Unbuild It and They Will Come - NWIFC Sites

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Further, by snorkeling in summer we were also able to identify additional adult coho salmon redds in upper Indian. Creek and a large beaver pond that we did ...

Fall 2012

The Confluence

WA-BC Chapter of the American Fisheries Society

SCIENCE
AND
CONSERVATION
 Unbuild
It
and
They
Will
Come:
 The
Initial
Stages
of
Salmon
Recolonization
 in
the
Elwha
River
 


By
John
R.
McMillan
(photo
left)1,
 Raymond
Moses2,
Mike
McHenry2,
 Larry
Ward2,
Kinsey
Frick1,
Sam
 Brenkman3,
Pat
Crain3,
Phil
 Kennedy3,
Heidi
Hugunin3,
 Oleksandr
Stefankiv1and
George
 Pess
(photo
below)1
 
 
 1.
NOAA‐NWFSC,
2725
Montlake
Blvd
East,


Seattle,
WA
98112
 2.
Lower
Elwha
Klallam
Tribe,
51
Hatchery
 Road,
Port
Angeles,
WA
98363
 3.
National
Park
Service,
Olympic
National
Park,
 600
East
Park
Avenue,
Port
Angeles,
WA
98362
 


Introduction
 Before
 the
 1900s,
 the
 Elwha
 River
 supported
 one
 of
 the
 most
 diverse
 and
 abundant
 populations
 of
 salmonids
 on
 the
 Olympic
 Peninsula,
 including
 all
 five
 species
 of
 Pacific
 salmon,
 resident
 rainbow
 trout
 and
 steelhead,
coastal
cutthroat
trout,
and
bull
trout.

However,
in
the
early
 1900's,
 the
 Elwha
 Dam
 (river‐mile(R.M.)
 4.9)
 and
 the
 Glines
 Canyon
 Dam
 (R.M.
 13.5:
 Figure
 1)
 were
 constructed
 without
 fish
 passage
 facilities
(Duda
et
al.
2008).

Limited
to
the
lower
five
miles
of
river,
the
 anadromous
 portion
 of
 the
 salmonid
 population
 dramatically
 declined
 in
abundance,
distribution,
and
diversity.

Then,
after
almost
100
years
 and
 decades
 of
 political
 and
 legal
 wrangling,
 deconstruction
 of
 both
 dams
began
in
the
late
summer
of
2011
and
the
former
Elwha
Dam
site
 was
passable
by
fish
in
late
April
2012
(Figure
2).

Removal
of
these
two
 dams
 opens
 over
 70
 miles
 of
 high
 quality
 habitat
 towards
 the
 goal
 of
 recovering
the
salmonid
runs
of
the
Elwha
River
(Pess
et
al.
2008).
 
 


18

Fall 2012

The Confluence

WA-BC Chapter of the American Fisheries Society

Figure
 1.
 
 Distribution
 of
 recolonizing
 (a.)
 adult
 coho
 salmon
 and
 (b.)
 adult
 wild
 winter
 steelhead
in
the
Elwha
River
basin
now
reaches
well
beyond
the
former
Elwha
Dam
site
after
 only
seven
months,
but
not
beyond
the
remaining
Glines
Canyon
Dam
­­
which
is
scheduled
to
 be
removed
entirely
by
spring
of
2013.

 



 
 
 As
part
of
the
recovery
process
the
Lower
Elwha
Klallam
Tribe
(LEKT),
 National
 Oceanic
 and
 Atmospheric
 Administration/National
 Marine
 Fisheries
 Service
 (NOAA/NWFSC),
 Olympic
 National
 Park
 (ONP),
 Washington
 Department
 of
 Fish
 and
 Wildlife
 (WDFW),
 United
 States
 Fish
 and
 Wildlife
 Service
 (USFWS),
 and
 the
 United
 States
 Geological
 Survey
(USGS)
‐‐
hereafter
referred
to
as
the
'partners'
‐‐
collected
and
 relocated
adult
coho
salmon
and
adult
winter
steelhead
into
the
middle
 Elwha
River
valley,
which
is
located
between
Elwha
and
Glines
Canyon
 Dams
 (Figure
 1).
 
