during the funding process
      • each state identified 10 reservoirs that would be good candidates for habitat work
      • listed on handout
      • much discussion about the lakes that were listed and that they were often the top fisheries in each of the states.  The big question was “why are these lakes on the habitat needs list?”  This was revisited on Day 2 as Steve Sammons described the different methods for assigning priorities (see below).
    • Further discussion/comments on Robinson’s overview by the Reservoir Committee:
      • Jackson:  how do we come up with a number/percentage?  Can we measure angler satisfaction?
      • Colvin:  we should relate targets to sportfish management.  We manage reservoirs for sportfish and if we can’t tie our targets to that then we aren’t doing our jobs
      • Sammons:  this isn’t sportfish funding, it’s habitat funding and improvement; we need to think differently by changing the paradigm, although sportfish ultimately benefit
      • Robinson:  duck folks can’t directly tie their habitat work to duck populations.  It is understood that improving habitat will improve fishing
      • Taylor:  funding is most commonly tied to fishing or physical gains and is necessary to gain industry and public involvement
      • Allen:  we need to identify the broad brushes we can apply across many lakes vs. what we can do in a lake to protect current habitat and improve the fishing.  Start with small reservoirs where we can directly measure improvements
      • Janssen and Jackson:  we’re going to need to develop a standardized reservoir habitat assessment protocol; that could be a target (see below)
      • Taylor:  ask Steve Miranda to break down his survey to identify and assess priorities by state
      • Robinson:  it would be good to identify our needs as well as what we have, but, ultimately, we need hard targets making it easier to shop around for funding
      • Slaughter:  described Lake Oconee, GA, SARP project success and how initial seed funding has blossomed into a multi-year $500,000 project

July 24

Addressed/discussed objectives in SARP plan relative to reservoirs and targets; issues from pre-meeting e-mail responses to Sammons were similar to current SARP plan

Objective 1)  Establish, improve, and maintain riparian zones

Targets

1a.  shoreline development
1b.  shoreline stabilization/erosion control

Discussion:

  • Heitman:  all the lakes on the list from the steering committee have some development, can we get some estimates of how much?
  • Robinson:  that is being worked on, but they don’t have that info yet; determining a specific target number for % shoreline protection was discussed
  • Sammons:  suggested using studies from northern natural lakes as a guide until more work is done on reservoirs
  • Janssen:  problem with current studies is the small scale; how to broaden that to an entire reservoir?  Need to define meaningful habitat for different guilds.
  • Robinson:  described the plan as a working document that could be updated as better information became available.
  • Colvin:  suggested that a target could be stated as “x” reservoirs to fall under a reservoir management plan by a specific time rather than aiming for a specific % riparian protection measure

Objective 2)  Improve or maintain water quality (already mentions reservoirs)

Targets

2a.  increase acres of reservoirs that meet designated needs (Clean Water Act) – already in the SARP plan
2b.  reduce the volume of hypoxic zones in reservoirs (increase cold/cool water habitat)
2c.  increase number of dam releases that meet minimum 4ppm of DO
2d.  establish fisheries-based water quality standards
2e.  fish advisories

Discussion:

  • Heitman:  EPA is developing nutrient standards, but we want chlorophyll, DO, phosphorus, and nitrates.  We can’t let regulators setting these standards strip our lakes of things we need for fisheries.  West Point Reservoir was given as an example.  Potential problem is conflict between state agencies (Fisheries WQ vs. water withdrawal WQ)
  • Colvin:  we can’t let targets/standards set by others (e.g., stream folks upstream) have negative effects on what we are trying to accomplish in reservoirs. Some of our needs may conflict with targets set by others and we should
    explicitly point this out
  • Robinson:  this inter-agency conflict may get state agencies talking to each other Colvin and Horton:  letters should be written to fish chiefs and WQ chiefs of each state regarding nutrient benefits to fisheries and possible inclusion in WQ standards
  • Allen:  we need to point out that a single nutrient target doesn’t fit everywhere because lakes naturally vary (e.g., naturally hyper-eutrophic lakes in FL)
  • Heitman:  we need to tie water quality standards to fish and specify targets for each reservoir system that can be different than upstream and downstream.
    Heitman will work on developing a letter or resolution to AFS stating the concerns about considering reservoir fisheries in WQ standards
  • Dennis: suggested dam release minimum flows be considered along with DO because of riverine spawning fish in reservoir chains
  • Taylor and Sammons:  focus on reduction of forebay hypoxic zones, much like focus on tailraces
  • Sykes:  mentioned oxygen injection at Clarks Hill reservoir specifically for reservoir habitat improvement
  • Sammons:  suggested a target such as “by year “x,” we want “y” reservoirs where water quality standards are set by fisheries issues

