Legislature(2017 - 2018)GRUENBERG 120

04/12/2018 10:00 AM FISHERIES

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10:02:58 AM Start
10:03:46 AM Presentation: Pike as an Invasive Species
10:50:36 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Presentation: Pike as an Invasive Species & the TELECONFERENCED
Resulting Predation on Salmon Smolt by Dept. of
Fish & Game
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON FISHERIES                                                                            
                         April 12, 2018                                                                                         
                           10:02 a.m.                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Louise Stutes, Chair                                                                                             
Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins                                                                                          
Representative Geran Tarr                                                                                                       
Representative Mark Neuman                                                                                                      
Representative Mike Chenault                                                                                                    
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Representative Bryce Edgmon                                                                                                     
Representative David Eastman                                                                                                    
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
PRESENTATION:  PIKE AS AN INVASIVE SPECIES                                                                                      
     - HEARD                                                                                                                    
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
TOM BROOKOVER, Director                                                                                                         
Division of Sport Fish (SF)                                                                                                     
Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G)                                                                                        
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions during the presentation                                                               
on Invasive Northern Pike Control in Southcentral Alaska.                                                                       
KRISTINE DUNKER, Coordinator                                                                                                    
Regional Invasive Species Program                                                                                               
Division of Sport Fish                                                                                                          
Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G)                                                                                        
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Presented a PowerPoint on Invasive Northern                                                              
Pike Control in Southcentral Alaska.                                                                                            
SCOTT KELLY, Director                                                                                                           
Division of Commercial Fisheries                                                                                                
Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G)                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:   Answered questions during  the presentation                                                             
on Invasive Northern Pike Control in Southcentral Alaska.                                                                       
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
10:02:58 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  LOUISE  STUTES  called  the  House  Special  Committee  on                                                             
Fisheries  meeting  to  order  at  10:02  a.m.    Representatives                                                               
Stutes,  Kreiss-Tomkins, and  Tarr were  present at  the call  to                                                               
order.    Representatives  Neuman  and Chenault  arrived  as  the                                                               
meeting was in progress.                                                                                                        
^PRESENTATION:  Pike as an Invasive Species                                                                                     
           PRESENTATION:  Pike as an Invasive Species                                                                       
10:03:46 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STUTES announced  that the only order of  business would be                                                               
a Presentation: Pike as an  Invasive Species by the Department of                                                               
Fish and Game.                                                                                                                  
CHAIR  STUTES  clarified  that two  of  the  documents  contained                                                               
within   the   members   packets   were   not   provided   (audio                                                               
difficulties) affiliated with the  presentation as follows:  six-                                                               
page  document   with  the  footnote:  Source   National  Habitat                                                               
Partnership; and the two-page document  with the footnote: Source                                                               
Catherine Cassidy  and Eric Hubish,  2013.  These  documents, she                                                               
explained, are for a general  discussion as well as the committee                                                               
and public's review.                                                                                                            
10:04:19 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  STUTES   advised  members   that  she  asked   the  Alaska                                                               
Department of Fish  & Game to give a presentation  due to concern                                                               
within  the  fishing community  over  invasive  northern pike  in                                                               
Southcentral Alaska and the devastating  effect it has had on all                                                               
salmon  populations  and  fishing opportunities.    Although  the                                                               
presentation does  not focus on  a specific area of  concern, she                                                               
hoped the committee  discussion would focus on  the invasive pike                                                               
predation in the Susitna drainage  on sockeye salmon, which was a                                                               
stock  of  yield concern.    It  seemed  that allowing  for  more                                                               
escapement when the state has  not adequately addressed the issue                                                               
of invasive  pike devouring salmon  smolt in rivers and  lakes in                                                               
the Susitna drainage  would not solve any problems.   Chinook and                                                               
coho salmon in  the Susitna drainage area have  also been heavily                                                               
impacted by pike predation, she said.                                                                                           
10:05:34 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  STUTES  emphasized that  she  would  like to  secure  more                                                               
funding or  additional resources for  ADF&G to fully  address the                                                               
eradication  and suppression  of invasive  northern pike  in that                                                               
drainage  to restore  salmon stocks  to  a healthy  status.   The                                                               
ADF&G has conducted  active netting programs of  northern pike in                                                               
the Susitna drainage  area; however, she offered  her belief that                                                               
the department  could do  more with  additional support  from the                                                               
legislature.   The ADF&G has  provided two very  useful documents                                                               
covering  pike  predation  on  sockeye  and  effort  to  suppress                                                               
invasive pike.   She directed  attention to the  55-page document                                                               
titled "Shell  Lake Sockeye  Salmon Progress  Report" and  to the                                                               
one-page   document   titled   "Chelatna   Lake   Northern   Pike                                                               
Suppression Project."   In the  one-page document  the department                                                               
estimated the  elimination of 958  northern pike in  the Chelatna                                                               
Lake will result in 13,229  more returning sockeye throughout the                                                               
7-year  life cycle  of  those pike.   She  remarked  that it  was                                                               
staggering  how  removal  of  invasive  northern  pike  could  so                                                               
drastically  increase  the numbers  of  returning  salmon to  the                                                               
10:08:28 AM                                                                                                                   
