The White Salmon River Subbasin
The White Salmon River subbasin is part of the area ceded by the Yakama Nation to the U.S. Government by treaty in 1855, and contains usual and accustomed hunting, fishing and gathering grounds, as well as archaeological and cultural sites of tribal and national significance. The Rattlesnake Creek site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
The river is home to historical populations of Middle Columbia River steelhead, Lower Columbia River Chinook, Lower Columbia River coho, Columbia River chum, Pacific and brook lamprey, bull trout, rainbow and coastal cutthroat trout. Currently the historical spring Chinook population is considered extirpated, the historical steelhead, chum, fall Chinook and coho populations are listed as threatened for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The White Salmon River drains approximately 386 square miles in southwestern Washington and joins the Columbia River at Underwood, Washington at river mile (RM) 163. Abundance of the subbasin's salmon and steelhead populations dropped significantly after 1913 when construction of Condit Dam at RM 3.3 on the White Salmon River blocked all anadromous fish migration to, and most outmigration from, historical spawning and rearing grounds in the upper watershed. The Yakama Nation, along with several other organizations and agencies, is party to a settlement agreement with PacifiCorp for the removal of Condit Dam. The dam was breached in October 2011 (see Pacificorp's press release from June 14, 2011) and decommissioning, including removal of the dam structure, flow line and coffer dam, is expected to be completed in September 2012. Restoration activities, such as sediment stabilization and revegetation of the former reservoir will be conducted in the year after breach.
A pilot project was undertaken in 2009 to determine the best methods for salvaging wild Lower Columbia "tule" fall Chinook below Condit Dam and transporting them above the dam in advance of its removal. The USFWS and WDFW with the Yakama Nation and other partners captured the tule fall Chinook in the lower river during the late summer and fall of 2011 and transported them to the river above Condit Dam to spawn naturally above the project area, and to get them out of the path of the release of sediment and water stored up behind the dam when it was breached on October 26, 2011. 679 tule fall Chinook (about 90% of which were wild) were transported to three locations between Condit Dam and Husum Falls upstream. In subsequent spawning surveys, approximately 180 redds were enumerated in this stretch of river.
The YN, in conjunction with local, state and federal entities will help with reintroduction efforts of anadromous fish to areas blocked to migration over the last 90 years by Condit Dam. Access to up to 33 miles of steelhead and up to 14 miles of salmon habitat is expected to be restored in 2012.
The restoration of passage past the Condit Dam site presents a unique opportunity to study the effects of dam removal on existing and functionally extirpated fish populations. In its review of FY '07-'09 project proposals submitted for funding consideration under the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, the Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) for the Northwest Power and Conservation Council recommended that "the Council pay close attention to the implementation of dam removals in the Columbia Basin and ensure, perhaps through targeted research solicitations, that dam decommissioning and post-removal effects are properly monitored."
The Yakama Nation and other agencies are actively pursuing funding sources that will support post- dam removal studies of both resident and anadromous fisheries in the White Salmon River.
Additional data on the White Salmon River subbasin can be found in:
"Fish Population and Habitat Analysis in Buck Creek, Washington, Prior to Recolonization by Anadromous Salmonids after the Removal of Condit Dam" (USGS prepared in cooperation with the Yakama Nation, Dec. 2012)
"Assess Current and Potential Salmonid Production in Rattlesnake Creek Associated with Restoration Efforts" (for BPA)
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