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The Science of Instream Flows: A Review of the Texas Instream Flow Program 4 Evaluation of the Texas Instream Flow Programmatic Work Plan The Texas Instream Flow Studies: Programmatic Work Plan (PWP; TPWD, TCEQ, and TWDB, 2002) lays out the rationale, background, and basic purposes of the Texas instream flow program and describes the process for conducting subbasin studies. The Texas instream flow program is described in the PWP and its companion document, Texas Instream Flow Studies: Technical Overview (TOD; TPWD, TCEQ, and TWDB, 2003). The TOD outlines the technical aspects of instream flow studies, including sampling methods. This chapter presents a brief overview of the PWP contents, recaps the strengths of the PWP, identifies areas for PWP improvement, and presents several suggestions for revisions and improvement. The TOD is evaluated in Chapter 5. OVERVIEW OF PWP CONTENT The PWP is a relatively brief (17 pages) document (TPWD, TCEQ, and TWDB, 2002). The portions most relevant to this report are abstracted here. Agency Roles and Responsibilities The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is the agency charged with implementing the constitution and laws of the state relating to water. Its responsibilities include jurisdiction over water and water rights and the state’s water quality program. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has primary responsibility for protecting the state’s fish and wildlife resources, and the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is responsible for water planning and financing for the needs of people and the environment. All three cooperating agencies are expected to participate in all aspects of instream flow studies, with one or more agencies
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The Science of Instream Flows: A Review of the Texas Instream Flow Program assigned to take responsibility for coordination and planning of individual components of each study. Legislative Mandate Texas Senate Bill 2 directs the TPWD, TCEQ, and TWDB, in cooperation with other appropriate governmental agencies, to “jointly establish and continuously maintain an instream flow data collection and evaluation program.” The agencies were further directed by Senate Bill 2 to “conduct studies and analyses to determine appropriate methodologies for determining flow conditions in the state’s rivers and streams necessary to support a sound ecological environment.” These study results “will be incorporated into future regional and state water plans, and will become essential data for conservation of fish and wildlife resources and consideration in the state water rights permitting process.” Priority Instream Flow Studies The PWP identifies six river subbasins for priority study, which will be addressed in the following order during 2003-2010: Guadalupe River (lower subbasin), Brazos River (lower subbasin), San Antonio River (lower subbasin), Trinity River (middle subbasin), Sabine River (lower subbasin), and Brazos River (middle subbasin). Four additional basins are identified as candidates for a second tier of studies in the event that priorities change or supplementary resources are made available: Guadalupe River (upper subbasin), Neches River, Red River, and Sabine River (upper subbasin). The exact process for selecting the priority and second tier studies is not described in detail in the PWP; however, potential water development projects and water rights permitting issues are identified as important factors. Scope of Studies The PWP specifies that studies will include hydrology, biology, geomorphology, water quality, and connectivity, and that studies will be conducted using an interdisciplinary approach. The PWP notes the challenges of an inter-disciplinary approach: Recognizing the constraints of time and resources, it will not be possible to address each of these components in a systematic or
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The Science of Instream Flows: A Review of the Texas Instream Flow Program quantitative manner in each subbasin that is studied. However, each component should be evaluated and documented in the planning phases of each study for its applicability, feasibility, and importance to accuracy of models and study results. In terms of spatial scale, the PWP indicates that an instream flow study is “largely a fish and wildlife resource evaluation of a river segment, sometimes a more comprehensive subbasin evaluation, and rarely a comprehensive evaluation of an entire basin.” Instream Flow Study Elements The PWP presents a flowchart (see Figure 4-1) which depicts the intended sequencing of the work to be conducted in a study. An accompanying table in the PWP lists the tasks associated with each segment. STRENGTHS OF AND OPPORTUNITIES TO IMPROVE THE PWP Overall, the PWP presents an ambitious program with a sound, skeletal foundation for a successful instream flow program. The agencies are com mended for identifying the need to evaluate the primary components of river systems. Still, the PWP offers opportunities for improvement to strengthen its programmatic structure. With the improvements suggested in this report, the PWP should provide the architecture necessary for Texas to build a successful instream flow program. Strengths of the PWP The PWP has several strengths. First and foremost, the PWP presents an approach that conforms to the best practices for instream flows as defined by instream flow experts. As part of this approach, the Texas agencies have identified the important and relevant elements of an instream flow study. Chapter 3 of this report identifies seven principles of state-of-the-science instream flow programs: Preserve whole functioning ecosystems Mimic, to the extent possible, a natural flow regime
