Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
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The coordinates or plot points or both from which the critical habitat maps are generated are included in the administrative record for this rulemaking and are available at
This document consists of: (1) A proposed rule to list the grotto sculpin as an endangered species; and (2) a proposed critical habitat designation for the grotto sculpin.
• Habitat loss and degradation of aquatic resources, including such things as illegal waste disposal, chemical leaching, contaminated groundwater, vertical drains, urban development, sedimentation, and industrial sand mining.
• Predation by nonnative predators.
• Inadequate existing regulatory mechanisms that allow significant threats such as water contamination and exploitation of sinkholes.
• Other natural or manmade factors, including loss of genetic diversity, natural environmental variability, and climate conditions such as drought.
• Two units comprised of all underground aquatic habitat underlying approximately 94 km
• Two units that include approximately 31 kilometers (19.2 miles) of surface stream.
We intend that any final action resulting from this proposed rule will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we request comments or information from other concerned governmental agencies, Native American tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties concerning this proposed rule. We particularly seek comments concerning:
(1) The species' biology, range, and population trends, including:
(a) Habitat requirements for feeding, breeding, and sheltering;
(b) Genetics and taxonomy;
(c) Historical and current range including distribution patterns;
(d) Historical and current population levels, and current and projected trends; and
(e) Past and ongoing conservation measures for the species, its habitat or both.
(2) The factors that are the basis for making a listing determination for a species under section 4(a) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531
(a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range;
(b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;
(c) Disease or predation;
(d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
(e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.
(3) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning any threats (or lack thereof) to this species and existing regulations that may be addressing those threats;
(4) Additional information concerning the historical and current status, range, distribution, and population size of this species, including the locations of any additional populations of this species;
(5) The reasons why we should or should not designate habitat as “critical habitat” under section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531
(6) Specific information on:
(a) The amount and distribution of grotto sculpin and its habitat,
(b) What may constitute “physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species,” within the geographical range currently occupied by the species;
(c) Where these features are currently found,
(d) Whether any of these features may require special management considerations or protection;
(e) What areas, that were occupied at the time of listing (or are currently occupied) and that contain features essential to the conservation of the species, should be included in the designation and why,
(f) What areas not occupied at the time of listing are essential for the conservation of the species and why;
(7) Land use designations and current or planned activities in the areas occupied by the species or proposed to be designated as critical habitat, and possible impacts of these activities on this species and proposed critical habitat;
(8) Information on the projected and reasonably likely impacts of climate change on the grotto sculpin and proposed critical habitat;
(9) Any foreseeable economic, national security, or other relevant impacts that may result from designating any area that may be included in the final designation. We are particularly interested in any impacts on small entities, and the benefits of including or excluding areas from the proposed designation that are subject to these impacts;
(10) Whether our approach to designating critical habitat could be improved or modified in any way to provide for greater public participation and understanding, or to assist us in accommodating public concerns and comments;
(11) The likelihood of adverse social reactions to the designation of critical habitat and how the consequences of such reactions, if likely to occur, would relate to the conservation and regulatory benefits of the proposed critical habitat designation.
Please note that submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in making a determination, as section 4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that determinations as to whether any species is a threatened or endangered species must be made “solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.”
You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed rule by one of the methods listed in the
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Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on
We first identified the grotto sculpin as a candidate species in a notice of review published in the
The grotto sculpin (
The grotto sculpin belongs to the family Cottidae (Pflieger 1997, p. 253) and until recently was considered to be a member of the banded sculpin (
Population genetics of
Grotto sculpin occupy cave streams, resurgences (also known as “spring branches”) (Vandike 1985, p. 10), springs, and two surface streams (Adams 2012, pers. comm
The appearance of grotto sculpin young-of-year in spring and early summer suggests late winter and early spring spawning (Day 2008, p. 18). The distance grotto sculpin travel upstream in caves is unknown, but a nest has been observed 0.6 meters (m) (2 feet (ft)) inside the cave portal at Thunderhole Resurgence, indicating they might stay close to surface habitats (Adams
Young-of-year abundance increases between March and May at resurgence sites, and between April and May in caves (Adams
Resurgences are used by juvenile grotto sculpin as nursery areas, where the juveniles maximize growth before migrating upstream into caves to reproduce or downstream to surface streams (Day 2008, p. 18). As juveniles grow, the potential for cannibalism decreases and mortality rates stabilize, resulting in increased recapture rates in caves. Both growth rate and metabolism are lower in caves versus resurgence sites (Adams 2005, p. 61; Adams
Grotto sculpin tend to occur singly or in small aggregations of 2 to 3 individuals and can be found in the open water or hidden under rocks (Burr
Within and among caves and streams, sculpin typically move 0 to 50 m (0 to 164 ft) (Adams
The grotto sculpin was first documented in 1991 (Adams 2005, p. 11). Burr
The grotto sculpin
There are no total population estimates for the grotto sculpin. Mystery (MC) and Running Bull (RBC) caves and their associated resurgence streams, Mystery Resurgence (MR) and Thunderhole Resurgence (TR), respectively, apparently have the largest populations of grotto sculpin (Adams
Capture success, recapture rates, and population density differ seasonally. The greatest number of grotto sculpin has been captured in summer, followed
Two mass mortalities of grotto sculpin have been documented in Perry County. The first occurred in Running Bull Cave in 2001, when the population was completely lost (Burr
Section 4 of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1533), and its implementing regulations at 50 CFR part 424, set forth the procedures for adding species to the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Under section 4(a)(1) of the Act, we may list a species based on any of the following five factors: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. Listing actions may be warranted based on any of the above threat factors, singly or in combination. Each of these factors is discussed below.
