Evaluation of Restoration Alternatives Using Hydraulic Models of Lake Outflow at Wapato Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Northwestern Oregon

Scientific Investigations Report 2020-5014
Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Joint Water Commission
By: , and 



Wapato Lake National Wildlife Refuge near the city of Gaston in northwestern Oregon was established in 2013, and planning is underway to restore a more natural lake and wetland system after more than 100 years of agricultural activity on the lakebed. Several water-management and restoration alternatives are under consideration, one of which involves opening and reconnecting Wapato Lake’s outlet to allow flow in and out of the lake to Wapato Creek and downstream to the Tualatin River. The effects of this and other alternatives are being evaluated, partly through a detailed examination of the lake’s water budget. The water budget for the lake during 2011–13 was quantified by the U.S. Geological Survey in partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others. Results were incorporated in a spreadsheet-based Water Management Scenario Tool (WMST) for Wapato Lake, which predicts the effects of various management actions on daily lake level and potential habitat areas for waterfowl or other target species. Incorporating the effects of a hypothetical open outlet between the lake and the downstream river network in the WMST was accomplished by using a hydraulic model to simulate the flow-exchange rate between Wapato Lake and Wapato Creek over a wide range of lake levels and downstream river conditions. A Hydraulic Engineering Center-River Analysis System (HEC-RAS) one-dimensional unsteady flow model was constructed and calibrated for Wapato Creek and part of the Tualatin River using data from October 2011 to April 2013, and then was used to simulate daily lake/creek exchange flows in water years 1992–2014 under hypothetically constant lake levels. Results were used to populate a table of lake/creek flow-exchange rates for use in the WMST; a dynamic link between the WMST and HEC-RAS was unrealistic because it would require hundreds of calls to HEC-RAS and result in long run times for a single water-year’s WMST calculations with daily time steps. Predictions of daily outlet flows from the WMST were checked against HEC-RAS simulated flows under daily varying lake levels to ensure that the timing and magnitude of lake/creek exchange flows used by the WMST were consistent with those of the hydraulic model. Two scenarios were tested with a hypothetical open lake outlet to show how the WMST could be used to inform restoration planning—one scenario used a year-round open lake outlet, and the other scenario closed that outlet for part of the high-water winter season. Results showed that flows in and out of a year-round open lake outlet would dominate the lake’s water budget and produce water depths during winter and through mid-summer that might be too deep to support waterbird species that require shallow water. Closing the lake outlet during large winter storms and high-water conditions in the downstream river network would isolate the lake from surrounding rivers, keep the lake level lower, and retain substantially more shallow-water areas. Because of the ease with which management alternatives can be evaluated, a water-budget spreadsheet tool such as the WMST has been a valuable part of an analysis of potential water-management and restoration alternatives for Wapato Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Suggested Citation

Rounds, S.A., Pilson, S.L., Sullivan, A.B., and Stonewall, A.J., 2020, Evaluation of restoration alternatives using hydraulic models of lake outflow at Wapato Lake National Wildlife Refuge, northwestern Oregon: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2020–5014, 21 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20205014.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Model Results and Evaluation of Water-Management Scenarios
  • Implications for Restoration and Water Management
  • Supplementary Material
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Evaluation of restoration alternatives using hydraulic models of lake outflow at Wapato Lake National Wildlife Refuge, northwestern Oregon
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2020-5014
DOI 10.3133/sir20205014
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Oregon Water Science Center
Description vi, 21 p.
Country United States
State Oregon
Other Geospatial Wapato Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details