Objective 3)  Improve or maintain watershed connectivity

Targets

3a.  fish passage
3b.  decrease number of spawning embayments silted in/cut off from main river channel
3c.  increase the amount of boat/angler access to embayments in river-run reservoirs

Discussion:

  • Colvin:  is the boat access target appropriate for a habitat plan?
  • Heitman:  reservoirs are sediment traps, but they are important ecosystems.  We need to point out that all things should not be free flowing
  • Slaughter:  we need to consider the fragmentation of habitat due to siltation and sediment deposition
  • Robinson:  consider downstream sediment & nutrient needs (also see Objective 5)
  • Sammons:  dredging is the short-term fix
  • Other:  be clear that we are in support of fish passage, but not necessarily dam removals because of the services that reservoirs provide

Objective 4)  Improve or maintain appropriate hydrologic conditions for the support of biota in
            aquatic systems

Targets

4a.  increase number of water level management plans that benefit reservoir fisheries
4b.  create water management plans that benefit reservoir fish communities as well as downstream fish communities

Discussion:

  • Sammons:  water level management plans should be watershed scale incorporating downstream minimum flows and levels (MFLs) and lake levels
  • Slaughter:  recommended that releases are based on the amount of inflow for that year and not a long term average
    • downstream MFLs can hurt reservoir fisheries management
    • management plans should decrease the downstream focus
  • Abney:  for FERC dam re-licensing, outflow should depend upon current, natural conditions over the license duration; license articles must address both reservoir and downstream fisheries
  • Sykes:  if people are relying on the water downstream (e.g., industry, municipalities), we can’t hold the water in a lake and deny them
  • Other:  MFLs are not the answer; reservoir targets may conflict with others, a policy related target was suggested such as: “increase the number of lakes with reservoir fisheries considerations in the water schedule by “x” date

Objective 5)  Establish, improve or maintain appropriate sediment flows

Targets

5a.  reduce shoreline erosion (overlaps with Objective 1)
5b.  reduce upstream sedimentation rates to unimpaired rates (NRCS rates)
5c.  remove excessive sediments from upper reservoir and restore lost sediments to downstream systems that suffer from reduction in sediment flows (CO River, MS River, MO River scenarios)

Discussion:

  • Slaughter:  try to identify sediment equilibriums we can live with
  • Jackson:  consider upstream sediment sources and habitat of river spawning fish that reside in reservoirs
  • Heitman:  likely that few reservoirs will not be Clean Water Act 303d impaired because of sediment.  May need to define “beneficial use” of reservoirs in terms of sportfish production because you have to protect a “beneficial
    use,” which would involve nutrients and sediments
  • Horton:  may not be able to do that because of Federal licensing and delegated use
  • Slaughter:  suggested conservation of reservoir created wetlands as a target
  • Sammons:  any need to sluice sediment for downstream needs i/o permanent removal via dredging?
  • Other:  a target could be “reducing the number of acres or segments of reservoirs that are adversely impacted by sedimentation” or reduce sedimentation rates to “natural” or “historical” conditions, with caveat that it will be hard
    to define either

Objective 6)  Maintain and restore physical habitat in freshwater systems

Targets

6a.  habitat barge in every state
6b.  increase complex littoral habitats to cover 15-30% of total reservoir area (based on standards for submersed aquatic vegetation)
6c.  increase/restore spawning/juvenile habitat in reservoirs and create such habitats that would not be dewatered if reservoir was 25% below full pool
6d.  implement at least one demonstration project involving a whole-lake manipulation of littoral complex habitat by 2012

Discussion:

  • Concerns included:  reservoir aging, plants, abiotic habitat, fish attractors, woody debris
  • Sammons:  target juvenile habitats (ex., plantings, gravel, spawning benches) to increase production
  • Abney:  get public, reservoir residents involved with small-scale improvements such as fish-friendly piers (Duke Energy pamphlets) to garner support for larger projects
  • Allen:  we should think big and put all our resources towards a major project done right (see proposed projects below)
  • Robinson:  think of state border waters to get multi-state involvement
  • Other:  establishing 15-30% littoral habitat cover is expensive in big lakes; acquire large stumps from local developers

Objective 7)  Restore or improve the ecological balance in habitats negatively affected by nonindigenous invasive or problem species

Targets

Similar to the current SARP plan, no other target objectives needed at this time

Discussion:

  • Heitman:  be cautious of the terms invasive, exotic, and non-indigenous.  We often use non-indigenous fishes to create fisheries

Other Objective:  Develop standardized habitat assessment for reservoirs

Target

Janssen/Dennis to develop a workable plan able to be discussed by midyear meeting in Jan 2009

