A Methodology for Rockwad Velocity and Predator Habitat

Project ID: 20045
Principal Investigator: Jenna Paul
Research Topic: Ecosystem Needs
Funded Fiscal Years: 2020, 2021 and 2022
Keywords: None

Research Question

A continuous sequence of velocity and predator refugia is imperative to the survival of out-migrating juvenile salmonids on the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. Gaps in habitat along the river corridor increase the risk of predation, fatigue, stress, and reduced growth rates, and therefore, necessitate mitigation actions. However, traditional habitat enhancement methods, such as side-channel restoration, are not applicable on all reaches or during all flow conditions. Areas confined by levees, steep banks, or other topographical constraints require new methods to supplement migration habitat where it is missing or insufficient.

A rockwad is a tree trunk (with root cluster) anchored to a large boulder. The boulder and root mass provide velocity and predator refugia, and therefore, allow juveniles to safely rest and eat during their emigration. Through hydrodynamic simulations, physical modeling, and fish behavior algorithms, this project will determine the optimum quantity and placement patterns to achieve suitable migration habitat conditions. It is expected that the results from this research lead to design recommendations for future habitat projects.

Project partners from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) include Yong Lai, Mark Morberg, and Jenna Paul. External partners include Dave Smith from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Dave Vogel (Natural Resource Scientists).

Need and Benefit

Insufficient out-migration habitat on the Sacramento River limits the survival rate of juvenile salmonids. Rockwads have the flexibility to supplement this missing habitat in reaches with challenging topography or flow conditions. By implementing this approach, a continuous sequence of habitat on the Sacramento River can be realized, and the salmon population has the potential to flourish.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Please contact research@usbr.gov about research products related to this project.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20