TOM  BROOKOVER, Director,  Division  of Sport  Fish (SF),  Alaska                                                               
Department of  Fish & Game  (ADF&G), Alaska Department of  Fish &                                                               
Game, introduced himself and his team.                                                                                          
10:10:21 AM                                                                                                                   
KRISTINE DUNKER, Coordinator,  Regional Invasive Species Program,                                                               
Division of Sport  Fish, Alaska Department of Fish  & Game, began                                                               
a PowerPoint  on Invasive Northern  Pike Control  in Southcentral                                                               
Alaska.  She  stated that northern Pike were  predatory fish that                                                               
thrive in shallow,  weedy habitat and are at the  top of the food                                                               
chain.    She   related  that  invasive  northern   pike  can  be                                                               
significant  predators of  salmonids or  other species  that also                                                               
use this habitat.                                                                                                               
MS. DUNKER  stated that northern  Pike were  opportunistic ambush                                                               
predators who  eat everything:   ducklings,  mice, invertebrates,                                                               
and even  each other.   Studies have  shown that  juvenile salmon                                                               
were  targeted  first if  they  are  available,  she said.    The                                                               
northern  pike's feeding  strategy was  to hide  in weedy  areas,                                                               
wait for  prey to  swim by,  quickly strike  and then  devour its                                                               
10:12:34 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. DUNKER turned to slide  4, titled "Walleye and northern Pike:                                                               
Boost  or Bane  to  Northwest Fisheries?"    Although the  pike's                                                               
striking behavior makes  them a popular sport  fish, the negative                                                               
impacts have arisen when pike  become established in waters where                                                               
they are not native sport fish.                                                                                                 
MS. DUNKER directed  attention to slide 5,  titled "Northern Pike                                                               
Range,"  which depicted  a map  of  Alaska showing  the range  of                                                               
northern  Pike.    She  stated  that  pike  were  native  species                                                               
throughout most of Alaska.   She directed attention to the shaded                                                               
and hashed  area that showed  the native  range and the  red area                                                               
[primarily  in Southcentral  Alaska] that  showed where  invasive                                                               
northern pike have been introduced.                                                                                             
MS. DUNKER  turned to slide  6, titled "Invasive  Species," which                                                               
read, in part, as follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                      
     Invasive Species:  a species  that has  been introduced                                                                    
     to  an environment  where it  is non-native,  or alien,                                                                    
     and   whose   introduction  causes   environmental   or                                                                    
     economic damage or harm to human health.                                                                                   
10:13:26 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. DUNKER turned  to slide 7, which showed a  photograph of pink                                                               
salmon fry in the stomach contents  of a northern pike taken from                                                               
Alexander Creek.   She  stated that as  a top  predator, invasive                                                               
pike could potentially eliminate  entire populations of salmonids                                                               
when they  are introduced in important  salmonid rearing habitat.                                                               
In  waters that  provide excellent  habitat conditions  for pike,                                                               
such  as shallow,  weedy, slow-moving  water,  pike will  overlap                                                               
rearing sockeye,  coho, Chinook, and  Rainbow trout that  rear in                                                               
shallow lakes.   She  pointed out the  predation levels  on these                                                               
species has  typically been very high  in some areas of  the Mat-                                                               
Su, for  example, in  Alexander Lake and  Alexander Creek  in the                                                               
Susitna  River drainage  area.   Waters that  provide more  mixed                                                               
habitat consisted  of drainages  with shallow,  vegetated sloughs                                                               
and swampy areas combined with areas  of deep water or fast river                                                               
channels.   Small fry can  avoid predation  in areas that  do not                                                               
provide optimal pike  habitat, and pike have a  reduced impact on                                                               
salmon populations in mixed habitat.   She offered a good example                                                               
of this  as the Deshka River  since pike do not  really thrive in                                                               
areas with  deep, glacial,  or high  flow without  much submerged                                                               
vegetation.    Pike  tend  to  use deeper  or  high  flow  steams                                                               
primarily  as  movement corridors,  if  at  all.   She  said  the                                                               
predation  rate on  salmon  fry tends  to be  very  low in  these                                                               
areas,  which was  true in  the East  Side of  the Susitna  River                                                               
drainage area and in the Talkeetna Mountains.                                                                                   
10:15:21 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. DUNKER directed attention to  slide 8, "Pike Suppression," to                                                               
a  map.    Invasive  northern pike  were  widely  distributed  in                                                               
Southcentral Alaska from the Northern  Cook Inlet Management Area                                                               
to  the northern  Kenai  Peninsula.   She  pointed  out that  the                                                               
drainages depicted  in red on  the map indicate areas  where pike                                                               
have  been well  established  and the  drainages  in yellow  were                                                               
areas not  known to have  pike populations; however,  these areas                                                               
were  considered vulnerable  because they  provide ideal  habitat                                                               
conditions for pike.   She reported that the  ADF&G has confirmed                                                               
invasive pike in well over  120 individual waterbodies associated                                                               
with these drainages.                                                                                                           
MS. DUNKER said that in the  past decade, the department has been                                                               
steadily  chipping away  at the  invasive northern  pike problem.                                                               
The department  has successfully eradicated pike  from some lakes                                                               
in the  Anchorage area,  the Kenai  Peninsula, and  Yakutat using                                                               
the fish pesticide rotenone.                                                                                                    
10:16:06 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. DUNKER turned  to slide 9, "What is Rotenone?"  which read as                                                               
follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                                        
     Extract of tropical "bean family" plants                                                                                   
     Used by indigenous cultures to collect fish                                                                                
     Used to manage fish in U.S. since 1930s                                                                                    
     Easily absorbed through gill membranes                                                                                     
     Acts by inhibiting cell respiration                                                                                        
     Safe for mammals and birds at fish                                                                                         
     management concentrations                                                                                                  
