US Army Corps of Engineers
Institute for Water Resources

Upper Ohio River, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, & Tennessee

Addressing changing and competing water resource needs through collaboration

The Ohio River Basin encompasses numerous large river systems including the Allegheny, Monongahela, Tennessee, and Wabash Rivers, delivering more than 60 percent of the flow of the Mississippi River at their confluence. 

With competing needs, changing availability of water and timing, on the Ohio River, A collaboration among many partners including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and The Nature Conservancy will explore opportunities to increase valuable project benefits.

Upper Ohio River

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The Ohio River Basin is a water‐rich area, with numerous large river systems including the Allegheny, Monongahela, Tennessee, and Wabash Rivers. As a result, the Ohio River delivers more than 60 percent of the flow of the Mississippi River at their confluence. The combination of rapidly changing public needs in this region, combined with the projected significant changes in water availability and timing from a changing climate, make partnership to explore the opportunities to maintain and increase project benefits for particularly valuable.

The Upper Ohio River Sustainable Rivers Program Expansion site encompasses more than 80 multi‐purpose facilities in the Pittsburgh, Huntington, Nashville, and Louisville Districts. Between 2014 and 2017, The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and our partners have implemented screening assessments of hydrologic alteration at more than 12 projects located primarily in four major sub‐basins (Allegheny, Monongahela, Kanawha, & Muskingum). Through the screening assessments, six projects have been prioritized for recommendations development and implementation, with six other sites in various steps of exploration. These sites possess potential operational flexibility and greatest ecological benefit. In response to prioritization, site specific ecosystem flow reservoir release recommendations have been developed for three high‐leverage projects, with the potential to affect habitat conditions for fish, mussels, wildlife, vegetation and water quality on more than 500 river miles.

Building from the successful Sustainable Rivers Project demonstration on the Green River in the Louisville District, in 2013, USACE’s Great Lakes and Ohio Division leadership worked with Conservancy staff to secure agency commitment to expand the USACE‐TNC partnership across the Ohio River Basin, with the goal of moving from opportunity assessment on a facility by facility basis, to using a watershed‐scale screening, prioritization and implementation approach consistent with existing project authorities, laws and regulations.

  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Institute for Water Resources
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
  • Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
  • US Forest Service
  • Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
  • Seneca Nation of Indians
  • US Geological Survey
  • state agencies, municipalities and watershed conservancy districts

  • DePhilip and Moberg 2013; Ecological Flow Study for the Monongahela river basin. July 2014
  • Provisional recommendations for Youghiogheny Lake. July 2014; 
  • Ecological Flow Study for the Allegheny River basin. September 2015
  • Provisional recommendations for Allegheny and Clarion rivers. January 2017
  • Ohio River Basin Climate Change Risk and Adaptation Pilot Study 2017


  • Flow regime – daily flow data from USGS gages and reservoir inflow and outflow data;
  • Hydraulic habitat ‐ USACE Upper Ohio SWMS HEC‐RAS & TNC ‐modified HEC‐RAS model (70 river miles)
  • Ecological needs– regional biological databases (PA Aquatic Community Classification, Species occurrence data national wetlands inventory; Active River Area footprint and embedded landcover types); DePhilip and Moberg 2013.


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Allegheny - Ecological flow studyUpper Ohio River2015
Allegheny - Ecological flow recommendationsUpper Ohio River2017
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