Lake Davis Pike Eradication Final EIR/EIS

Added by: 
Heather Bowen
Summary: 
The primary objective of the Lake Dave Pike Eradication Project is to successfully and completely eradicate Northern pike (Esox lucius) from Lake Davis and its tributaries. Secondary objectives of the project are to carry out the project quickly, use a method proven effective in laboratory and field experiments and is technically feasible, comply with applicable laws, protect public health and safety, and minimize environmental impacts. In an effort to accomplish all objectives associated with the project, California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) in conjunction with U.S. Forest Service (USFS) prepared a joint EIR/EIS. Subsequent to the 2007 Final EIR/EIS, pike were eradicated in Lake Davis, however pike were later discovered again and are suspected to either have survived the toxic treatment or been reintroduced by humans.
Chronology: 

1988 pike first observed in Frenchman lake and began infiltration into the Sierra Valley
1991 pike eradicated from the Sierra Valley and Middle Fork Feather River and remain absent there today
1994 pike first observed in Lake Davis
1997 DFG implements eradication project following EIR preparation
1999 pike rediscovered in Lake Davis
2000 the Lake Davis Steering Committee formed
2003 Lake Davis Steering Committee request for the Secretary for Resources asking DFG to investigate further eradication
2004 DFG compiled a list of eradication options suggested by various persons or agencies as directed by secretary Chrisman
2005 DFG & USFWS announces proposal to eradicate northern pike from Lake Davis a second time
2006 DFG releases scoping report
Public Draft EIR/EIS, prepared by Entrix, Inc. for DFG, and released for public review
2007 Final EIR/EIS released

Introduction
A joint EIR/EIS was prepared by the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for the proposed Lake Davis Pike Eradication Project designed to help protect the fishery and aquatic resources of Lake Davis and of the state by eradicating the Northern pike from the lake and its tributaries. The importance of eradicating this fish is described by Section 671 of Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR) were it states that it is unlawful to import, transport, or possess live restricted animals including pike as these fish have been designated “detrimental” by the state and are restricted because they have been found to pose a threat to native wildlife, the agricultural interests of the state, and to public health or safety. Secretary Chrisman’s response to the request for reinvestigation of Lake Davis’ pike eradication not only addressed the need for DFG to investigate safe and effective methods, but also acknowledged the importance for cooperation with the local community; an aspect of the project that was missing from the 1997 eradication.
Eradicating the northern pike from Lake Davis and its tributaries is an essential action as part of a more global goal to prevent their spread throughout California waterways. Since the 1999 rediscover of northern pike in Lake Davis, they have become well established throughout the reservoir and are adversely affecting the ecology of the reservoir. The pike’s high ability to invade waters in California is the result of their highly tolerant and adaptable physiology and therefore the adverse consequences of their presence would easily impact other ecosystems throughout the state should the not be eradicated.

Background
Northern pike have been a state concern since their discovery in Frenchman Lake and later in Lake Davis. This joint EIR/EIS was prepared by DFG and USFS to protect the fishery and other aquatic resources of Lake Davis and the state by eradicating the northern pike from the lake and its surrounding water ways. This eradication attempt was made previously in 1997, yet pike were rediscovered in 1999. Then and now, a large degree of public outcry against the poisoning of Lake Davis was present throughout the process. However, the state maintains that eradication of the northern pike, and subsequently the entire ecosystem within Lake Davis, is imperative for protecting surrounding waters from their invasion. Therefore, in spite of the continued public resistance, DFG and USFS have prepared this EIR/EIS to investigate methods to eradicate pike in Lake Davis and effective methods of ridding the state of northern pike all together.

Project description
DFG proposes to eradicate pike from Lake Davis and all of its tributaries to re-establish the trout fishery and prevent the spread of pike into California water ways causing ecological impacts throughout the state.

Alternatives/Proposed action
A total of seven alternatives were described in this EIR/EIS

1. No Project/No Action- A continuation of the existing reservoir and fisheries management practices. These practices are consistant with the current plan to control and contain northern pike within Lake Davis. Further decline in recreational angling would be expected.
2. Proposed Project/Proposed Action-The reservoir would be drawn down to 15,000AF and a liquid rotenone formulation would be applied throughout the open water, shoreline, tributaries, and to any pools, ponds or springs in the watershed potentially containing pike. PNF would issue a special use permit and two forest closure orders.
3. Alternative A-The same reservoir draw down would occur, but a powdered rotenone would be administered to the reservoir and liquid administered to streams, pools, ponds, or springs. PNF would issue a special use permit and two forest closure orders.
4. Alternative B- The reservoir would be drawn down to 5,000AF and liquid rotenone would be applied throughout the open water, shoreline, tributaries, and to any pools, ponds or springs in the watershed potentially containing pike. This alternative would require the least amount of rotenone. PNF would issue a special use permit and two forest closure orders.
5. Alternative C- The reservoir would be drawn down to 35,000AF and liquid rotenone would be applied throughout the open water, shoreline, tributaries, and to any pools, ponds or springs in the watershed potentially containing pike. Under this alternative the boat ramp at Honker Cove would be extended to allow boat access. PNF would issue a special use permit and two forest closure orders.
6. Alternative D- The reservoir would be drawn down to 48,000AF and liquid rotenone would be applied throughout the open water, shoreline, tributaries, and to any pools, ponds or springs in the watershed potentially containing pike. This alternative is similar to the treatment applied in 1997. PNF would issue a special use permit and a forest closure during rotenone treatment. A forest closure to protect cultural resources would not be necessary since the reservoir would not drop below 45,000AF.
7. Alternative E-Pike eradication would be attempted without the use of chemicals by completely draining the reservoir and all water sources flowing into it. PNF would issue a special use permit and two forest closure permits would be issued to protect humans during intensive construction operations.

