An ad hoc committee will conduct a study and issue three reports that review the many different scientific initiatives underway to support the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan (EAHCP).
The committee will focus on the adequacy of the body of scientific information to reliably inform assessments of the EAHCP biological goals and objectives; ensuring that best-available science is utilized. Relationships among proposed conservation measures (including specified flow rates and habitat protection and restoration); biological objectives; and, biological goals form an important science-policy foundation for the EACHP, and will be important background for all three NRC reports.
The NRC review will be conducted from 2013-2018. The committee will issue its first report in 2014, its second report in 2016, and its third and final report in 2018.
The statement of task for the committee’s first report is presented below. General descriptions of the committee’s second and third statements of task also are presented, but formal statements of task for both these reports will be agreed to after the committee’s first (2014) report is issued.
First NRC Report
The NRC committee will review and provide advice on four scientific initiatives within the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Program: 1) ecological modeling, 2) hydrological modeling, 3) biological and water quality monitoring programs, and 4) applied research.
The committee’s report will address:
· hydrological and ecological modeling approaches,
· accuracy and reliability of the assumptions used to support development of both conceptual and quantitative models,
· adequacy of data for model calibration and verification,
· identification and description of uncertainties,
· additional monitoring data needs,
· additional research needs, and
· other issues deemed relevant by the committee.
In addition, the committee will assess the sufficiency of the modeling, research, and monitoring under development to support the EAHCP Phase II strategic decisions and questions regarding relationships among conservation measures, biological objectives, and biological goals.
To develop its report, the committee will review written documentation describing these four initiatives that will be provided by the EAHCP Science Committee. Documentation will be augmented by discussions between Edwards Aquifer Authority staff, the EAHCP Implementing Committee, the standing local EAHCP Science Committee, other scientists engaged in the activities, and the NRC Committee.
In the second phase of the study, the committee will continue to follow developments of the scientific aspects to support adaptive management in the EAHCP, including changes implemented as a result of the committee’s first report.
In particular, the Committee will:
1. 1. evaluate progress and modifications implemented as a result of the Committee's first report,
2. 2. continue to assess the methods of and data collected through the water quality monitoring and biomonitoring programs,
3. 3. identify those biological and hydrological questions related to achieving compliance with the HCP’s biological goals and objectives that the ecological and hydrologic models should be used to answer, specifically including which scenarios to run in the models. These questions shall help generate information needed to make the HCP Phase II strategic decisions about the effectiveness of conservation measures.
4. 4. provide an evaluation of how the Phase I conservation measures in the HCP (including flow protection measures and habitat restoration measures) are being implemented and monitored. Specifically, the committee will discuss if the proper method of implementation is being utilized to achieve the maximum benefit to the Covered Species.
The deliverables for Phase 2 include a short report on the ecological modeling portion of Task 1 about 6 months prior to the final report that will cover the remainder of the SOT, due at the end of 2016.
Third and Final Report
During 2017 and 2018, the NRC Committee will review scientific information related to the strategic adaptive management Phase II decision as defined in the EAHCP. This Phase II decision necessitates an evaluation of measures designed to provide spring flows and habitat improvements to sustain the Covered species during a repeat of the drought of record (as defined by the EAHCP). The third and final report, due September 30, 2018, will focus on the relationships among proposed conservation measures (including flow protection measures and habitat restoration), biological objectives (such as water quality criteria, habitat condition, and specified spring flow rates), and biological goals (such as maintaining populations of the Covered Species). (The Biological Goals, which were agreed upon by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are considered fixed for the purposes of this study.) In particular, the Committee will determine, for each Covered Species in the EAHCP,
1. Whether the biological objectives in the EAHCP are highly likely, somewhat likely, or unlikely to achieve the related biological goals. If “highly likely,” is the full complement of biological objectives necessary to meet the biological goals? If the biological objectives are “unlikely” to achieve the biological goals, recommend how the amounts/types of habitat and water quality objectives could be amended to achieve the biological goals.
2. Whether the conservation measures in the EAHCP are adequate to meet the biological objectives. Is the full suite of conservation measures necessary to meet the biological objectives? Additionally, if the conservation measures are not adequate, would the presumptive Phase II conservation measure or simple manipulation of a Phase I conservation measure achieve the biological objectives? If neither the Phase I conservation measures nor the presumptive Phase II conservation measure are likely to achieve the biological objectives, the committee will explain the extent to which the objectives are not likely to be achieved, and why.