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An Assessment of Potential Chinook Salmon Spawning Habitat in the Upper Columbia River: Chief Joseph Dam to Grand Coulee Dam

Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River is the upstream terminus for anadromous fish, due to the lack of fish passage facilities. The Colville Confederated Tribes are currently evaluating the feasibility of reintroducing anadromous fish upriver of Chief Joseph Dam, should fish passage facilities be provided. As part of this effort, we evaluated the physical characteristics of potential fall chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) spawning habitat in the upper section of Chief Joseph Reservoir from the Grand Coulee Dam tailrace (rkm 956) downstream to Coyote Creek (rkm 928). The objective of this study was to estimate the quantity and location of potential spawning habitat, and secondly to determine the redd capacity of the area based on spawning habitat characteristics. We used a geomorphic approach to first identify specific segments with the highest potential for spawning. The suitability of these segments for spawning was then estimated through the use of empirical physical data (e.g., bathymetry, substrate), and modeled hydraulic data (e.g., depth and velocity) from two-dimensional hydraulic modeling of the study area. The location, quantity, and quality of potential spawning habitat was estimated by comparing physical habitat characteristics against suitability criteria for fall chinook spawning habitat compiled from reference locations in the Columbia River basin. The results of our study provide significant insight into one component of the very complex issue of reintroducing anadromous fish to the Columbia River upstream of Chief Joseph Dam. Information generated from this study will help the Colville Confederated Tribes and hydrosystem managers in evaluating the feasibility of reintroduction efforts.


  • Hanrahan, T. P., D. D. Dauble, and D. R. Geist. 2004. An estimate of chinook salmon spawning habitat and redd capacity upstream of a migration barrier in the upper Columbia River. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 61: 23-33.
  • Hanrahan, T. P., D. D. Dauble, and D. R. Geist. 2001. An assessment of potential chinook salmon spawning habitat in the upper Columbia River: Chief Joseph Dam to Grand Coulee Dam. Final report to the Colville Confederated Tribes. PNWD-3119.


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