Construction of a selective withdrawal tower at Cougar Reservoir in the South Fork McKenzie River, Oregon, during 2002-05 resulted in a prolonged release of sediment and high-turbidity water to downstream reaches throughout the summer of 2002, with additional episodic releases during storms in the following winters. Suspended-sediment concentrations and loads at five continuously monitored turbidity and discharge gaging stations were estimated using regression methods. Deposition in salmonid spawning beds was measured using infiltration bags. Stations were located upstream and downstream of Cougar Reservoir in the South Fork McKenzie River, in the mainstem of the McKenzie River upstream of the South Fork and downstream of Blue River, and in Blue River downstream of Blue River Reservoir. During 2002, Cougar Reservoir released approximately 17,000 tons of suspended sediment into the South Fork McKenzie River, or more than twice the incoming load from the South Fork upstream of the reservoir. In 2003 and 2004, the release of sediment from Cougar Reservoir decreased to 10,900 and 4,100 tons, respectively. Although Cougar Reservoir likely was a substantial source of sediment to the lower reaches during water years 2002 and 2003, the lack of continuous turbidity monitoring at stations other than the South Fork McKenzie River prior to January 2003 prevents quantification of the actual contribution to the mainstem. During water year 2004, the only year with complete records at all sites, Cougar Reservoir released about 24 percent (4,100 tons) of the sediment load estimated on the mainstem near Vida (16,900 tons); however, the relative contribution of Cougar Reservoir is expected to have been substantially larger during 2002 and 2003 when the newly exposed river channel in the upper reaches of the reservoir was actively eroding and migrating.
Deposition of fine (less than 0.063-millimeter diameter) sediment into spawning beds, measured with the use of deployed infiltration bags, was greatest downstream of Cougar and Blue River Reservoirs (1.0 and 1.2 percent of total sediments, respectively). Deposition was least in the high-energy, unregulated environments (about 0.25 percent) of the South Fork McKenzie River above Cougar Reservoir and in the mainstem above the South Fork, and intermediate near Vida, the most downstream site on the mainstem. DDT, applied throughout much of the upper McKenzie River drainage basin to control spruce budworm during the 1950s, was detected in the South Fork near Rainbow in the form of its metabolites DDD and DDE in fine sediment captured in the infiltration bags. DDE also was detected in infiltration bags deployed in the McKenzie River near Vida, downstream of the South Fork. All concentrations of DDD and DDE were less than the aquatic-life criterion for bed sediment. DDT species were not detected in water samples, including samples collected during large storms. The reservoir apparently acted as a trap for sediment and DDT throughout the course of its existence, facilitating degradation of the trapped DDT, and may have been a source for both during the construction period in 2002-05, but the lack of detections during storms indicates that DDT transport was small. Transport of detectable amounts of DDT likely was limited to periods of high suspended-sediment concentrations (greater than 75-100 milligrams per liter). Infiltration bags were deployed during August 2003-July 2004 and were a useful device for measuring fine-sediment deposition and for chemical analysis of the deposited material. Deposition of fine-grained sediment downstream of the flood-control dams may be reduced if bed-moving events can be periodically reintroduced to those reaches.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Influence of Cougar Reservoir Drawdown on Sediment and DDT Transport and Deposition in the McKenzie River Basin, Oregon, Water Years 2002-04