Impacts to water quality and fish habitat associated with maintaining natural channels for flood control

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Journal: Environ Manage 2003/10/21
Published: 2003
Authors: Steinberger, N.;Wohl, E.
Address: Department of Public Works, Utilities Division-Greenways City of Boulder, 1739 Broadway, P.O. Box 791 Boulder, CO 80306-0791, USA.

Field investigation conducted on Boulder Creek in Boulder, Colorado evaluated impacts of flood control maintenance activities on flood conveyance, water quality, and fish habitat. Thirty-nine transects were monitored at one control site and two maintenance sites over a period of eight months. Each site was visited on more than 50 occasions in order to characterize pre- and post-maintenance conditions, and to monitor maintenance activities. Measurements along the transects included substrate composition, flow depth, velocity, and elevation. Reach-average values were assigned to variables such as in-stream vegetation, streambank stability, and woody vegetation before and after maintenance. Water temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, specific conductance, and turbidity were sampled, and habitat suitability indices were developed pre- and post-maintenance for seven indicator fish species. Water quality impacts during maintenance consisted of high turbidity levels (> 400 NTU), which retumed to background levels (0.1-15 NTU) overnight, as well as changes in mean temperature and pH. Alteration of physical channel characteristics as a result of maintenance had limited effects on habitat quality for four of seven fish species, but caused improvements in habitat quality for three fish species. The main implications of this study for floodplain management are that: (1) Flood control maintenance practices can be in direct conflict with water quality and fish habitat objectives, and should be carefully designed and implemented by an interdisciplinary team. (2) Physical habitat for some fish species can be improved as well as reduced by maintenance activities. Habitat suitability curves may be useful tools for evaluating limiting factors of the habitat and for identifying opportunities for habitat improvements as part of maintenance.

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