Passage and survival data for yearling and subyearling Chinook salmon and juvenile steelhead were collected at McNary Dam between 2006 and 2009. These data have provided critical information for resource managers to implement structural and operational changes designed to improve the survival of juvenile salmonids as they migrate past the dam. Much of the information collected at McNary Dam was in the form of three-dimensional tracks of fish movements in the forebay. These data depicted the behavior of multiple species (in three dimensions) during different diel periods, spill conditions, powerhouse operations, and test configurations of the surface bypass structures (temporary spillway weirs; TSWs). One of the challenges in reporting three-dimensional results is presenting the information in a manner that allows interested parties to summarize the behavior of many fish over many different conditions across multiple years. To accomplish this, we investigated the feasibility of using a Markov chain analysis to characterize fish movement patterns in the forebay of McNary Dam. The Markov chain analysis is one way that can be used to summarize numerically the behavior of fish in the forebay. Numerically summarizing the behavior of juvenile salmonids in the forebay of McNary Dam using the Markov chain analysis allowed us to confirm what had been previously summarized using visualization software. For example, proportions of yearling and subyearling Chinook salmon passing the three powerhouse areas was often greater in the southern and middle areas, compared to the northern area. The opposite generally was observed for steelhead. Results of this analysis also allowed us to confirm and quantify the extent of milling behavior that had been observed for steelhead. For fish that were first detected in the powerhouse region, less than 0.10 of the steelhead, on average, passed within each of the powerhouse areas. Instead, steelhead transitioned to adjoining areas in the spillway before passing the dam. In comparison, greater than 0.20 of the Chinook salmon passed within the powerhouse areas. Less milling behavior was observed for all species for fish that first approached the spillway. Compared to the powerhouse areas, a higher proportion of fish, regardless of species, passed the spillway areas and fewer transitioned to adjoining areas in the powerhouse. In addition to quantifying what had been previously speculated about the behavior of fish in the forebay of McNary Dam, the Markov chain analysis refined our understanding of how fish behavior and passage can be influenced by changes to the operations and structure of McNary Dam. For example, the addition of TSWs to the spillway area clearly influenced the passage of fish. Previous results have been reported showing that TSWs increased the number of fish passing through non-turbine routes and the fish-track videos indicated, in general, how fish behaved before passing through the TSWs. However, the analysis presented in this report allowed us to better understand how fish moved across the face of the dam before passing the TSWs and provided a way to quantify the effect of TSW location. Installation of the TSWs in bays 22 and 20 clearly increased passage proportions through the southern one-third of the spillway area for all species, most significantly for steelhead. When the TSWs were moved to bays 19 and 20 in 2008, overall passage through the southern one-third of the spillway remained higher than 2006, but decreased from what was observed in 2007. Shifting the TSWs to the north decreased the proportion of fish passing through the TSWs and increased the number of fish that moved to adjoining areas before passing the dam. Perhaps the most interesting new information to come out of the two-step Markov chain analysis relates to how the performance of the TSWs was influenced by their proximity to the powerhouse. During 2007, the highest proportion of fish passing through TSW22 was for fish that transitioned from the powerhouse area. In contrast, a relatively low proportion of fish passed through TSW20 after coming from the powerhouse area. Instead, the proportion of fish that passed TSW20 after coming from the northern part of the spillway was twice as high as the proportion of fish that passed through TSW20 after coming from the powerhouse. During 2008, the TSW in bay 22 was moved to bay 19, leaving the TSW in bay 20 as the one closest to the powerhouse. As was the case when a TSW was located in bay 22; the proportion of fish passing TSW20 after coming from the powerhouse was greater than the proportion of fish passing through TSW20 after coming from the northern part of the spillway. Passage proportions for fish passing through TSW19, the farthest north of the two TSWs during 2008, was higher for fish that came from the northern part of the spillway compared to the proportion of fish that passed through TSW19 after coming from the powerhouse. The Markov chain analysis provided a mathematical way to characterize fish behavior in the forebay of McNary Dam and helped refine our understanding of how fish movements were influenced by operational and structural changes at McNary Dam. The Markov chain analysis also could be used to examine how future structural and operational changes proposed for McNary Dam might influence the passage of juvenile salmonids.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
A Markov chain analysis of the movements of juvenile salmonids in the forebay of McNary Dam, Washington and Oregon, 2006-09