The grotto sculpin is a cave-adapted species that is endemic to karst habitats that provide consistent water flow, high organic input, and connection to surface streams, which allow for seasonal migrations to complete its life cycle. Nearly all of the land within the known range of the grotto sculpin is privately owned. Two exceptions are Ball Mill Resurgence Natural Area (19.5 ac (7.9 ha)) and Keyhole Spring and Resurgence near Blue Spring Branch; both properties are owned by the L-A-D Foundation (a private foundation dedicated to sustainable forest management and protection of natural and cultural areas in Missouri (
The karst in Perry County is characterized by thousands of sinkholes (Vandike 1985, p. 1) and over 700 caves (Fox
There are approximately 2 sinkholes per km
Illegal Waste Disposal and Chemical Leaching—At least half of the sinkholes in Perry County have been or are currently used as dump sites for anthropogenic waste (Burr
Chemical leaching in sinkholes likely is a major contributor to the occurrence of legacy-use pesticides, such as dieldrin, in aquatic habitats (Fox
Sinkholes have also been used as disposal sites for dead livestock (Fox
Contaminated Water—In cave streams sampled by Fox
Additional potential adverse effects to grotto sculpin from contaminants include increased susceptibility to fish disease (Arkoosh
Vertical Drains—Potential contaminant problems with sinkholes are further exacerbated by the presence and continued installation of vertical
The NRCS (2006, p. 2) noted that “significant additions to subsurface water sources may raise local water tables or cause undesirable surface discharges down-gradient from the vertical drain.” The impact of vertical drains on groundwater has been studied on a limited basis and studies have directly linked groundwater and drinking water contamination with vertical drains (EPA 1999, unpaginated). According to the conditions set by the NRCS, this practice can only be applied when it will not contaminate groundwater or affect instream habitat by reducing surface water flows (NRCS 2010b, p. 1). The NRCS provides a cost-share of up to 75 percent for installation of vertical drains to stop erosion (NRCS 2010b; 2011; 2012) and has conservation practice and construction standards that include secure placement of the standpipe, appropriate fill material around the drainage pipe, and a filter system around the drain (NRCS 2006a, pp. 1-2; 2006b, pp. 1-3). Without implementation of the suite of standards, vertical drains might allow contaminated water to flow directly into caves without naturally occurring filtration (Pobst and Taylor 2007, p. 69). Vertical drains act as conduits for all surface water, contaminants, and sediment directly from the surface through the bedrock into underground caves, streams, and karst voids (Pobst and Taylor 2007, p. 69). Although USDA requires landowners to install a minimum of 7.62 m (25 ft) of grassed buffer around vertical drains to minimize erosion and the migration of nutrients and contaminants into the groundwater system, this guideline is not strictly followed (Moss and Pobst 2010, p. 170). Because vertical drains are potential targets for illegal dumpling of liquid hazardous wastes (Fox
Urbanization and Development—In addition to contamination from point sources of pollution and improper trash disposal, water quality of sculpin habitats is negatively impacted by urban growth of Perryville, located in the recharge area for Crevice Cave (Moss and Pobst 2010, p. 164). Crevice Cave had the lowest amount of cropland and grassland within its recharge and the most chemical detections. In contrast, Mystery Cave had the most cropland and grassland and fewest chemical detections (Fox
Most of the runoff water in areas that recharge aquatic habitats for the grotto sculpin moves quickly into the groundwater system with ineffective natural filtration, and the same is true for waste waters from septic systems (Aley 2012, pers. comm.). Contamination of groundwater by septic systems in karst areas has been documented on multiple occasions (Simon and Buikema 1997, pp. 387, 395; Panno
Most of the rural residents in the Central Perryville and Mystery-Rimstone karst areas employ on-site septic systems (for example, in the Mystery Cave area) (Aley 1976, p. 12). Failure of septic systems occurs in karst areas of southeast Missouri, such as those in Perry County, but detections are problematic because most failures are not obvious from the surface, but instead occur underground into the groundwater system (Aley 2012, pers. comm.). One instance of a septic system failure was observed by Aley (1976, p. 12) near Mystery Cave. Sewage was being discharged to a septic field within 100 ft (30.5 m) of the cave entrance and was contaminating the waters of the Mystery Cave system. Water samples collected by the Missouri Department of Conservation within the range of the grotto sculpin indicated the presence of
