Modeling the Effects of Connecting Side Channels to the Long Tom River, Oregon

Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Christina Appleby and Patricia F McDowell, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, United States
The lower Long Tom River is a heavily managed, highly modified stream in the southwestern Willamette Valley with many opportunities for habitat improvements and river restoration. In the 1940s and 1950s, the US Army Corps of Engineers dramatically altered this river system by constructing the Fern Ridge Dam and three, large drop structures, converting the River from a highly sinuous channel to a straight, channelized stream that is interrupted by these grade control structures, and removed the majority of the riparian vegetation. As a result, juvenile spring Chinook salmon are no longer found in the Watershed and the local population of coastal cutthroat trout face limited aquatic habitat. When the river was channelized, long sections of the historical channel were left abandoned on the floodplain. Reconnecting these historical channels as side channels may improve the quality and quantity of aquatic habitat and could allow fish passage around current barriers. However, such construction may also lead to undesirable threats to infrastructure and farmland.

This study uses multiple HEC-RAS models to determine the impact of reconnecting two historical channels to the lower Long Tom River by quantifying the change in area of flood inundation and identifying infrastructure in jeapordy given current and post-restoration conditions for 1.5, 5, 10, and 25-year flood discharges. Bathymetric data from ADCP and RTK-GPS surveys has been combined with LiDAR-derived topographic data to create continuous elevation models. Several types of side channel connections are modeled in order to determine which type of connection will result in both the greatest quantity of accessible habitat and the fewest threats to public and private property. In the future, this study will also consider the change in the quantity of physical salmonid habitat and map the areas prone to sedimentation and erosion using CEASAR and PHABSIM tools.