     Only proven and feasible tool for pike eradication in                                                                      
     Southcentral Alaska                                                                                                        
MS. DUNKER identified rotenone  as a highly-regulated restricted-                                                               
use  pesticide  for  fisheries  management.    She  reviewed  the                                                               
bullets  on  slide 9  clarifying  that  rotenone does  not  enter                                                               
groundwater.   She said the  division used rotenone  in extremely                                                               
low concentrations,  so it  has not been  harmful to  people near                                                               
the treatment  areas.  The  highlighted bullet on slide  9 stated                                                               
it was the only proven and  feasible tool for pike eradication in                                                               
Southcentral Alaska.                                                                                                            
10:17:15 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. DUNKER  directed attention to slide  10, "Rotenone Permitting                                                               
Process," which read as follows:                                                                                                
     Public Scoping Process:                                                                                                    
     Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation:                                                                           
     Pesticide Use Permit; and                                                                                                  
     30-day public commenting period.                                                                                           
     NEPA Process: Environmental Assessment/ FONSI:                                                                             
     30-day public commenting period; and                                                                                       
     Review and approval done by USFWS.                                                                                         
     Alaska Department of Natural Resources: Special Use                                                                        
     Alaska Department of Fish and Game: Fish Transport                                                                         
     Alaska Board of Fisheries Approval (AS 16.35.200)                                                                          
MS. DUNKER  explained that  the ADF&G must  acquire a  variety of                                                               
permits  and  approvals prior  to  any  rotenone treatment.    It                                                               
typically  has  taken  approximately   one  year  to  obtain  the                                                               
necessary permits, she  said.  She reviewed the  bullets on slide                                                               
10.  She said to date  the division's rotenone projects have been                                                               
funded  through grants.   She  related that  the federal  funding                                                               
triggers a NEPA  Process, which requires the ADF&G  to prepare an                                                               
environmental  assessment document,  along  with public  comment.                                                               
The USF&WS has issued a  finding of no significant impact (FONSI)                                                               
on all the projects thus far, she said.                                                                                         
10:18:18 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. DUNKER  directed attention to  slide 11,  "Rotenone Treatment                                                               
Step  by  Step,"  which  read,  in  part,  as  follows  [original                                                               
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
     - Monitor the physical and biological environment                                                                          
     - Calculate rotenone quantity                                                                                              
     - Gillnet pike                                                                                                             
     - Post signs and stage equipment                                                                                           
     - Deploy caged test fish                                                                                                   
     - Conduct treatment                                                                                                        
     - Monitor caged test fish                                                                                                  
     - Deactivation                                                                                                             
     - Monitor rotenone degradation                                                                                             
     - Assess treatment success                                                                                                 
     - Restore the fishery                                                                                                      
MS.  DUNKER   said  that  the  permitting   process  requires  an                                                               
extensive field  process, as  shown in  photographs on  slide 11.                                                               
Although  she would  not  get into  the details  on  each of  the                                                               
steps, the  point she  wanted to make  was that  significant work                                                               
happens  in each  of these  projects, including  data collection.                                                               
These  projects generally  take multiple  years to  complete, she                                                               
10:18:37 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. DUNKER turned to slide  12, "Strategic Planning," which read,                                                               
in part, as follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                            
     Prioritization Process                                                                                                     
     Criteria based on:                                                                                                         
          Threats to fisheries                                                                                                  
          Habitat significance                                                                                                  
          Watershed characterization                                                                                            
          Cultural significance                                                                                                 
          Economic impacts                                                                                                      
     Pike committee meets every two years to update the                                                                         
     priority list                                                                                                              
     Prevent Spread                                                                                                             
MS.  DUNKER indicated  that rotenone  projects were  expensive to                                                               
complete  but  were  not  considered   the  right  tool  for  all                                                               
waterbodies,    especially   in    areas    that   were    highly                                                               
interconnected,  such  as  the  Susitna  River  drainage  system.                                                               
Along with  weighing the feasibility  of conducting  a successful                                                               
rotenone treatment, the  ADF&G also uses a  process to prioritize                                                               
its  efforts of  invasive  pike eradication  projects within  the                                                               
Division of Sport Fish.                                                                                                         
MS. DUNKER stated that the ADF&G  has tried to target its work in                                                               
areas where it will have the  most success to contain the problem                                                               
and to prevent pike from spreading to other waters.                                                                             
10:19:17 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  DUNKER directed  attention to  slide 13,  "Rotenone Projects                                                               
2008-2017,"  listing  projects in  the  Kenai  Peninsula and  the                                                               
Anchorage Area:                                                                                                                 
     Kenai Peninsula                                                                                                          
     Arc Lake                                                                                                                   
     Scout Lake                                                                                                                 
     Stormy Lake                                                                                                                
     Union Lake                                                                                                                 
     East Mackey Lake                                                                                                           
