Mention shiner in Texas and you may receive a different response depending on exactly who you are talking. Many will equate to a small town north of Victoria in South Texas or to a fairly famous beer with the same name but ask someone who fishes and they’ll tell you all about shiners being used for bait to catch that larger game fish. There is even a couple of shiners (the ones with scales) that are endangered.
“In 2010, an erosion control project to remediate an exposed pipeline crossing on the Brazos River was verified by the Fort Worth District Regulatory Division for authorization under Nationwide Permit 3, according to Regulatory Project Manager Steve Lindamood. “The Brazos River is a water of the U.S. under Section 404 authorities of the Clean Water Act”.
Following the installation of a concrete revetment mat to cover the exposed pipeline within the river in a remote area about five miles northeast of the town of Elbert, in Throckmorton County, Texas in 2013, there was a meeting with U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS), Arlington Ecological Services, Submar, Inc. (producer of the concrete revetment mat), and the pipeline operator. “At this meeting it was observed that the articulated concrete revetment matting in place over the pipeline would likely be a barrier to fish migration up and downstream, especially during seasonal periods of low stream flow. “Impoundments, low-water crossings, and other barriers to movement are one of the main reasons for the decline of fish that require unobstructed streams to complete their life history.” said Fish and Wildlife Biologist Sean Edwards, USFWS.
A Federal Rule in 2014 listed the sharpnose shiner and the smalleye shiner as endangered and designated critical habitat in the Brazos River upstream of Possum Kingdom Lake. The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to provide protection for Endangered and Threatened Species. Protection is not limited to the species itself but also to the ecosystems upon which they depend on for survival. The USFWS is the primary agency responsible for implementing the Endangered Species Act, and is responsible for birds and other terrestrial and freshwater species. USFWS responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act include (1) the identification of threatened and endangered species; (2) the identification of critical habitats for listed species; (3) implementation of research on, and recovery efforts for, these species; and (4) consultation with other Federal agencies concerning measures to avoid harm to listed species. Both the sharpnose shiner and smalleye shiner, as well as critical habitat designation for both species occur within the area of the pipeline crossing.
Following several meetings and attempts for a resolution to the design and function of the articulated matting between USFWS, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Submar, Inc., and the pipeline operator, the USFWS contacted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in June 2019 looking for other possible solutions. During the conversation, the Corps noted that there was potentially a non-compliance issue with the installation of the concrete mat. “We notified the pipeline owner that month of the project’s non-compliance with the terms and conditions of their permit and began discussions of alternatives to bring the pipeline into compliance with the permit. Afterwards, we began the process of Formal Section 7 Consultation with USFWS Arlington Ecological Services for the potential impacts of the proposed project on the two endangered shiners,” said Lindamood. He went on to say, “a proposed solution by the pipeline owner is to horizontal directional drill a new pipeline under the Brazos River at the crossing, which doesn’t require any authorization from our office at this location. The proposed action will remove the existing pipeline and concrete mat from the Brazos River, then return the project area to pre-construction conditions. The resulting effects from negotiations with the pipeline owner and coordinated efforts between the Corps and USFWS will have long lasting beneficial effects to the aquatic environment in the Brazos River, and should have a beneficial effect to both aforementioned endangered species and their critical habitat”.
“We are pleased that the pipeline owner decided on an alternative to completely remove the pipeline and concrete mat from waters of the Brazos River. The removal of the pipeline and mat should have very beneficial effects to the aquatic environment and permanently removes a barrier to shiners as well as other fish moving up and downstream through this reach of the Brazos River. We are very excited about the potential long-term beneficial effects to the two endangered shiners by the removal of the previously authorized project”, Lindamood said.
“We believe our consultation of this project with the USFWS, Arlington Ecological Services Office, has strengthened our working relationship and look forward to working on similar projects that restore waters and benefit the aquatic environment. This project should be considered a win for everyone involved” Lindamood said.