 The
 objectives
 were
 two‐fold.
 
 First,
 the
 partners
 wanted
 to
 initiate
 recolonization
 above
 Elwha
 Dam
 prior
 to
 full


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Fall 2012

The Confluence

WA-BC Chapter of the American Fisheries Society

restoration
 of
 anadromous
 access.
 
 Second,
 deconstruction
 released
 sediment
 stored
 behind
 the
 dams
 that
 resulted
 in
 elevated
 turbidity
 levels
 in
 the
 main‐stem
 Elwha
 River
 that
 were
 stressful‐to‐potentially‐ lethal.

To
mitigate
this,
the
partners
wanted
to
move
a
proportion
of
the
 fish
 into
 two
 tributaries
 in
 the
 middle
 Elwha
 that
 were
 directly
 unaffected
 by
 the
 sediment
 release,
 including
 Indian
 Creek
 and
 Little
 River.

 
 Figure
 2.
 
 Dam
 gone:
 former
 location
of
the
Elwha
Dam
in
late
 April.
Just
over
a
month
later,
at
 least
a
few
wild
winter
steelhead
 swam
 past
 this
 area
 without
 human
 intervention
 and
 were
 documented
 spawning
 in
 Little
 River
 and
 Indian
 Creek.
 
 Photo
 by
John
McMillan.



 After
 release,
 the
 partners
 conducted
 weekly
 foot
 surveys
 to
 count
 redds
 and
 followed
up
with
summer
snorkel
surveys.

We
also
radio
tagged
a
sub‐ set
 of
 the
 fish
 to
 better
 understand
 movements
 prior
 to,
 during,
 and
 after
 spawning.
 
 Here
 we
 describe
 some
 of
 the
 preliminary
 findings
 of
 those
colonizing
salmon
and
steelhead.




 
 Fish
Relocation
and
Monitoring
 Coho
salmon
 The
 adult
 coho
 salmon
 used
 in
 the
 relocation
 efforts
 were
 mostly
 hatchery
origin
and
were
captured
at
the
LEKT
hatchery
at
R.M.
2.0.

In
 total,
 approximately
 600
 adult
 coho
 salmon
 were
 relocated
 above
 the
 Elwha
Dam
in
November
and
early
December
2011.

Of
those,
300
were
 placed
in
the
main‐stem
Elwha
River
and
150
placed
in
Little
River
and
 Indian
Creek.

In
addition,
45
of
the
coho
salmon
were
radio
tagged
to
 determine
the
extent
of
their
movements.


 
 We
 conducted
 a
 total
 of
 62
 redd
 counts
 over
 40
 miles
 of
 stream
 and
 documented
112
redds,
including
58
in
Little
River,
43
in
Indian
Creek
 and
11
in
the
main‐stem
Elwha
River
and
its
floodplain
channels
(Table
 1).
 
 With
 radiotelemetry,
 we
 were
 able
 to
 determine
 that
 56%
 of
 the
 coho
 salmon
 dropped
 back
 over
 the
 former
 Elwha
 Dam
 site
 and
 20

Fall 2012

The Confluence

WA-BC Chapter of the American Fisheries Society

returned
to
spawn
in
the
small
spring‐fed
creek
that
drains
the
hatchery
 rearing
ponds.

Incredibly,
we
had
a
coho
(male
jack)
that
was
relocated
 on
four
occasions
and
dropped
back
over
the
dam
and
returned
to
the
 hatchery
each
time.

Applying
a
56%
fall
back
rate
and
a
50:50
sex
ratio
 to
 the
 600
 released
 coho
 salmon
 would
 mean
 that
 about
 267
 salmon,
 including
133
females,
remained
in
the
middle
Elwha
River.

While
this
 conclusion
is
preliminary,
if
133
females
did
remain
and
each
spawned
 only
a
single
redd,
then
we
were
able
to
successfully
account
for
almost
 all
 of
 the
 spawning
 females,
 with
 the
 overwhelming
 majority
 of
 the
 spawning
activity
occurring
in
the
Indian
Creek
and
Little
River
(Figure
 3).
 
