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Abstract: Session A  9:20 am (Back to Session A)
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The Environmental Flow Information Toolkit – Developing Strategies to Support the Protection and Restoration of Environmental Flows in Texas

David Bradsby
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Austin, TX

Authors:  David Bradsby, Johanna Valente, Lynne Hamlin, Kevin Mayes, David Young, Joe Trungale, Tom Hayes, Ryan Smith, Kyle Garmany  

Healthy rivers and streams and associated riparian areas, floodplains, spring systems, lakes, reservoirs, bays and estuaries support a diverse assemblage of ecologically and economically important fish and wildlife species and riparian taxa. Changing hydrologic regimes due to a variety of sources can potentially impact these important resources. To address and mitigate effects of hydrologic alteration, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is developing an Environmental Flow Information Toolkit (EFIT) to evaluate suitable voluntary strategies for addressing environmental flow needs.  Initial EFIT development is funded by a research grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Science Applications program via the Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GPLCC) and the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI) for $356K. Additional USFWS State Wildlife Grant funds enable expansion of the geographic scope of the project.  EFIT will be a web-based Decision Support Tool that uses a broad, watershed-scale conservation framework, interdisciplinary metrics, and a spatial framework for querying diverse underlying data layers.  Upon completion, EFIT will house a data framework and prioritization scheme that enables decision support for identifying priority flow protection and restoration/conservation opportunity areas. Prioritization of opportunity areas will be based on ecological data such as flow-response metrics; flow alteration data derived from streamflow gages/naturalized flow datasets; surface water right and usage information, and other spatial data layers.  Flow-response metrics will be conducted by factoring and weighting abiotic (e.g., water right availability, hydrologic alteration, flow restoration targets, etc.) and biotic components (e.g., metrics of alteration in aquatic statewide species) of river ecosystems/segments. EFIT will aid a variety of end users in identifying strategies such as the voluntary sale, donation, or leasing of existing water rights; dedication of return flows; dam re-operation; water conservation; and improved land use management that could return/preserve water for present and future environmental needs.