Wind River Subbasin Restoration, Annual report of U.S. Geological Survey activities, January 2016 through December 2016

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Abstract

We used Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT)-tagging and a series of instream PIT-tag interrogation systems (PTISs) to investigate life-histories, populations, and efficacy of habitat restoration actions for steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss in the Wind River subbasin, WA. Our tagging focused on parr in headwaters areas of the subbasin and our instream readers provided information on movement of these parr and other life-stages of tagged steelhead. The Wind River subbasin in southwest Washington State provides habitat for a population of wild Lower Columbia River steelhead and is an excellent watershed for long-term studies of population dynamics and responses to restoration of this wild population. No hatchery steelhead have been planted in the Wind River subbasin since 1994, and hatchery adults are estimated to be less than one percent of adults in any year (pers comm. Thomas Buehrens, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife). Numerous restoration actions have been implemented in the subbasin, including the removal of Hemlock Dam on Trout Creek in 2009. Data from our study, and companion work by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will contribute to Bonneville Power Administration’s (BPA) Research Monitoring and Evaluation (RM&E) Program Strategy of Fish Population Status Monitoring (www.cbfish.org/ProgramStrategy.mvc/ViewProgramStrategySummary/1), specifically the substrategies of: 1) Assessing the Status and Trends of Diversity of Natural Origin Fish Populations and to Uncertainties Research regarding differing life histories of a wild steelhead population, 2) Assessing the Status and Trend of Adult Natural Origin Fish Populations, and 3) Monitoring and Evaluating the Effectiveness of Tributary Habitat Actions Relative to Environmental, Physical, or Biological Performance Objectives.

During summer 2016, we sampled and PIT-tagged age-0 and age-1 steelhead parr in headwater areas of the Wind River subbasin to characterize population traits and investigate variable life-histories, including growth and parr movement downstream prior to smolting. Repeat sampling and smolt traps provide opportunities for recapture, and instream PTISs and Columbia River infrastructure provide opportunity for detection of PIT-tagged fish.

Throughout the year, we maintained a series of instream PTISs to monitor movement of tagged steelhead parr, smolts, and adults. During 2016, we repaired or replaced much of our instream PTIS infrastructure that had been damaged or destroyed during a large flood event in December 2015. This included moving our upper Wind River detection site (WRU) about a kilometer downstream to a location we hope to be less susceptible to damage in high flows and that will allow grid power connection for more reliable winter operations.

Detections at the instream PTISs showed trends of parr emigration during summer and fall, in addition to the expected movement of parr and smolts in spring. These data are increasing our understanding of varied life histories of juvenile steelhead; paired with other steelhead population work in the subbasin we hope to begin to understand some of the factors which may influence parr movements. Long-term monitoring of PIT-tagged fish over multiple years is providing information on contribution of various life-history strategies to smolt production and adult returns, as well as helping to identify factors influencing parr movement.

Movements of PIT-tagged adult steelhead were also tracked with our instream PTISs. These data have provided information on timing of adult movements to various parts of the watershed, which is allowing us to assess adult returns to tributary watersheds within the Wind River subbasin. Determination of adult use of tributary watersheds is providing data to contribute to evaluation of the efficacy of the removal of Hemlock Dam on Trout Creek. Hemlock Dam, located at rkm 2.0 of Trout Creek was removed in summer 2009 and had contributed to hydrologic impairment of Trout Creek

Evaluating restoration efforts is of interest to many managers and agencies so that funding and time are allocated for best results. The evaluation of various life-histories of Lower Columbia River steelhead within the Wind River subbasin will provide information to better track populations, and to direct habitat restoration and water allocation planning. Increasingly detailed Viable Salmonid Population information, such as that provided by PIT-tagging and instream PTISs networks like those we are building and operating in the Wind River subbasin, will provide data to inform policy and management, as life-history strategies and production bottlenecks are identified and understood.

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Title Wind River Subbasin Restoration, Annual report of U.S. Geological Survey activities, January 2016 through December 2016
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Bonneville Power Administration
Contributing office(s) Western Fisheries Research Center
Description 54 p.