OHIO RIVER ECOLOGICAL RESEARCH
Electric Power Research Institute
Ohio River; Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois
Since 1970, various utility companies have sponsored fish studies on the Ohio River as part of the Ohio River Ecological Research Program (ORERP). These companies have included American Electric Power Company, American Municipal Power – Ohio, Buckeye Power, Dayton Power & Light, Duke Energy, EON.US (Louisville Gas & Electric), EON.US (Western Kentucky Energy Corporation), Monongahela Power, Ohio Valley Electric Corporation/Indiana-Kentucky Electric Corporation, Owensboro Municipal Utilities, and Tennessee Valley Authority. EA conducted this program in 1991 and 1992, and annually since 2000. Since 2002, the ORERP has been an Electric Power Research Institute Tailored Collaboration Project.
Standard Adult Fish Program
The standard program consists of adult/juvenile fish, habitat, and water quality field studies at up to 18 power plants, which nearly span the entire length of the Ohio River:
Surveys are conducted seasonally (i.e., June, August, and October) at three electrofishing and three seining locations upstream and downstream of each plant. Electrofishing is conducted at night and seining during the day. The principal research objectives of this study are to evaluate possible effects of thermal effluents on the temporal and spatial distributions of juvenile and adult fish in the Ohio River, and investigate any associations with hydrological, water quality, and habitat characteristics. Habitat at each seining location is evaluated using Ohio EPA’s Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index, and habitat at each electrofishing location is evaluated using the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission’s Method. For both gears, data are evaluated using abundance, biomass, species richness, and catch rate data.
Electrofishing data are also evaluated using the modified Index of Well-Being, the Ohio River Fish Index, and Shannon diversity. Because the sponsorship of the program changes somewhat from year to year, the number of plants studied also varies from year to year. The largest participation (10-17 plants per year) occurred from 2004 through 2008 and 14 plants were studied in 2009. During the expanded studies from 2004 through 2007, EA collected nearly a million fish representing 114 fish species.
Special Winter Adult Fish Program
During 2007, 2008, and 2009, EA conducted an unprecedented winter monitoring program. This program consisted of night electrofishing and seining (in 2007 and 2008) at 8 power plants each year, and spanned a study area of nearly 700 river miles. The objective of this program was to determine the extent to which fish are attracted to the thermal discharges.
From 2005 through 2007, EA conducted 2-year impingement studies at 15 power plants on the Ohio River; these plants spanned nearly 900 river miles. Each plant was sampled up to 40 times, 20 times per year. Sampling during each of the 40 events was conducted over a 24-hour period and the data were separated by day and night. A first of its kind model-based approach was used in this study, which allowed a lower frequency of sampling than has been employed at many facilities and saved each Sponsor a considerable amount of money. Despite a lower frequency of sampling, the model-based approach yielded annual estimates that were as or more precise than a traditional once a week approach. The study was also unique in its collaborative approach (15 different power plants), standardized design, as well as cost- and data-sharing. Sampling at the 15 plants resulted in the collection of 2.9 million fish representing 82 species. Gizzard shad and/or freshwater drum dominated impingement at all of the plants but one, where threadfin shad dominated the catch. These three species accounted for greater than 90 percent of the catch at all plants. Other commonly impinged species were skipjack herring, channel catfish, white bass, and other Morone species, bluegill, and sauger.