Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5208
This report documents development of a spatially explicit river and flood-plain classification to evaluate potential for cottonwood restoration along the Sharpe and Fort Randall segments of the Middle Missouri River. This project involved evaluating existing topographic, water-surface elevation, and soils data to determine if they were sufficient to create a classification similar to the Land Capability Potential Index (LCPI) developed by Jacobson and others (U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007–5256) and developing a geomorphically based classification to apply to evaluating restoration potential.
Existing topographic, water-surface elevation, and soils data for the Middle Missouri River were not sufficient to replicate the LCPI. The 1/3-arc-second National Elevation Dataset delineated most of the topographic complexity and produced cumulative frequency distributions similar to a high-resolution 5-meter topographic dataset developed for the Lower Missouri River. However, lack of bathymetry in the National Elevation Dataset produces a potentially critical bias in evaluation of frequently flooded surfaces close to the river. High-resolution soils data alone were insufficient to replace the information content of the LCPI. In test reaches in the Lower Missouri River, soil drainage classes from the Soil Survey Geographic Database database correctly classified 0.8–98.9 percent of the flood-plain area at or below the 5-year return interval flood stage depending on state of channel incision; on average for river miles 423–811, soil drainage class correctly classified only 30.2 percent of the flood-plain area at or below the 5-year return interval flood stage. Lack of congruence between soil characteristics and present-day hydrology results from relatively rapid incision and aggradation of segments of the Missouri River resulting from impoundments and engineering. The most sparsely available data in the Middle Missouri River were water-surface elevations. Whereas hydraulically modeled water-surface elevations were available at 1.6-kilometer intervals in the Lower Missouri River, water-surface elevations in the Middle Missouri River had to be interpolated between streamflow-gaging stations spaced 3–116 kilometers. Lack of high-resolution water-surface elevation data precludes development of LCPI-like classification maps.
An hierarchical river classification framework is proposed to provide structure for a multiscale river classification. The segment-scale classification presented in this report is deductive and based on presumed effects of dams, significant tributaries, and geological (and engineered) channel constraints. An inductive reach-scale classification, nested within the segment scale, is based on multivariate statistical clustering of geomorphic data collected at 500-meter intervals along the river. Cluster-based classifications delineate reaches of the river with similar channel and flood-plain geomorphology, and presumably, similar geomorphic and hydrologic processes. The dominant variables in the clustering process were channel width (Fort Randall) and valley width (Sharpe), followed by braiding index (both segments).
Clusters with multithread and highly sinuous channels are likely to be associated with dynamic channel migration and deposition of fresh, bare sediment conducive to natural cottonwood germination. However, restoration potential within these reaches is likely to be mitigated by interaction of cottonwood life stages with the highly altered flow regime.
First posted November 8, 2010
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Jacobson, R.B., Elliott, C.M., and Huhmann, B.L., 2010, Development of a channel classification to evaluate potential for cottonwood restoration, lower segments of the Middle Missouri River, South Dakota and Nebraska: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5208, 38 p.
Approach and Methods