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The Science of Instream Flows: A Review of the Texas Instream Flow Program FIGURE 4-1 Flowchart of instream flow study elements. SOURCE: Adapted from the PWP (TPWD, TCEQ, and TWDB, 2002). Include the riparian corridor and floodplain in the spatial scope of the study Conduct studies using an interdisciplinary approach Use a variety of tools and approaches appropriate for particular rivers Practice adaptive management. Involve stakeholders in all aspects
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The Science of Instream Flows: A Review of the Texas Instream Flow Program To the credit of the Texas agencies, the PWP includes all of these characteristics to some degree. The PWP also specifies and stresses the use of a multi-disciplinary tack that includes hydrology, physical processes, water quality and biology input. Finally, the PWP is very clear in identifying the priority study sites, outlining the roles of the state agencies, and emphasizing the importance of coordination among state agencies and other interests in conducting instream flow studies. Opportunities to Improve the PWP Several areas of the PWP need improvement. Two aspects of the PWP need immediate attention and improvement to validate the instream flow program presented in the PWP. First, the PWP needs to outline a plan to create a unified program with state-wide comparability that accommodates studies tailored to local conditions. Second, the PWP needs clearly articulated goals. These two aspects are major areas for PWP improvement. Other aspects of the PWP that need revision or clarification are the PWP flowchart, use of existing and reconnaissance data in the detailed technical evaluations, scaling issues, monitoring and validation, adaptive management, and stakeholder involvement. State-wide Comparability with Studies Tailored to Local Conditions Texas Senate Bill 2 directed the agencies to develop and maintain “an instream flow data collection and evaluation program” and the PWP generally refers to the instream flow effort as a program. It is assumed that the Texas instream flow program is intended to be more than a collection of individual studies. The challenge, therefore, is to construct an instream flow program with two levels of oversight: one to provide consistency at the state-wide level and one to accommodate individual differences at the subbasin level. The Texas agencies did a commendable job in identifying these two programmatic levels; however, the PWP does not discuss the connections between these two levels to work as a single, coherent program. The state-level oversight should provide the structure to compare and, perhaps to some degree, integrate findings from subbasin-level technical evaluations. The state-level structure should also provide some consistency across instream flow studies that are tailored to the local, subbasin conditions. A consistent approach across basins promotes the efficient use of resources. For example, lessons learned from early studies can be applied
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The Science of Instream Flows: A Review of the Texas Instream Flow Program to subsequent instream flow studies in different subbasins. If instream flow recommendations from the earliest studies do not appear to be having the desired effects, mid-course corrections (via adaptive management) might be possible for other priority studies. The state-level program should also allow results from studies in one or more of the priority river subbasins to inform management decisions in non-priority rivers. This information may be particularly relevant to the Texas program, as TCEQ has classified 225 segments on Texas streams and rivers for water quality purposes, but only eight of these 225 segments have been identified as priority areas for the instream flow program. There are some general similarities among the rivers in Texas; they have low to medium gradients with relatively warm water. The state-level structure will cater to these similarities. However, there are also important differences across Texas river basins. Rainfall varies across Texas, and rivers in different parts of the state may have various levels of dependence on springs and other groundwater sources. Rivers across the state respond differently to human activities such as urbanization, wastewater return flows, and the existence of dams. Finally, there is significant biological diversity across the state. All of these factors support a second level of oversight in the Texas instream flow program that promotes studies that are designed based on the specific characteristics of the study subbasin. The simultaneous need for statewide consistency and individually tailored studies may present a dilemma. Fortunately, there are demonstrated ways to address this issue. For example, the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program1 combines national consistency and local flexibility. NAWQA uses information collected in selected river basins across the country to address local, regional, and national water quality issues (for reviews on NAWQA, see NRC 1990, 2002b). NAWQA shows how environmental monitoring can be conducted successfully across many federal, state, and local agencies (NRC, 2002b). Attributes of the program that help it achieve national consistency include (1) clearly focused goals; (2) well documented methods and approaches; (3) site selection and sampling and analysis protocols that were designed to produce data and information that can be combined and interpreted in a broad context; and (4) national oversight and quality assurance, including review of individual study plans relevant to eventual application to national issues. While the Texas instream flow program is very different from NAWQA, these four attributes of NAWQA can be useful guidance to the Texas agencies in the process of articulating the two-level structure of the Texas instream flow program. 1 For further information on the USGS NAWQA program see http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/.
