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  1. Abstract

    Instream barriers, such as dams, culverts, and diversions, alter hydrologic processes and aquatic habitat. Removing uneconomical and aging instream barriers is increasingly used for river restoration. Historically, selection of barrier removal projects used score‐and‐rank techniques, ignoring cumulative change and the spatial structure of stream networks. Likewise, most water supply models prioritize either human water uses or aquatic habitat, failing to incorporate both human and environmental water use benefits. Here, a dual‐objective optimization model identifies barriers to remove that maximize connected aquatic habitat and minimize water scarcity. Aquatic habitat is measured using monthly average streamflow, temperature, channel gradient, and geomorphic condition as indicators of aquatic habitat suitability. Water scarcity costs are minimized using economic penalty functions while a budget constraint specifies the money available to remove barriers. We demonstrate the approach using a case study in Utah's Weber Basin to prioritize removal of instream barriers for Bonneville cutthroat trout, while maintaining human water uses. Removing 54 instream barriers reconnects about 160 km of quality‐weighted habitat and costs approximately US$10 M. After this point, the cost‐effectiveness of removing barriers to connect river habitat decreases. The modeling approach expands barrier removal optimization methods by explicitly including both economic and environmental water uses.

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