Development of an integrated flow regime recommendation for the Cheoah River, N.C.
Leonard, Paul M.
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Hydrologic pattern and variability are key determinants of aquatic community structure and stability, but instream flow recommendations commonly fail to reflect these critical components of a natural flow regime, focusing instead on provision of static, minimum flows. Restoration of a true, natural flow regime is often not possible given the existing constraints on stream systems and the competing interests of multiple water users. However, sustained biological diversity and ecosystem function are dependent on the maintenance of intra- and interannual flow regimes and natural functions. Providing an integrated flow regime that is patterned on a natural flow regime should therefore be more ecologically beneficial than other flow regime alternatives that ignore natural hydrologic pattern and variability. The principles of a natural flow regime were applied to the development of an integrated flow regime recommendation for the Cheoah River, North Carolina. The integrated flow regime recommendation consisted of a seasonally variable, aquatic base flow component and a natural-like high flow component, which was characterized by seasonally variable frequency, magnitude, and duration high flow events. The integrated flow regime recommendation was designed to balance the water demands of hydropower generation and reservoir-based recreation, while still achieving resource agency aquatic habitat restoration objectives and providing opportunities for whitewater boating.