United States Department of the Interior FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE Ecological Services 6669 Short Lane Gloucester, VA 23061 March 3, 2008 Ms. Magalie R. Salas, Secretary Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 888 First Street, NE Washington, DC 20426 Attn: Allan Creamer Re: Roanoke Logperch and Pigg River Level Logger Study Reports - Appalachian Power Company, Smith Mountain Project No. 2210 Dear Ms. Salas: This letter regards the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) review of the Roanoke Logperch and Pigg River Level Logger Study Reports dated December 21, 2007 and January 2008, respectively. These documents involve federally endangered Roanoke logperch (Percina rex) studies related to ongoing coordination between our agencies on Appalachian Electric Power Company’s (AEP) Smith Mountain Project, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) No. 2210-108. This letter constitutes the comments of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the Department of the Interior and is submitted in accordance with provisions of the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (48 Stat. 401, as amended; 16 U.S.C. 661 et seq.), and the Endangered Species Act (87 Stat. 884, as amended; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Endangered Species Act Comments The Service applauds the efforts of AEP and FERC in completing comprehensive Roanoke logperch surveys and the level logger study. While we continue to recommend surveys of the Smith Mountain Lake tributaries, we are pleased with the level of effort and results from the studies that were conducted. Based on the project location and ongoing operations, the Service believes that this project is not currently adversely affecting federally listed species or adversely modifying critical habitat. Therefore, no further Section 7 consultation is required with the Fish and Wildlife Service. Should project plans change, or if additional information on the distribution of listed or proposed species becomes available, this determination may be reconsidered. Ms. Magalie R. Salas 2 Section 7(a)(1) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA) (87 Stat. 884; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) directs all Federal agencies to utilize their authorities in furtherance of the purposes of the ESA by carrying out programs for the conservation and recovery of listed species. As we stated in our letter dated April 13, 2007, we believe there is a clear nexus between the construction of Smith Mountain and Leesville Lake dams and reservoirs, and the listing of the Roanoke logperch. The entire length of currently occupied Roanoke logperch habitat in the upper Roanoke and Pigg Rivers is approximately 139 stream kilometers (USFWS 1992). According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Smith Mountain and Leesville Lake dams and reservoirs have displaced over 137 kilometers (85 miles) or about half of what is believed to be former habitat in the center of the Roanoke logperch range including portions of the Roanoke, Pigg, and Blackwater Rivers, and Gills Creek. VDGIF has estimated that restoration of this much habitat would cost approximately $18 million (VDGIF 2008). The Smith Mountain and Leesville Lake dams also serve to physically and genetically isolate logperch populations in the upper Roanoke, Pigg, and middle Roanoke Rivers. The remaining logperch habitat could be enhanced to offset some of the lost habitat. The Roanoke logperch listing as federally-endangered, and subsequent consultation under the Endangered Species Act, routinely requires time delays and added expenditures for all Federal projects that may affect the Roanoke logperch. Such Federal projects include, but are not limited to, any projects that impact waters of the United States such as wetlands and streams, performed by governments, businesses, private individuals, etc. We believe that FERC and AEP have the responsibility with this re-licensing to take measures to help recover this species and its habitat, with the goal of removing the Roanoke logperch from Federal listing. In 2007, the Service completed a Roanoke logperch 5-Year Status Review (http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/doc1113.pdf). In this document, we identified several restoration measures that should be implemented to restore existing logperch habitat and recover this species. The applicable section follows: Recommendations for Future Actions 1) Maintain and increase the health and vigor of present populations through a watershed-level conservation approach that addresses sediment loading and preserves ecological processes that provide ephemeral, seasonal, and persistent types of habitat required over logperch ontogeny. Focus on stream restoration projects and projects to improve agricultural practices in three areas that are particularly degraded by agricultural activities: 1) the Pigg River upstream of the Town of Rocky Mount, 2) North Fork of the Roanoke River, and 3) the Smith River (upstream of Philpott Reservoir) and Town Creek. Continue to work with Franklin County on a Pigg River Watershed Management Plan. Continue to work with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on the Total Maximum Daily Loads Implementation Plan for the Pigg River. Ms. Magalie R. Salas 2) Evaluate the feasibility of propagating logperch and determine whether a controlled propagation and reintroduction/augmentation plan should be developed. 3) Increase connectivity of Roanoke logperch populations by identifying major and minor artificial movement barriers and eliminating them when feasible. Continue to work on the removal of Power Dam on the Pigg River and the abandoned sewer line/low bridge crossings in the Roanoke River in the City of Roanoke. 3 4) Prevent and reduce the risk of catastrophic extirpation from toxic spills through identification, evaluation, and improvement of present and proposed road crossings, agricultural, and industrial facilities. 