cooper creek watershed analysis

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  • CCOOOOPPEERR CCRREEEEKK WWAATTEERRSSHHEEDD AANNAALLYYSSIISS

    UUSSDDAA FFOORREESSTT SSEERRVVIICCEE CCHHUUGGAACCHH NNAATTIIOONNAALL FFOORREESSTT

    AANNCCHHOORRAAGGEE,, AALLAASSKKAA 22000022

  • PPRREEPPAARREEDD BBYY:: Team Leader Dave Blanchet Recreation/History Karen Kromrey Minerals Donna Peterson Cultural Resources Dale Vinson Hydrology/Limnology Dave Blanchet Soils Dean Davidson Fire Bill Shuster Fisheries Dave Blanchet/Eric Johansen Wildlife Susan Howell Vegetation/Ecology Tina Boucher EEDDIITTEEDD BBYY:: Dave Blanchet

    AAPPPPRROOVVEEDD BBYY::

  • TTAABBLLEE OOFF CCOONNTTEENNTTSS (Find an expanded Table of Contents at the beginning of each Chapter)

    EExxeeccuuttiivvee SSuummmmaarryy

    CCHHAAPPTTEERR 11 IInnttrroodduuccttiioonn aanndd CChhaarraacctteerriizzaattiioonn I. Overview of Watershed Analysis II. Process and Document Organization III. Characterization of the Cooper Creek Watershed

    CCHHAAPPTTEERR 22 CCuurrrreenntt aanndd RReeffeerreennccee CCoonnddiittiioonnss I. Historic/Social

    A. Recreation/Subsistence B. Mining in the Cooper Creek Watershed C. Land Status

    II. Physical Setting A. Climate B. Hydrology and Water Quality C. Limnology D. Landslide Risk E. Fire History of Cooper Creek Drainage

    III. Fauna/Flora A. Fisheries B. Wildlife C. Vegetation Change D. Wetlands

    CCHHAAPPTTEERR 33 KKeeyy QQuueessttiioonnss aanndd IIssssuueess I. Historic/Social II. Physical Setting III. Fauna/Flora

    CCHHAAPPTTEERR 44 MMiittiiggaattiioonn aanndd EEnnhhaanncceemmeenntt

  • EExxeeccuuttiivvee SSuummmmaarryy The Cooper Creek Watershed Analysis was initiated in response to the pending relicensing of the 20.6-megawatt Cooper Lake Hydroelectric Project. The analysis consolidates available information on the watershed for a variety of National Forest resources, and assesses resource trends within the watershed over time. The document is intended as a tool to better understand the functioning of resources within the watershed, the changes that have occurred, and the range of management possibilities for the future. The Watershed Analysis has four chapters. Chapter 1 explains the process used for developing the analysis. It also provides an overview of the resources and history of Cooper Creek Watershed and of the Cooper Lake Hydroelectric Project. Chapter 1 summarizes direct and indirect physical and biological changes to the watershed related to the Cooper Lake Hydroelectric Project. Primary among the direct effects are the reductions in flow and water temperature to Cooper Creek, increased water level fluctuation of Cooper Lake, and enhanced public access to Cooper Lake. These direct effects then influence habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as recreation use in the area. Chapter 2 evaluates historic/social, physical, and biologic resources within the Cooper Creek Watershed in greater detail. This chapter examines both reference and current resource conditions within the watershed. Reference conditions consider both the period before 1890 (when gold miners first entered and began to settle in the area), and period before construction of Cooper Lake Hydroelectric Project (1958 to 1962). Current conditions relate to resource conditions and trends after construction of the Cooper Lake Hydroelectric Project. The Chapter 2 resource evaluations provide a compendium of information and data on the Cooper Creek Watershed gathered from a wide variety of sources. Information sources are referenced at the end of each resource section. Where possible, we have evaluated the quality of the data, and attempted to interpret trends for resource change within the watershed. Chapter 3 identifies key issues and questions developed over the course of the analysis. These issues and questions relate primarily to the potential effects of Cooper Lake Hydroelectric Project operations on resource values in the Cooper Creek Watershed. Chapter III also highlights resource information gaps identified during the analysis, and possible techniques to obtaining missing information. Changes to fisheries in Cooper Creek and Cooper Lake/Reservoir and possibly Kenai River are issues given particular note in this chapter. Changes in wildlife habitat and recreation potential in the watershed are also examined. Chapter 4 presents and discusses a number of resource mitigation and enhancement measures suggested during the development of the Cooper Creek Watershed Analysis. The majority of the measures focus on the Cooper Creek and Cooper Lake fisheries.

