• Five years of progress to protect Columbia River Basin salmon and steelhead

    Jan. 10, 2014: The Action Agencies today released the final 2013 Comprehensive Evaluation of the first five years of progress in implementing NOAA Fisheries' Biological Opinion for operation of the FCRPS for ESA-listed salmon and steelhead. The draft CE reviews accomplishments in dam passage improvements, habitat restoration, hatchery reform and predator management as well as the status of the fish. Below are some findings.



    Scientifically designed tests in 2010, 2011 and 2012 estimated progress toward meeting the BiOp performance standards for juvenile dam passage survival. To date, performance testing indicates that all projects are on track to meet the BiOp performance standards of 96 percent survival for spring migrating fish and 93 percent survival for summer migrants. (For a given dam to achieve the performance standards requires two years of testing with survival meeting or exceeding the performance standard each year.)  Read more about hydro results under the BiOp in this new paper.

    Combined with refined spill operations, surface passage has reduced the percentage of fish that go through powerhouses, turbines and bypass facilities, decreased fish travel time through the system and increased overall dam survival.

    Spillway weirs in operation (on the spillbays to the right) at McNary Dam



    A spillwall installed at The Dalles Dam (in the middle of the spillway) in 2010 guides fish away from predators. Juvenile spring chinook survival at The Dalles Dam was 96 percent in 2010 and 2011.

    THE STATUS OF THE FISH: An important measure of progress is that wild salmon and steelhead are returning to spawn in Columbia River Basin streams and rivers. Updated data show most populations that spawn in the interior Columbia River Basin have increased in abundance since the first ESA listings in the 1990s.

    PARTNERSHIPS FORGED: The effort has been enormous, involving hundreds of state and tribal partners throughout the region, biologists, engineers and millions of dollars in funding from Northwest electric ratepayers and federal tax payers. Solid partnerships and sound science have put us well on the path to achieving BiOp requirements.

    Left: Idaho Department of Fish and Game staffs the Snake River Sockeye Hatchery Program. Many other partners are involved in the effort to help Snake River sockeye, including the Shoshone Bannock Tribes. Right: Partnerships with farmers and ranchers have secured 177,227 acre feet of water in streams and tributaries, through irrigation efficiencies and water transactions.

    HATCHERY PROGRESS: Hatchery evaluation and reforms help ensure that hatchery fish do not impede the recovery of naturally spawning fish. In 2012, the Action Agencies partnered with the hatchery operators to complete Hatchery and Genetic Management Plans (HGMPs) for all 44 of the Action Agency-funded hatchery programs requiring ESA consultation under the BiOp.

    The HGMPs call for practices such as improved broodstock management that are projected to provide additional improvement for several key populations of spring chinook and steelhead.









    HABITAT RESTORATION: The habitat program is one of the largest and most comprehensive ESA programs in the nation. Halfway through the 10-year term of the BiOp, the Action Agencies and their partners have already met or exceeded the tributary habitat goals for more than half the salmon and steelhead populations the BiOp addresses. The program is working. Salmon and steelhead are spawning in greater numbers in the newly-improved reaches and increasing in abundance following treatment. 


    TRIBUTARY HABITAT: Steelhead returned to this restored area of Idaho's Yankee Fork months after this former mining area was restored. Numerous partners worked together on this restoration, including the Bureau of Reclamation, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, BPA, Idaho Department of Fish & Game, Idaho Department of Parks & Recreation, Idaho Office of Species Conservation, Trout Unlimited and the U.S. Forest Service – Salmon-Challis National Forest. Click on the video to the right to watch steelhead returning to the Yankee Fork.

    Hancock Springs in Washington's Methow River, where the Yakama Nation restored a tributary reach, is one of many more places where salmon and steelhead are returning. Click on the video to the right to see steelhead spawning in Hancock Springs. And read more about the project here.



    ESTUARY HABITAT: Fish feeding in the estuary can grow quickly, better positioning them to survive a difficult life at sea. Estuary projects can be complex, often involving a diversity of land owners and issues and requiring lengthy environmental and design reviews. The 920-acres Columbia Stock Ranch, shown at left, was the largest purchase of riverside habitat in the estuary in 40 years, and a key piece of an extensive fish refuge system that partners are working to protect.

    This 2013 paper compiles research results to date on the benefits of habitat restoration in the estuary.

  • 2013 Draft Comprehensive Evaluation

    The Draft 2013 Comprehensive Evaluation was released in July 2013 for public comment. The public comment period closed August 16, 2013. Click here to view the comments submitted.

    Find out more

    Find out more about how habitat projects are selected and evaluated in these informative guides:

    Science and the evaluation of habitat restoration projects in the Columbia River estuary

    q Science and the evaluation of habitat improvement projects in Columbia River tributaries


    Peruse the Citizen's Guide with highlights of the 2013 Comprehensive Evaluation: