Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Alabama
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Alabama Project

ADCNR Harris Dam 17 - Assessment of impacts of flow management on macroinvertebrate assemblages

January 2017 - December 2018


Participating Agencies

  • Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Hydroelectric dams remain one of the primary sources of renewable energy globally. Hydropeaking regimes used to generate electricity are known to cause disturbances in natural flow and thermal conditions. Pulses of various magnitude create dual waves of sheer and thermal stress which, in general, cause a decrease in community complexity, richness, and native diversity downstream of hydropeaking dams. As human populations increase and become more reliable on renewable resources, reducing uncertainty regarding how hydropower impacts natural ecosystems is important to State and Federal partners as well as other stakeholders interested in multiple uses of river systems. R.L. Harris Dam is a hydropeaking facility located in the upper-central Tallapoosa River Basin that has been subject to an adaptive flow management project (R.L. Harris Adaptive Management Program, or AMP) since 2005. Our long-term study indicated that, despite improved flow regime plans during the AMP, communities in the regulated river remain dissimilar from those unaffected by the dam. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will use our data to investigate and predict how future alternate flow regime decisions from the dam will impact their biological objectives for biota. Metrics defining variation in flow, temperature, and local environmental variables will be used to best predict impacts to stakeholders values related to future flow regime decisions ultimately set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during dam re-licensing.

Research Publications Publication Date
DL Ward, AF Casper2, TD Counihan, JM Bayer, IR Waite, JJ Kosovich, CG Chapman, ER Irwin, JS Sauer, BS Ickes and AJ McKerrow. Long-term fish monitoring in large rivers: Utility of “benchmarking” across basins. Fisheries 42:100-114 February 2017
Counihan, T. D., I. R. Waite, A. F. Casper, D. L. Ward, J. S. Sauer, E. R. Irwin, C. G. Chapman, B. S. Ickes, C. P. Paukert, J. J. Kosovich, and J. M. Bayer. 2018 Can data from disparate long-term fish monitoring programs be used to increase our understanding of regional and continental trends in large river assemblages? PLoS ONE January 2018
Presentations Presentation Date
Counihan, T. D and 7 co-authors. 2015. Assessing trends in fish communities within and between several large US river systems. American Fisheries Society 145th Annual Meeting, Portland, Oregon August 2015
Irwin ER, MC Freeman, JT Peterson, MC Lloyd, K Ouellette, KDM Kennedy. Ecological Responses Associated with Long-Term Adaptive Management of Flows Below a Hydropeaking Dam August 2018
Irwin ER, MC Freeman, JT Peterson, MC Lloyd, K Ouellette, KDM Kennedy. 2018. Long-Term Adaptive Management of Flows Below a Hydropeaking Dam. Southern Division American Fisheries Society, San Juan, Puerto Rico (Invited) March 2018
Ouellette K, E Kosnicki, Clint Lloyd, and E Irwin. 2017. Analysis of benthic macroinvertebrate communities in regulated and unregulated reaches of the Tallapoosa River, Alabama. Alabama Chapter of the American Fisheries Society. February 2017
Ouellette, K and E Irwin. Long-Term Community Data from a River Subject to Hydropeaking: What Do We Know and Where Do We Go From Here? American Fisheries Society 148th Annual Meeting , Atlantic City, NJ. August 2018
Ouellette, K, C Lloyd, and E Irwin. 2018. Macroinvertebrate response to flow and temperature in regulated and unregulated reaches of a hydropeaking river. Southern Division American Fisheries Society Spring Meeting, San Juan, Puerto Rico (Invited) March 2018
Ouellette, K, E. Kosnicki, T. Hess, M.C. Lloyd and E. Irwin. Macroinvertebrate Community Response to Long-Term Flow Modification on the Tallapoosa River, Alabama. Annual Meeting of the American Fisheries Society, Tampa, Florida. August 2017