salmon and steelhead species seem to be taking advantage of new spawning and
rearing habitat options made available via the 2011 breaching and removal of
Condit Dam on the lower White Salmon River in southwest Washington.
total of 88 spring chinook spawners were estimated to have entered the river in
2013, and another 216 in 2014, according to Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife fishery biologist Jeremy Wilson.
chinook are utilizing the area above Condit Dam’s former location, Wilson said.
looks like most of the spawning has been below Husum” Falls, he said, which is
located at river mile 7.6. The falls, ranging from 10-12 feet in height, are
about 4.5 miles from BZ Falls, which would stop all but the most athletic fish.
spawning in long-vacant areas upstream of the former dam and its reservoir,
Northwestern Lake, indicates the first success of the salmon restoration for
the White Salmon basin, the natural recolonization of species that flourished
in the river prior to dam construction.
few spring chinook were suspected in recent history to have spawned annually in
the lower 3.3 miles of the river. But most of the new recruits are believed to
be strays from nearby rivers and hatcheries. Nearby donors could be the Hood
River across the Columbia in Oregon and Washington’s Klickitat River.
the big question,” Wilson said of the spawner source.
– rainbow trout that are born and spawn in freshwater but spend their growing-up
time in the ocean – are also starting to appear in the White Salmon and its
tributaries such as Rattlesnake and Buck Creeks.
seen about 10-12 redds per year in those two streams,” said Yakama Nation
fisheries biologist Joe Zendt.
there is likely to be more than that,” he said, since those egg nests are hard
to spot during the high water in springtime, when most of the steelhead spawn.
source is also still a mystery. A few carcasses of spawned out fish have been
retrieved, but all were too decomposed to allow genetic analysis. The fish
could potentially be from resident rainbow trout that chose to adopt the
steelhead life history, or from fish strayed from other locations.
said that the construction of from 10 to 12 redds, at minimum, in each of the
past two years means that likely at least 25 to 40 steelhead have made the
spawning journey up the White Salmon.
really thought Rattlesnake would be a good steelhead producer,” Zendt said.
Rattlesnake enters the White Salmon just below Husum, Buck Creek enters near
the former head of Northwestern Lake.
said that rafters and kayakers on the popular whitewater river have reported
seeing steelhead even above daunting BZ Falls.
would take the right flow conditions, the right fish and the right jump” to
clear BZ. “But it’s possible,” Zendt said.
of steelhead and salmon now seen in the White Salmon River are still relatively
small, and the river likely will never be seen as a major source of such fish
as compared to the Columbia River system as a whole.
every little bit helps,” Zendt said of efforts by Columbia Basin tribes,
states, federal agencies and others to restore depleted salmon stocks. The tule
fall chinook salmon that have long frequented the lower White Salmon, as an
example, are one of 13 Columbia basin stocks that are listed under the federal
Endangered Species Act.
1,700 tule spawners are estimated to have spawned in the White Salmon last
fall, which is high but not far from the norm.
spawning has remained “pretty confined to the lower river,” Wilson said. Most
of those spawners are either naturally produced fish from the river, or
hatchery strays from nearby Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery.
was little evidence of upstream spawning of tules. There was an attempt made in
2011 prior to breaching to capture tule fall chinook found in the lower river
and transport them for release upstream of the dam. The primary goals were to
encourage spawning upstream, and prevent spawning near the river mouth where
redds would be inundated by sediment immediatelyi following the dam breaching.
would have been the time that 3 year olds produced by those transported fish
would think the distribution would change,” Wilson said of tule spawning last year.
But researchers saw little change.
were no tules above the former dam site, said Joe Salicky of the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, which along with the Yakama Nation and WDFW has engaged in
post-Condit monitoring for fish.
river is restoring itself faster than anyone thought,” Salicky said of both the
habitat, and fish returns.
appears it’s a win-win-win situation” for fish, Salicky said of the newly
cleared White Salmon River.
2014 return did, however, include an estimated 6,500 so-called “bright” fall
a big number,” Wilson said of a stock that did spread upriver to spawn. The
overall 2013 fall chinook bright returns to areas upstream of Bonneville such
as the mid-Columbia’s Hanford Reach and the Snake River basin were the two
biggest in recent history.
thought is that they originated from hatchery stocks” that strayed into the
river on their way toward their natal spawning areas, and decided to stay.
said that about 75 percent of the brights in the river were hatchery produced,
while about 1,950 were unmarked fish that are likely of natural origin. The
unmarked fish too could be either of local origin, or strays.
Dam since its construction in 1912-13 had for the most part blocked passage to
the river’s upper reaches, confining spawning to the lower three miles of the
river from its confluence with the Columbia River in the reservoir created by
dam was the only man-made impoundment between between the Cascade Mountains’ Mount
Adams and the Columbia River and its removal open approximately 33 miles of new
spawning and rearing grounds for steelhead and 15 miles of new habitat for
salmon in the White Salmon River basin.
dam’s owner, PacifiCorp, agreed to decommission and remove the project dam and
water conveyance system in accordance with the 1999 Condit Hydroelectric
Project Settlement Agreement and the related Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission Surrender Order issued in December 2010. The private utility decided
that it would be more economical to remove the dam than it would be to outfit
the dam with salmon passage facilities that would be required by FERC to
relicense the facility.
White Salmon Working Group, which is a consortium of Yakama Nation, federal, state,
and PacifiCorp biologists, has estimated the White Salmon River has enough
spawning grounds to accommodate more than 600 steelhead spawners and 1,200 fall
chinook. Bull trout, coho, lamprey and spring chinook could also benefit from a
CBB, May 31, 2013, “A Year After Condit Dam Breaching, Natural Origin Salmonids
Spawn In New Miles Of Upstream Habitat” http://www.cbbulletin.com/426822.aspx