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Streamflow statistics for unregulated and regulated conditions for selected locations on the Yellowstone, Tongue, and Powder Rivers, Montana, 1928-2002

November 25, 2013

Major floods in 1996 and 1997 on the Yellowstone River in Montana intensified public debate over the effects of human activities on the Yellowstone River. In 1999, the Yellowstone River Conservation District Council was formed to address conservation issues on the river. The Yellowstone River Conservation District Council partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a cumulative-effects study on the main stem of the Yellowstone River. The cumulative-effects study is intended to provide a basis for future management decisions in the watershed. Streamflow statistics, such as flow-frequency and flow-duration data calculated for unregulated and regulated streamflow conditions, are a necessary component of the cumulative effects study.

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Yellowstone River Conservation District Council and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, calculated streamflow statistics for unregulated and regulated conditions for the Yellowstone, Tongue, and Powder Rivers for the 1928–2002 study period. Unregulated streamflow represents flow conditions that might have occurred during the 1928–2002 study period if there had been no water-resources development in the Yellowstone River Basin. Regulated streamflow represents estimates of flow conditions during the 1928–2002 study period if the level of water-resources development existing in 2002 was in place during the entire study period. Peak-flow frequency estimates for regulated and unregulated streamflow were developed using methods described in Bulletin 17B. High-flow frequency and low-flow frequency data were developed for regulated and unregulated streamflows from the annual series of highest and lowest (respectively) mean flows for specified n-day consecutive periods within the calendar year. Flow-duration data, and monthly and annual streamflow characteristics, also were calculated for the unregulated and regulated streamflows.