Potential Effects of Four Flaming Gorge Dam Hydropower Operational Scenarios on the Fishes of the Green River, Utah and colorado
Aerial videography and modeling were used to evaluate the impacts of four hydropower operational scenarios at Flaming Gorge Dam, Utah, on trout and native fishes in the Green River, Utah and Colorado. The four operational scenarios studied were year-round high fluctuations, seasonally adjusted high fluctuations, seasonally adjusted moderate fluctuations, and seasonally adjusted steady flows. Impacts on trout were evaluated by examining differences among scenarios in the areas of inundated substrates that serve as spawning and feeding habitat. All scenarios would provide at least 23 acres per mile of habitat for spawning and food production; seasonally adjusted operations would provide additional areas during periods of sustained high release. Seasonally adjusted high fluctuations would increase inundated areas by 12 to 26% for a short period in winter and spring, but food production and reproduction would not be expected to increase. Seasonally adjusted moderate fluctuations and steady flows would produce similar increases in area, but the longer period of inundation could also result in increased food production and provide additional spawning sites for trout. Impacts on native fishes were assessed by examining daily changes in backwater nursery areas. Compared with year-round high fluctuations, the daily changes in backwater area would decrease by about 47,89, and 100% under the seasonally adjusted high fluctuation, moderate fluctuation, and steady flow scenarios, respectively. Similarly, daily stage fluctuations during the nursery period would decrease by 72, 89, and 1000/0 under the seasonally adjusted high fluctuation, moderate fluctuation, and steady flow scenarios, respectively. These reductions in daily fluctuations in backwater area and stage would improve conditions in nursery habitats and could in turn improve recruitment and overwinter survival. Introduced fish species could also benefit from the seasonally adjusted operational scenarios.