Section 6.5: Design and Performance of Radio Telemetry Systems for Assessing Juvenile Fish Passage at Three Hydroelectric Dams
John W. Beeman, Eric E. Hockersmith, and John R. Stevenson
Studies of the effects of hydroelectric dams on fish populations are common (Williams 2008). Dams block passage of migratory and resident fish, alter habitats from free-flowing to lacustrine, and can alter water temperatures both upstream and downstream. At some dams, structures or operations are modified to reduce their effects on fish populations. In these cases, it is recommended that a series of studies be conducted before and after the alterations to help assess the effectiveness of the actions. We will describe three studies at hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest of the United States prompted by a need to reduce their effects on fishes, primarily salmonids, listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA 1973).
Hydroelectric development on the Columbia and Snake rivers occurred chiefly between the early 1930s and the late 1970s. Fish originating in the upper portions of the Columbia and Snake rivers must pass as many as eight dams on these rivers during their seaward migration and again on their trip back to their natal waters. Small changes in passage survival at each dam can be important, due to the multiplicative effects of the series of dams. For example, if downstream passage survival at each of eight dams and reservoirs was 90% and it was increased by only 3% per dam, the numbers of fish surviving through the entire hydro system would increase from 43% to 56%. Thus, precisely measuring small changes in passage survival are important to the overall program. This has been achieved by designing efficient telemetry systems and releasing large numbers of tagged fish.