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Assessment of habitat and streamflow requirements for habitat protection, Usquepaug–Queen River, Rhode Island, 1999–2000

June 1, 2003

The relations among stream habitat and hydrologic conditions were investigated in the Usquepaug–Queen River Basin in southern Rhode Island. Habitats were assessed at 13 sites on the mainstem and tributaries from July 1999 to September 2000. Channel types are predominantly low-gradient glides, pools, and runs that have a sand and gravel streambed and a forest or shrub riparian zone. Along the stream margins, overhanging brush, undercut banks supported by roots, and downed trees create cover; within the channel, submerged aquatic vegetation and woody debris create cover. These habitat features decrease in quality and availability with declining streamflows, and features along stream margins generally become unavailable once streamflows drop to the point at which water recedes from the stream banks. Riffles are less common, but were identified as critical habitat areas because they are among the first to exhibit habitat losses or become unavailable during low-flow periods. Stream-temperature data were collected at eight sites during summer 2000 to indicate the suitability of those reaches for cold-water fish communities. Data indicate stream temperatures provide suitable habitat for cold-water species in the Fisherville and Locke Brook tributaries and in the mainstem Queen River downstream of the confluence with Fisherville Brook. Stream temperatures in the Usquepaug River downstream from Glen Rock Reservoir are about 6°F warmer than in the Queen River upstream from the impoundment. These warmer temperatures may make habitat in the Usquepaug River marginal for cold-water species.

Fish-community composition was determined from samples collected at seven sites on tributaries and at three sites on the mainstem Usquepaug–Queen River. Classification of the fish into habitat-use groups and comparison to target fish communities developed for the Quinebaug and Ipswich Rivers indicated that the sampled reaches of the Usquepaug–Queen River contained most of the riverine fish species that would have been expected to occur in this area.

Streamflow records from the gaging station Usquepaug River near Usquepaug were used to (1) determine streamflow requirements for habitat protection by use of the Tennant method, and (2) define a flow regime that mimics the river's natural flow regime by use of the Range of Variability Approach. The Tennant streamflow requirement, defined as 30 percent of the mean annual flow, was 0.64 cubic feet per second per square mile (ft3/s/mi2). This requirement should be considered an initial estimate because flows measured at the Usquepaug River gaging station are reduced by water withdrawals upstream from the gage. The streamflow requirements may need to be revised once a watershed-scale precipitationrunoff model of the Usquepaug River is complete
and a simulation of streamflows without water withdrawals has been determined.

Publication Year 2003
Title Assessment of habitat and streamflow requirements for habitat protection, Usquepaug–Queen River, Rhode Island, 1999–2000
DOI 10.3133/ofr2002438
Authors David S. Armstrong, Gene W. Parker
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2002-438
Index ID ofr2002438
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse