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It's all water over the dam -- but how and when it falls has huge impact on salmon
Date:2/25/2014

the Priest Rapids Dam in an area known as the Hanford Reach. The section of the Columbia River, about 50 miles long and roughly between the communities of Mattawa and Richland, borders the Hanford Site and is one of the longest free-flowing sections of the Columbia River available to salmon. The salmon that spawn in this span of the Columbia known specifically as upriver bright fall Chinook salmon are especially prized for their size and quality.

In the mid-1970s, several major dewatering events downstream of Priest Rapids Dam resulted in huge losses of juvenile salmon and spurred two agreements to boost salmon survival. Harnish's study spanned years before either agreement as well as after the two agreements:

  • The 1988 Vernita Bar Settlement Agreement (VBSA), designed to prevent dewatering eggs and newly hatched fish, known as alevins, by boosting minimum water levels during incubation. The agreement also altered the pattern of discharge during the spawning period to prevent salmon from depositing eggs in areas that could not be kept under water during the lower flow conditions of winter.

  • The 2004 Hanford Reach Fall Chinook Protection Program Agreement (HRFCPPA), which maintained constraints set forth by the VBSA and also limited the magnitude of flow fluctuations during the period of juvenile rearing to reduce stranding and entrapment.

Study results

Altogether the team found a 283 percent increase in the freshwater productivity of the Hanford Reach fall Chinook salmon population during the years when the fish protection agreements were in place compared to the period before either agreement was enacted. The study estimated that in the most recent years of the study, more than 52 million juvenile salmon were produced annually, on average, in the Hanford Reach higher than most people imagined. That compares to about 14 million annually, on average, before either agreement took effect.

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Contact: Tom Rickey
tom.rickey@pnnl.gov
585-709-9672
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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