Date of this Version
Published in Open-File Report 2012-1221 (2012) 20 pages.
The purpose of this study was to continue annual monitoring of Roanoke logperch (Percina rex), an endangered fish, in the Smith River immediately upstream from Philpott Reservoir. This river reach is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which must ensure that appropriate actions are undertaken to aid in recovery of logperch. Monitoring of fish abundance and habitat conditions provides a means for assessing the species’ status and its responses to USACE management actions.
The Roanoke logperch is a large darter (Percidae: Etheostomatinae) endemic to the Roanoke, Dan, and Nottoway River basins of Virginia and North Carolina, where it occupies third- to sixth-order streams containing relatively silt-free substrate (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1994). Because of its rarity, small range, and vulnerability to siltation, the Roanoke logperch was listed in 1989 as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) (U.S. Federal Register 54:34468-34472).
Within the Dan basin, Roanoke logperch have long been known to occupy the Smith River and one of its largest tributaries, Town Creek (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1994). Logperch also recently were discovered in other tributaries of the Dan River, including North Carolina segments of the Mayo River, Cascade Creek, Big Beaver Island Creek, Wolf Island Creek (William Hester, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, personal commun., 2012). Within the Smith River, Roanoke logperch are present both upstream and downstream from Philpott Reservoir, a hydroelectric and water storage project owned and operated by the USACE. Although logperch have not been observed in the reservoir itself, the species is relatively abundant in a free-flowing, ≈ 2.5-km-long segment of Smith River upstream from the reservoir on USACE property (Lahey and Angermeier, 2006). This segment is bounded on the downstream end by the lentic conditions of the reservoir and on the upstream end by White Falls, a natural waterfall that presumably allows fish passage during all but the lowest streamflows (Roberts and Angermeier, 2009; fig. 1).
The ESA stipulates that USACE must ensure that its actions do not jeopardize Roanoke logperch and ensure that appropriate actions are taken to aid in the recovery of Roanoke logperch. USACE recognized that additional information was needed to assess compliance with these stipulations, including data on baseline population levels, habitat availability, and potential threats to the species on USACE property. USACE therefore contracted with Virginia Tech (VT) and the U.S. Geological Survey via the Virginia Cooperative Fisheries and Wildlife Research Unit (VCFWRU) to continue ecological monitoring that was initiated in a pilot study in 2005 (Lahey and Angermeier, 2006). The VCFWRU is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey, Virginia Tech, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and Wildlife Management Institute.
This final report summarizes results of biological monitoring performed by VT and the VCFWRU in 2011, and compares these data to data collected during 2006–2010 (Roberts and Angermeier, 2011). Where appropriate, a comparison was made to data on Roanoke logperch collected previously in the study reach (Lahey and Angermeier, 2006) and in the upper Roanoke River (Roberts and Angermeier, 2011). This work was performed under the auspices of VT’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) protocol 11-035-FIW. Specifically, the following objectives were addressed:
• Estimate population density of Roanoke logperch on USACE property;
• Measure and map by suitability class the distribution of habitat suitable for Roanoke logperch in the project area;
• Assess water quality relative to Roanoke logperch habitat in the project area;
• Use the data on logperch abundance, habitat suitability,and water quality to test the general validity of corre-lates of logperch abundance from other locations;
• Identify opportunities and threats related to protecting and enhancing Roanoke logperch habitat; and
• Provide suggestions on the necessity and scale of future studies and monitoring related to logperch in and near USACE waters.