Wild Salmon Continue to Need Help
The four subbasins of the upper Columbia River support 16 demographically-independent populations of salmon, steelhead, and bull trout. Thirteen of these populations are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. In recent years, the region has seen low returns in salmon runs due to poor ocean conditions and poor habitat conditions.
Returns of spring Chinook and steelhead remained low in 2019 in the Wenatchee, Entiat, Methow, and Okanogan Rivers. A total of 1,715 spring Chinook (445 natural-origin and 1,270 hatchery-origin) returned to the upper Columbia River in 2019, which was the lowest return to the region since 1999. A total of 1,627 steelhead (439 natural-origin and 1,188 hatchery-origin) returned in 2019, which was one of the lowest returns on record and the lowest return total in the past 40 years (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife 2020). The 12-year geometric mean of natural-origin returns for both species remains well below the goals set for delisting in all four basins.
Total spring Chinook counts at Priest Rapids Dam show that the run of 8,109 adults in 2019 was slightly more than the previous 2 years but still less than half of the 10-year average. Of the spring Chinook that returned to the region, 1,404 were non Endangered Species Act-listed spring Chinook returning to Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery (Muir et al. 2020). Steelhead counts at Priest Rapids continued to decline, with less than 4,000 adult passing for the year. This total was just 22 percent of the 10-year average. (Columbia River DART 2020). Runs across the interior Columbia basin showed similar trends with most showing returns less than half of the 10-year average in 2019.