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The Science of Instream Flows: A Review of the Texas Instream Flow Program The PWP makes clear that all studies will be multidisciplinary, will follow similar steps, and will include plans for on-going monitoring and validation. The priority studies will be conducted over a period of at least ten years and a large number of people across the state are likely to be involved, including personnel from the state agencies, river basin authorities, academia, and private-sector consultants. Actions that will strengthen connections between the state-level program and subbasin-level studies include (1) extensive documentation of rationale, methods and approaches chosen for the technical evaluations conducted in each river basin; (2) documentation of the procedures used to integrate the results of individual disciplinary studies into an instream flow recommendation; and (3) continued oversight of the entire process by the state agencies and peer review. These three actions will provide the needed information and data structure to compare methods and results from different subbasin studies; integrate findings, as appropriate, from different subbasins; and share important instream flow study information across the life of the instream flow program and all of the state, academic and private sector personnel who will be involved in the program. Programmatic and Basin-Specific Goals Establishing unambiguous management goals and objectives is an important component, perhaps the most important component, of any viable instream flow program (see Goals section, Chapter 3). The PWP (page 2) contains two broad goals for the program in the statement: “the goal of an instream flow study is to determine an appropriate flow regime (quantity and timing of water in a stream or river) that conserves fish and wildlife resources while providing sustained benefits for other human uses of water resources.” Unfortunately, sometimes the goal of conserving fish and wildlife may conflict with the goal of providing human uses of water. Thus, the trade-offs inherent in these two broad goals, neither of which may be able to be fully met, may present difficulties for instream flow management. In addition to clear, state-wide programmatic goals, each individual river basin study will also need goals and objectives that are tailored specifically to that particular subbasin. The study flowchart presented in the PWP includes as part of study design the task, “develop objectives and study plan specific to subbasin” but no guidance is provided about the nature of these objectives or how they are determined. Because the goals for the subbasins are likely to reflect the wide range of interests and conditions of those basins, the PWP cannot, and appropriately, does not, dictate what the subbasin goals should be. Still, the PWP needs to mention that sweeping goals
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The Science of Instream Flows: A Review of the Texas Instream Flow Program at the state, programmatic level need to frame the site-specific goals that will guide technical evaluations at the subbasin level. One way to approach these two levels of goals is to have a state-wide goal for the instream flow program and subbasin goals that nest within that goal. One state-wide goal is stated in the Senate Bill 2 language: to conduct studies to support a “sound ecological environment” in Texas rivers. This is a clearly stated goal; however, neither the Bill nor the PWP defines the phrase “sound ecological environment,” which has left its meaning open to interpretation. During public meetings with stakeholders in Texas over the course of this study, stakeholders presented widely different interpretations of a “sound ecological environment,” from the preservation of natural biodiversity to industrial, commercial and recreational uses of rivers. The stakeholder comments underscore the import of establishing a single, statewide definition for this term. Admittedly, developing these goals statements will not be a simple process. There are several options available to define and realize a “sound ecological environment” in Texas rivers. One option is to invite stakeholders into the process and define the goals by consensus (Postel and Richter, 2003). Another option has roots in the PWP which contains a strong statement about high quality, intact ecosystems in Texas: A high quality, natural environment is essential for conserving the quality of life Texans, future generations of Texans, and visitors to this state enjoy. Intact and functioning ecosystems are also critical for maintaining a strong state economy. Healthy aquatic systems that maintain biological integrity are essential to conserve the state’s natural biodiversity, as well as support tourism, recreational pursuits, commercial and recreational fisheries, and a myriad of other industries. This description of high quality aquatic ecosystems captures some important aspects of what a sound ecological environment could be (i.e., intact, functioning ecosystems, biodiversity, biological integrity, etc.). If Texas intends to use this description as proxy for a sound ecological environment, that intention should be stated explicitly. An inclusive approach like this statement is encouraged at the state level; however, this statement in the PWP would be even more useful if it had a stronger quantitative description that could be matched with measurable metrics. Metrics measure progress towards achieving the selected management goal. Examples of metrics are number or abundance of some species, fish or macroinvertebrate populations, range of hydraulic habitat, etc. These and other metrics are well documented in the TOD. Instream flow man-