 This
 suggests
 that
 the
 elevated
 turbidity
 levels
 in
 the
 main‐stem
 Elwha
River
were
unfavorable
for
spawning.
 
 Figure
 3.
 
 A
 pair
 of
 coho
 salmon
 spawning
 in
 Little
 River
 in
 late
 November.
 These
 fish
 were
 relocated
 above
 the
 Elwha
 Dam
 to
 jump
 start
 recolonization.
 Photo
by
John
McMillan.



 Our
 summer
 snorkel
 surveys
 included
a
census
of
 Little
 River
 and
 extensive
 sampling
 of
 Indian
 Creek,
 in
 addition
 to
 a
 few
 main‐stem
 Elwha
 floodplain
 channels
 that
 had
 adequate
 visibility.
 
 
 The
 counts
 revealed
 an
extensive
and
continuous
distribution
of
juvenile
coho
salmon
up
to
 a
 series
 of
 waterfalls
 in
 the
 headwaters
 of
 Little
 River
 (Figure
 5).
 
 We
 also
found
juvenile
coho
salmon
throughout
Indian
Creek
and
up
into
its
 source
in
Lake
Sutherland.


Further,
by
snorkeling
in
summer
we
were
 also
able
to
identify
additional
adult
coho
salmon
redds
in
upper
Indian
 Creek
 and
 a
 large
 beaver
 pond
 that
 we
 did
 not
 observe
 in
 winter
 because
 of
 limited
 access
 due
 to
 high
 flows.
 
 As
 a
 result
 of
 the
 recolonization
 by
 adults
 and
 the
 dispersal
 of
 juveniles,
 coho
 salmon
 were
 documented
 throughout
 almost
 the
 entire
 middle
 Elwha
 River
 (Figure
1).


 


21

Fall 2012

The Confluence

WA-BC Chapter of the American Fisheries Society

Steelhead
 While
 some
 wild
 winter
 steelhead
 used
 in
 the
 relocation
 efforts
 were
 captured
 at
 the
 LEKT
 hatchery
 and
 in
 a
 screw
 trap
 and
 a
 weir
 in
 the
 main‐stem
 Elwha
 River,
 most
 of
 the
 steelhead
 were
 captured
 while
 attempting
 to
 spawn
 in
 the
 WDFW
 hatchery
 outflow
 creek
 and
 pond
 that
provided
the
only
easily
accessible
source
of
relatively
clear
water
 below
 Elwha
 Dam.
 
 We
 released
 36
 of
 these
 adult
 winter
 steelhead,
 of
 which
80%
were
female
(28
females,
8
males),
and
six
resident
rainbow
 trout
(1
female,
5
males)
into
Little
River
and
11
adult
winter
steelhead
 into
 Indian
 Creek
 (6
 females,
 5
 males).
 
 Of
 these
 fish,
 46
 were
 radio
 tagged,
including
35
females
and
11
males,
which
was
representative
of
 the
source
population.


 
 Figure
4.

Pair
of
wild
winter
 steelhead
 spawning
 in
 Little
 River
 in
 early
 June.
 The
 Elwha
 Dam
 was
 removed
 by
 this
time
and,
just
a
few
days
 after
 this
 photograph,
 at
 least
 one
 large
 male
 steelhead
 made
 its
 way
 past
 the
former
dam
site
and
into
 Little
 River.
 Photo
 by
 John
 McMillan.



 We
 conducted
 28
 surveys
 and
 counted
 50
 steelhead
 redds,
 nearly
 all
 of
 which
 were
 found
 in
 Little
 River
 where
 most
 of
 the
 steelhead
 were
 released
 (Table
 1).
 
 Unlike
 coho
 salmon,
 we
 did
 not
 document
 any
 fall
 back
 behavior
with
the
wild
 steelhead.

All
 remained
in
the
 tributaries
 until
 spawning.

A
total
of
18
steelhead
(~40%
of
these
tagged,
16
female,
2
 male)
moved
past
a
main‐stem
Elwha
River
telemetry
receiver
at
river
 mile
2.5,
presumably
trying
to
migrate
back
to
the
ocean
to
repeat
the
 spawning
cycle.