     West Mackey Lake                                                                                                           
     Derks Lake                                                                                                                 
     Sevena Lake                                                                                                                
     Loon Lake                                                                                                                  
     Soldotna Creek                                                                                                             
     Anchorage Area                                                                                                           
      Cheney Lake                                                                                                               
      Sand Lake                                                                                                                 
      Otter Lake                                                                                                                
10:19:36 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  DUNKER directed  attention  to slide  14, "Soldotna  Creek,"                                                               
which read, in part, as follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                
     Soldotna Creek Treatment Areas                                                                                             
     Area 1                                                                                                                     
     Union Lake, West Mackeys Lake,                                                                                             
     East Mackeys Lake, Derks Lake                                                                                              
     Treatment Timing: 2014                                                                                                     
     Sevena Lake, Tree Lake,                                                                                                    
     Mainstem of Soldotna Creek                                                                                                 
     Treatment Timing: 2016 and 2017                                                                                            
     Native Fish Relocation effort from                                                                                         
     Area 2 to Area 1 in 2015                                                                                                   
MS.  DUNKER offered  to briefly  highlight the  largest and  most                                                               
expensive project to  date:  the Soldotna  Creek Treatment Areas.                                                               
The treatment in Soldotna Creek,  a tributary to the Kenai River,                                                               
has really been about prevention.   Although the Kenai River does                                                               
not  contain habitat  that pike  thrives in,  the department  has                                                               
been  concerned  that pike  might  temporarily  move through  the                                                               
river  to   access  and  establish  in   other  vulnerable  Kenai                                                               
tributaries such as the Moose River  coho where 45 percent of the                                                               
Kenai  River  coho  production occurs.    This  project  involved                                                               
breaking  the  Soldotna  Creek drainage  into  two  sections  and                                                               
systematically treating them over the  course of four years.  The                                                               
first section  treated in October  2014 did not contain  any fish                                                               
except invasive  pike.  Native  fish were in the  second section,                                                               
so a  significant part of  the project involved rescuing  as many                                                               
native fish as possible and  re-establishing these populations in                                                               
the first treatment area.                                                                                                       
10:20:44 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  DUNKER  turned to  slide  15,  "Soldotna Creek  Treatments,"                                                               
consisting of photographs  showing field work.   This project was                                                               
by  far  the  most  complicated  series  of  rotenone  treatments                                                               
completed and  involved applying rotenone  in a variety  of ways,                                                               
including  by  helicopter, she  said.    In 2014,  the  treatment                                                               
projects  began and  were completed  last summer.   In  total the                                                               
ADF&G  treated just  shy  of 500  acres of  lakes,  150 acres  of                                                               
wetlands, and 20 miles of Soldotna Creek and its tributaries.                                                                   
MS. DUNKER  turned to slide  16, "Post Treatment  Evaluation," to                                                               
photographs of  field treatments and  post-treatment evaluations.                                                               
Throughout the  entire process, the division  has been monitoring                                                               
the treated lakes  using gillnets or water samples  to be certain                                                               
the invasive  pike have  been eradicated.   The division  has not                                                               
yet finalized  these evaluations; however, it  appeared as though                                                               
the treatments have been successful.                                                                                            
10:21:27 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. DUNKER  turned to slide  17, "Native  Fish Rescue/Restoration                                                               
2018-2017,"  to   photographs  of  field  work,   including  lake                                                               
stocking and  electrofishing.  She related  one satisfying aspect                                                               
of the  project has been  to restore the native  fish populations                                                               
throughout  the Soldotna  Creek  Drainage lakes.    In 2015,  the                                                               
division conducted  field work in  areas it had not  yet treated,                                                               
relocating over 91,000  native fish to assist in  the recovery of                                                               
the native fish  population.  This has resulted  in sport fishing                                                               
in  these lakes  and some  fishermen also  reported seeing  loons                                                               
nesting for the first time in many years.                                                                                       
10:22:13 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  DUNKER  turned  to  slide   18,  "Current  Status  of  Kenai                                                               
Peninsula  Pike Waters,"  to a  photograph of  invasive pike  and                                                               
maps of  the Cook  Inlet area.   She said  that the  division was                                                               
close  to  eradicating invasive  pike  from  all Kenai  Peninsula                                                               
waters  in  which  the  division had  known  and  confirmed  fish                                                               
populations, except for a series of  lakes in the Tate Road Lakes                                                               
area.  She  said the division plans on treating  those lakes this                                                               
fall,  noting  the  division's   largest  concern  has  been  the                                                               
proximity of these lakes to anadromous  waters.  It would be easy                                                               
for  the invasive  pike  to  re-seed other  waters  on the  Kenai                                                               
Peninsula  and  the  division's  goal is  to  prevent  that  from                                                               
happening, she said.                                                                                                            
10:22:59 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  DUNKER turned  to  slide 19  to a  map  of Mat-Su/West  Cook                                                               
Inlet, Anchorage, and  upper Kenai Peninsula areas.   She said if                                                               
the  current eradication  treatments are  successful and  barring                                                               
any new  invasive pike discoveries  on the Kenai  Peninsula, this                                                               
region could  be pike free  for the  first time in  four decades.                                                               
She  characterized this  as a  huge milestone  for the  division.                                                               
The next area  the division would focus on  would be containment,                                                               
eradication - where  possible - and suppression  of invasive pike                                                               
in the Mat-Su valley and the west side of Cook Inlet.                                                                           
10:24:23 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.   DUNKER  turned   to  slide   20,   "Alexander  Creek   Pike                                                               
