NOAA Fisheries Will Investigate Salmon Reintroduction Into Blocked Areas

In a warming world, climate change will alter lowland salmon habitat, encouraging fish to spawn in higher elevations, and so reintroducing salmon into higher-elevation habitat where their passage is now blocked by dams will be critical to their survival, the Pacific Northwest regional director of NOAA Fisheries said at a salmon recovery conference last month.

Speaking at the biennial conference of the Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board in Vancouver, Will Stelle said NOAA is interested in reintroducing salmon into the upper Klamath River in southern Oregon, the upper Sacramento River in northern California above Shasta Dam, where the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the dam, “is right with us,” he said, and into the upper Columbia River above Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams.

“Climate change is going to come home to roost in the lower elevations, and it’s going to come home to roost in the upper elevations in the way we manage our aquatic systems,” Stelle told the audience of about 700. “And as we are mindful of that, we have to rethink reintroductions. We have got to go upstream, and we have got to open up access to habitat upstream, and we have to get fish upstream because that is going to be their refugia in a changing world.”

He said he’s not worried that reintroduction is not possible: “We’re going to be able to do it because we’ve done it before,” he said, adding that the Columbia River effort would be coordinated with Canada under the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty.