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Field testing and adaptation of a methodology to measure "in-stream" values in the Tongue River, northern Great Plains (NGP) region

April 1, 1978

A comprehensive, multi-component in-stream flow methodology was developed and field tested in the Tongue River in southeastern Montana. The methodology incorporates a sensitivity for the flow requirements of a wide variety of in-stream uses, and the flexibility to adjust flows to accommodate seasonal and sub-seasonal changes in the flow requirements for different areas. In addition, the methodology provides the means to accurately determine the magnitude of the water requirement for each in-stream use. The methodology can be a powerful water management tool in that it provides the flexibility and accuracy necessary in water use negotiations and evaluation of trade-offs.

In contrast to most traditional methodologies, in-stream flow requirements were determined by additive independent methodologies developed for: 1) fisheries, including spawning, rearing, and food production; 2) sediment transport; 3) the mitigation of adverse impacts of ice; and 4) evapotranspiration losses. Since each flow requirement varied in important throughout the year, the consideration of a single in-stream use as a basis for a flow recommendation is inadequate.

The study shows that the base flow requirement for spawning shovelnose sturgeon was 13.0 m3/sec. During the same period of the year, the flow required to initiate the scour of sediment from pools is 18.0 m3/sec, with increased scour efficiency occurring at flows between 20.0 and 25.0 m3/sec.

An over-winter flow of 2.83 m3/sec. would result in the loss of approximately 80% of the riffle areas to encroachment by surface ice. At the base flow for insect production, approximately 60% of the riffle area is lost to ice. Serious damage to the channel could be incurred from ice jams during the spring break-up period. A flow of 12.0 m3/sec. is recommended to alleviate this problem. Extensive ice jams would be expected at the base rearing and food production levels.

The base rearing flow may be profoundly influenced by the loss of streamflow to transpiration. Transpiration losses to riparian vegetation ranged from 0.78 m3/sec. in April, to 1.54 m3/sec. in July, under drought conditions. Requirement for irrigation were estimated to range from 5.56 m3/sec. in May to 7.97 m3/sec. in July, under drought conditions. It was concluded that flow requirements to satisfy monthly water losses to transpiration must be added to the base fishery flows to provide adequate protection to the resources in the lower reaches of the river.

Integration of the in-stream requirements for various use components shows that a base flow of at least 23.6 m3/sec. must be reserved during the month of June to initiate scour of sediment from pools, provide spawning habitat to shovelnose sturgeon, and to accommodate water losses from the system. In comparison, a base flow of 3.85 m3/sec. would be required during early February to provide fish rearing habitat and insect productivity, and to prevent excessive loss of food production areas to surface ice formation. During mid to late February, a flow of 12 m3/sec. would be needed to facilitate ice break-up and prevent ice jams from forming. Following break-up, the base flow would again be 3.85 m3/sec. until the start of spawning season.

Publication Year 1978
Title Field testing and adaptation of a methodology to measure "in-stream" values in the Tongue River, northern Great Plains (NGP) region
Authors Ken D. Bovee, James A. Gore, Arnold J. Silverman
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Series Number EPA-908/4-78-004A
Index ID 70119885
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse