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Title: A Holistic Framework for Environmental Flows Determination in Hydropower Contexts

Abstract

Among the ecological science community, the consensus view is that the natural flow regime sustains the ecological integrity of river systems. This prevailing viewpoint by many environmental stakeholders has progressively led to increased pressure on hydropower dam owners to change plant operations to affect downstream river flows with the intention of providing better conditions for aquatic biological communities. Identifying the neccessary magnitude, frequency, duration, timing, or rate of change of stream flows to meet ecological needs in a hydropower context is challenging because the ecological responses to changes in flows may not be fully known, there are usually a multitude of competing users of flow, and implementing environmental flows usually comes at a price to energy production. Realistically, hydropower managers must develop a reduced set of goals that provide the most benefit to the identified ecological needs. As a part of the Department of Energy (DOE) Water Power Program, the Instream Flow Project (IFP) was carried out by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), and Argon National Laboratory (ANL) as an attempt to develop tools aimed at defining environmental flow needs for hydropower operations. The application of these tools ranges from national to site-specific scales; thus,more » the utility of each tool will depend on various phases of the environmental flow process. Given the complexity and sheer volume of applications used to determine environmentally acceptable flows for hydropower, a framework is needed to organize efforts into a staged process dependent upon spatial, temporal, and functional attributes. By far, the predominant domain for determining environmental flows related to hydropower is within the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing process. This process can take multiple years and can be very expensive depending on the scale of each hydropower project. The utility of such a framework is that it can expedite the environmental flow process by 1) organizing data and applications to identify predictable relationships between flows and ecology, and 2) suggesting when and where tools should be used in the environmental flow process. In addition to regulatory procedures, a framework should also provide the coordination for a comprehensive research agenda to guide the science of environmental flows. This research program has further reaching benefits than just environmental flow determination by providing modeling applications, data, and geospatial layers to inform potential hydropower development. We address several objectives within this document that highlight the limitations of existing environmental flow paradigms and their applications to hydropower while presenting a new framework catered towards hydropower needs. Herein, we address the following objectives: 1) Provide a brief overview of the Natural Flow Regime paradigm and existing environmental flow frameworks that have been used to determine ecologically sensitive stream flows for hydropower operations. 2) Describe a new conceptual framework to aid in determining flows needed to meet ecological objectives with regard to hydropower operations. The framework is centralized around determining predictable relationships between flow and ecological responses. 3) Provide evidence of how efforts from ORNL, PNNL, and ANL have filled some of the gaps in this broader framework, and suggest how the framework can be used to set the stage for a research agenda for environmental flow.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [1]
  1. ORNL
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
OSTI Identifier:
1128963
Report Number(s):
ORNL/TM-2013/159
EB4500000; CEEB099
DOE Contract Number:  
DE-AC05-00OR22725
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
Environmental flow; water policy; dams

Citation Formats

McManamay, Ryan A, and Bevelhimer, Mark S. A Holistic Framework for Environmental Flows Determination in Hydropower Contexts. United States: N. p., 2013. Web. doi:10.2172/1128963.
McManamay, Ryan A, & Bevelhimer, Mark S. A Holistic Framework for Environmental Flows Determination in Hydropower Contexts. United States. doi:10.2172/1128963.
McManamay, Ryan A, and Bevelhimer, Mark S. Wed . "A Holistic Framework for Environmental Flows Determination in Hydropower Contexts". United States. doi:10.2172/1128963. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1128963.
@article{osti_1128963,
title = {A Holistic Framework for Environmental Flows Determination in Hydropower Contexts},
author = {McManamay, Ryan A and Bevelhimer, Mark S},
abstractNote = {Among the ecological science community, the consensus view is that the natural flow regime sustains the ecological integrity of river systems. This prevailing viewpoint by many environmental stakeholders has progressively led to increased pressure on hydropower dam owners to change plant operations to affect downstream river flows with the intention of providing better conditions for aquatic biological communities. Identifying the neccessary magnitude, frequency, duration, timing, or rate of change of stream flows to meet ecological needs in a hydropower context is challenging because the ecological responses to changes in flows may not be fully known, there are usually a multitude of competing users of flow, and implementing environmental flows usually comes at a price to energy production. Realistically, hydropower managers must develop a reduced set of goals that provide the most benefit to the identified ecological needs. As a part of the Department of Energy (DOE) Water Power Program, the Instream Flow Project (IFP) was carried out by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), and Argon National Laboratory (ANL) as an attempt to develop tools aimed at defining environmental flow needs for hydropower operations. The application of these tools ranges from national to site-specific scales; thus, the utility of each tool will depend on various phases of the environmental flow process. Given the complexity and sheer volume of applications used to determine environmentally acceptable flows for hydropower, a framework is needed to organize efforts into a staged process dependent upon spatial, temporal, and functional attributes. By far, the predominant domain for determining environmental flows related to hydropower is within the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing process. This process can take multiple years and can be very expensive depending on the scale of each hydropower project. The utility of such a framework is that it can expedite the environmental flow process by 1) organizing data and applications to identify predictable relationships between flows and ecology, and 2) suggesting when and where tools should be used in the environmental flow process. In addition to regulatory procedures, a framework should also provide the coordination for a comprehensive research agenda to guide the science of environmental flows. This research program has further reaching benefits than just environmental flow determination by providing modeling applications, data, and geospatial layers to inform potential hydropower development. We address several objectives within this document that highlight the limitations of existing environmental flow paradigms and their applications to hydropower while presenting a new framework catered towards hydropower needs. Herein, we address the following objectives: 1) Provide a brief overview of the Natural Flow Regime paradigm and existing environmental flow frameworks that have been used to determine ecologically sensitive stream flows for hydropower operations. 2) Describe a new conceptual framework to aid in determining flows needed to meet ecological objectives with regard to hydropower operations. The framework is centralized around determining predictable relationships between flow and ecological responses. 3) Provide evidence of how efforts from ORNL, PNNL, and ANL have filled some of the gaps in this broader framework, and suggest how the framework can be used to set the stage for a research agenda for environmental flow.},
doi = {10.2172/1128963},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Wed May 01 00:00:00 EDT 2013},
month = {Wed May 01 00:00:00 EDT 2013}
}

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