Trout Unlimited On Salmon, Steelhead Path On Klamath River When Dams Are Removed

The pending removal of four dams along the Klamath River in Northern California and Southern Oregon will soon open up more water for spawning salmon and steelhead. Trout Unlimited recently wrote a feature story on what that will mean for anadromous fish that make the trip upstream from the Pacific. Here’s more from TU author Haley Ohms:

The draft California reintroduction plan will rely on spring-run Chinook, steelhead, and lamprey volitionally returning to the former reservoir sites in California. CDFW and partners will continue hatchery programs for fall-run Chinook and coho. Hatchery production will move from the Iron Gate Hatchery to the Fall Creek Hatchery, which is being updated because Iron Gate Hatchery will be dismantled as a part of dam removal.

Hatchery releases of fall-run Chinook will continue to support subsistence and commercial fishing during the dam removals and reintroduction process, however annual juvenile releases will decrease from 6 million to 3.25 million. The coho conservation hatchery will continue annual releases of 75,000 juveniles while the population rebuilds from perilously low numbers. Biologists expect that both species will begin to naturally rebuild their numbers after regaining access to historic habitat following dam removal, and as such, the hatchery releases are only planned for up to eight years.

Tracking Fish Populations After Dam Removal

Currently, much of the fish population monitoring in the lower Klamath is focused on juvenile and spawner abundances downstream of Iron Gate Dam. In the upper Klamath, the focus is on the ecology and restoration of C’waam and koptu (Lost River and shortnose suckers), redband and bull trout. When the dams come down, monitoring efforts will expand to new geographies and species as Chinook, coho, steelhead, and lamprey once again access their historic habitats.  

Immediately after dam removal, planned monitoring efforts in both Oregon and California will primarily focus on the presence/absence of fishes in the “reservoir reach,” under the assumption that returning fish will return to this section of the watershed first before moving upstream of Link Dam and Upper Klamath Lake.

TU had more on the four dam removals in a report last fall.