Stream Barrier Prioritization Analysis to Improve Aquatic Connectivity: A Pilot-Project in the Upper Guadalupe River, Texas

Authors: Kimberly Meitzen*, Texas State University, Jessica Graham, Southeast Aquatic Resource Partnership, Kathleen Hoenke, Southeast Aquatic Resource Partnership
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Environmental Science, Physical Geography
Keywords: river conservation, GIS connectivity analysis, dam removal
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Jefferson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Aquatic barriers including dams, culverts, and low-water road crossings disrupt longitudinal connectivity of river systems and are among the primary causes of declining aquatic biodiversity. The 2012 Texas Conservation Action Plan identified the loss of connectivity as a priority conservation issue for aquatic ecosystems. In partnership with the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, we are conducting a pilot-study in the upper Guadalupe River Basin to quantify the type and distribution of existing aquatic barriers, and prioritize barriers for removal or remediation to support aquatic passage. We developed a barrier inventory, including dams and road crossings located on ephemeral, intermittent and perennial streams. Barrier locations were obtained from a variety of sources including dams registered with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and state-inventory road crossing data from Texas Department of Transportation. We identified additional barriers from aerial imagery including non-registered dams and road crossing barriers on smaller county and private roads. All dam and road crossing features were digitally validated as potential aquatic barriers by snapping them to the National Hydrography Data Plus Version-2 line file. We used the Barrier Assessment Tool within a Geographic Information System to map functionally connected stream networks, and from this we prioritized intermittent and perennial stream segments to conduct field surveys and score barriers relative to their degree of passability using a novel methodology. We incorporated these final scores within a prioritization schema to rank barriers for removal or remediation to improve aquatic passage.

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