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Application of sediment characteristics and transport conditions to resource management in selected main-stem reaches of the Upper Colorado River, Colorado and Utah, 1965-2007

January 10, 2013

The Colorado River Basin provides habitat for 14 native fish, including 4 endangered species protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. These endangered fish species once thrived in the Colorado River system, but water-resource development, including the building of numerous diversion dams and several large reservoirs, and the introduction of non-native fish, resulted in large reductions in the numbers and range of the four species through loss of habitat and stream function. Understanding how stream conditions and habitat change in response to alterations in streamflow is important for water administrators and wildlife managers and can be determined from an understanding of sediment transport. Characterization of the processes that are controlling sediment transport is an important first step in identifying flow regimes needed for restored channel morphology and the sustained recovery of endangered fishes within these river systems. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Argonne National Laboratory, Western Area Power Administration, and Wyoming State Engineer’s Office, began a study in 2004 to characterize sediment transport at selected locations on the Colorado, Gunnison, and Green Rivers to begin addressing gaps in existing datasets and conceptual models of the river systems. This report identifies and characterizes the relation between streamflow (magnitude and timing) and sediment transport and presents the findings through discussions of (1) suspended-sediment transport, (2) incipient motion of streambed material, and (3) a case study of sediment-transport conditions for a reach of the Green River identified as a razorback sucker spawning habitat (See report for full abstract).