As we move forward with the Wapping Road Dam project we have a lot of permitting to take care of and a lot of regulatory compliance to be clear on. One of the really import ones is with the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP). This program is part of the State’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. They watch out for all of the species listed as Endangered, Threatened, or of Special Concern. On the “Special Concern” list is the blue-spotted salamander (Ambystoma laterale). NHESP keeps maps of where potential habitat for these species exists. These maps show that the areas around the Jones River near the Wapping Road Dam might have habitat for these little guys. These salamanders use vernal pools and floodplain pools near rivers for breeding. There is concern that when the dam is removed and the water levels drop it might impact these important pools.
NHSEP has come out to see the site and they are excited about the overall ecological benefits that the project presents. But we do need to assess the potential impact to the blue-spots. The Riverways Program has stepped up to help us with this issue. They are funding a survey to identify specific habitat for the salamanders and determine if they are in the area and using the pools for breeding. An expert on these species (Dan Wells of Hyla Ecological Services) has been hired to come out and conduct the surveys. The first day of the survey was today and consisted of a site reconnaissance of the entire area. Pine and I did the walk with Dan today, here’s where we went….
We had an interesting walk and identified several areas that have the potential to support blue-spot breeding. The next steps will be to set some traps to count catch and count salamanders, identify actual breeding pools through egg mass surveys, and figure out how the draw dawn will impact the pools. This will be happen over the next few weeks as the weather warms and the salamanders start moving. We’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime…we’ll be hosting a talk at the Landing by Jessica Tenzar. Jessica is an expert in salamanders and vernal pools. She will be discussing how to identify and certify vernal pools. She will also be presenting some of her new data that reveals the distances that salamanders travel to feed. This data suggests that existing regulations on vernal pool buffers may not be protective enough. Join us at 7:00pm on Thursday, March 26th to hear more.