Application of the Systems Impact Assessment Model (SIAM) to Fishery Resource Issues in the Klamath River, California

Open-File Report 2009-1265

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At the request of two offices of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) located in Yreka and Arcata, Calif., we applied the Systems Impact Assessment Model (SIAM) to analyze a variety of water management concerns associated with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing of the Klamath hydropower projects or with ongoing management of anadromous fish stocks in the mainstem Klamath River, Oregon and California. Requested SIAM analyses include predicted effects of reservoir withdrawal elevations, use of full active storage in Copco and Iron Gate Reservoirs to augment spring flows, and predicted spawning and juvenile outmigration timing of fall Chinook salmon. In an effort to further refine the analysis of spring flow effects on predicted fall Chinook production, additional SIAM analyses were performed for predicted response to spring flow release variability from Iron Gate Dam, high and low pulse flow releases, the predicted effects of operational constraints for both Upper Klamath Lake water surface elevations, and projected flow releases specified in the Klamath Project 2006 Operations Plan (April 10, 2006). Results of SIAM simulations to determine flow and water temperature relationships indicate that up to 4 degrees C of thermal variability can be attributed to flow variations, but the effect is seasonal. Much more of thermal variability can be attributed to air temperature variations, up to 6 degrees C. Reservoirs affect the annual thermal signature by delaying spring warming by about 3 weeks and fall cooling by about 2 weeks. Multi-level release outlets on Iron Gate Dam would have limited utility; however, if releases are small (700 cfs) and a near-surface and bottom-level outlet could be blended, then water temperature may be reduced by 2-4 degrees C for a 4-week period during September. Using the full active storage in Copco and Iron Gate Reservoir, although feasible, had undesirable ramifications such as earlier spring warming, loss of hydropower production, and inability to re-fill the reservoirs without causing shortages elsewhere in the system. Altering spawning and outmigration timing may be important management objectives for the salmon fishery, but difficult to implement. SIAM predicted benefits that might occur if water temperature was cooler in fall and spring emergence was advanced; however, model simulations were based on purely arbitrary thermal reductions. Spring flow variability did indicate that juvenile fall Chinook rearing habitat was the major biological 'bottleneck' for year class success. Rearing habitat is maximal in a range between 4,500 and 5,500 cfs below Iron Gate Dam. These flow levels are not typically provided by Klamath River system operations, except in very wet years. The incremental spring flow analysis provided insight into when and how long a pulse flow should occur to provide predicted fall Chinook salmon production increases. In general, March 15th - April 30th of any year was the period for pulse flows and 4000 cfs was the target flow release that provided near-optimal juvenile rearing habitat. Again, competition for water resources in the Klamath River Basin may make implementation of pulsed flows difficult.

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USGS Numbered Series
Application of the Systems Impact Assessment Model (SIAM) to Fishery Resource Issues in the Klamath River, California
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey
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Fort Collins Science Center
vi, 74 p.
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