Summer flow augmentation to increase the survival of wild subyearling fall chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha is implemented annually to mitigate for the development of the hydropower system in the Snake River basin, but the efficacy of this practice has been disputed. We studied some of the factors affecting survival of wild subyearling fall chinook salmon from capture, tagging, and release in the free-flowing Snake River to the tailrace of the first dam encountered by smolts en route to the sea. We then assessed the effects of summer flow augmentation on survival to the tailrace of this dam. We tagged and released 5,030 wild juvenile fall chinook salmon in the free-flowing Snake River from 1998 to 2000. We separated these tagged fish into four sequential within-year release groups termed cohorts (N = 12). Survival probability estimates (mean ?? SE) to the tailrace of the dam for the 12 cohorts when summer flow augmentation was implemented ranged from 36% ?? 4% to 88% ?? 5%. We fit an ordinary least-squares multiple regression model from indices of flow and temperature that explained 92% (N = 12; P < 0.0001) of the observed variability in cohort survival. Survival generally increased with increasing flow and decreased with increasing temperature. We used the regression model to predict cohort survival for flow and temperature conditions observed when summer flow augmentation was implemented and for approximated flow and temperature conditions had the summer flow augmentation not been implemented. Survival of all cohorts was predicted to be higher when flow was augmented than when flow was not augmented because summer flow augmentation increased the flow levels and decreased the temperatures fish were exposed to as they moved seaward. We conclude that summer flow augmentation increases the survival of young fall chinook salmon.
Additional publication details
Influence of flow and temperature on survival of wild subyearling fall chinook salmon in the Snake River