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Survey Details Salmon, Steelhead Spawning In White Salmon River After Condit Dam Removal
Posted on Friday, August 24, 2018 (PST)

Spring, fall and tule chinook, and steelhead, are spawning in the White Salmon River some six years after removal of Condit Dam about 3.3 miles upstream of the river’s confluence with the Columbia River.

 

Most of the fish discovered spawning in the newly-created habitat upstream of the old dam that was removed by its owner Pacific Power in 2011 are spring chinook and steelhead, as well as a few coho salmon, according to a survey of the fish released earlier this year by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

 

Fall and tule chinook continue to spawn in reaches of the river downstream of the old dam.

 

At 125 feet high, the PacifiCorp dam was one of the largest dams to be removed in the Pacific Northwest, creating 33 miles of new habitat for salmon and steelhead that had been extirpated from the river when the dam was built in 1913. The dam was breached October 26, 2011.

 

The Washington river empties into the Columbia River upstream of Bonneville Dam across the Columbia from the town of Hood River, Oregon. Its confluence with the Columbia is downstream of The Dalles Dam.

 

The survey found that of all the spawners along the entire river, 30.4 percent of spring chinook, 0 percent of tule fall chinook and 0.1 percent of bright fall chinook spawned upstream of the old Condit Dam site.

 

Also spreading into the reaches upstream of the old dam are steelhead, with a “few dozen to around 60 in all of the now-accessible streams (Rattlesnake, Buck, Mill, and Spring creeks),” said Joe Zendt, fisheries biologist with the Yakama Nation Fisheries Program. “After some initial increasing numbers in 2012-2015, the redd counts have leveled off or decreased slightly for 2016-18 (similar to steelhead run trends in other nearby rivers such as the Klickitat).”

 

Genetic analysis of the steelhead found that both summer and winter runs of the fish were present in the river.

 

Preliminary genetic tests by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission on juvenile steelhead samples collected by the U.S. Geologic Survey in 2016 at their screw trap and via electrofishing indicated that some production by local White Salmon steelhead populations is occurring (we are still working on determining whether that production is descending from steelhead populations previously below the Condit Dam site or rainbow trout populations in streams above the dam, or both),” Zendt said.

 

The White Salmon populations contributed the largest share of the juvenile production (over 40 percent), with lesser contributions (around 20-30 percent each) from Skamania Hatchery steelhead and Lower Columbia steelhead populations (mostly from Hood River), and even smaller shares (less than 10 percent) from Middle Columbia populations, such as Deschutes and Klickitat, he said.

 

In addition, according to Zendt, limited surveying for coho salmon found spawners in Rattlesnake, Buck and Mill creeks.

 

Throughout the river, there were 15 spring chinook spawners. Ten of those were of hatchery origin and five were natural origin fish. Carcasses of four were found upstream of the old dam. Two were at river mile 6 to 7, and two at river mile 8 to 9. Total abundance of spring chinook spawners is at its lowest point over the span of five years from 2013 to 2017, the year of this survey.

 

The count of tule fall chinook was 748 fish, 346 hatchery and 402 natural. All of the tules were found downstream of the old dam, with the bulk (537) in the first mile of the river and 148 in the next half mile of river. Tule abundance is about average over the five year period.

 

Bright stock fall chinook totaled 1,246, with 756 hatchery and 490 natural. All but one of these fish spawned in the lower river, with 521 in the lower one mile, 450 in the next half mile and 273 in the next half mile upstream. The one found spawning in the upper river was at river mile 6 to 7. Bright abundance over the 5-year span was at its lowest.

 

Spring fish generally spawn in the river Aug. 2 to about Sept. 17; tules Sept. 12 to about Nov. 1 and brights Oct. 17 to mid-December.

 

Prespawn mortality for all the salmon species was 8 to 25 percent, the survey says, with spring chinook mortality at 25.1 percent, tule at 9.4 percent and brights at 8.5 percent.

 

Two USGS White Salmon monitoring reports by Ian Jezorek and Jill Hardiman are at https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/ofr20171070 (2016) and https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/ofr20181106 (2017).

 

Also see:

 

--CBB, February 3, 2017, “WDFW Survey Shows Spring Chinook Spawning Higher Up In White Salmon River Above Old Condit Dam Site,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438283.aspx

 

--CBB, December 11, 2015, “USGS Studies Document Changes in White Salmon River Post-Condit Dam; More Salmon, Steelhead Spawners,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/435674.aspx

 

--CBB, February 13, 2015, “Salmon, Steelhead Spawning, Rearing In New White Salmon River Habitat Above Removed Condit Dam Site,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/433156.aspx

 

-- 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

 

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