Suppression,"  with  map  and  graph, which  read,  in  part,  as                                                               
     Susitna River tributary                                                                                                    
          Very productive Chinook salmon fishery prior to                                                                       
     Pike in the lake for decades                                                                                               
          Discovered in lower river in late 1990s                                                                               
     King numbers crashed                                                                                                       
          Other systems were thriving                                                                                           
     All fisheries now closed                                                                                                   
MS. DUNKER,  referring to the map  on slide 20, said  the Susitna                                                               
River  drainage area  presented a  very different  situation than                                                               
the Kenai Peninsula.   For one thing, the watershed  was the size                                                               
of  Indiana, so  a  rotenone application  would  not provide  the                                                               
long-term eradication  in connected  waters because  the invasive                                                               
pike would eventually find their way back.                                                                                      
MS.  DUNKER  related the  most  effective  approach would  be  to                                                               
contain  the problem  and prevent  pike from  spreading to  other                                                               
waters  since  invasive  species  prevention has  been  the  most                                                               
efficient solution.   She indicated  that effective  outreach and                                                               
education on this topic was  critical and the division hopes wrap                                                               
up its educational efforts in the Mat-Su valley soon.                                                                           
10:24:08 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. DUNKER said  the division will also be  conducting surveys to                                                               
evaluate the  water bodies for  early detection of  invasive pike                                                               
distribution.   She  said the  division  will eradicate  invasive                                                               
pike populations  where it is  deemed feasible  to do so  in high                                                               
priority areas  and would continue  to work to  suppress invasive                                                               
pike populations.                                                                                                               
10:24:23 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  DUNKER said  that  the division  has  been actively  engaged                                                               
since 2011  on treatment in  Alexander Creek, a tributary  of the                                                               
Susitna River.   She clarified  that this was not  an eradication                                                               
program because  the system was  too interconnected  for rotenone                                                               
treatments to successfully eradicate  the invasive pike; however,                                                               
the division has been working to  reduce the abundance of pike in                                                               
this area.   Prior to 2000,  Alexander Creek was one  of the most                                                               
productive  Chinook  salmon   producing  rivers  in  Southcentral                                                               
Alaska.  Directing  attention to the red  circle around Alexander                                                               
Lake on  the map insert,  she reported that pike  were introduced                                                               
to Alexander Lake  in the 1960s.  Directing attention  to the red                                                               
oval  on the  map insert  on the  side, she  said it  took a  few                                                               
decades for the invasive pike  to disburse to the Alexander River                                                               
corridor to  establish in the  lower river where they  were first                                                               
discovered in the late 1990s.                                                                                                   
MS.  DUNKER  stated  that  following   the  invasive  pike  being                                                               
established in  the lower river, Chinook  salmon numbers declined                                                               
below escapement levels.   This came at a time  when other nearby                                                               
Chinook salmon  populations were thriving, which  provided strong                                                               
correlative  evidence  to  show  that the  declining  numbers  in                                                               
Alexander  Creek were  due to  invasive pike.   The  fisheries on                                                               
Alexander Creek  were now closed  as well as the  many supportive                                                               
businesses  in the  area.   She  estimated the  economic loss  as                                                               
being in the multiple millions of dollars.                                                                                      
10:25:46 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. DUNKER directed attention to  slide 21, "Alexander Creek Pike                                                               
Suppression,"  with photos  and bullets,  which read  in part  as                                                               
     Drive down pike abundance to allow increased survival                                                                      
     of juvenile salmonids                                                                                                      
     Reduce pike in side-channel sloughs with gillnets                                                                          
          During pike spawning                                                                                                  
          Field crews target ~60 sloughs                                                                                        
          Annual effort (>19,000 pike removed since 2011)                                                                       
     Surveys to evaluate juvenile salmonid abundance                                                                            
          Minnow trap surveys                                                                                                   
          Pike stomach content analysis                                                                                         
MS.  DUNKER said  that  in  response to  the  Chinook salmon  low                                                               
returns,  the division  has been  implementing its  northern pike                                                               
Suppression   Program  to   try   to   increase  Chinook   salmon                                                               
productivity in the system.   Each May, during the pike spawning,                                                               
the division gillnets about 60  side-channel sloughs in Alexander                                                               
Creek  until they  are no  longer catching  consistently catching                                                               
pike.   She reiterated the goal  is to drive down  pike abundance                                                               
to allow the increased chance  of survival for juvenile salmonids                                                               
rearing  in  the system.    The  ADF&G  plans on  continuing  its                                                               
efforts  annually  and to  date  the  division has  removed  over                                                               
19,000 pike  through this  project and  several more  thousand in                                                               
preliminary work.   In addition  to netting, the gill  crews also                                                               
conduct  surveys to  evaluate  juvenile  salmonid populations  as                                                               
well  as assessing  pike stomach  contents  throughout the  creek                                                               
with promising results.                                                                                                         
10:26:30 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. DUNKER directed attention to  slide 22, "Alexander Creek Pike                                                               
Suppression,"  consisting of  a map  and chart  of Adult  Chinook                                                               
Salmon Returns  from 1979 through  2015.  When the  project began                                                               
in 2011, the  division was only seeing juvenile  salmonids in the                                                               
lower  reaches of  Alexander Creek;  however, over  the past  few                                                               
years, the  division using minnow  traps has  documented juvenile                                                               
salmonids  in   pike  stomachs  further  and   further  upstream.                                                               
Currently the division has found  evidence of juvenile salmonids,                                                               
