USGS Washington Water Science Center
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The White River Basin is located in western Washington and drains an area of about 500 square miles. Rivers in the White River Basin are fed by melt water from glaciers on Mt. Rainier, runoff from snowmelt and rain, and groundwater discharge. Beginning in the early to mid-twentieth century, the White River from river mile (RM) 9 to its confluence with the Puyallup River was extensively channelized with levees to prevent meandering and minimize flooding. These system changes affected fish habitat and growth potential. In recent years, setback levees have been built both to increase the carrying capacity of the rivers and help reduce flooding, and to potentially improve fish habitat and fish growth potential. Additional setback levees are being considered, however, prior to building any additional setbacks, management agencies are interested in getting estimates of potential changes in available fish habitat. Ideally, levee setbacks would be designed to reduce flooding and provide improved habitat for native fish like the federally listed Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). Currently, insufficient information is available to quantify the impact of flood-mitigation strategies, like setback levees, on fish habitat and growth potential.
The overall objective of the study is to evaluate how current and potential future hydraulic conditions in a Lower White River study reach (See Map) will affect the potential for fish habitat and growth. The specific objectives are to: 1) Estimate the abundance and distribution of potential juvenile spring Chinook habitat in the study reach for current and simulated post-setback levee conditions under low- and high-flow conditions, 2) Estimate the abundance and distribution of energetically favorable locations under current and future conditions for low- and high-flow conditions using a nested 2-dimensional hydrologic, invertebrate-drift, and bioenergetics model and 3) Develop a publically available integrated hydraulic and fish habitat and energetic model.