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The Science of Instream Flows: A Review of the Texas Instream Flow Program agement goals and metrics could be tied to the components of the flow regime (i.e., base flows, subsistence flows, high pulse flows, and overbank flows) to strengthen connections among the studies and between the studies and the instream flow recommendation(s). Regardless of whether the policy goal is set by stakeholders, legislation, or agency decision makers, clarification of the meaning of the phrase “sound ecological environment” is essential. Those tasked with conducting instream flow studies or implementing the recommendations that come out of the studies will need an unambiguous understanding of the term in order to design studies to comply with the goal of achieving sound riverine environments in Texas. Defining this term is primarily a policy decision, but this decision should be informed by scientific advice on alternative definitions and on metrics to measure progress toward the goals. Instream Flow Studies Flowchart A main strength of the PWP flowchart is its simplicity. The PWP instream flow flowchart (Figure 4-1) presents most of the important elements of an instream flow study and does it in a simple, straightforward fashion. Attempting to diagram a complex undertaking such as an instream flow study can be difficult because input from multiple steps must be considered at the same time. For example, the results of the hydrologic, biological, water quality and physical processes evaluations must be interpreted together to develop instream flow recommendations and each of these discipline evaluations is typically made up of a collection of separate studies. Thus, a diagrammatic representation can get quite complicated with multiple inputs and feedback loops (see for example Bovee, 1998). This complexity may be appropriate for a strictly technical audience, but those who do not have a technical background may not be well informed by an overly complicated diagram. Thus, there are advantages to a relatively simple and straightforward flowchart, and the Texas agencies are commended for presenting a complicated process in a diagram that is easy to understand. The PWP flowchart acknowledges the need for different disciplines and integration of results, and if applied as presented, the flowchart should promote a consistent approach to instream flow studies across the state. Its straightforward approach can simplify a complex process to non-technical stakeholders. The potential problem with this streamlined approach is that connections between the presented steps may not be easy to understand because very step cannot be detailed. Supporting documents are critical to provide necessary detail and show linkages between and among the steps. In the
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The Science of Instream Flows: A Review of the Texas Instream Flow Program text describing the PWP flowchart, several important steps do not get the emphasis and degree of description that are needed. These steps include: (1) establishing goals that are as clear and measurable as possible, (2) providing a process to incorporate existing information and reconnaissance studies into the design of the technical evaluations, (3) providing information at the study design step to guide choices about spatial scales for the technical evaluations, (4) establishing a process for integrating scientific results into an instream flow recommendation, (5) considering factors that may affect implementation of the recommendations, and (6) selecting indicators for long-term monitoring. In order to assure that these steps get the necessary consideration in an instream flow study, the PWP flowchart and supporting text should be revised as follows. PWP revisions should give specific attention to goals; include a two-step process whereby existing and reconnaissance data are collected (first step) and used to design the detailed technical evaluations (second step); specify spatial scales during the study design of the technical evaluations; clarify the process for integrating information; consider implementation issues; and include more information about the use of indicators and monitoring. Also, while a study report is reasonable at the end of the process, a report should be produced after the conclusion of the technical evaluations and prior to implementing the flow recommendations. These suggested changes are presented diagrammatically in the revised flowchart presented in Figure 4-2. This flowchart, which is still relatively simple and straightforward, is based on the flowchart in the PWP (Figure 4-1) with the addition or reordering of major steps and tasks that are important to successful instream flow studies based on experiences in other places (IFC, 2002; Postel and Richter, 2003). Use of Existing Information and Reconnaissance Studies Among the tasks to be completed during the design of an instream flow study, as specified by the PWP, are compiling and evaluating existing information and field reconnaissance. The description or plan of how to incorporate these preliminary assessments in subsequent steps of the study is either weak or missing in the PWP and TOD. This is a difficult step in any instream flow program or study. The Texas agencies have laid the groundwork in the PWP, but the PWP needs further description to highlight the plan to realize this important step. The Texas instream flow program can be viewed as a two-step process. The first step is the collection of existing and reconnaissance data. This step includes any initial studies that are needed to describe the most basic
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The Science of Instream Flows: A Review of the Texas Instream Flow Program FIGURE 4-2 Recommended flowchart for instream flow studies.