5) Survey streams with suitable habitat and continue to identify habitat that is potentially suitable for logperch reintroduction/augmentation. As stated in our letter to FERC dated July 28, 2005: Perform Roanoke logperch habitat restoration. The Roanoke logperch currently inhabits portions of the upper Roanoke, Smith, Pigg, and Nottoway Rivers in southern Virginia. Populations of this species in these watersheds could increase with watershed-based habitat restoration efforts. All four of these waterways present opportunities to improve water quality and overall habitat conditions for existing populations. To compensate habitat impacts from dam construction, the Service recommends Roanoke logperch habitat restoration on and adjacent to the Roanoke River, upstream and downstream of the reservoirs, on the Pigg River, Goose Creek, and other selected tributaries in the Roanoke River drainage. Activities would include but not be limited to, purchase of conservation easements to curb development, removal of lowhead dams, bank stabilization, riparian buffer establishment, natural channel design, livestock exclusion fencing, and other practices that could improve habitat quality and aid in recovery of the Roanoke logperch. Restoration practices could be implemented beginning as soon as funds become available. We note the letter (enclosed) dated April 17, 2007 from Franklin County Administrator, Mr. Richard Huff, to Ms. Magalie Salas of FERC. In this letter, Mr. Huff recommends that FERC, AEP, and others work collaboratively on Roanoke logperch recovery in the Upper Roanoke River tributaries. Several excerpts from Mr. Huff’s letter follow: We request that AEP collaborate with the USFWS and Va. Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to evaluate habitat and Roanoke Logperch population health in these tributaries. Ms. Magalie R. Salas The County requests that AEP and FERC explore further options to collaborate with the County on similar voluntary watershed improvement projects given the potential benefit to the Roanoke Logperch. The County requests that FERC, AEP, USFWS, and partners of the Virginia RACER (Rural Area Conservation and Economic Restoration Partnership) collaborate to assist Franklin County with the development of BMP’s, riparian buffers, and other voluntary land management tools that may diminish sediment loading on local rivers. 4 - Individual Recovery Projects in Need of Funding The Service and/or partners are currently working on numerous efforts to recover the Roanoke logperch. Funding assistance is needed with all of the recovery actions listed below (not listed in any order of preference): o The Service and partners are currently planning to reintroduce logperch to suitable habitat where they are not currently found. These populations will be monitored for a minimum of five years. These efforts could greatly expand the range of the logperch and help recover the species. Estimated Cost: $200,000 over 5 years. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries currently employs a fulltime biologist who is working to restore stream habitat in the upper Roanoke River to benefit the Roanoke logperch and water quality. Funding is needed to employ another biologist over the next 10 years to expand the restoration of logperch habitat in the Upper Roanoke River watershed. Estimated Cost: $750,000 over 10 years. The Service is currently working on the demolition of Wasena Dam on the mainstem Roanoke River in Roanoke, Virginia. The project involves the removal of 255 linear feet of abandoned 60-inch sewer line and casement impounding the Roanoke River. The purpose of the project is to restore fish passage and habitat for the Roanoke logperch. Estimated Funds Needed: $1 million Funding is currently needed to provide the 25% landowner cost share for ongoing stream restoration efforts. This could greatly increase land enrollment to clean up the Upper Roanoke River watershed. Estimated Cost: $25,000 per year over the life of the license adjusted for the cumulative consumer price index. The Service and partners are currently working to identify and reduce major sources of sedimentation in the Pigg River. To identify these sources, we plan to contract with a consulting firm and establish permanent water quality monitoring stations at strategic locations in the Pigg River and tributaries. Remediation of sediment sources will follow. Estimated Cost: $350,000 over 5 years. o o o o Ms. Magalie R. Salas o Efforts are currently underway to remove Power Dam on the Pigg River. Removal of the dam would re-connect up and downstream Roanoke logperch populations and promote recovery. Dam removal would provide water quality benefits and have a beneficial economic impact on Franklin County. An Environmental Assessment is currently being prepared and dam destruction should occur soon thereafter. Dam failure is a possibility and would have significant financial implications if it were to occur. Funding is needed to help complete the environmental review process, remove the dam, and monitor Roanoke logperch locations, post-removal. Estimated Funds Needed: $500,000 5 o The Environmental Protection Agency and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality have completed a bacterial Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) document for the Pigg River, and Snow, Story, and Old Womans Creeks in Franklin and Pittsylvania Counties, Virginia (http://www.deq.virginia.gov/tmdl/apptmdls/epa/epapigg.pdf). TMDL implementation is currently underway to reduce bacterial sources to these waterways. Estimated Cost: $700,000 per year for 5 years. The Service would be glad to provide additional information on any of the above recovery initiatives. Final Survey Report Comments Section 1.2 Species History, Page 5: The list on page 5 does not include complete distribution information. With several exceptions such as Philpott Reservoir and Martinsville Lake, the logperch is found throughout the Smith River to its confluence with the Dan River in North Carolina. We included the following recommendations in our April 13, 2007 letter to FERC: Page 9, first sentence: We were unable to find documentation in the Draft that showed the results of pH, DO, conductivity, and temperature measurements. These data should be included in the Final Report. Appendix A, Figure 3 depicts twenty-four tributary reconnaissance locations but does not include information on which locations contain suitable Roanoke logperch habitat. Information on this subject is included in the text on page 20. We recommend that this information be provided in both the text and in tabular form in Section 5.0, Study Results. We also recommend that all tributary locations containing suitable habitat be surveyed during the 2007 sampling season. It does not appear that either of these comments were addressed in the Final Roanoke Logperch Study Report dated December 2007. We continue to recommend that this important information be added to the Final Report. Ms. Magalie R. Salas The Service appreciates your coordination of this project with us. If you have questions, please contact William Hester at (804) 693-6694, extension 134. 6 Sincerely, Karen L. Mayne Supervisor Virginia Field Office Enclosure cc: AEP, Roanoke, VA (Teresa Rogers) AEP, Columbus, OH (John Magalski) VDGIF, Forest, VA (Bud LaRoche & Scott Smith) References USFWS. 1992. Roanoke logperch (Percina rex) Recovery Plan. Newton Corner, MA. 34pp. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. 2008. Electronic mail dated January 15, 2008.