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200719300 - Evaluate potential to enhance spawning of summer/fall chinook salmon in the tailrace of Chief Joseph Dam, Columbia River, WA

Sponsor: Colville Confederated Tribes

Budgets: FY07: $284,377 | FY08: $234,762 | FY09: $275,258

Short description: This project will map potential spawning habitat in the tailrace of Chief Joseph Dam. The project sponsors will estimate the number of summer/fall chinook redds that could be supported and evaluate the feasibility to increase production by altering hydrosystem operation.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $0 | FY08: $0 | FY09: $0


ISRP final recommendation: Fundable


This is a well-designed but expensive project. The connection of this project to others being undertaken in the vicinity of Chief Joseph Dam was not fully described and the significance of this project to regional and subbasin plans may have been a bit optimistic. However, the technical aspects of this proposal were very well done, and this effort should provide valuable information regarding the effects of hydropower operation on spawning habitat for summer/fall Chinook salmon. Nonetheless, the ISRP has suggestions for the sponsors. The background information provides a clear picture of the historical and current distribution of summer/fall Chinook in the Columbia above the Okanogan River. The nature of the problem this proposal intends to address is well described. They intend to apply techniques developed over the past ten years doing habitat characterization and underwater video surveys of fall Chinook salmon redds elsewhere. They could have done a better job of explaining the results of previous similar work, and summarizing the citations that they cite. There is nothing specific described about the habitat of the Chief Joseph tailrace area that relates it to the authors’ previous studies in the Snake, Hanford, Wanapum, etc. There must have been some reconnaissance that indicated potential for good habitat. It is not clear why this proposal advances the CCT proposals to get Chinook above Chief Joseph Dam. The rationale section makes the case that this project is relevant to issues raised in some regional plans. However, in some instances the significance of this project appears to be a bit overstated. For example, the claim is made that the project will deliver information important to subbasin and recovery planning. Yet the Mid Columbia Subbasin Plan does not specifically address spawning in the tailrace of Chief Joseph and the summer/fall Chinook in this part of the Columbia River are not ESA listed, so no recovery plan exists. Ties to some of the mainstem planning documents are more compelling. The proposal does a good job of describing the significance of this project in efforts to increase population levels of spawning salmon at this location. The project also may provide information relevant to identifying opportunities to enhance spawning habitat at other dams. In this regard, it seems time for the site-specific studies of tailraces by this group to be synthesized into some general principles that can be applied with minimal site-specific research. This project intends to utilize technology developed during previous spawning assessment projects on the Columbia, and these projects are briefly described. There is no mention of efforts ongoing at Chief Joseph Dam or upstream to evaluate the potential to reintroduce anadromous fishes to this stretch of the river. However, the introduction to this proposal implied that such work has been ongoing. If so, some discussion of this work would have strengthened this proposal. This proposal would be stronger if the proponents had demonstrated collaboration with the hatchery managers/dam operators (Corps) for whom their products are intended. The objectives are appropriate and fully described. This component of the proposal is very well done. Methods are clearly explained, and well documented with citations to the literature. The work elements are thoroughly described. There were a few minor points that deserve clarification or further elaboration. In describing the sampling scheme for characterizing the extent of available spawning habitats, transect spacing is stated as 100-400 m in one place and as 100 ft. in another. Also, calculating a redd capacity estimate that is based on the average redd area, not accounting for inter-redd spacing, does not seem to be worthwhile. What would this value represent? This is an expensive project. Is it possible that the proponents could select some alternative methods that would still provide results sufficient to evaluate the potential of the study area for salmon spawning? The first work element is to develop a plan and select a study site. It's not clear why this will take two years. Work element B (conduct a redd search) gives the start date of 1 October 2008, but the deliverables indicate 2007 and 2008. Which is correct? The proponents do not discuss their assumption that these two years will be representative of salmon runs to the study site. The facilities, equipment and the qualifications and responsibilities of all project personnel are fully described. The experienced staff has done this sort of work elsewhere. The information transfer mechanisms are appropriate for this type of project and very complete. This project has the potential to be very beneficial to the population of the focal species utilizing the section of the Columbia River that will be studied. This assumes that appropriate operational measures are taken at the dam and that the fish actually use the habitat that is “suitable.” However, the significance of the population spawning below Chief Joseph Dam to the entire population of summer/fall Chinook in the upper Columbia is not clear. Some of the information developed by the project may be transferable to other hydropower facilities, increasing the potential value to this species when general principles are further developed.

State/province recommendation:

Review group:

Recommended budgets: FY07: (n/a) | FY08: (n/a) | FY09: (n/a)