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The Science of Instream Flows: A Review of the Texas Instream Flow Program aspects of the riverine system. The second step is the conduct of the detailed technical evaluations focused on hydrology and hydraulics, physical processes, biology, or water quality. Existing information and reconnaissance-level studies compiled in the first step should be used to design detailed technical evaluations, the second step. Information from the first step would be compiled into a conceptual model of the river system (see Chapter 3) to ascertain what is and what is not understood about the river system, and what additional, detailed information needs to be collected or modeled. A conceptual model can focus subsequent detailed technical evaluations in quantitative terms. A series of questions and answers can provide enough information to develop a conceptual model of a river system that includes the physical, biological, and water quality characteristics of the study area. Examples from the Savannah River project include the kinds of questions that might be formed from the conceptual model (Meyer et al., 2003): What flow in March through May is needed to provide adequate larval drift for striped bass? What flow in January through April is needed to provide floodplain access for fish? What flow is needed every 5 years to form pool-riffle habitats in the stream channel? Developing the conceptual model will marshal the expertise of every member of the multi-disciplinary instream flow team. Even still, posing the right questions and then setting out to answer them is a challenging exercise. A wide variety of technical tools and methods can be used to model, simulate, or quantify processes to answer such questions. Tools, methods, and models should be selected carefully to be as tailored to the study subbasin as possible to investigate the status of the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the river system under study. Furthermore, the selection and rationale for certain methods should be well documented for future reference. Once developed, a conceptual model can highlight missing data or gaps in understanding of certain important components. Recognizing these gaps is a useful outcome of the conceptual model. The PWP and the TOD need better explanation of the process whereby existing information and reconnaissance studies will be used to guide the detailed technical evaluations of hydrology, physical processes, biology, and water quality. Designing the technical evaluations from existing and reconnaissance data is an involved, but important step in the instream flow process. When
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The Science of Instream Flows: A Review of the Texas Instream Flow Program done correctly, the detailed technical evaluations will be aligned with program and subbasin goals and each other for a more streamlined integration process. When done poorly, the resource-intensive detailed technical evaluations can waste resources on sampling and modeling efforts that do not relate to program goals or advance progress towards a flow recommendation. Scaling Issues Spatial and temporal scaling issues remain at the forefront of research needs in instream flow work. Much uncertainty surrounds approaches to correctly scale instream flow empirical studies and applications. Spatial scale compatibility is critical at the point where disparate technical studies are integrated into a flow recommendation. In one view, the Texas agencies have considered spatial scale in instream flow studies very well. The lengths of the main stem river reaches in the six priority study segments (see Table 4-1) range from 137 to 272 river miles. The boundaries of these instream flow study reaches largely coincide with the boundaries of the water quality management segments established by the TCEQ as part of its Texas Water Quality Standards. Thus, water quality and instream flows are being analyzed using comparable spatial units. This is a strong point because the agencies have had experience working at this scale for the water quality program. It is also a benefit for future integration of the results of the instream flow and water quality programs, should the agencies choose to take advantage of that opportunity. In another view, however, the PWP and TOD are not very clear on the selection of river reaches and segments for study. There is some guidance in the TOD about selection of representative reaches for hydrologic studies, but it is not clear that this selection process will result in study areas that are equally useful for the physical processes, water quality and biological components of the study. Agency personnel have extensive experience with Texas rivers and may have addressed these issues in other studies. If so, these studies can and should be referenced. The PWP and the TOD will be strengthened by addressing the issues of scale and comparability of studies conducted within the different disciplines. Ensuring that the different technical evaluations are conducted at commensurate spatial and temporal scales appropriate to derive an instream flow recommendation is the key scaling issue for the Texas instream flow program.
