Shared Vision Planning


Reservoir Operating Plan Evaluation (ROPE) Study for the Mississippi Headwaters

In 2001, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service began a jointly sponsored, long-range reservoir operating plan study for the Mississippi River Headwaters. The nine-reservoir system is guided by operation plans last updated forty or more years ago, when uses of the water resource were markedly different. Since 1960 land use, flood damage potential and navigation demands have changed; and recreational, tribal, and environmental uses of the water resource have gained importance.

The ROPE study addresses current and future needs for navigation; tribal trust resources; flood damage reduction; fish and wildlife habitat; recreation and tourism; water quality and water supply; erosion and sedimentation; hydropower; and sustaining hydrologic function on the lakes and rivers. Possible results of the ROPE study include changes in winter drawdown or lake level targets, post-study restoration of specific river reaches, a more natural flow release for downstream river reaches, changes in flood control operations, structural changes in the dams, and purchase of land for maximizing efficient operation.

One of the unique aspects of this planning process is the Corps of Engineers is using the Hydrologic Engineering Center's (HEC) Prescriptive Reservoir Model for optimization in conjunction with a simulation model developed using systems dynamics software. The initial simulation model was developed by the Institute for Water Resources, but has been handed over to the St. Paul district to continue to build with stakeholders, with IWR-East and IWR-HEC continuing to providing technical support as needed.

Partners: Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; Mississippi Headwater Board; Private power companies; United States Department of Agriculture-Forest Service; USACE MVP;

Key Features

  • Co-sponsored with Forest Service
  • Linkage with HEC-PRM
  • Corps district in lead role
  • IWR providing technical assistance

The primary purpose of the Reservoir Operating Plan Evaluation (ROPE) study is to improve system-wide operations of the Mississippi Headwaters reservoirs for multiple uses such as tribal trust, flood control, environmental concerns, water quality, water supply, recreation, navigation, hydropower and other interests.

More Information

An early Stella® model for ROPE Study is available at Stella® Model Web Site