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Effect of a levee setback on aquatic resources using two-dimensional flow and bioenergetics models

April 5, 2016

Watershed restoration is the focus of many resource managers and can include a multitude of restoration actions each with specific restoration objectives. For the White River flowing through the cities of Pacific and Sumner, Washington, a levee setback has been proposed to reconnect the river with its historical floodplain to help reduce flood risks, as well as provide increased habitat for federally listed species of salmonids. The study presented here documents the use of a modeling framework that integrates two-dimensional hydraulic modeling with process-based bioenergetics modeling for predicting how changes in flow from reconnecting the river with its floodplain affects invertebrate drift density and the net rate of energy intake of juvenile salmonids. Modeling results were calculated for flows of 25.9 and 49.3 cubic meters per second during the spring, summer, and fall. Predicted hypothetical future mean velocities and depths were significantly lower and more variable when compared to current conditions. The abundance of low energetic cost and positive growth locations for salmonids were predicted to increase significantly in the study reach following floodplain reconnection, particularly during the summer. This modeling framework presents a viable approach for evaluating the potential fisheries benefits of reconnecting a river to its historical floodplain that integrates our understanding of hydraulic, geomorphology, and organismal biology.