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Finding middle ground: Flow regimes designed for salmon and energy value...

by Henriette I Jager, Rocio Uria Martinez
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Water Biology and Security
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In regulated rivers, shaping seasonal flows to recover species at risk depends on understanding when to expect conflicts with competing water users and when their interests are aligned. Multi-objective optimization can be used to reveal such conflicts and commonalities. When species are involved, multi-objective optimization is challenged by the need to simulate complex species responses to flow regimes. Previously, we addressed that challenge by developing a simplified salmon model (Quantus) that defines cohorts of salmon by the river section and time in which they were spawned. Salmon in these space-time cohorts are tracked from the time redds (nests) are constructed until the cohort exits the tributary en route to the ocean. In this study, we modeled seasonal patterns in energy value and developed a Pareto-optimal frontier of seasonal flow patterns to maximize in-river salmon survival and hydropower value. Candidate flow regimes were characterized by two pulse flows varying in magnitude, timing, and duration and constrained by a total annual flow near the historical median. Our analysis revealed times when economic and salmon objectives were aligned and times when they differed. Pulse flows that favored higher energy value were timed to meet demand during extreme temperatures. Both salmon and hydropower objectives produced optimal flow regimes with pulse flows in early summer, but only solutions favoring hydropower value included high flows in mid-winter. Solutions favoring higher age-0 salmon survival provided an extended pulse flow in late winter/early spring, which suggests that access to productive floodplain habitat allowed faster growth and earlier out-migration and reduced the need for higher temperature-moderating flows later in spring. Minimum flows were also higher among solutions favoring salmon over energy. The tools used to produce these results can help to design simplified seasonal flow regimes by revealing compromise solutions that satisfy both fish and energy producers and highlighting when potential conflicts are likely.