No animal feeding operations (AFOs) or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are present in the recharge areas of grotto sculpin habitat (MDNR 2010), but there are smaller livestock feeding areas that are in sinkholes or near sinkhole drainage
Sedimentation—Concerns with sedimentation (actual deposition of sediment, not the transport) and wash load (portion of the sediment in transport that is generally finer than the sediment) (as defined by Biedenharn
Excessive siltation in aquatic systems can be problematic for fish because it can change the overall structure of the habitat (Berkman and Rabeni 1986, pp. 291-292). Silt can fill voids in rock substrate that are integral components of habitat for reproduction and predator avoidance. The grotto sculpin occurs in habitats with some level of sediment deposition (Gerken 2007, pp. 16-17, 23-25). However, siltation beyond what occurred historically could limit the amount of suitable habitat available (Gerken 2007, pp. 27-28; Gerken and Adams 2007, p. 76), and the threshold of siltation that renders cave habitat unsuitable for grotto sculpin has not yet been determined.
Industrial Sand Mining—Industrial sand is also known as “silica,” “silica sand,” and “quartz sand,” and includes sands with high silicon dioxide content. Silica sand production in the United States was 29.3 million metric tons (Mt), an increase of 5.3 Mt from 2009 to 2010 (U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 2012, p. 66.6). The Midwest leads the Nation in industrial sand and gravel production, accounting for 49 percent of the annual total (USGS 2012, p. 66.1). One end-use of silica sand is as a propping agent for hydraulic fracturing. Higher production of silica sand in 2010 was primarily attributable to an increasing demand for hydraulic fracturing sand because of continuing exploration and production of natural gas throughout the United States. Conventional natural gas sources have become less abundant, leading drilling companies to turn to deep natural gas and shale gas. Of the 29.3 Mt of silica sand sold or used in the United States, 12.1 Mt (41 percent) was used for hydraulic fracturing in the petroleum industry (USGS 2012, p. 66.10). As of 2010, the price per ton for industrial silica sand was $45.24 in the United States (USGS 2012, p. 66.11). In addition to new facilities, existing hydraulic fracturing sand operations increased production capacity to meet the surging demand for sand.
Mining for silica sand in Missouri occurs in the St. Peter Sandstone in Jefferson, Perry, and St. Louis Counties (USGS 2011, p. 27.2). The St. Peter Sandstone formation is directly adjacent to (to the west) the Joachim Dolomite formation that forms the karst habitat for the grotto sculpin in Perry County. The interface between these two formations generally comprises the western borders of the Central Perryville and Mystery-Rimstone karst areas. Four companies in Missouri produced 0.9 Mt of high-purity sand from the St. Peter Sandstone formation (USGS 2011, p. 27.2). The existing operation in Perry County lies 5.6 km (3.5 mi) northwest of Perryville and involves open pit mining on 101 ha (250 acres). This producer specializes in 40 to 70 and 70 to 140 size-grades that were used by the oil and gas well-servicing industry as a hydraulic fracture propping agent in shale formations (USGS 2010, p. 27.2).
Sand mining is typically accomplished using open pit or dredging methods with standard mining equipment and without the use of chemicals. Sand can be mined from outcrops or by removing overburden to reach subsurface deposits. Environmental impacts of sand mining are primarily limited to disturbance of the immediate area. The current operation in Perry County is partially within the Joachim Dolomite formation and at the western edge of the sinkhole plain with approximately four sinkholes occurring in the immediate vicinity. Erosion of soil and disturbed overburden could occur and increase the sediment loads in adjacent surface waters and cave streams via runoff. For example, a portion of the existing mining operation is within the Bois Brule watershed. Sediment-laden runoff could enter Blue Spring Branch, one of the surface streams occupied by the grotto sculpin. As described above, sedimentation can change the structure of grotto sculpin habitat and negatively impact reproduction and predator avoidance. Presence of the current facility, only 0.5 km (0.3 mi) and 1.6 km (1 mi) from the Central Perryville Karst and Crevice Cave recharge area, respectively, shows that such operations can and do occur in the Joachim Dolomite formation and immediately adjacent to grotto sculpin habitat. We currently are unaware of any plans for new facilities or expansions of current facilities. However, based on the presence of one existing operation, the occurrence of St. Peter Sandstone in Perry County, as well as recent growth of the hydraulic fracturing industry and associated increased demand for silica sand, it is likely that increased sand mining activity will occur in the future in areas where the grotto sculpin occurs. We consider sand mining to be a potentially significant threat to the species in the future.
