Gas bubble disease in resident fish below Grand Coulee Dam: final report of research

By: , and 



Fish kills have occurred in the reservoir below Grand Coulee Dam possibly due to total dissolved gas supersaturation (TDGS), which occurs when water cascades over a dam or waterfall. The highest TDGS below Grand Coulee Dam has occurred after spilling water via the outlet tubes, though TDGS from upstream sources has also been recorded. Exposure to TDGS can cause gas bubble disease in aquatic organisms. This disease, analogous to ‘the bends’ in human divers, can range from mild to fatal depending on the level of supersaturation, species, life cycle stage, condition of the fish, fish depth, and the water temperature. The USGS, Western Fisheries Research Center’s Columbia River Research Laboratory conducted field and laboratory experiments to determine the relative risks of TDGS to various species of fish in the reservoir below the dam (Rufus Woods Lake). Field work included examination of over 8000 resident fish for signs of gas bubble disease, examination of the annual growth increments of several species relative to ambient TDGS, and recording the in-situ depths and temperatures of several species using miniature recorders surgically implanted in both resident fish and triploid steelhead reared in commercial net pens. Laboratory experiments included bioassays of the progression of signs and mortality of several species at various TDGS levels. The overarching objective of these studies was to provide data to enable sound management decisions regarding the effects of TDGS in the reservoir below Grand Coulee Dam, though the data may also be applicable to other locations.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Title Gas bubble disease in resident fish below Grand Coulee Dam: final report of research
Year Published 2003
Language English
Publisher U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Publisher location Boise, ID
Contributing office(s) Western Fisheries Research Center
Description iv., 159 p.
Country United States
State Washington
Other Geospatial Grand Coulee Dam
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details