Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Reintroducing anadromous fish upstream of Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams has the potential to substantially contribute to the recovery of salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River Basin based on the availability hundreds of miles of pristine, coldwater habitat.

A photo of The Grand Coulee Dam
View of Grand Coulee Dam and the Highway 155 bridge below the dam. The dam's foundation is in granite exposed beneath layers of the Columbia River Basalt along this section of the river.

This spring, USGS, Western Fisheries Research Center scientists and collaborators from the Upper Columbia United Tribes (including Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and Spokane Tribe of Indians) initiated a study to evaluate the downstream migration behavior and survival of juvenile Chinook salmon upstream of Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams. These dams currently block salmon from passing in and out of the upper Columbia River basin.

The study involves trucking juvenile Chinook from a nearby hatchery, tagging them so their migration can be tracked, then releasing the fish from various locations throughout the study area (upper Lake Roosevelt, Spokane River, dam tailraces).  Results from the study will help identify key survival bottlenecks, inform decisions about fish passage development, and guide reintroduction efforts. These are the first releases of their kind and will provide us with better understanding of where fish go and how they navigate and survive downstream migration.

Reintroducing anadromous fish upstream of Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams has the potential to substantially contribute to the recovery of salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River Basin based on the availability hundreds of miles of pristine, coldwater habitat.

Photograph of the Sanpoil River
Photograph of the Sanpoil River in northeast Washington State.  The Sanpoil River is upstream of Grand Coulee and is a tributary of the Columbia River.

Recent media coverage in the region:

Tiernan, Colin, "For decades, dams have kept salmon out of the Spokane River. Now, tribes are studying how to bring the fish back." The Spokesman-Review, March 17, 2022.

Barker, Eric, "Holding out hope on the upper Columbia." The Lewiston Tribune, March 25, 2022.

Upper Columbia United Tribes, "Upper Columbia United Tribes received salmon reintroduction funds." Quad City Herald, April 12, 2022.

Tinsley, Jessee, "The Coeur d'Alene Tribe is releasing juvenile chinook." The Spokesman-Review, March 16, 2022.