• Bringing fish back to the Columbia Basin


    Click here to see brochure of this information

    The Bonneville Power Administration and its partners are actively expanding the reach of Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead by improving dam passage, removing barriers and rehabilitating degraded habitat. The federal program to protect these fish is the largest of its kind in the nation.

    The program has increased survival of fish passing mainstem dams, returned fish to stretches of tributaries where they had been absent for decades, managed predation and modernized hatcheries. The success hinges on partnerships between BPA, the Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation and tribes, states, local and non-government organizations. 


    The site of former Hemlock Lake, in southwest Washington's Wind River, less than a year after

    Hemlock Dam was removed.  Photo courtesy of Bengt Coffin, U.S. Forest Service.



    Culvert replacement in Hepner Creek, Lower South Fork of the Clearwater River. Photo courtesy of Nez Perce Tribe Watershed Restoration Division.  

    Removing Dutch Flats Dam, built circa 1919, near Troy, Idaho. Photo courtesy of Ken Stinson, Latah Soil and Conservation District.






    Opening up prime fish habitat 


    Since 2008, BPA and its partners have:

        Opened up over 2,470 miles of 
    habitat– more than twice the length
    of the entire Columbia River.

         Restored more than 254,125 acre 
    feet of water to streams through 
    water and transactions irrigation 
    improvements – more than enough 
    to serve the annual usage of a city 
    the size of Seattle.

          Restored and protected more than 
    4,000 acres of estuary floodplain.

    Reviews and monitoring have consistently reported barrier removal or installation of new or improved fish passage as one of the most cost-effective and highest priority habitat improvement measures for salmon and steelhead. Studies have shown that fish rapidly colonize previously blocked or less accessible areas.










       Fish returns are improving

    Last year almost a million fall chinook salmon returned to Bonneville Dam, the most since counts began in 1937. Based on 10 years of data, wild chinook populations on average have more than tripled in abundance and wild steelhead on average have more than doubled.


     SR Sp Chinook 240
     Mid-C Steelhead 240


    Graphs show most recent data on the number of natural origin (wild) adult fish returning to spawn.  (Mid-Columbia steelhead estimate is based on data for the Yakima River Major Population Group.  


    This year’s spawners benefitted from good river flows when they were young and productive ocean conditions as adults. Fishery managers are predicting strong returns of wild and hatchery-raised salmon to the Columbia River in 2014.


  • Safe passage at the dams

    Improving fish passage through the federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers is key to our program. Surface passage is now installed at all eight of these dams, allowing juvenile salmon and steelhead to pass dams at the surface where they naturally migrate.  

    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. (Northwest Fisheries Science Center, 2014)

    Yearling Chinook dam passage survival 200

    Click here to enlarge graph

    Click here to enlarge graph

    The spillways at the right of this photo of John Day Dam have spillway weirs installed, allowing fish to pass the dam at the surface of the water, where they naturally migrate.