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Evaluation of two juvenile salmon collection devices at Cowlitz Falls Dam, Washington, 2014

March 24, 2015

Collection of juvenile salmon at Cowlitz Falls Dam is a critical part of the effort to restore salmon in the upper Cowlitz River, Washington. Many of the fish that are not collected pass downstream and enter Riffe Lake, become landlocked, and are lost to the anadromous population. In addition to this loss, the juvenile fish collection system at Cowlitz Falls Dam, which originally consisted of four collection flumes, has failed to achieve annual collection goals since it began operating in 1996. In the years since, the collection flumes have been modified and prototype collection devices have been developed and tested, but these efforts have not substantially increased juvenile fish collection. Studies have shown that juvenile steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), and Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) tend to come close to the entrances of the collection system, but many of these fish fail to enter and eventually pass the dam through turbines or spillways.

Tacoma Power developed a prototype weir box in 2009 to increase capture rates of juvenile salmon at the collection entrances. The device was evaluated with radio-tagged coho salmon (318 fish) and Chinook salmon (317 fish), and was found to have a high retention rate; 93 percent of the coho salmon, and 91 percent of the Chinook salmon that entered the device were retained and collected. However, because of safety concerns at the dam, the weir box could not be deployed near a spillway gate where the prototype was tested, so the device was altered and re-deployed at a different location where it was evaluated during 2013. During that year, discovery efficiency (number of fish detected at the entrance divided by the number of fish detected in the forebay) was 98 percent for tagged steelhead and 83 percent for tagged coho salmon. However, none of the steelhead and only 5 percent of the coho salmon entered and were collected through the weir box. These results indicated that the device was not a promising collection alternative during spring months when steelhead and coho salmon are passing the dam. However, collection conditions change during summer months when juvenile Chinook salmon are passing, so the device also was evaluated during summer 2014.

In an attempt to improve overall collection efficiency, Tacoma Power developed and tested a new device in 2014, called the Upper Riffe Lake Collector (URLC). The URLC was a floating device designed to collect fish as they moved downstream after passing through turbines at Cowlitz Falls Dam. The design of the URLC included a pontoon barge that supported a large net structure designed to funnel fish into a live box where they could be removed and transported downstream of dams on the Cowlitz River.

Publication Year 2015
Title Evaluation of two juvenile salmon collection devices at Cowlitz Falls Dam, Washington, 2014
DOI 10.3133/ofr20151054
Authors Tobias J. Kock, Theresa L. Liedtke, Brian K. Ekstrom, William Hurst
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2015-1054
Index ID ofr20151054
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Fisheries Research Center