Columbia River, photo complements of Steve and Cindy Manlow


Region Facts

  • 5,704 square miles
  • 7% of the state
  • 525,000 people
  • 5 Counties, 21 Cities, 3 Tribes
  • 8 Dams
  • 4 Hydro-electric Operators
  • 2,280 river miles with Endangered Species Act listed fish
  • 18 major subbasins
  • 74 distinct populations

Plan Timeline

  • 1998 – First Endangered Species Act listings
  • 2005 – Northwest Power and Conservation Council and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration adopts Washington’s Lower Columbia plan
  • 2006 – Counties adopt watershed management plans.
  • 2007 – Coho salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act
  • 2010 – Washington’s Lower Columbia plan updated


To restore salmon and steelhead to healthy harvestable levels that will sustain productive sport, commercial and tribal fisheries through the restoration and protection of the ecosystems upon which the fish depend and implementation of sound hatchery and harvest management practices.


Lower Columbia Recovery Region

Extending from the mouth of the Columbia River upstream to, and including, the White Salmon River, the Lower Columbia River Salmon Recovery Region is home to five fish listed under the federal Endangered Species Act: Chinook, chum, and coho salmon and steelhead and bull trout. All together, these five listed species are comprised of 74 distinct populations, more than any other salmon recovery region in the state. The listed populations inhabit more than 2,300 river miles in 18 river subbasins, encompassing all of Cowlitz, Clark, Wahkiakum, and Skamania counties and portions of Lewis, Pacific, and Klickitat counties.

Regional Recovery Organization and Habitat Lead Entities

Established by state law in 1998, the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board oversees salmon recovery and habitat restoration efforts across the region, except for the White Salmon River. It also leads watershed management efforts for much of the region. The board’s 15 members represent local governments, the Legislature, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, hydro-utilities, environmental and landowner interests, and the public.

Recovery planning for the White River watershed was led by the National Marine Fisheries Service in consultation with the Yakama Indian Nation and Klickitat County. Klickitat County serves as the habitat lead entity and watershed planning lead agency for the White Salmon subbasin. Read more about the Klickitat County Lead Entity area.

Planning Horizon and Goal

It is the goal of the recovery plan to implement all actions needed to achieve recovery of Endangered Species Act-listed salmon and steelhead within 25 years of their listing or by 2024.

Recovery Approach

The lower Columbia River and its tributary rivers and streams were once among the most productive salmon and steelhead systems in the Northwest. Today these fish are at risk of extinction. Wild fish runs once numbered a million or more in Washington’s Lower Columbia streams. Now they average only about 30,000 a year. Virtually every population is estimated to be at high to very high risk of extinction.

The board is working to restore these fish to healthy, harvestable levels. Salmon and steelhead are an iconic symbol of the Pacific Northwest. They are an integral element of the region’s history and culture. They are an important regional recreational and economic resource. They are a key indicator of the health of our watersheds, rivers, and streams.

Salmon recovery is a shared responsibility. The health of our salmon and steelhead and the benefits they provide are dependent upon how the people of the region manage and use our lands, water, and natural resources. Recovery depends on the cooperation and participation of federal and state agencies, tribes, and local interests. It must work for both the fish and the people of the region. To this end, the board led collaborative processes involving federal and state agencies, tribes, local governments, business and environmental interests, and the public to develop a regional salmon recovery and watershed management plans.

The Lower Columbia recovery planning effort was the first locally-based attempt by the National Marine Fisheries Service to forge a comprehensive road map for recovering listed salmon. In 2006, it culminated in the first federally adopted salmon recovery plan in the nation. The recovery plan sets forth a comprehensive framework for addressing risks to salmon and steelhead associated with the Columbia River estuary and tributary habitat, hydro facilities, harvest, hatcheries, and predation. Work continues with the National Marine Fisheries Service and Oregon to meld the Oregon and Washington efforts into a comprehensive recovery plan for salmon and steelhead in the Lower Columbia domain.

In 2007, county governments adopted watershed management plans for Water Resource Inventory Areas 25, 26, 27, and 28. These plans complement the comprehensive salmon recovery plan. They balance water for future growth with the need to maintain stream flows for fish. They set priorities for improving water quality and restoring salmon habitat.

Collaborative partnerships continue to play a central role in efforts to implement these plans. These partnerships have leveraged public and private resources to achieve significant progress in protecting and restoring habitats, ensuring adequate water for fish and people, restoring access to key habitats, and implementing harvest and hatchery measures that protect wild fish while maintaining harvest opportunities.

Fish listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the region

  • Chinook: Listed as threatened in 1999
  • Chum: Listed as threatened in 1999
  • Coho: Listed as threatened in 2005
  • Steelhead: Listed as threatened in 1998

Major Factors Limiting Fish Recovery

  • Degraded floodplain and channel structure
  • Degraded nearshore, marine, and estuarine conditions
  • Riparian degradation and loss of in-river woody materials
  • Impaired stream flows
  • Barriers to fish
  • Excessive sediment
  • hatchery impacts
  • Harvest impacts
  • Predator harrassment of juvenile and adult fish