This project is no longer current

Understanding Hydraulic Processes

Primary Investigator:

Frank H. Quinn


The hydraulic processes in groundwater and riverine flow are important for assessing the hydrologic water balance components of the Great Lakes basin and for developing improved models for water level forecasting and simulation. The primary objective of this research is to develop, test, and document groundwater and connecting channel hydraulics models for use in Great Lakes water resource studies.

2000 Plans

Niagara River Hydraulic Studies: Detailed analysis of the impact of hydraulic regime changes in the Niagara River subsequent to 1960 on Great Lakes water levels and connecting channel flows will be completed. Following final technical review by Environment Canada, the report will be circulated to the International Niagara River Board of Control and the International Niagara Working Committee for comments. All comments will be considered and a technical memorandum and a journal manuscript will be completed and submitted for publication. The findings will also be presented to the International Niagara Working Committee, the Coordinating Committee on Great Lakes Basic Hydraulic and Hydrologic Data and at a scientific meeting. The results from the study will be incorporated in the development of the Niagara River discharge equations for the coordinated Great Lakes hydraulic routing model.

Detroit River Hydraulic Studies: An Accoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) will be deployed at the Fort Wayne Section of the Detroit River in December. Vertical velocity data will be collected from the ADCP for monitoring the Detroit River flows for use in flow determination and in studying episodic events. The data will be displayed on the GLERL web site as it was last year.

St. Clair River Hydraulic Studies: Based upon the success of the Detroit River Project, the International Coordinating Committee has recommended the purchase and deployment of an ADCP meter to be placed at the head of the St. Clair River. The Corps of Engineers has purchased the meter and it is expected to be deployed early next spring. The GLERL role will likely be to establish the protocols, develop requisite software and monitor performance as we are doing for the Detroit River installation. We will also work in establishing an integrated, Detroit and St. Clair Rivers, web based real time data display for Great Lakes.

1999 Accomplishments

Niagara River Hydraulic Studies: We are about 90% finished with the detailed analysis of the impact of hydraulic regime changes in the Niagara River subsequent to 1960 on Great Lakes water levels and connecting channel flows. A draft report has been completed and reviewed by the Corps of Engineers and Environment Canada. Briefings were given to the International Niagara Board of Control Working Committee. The analysis shows major apparent changes in the hydraulic regime of the upper Niagara River beginning in the early 1960s resulting in an increase of Lake Erie water levels. The evidence is that this apparent increase in water levels is not due to the change in CGIP management but rather due to the change in computing the Niagara River flows at Buffalo subsequent to the New York Power Authority (NYPA) diversion in the early 1960s, along with a discontinuity in the published flows due to the change in the Ashland Ave. rating equation in the early 1980s. The change in pool management beginning in the early 1960s, resulting in a major lowering of the Pool, was reflected as expected at the Black Rock Lock and Frenchmans Creek and Slaters Point water level gages. The lowering of the Pool by about 2 ft. in the early to mid 1970 was accompanied by about a 0.9 ft. lowering at the Black Rock Lock gage. However the water levels at the Buffalo gage using the published Niagara River flows remained unchanged during the 1970s and rose during the 1980s, instead of an expected lowering of 0.15 - 0.20 ft. This has resulted in major confusion on the impacts of the CGIP management and the NYPA diversion on the levels of Lake Erie and the upper Great Lakes.

An assessment using Niagara River discharge measurements between 1952 and 1998 indicate that the published flows subsequent to 1960, after correcting for the change in the Ashland Ave rating, are underestimated by about 1.5 percent. While this amount is well within the acceptable accuracy of most measurements, it is a consistent bias. The extreme sensitivity of the river water levels to even small changes in flows is illustrated by the application of this small correction in flow bringing the simulated and predicted water level changes into harmony, resulting in the requisite, theoretical, lowering of Lake Erie at Buffalo resulting from the changes in CGIP management.

Detroit River Hydraulic Studies: Vertical velocity data was continued to be collected from the Acoustic Doppler Profiler at the Fort Wayne Section in the Detroit River for monitoring the Detroit River flows for use in flow determination and in studying eposodic events. The assessment of extensive weed growth on the seasonal flow cycle and its potential impacts on weed retardation on lower Detroit River flows due to the Zebra Mussel was completed and the draft final report for the project is under review. The meter line was cut last winter and the meter was finally found in it’s proper location this fall with the M-Rover. It is in the process of being retrieved by the Coast Guard and Detroit Edison Divers this month.

1998 Accomplishments

Niagara River Hydraulic Studies: The coordinated routing model MIDLAKES, incorporating a stage-fall-discharge equation developed to represent the present hydraulic regime, was used to model the impacts of using the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool (CGIP) Control Structure above Niagara Falls as a means of influencing Lake Erie water levels (Lee et al. 1999). The model was used to estimate the impacts of deviating from the present directive for Pool water level management. The long-term impact of a 0.30 m increase or decrease from the current directive long-term mean Pool level on Lakes Erie, St. Clair, and Michigan-Huron levels is 5 cm, 4 cm, and 2 cm and -4 cm, -3 cm,and -2 cm, respectively. These impacts are of the same order as those of other anthropogenic changes to the Great Lakes systems. The minimum lake response, the time lag to full impact, and the local problems resulting from directive deviations, makes this a less favorable emergency response measure during periods of extreme lake levels than other alternatives.

Detroit River Hydraulic Studies: Detroit River flows are important to the Great Lakes water resources. Changes in these flows affect lake levels, navigation and recreational boating, and shoreline profiles to name a few. The spread of zebra mussels into the Great Lakes system has led to increased clarity of the water in Lakes St. Clair and Erie and in the Detroit River due to their filter feeding habits. This has resulted in greatly increased aquatic weed growth since light is able to penetrate deeper into the water column and increase the photosynthetic process. Increased weed growth acts to increase the hydraulic roughness of the Detroit River during the growing season. A study is presently being conducted at GLERL, using an acoustic doppler current profiler (ADCP), to quantify the changes in the flow regime due to increased weed growth (Sellinger 1998). Preliminary results show that there is a slight change in river roughness for the upper Detroit River. The study is currently focused on the lower river (an area of intense weed growth); this section of the river should yield larger differences. An algorithm based upon the GLERL upper Detroit River unsteady flow model was developed to translate the ADCP velocity data into Detroit River flows at Fort Wayne.


Lee, D.H., F.H. Quinn, and A.H. Clites. 1998. Effect of the Niagara River Chippawa-Grass Island Pool on the levels of Lakes Michigan-Huron and Erie. Journal of Great Lakes Research 24:936-948.

Sellinger, C.E., 1998. Assessment of impacts of increased weed growth on the Detroit River flows. GLERL in-house report presented to the Detroit Army Corps of Engineers.