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Don Pedro Project Noxious Weed Survey Study Plan


REVISED STUDY PLAN TR-4
TURLOCK IRRIGATION DISTRICT

AND

MODESTO IRRIGATION DISTRICT
DON PEDRO PROJECT

FERC NO. 2299
Noxious Weed Survey Study Plan
October 2011
Related Study Requests: BLM-08
1.0 Project Nexus
Certain aspects of operation and maintenance (O&M) of the Don Pedro Project (Project) may increase the spread of noxious weeds. The spread may be the result of direct actions (i.e., result of ground disturbing activities such as construction) or cumulative (i.e., caused by a Project activity in association with a non-Project activity such as introduction of noxious weeds from a non-Project vector). This study evaluates Project O&M and recreation activities to assess their potential to spread noxious weeds.
2.0 Resource Agency Management Goals
The following laws, acts, plans, manuals, and policies provide a foundation for noxious and invasive weed management by the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM):


  • The Carlson-Foley Act of 1968 directs agency heads to enter upon lands under their jurisdiction and destroy noxious plants growing on such land.

  • The Federal Noxious Weed Act of 1974, as amended by Section 15, Management of Undesirable Plants on Federal Lands, 1990, authorizes the Secretary "...to cooperate with other Federal and state agencies and others in carrying out operations or measures to eradicate, suppress, control, prevent, or retard the spread of any noxious weed."

  • The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 directs BLM to "...take any action necessary to prevent unnecessary and or undue degradation of the public lands."

  • The Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978 requires that BLM will manage, maintain, and improve the condition of the public rangelands so that they become as productive as feasible.

  • Interior Departmental Manual 609 prescribes policy to control undesirable or noxious weeds on the lands, waters, or facilities under its jurisdiction to the extent economically practicable, as needed for resource protection and accomplishment of resource management objectives.

  • BLM Manual 9015 provides policy relating to the management and coordination of noxious weed activities among BLM, organizations, and individuals.

The BLM’s Sierra Resource Management Plan (BLM 2008) provides general guidelines for managing noxious weeds, including managing vegetation (including noxious weeds removal) to improve habitat and control noxious weeds using early detection, rapid response, and prevention measures. The Food and Agricultural Code of California (Part 4, Chapter 1, Section 7270-7276) directs the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to control and abate noxious weeds through mapping, research, and direct control measures. The Project area includes acreages of the BLM Red Hills Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). The Red Hills ACEC has been designated to protect the important and relevant values which include Delpiedra soils derived from dunite and serpentine, two federally listed species, four BLM sensitive species, and the serpentine buckbrush chaparral plant community. As outlined in the BLM’s Sierra Resource Management Plan (2008), nonnative invasive weed control is a prioritized goal for the Red Hills ACEC.


3.0 Study Goals
The goal of this study is to provide information to determine whether continued Project O&M or recreational use of certain facilities may have a measurable, adverse effect (i.e., the facilitation or spread of) on noxious weeds. The criteria to determine a Project effect resulting from the spread of an existing noxious weed population already within or adjacent to the FERC Project Boundary includes both of the following:


  • A noxious weed is found to occur within the study area as defined in Section 4.1; and

  • A specific Project O&M activity has a reasonable possibility of having an adverse effect on the ecosystem by fostering the increase or spread of the noxious weed found.


4.0 Existing Information and Need for Additional Information
Existing and relevant information regarding known and potentially occurring noxious weeds in the Project vicinity is available from the Sierra-San Joaquin Noxious Weeds Alliance and Tuolumne Country Agricultural Department. This information is useful in developing a target list of noxious weeds and identifying their flowering periods and habitat. Information needed to address the study goal is the specific location of noxious weeds in relation to Project facilities, normal Project O&M activities, Project recreation, and any other Project-related activities that might affect these populations.
Based on this information, the Districts identified 28 noxious weed species with a reasonable potential to be affected by the Project. Table 4.0-1 provides a target list of noxious weeds for this study including the following general information for each plant: (1) scientific name, (2) common name, (3) CDFA status, and (4) types of data to be collected for that species.
Table 4.0-1 Target species for noxious weed survey efforts.

Scientific Name

Common name

Status1

Data to be collected2

Acroptilon repens

Russian knapweed

B

Full

Aegilops triuncialis

barbed goat grass

B

Qualitative

Ailanthus altissima

tree-of-heaven

C

Qualitative

Arundo donax

giant reed

B

Full

Cardaria chalepensis

lens-pod whitetop

B

Full

Cardaria spp.

Hoarycress

B

Full

Carduus pycnocephalus

Italian thistle

C

Qualitative

Carthamus spp.

distaff thistle

A, B

Full

Centaurea calcitrapa

purple starthistle

B

Full

Centaurea diffusa

diffuse knapweed

A

Full

Centaurea iberica

Iberian starthistle

A

Full

Centaurea maculosa

spotted knapweed

A

Full

Centaurea solstitialis

yellow starthistle

C

Qualitative

Chondrilla juncea

rush skeletonweed

A

Full

Cirsium arvense

Canada thistle

B

Qualitative

Cynodon dactylon

bermudagrass

C

Qualitative

Cytisus scoparius

Scotch broom

A

Full

Euphorbia oblongata

oblong spurge

B

Full

Hypericum perforatum

Klamathweed

C

Qualitative

Isatis tinctoria

dyer’s woad

B

Full

Lepidium latifolium

perennial pepperweed

B

Full

Lythrum salicaria

purple loosestrife

B

Full

Salsola tragus

Russian thistle

C

Qualitative

Solanum elaeagnifolium

white horsenettle

B

Full

Taeniatherum caput-medusae

medusahead

C

Qualitative

Tamarix spp.

tamarisk

B

Full

Tribulus terrestris

puncturevine

C

Qualitative

Source: Sierra-San Joaquin Noxious Weeds Alliance 2003; Tuolumne County 2010.

1 CDFA Noxious Weed Rating: A-rated weeds are highest priority for eradication in the State, followed by B- and then C-rated.

2 Data to be collected:

Full = use GPS to delineate an occurrence polygon for any occurrence > 0.1 acre; an occurrence line delineated for any linear occurrence > 100’ (e.g., along a road); smaller occurrences mapped by a single GPS point central to the occurrence.

Qualitative = distribution of species to be described generally but with specific reference to Project features. For discrete occurrences, collect a single GPS point taken near the center of the occurrence.

For description of other (non-GPS) data to be collected, see text.


5.0 Study Methods
5.1 Study Area
The study area consists of the area within the Project Boundary that is subject to Project-related O&M and/or recreation activities, including high-use dispersed recreation areas. The study area is described in Attachment A of this study plan, and includes the following specific areas within the Project Boundary:


  • The Blue Oaks, Fleming Meadows, and Moccasin Point Recreation areas and related facilities, including the 3.5-mile Don Pedro Shoreline Trail;

  • High-use dispersed recreation areas as described in Attachment A;

  • Lands within the Project Boundary designated as part of the Red Hills Area of Critical Environmental Concern;

  • Don Pedro Dam, Powerhouse, and Switchyard, including related maintenance and storage facilities and the powerhouse access road;

  • The Don Pedro Spillway channel and related access roads;

  • The Gasburg Creek diversion dike and related access roads;

  • Employee Housing near Don Pedro Dam;

  • Don Pedro Recreation Agency headquarters and visitor center;

  • Dikes A, B, and C in the vicinity of Don Pedro Dam; and

  • The Wards Ferry take-out.

The study area also includes habitats adjacent to each of these Project features to the extent they could reasonably be affected by Project O&M and/or recreation, generally understood to be less than 100 feet. If noxious weed occurrences are located, the study area will be expanded to the full extent of the occurrence or the Project Boundary, whichever is less.


5.2 General Concepts
These general concepts apply to the study:


  • Personal safety is an important consideration of each fieldwork team. The Districts and their consultants will perform the study in a safe manner.

  • Field crews may make minor modifications in the field to adjust to and to accommodate actual field conditions and unforeseeable events. Any modifications made will be documented and reported in the draft study report.


5.3 Study Methods
Study methods will consist of these steps:
Step 1 – Gather Data and Prepare for Field Effort. The Districts will identify and map known occurrences of noxious weeds within the study area, and prepare field maps for use by survey teams. The maps will include aerial imagery, Project features, and known noxious weed occurrences. Survey timing will be planned based on herbarium collection dates.
Step 2 – Conduct Field Surveys. The Districts’ surveyors will conduct noxious weed surveys in conjunction with special-status plant surveys, using the similar field survey methods. Because the phenology of many weeds is later in the growing season relative to many rare plant species, noxious weeds may not be fully identifiable at the time that special-status plant surveys are occurring. As a result, return visits to some sites for weed identification may be necessary.
When noxious weeds listed in Table 4.0-1 are found within the study area, surveyors will collect:


  • Digital photographs, if needed, to describe the occurrence.

  • For those species where “full” data is indicated in Table 4.0-1, if a plant population is estimated to cover an area greater than 0.1 acre, or if the occurrence is linear (e.g., as along a road) and greater than 100 feet long, surveyors will delineate the approximate occurrence boundary, or end-points in the case of a linear occurrence, using a handheld GPS. If occurrences are smaller than those dimensions, only a single central GPS point is needed to indicate the location of the occurrence. If a single GPS point is used to map an occurrence, the area of the infestation will be estimated using one of two acreage classes: 0-0.01 acre, and 0.01-0.1 acre. The weed cover of the occurrence will be characterized as either concentrated or diffuse.

  • Those species indicated with the descriptor “qualitative” in Table 4.0-1 will be described more generally, but with specific reference to nearby Project features. These species tend to produce large or diffuse populations that are infeasible to map in detail.

  • Estimated distance to nearest Project facility, feature, or Project-related activity.

  • Activities observed in the vicinity of the occurrence that have a potential to spread noxious weeds (e.g., recreational trails and uses).

  • Estimated phenology and descriptions of reproductive state of that weed occurrence.


Step 3 – Prepare Data and Quality Assure/Quality Control Data. Following field surveys, the Districts will develop GIS maps depicting noxious weed occurrences, Project facilities, features, and other related information collected during the study. Field data will then be subject to quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) procedures, including spot-checks of transcription and comparisons of GIS maps with field notes to verify locations of noxious weed occurrences.
Step 4 – Consult with the Districts’ Project Operations Staff. Once the location of noxious weeds in the study area is defined, Project operations staff will be consulted to identify Project O&M or other Project-related activities that typically occur in the area of the noxious weed populations that have a potential to spread noxious weeds.
Step 5 – Prepare Report. The Districts will prepare a report that includes the following sections: (1) Study Goals, (2) Methods, (3) Results, (4) Discussion, and (5) Conclusions. The Districts plan to make the report available to Relicensing Participants when completed, and ideally in time to be included in the Initial Study Report. The report will also be included in the appropriate license applications.
6.0 Schedule
The Districts anticipate the schedule to complete the study as follows assuming FERC issues its Study Plan Determination by December 31, 2011, and the study is not disputed by a mandatory conditioning agency:


  • Planning (Step 1) January 2012 – March 2012

  • First Study Season (Step 2) March 2012 – July 2012

  • QA/QC Review (Step 3) August 2012

  • Operations Staff Consultation (Step 4) August 2012

  • Study Report Preparation (Step 5) September 2012 – December 2012

  • Report Issuance January 2013


7.0 Consistency of Methodology with Generally Accepted Scientific Practices
This study is consistent with the goals, objectives, and methods outlined for FERC relicensing efforts in California, and uses standard botanical survey methods as defined by the CDFG.
8.0 Deliverables
In addition to the study report, results will include GIS maps that show noxious weed population locations in respect to Project facilities and features. The GIS layer of noxious weeds will be made available to the appropriate agencies.

9.0 Level of Effort and Cost
Study Plan implementation cost will be provided in the Revised Study Plan.
10.0 References
Sierra-San Joaquin Noxious Weeds Alliance (SSJNWA). 2003. Field Guide to Invasive Non-native Weeds of Mariposa, Madera and Fresno Counties.
Tuolumne County. 2010. Tuolumne County Noxious Weed Treatment Areas Projects and Participants.
U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM). 2008. Sierra Resource Management Plan and Record of Decision. February 2008. Folsom, CA.

ATTACHMENT A
DON PEDRO PROJECT STUDY AREA


Updated Study Plan, October 2011 Study Plan TR-4 - Page FERC Project No. 2299


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