All of the recharge areas for caves occupied by the grotto sculpin are highly vulnerable and contain hazards from historical sinkhole dumps, agricultural practices without universal application of best management practices, ineffective private septic systems, and degraded runoff from roads. Hazardous waste facilities, outfalls for waste and storm water, and underground storage tanks are found in the recharge area for Crevice Cave that are not found in other parts of the species' range. Cave recharge areas in the Central Perryville Karst contain an average of 23 sinkholes per km
At least half of the sinkholes in Perry County have been, or are currently used as, dump sites for anthropogenic waste including household chemicals, sewage, pesticide and herbicide containers, and animal carcasses. Cave streams in Perry County are contaminated with current-use and legacy-use pesticides that enter cave systems through storm runoff or via leaching in sinkholes. The majority of chemicals that have TWAs at levels above MDLs originated from agricultural pest management activities and included acetochlor, diethatyl-ethyl, atrazine, and desethylatrazine (DEA), pyrene, metolachlor, DEET, and pentachloroanisole. Atrazine has been the most frequently detected herbicide in ground and surface waters in Perry County. Even at concentrations below EPA criteria for protection of aquatic life, atrazine has been shown to reduce egg production and cause gonadal abnormalities in fish.
Potential contaminant problems with sinkholes are further exacerbated by the presence and continued installation of vertical drains across the agricultural landscape. This practice, meant to reduce erosion by facilitating drainage of surface or subsurface water, results in more land available to the farmer. As of 2010, the recharge areas for known and potential grotto sculpin habitat in the Central Perryville and Mystery-Rimstone karst areas contain an average of 2.4 vertical drains per km
Risk from agricultural land use and point sources of pollution, such as sinkhole dumps, are not the only concern on the Perry County landscape. The recharge area for Crevice Cave contains the city of Perryville. Urban growth and hazards, such as hazardous waste facilities, underground storage tanks, wastewater discharges, and poorly maintained septic systems, in and around the city are threats to water quality in the range of the grotto sculpin. Potential threats in more rural areas of Perry County include introduction of manure and associated bacteria and pathogens into sinkholes from small livestock feeding areas. Such contaminants can increase nutrient loads and lower dissolved oxygen in the groundwater.
Concerns with sedimentation and wash load are primarily the transport of contaminants and the deposition of sediment in cave streams. Turbidity of cave streams is positively correlated with chemical concentrations, indicating that chemicals can bind to sediment particles and be transported by surface runoff. Siltation beyond what occurred historically could limit the amount of suitable habitat available; abnormally high deposition of sediment in cave systems can be problematic for aquatic life as it can fill voids in rock substrate that are integral components of grotto sculpin habitat.
Industrial sand mining is occurring in Perry County just outside the range of the grotto sculpin, but within the Bois Brule watershed. The mining operation near Perryville lies in the interface between the St. Peter Sandstone and Joachim Dolomite formations. Current mining operations could exacerbate erosion and sedimentation problems in the sinkhole plain and negatively impact grotto sculpin habitat. Furthermore, anticipated expansions of current operations or development of new operations to meet increasing demand of silica sand could pose a more serious threat in the future.
Although some specimens of the grotto sculpin have been taken for scientific investigations, we do not consider such collection activities to be at a level that poses a threat to the species. We do not have records of any individuals being taken for commercial, recreational, or educational purposes.
Predation by invasive, epigean fish poses a threat to eggs, young-of-year, and juvenile grotto sculpin. Farm ponds are human-made features, as opposed to natural aquatic habitats, that often are stocked with both native and nonnative fishes for recreational purposes. Fish from farm ponds enter cave systems through sinkholes when ponds are unexpectedly drained (Burr
The migration and persistence of invasive, epigean fish species into cave environments poses an ongoing and pervasive threat to the grotto sculpin because of unnatural levels of predation on eggs, young-of-year, and juveniles. Predation beyond what occurs naturally among adult and juvenile grotto sculpin can reduce population levels to an unsustainable level and may render a population unrecoverable in the face of an unexpected mass mortality.
The primary causes of the grotto sculpin's decline are degradation of aquatic resources from illegal waste disposal in sinkhole dumps, chemical leaching, urban development, and sedimentation. Existing Federal, State, and local laws have not been able to prevent impacts to the grotto sculpin and its habitat, and the existing regulatory mechanisms are not expected to prevent causes of grotto sculpin decline in the future.
The grotto sculpin is not protected under the Missouri State Endangered Species Law (MO ST 252.240) because it has not been formally recognized as a distinct species, but is affo