Scoping
DFG issued a Notice of Preparation (NOP) September 14, 2005 in accordance with CEQA. Similarly, the USFS issued a Notice of Intent (NOI) in the Federal Register (Volume 68: Number 217) also on September 14, 2005. At this time the scoping period began, which invited the public to openly offer comments on the project. Subsequently, four public scoping meetings were held prior to the preparation of the Draft EIR/EIS in an effort to inform the public and encourage a verbal or written dialog of public concern and comment early in the documentation process. To notify the public of these meetings, public press releases were issued via local media outlets, and direct mailing notifications to local residents and potentially interested parties. The project proposal was published in the PNF’s schedule of Proposed Actions in July of 2006.

Environmental consequences
Physical Environment:
Surface water resources-bank erosion, tributary incision, boat ramp structural instability, and water quality parameters of tubidity, anoxic reservoir condition, dissolved oxygen, bacterial levels, reduces flows to Big Grizzly Creek, nutrients, and water temperature.
Groundwater resources- changes in water levels at private wells and public domestic supply, and changes in water quality at these locations.
Air quality-odors from rotenone and decaying fish, air pollution from equipment, dust from powdered rotenone, and dust and particulates from exposed reservoir bottom and traffic on unpaved roads/surfaces.
Noise-from transportation and staging areas, from airboats, generated at neutralization stations, and helicopter noise for equipment transport.
Biological Environment:
Aquatic resources-potential for escape of pike to the Central Valley, temporary loss of aquatic habitat, application of harmful chemicals, dewatering, accidental spills of chemicals into the environment, and change in flow regime in Big Grizzly Creek.
Wildlife resources- exposure of terrestrial wildlife to rotenone, reduction in aquatic and wetland habitats, impacts to fish-eating terrestrial wildlife, and temporary reduction in aquatic invertebrate and fish communities, and construction related disturbances.
Botanical resources-loss of terrestrial plants, loss of riparian plants, loss of wetland plants, loss of special-status plants, and spread of noxious weeds.
Human Environment:
Land use and land management- forest management issues, and grazing.
Aesthetic resources- view of exposed lakebed and neutralization of Big Grizzly Creek.
Cultural Resources- ground disturbance from project activities affecting cultural resources, erosion from reservoir drawdown, and looting of cultural resources exposed.
Recreation Resources- displacement of recreation to Frenchman Lake, and loss of tourism at Lake Davis.
Economic Resources- local economic activity, effect on local fiscal resources, loss in economic value of recreation, drop in property value, water supply cost and benefits, and statewide economic effect due to reduced commercial and recreational fishing.
Public services- law enforcement, fire protection and other emergency services, domestic public water supply/water treatment, and downstream water supply.
Human and ecological health concerns- effect of use of rotenone, and effect of spill of rotenone.
Social Issues and Environmental Justice- demographics of human populations, effects on minority populations, and effects on low-income populations.

Use of Science
Many uses of science were instituted by the EIR/EIS including the examination of several academic and scientific sources, population dynamics analysis such as Catch per Unit Effort, and biological species information such as CNDDB.

Issues that arose
Procedural Issues:
Under NEPA, USFS needed to issue a Record of Decision, to be signed by the Forest Supervisor, and issue two forest closure orders and a special use permit. Under CEQA, the DFG needed to decide whether to certify the EIR/EIS and how to carry out the project by choosing one of the alternatives or a variation of alternatives within the parameters or decision space of the EIR/EIS.

Public Issues:
Similarly to the 1997 public outcry toward poisoning Lake Davis, much dispute arose over the 2007 eradication plan. Several public comments were submitted, some expressed unrest with the repeated poisoning of Lake Davis and the envolvement of government agencies, while others expressed strong support of the decision to prevent the spread of pike in California. All comments were noted and considered in the EIR/EIS.

Geographic Area: 
Lake Davis is located within Plumas County and the Plumas National Forest, approximately six miles upstream of the confluence of Big Grizzly Creek with the Middle Fork Feather River and five miles north of the City of Portola on State Highway 70. Lake Davis drains into the Middle Fork Feather River which flows into Lake Oroville. From here water flows in the Feather River and then into the Sacramento River until finally reaching the Delta. The Proposed Project/Action area is composed of Lake Davis, the waters draining into Lake Davis, and a portion of Big Grizzly Creek below Grizzly Valley Dam.