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The Science of Instream Flows: A Review of the Texas Instream Flow Program TABLE 4-1 Lengths of Main-Stem River Reaches in Priority Instream Flow Subbasins River Reach TCEQ Segment Number Length (miles) Lower Sabine 502 and 503 137 Middle Trinity 804 160 Lower Brazos 1202 199 Middle Brazos 1242 183 Lower Guadalupe 1803, 1804 272 Lower San Antonio 1901 153 Total 8 1,104 SOURCE: Data from TNRCC, 2000. Monitoring and Validation When water managers begin implementing an instream flow recommendation, it will be very important to monitor the degree to which instream flow goals are being met. This serves at least two purposes. First, if monitoring results suggest that the instream flow goals are not being met, it could provoke water managers and scientists to modify the instream flow recommendations. Second, if ecosystem benefits associated with implementation of instream flows can be documented, that documentation will help build societal and scientific support for the instream flow program. The PWP recognizes the need for monitoring and validation components in the instream flow study process and the TOD accurately discusses a number of purposes served by long-term monitoring. The PWP and the TOD note that monitoring ecosystem conditions during implementation of the flow recommendations can validate the results of modeling conducted during the technical studies and gauge whether instream goals are being attained. The PWP and TOD do not, however, provide any guidance on the selection of components that are to be monitored. Because of the importance of monitoring to program success, the PWP should specify that each study plan develop a suite of measurable ecosystem indicators that are responsive to instream flows and can be tracked to measure ecosystem conditions during the study and after implementation of instream flow recommendations. The instream flow study plan should explicitly identify the techniques to be used in monitoring the indicators, and frequency, locations, and timing of measurements. Indicators should be related directly to the goals of the subbasin study. Finally, the selection of indicators should be determined in the study design phase.
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The Science of Instream Flows: A Review of the Texas Instream Flow Program Adaptive Management Adaptive management is recognized as a powerful approach to management in complex situations (NRC, 2004c). An adaptive management approach is encouraged to be used in the Texas instream flow program to account for mid-course corrections and respond to long-term monitoring results. The PWP authors are commended for recognizing monitoring as necessary for adaptive management practices, but the PWP omits certain important points such as (1) specific assessment of instream flow recommendations in meeting target resource objectives; (2) specific description of a conceptual model (or how the different technical pieces fit together); and (3) evaluation of the overall implementation of the instream flow process, ecological models, tools and analyses employed. These are important elements of an adaptive management approach and should be included in any revisions made to the PWP. Further, the PWP is not clear about how management agencies might respond in circumstances when monitoring results suggest problems with the models or techniques used, selection of indicators, or shortcomings in attaining instream flow goals. Stakeholder Involvement Stakeholder involvement is included as one of the important principles for riverine resource stewardship by the Instream Flow Council (IFC, 2002). Stakeholder involvement at the goal-setting step is particularly important because of the potential for conflict among competing uses of water. In Texas, stakeholders are vested in and knowledgeable about instream flow issues. Based on stakeholder input at the committee open meetings in Austin and San Antonio, Texan stakeholders, if given the opportunity, could contribute to the instream flow process in significant, valuable ways. However, a vested stakeholder contingent does not equal a contingent in agreement. To the contrary, stakeholders rarely agree on how water should be used with respect to instream flows. Municipal demands, agricultural use, recreational interests, threatened or endangered species, and water-related regulations will all have to be taken into consideration. Since state agencies, stakeholders, and civic groups likely will disagree, it is important to allot adequate time to address the range of issues in setting instream flow goals and to have a pre-determined process to set goals if compromise cannot be reached. The Texas instream flow documents indicate that an early step in conducting instream flow studies will be to identify stakeholders and potential
