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Sustainable Rivers

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Reservoir pool levels on the Kaskaskia River were lowered temporarily to encourage growth of wetland plants, which in turn provide habitat and forage for many species. The ecological response was substantial and more pronounced than expected. This type of management may not be possible at all reservoirs or during all hydrologic conditions, but when there is an opportunity, subtle operational changes can produce valuable ecological benefits (video, 5:33, 136 MB).


Scientists, engineers, and operators support the endangered lake sturgeon by adjusting gate openings at Mel Price Locks and Dam to create the right downstream conditions for spawning and egg incubation. Shahla Farzan, St. Louis Public Radio (audio, 2:59, 6 MB).

USACE photo

Lake sturgeon are an ancient and now rare fish. Populations have been reduced by harvest and habitat fragmentation related to dams and other water management structures. One of several efforts to restore populations involves operating dams to promote recruitment of new generations of lake sturgeon. Shahla Farzan, St. Louis Public Radio, on All Things Considered, National Public Radio (audio, 3:50, 4 MB).

USACE photo

Environmental flows on Big Cypress Bayou are helping restore ecological dynamics and natural populations in an interconnected series of bayous, lakes, and wetlands, including Caddo Lake, a wetland recognized as globally significant by the Ramsar Convention (videos, 0:35, 0:42, 1:36, and 4:56 - 79 MB, 96 MB, 217 MB, and 807 MB).





By changing outflows from B. Everett Jordan Dam and Lake to mimic the natural ebb and flow of the Cape Fear River, scientists and water managers are working to restore system health and water quality to benefit natural and human communities (videos, 0:27, 0:28, and 3:49 - 55 MB, 57 MB, and 458 MB).




The Roanoke is one of the largest rivers on the eastern slope of North America. Outflows from John H. Kerr Dam support a vast floodplain forest enroute to Albemarle Sound, the second largest estuary system in the United States. By managing flows for all authorized purposes, water management decisions are helping ensure that the water and natural resources of the Roanoke are sustained for future generations (videos, 0:20, 0:29, and 5:22 - 41 MB, 59 MB, and 644 MB).




Riverscour communities, often called “riverscour prairies” by ecologists, occur along the shores of swift flowing rivers where cobble, boulder, and bedrock substrates are scoured by flow and ice frequently enough to maintain an open, sunny, riverside ecosystem that supports a high diversity of plants. Riverscour communities of the Allegheny Mountains are particularly diverse. Many species of the Youghiogheny River scour are native only to the Appalachian Mountains.

This series of short videos show a high flow event (flows increased from 230 cfs to 12,100 cfs) from vantages along the Youghiogheny. Videos were prepared to help inform management of the Youghiogheny River Dam and Lake by better understanding the conditions needed to sustain riverscour ecosystems. Christopher Tracey, Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program (videos only, 0:17, 0:11, 0:18, 0:16, 0:20, and 0:18 - 30 MB, 11 MB, 39 MB, 38 MB, 36 MB, and 26 MB).







Environmental Pool Management (EPM) is a water management strategy that manages pool elevations to generate environmental benefits. This video shows the effects of a pool drawdown to promote the germination and establishment of wetland plants on newly exposed pool areas. Vegetation supported provides habitat and ultimately forage for fish and waterfowl. The vegetation also helps trap sediment thereby improving water quality (video only, 1:14, 39 MB).


Most of the Bill Williams River below Alamo Dam, the only major dam and reservoir in the watershed, flows through wholly undeveloped lands of the Sonoran Desert. The river supports a riparian forest that is the last and best remaining habitat of that type in the Lower Colorado River system. Management decisions at Alamo Dam consider environmental flows a key component in the restoration and management of the river ecosystem (video, 4:44, 199 MB).


Sustainable Rivers works to improve the health and life of rivers by changing infrastructure operations to restore and protect ecosystems, while maintaining or enhancing other project benefits. The founding objective of the program is environmental flows. Work began in 1998 with an initial collaboration to improve the ecological condition of Green River, Kentucky. Sustainable Rivers is now the largest scale program for implementing environmental flows at Corps reservoirs (video, 6:38, 438 MB).