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Effects of dam removal on Tule Fall Chinook salmon spawning habitat in the White Salmon River, Washington

November 4, 2015

Condit Dam is one of the largest hydroelectric dams ever removed in the USA. Breached in a single explosive event in October 2011, hundreds-of-thousands of cubic metres of sediment washed down the White Salmon River onto spawning grounds of a threatened species, Columbia River tule fall Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha. We investigated over a 3-year period (2010–2012) how dam breaching affected channel morphology, river hydraulics, sediment composition and tule fall Chinook salmon (hereafter ‘tule salmon’) spawning habitat in the lower 1.7 km of the White Salmon River (project area). As expected, dam breaching dramatically affected channel morphology and spawning habitat due to a large load of sediment released from Northwestern Lake. Forty-two per cent of the project area that was previously covered in water was converted into islands or new shoreline, while a large pool near the mouth filled with sediments and a delta formed at the mouth. A two-dimensional hydrodynamic model revealed that pool area decreased 68.7% in the project area, while glides and riffles increased 659% and 530%, respectively. A spatially explicit habitat model found the mean probability of spawning habitat increased 46.2% after dam breaching due to an increase in glides and riffles. Shifting channels and bank instability continue to negatively affect some spawning habitat as sediments continue to wash downstream from former Northwestern Lake, but 300 m of new spawning habitat (river kilometre 0.6 to 0.9) that formed immediately post-breach has persisted into 2015. Less than 10% of tule salmon have spawned upstream of the former dam site to date, but the run sizes appear healthy and stable. Published 2015. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

Publication Year 2016
Title Effects of dam removal on Tule Fall Chinook salmon spawning habitat in the White Salmon River, Washington
DOI 10.1002/rra.2982
Authors James R. Hatten, Thomas R. Batt, Joseph J. Skalicky, Rod Engle, Gary J. Barton, Ryan L. Fosness, Joe Warren
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title River Research and Applications
Index ID 70159536
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Fisheries Research Center