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Physical habitat dynamics in four side-channel chutes, lower Missouri River

January 1, 2004

Construction of the side-channel chutes has become a popular means to rehabilitate habitate of the Lower Missouri River. We studied various aspects of hydrology, hydraulics, and geomorphology of four side-channel chutes to document a range of existing conditions in the Lower Missouri River. The Cranberry Bend side-channel chute has existed for at least 40 years and is an example of a persistent, minimally engineered chute. The Lisbon Bottom side-channel chute is a young chute, created by extreme floods during 1993 – 1996, and allowed to evolve with minimum engineering of inlet and outlet structures. The Hamburg Bend and North Overton Bottom side-channel chutes were constructed in 1996 and 2000, respectively, as part of the Missouri River Bank Stabilization and navigation Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Project.

These side-channel chutes provide increased areas of sandbars and shallow, slow water – habitats thought to be substantially diminished in the modern Missouri River. Depths and velocities measured in side-channel chutes are also present in the main channel, but the chutes provide more areas of slow, shallow water and they increase the range of discharges over which shallow, slow water is present. The 3.6 km long Lisbon Bottom chute provides as much as 50% of the entire shallow water habitat that exists in the encompassing 15 km reach of the river. At Cranberry Bend and Lisbon Bottom, the side-channel chutes provided 10 – 40% of the availabile sandbar area in the reach, depending on discharge.

Each of the side-channel chutes shows evidence of continuing erosion and deposition. The longevity and the Cranberry Bend chute attests to dynamic stability – that is, a chute that maintains form and processes while shifting in position. The Hamburg chute similarly shows evidence of lateral movement and construction of flood plain to compensate for erosion. The Lisbon Bottom chute – the most intensively studied chute – appears to have achieved an equilibrium width and continues to migrate slowly; however, evidence of aggradation indicates that the chute has not reached an ultimate form, and may be continuing to adjust to altered hydrology and sediment availability. The North Overton Bottoms chute is the newest in the study. In its originally constructed form, the North Overton Bottoms pilot chute was extremely stable, even while being subjected to two floods in excess of 2-year recurrence interval and after accumulating large, potentially destabilizing large woody debris jams. Ongoing adaptive re-engineering of the North Overton Bottoms chute has prevented assessment of how the chute might have adjusted its form in the absence of intervention.

Publication Year 2004
Title Physical habitat dynamics in four side-channel chutes, lower Missouri River
DOI 10.3133/ofr20041071
Authors Robert B. Jacobson, Harold E. Johnson, Mark S. Laustrup, Gary J. D'Urso, Joanna M. Reuter
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2004-1071
Index ID ofr20041071
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center