In
early
June,
LEKT
and
NOAA
surveyors
documented
 at
least
four
steelhead
in
Little
River
without
radio
tags
or
floy
tags
that
 were
different
in
appearance
and
size
from
the
fish
that
were
relocated.

 These
fish
made
it
past
the
former
Elwha
Dam
site
on
their
own
(Figure
 4).

Three
such
“volunteer
colonizers”
were
also
documented
in
Indian
 Creek.


 


22

Fall 2012

The Confluence

WA-BC Chapter of the American Fisheries Society

Table
 1.
 
 The
 number
 of
 redd
 surveys
 conducted
 (i.e.
 7
 /
 7
 =
 7
 for
 coho
 salmon/
 7
 for
 steelhead)
for
coho
salmon
and
wild
winter
steelhead,
the
total
length
of
stream
surveyed,
the
 number
 of
 coho
 salmon
 and
 wild
 winter
 steelhead
 redds,
 and
 the
 number
 of
 wild
 winter
 steelhead
documented
to
naturally
colonize
each
stream
based
on
field
observations.



 Surveys Site

Coho salmon redds

Winter steelhead redds

Natural colonizing steelhead

#

Length (miles)

Little River

7/7

9.1 / 9.1

58

43

4

Indian Creek

14 / 3

8.8/ 2.8

43

7

3

Mainstem Elwha floodplain channels

39 / 15

17.8 / 6.0

8

0

0

2/3

85.3/ 0.8

3

0

0

Mainstem Elwha River


 
 The
 spawning
 surveys
 and
 observations
 revealed
 three
 interesting
 points.
 
 First,
 we
 counted
 more
 redds
 than
 females,
 even
 if
 we
 accounted
 for
 the
 voluntary
 colonizers,
 suggesting
 that
 females
 were
 excavating
 more
 than
 one
 redd.
 
 Second,
 male
 rainbow
 trout
 were
 commonly
 observed
 interacting
 (presumably
 spawning)
 with
 female
 steelhead
 in
 the
 lower
 Elwha
 River
 at
 the
 hatchery
 outflow.
 
 Similarly,
 numerous
 male
 rainbow
 trout
 were
 observed
 interacting
 with
 female
 steelhead
in
Little
River,
and
we
captured
mature
male
trout
as
small
as
 4"
 in
 length.
 
 We
 assume
 this
 behavior
 reflected
 the
 fact
 that
 male
 steelhead
were
far
less
numerous
than
females
in
our
samples.

Lastly,
 steelhead
 spawned
 from
 May
 through
 July
 27,
 2012
 and
 possibly
 later
 as
a
female
kelt
was
caught
at
the
weir
in
the
lower
river
on
August
4,
 2012.

It
was
a
cold
spring
and
early
summer,
but
so
was
2011
and
fish
 did
 not
 spawn
 as
 late
 in
 2011.
 
 We
 hypothesize
 the
 very
 late
 spawn
 timing
 was
 partly
 related
 to
 high
 suspended
 sediment
 levels,
 which
 ranged
from
200‐1,200
NTU's
through
the
breeding
season.


 


23

Fall 2012

The Confluence

WA-BC Chapter of the American Fisheries Society

Summer
surveys
indicated
that
young‐of‐the‐year
(YOY)
steelhead
were
 widely
 distributed
 throughout
 the
 Little
 River
 and
 into
 lower
 Indian
 Creek
 (Figure
 5).
 
 However,
 we
 could
 not
 always
 be
 certain
 that
 YOY
 were
from
steelhead
and
not
resident
rainbow
trout.
Nonetheless,
prior
 surveys
 of
 Little
 River
 during
 similar
 times
 and
 monitoring
 of
 YOY
 steelhead
 and
 trout
 size
 in
 previous
 years
 at
 several
 locations
 suggest
 most
 of
 the
 YOY
 were
 probably
 offspring
 of
 steelhead.
 We
 are
 in
 the
 process
 of
 identifying
 non‐lethal
 methods
 ‐‐
 including
 size‐at‐age
 ‐‐
 to
 accurately
 and
 efficiently
 distinguish
 YOY
 trout
 from
 YOY
 steelhead.

