Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Report
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8950
Title: A report upon the Grand Coulee Fish-Maintenance Project 1939-1947
Author/Editor: Frederic F. Fish, Mitchell G. Hanavan
Year: 1948
Institution: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Special Scientific Report No. 55

The construction of Grand Coulee Dam, on the upper Columbia River, involved the loss of 1,140 lineal miles of spawning and rearing stream to the production of anadromous fishes.  The fact that the annual value of these fish runs to the nation was estimated at $250,000 justified reasonable expenditures to assure their perpetuation.  It was found economically infeasible to safely collect and pass adult fish upstream and fingerling fish downstream at the dam because of the tremendous flow of the river and the 320-foot vertical difference in elevation between forebay and tailrace.

The Grand Coulee Fish-Maintenance Project, undertaken by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in 1939, consisted in relocating the anadroumous runs of the upper Columbia River to four major tributaries entering below the Grand Coulee dam site.  These streams were believed capable of supporting several times their existing, badly depleted run.

The plan was predicated upon the assumption that the relocated runs, in conformity with their "homing tendency," would return to the lower tributaries rather than attempt to reach their ancestral spawning grounds above Grand Coulee Dam.

This interim report covers the history and accomplishments of the Grand Coulee Fish-Maintenance Project through the initial period of relocating the runs as well as the first four years of the permanent program.

Results obtained to date indicate conclusive success in diverting the upper Columbia fish runs into the accessible lower tributaries.  The results also indicate, less conclusively, that—in spite of many existing handicaps—the upper Columbia salmon and steelhead runs may be rehabilitated through the integrated program of natural and artificial propagation incorporated in the Grand Coulee Fish-Maintenance Project.