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The Agricultural Drainage and Pesticide Transport model was used to examine the relationship between fish and suspended sediment in the context of a proposed total maximum daily load (TMDL) in two agricultural watersheds in Minnesota. During a 50-year simulation, Wells Creek, a third-order cold water stream, had an estimated 1,164 events (i.e., one or more consecutive days of estimated sediment loading) and the Chippewa River, a fourth-order warm water stream, had 906 events of measurable suspended sediment. Sublethal thresholds were exceeded for 970 events and lethal levels for 194 events for brown trout in Wells Creek, whereas adult nonsalmonidis would have experienced sublethal levels for 923 events and lethal levels for 241 events. Sublethal levels were exceeded for 756 events and lethal thresholds were exceeded for 150 events in the Chippewa River. Nonsalmonids would have experienced 15 events of mortality between 0 and 20 percent in Wells Creek. In the Chippewa River, there were 35 events of mortality between 0 and 20 percent and one event in which mortality could have exceeded 20 percent. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has proposed listing stream reaches as being impaired for turbidity at 25 NTU, which is approximately 46 mg suspended sediment/l. We estimated that 46 mg/l would be exceeded approximately 30 days in a year (d/yr) in both systems. A TMDL of 46 mg SS/l may be too high to ensure that stream fishes are not negatively affected by suspended sediment. We recommend that an indicator incorporating the duration of exposure be applied.
Additional Publication Details
Setting an effective TMDL: Sediment loading and effects of suspended sediment on fish
Journal of the American Water Resources Association