  • Proposed measures have been brought forward by a variety of agencies, groups, and individuals. These measures are offered as a starting point for evaluating mitigation and enhancement that could be used to counter habitat and other changes resulting from of the Cooper Lake Hydroelectric Project. The Cooper Creek Watershed Analysis compiles, synthesizes, and interprets a large volume of information gathered from numerous sources. Additional information, data and concepts have undoubtedly been overlooked and could likely add to and enrich the content of this document. In this context, we hope to maintain this watershed analysis as a living document, so that additional relevant information may be incorporated into it through the Cooper Lake Hydroelectric Project relicensing process.

  • CHAPTER 1 - Table of Contents

    TTAABBLLEE OOFF CCOONNTTEENNTTSS CCHHAAPPTTEERR 11

    CHAPTER 1 Introduction and Characterization __________________ 11--11 CHAPTER 1 Introduction and CharacterizationI. Overview of Watershed Analysis _____________________________________ 1-1

    II. Process and Document Organization ________________________________ 1-2

    III. Characterization of the Cooper Creek Watershed ____________________1-3 A. Introduction _________________________________________________ 1-3 B. Cooper Creek and the Kenai River Watershed ______________________1-3 C. Cooper Creek Watersheds Physical Character _____________________ 1-7 D. Cultural and Mining History____________________________________1-9 E. Cooper Lake Hydroelectric Project _______________________________ 1-9 F. Direct Physical changes within the Cooper Creek Watershed with

    development of the Cooper Lake Hydroelectric Project______________1-11 1. Access ___________________________________________________ 1-11 2. Cooper Creek Streamflow____________________________________1-12 3. Cooper Creek Water Temperatures ____________________________1-12 4. Lake Levels_______________________________________________ 1-12 5. Kenai River Streamflows ____________________________________1-13

    G. Biological changes in the Cooper Creek Watershed from the Cooper Lake Hydroelectric Project _________________________________________ 1-13 1. Cooper Creek Fisheries _____________________________________ 1-13 2. Cooper Lake/Reservoir Fisheries______________________________ 1-14 3. Waterfowl Nesting Habitat ___________________________________ 1-14 4. Brown Bear Habitat ________________________________________1-15

    H. References for Chapter 1______________________________________1-15

    FFIIGGUURREESS CCHHAAPPTTEERR 11 Figure 1.III.A-1: Kenai River and Cooper Creek Watershed Vicinity Maps) ________1-4

    Figure 1.III.B-1: Kenai River Watershed ___________________________________1-5

    Figure 1.III.C-1: Cooper Creek Watershed and Surrounding Forest Lands_________ 1-8

    1-i

  • CHAPTER 1 Section I. Overview

    CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION AND CHARACTERIZATION

    I. Overview of Watershed Analysis Watershed analysis is used to characterize the human, aquatic, riparian, and terrestrial features; and conditions, processes, and interactions within a watershed. It provides a systematic way to understand and organize ecosystem information. In so doing, watershed analysis enhances our ability to estimate direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of our past management activities and guide the general type, location, and sequence of appropriate future management activities within a watershed. Watershed analysis is essentially ecosystem analysis at the watershed scale. It provides a watershed context for fish and wildlife protection, restoration, mitigation, and enhancement efforts. Understandings gained through watershed analysis are critical to sustaining the health and productivity of natural resources. Healthy ecological functions are essential to maintain and create current and future social and economic opportunities. Federal agencies conduct watershed analyses to shift their focus from species and sites to ecosystems. Working at this scale, we can better understand the overall consequences of potential management actions. Use of the watershed scale allows for selection of a well-defined land area with a set of unique features. Watershed boundaries define a system of recurring physical processes, and a collection of dependent plants and animals. Aquatic resources are particularly well suited to evaluation at the watershed scale. Watershed analysis is not a decision making process. Rather it is a stage setting process. The results of watershed analysis establish the context for subsequent decision-making processes, including planning, project development, and regulatory compliance. The results of watershed analysis can be used to:

    Assist with future development and evaluation of alternatives in the relicensing process for the Cooper Lake Hydroelectric project.

    Assist in developing ecologically sustainable programs to provide for water, fish

    and wildlife habitat, recreation, hydropower production, and other commodities. Establish a consistent, watershed-wide context for project leve

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