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Application of paleoflood surveys for the southern Black Hills of South Dakota

January 1, 2017

Flood-frequency analyses for the Black Hills area have especially large uncertainties and are especially important for planning purposes because of a history of extremely large and damaging floods, such as the extreme floods of June 9–10, 1972. Geology, topography, and climatology are additional complicating factors for flood-frequency characterization for the area. Two previous paleoflood studies for the Black Hills area indicated good potential for improving flood-frequency analyses through implementation of paleoflood investigations. The objectives of this study (SD2010-04) for the southern Black Hills were to (1) develop long-term flood chronologies and associated peak-flow frequency analyses for selected stream reaches by applying paleoflood hydrology approaches; and (2) develop flood-frequency information regarding “high-elevation” stream reaches to help address questions regarding differential potential for generation of exceptionally strong rain-producing thunderstorms across elevation gradients in the area. Neither objective was accomplished because the study was terminated before planned completion.
Substantial efforts could be applied for only 2 of the 12 research tasks prior to study termination. These were task 3 (preliminary reconnaissance) and task 4 (activities associated with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act). Field reconnaissance conducted along 10 candidate streams indicated that conditions in the southern Black Hills appear quite favorable for conducting paleoflood investigations. All 10 candidate streams had moderate to good potential for favorable paleoflood evidence, and in general are well constrained in relatively narrow canyon reaches, which provides good sensitivity for changes in stage, relative to discharge.
Task 4 (Section 106 activities) was needed because alcoves and rock shelters that are well suited for deposition and preservation of paleoflood evidence may have been used as shelters or cache locations by indigenous inhabitants and thus may be eligible for consideration as historic properties because of possible archaeological or cultural materials. The complexity of the Section 106 concerns and issues became progressively more apparent as the study evolved. The study eventually was terminated when it became apparent that the resources needed to address the Section 106 issues would overwhelm the resources available for study implementation. In the event of consideration of future re-implementation, approaches that might help expedite Section 106 issues could include (1) a partnership with another Federal agency that has substantial experience with the Section 106 process; (2) securing assistance from a consultant that could help with both the Section 106 process and the required archaeological component; and (3) partnering with a tribal college with archaeological or earth science/hydrology programs, which could help make this study become part of a learning exercise.

Publication Year 2017
Title Application of paleoflood surveys for the southern Black Hills of South Dakota
Authors Daniel G. Driscoll
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype State or Local Government Series
Series Title South Dakota Department of Transportation Office of Research Study
Series Number 2010-04
Index ID 70199137
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization South Dakota Water Science Center