Understanding the Interim Operation Plan in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin
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On March 7, 2006, the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) initiated formal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) in order to determine flow regimes that are beneficial to federally endangered species in the Apalachicola River downstream of Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam. As part of the consultation, the Corps proposed and implemented a set of operation rules for the federal reservoirs in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. This set of rules is called the Interim Operation Plan (IOP). The IOP was designed to provide suitable conditions for the spawning of Gulf Sturgeon in its spawning season (March through May) and to provide adequate flow in the non-spawning season for other endangered species (Fat three ridge, Purple bankclimber, and Chipola slabshell). In the spring and summer of 2006, hydrological conditions across the Basin resemble those of previous droughts. Under such dry conditions, the implementation of the IOP caused historical decline of system storage. This paper discusses elements of the IOP, the negative impact it had on the system, and ways to improve it.