Penobscot River Science Steering Committee Meeting
August 31 , 2007
George Mitchell Center Conference Room, UMaine
Present: Aram Calhoun, Collins, Dave Courtemanch, Adria Elskus, David Hart, Larsen, Jeff Reardon, Josh Royte, Rory Saunders, Catherine Schmitt, Tim Sheehan, Joan Trial, Vallee, Peter Vaux, Laura Wildman, Karen Wilson, Gayle Zydlewski.
1. Project Update – Jeff Reardon
Once the Trust exercises their option to purchase dams, they have 30 days to file permit applications, so all permitting-related work and acquisition fundraising needs to be complete before the Trust can exercise the option. Funds raised so far include $7.5 million in private money and $5.5 in federal grants. There is also a $10 million line item in NOAA’s FY’08 budget. The Trust recently received $450,000 from NOAA for permitting needs and related environmental studies.
Decisions on the RFP from the Trust were made in early August, work is ongoing:
- Mussels – Normandeau Assoc. Field work continues; four rare species found, probably need to do an incidental take plan, so likely some quantitative follow-up studies, possibly tracking as well.
- Shoreline survey – Woodlot Alternatives. Impacts of water level changes on infrastructure. Wetlands are waiting until mid-September.
- Ice scour – have had discussions with NERFC and ACOE. PRRT is exploring hiring CREL as subcontractor to Kleinschmidt. Some observations of last year, but need another year of ice watching and modeling.
- Sediment – have a preferred contractor but have not completed contract yet. Sediment coverage will be from Bangor Dam to Milford Dam. This study will inform a refined/extended hydraulic model.
- Recreation – Kleinschmidt. Review of existing info in FERC record and state recreation sites, how will water level changes affect infrastructure, also recreational use changes (rapids vs. flatwater, etc.). Ongoing through September.
The results of these studies (and comments from agencies and the public) will determine whether any more permitting work is needed. Any additional work will have to happen within an even shorter time frame. Drafts of the study reports will go out for agency review. The Trust will develop a plan for accessibility to these documents.
No PRSSC members submitted proposals in response to the three RFPs released this summer by the Trust. This occurred for many reasons including researchers’ schedules not matching the schedules necessary to complete the work. However, some academic members of the PRSSC acted as reviewers of submitted proposals, suggesting that the PRSSC has resulted in successful collaboration between the Trust and researchers. This advisory role was cited as an appropriate one for committee members, because even though members may not be doing current monitoring work, those interested in the results can provide input to the Trust to ensure that any studies on the river will be useful five years from now in evaluating effects of the restoration. The spatial coordination
addressed in the Monitoring Framework is difficult to do within the permitting timeline, although there may be some incidental overlap. The Trust's primary goal is to satisfy the agencies, yet researchers want to maximize the value of data that are generated for future evaluation.
Is there a need to formalize the "steering" role of the committee? The charter needs to be revised to reflect this. Also, since the permitting process will be coming to an end within the year, the PRSSC focus may change. Need to formalize steering function. Joan Trial sent around a paper on scientists and large-scale restoration projects which may help in re-evaluating our roles.
The Trust will think about what other permit related things are going to happen—and what role should the PRSSC play?
The Monitoring Framework will be amended to include links to interested researchers with planned studies and overlap.
Matt Collins will organize the long-term monitoring transect subcommittee (pending contract with sediment group) and the H&HS (Hydrology, Hydrodynamics, Sediment) subcommittee meetings for the same day, sometime in late September. USGS has some internal modeling funding and a current sediment sampling project on the river and will be participating in these meetings.
2. Other research updates
a. NOAA monitoring plans – Rory Saunders
NOAA (Saunders, Sheehan, and Collins) is drafting a core monitoring document that identifies long term ecological monitoring needs and the concomitant funding needs. If funding for the PRRP comes through NOAA’s budgeting process, the majority of funds would be dedicated toward purchase and removal. However, NOAA has consistently expressed a need to monitor the long term ecological effects of the PRRP and the necessary funding for these studies should be considered early on in the process. To that end, NOAA is developing the core monitoring needs document which includes cost estimates for answering key questions about the efficacy of dam removal in meeting conservation restoration objectives. In order to answer these questions, NOAA will likely use a combination of pre-existing staff, some additional staff, as well as contracts and cooperative agreements with external groups (Universities, state agencies, consulting firms etc.) as appropriate. NOAA does not currently have the capacity to complete all the necessary studies without external partnerships. Development of this core monitoring needs document been informed by the PRSSC's Monitoring Framework as well as the Gulf of Maine Council Stream Barrier Removal Monitoring Workshop report, the final of which is due in October.
