Skip to Main Content U.S. Department of Energy
Marine Sciences Division

Missouri River

Hydrosystem Operations Analysis

Hydrosystem Operations Analysis

Managers of large regulated rivers operate reservoirs for many purposes, including the protection of threatened and endangered species, flood control, hydropower, water supply, and navigation. Effective management requires a thorough understanding of the effects of both current and proposed strategies on both environmental and socioeconomic concerns.

Researchers at MSL are part of an interagency team developing and testing basin-scale models including hydrosystem operations on the Missouri River. The models quantitatively connect reservoir operations with hydrological and hydraulic effects, dynamic changes to habitat form and availability, and impacts to populations and species. Using these models, researchers determine how current hydrosystem operations are affecting threatened and endangered species, then design and test changes to operations that might better support a healthy ecosystem while still providing the necessary services to communities in the river basin.

For example, the threatened piping plover nests on sandbars in the river channel are often scarce because of Missouri River reservoir operations. The ecological models developed at MSL inform river managers whether releasing more or less water during certain times of the year could be an efficient way to produce enough habitat for a healthy and resilient population of plovers.

Adaptive Management for Endangered Species

Adaptive Management for Endangered Species

Resource managers in aquatic systems are faced with making ongoing decisions regarding how endangered species respond to management actions despite high uncertainty. Adaptive management (AM) provides a framework for incorporating knowledge into a flexible decision making process over time to reduce program uncertainties, improve future decisions, and engage critical stakeholders.

Scientists at MSL have been contracted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Omaha District) to provide adaptive management and analytical support to the Missouri River Recovery Program (MRRP). The goal is to develop an integrated plan for assessing and managing the effects of program actions to recover populations of three species of concern: the piping plover (Charadrius melodus), the interior least tern (Sterna antillarum), and the pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus). This is done while balancing the needs to maintain Federal operation of dams and navigation in the system.

Currently, MSL scientists are working with a team to develop and write sections of the MRRP AM plan, drawing on experience in developing AM frameworks and plans for the Columbia estuary, Gulf of Mexico coastal habitats, Hudson River, and Puget Sound nearshore ecosystem. MSL scientists also co-hosted nine AM program interviews throughout the United States to identify commonly applied best practices and select specific elements of other AM plans that would help to better inform the development of the MRRP AM Plan. In addition, they are conducting an effects analysis; the purpose of which is to conceptualize and quantify the effects of system operations and management actions on the threatened and endangered species. This work is a continuation of the support they have been providing to the MRRP since 2008.

Marine Sciences Laboratory

Research Areas

PNNL Websites

Contacts