The Sustainable Rivers Program improves the health and life of rivers by changing dam operations to restore and protect ecosystems, while maintaining or enhancing other project benefits.
The SRP was first considered in 1998 when the Nature Conservancy approached the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about improved operations of the Green River Dam in Kentucky. SRP began in fiscal year 2002 with funding of $50,000 for environmental flows on the Green River.
E-flows are management decisions that manipulate water and land-water interactions to achieve ecological and environmental goals. E-flows were the founding objective of SRP and remain the key focus. SRP began exploring other reservoir-oriented actions with the potential to produce environmental benefits.
The goal of SRP is to advance, implement and incorporate e-flow strategies at USACE reservoirs.
Advancing e-flows involves engaging stakeholders in a science-based process to define the flow needs of riverine eco-systems.
Implementation involves testing the effectiveness and feasibility of the defined flows.
Incorporation involves including environmental flow strategies in reservoir operations policy such as water control manuals.
“SRP is an ongoing national partnership between USACE and The Nature Conservancy with a mission to improve the health and life of rivers and resources within reservoir pools by changing infrastructure operations to restore and protect ecosystems, while maintaining or enhancing other project benefits. The Kansas City District’s SRP projects for the Kansas and Osage River Basins provides water managers, operators, planners, scientists and stakeholders an opportunity to work collaboratively to consider alternative management strategies to deliver more benefits from already built USACE water resources infrastructure.” said Laura Totten, Project Manager/Planner, Formulation Section.
Funding for SRP increased from $500,000 in fiscal year 2010 to $7 million in fiscal year 2023. Kansas City District SRP projects began in fiscal year 2018 with proposed e-flows on the Kansas River involving Milford, Tuttle Creek, Perry and Clinton Lakes. The Kansas River SRP is currently working to develop an implementation plan for e-flows. The Osage River SRP that involves Melvern, Pomona, Hillsdale, Pomme de Terre, Stockton and Harry S.Truman Lakes was added to the Kansas City District SRP project in 2020.
In fiscal year 2023, SRP is sampling the fish life-stage and chronologies in the Kansas River involving Milford, Tuttle Creek, Perry and Clinton Lakes. Again, in fiscal year 2023, SRP is inspecting the pool level management for e-benefits [environmental] on Harlan County, Wilson and Milford Lakes.
For fiscal year 2024, SRP proposals will build on current projects as phases move from advance to implement and to incorporate. In the future, SRP proposals will apply current concepts to different locations.
“The SRP experience with our partners over this past year has been very collaborative, engaging and informative. I look forward to incorporating and implementing components of the program in the coming years.” said Kyle Ruona, conservation biologist, Kansas City District.