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Habitat assessment, Missouri River at Hermann, Missouri

July 1, 2020

This report documents methods and results of aquatic habitat assessment in the Missouri River near Hermann, Missouri. The assessment is intended to improve understanding of spatial and temporal variability of aquatic habitat, including habitats thought to be critical for the endangered pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus). Physical aquatic habitat – depth, velocity, and substrate – was assessed around 9 wing dikes and adjacent to the U.S. Route 19 bridge, at discharges varying from 44,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 146, 000 cfs during August 2000 – May, 2001. For the river as a whole, velocities are bi-modally distributed with distinct peaks relating to navigation channel and wing-dike environments. Velocities predictably showed an increasing trend with increasing discharge. Substrate within wing dikes was dominated by mud at low discharges, whereas the navigation channel had patches of transporting sand, rippled sand, and coarse sand. Discharges that overtopped the wing dikes (about 93,000 cfs, March 2001) were associated with increases of patchy sand, rippled sand, and coarse sand within the wing dikes. When flows were substantially over the wing dikes (146,000 cfs, May 2001) substrates within most wing dikes showed substantial reorganization and coarsening.

The habitat assessment provides a geospatial database that can be used to query wing dikes for distributions of depth, velocity, and substrate for comparison with fish samples collected by US Fish and Wildlife Service biologists (Grady and others, 2001). In addition, the assessment documented spatial and temporal variation in habitat within the Hermann reach and over a range of discharges. Measurable geomorphic change – alteration of substrate conditions plus substantial erosion and deposition – was associated with flows equaled or exceeded 12–40% of the time (40–140 days per year). Documented geomorphic change associated with high-frequency flows underscores the natural temporal variability of physical habitat in the Lower Missouri River.

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