including Chinook, in pike stomachs  in all sections of the creek                                                               
upstream  to Alexander  Lake.    The division  has  also seen  an                                                               
increasing trend in the number  of adult Chinook salmon returning                                                               
to Alexander  Creek.  She  focused on  the arrowed map  and noted                                                               
the  division has  had favorable  results  in some  sites and  it                                                               
would continue its efforts.                                                                                                     
10:27:11 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  DUNKER  turned  to  slide  24,"Susitna  Waters  with  Active                                                               
Netting  Programs," consisting  of a  photo of  a pike  in a  net                                                               
dated 6/12/2002, which read as follows:                                                                                         
     Alexander Creek                                                                                                            
     Deshka River                                                                                                               
     Shell Lake                                                                                                                 
     Chelatna Lake                                                                                                              
     Whiskey Lake                                                                                                               
     Hewitt Lake                                                                                                                
MS.  DUNKER  reviewed slide  24,  noting  the division  has  been                                                               
netting  the  Deshka River  every  few  years to  determine  pike                                                               
populations  in the  lower sloughs  of the  river.   She reported                                                               
that  the Division  of Commercial  Fisheries and  the Cook  Inlet                                                               
Aquaculture   Association  have   also   conducted  active   pike                                                               
suppression  programs in  lakes and  lake outlets  in the  Yentna                                                               
River  drainage  system,  including Shell  Lake,  Chelatna  Lake,                                                               
Whiskey Lake  and Hewitt  Lake.   These projects  have a  goal of                                                               
increasing  survival  of  out-migrating sockeye  smolts.    These                                                               
projects have  also included studies  of pike diets and  the data                                                               
has  indicated  that  pike  diets  were  comprised  primarily  of                                                               
sockeye salmon during the out-migration  timeframe.  She said the                                                               
suppression  programs   have  been   trying  to   mitigate  this.                                                               
Collectively  there  have  been  many  organizations  working  on                                                               
invasive  pike   problems,  including   ADF&G,  the   Cook  Inlet                                                               
Aquaculture   Association,   the   US  Geological   Survey,   the                                                               
University of Alaska  Fairbanks, the US Fish  & Wildlife Service,                                                               
and Tanana  Tribal Conservation District.   However, the agencies                                                               
were  still learning  about  the impacts  invasive  pike have  on                                                               
salmon populations.   She characterized  it as a  complex problem                                                               
and the  severity of impact  varies by individual lake  and river                                                               
systems.  She said this  presentation has demonstrated the extent                                                               
of the pike problem in  Southcentral Alaska, but pike were likely                                                               
just one  of the many  factors contributing to  salmon population                                                               
dynamics in the Susitna River and elsewhere.                                                                                    
10:28:37 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  DUNKER  directed  attention  to  slide  24,  "Regional  Pike                                                               
Priorities  by Project  Scope,"  to a  table listing  Eradication                                                               
Projects,   Suppression   Projects,  Monitoring   Projects,   and                                                               
Research Projects.                                                                                                              
MS. DUNKER  said that  within the ADF&G  Sport Fish  Program that                                                               
she oversees, the division has  prioritized its projects based on                                                               
where  it  expects to  find  invasive  pike  or  in the  case  of                                                               
prevention, where  invasive pike might  be a primary factor.   As                                                               
the  Invasive Northern  Pike Control  Program transitions  within                                                               
the Division of Sport Fish  to the Northern Cook Inlet Management                                                               
Area, the  division has been  looking ahead to  other eradication                                                               
projects in  the Mat-Su region.   The division has  been actively                                                               
seeking funding for the pike  eradication in several lakes in the                                                               
Cottonwood  Creek drainage,  and for  a rotenone  project in  the                                                               
lower Fire Lake  in Eagle River in the near  future to remove its                                                               
invasive pike population.   Both of these projects  would aid the                                                               
prevention  of invasive  pike from  spreading via  Knik Arm  into                                                               
vulnerable waters.                                                                                                              
10:29:20 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. DUNKER  reported that the  division would also  be conducting                                                               
an initial  assessment this summer  to begin a new  invasive pike                                                               
suppression program  in the Threemile  drainage on the  west side                                                               
of Cook  Inlet.  She related  that the division recently  hired a                                                               
new  invasive species  biologist based  in Palmer  to lead  these                                                               
efforts,  who  will  first  initiate  a  standardized  survey  to                                                               
clarify the invasive  pike distribution in the  Mat-Su region and                                                               
facilitate planning  of future invasive  pike control  efforts in                                                               
the region.                                                                                                                     
10:29:44 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  DUNKER turned  to the  final slide,  slide 25,  "Thank you,"                                                               
with sponsor  logos, which read as  follows [original punctuation                                                               
     Funding and support provided by:                                                                                           
     Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund                                                                                             
     Kenai Watershed Forum                                                                                                      
     Kenai National Wildlife Refuge                                                                                             
     USFWS Kenai Field Office                                                                                                   
     USFWS Conservation genetics Lab, Anchorage                                                                                 
     Mat-Su Borough                                                                                                             
     State of Alaska                                                                                                            
MS. DUNKER  reported, besides salaries  of staff  who permanently                                                               
work on  this project, the  efforts within the Division  of Sport                                                               
Fish  have  cost  approximately  $3.8  million  thus  far.    She                                                               
expressed gratitude for  the support of the  ADF&G's partners and                                                               
funding agencies,  in particular,  the Alaska  Sustainable Salmon                                                               
Fund,  which   has  provided  grants  originating   from  the  US                                                               
Department   of  Commerce,   National  Oceanic   and  Atmospheric                                                               
Administration  (NOAA).   She estimated  that it  has contributed                                                               
approximately $3.4 million in support  of the ADF&G's Division of                                                               
Sport Fish and  Division of Commercial Fisheries  efforts as well                                                               
as  the   Cook  Inlet  Aquaculture   Association  for   its  pike                                                               
suppression efforts.                                                                                                            
MS. DUNKER  said the division  was also very appreciative  of the                                                               
2011  funding  from  the  legislature  for  the  Alexander  Creek                                                               
suppression efforts.  She said  the $135,000 annual appropriation                                                               
has funded the entire suppression program.                                                                                      
10:30:46 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STUTES  related her understanding  that invasive  pike were                                                               
clearly  a  significant predator  of  sockeye,  coho and  Chinook                                                               
salmon in the Susitna drainage area.   She asked whether that was                                                               
an accurate statement.                                                                                                          
MS.  DUNKER   answered  yes;  that   the  level  of   impact  was                                                               
significant in areas  where the salmon cannot  easily avoid pike,                                                               
but impact was not as significant in deeper waters.                                                                             
CHAIR STUTES asked  whether that could be a  large contributor to                                                               
the stock of yield concern.                                                                                                     
10:32:06 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STUTES asked for further  clarification on project funding,                                                               
which she  understood was related to  Dingell-Johnson funding and                                                               
was limited to  sport fish areas.  She asked  whether it would be                                                               
helpful if  the state  would provide  additional funding  for the                                                               
eradication efforts in commercial fishing areas.                                                                                
10:33:10 AM                                                                                                                   
SCOTT KELLY,  Director, Division  of Commercial  Fisheries (DCF),                                                               
Alaska  Department   of  Fish  &  Game   (ADF&G),  answered  that                                                               
additional funding would  be welcomed and efforts  would be taken                                                               
in conjunction with Ms. Dunker's program.                                                                                       
CHAIR STUTES said that it appeared  that with the huge success on                                                               
the Kenai Peninsula that it would be a "win-win" deal.                                                                          
10:33:52 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  NEUMAN asked  Ms. Dunker  if the  smolt found  in                                                               
pike stomach  contents were normal  size and strength or  if they                                                               
were stunted due to the environment.                                                                                            
MS. DUNKER,  in response to  Representative Neuman's  question on                                                               
the size  of the smolt found  in pike stomachs, answered  that it                                                               
was hard to  say.  She said  that she was unsure  if the division                                                               
had noticed  any substantial change  in sizes  of the prey.   The                                                               
division  had noticed  the  size of  pike  decreasing over  time;                                                               
however, she could not speak to the size of the fry or salmonid.                                                                
10:35:21 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  NEUMAN   queried  why  rotenone  was   not  being                                                               
utilized in Alexander Lake.                                                                                                     
MS.  DUNKER,  in response  to  Representative  Neuman, said  that                                                               
Alexander Lake was  a very complex system.   She characterized it                                                               
as being  like flying over  the expanse  of the Everglades.   She                                                               
said the size  made it very difficult  for rotenone effectiveness                                                               
as compared to using the fish  pesticide in a closed lake system.                                                               
It would  be easy for pike  to hide since it  can detect rotenone                                                               
and get into  areas where the rotenone might  not penetrate well,                                                               
she said. She offered her  belief that rotenone would help reduce                                                               
to invasive  pike, but  it would not  likely eradicate  the them.                                                               
She thought it  would be costly and pike would  likely find their                                                               
way back  into the lake  via Alexander  Creek.  Thus,  the entire                                                               
system would need  to be treated, she said.   She stated that all                                                               
the  work  put  into  the suppression  efforts  to  increase  the                                                               
salmonid  productively would  require  a large  rescue effort  or                                                               
that  population   could  potentially  suffer  mortality.     She                                                               
summarized that  such a  program would be  costly without  a high                                                               
level of success to eradicate pike.                                                                                             
10:36:47 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN referenced  [slide 8], a map  of Cook Inlet                                                               
and the affected streams shown in  red.  The only [state] funding                                                               
for pike  suppression was  from capital  funding dollars  that he                                                               
was able to secure, he said.   He pointed out the Dingell-Johnson                                                               
Act  funding  comes  from  sport   fishing  license  fees  (audio                                                               
difficulty).  He pointed out that  the Mat-Su region has eight of                                                               
12 salmon stocks of concern.                                                                                                    
10:37:53 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR   STUTES  asked   whether  the   invasive  species   Elodia                                                               
contributed to pike habitat.                                                                                                    
MS. DUNKER  said that the  Department of Natural  Resources (DNR)                                                               
oversees Elodia  and that studies  have not been done  to measure                                                               
the  association;  however, Elodia  has  the  capacity to  change                                                               
habitat  and slow  down  waterflow,  which potentially  decreases                                                               
favorable  habitat  conditions  for   salmon  fry  and  increases                                                               
habitat conditions for pike spawning  areas.  She acknowledged it                                                               
was  not likely  a good  thing, but  the division  does not  have                                                               
quantitative  data  to really  define  the  relationship at  this                                                               
10:38:54 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. KELLY  said Ms. Dunker  covered it very  well and he  did not                                                               
have anything to add.                                                                                                           
10:39:04 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  KREISS-TOMKINS said  he  was excited  to see  the                                                               
progress  the  department  has  made,  and  he  was  particularly                                                               
interested in eradicating Elodia by "nipping  it in the bud."  He                                                               
referred to [slide 11], which  explained the step-by-step process                                                               
of rotenone treatment, to the  last bullet "restore the fishery."                                                               
He  indicated his  support for  this effort  but wondered  how it                                                               
would  work  if  rotenone  were  to kill  all  the  fish  in  the                                                               
watershed.  He assumed salmon smolt would also die.                                                                             
MS. DUNKER  answered that eradication  efforts would  be specific                                                               
to the project area and the  treatment taken.  She explained that                                                               
the  department could  restore  a small  closed  stock lake  with                                                               
hatchery fish.   Further, the way the rotenone  would be applied,                                                               
wild salmon living downstream of  the treatment area would not be                                                               
affected.   Typically, the  division does what  it can  to rescue                                                               
native fish that are present.   She recalled the 2010 Stormy Lake                                                               
treatment projects,  noting and that  lake still had  Arctic char                                                               
and other species at the time.   The division spent the preceding                                                               
months trying to move as  many native fish as possible, including                                                               
holding some in  net pens, and collecting egg cases  of the brood                                                               
stock and raising them in  hatcheries to ensure that the genetics                                                               
were preserved.  After the  rotenone had degraded entirely, which                                                               
was confirmed by  testing, the fish were returned.   She said the                                                               
Arctic char  and other native  fish were  doing quite well.   She                                                               
stated  that with  the Soldotna  Creek project  one area  did not                                                               
have fish, but  the second area had native fish,  so the division                                                               
took a year  in between to relocate the fish  and mitigated it by                                                               
neutralizing the rotenone downstream of the treatment area.                                                                     
10:41:53 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  KREISS-TOMKINS  asked   whether  ADF&G  would  be                                                               
giving an additional update on Elodia.                                                                                          
CHAIR STUTES answered no, not at this time.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS  related he  has read some  of Toby                                                               
Schwoerer's   work  [Senior   Research   Professional]  at   ISER                                                               
[Institute of Social and Economic  Research; University of Alaska                                                               
Anchorage]  on  Elodia that  highlighted  the  enormous costs  if                                                               
Elodia  was not  eradicated.   He asked  if the  department could                                                               
speak to eradication  efforts and for information  on funding and                                                               
if  additional Dingell-Johnson  funds could  be directed  at this                                                               
invasive species.                                                                                                               
MS. DUNKER offered  that this question would best  be directed to                                                               
the Alaska Department  of Natural Resources.  She  said ADF&G was                                                               
not  in charge  of the  Elodia projects  although it  does assist                                                               
with eradication  work, including herbicide treatments.   The DNR                                                               
has been working on the  Kenai Peninsula, the Anchorage bowl, and                                                               
in Fairbanks.   She  related her  understanding that  the funding                                                               
has come from a wide array  of sources but DNR could provide more                                                               
10:43:48 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS related  his understanding that DNR                                                               
does not have  funding to meaningfully work on  the Elodia issue.                                                               
He asked whether it has ever  been discussed to have ADF&G direct                                                               
Dingell-Johnson  funding to  work jointly  with DNR  to eradicate                                                               
MR.  KELLY answered  that  has not  come to  his  attention.   He                                                               
deferred to Ms. Dunker and Mr. Brookover.                                                                                       
10:44:57 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. BROOKOVER  acknowledged that  DNR has  the authority  to deal                                                               
with  invasive   aquatic  plants  in  fresh   water.  The  Alaska                                                               
Department  of Fish  & Game  (ADF&G) has  authority over  aquatic                                                               
invasive fish species.   However, the Division of  Sport Fish has                                                               
an invasive species  program headed up by Tammy  Davis, who works                                                               
with counterparts  in DNR.   The ADF&G  has a MOU  [Memorandum of                                                               
Understanding] with  DNR that  addresses coordination  of duties.                                                               
He recalled  that ADF&G  has helped  DNR on  specific eradication                                                               
projects.    While  Dingell-Johnson   funds  are  constrained  to                                                               
projects  that directly  benefit  anglers, these  funds could  be                                                               
utilized  for Elodia  eradication  since  Elodia infestation  has                                                               
broad impacts, including  impacts to sport fishing.   A number of                                                               
agencies  could  become involved,  he  suggested.   The  Dingell-                                                               
Johnson  funds could  be  used  where a  clear  nexus with  sport                                                               
fisheries occurs,  he said.  Dingell-Johnson  funds are currently                                                               
fully  allocated and  therefore  it would  require reductions  or                                                               
cuts  to  other   areas  in  order  to  shift   funds  to  Elodia                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS commented that  it was helpful.  He                                                               
expressed  his  gratitude  for   the  ADF&G's  work  on  invasive                                                               
northern pike,  Elodia and D. vex  [Didemnum vexillum] problem in                                                               
Sitka's harbor.                                                                                                                 
10:47:51 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  STUTES inquired  about Shell  Lake sockeye  salmon report.                                                               
It appeared  that in  2007, 80,600 smolt  were released  yet only                                                               
21,000 salmon escaped.  She  surmised that the invasive pike were                                                               
MR. KELLY  believed that Chair  Stutes was referring figure  2 on                                                               
slide 5 of the Shell Lake Sockeye Salmon Progress Report.                                                                       
CHAIR STUTES answered yes.                                                                                                      
MR.  KELLY agreed  that  the survival  rates  for pre-smolt  fall                                                               
stocking to spring  smolt stocking do vary quite  a bit; however,                                                               
clearly  there was  a pike  nexus.   Pike do  predate heavily  on                                                               
salmonids, he said.                                                                                                             
10:49:15 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN  relating to the lack  of smolt escapement,                                                               
and the low  numbers of spawning salmon, offered  his belief that                                                               
the department has  tried to hit the mid-range  on its escapement                                                               
goals to  counter the  mortality.   He related  his understanding                                                               
that this effort has been supported by the Board of Fisheries.                                                                  
CHAIR STUTES thanked the presenters for the presentation.                                                                       
10:50:36 AM                                                                                                                   
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Special  Committee on  Fisheries meeting  was adjourned  at 10:50