b. DEP modeling work – Courtemanch
DEP is reconstructing their water quality model for the river for the purpose of allocating waste loads and discharge licenses. Sampling was this summer, they hope to publish the new model sometime this winter. The recent algae bloom was a repeat of 2004, when Katahdin Paper first started up and a large input of phosphoric acid stimulated an algae
bloom. Katahdin reportedly had an agreement with DEP about limiting the amount of phosphoric acid, but they increased the amount again without notifying anyone and thus the 2007 bloom. There are currently no discharge limits on phosphorus.
c. Environmental Solutions Initiative – Hart
A group of UM faculty will be looking at alternative futures modeling for the lower Penobscot this fall via a seminar course. Also, ESI has funded five pilot projects that address the ecological, social, and economic dimensions of changing land use.
d. State of the Watershed – Schmitt/Zydlewski
Schmitt and G. Zydlewski will be exploring the feasibility and potential content of "Penobscot River, Penobscot Bay: State of the Watershed", which builds on efforts of the 1990s and current momentum around the river. A concept brief is available.
e. TNC Conservation Action Plan – Royte
PRSSC's Monitoring Framework is informing TNC planning, a process the organization applies to all high-priority sites around the world. TNC's intern, Chris Yuan-Farrell, will be working on the Conservation Action Plan for the next year or two and he will be reaching out to experts for gaps.
f. other summer field work updates, etc.
G. Zydlewski – Sturgeon work to continue for three more years, tracking movement of shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon and locating spawning habitat in the spring to verify spawning. Also, NOAA and USGS began a striped bass tagging project and they hope to continue in the spring. A coordinated network of receivers is being developed along the East Coast. Natural barrier work still ongoing in Marsh Stream. Need to do some canoeing and walking, with help from volunteers such as Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition. USFS reviewing results of over 1,000 stream crossings. Next batch are Piscataquis, Passadumkeag, and Mattawamkeag.
A. Elskus - Collecting and archiving fish (< 2 years old) and mussels (Eastern Elliptio) from above Milford dam and below Veazie dam for later contaminant analysis. Goal is to determine contaminant baseline and variability in biota and track contaminant movements, if any, with changes in river use and shoreline development, including dam removal. Collecting young fish insures that contaminant signals reflect recent contamination and not historical pollution. Fish species collected so far this year include: smallmouth bass, white suckers, common shiners, bullhead catfish, alewives, golden shiners and striped killifish. Of these, smallmouth bass, white suckers and killifish are the target species. DEP, MASC and MDIF&W helped with the collections. Beth Swartz (MDIF&W) and Normandeau Associates may collect some Elliptios for Elskus, but more likely Elskus will collect those herself this September, aiming to get mussels as young as possible. Elskus will also set minnow traps to collect greater numbers of striped killifish as very few were collected by seining off of the Eddington salmon club, and none were collected by seining near the Costigan boat ramp.
Peter Larsen (Bigelow Lab) is doing some benthic analysis in preparation for a dredging project near Searsport, with the Army Corps of Engineers, and should have results early next year.
3. Funding coordination – Royte/Hart
DEP funded the coordinator position last year. The NSF RCN grant has been submitted, but a decision won't be made until the end of the year. For now, TNC is contributing funds, and they will be thinking about they/Trust want out of coordination.
What do people think are the key functions of the coordinator? Need a wish list.
J. Royte will form a subcommittee to identify funding sources. Other issues to identify include data integration. It was mentioned that the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund $15-20,000 may be a source of funds.
4. Outreach to students to involve them in projects
How can we get more student involved in research and monitoring on the river?
The Monitoring Framework will be amended to highlight potential student projects. One source of students is the Honors College at UM, because Honors students have to do a senior thesis project. Opportunities can also be advertised on the ESI Web.
Meeting adjourned at 12 noon. The next meeting will be scheduled for the week of November 13.