During the last several decades, portions of the upper Yellowstone River have been modified for flood control and erosion prevention. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for administration of a permit program for evaluating construction activities affecting rivers, streams, and wetlands. The Corps regulates activities under the authority of Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Since assumption of jurisdiction in the mid-1970's, the Corps has processed a total of 156 permit actions for the upper Yellowstone River. Over two-thirds of the permit actions occurred during or after two consecutive large floods during 1996 and 1997. In response to concern regarding the potential environmental and ecological consequences of channel modification, the Corps, in conjunction with State and local government agencies, initiated a series of scientific studies to better understand the effects of channel modification in the upper Yellowstone River (Figure 1). These included preparation of wetland and riparian inventory maps (Bon, 2001); hydraulic modeling and flood-plain delineation; watershed land-cover assessment (Pick and Potter, 2003); historic bottomland use analysis (Brelsford and others, 2003); analysis of channel modification effects on fish habitat (Bowen and others, 2003); comparison of juvenile salmonid use of modified and unmodified habitats (Zale and Rider, 2003); analysis of riparian vegetation and flood-plain turnover (Merigliano and Polzin, 2003); study of the relations between riparian habitat and bird communities (Hansen and others, 2003); analyses of geomorphology and historical channel changes (Dalby and Robinson, 2003); socioeconomic assessment (BBC Research and Consulting, 2002); and sediment transport investigations and modeling (Holnbeck, 2003).
This report is a summary of results from the individual scientific studies as they bear on future programmatic cumulative effects analyses of channel modification of the upper Yellowstone River. We do not attempt a formal, cumulative impact assessment in the sense of evaluating alternatives or future scenarios. The first section presents major findings of the resource studies in terms of temporal comparisons, spatial comparisons, and causal relations. In this section, we present a series of conceptual models or flow diagrams of the major causal pathways of cumulative impacts from channel modification. These represent major pathways of potential impact based on knowledge from other rivers, concerns expressed about the upper Yellowstone, and results from the scientific studies. These diagrams serve to focus interpretation of study results as either supporting or not supporting the importance and magnitude of particular causal relations and to identify key linking variables appearing in multiple causal pathways. These key variables that connect channel modification actions to multiple, valued environmental attributes can serve as the foundation for both projecting and monitoring future responses of the system.
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USGS Numbered Series
Summary of Studies Supporting Cumulative Effects Analysis of Upper Yellowstone River Channel Modifications