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The Science of Instream Flows: A Review of the Texas Instream Flow Program cooperators. Stakeholders and cooperators are rather broadly defined in the TOD as federal agencies, river basin authorities, the academic community, environmental groups, recreational groups, and other interest groups. The TOD says that a stakeholder process will be developed but neither the PWP nor the TOD specify how stakeholder interests will affect study objectives or study design. The PWP will be improved if the role and degree of stakeholder involvement is clarified. SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS The PWP is a relatively brief document that describes the programmatic aspects of the Texas instream flow program. It lays out agency roles and responsibilities, its legislative mandate, priority instream flow studies in Texas, the scope of instream flow studies, and instream flow study elements. The strengths of the PWP include clearly articulated legislative mandate, identification of the priority studies, and general roles of the state agencies. The PWP presents an instream flow approach for Texas that is consistent with current thinking on instream flow best practices. It incorporates important and relevant elements of an instream flow study through a multidisciplinary approach that includes hydrology, physical processes, water quality, and biology. The PWP also presents opportunities for improvement. Two major areas that need attention are (1) an explanation of an instream flow program that allows individual studies to be tailored to the study subbasin and consistency and management at the state level; and (2) articulation of clear goals. Other aspects of the PWP also need revision or clarification. The PWP needs to emphasize a two-phase process where existing and reconnaissance data are collected (first step) and used to design the detailed technical evaluations (second step). The PWP needs a clearer description or plan as to how existing and field reconnaissance informs the detailed technical evaluations. Additional emphasis is also needed on setting subbasin goals and explaining how results from the detailed technical evaluations will be integrated to derive a flow recommendation. Key aspects of spatial scale issues need further clarification, as well. Different technical evaluations need to be designed and conducted at spatial and temporal scales commensurate with each other and at an appropriate scale to derive an instream flow recommendation. The PWP mentions the value of monitoring and validation, and needs to identify indicators to be able to quantify progress through monitoring and validation activities. Adaptive management is briefly discussed in the PWP, but more detailed information is needed about the (1) specific assessment of instream flow recommendations in
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The Science of Instream Flows: A Review of the Texas Instream Flow Program meeting target resource objectives; (2) specific description of a conceptual model; and (3) evaluation of the overall execution of the instream flow processes, models, and analyses employed. Therefore, several recommendations for the PWP include: A clear definition of the phrase “sound ecological environment” needs to be provided to supply context for instream flows in Texas. The PWP should present a state-wide context for individual subbasin studies. This can be accomplished with two levels of oversight: one at the state level for management and program consistency and one at the subbasin level for goals and approaches that are tailored to the specific needs of the study basin. The PWP should present clear and specific goals for the state-wide instream flow program and recognize the need to develop individual subbasin goals that nest within the state-wide instream flow programmatic goal(s). The PWP flowchart for instream flow studies should be revised to include several important steps in planning and conducting an instream flow study as suggested in Figure 4-2. The PWP and the TOD should describe how existing information and reconnaissance studies will be used to guide the detailed technical evaluations of hydrology, physical processes, biology, and water quality. A suite of measurable, ecological indicators should be established for the state-wide program and each basin-specific study; the indicators should be responsive to instream flows. These indicators can be used in adaptive management, monitoring and validation activities to measure progress towards achieving a sound ecological environment in Texas rivers. The PWP or TOD should provide information about how adaptive management will be implemented for the program as a whole and for individual river basins. The PWP should provide additional information about the type and degree of stakeholder involvement in the instream flow studies.
Representative terms from entire chapter: