A 4-year evaluation was conducted to determine the proportion of juvenile coho salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch passing Cowlitz Falls Dam, on the Cowlitz River, Washington, during winter. River and reservoir populations of coho salmon parr were monitored using radiotelemetry to determine if streamflow increases resulted in increased downstream movement and dam passage. This was of interest because fish that pass downstream of Cowlitz Falls Dam become landlocked in Riffe Lake and are lost to the anadromous population. Higher proportions of reservoir-released fish (0.391-0.480) passed Cowlitz Falls Dam than did river-released fish (0.037-0.119). Event-time analyses demonstrated that streamflow increases were important predictors of dam passage rates during the study. The estimated effect of increasing streamflows on the risk of dam passage varied annually and ranged from 9% to 75% for every 28.3 m3/s increase in streamflow. These results have current management implications because they demonstrate the significance of dam passage by juvenile coho salmon during winter months when juvenile fish collection facilities are typically not operating. The results also have future management implications because climate change predictions suggest that peak streamflow timing for many watersheds in the Pacific Northwest will shift from late spring and early summer to winter. Increased occurrence of intense winter flood events is also expected. Our results demonstrate that juvenile coho salmon respond readily to streamflow increases and initiate downstream movements during winter months, which could result in increased passage at dams during these periods if climate change predictions are realized in the coming decades.
Additional publication details
Elevated streamflows increase dam passage by juvenile coho salmon during winter: Implications of climate change in the Pacific Northwest