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Eco-hydraulic evaluation of whitewater parks as fish passage barriers




Fox, Brian, author
Bledsoe, Brian P., advisor
Myrick, Christopher A., committee member
Venayagamoorthy, Subhas Karen, committee member

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Whitewater parks (WWPs) have become a popular recreational amenity in cities across the United States with Colorado being the epicenter of WWP design and construction. Whitewater parks consist of one or more in-stream structures that create a hydraulic wave for recreational purposes. A wave is typically created by constricting flow into a steep chute creating a hydraulic jump as it flows into a large downstream pool. Concerns have been raised that high velocities, resulting from the constricted flow at these structures, may be inhibiting movement of certain fish species at different times of year. I completed a field evaluation of the effects of WWPs on upstream fish passage by concurrently monitoring fish movement and hydraulic conditions at three WWP structures and three adjacent natural control (CR) pools. Fish movement was evaluated using a network of Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) antennas installed at the study sites for a period of 14 months. 1,639 individual fishes including brown trout (Salmo trutta), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), longnose sucker (Catostomus catostomus), and longnose dace (Rhinichthys cataractae) were tagged and released within the WWP and CR study sites. Detailed hydraulic conditions occurring during the study period were evaluated by developing a fully three-dimensional hydraulic model using FLOW-3D®. Results show that this WWP is not a complete barrier to upstream movement, but differences in passage efficiency from release location range from 29 to 44% in WWP sites and 37 to 63% for control sites indicating a suppression of movement within WWPs. Further, this suppression of movement appears to be related to fish body length. Results from the hydraulic models indicate that these are not likely burst swimming barriers to salmonids despite flow velocities greater than 10 ft/s within each of the WWP structures. Hydraulic model results provided insight in identifying other possible causes of the suppressed movement and guidance for future research efforts.


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hydraulic model
whitewater park
kayak park
fish passage


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