ECOLOGICAL STANDING COMMITTEE

MEETING NOTES AND ACTION ITEMS

DATE: November 17, 2011

LOCATION: Niagara Power Vista, Lewiston, NY

ATTENDEES:  Steve Schoenwiesner, Jeff Gerlach, Ed Alkiewicz, Rob Daly (NYPA); Dave Frazier, Jim Kooser, Michele Stottler (Gomez and Sullivan); Scott Ault, Morris Perot, Alan Haberstock, Mark Bowen (Kleinschmidt); Art Klein (Adirondack Mountain Club); Neil Patterson, Jr., Patricia Fischer (Tuscarora Nation); Linda Logan (Tonawanda Seneca Nation); Kerrie Gallo (Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper/NREC); Margaret Wooster (Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper/NREC); Tim DePriest,  Paul McKeown (NYSDEC);  Scott Schlueter (USFWS); Lawrence Beahan (Sierra Club/NREC); Paul Leuchner (NRGC); Loren Smith (Buffalo Audubon)

1.   Habitat Enhancement and Restoration Fund (HERF) Projects Pre-Proposals & Proposals:

NYSDEC - Niagara River Fish Attraction Structures Phase II:  Structures were proposed at 5 additional locations, total funds requested:  $210,000 .  Two designs, rock wings and boulder fields have been shown to be the most successful.  Nearshore areas with faster currents are targeted, with the goal of attracting more shore anglers.  Additional benefits include improved fish passage.  Tim DePriest noted that the South Grand Island Bridge has a new fishing access site which offers good ADA access.  The re-use of blocks from Motor Island could allow this site to be added without increasing costs. A Nationwide Permit should cover the installation of the fish attraction structures.  There should be no US Coast Guard issues due to depth of the structures.  A general comment was made that in the future structures should address more life history stages. 

Action Items: 

·        Steve Schoenwiesner to set up conference call to obtain consensus on this proposal.

·        Tim DePriest to check on Squaw Island location details, check on Aqua Lane site details, add south Grand Island site to Fish Attraction Structures Phase II proposal.

Tuscarora Nation – Tuscarora Grassland Restoration [Pre-Proposal]; and Tuscarora Nation – Tuscarora Aquatic Enhancement [Pre-Proposal]:  Neil Patterson described the proposed Tuscarora Nation projects.  He first noted that the Aquatic Enhancement pre-proposal is on hold, and that the Tuscarora nation would re-submit later. In connection with the Grassland Restoration pre-proposal, Neil noted that the Nation has planted over 90 acres already in a companion effort. There is a cultural interest in maintaining fields in an early successional stage.  Succession to forest is not seen as desirable among members of the Nation.  The restored fields could be farmed in the future. Nation members are very interested in participating in the project.  The project will require land holders commit to a 10 year commitment.  The Nation will commit to maintaining 200 acres of warm season grassland habitat for 50 years.  Total cost is $599,500.

Action Items:

·        Steve Schoenwiesner to set up conference call to explore a consensus on moving this proposal to a full proposal. 

·        The Tuscarora Nation will continue to work with University of Buffalo to develop the Aquatic Enhancement proposal.

SUNY-ESF - Evaluation of Nearshore Fish Assemblages, Habitat, and the Effects of Herbivorous Rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus):  Facilitating Successful Fish Habitat Restoration Efforts in the Buffalo Harbor and Niagara River [Proposal for continuation under the ESC/HERF of a project whose first year was conducted as a Greenway ESC project]:  10 sites are monitored year to year.  A commitment is needed to continue to monitor the same sites.  Projects are phased. 

Action Items:

·        Steve Schoenwiesner to set up conference call to obtain a consensus on whether to approve this proposal. 

·        NREC to further review the proposal and provide comments to the ESC.

2.  HERF and Greenway Ecological Funds Discussion and Committee Views on Longer Maturity Options: 

Steve Schoenwiesner began by indicating that the NYPA treasurer confirmed that NYPA could not risk any principal in any investments due to restrictions on how Authorities in New York State may invest funds and NYPA’s regulatory compliance obligation to ensure that the funds exist in the minimum amounts specified in settlement agreements.  NYPA had been asked to help explore options for setting a portion of the HERF aside in a more lucrative investment, however, the ESC discussed at length whether this was in fact desirable.  The consensus at the end of this discussion was that this was not to be pursued further, although NYPA agreed to explore options for obtaining better terms under the existing bank accounts that hold the GEF and the HERF.  The overall intent of HERF funding was also discussed

Action Item:

·        Steve Schoenwiesner to explore with NYPA the potential for obtaining better terms from the banks that hold the existing HERF and GEF bank accounts

Steve Schoenwiesner presented a Portfolio Summaries for Existing Funds in the HERF and GEF accounts.  See handouts.

3.  Habitat Improvement Project Implementation Status Updates: 

See handouts.  Scott Ault, Morris Perot and Alan Haberstock discussed the extant HIPs.  Scott Ault discussed the 100 percent design for the upcoming Frog Island HIP and how it reflected past and recent ESC input.  Discussion of HIPs followed, with consensus achieved in favor of proceeding with the Frog Island HIP as designed.

4.  Meeting Wrap Up / Action Items

Action item summary:

·        Steve Schoenwiesner to set up conference call to obtain consensus on pending proposals and pre-proposals.

·        Tim DePriest to check on Squaw Island location details, check on Aqua Lane site details, add south Grand Island site to Fish Attraction Structures proposal

·        The Tuscarora Nation will continue to work with UB to develop the Aquatic Enhancement proposal.

·        NREC to further review the SUNY-ESF proposal and provide comment to the ESC.

·        Steve Schoenwiesner to explore with NYPA the potential for obtaining better terms from the banks that hold the existing HERF and GEF bank accounts