7-Years of Using Distributed Temperature Sensing (DTS) to assess river restoration efforts : synergies of high-resolution observation and modeling on the Middle Fork of the John Day River

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Austin Hall and Mousa Diabat, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, United States
Temperature is a key factor for salmonid health and is an important restoration metric on the Middle Fork of the John Day River, northeast Oregon. The longest undammed tributary to the Columbia, the headwaters of the Middle Fork are crucial to steelhead and spring Chinook and summer Chinook juvenile rearing. In the past century the river has been altered by dredge mining, overgrazing, logging activities, and irrigation resulting in bank erosion, low effective shade, and channelization. These factors decreased fish habitat and led to increased stream temperature maxima. Restoration has focused on restoring fish habitat, creating thermal refugia, and planting native vegetation. The most recent completed restoration project diverted the flow into the historic, meandering stream channel from the dredged, straightened channel.

Over the past seven years, Oregon State University researchers (Tara O’Donnell-2012, Julie Huff-2009) have been involved in a planned-to-be 10-year stream temperature monitoring study to assess maximum temperatures during low-flow summer months. The use of fiber optics through distributed temperature sensing (DTS) made it possible to record high resolution temperature data at both temporal and spatial scales; data which is used to assess the efficacy of restoration efforts on the reach. Furthermore, DTS provided temperature data that reveals subtle hydrologic processes such as groundwater or hyporheic inflows and quantifies their effect on the stream. Current research has focused on large scale DTS installations on the Middle Fork of the John Day River on the Oxbow, Forrest, and the upstream Galena (“RPB”) conservation properties. In the summers of 2013 and 2014, 16 km of river were monitored.

Our study compares temperatures before and after the restoration project and provides essential guidance for future restoration projects. Direct comparisons coupled with a deterministic modeling using HeatSource assist in better understanding the responsiveness of the stream to restoration. Results showed that reconstructing the stream channel influenced stream temperature as a function of modifying channel geometry, hydraulics, and riparian conditions. Special attention in this work is focused on the role of tributary fans in the creation of distributed cold-water emergences.