 Ultimately,
 the
 overall
 spatial
 distribution
 of
 wild
 winter
 steelhead
 in
 the
 middle
 Elwha
 River
 was
 not
 as
 expansive
 as
 that
 of
 coho
 salmon
 (Figure
 1),
 but
 it
 is
 certainly
 greater
 than
 what
 would
 have
 existed
 without
the
relocation
efforts.
 
 
 Figure
5.

Juvenile
coho
salmon
(foreground)
and
a
juvenile
steelhead
(upper
left)
holding
in
 the
large
cobble
that
is
common
in
the
relatively
steep
channel
of
Little
River.
Photo
by
John
 McMillan.







 
 
 
 
 
 




24

Fall 2012

The Confluence

WA-BC Chapter of the American Fisheries Society

Implications
 With
 the
 Elwha
 Dam
 removed,
 and
 Glines
 Canyon
 Dam
 partially
 removed,
 it
 is
 expected
 that
 the
 entire
 basin
 will
 be
 accessible
 to
 salmonids
by
the
spring
of
2013.

In
the
mean
time,
recolonization
of
the
 middle
 Elwha
 River
 is
 well
 underway
 by
 coho
 salmon
 and
 wild
 winter
 steelhead,
 along
 with
 all
 of
 the
 potential
 interactions
 between
 the
 old
 and
 new
 Elwha
 River
 ecologies.
 
 The
 ecology
 of
 the
 streams
 in
 the
 middle
 Elwha
 River
 have
 long
 supported
 populations
 of
 resident
 salmonids.

What
is
different
is
the
ecology
in
and
along
the
stream.

For
 example,
 we
 have
 observed
 non‐native
 brook
 trout
 feeding
 on
 coho
 salmon
 eggs,
 otters
 dragging
 steelhead
 and
 Chinook
 salmon
 carcasses
 back
into
the
trees
and
underwater,
and
Harlequin
ducks,
Dippers
and
 blue
herons
feeding
on
the
YOY
coho
salmon
and
steelhead.

 
 These
are
first
steps
and
there
are
more
unique
discoveries
expected
to
 be
 made.
 
 During
 the
 summer
 and
 fall
 of
 2012,
 
 approximately
 200
 Chinook
salmon
redds
have
been
documented
in
the
middle
Elwha
and
 its
 tributaries,
 indicating
 that
 adult
 Chinook
 salmon
 have
 made
 it
 past
 the
 former
 Elwha
 dam
 site
 without
 human
 intervention,
 just
 as
 a
 few
 winter
 steelhead
 did
 this
 spring.
 
 Small
 numbers
 of
 pink
 salmon
 and
 possibly
 summer
 steelhead
 have
 also
 recolonized
 habitats
 above
 the
 former
 Elwha
 Dam
 as
 well.
 
 Fish
 have
 also
 probably
 passed
 downstream.
 
 The
 LEKT
 caught
 O.
 mykiss
 smolts
 in
 its
 screw
 trap
 in
 Little
River
this
spring,
and
they
were
free
to
go
to
the
ocean.

The
main‐ stem
Elwha
River
is
still
too
turbid
to
see
fish,
so
we
cannot
be
sure
of
 what
 fish
 are
 where.
 
 
 What
 is
 clear
 is
 this:
 Unbuild
 it
 and
 the
 salmon
 will
 come,
 just
 as
 they
 have
 through
 their
 long
 evolutionary
 history
 in
 the
geologically
active
Pacific
Northwest.

 
 
 References
 Duda,
J.
J.,
J.
E.
Frelich,
and
E.
G.
Schreiner.

2008.

Baseline
studies
in
the
 Elwha
 River
 ecosystem
 prior
 to
 dam
 removal:
 Introduction
 to
 the
 special
issue.

Northwest
Science
82
(Special
Issue):1‐12.
 
 Pess,
G.
R.,
M.
L.
McHenry,
T.
J.
Beechie,
and
J.
Davies.

2008.

Biological
 impacts
 of
 the
 Elwha
 River
 dams
 and
 potential
 salmonid
 responses
 to
 dam
removal.

Northwest
Science
82
(Special
Issue):72‐90.
 


25

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