Fish in Northwest have new hopes for home In this undated photo provided by NOAA Fisheries, underwater antennas are visible stretching across the Little River, a tributary of the Elwha River in Washington state, where they track fish as part of intensively monitored watershed studies to determine how the fish respond to habitat restoration. (John McMillan/NOAA Fisheries/Thinkstock)
Fish in Northwest have new hopes for home
Lexile

Scientists in the Pacific Northwest are studying more than a dozen watersheds. They want to develop templates on habitat restoration. The templates could be used in similar streams to bolster struggling fish populations.
 
The federal government lists 28 populations of salmon and steelhead on the West Coast that need protections. This is due to low numbers.  This is despite spending millions of dollars every year on restoration efforts.
 
The studies aim to make those efforts more successful. They focus on 17 watersheds.  They are in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Northern California and British Columbia.  Scientists examine the benefit of everything from dam removal to building artificial beaver dams in tributaries.
 
Creating templates for habitat restoration could save time and money. They could use strategies known to produce good results in similar habitats in the region, said George Pess.  He is a research fisheries biologist. He works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
 
"The overall goal is to learn enough to be smart about our restoration," he said.  The studies will offer recommendations to private, tribal and government entities, he noted. But the studies won't produce any legally binding regulations.
 
Most of the studies began in the 2000s. Pess said scientists are still discovering what works. The program will require years of monitoring. The scientists are examining how fish use waterways.  They want to learn about the challenges salmon and steelhead face throughout their lives in the different watersheds.
 
In previous restoration efforts, officials have taken out barriers such as dams. That opens up spawning habitat. The studies go further, as well. They try to determine whether removing the barriers leads fish to change when they go to the ocean and return as adults, Pess said. That would mean restoration efforts need to ensure enough water flows through streams at critical times.
 
"It's a terrific and much-needed project - getting a scientific basis for really teasing out the factors preventing the recovery of wild steelhead and salmon," said Guido Rahr.  He is president of the Wild Salmon Center.  It works to protect rivers and wild salmon populations. "They've chosen watersheds with diverse and different geographies. It's really going to be helpful."
 
In northern Idaho's Potlatch River, a tributary of the Clearwater River, monitoring started in 2005.  Restoration work began in 2009. About 1,000 wild steelhead use the Potlatch.
 
Last year, state workers for the first time counted steelhead spawning beds above an area where a dam had been removed, said Brian Knoth. He is a fisheries biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
 
Whether opening new habitat increases fish numbers or simply causes the existing population to spread out is a frequent question in the 17 study areas.
 
To get an answer, scientists place small tags in fish that give off a signal when passing through an electronic field. That allows young fish leaving and then returning as adults to be counted.
 
On central Oregon's Bridge Creek, workers have built artificial beaver dams as part of the study, discovering that the real animals moved in to expand on human efforts.
 
"It's OK if natural beavers join in on the fun," said Stephen Bennett, a research associate of watershed sciences at Utah State University. He is involved with that and other studies.
 
Of the 17 studies, nine are in Washington state. Perhaps the most ambitious involves the Elwha River and the 2012 removal of a 100-foot dam that increased habitat by 300 percent. It more than a doubled spawning beds for Chinook salmon and steelhead above the dam site.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How do dams help the fish?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (28)
  • kaitlinb-pel
    2/18/2016 - 02:19 p.m.

    I like this article because i never knew about the Pacific Northwest learning about watersheds. The dams help the fish by making sure they are safe. It also makes fishes change when they go to the ocean and come back as adults.

  • nayelic-hol
    2/18/2016 - 02:45 p.m.

    Its cool
    And nice how they spend millions of dollars for it

  • autianae-ste
    2/18/2016 - 05:37 p.m.

    The scientists performing these experiments and gathering the data are really looking for a solution to the population of these fish. The dams that are set up are helping the scientists discover more of how the "fish use the waterways."

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    2/19/2016 - 12:18 a.m.

    The fish that live in the Pacific Northwest are being helped by people even though that they had decreased the Chinook salmon and the steelhead population by building dams that block off two fish species to be entering their hatchery. The people might have wanted to get the fish population to be increasing because the people wanted to move them to a watershed where they would be building 100-feet dams. The people might have wanted to move the fish population where they wouldn't be able to build man-made things that keep the fish population to be decreasing a lot of the times. People might have wanted to get the fish population to be increasing by the times when the year had passed by and fish population would be stable.
    Critical Thinking Question: How do dams help the fish?
    Answer: Because artificial beaver dams can be able to get more animals to be moving in to expand human effort.

  • ziont-orv-orv
    2/19/2016 - 09:23 a.m.

    Critacal thinking question:
    It helps them stay alive

  • masonv-
    2/21/2016 - 05:57 p.m.

    Dams help fish because it is providing habitats for wild salmon and steelhead. I know this because in the story it stats that"The 2012 removal of a 100-foot dam that increased habitat by 300 percent. It more than a doubled spawning beds for Chinook salmon and steelhead above the dam site."
    I liked this because it said that some fish were in need of homes to give birth I thought this was good.

  • philipe-
    2/21/2016 - 06:39 p.m.

    It doesn't help fish. I know this because in the last paragraph it says "The 2012 removal of a 100-foot dam that increased habitat by 300 percent. It more than a doubled spawning beds for Chinook salmon and steelhead above the dam site.".

  • talas-ver
    2/22/2016 - 08:31 a.m.

    It helps them stay alive and they have enough water to survive.

  • leeannaw-wes
    2/22/2016 - 09:09 a.m.

    it helps them stay alive. and people makes sure they are feed.

  • samanthas-1-ste
    2/22/2016 - 12:06 p.m.

    The dams are set up to increase spawn habitats. Fish need to be able to reproduce so the dams will help with the issues.

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