Penobscot River Science Steering Committee
September 25 , 2006, 1-3pm
Senator George J. Mitchell Center Conference Room, UMaine
Welcome and Introductions :
Present: Clarke (via phone), Banks, Barnhardt (phone), Calhoun, Casper (phone), Courtemanch, Dressler, Hart, Huntington, A. Kelley, Kocik, Lewis, Murphy, Royte, Russell, Schmitt, Snyder (phone), Trial, Vaux, Wells, Wilson, Willis, J. Zydlewski, G. Zydlewski (phone), Apse, Wildman.
1. Mitchell Center update (Schmitt):
The Web site has been reorganized and there is a link on the main menu for the steering committee. The committee page has meeting minutes, documents, etc. Please send changes or suggestions to Catherine, as it is still a work in progress. The Bibliography (Penobscot Synthesis) is now online and searchable, but kinks are still being worked out. Send new references to Catherine.
2. Trust update
(Aponte Clarke) Jeff Reardon is still in the hospital. The Trust is doing their best to fill in, but not able to give the full report on permitting information. They are mostly working on fundraising activities and finishing up field work but nothing is finalized (still waiting for data). Also beginning to engage with agencies and starting permitting process (a meeting with agency representatives was arranged, prompted by a DEP letter reminding them that the clock is ticking, but the meeting has not happened yet due to Jeff's situation) and looking at the project timeline. When Jeff has recovered and they are further along they will be able to present more.
(Royte) The Nature Conservancy has been looking at this project and the potential for acquisition to happen soon since the price goes up the longer they wait to buy the dams. Jeff Reardon will be increasing his involvement with the project. Trust is exploring options for additional capacity including hiring a coordinating consultant, experienced with dam removal permitting, to assist with this next phase of work.
(Banks) Secretary of Interior Kempthorne was in town last week conducting a "listening session." The Penobscot Nation met with him for a few hours on Tuesday, and public offered comments on Wednesday and most were about the Penobscot project. Federal funding has been the most difficult part of the process, and Kempthorne got the message that there is a lot of support for the project which hopefully he will take back to the Administration.
3. The Nature Conservancy update (Royte)
TNC wants to know when important monitoring has to happen if the Trust buys the dams in the next 1-2 years? As part of TNC's due diligence they had to justify the cost of the project, including the loss of renewable power, in order to join the Trust. TNC brings a great deal of process/planning experience to the project. Their impression is that there are many who feel that the federal government should be leading this project (i.e., Everglades). There was already a great deal of thought about desired outcomes from the project (i.e., science forum), not only about permit/monitoring, but also ways to learn from the project. TNC has philanthropy, negotiations, science, and government relations staff working on the project who have formed a TNC subcommittee. Josh will be 30% on the effort. There are greater expectations with this project for impacts/effects, ways to measure ecological success. Funding these measures is what some donors are interested in.
TNC has a MOU with NOAA for restoration. The previous years' funding is exhausted and TNC is applying for $4 million for next year. It looks favorable that they will get funded again, and a certain portion will be applied to this region. It requires a 1 to 1 match, TNC can use their funding for land protection projects in the watershed as match, as well as in-kind and nonfederal money. TNC will submit in January for NOAA funds that would be distributed in March. TNC senses that the best shot at these funds will require a framework for the entire project, which TNC has begun drafting. The Conceptual Fisheries Plan (by Trial/Murphy) is great, TNC hopes to incorporate it into a broader plan that will detail what needs to be done, what are the costs, and what is the timeline.
(Trial) The conceptual fisheries plan has been finalized after peer review, a process which was aided by the GOMC workshop. Using those workshop outcomes may help our process to develop "bare minimums" for research and monitoring.
(Apse) TNC needs more information on available baseline data.
(Royte) If people have projects lined up, either funded or written proposals, it will help TNC's proposal to include those.
(Wildman) Organizers of the GOMC workshop are looking at trends among breakout groups. They don't have the tight deadlines as TNC and the Trust, but perhaps by incorporating TNC into the process it may benefit both groups. Noah Snyder requested that he review geomorphology section from workshop outcomes.
The outcomes from the GOMC workshop in June, combined with the Conceptual Fisheries Monitoring plan and Research Needs document, will help align priorities for TNC proposal.
(Royte) TNC wants to align agency/researchers with specific bullet items in the proposal. Wilson wondered whether that meant there was a commitment to individual researchers, because there is a question of ethics regarding "steering" research versus writing a proposal and how much researchers could reveal about project ideas while remaining ethical and competitive. Wilson suggested that the committee help TNC writing this proposal. Apse said that TNC could draft major priorities right now, but they need a lot more input. What they have now is too much for the available funding, but they need help on which pieces to focus on. TNC needs a list like Section V of Conceptual Fisheries plan.
Lewis asks about social sciences, she is working on small project on the Penobscot. Wildman says that part is really critical.
Calhoun suggests that the group break out into subcommittees because what TNC needs is something like the fisheries plan for the other aspects. Also TNC needs understanding of baseline data and how much work is necessary to get that baseline into shape, and maybe what is missing (some was obviously left out to create the fisheries plan).
Joe Zydlewski echoed Wilson's concern about scientists involvement and that by having a small group work on it they might exclude some people who have strong interest but aren't in the group. Willis clarified this by asking, are we STEERING the science or DOING the science?
Tom H asked where sediment chemistry fit into the four subcommittees tasked with framing and prioritizing the research and monitoring needs: Water quality or geomorphology/sediment hydrodynamics/hydrology? The consensus of the group was that sediment chemistry would be covered by the water quality group.
Laura W. noted that there really wasn't much sediment behind the dams.
Walter B. noted that in spite of requests made in the June meeting that the consultant report on sediment and sediment chemistry be made available, this has still not happened. It was really not possible for the group to evaluate the quality of the study, particularly with regard to the suitability and credibility of the methods used, the comprehensiveness of the spatial scope of the study, what contaminants were analyzed for, and so on.
Alike K. reiterated Walter's concerns about the availability of this report and how essential it would be to frame and prioritize the research and monitoring needs with regard to sediment redistribution.
Laura W. offered to work with the Trust to make this and other reports available as soon as possible.
Due to ethical concerns, it was agreed that TNC's plan will not mention specific scientists or research plans, but will contain bullets for what the science subcommittees think should happen. The subcommittees will use the fisheries plan as a foundation, so all don't have to write recommendations, etc. Schmitt will post a Word version of the plan on a password-protected page of the Web site. Schmitt will design an editing process whereby each subcommittee can upload their reports and edits.
Subcommittee reports should cover major questions, "ball park" cost estimates, timeframe (before and after removal), and what baseline information is available. Schmitt can help with baseline information since this was part of the Synthesis project. Draft conceptual monitoring plans are due October 30.
Laura Wildman will send the outcomes from the GOMC workshop and that will be posted on the Web site as well. Wildman will also work with the Trust to make permitting/engineering information available ASAP since that is needed to inform the plan drafting.
The next meeting is Tuesday November 7th – 1-3pm. Major agenda items for this meeting include a presentation by the Trust on permitting and review of the draft plan.
- Geomorphology/sediment/hydrodynamics/sediment chemistry
Snyder, Kelley, Kelley, Dudley
- Wetlands/Riparian including salt marshes, invertebrates
- Human Dimensions
- Water Quality
- Invasives/endangered included in all.
Jeff Murphy and Karen Wilson have volunteered to synthesize the subcommittee reports into a final plan.
— END —
Minutes by C. Schmitt