Discussion:

  • Heitman:  if we develop a plan, can we tie it to fish populations?
  • Janssen:  developing a protocol isn’t hard, but metrics that matter to the fish and something folks can implement is the challenge; making it broad enough to satisfy all the habitats across systems
    • it has to be a usable product
  • Wood:  The EPA river habitat technique may provide some useful basis
  • Heitman:  did it on Eufala and it took years on a gross scale
  • Sammons:  Frank Fiss developed a protocol for Normandy Lake with 5 habitat types by driving the boat around the shore and mapping it
  • Dennis:  AR has mapped (GIS) and segmented reservoirs (600 m) for random electrofishing, they are going to classify habitats by % dominant and tie that to catch rates
  • Janssen:  TX uses 1/64 acre cells and quantifies habitat as presence/absence
  • Other:  for now the assessment should have the quality of being able to be quickly conducted and can go finer scale from there.  Exotics should be broken out as separate habitat types. Fred Janssen and Colton Dennis will work on
    this for the mid year meeting.

Identifying SARP priority habitats:

Discussion:

  • Sammons:  this likely explains the lakes that are on the list from the states
    • we may want to hold our own workshop and ID the good and poor lakes
  • Horton:  Reservoir Partnership is holding a similar meeting to strategize about how to proceed
  • Other:  when would the proposed workshop be held?  New Orleans, Nashville?
    For now we have 2 tasks:

    • developing and assessing reservoir habitats throughout the Southeast
    • a habitat project to see if habitat restoration/management will work

Project discussion:

  • Horton:  project has no guaranteed funding so needs clear objectives, community support, reasonable to complete, and measurable outcome
  • Robinson:  projects should be holistic
  • Sammons:  we’re only proposing ideas to SARP, they will prioritize during the funding process

Ideas:

  • Allen:  reviewed a previous idea of a project to reverse reservoir aging – fill a small system with habitat, have control lakes, pre & post electrofishing and creel data, and needs long term buy-in, monitoring, and cooperation
    Work on lakes with low water levels:

    • Jackson:  Cumberland Lake (KY) is low due to dam repair and could do something with water level management and fish production
    • Slaughter:  Lake Lanier (GA) is low and could get permits for sediment removal
    • Robinson:  could plant fast growing trees (loblolly pine) on Lanier for when water comes back up
    • Rehabilitation of the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway (Larry Pugh)

Other comments:

  • Horton:  if we want to perpetuate habitat work, there has to be an economic benefit
  • Sykes:  aquatic plant planting at Hartwell and Russell had good GA/SC support, 9,000 plants, but less than 1 acre benefited
  • Slaughter:  one tournament visit (that wasn’t coming before) can be big for small lake community economics
  • Colvin:  remember that we are faced with the challenge of separating attraction from production
  • Allen:  we should work on a small enough system (e.g., < 500 acres) where we can get good abundance estimates before and after, maybe a state lake
  • Robinson:  30-40 projects have been funded so far including:  oyster reef planting, stream riparian work, and Lake Oconee island stabilization
    • propose projects regardless of cost
  • Dotson:  described the FL phosphate pit rehabilitation work he is doing
    • restoring littoral complex (woody) habitat
    • described expense quotes

Future:

  • come up with candidate lakes by Nov 1 (Horton can provide conference call ability)
  • pursue reversing reservoir aging (Mike Allen)
  • pursue Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway rehabilitation (Larry Pugh’s suggestion)
  • pursue water level project on a low-stage lake (e.g., Lake Cumberland)

Assignment of specifying targets for SARP objectives (deadline Sept 1):

  • Objective 1 (riparian) – Joe Slaughter;
  • Objective 2 (water quality) – Fred Heitman & John Taylor;
  • Objective 3 (connectivity) – Steve Sammons;
  • Objective 4 (hydrology) – Mike Wood & Mike Colvin;
  • Objective 5 (sediment) – Neal Jackson;
  • Objective 6 (physical habitat) – Lawrence Dorsey & Jason Dotson

ATTENDEES:

Mike Wood (LA) Mike Siepker (MO) Scott Robinson (SARP)
Neal Jackson (KY) Joey Slaughter (Ga Power) Damon Abernethy (AL)
Mike Colvin (GDI) Mike Allen (UF) Mark Rogers (UF)
Steve Sammons (AU) John Taylor (TX) Kevin Hopkins (AR)
Fred Heitman (Amer Aqua.) Chris Horton (BASS) Fred Janssen (TX)
Jamie Sykes (Corps) Michael Abney (Duke) Nick Trippel (FL)
Colton Dennis (AR) Jason Dotson (FL)