Grand Ronde Basin Fish Habitat Enhancement Project, 2008 Annual Report. Page: 5 of 67
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The Grande Ronde Basin Fish Habitat Enhancement Project was initiated in 1984 after it became
widely recognized that wild and naturally spawning populations of salmon and steelhead were at
low levels throughout the Columbia River Basin due to impaired mainstem fish passage, blocked
habitat, habitat degradation, fishing, predation and other factors. Habitat degradation and its
causes within the Grande Ronde Basin have been well documented (Anderson et al. 1992;
CTUIR, 1984; Henjum et al. 1994; Huntington, 1993; McIntosh et al. 1994; Noll, et al. 1988;
Sedell and Everest, 1991). Listings of Snake River salmonid populations through the
Endangered Species Act led to increased efforts to implement and coordinate ecosystem or
watershed based approaches to species recovery efforts within individual subbasins (Anderson
et. al., 1992; Huntington, 1994; Mobrand and Lestelle, 1997; NPCC, 2004; NMFS, 1997;
Wallowa Co.-Nez Perce, 1993). The intent of this project is to work within this framework by
providing offsite mitigation for mainstem losses of habitat and fish productivity caused by the
construction and operation of eight dams on the Columbia River. This is achieved through
coordinated efforts to protect and improve spawning and rearing habitat, and improve fish
Prior to implementation of this project, streams within the Grande Ronde River basin were
examined as part of a study funded by Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), and undertaken
by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) and the Oregon
Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). The study compiled the basic information necessary
to identify, evaluate, prioritize, and recommend site-specific solutions to major problems
impacting the anadromous salmonid resources and fisheries, and prepared an integrated overall
plan for the study area. This established an initial template from which to pursue fish habitat
enhancement projects (CTUIR, 1984). In 1996 project areas on private lands were re-prioritized
based on several factors, including: 1) review of work completed in the basin; 2) review of more
recent watershed assessments such as those produced through the Grande Ronde Model
Watershed Program or local watershed groups; 3) and continual input from local district fisheries
and research biologists. Upon direction of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, the
Grande Ronde Subbasin Plan and supplements were written in 2004 to provide guidance for
identifying and prioritizing future projects (NPCC, 2004; Appendix 1).
Historically the Joseph Creek subbasin has been an excellent producer of summer steelhead, and
continues to be managed as a wild fishery. Wild summer steelhead spawning ground counts on
ODFW index streams began in the 1960's ("index" stream reaches represent the longest
continuous data sets on record). Joseph Creek subbasin steelhead counts are illustrated because
they consist solely of wild fish and might be considered to be representative of other wild runs in
the Grande Ronde Basin. Redds/mile in this subbasin from 1970 through 1984 indicated severe
reductions of returning spawning adults (Figure 1). This downward trend showed signs of
improvement from 1985 to 1989 when counts ranged from 8-11 redds/mile. Counts have
fluctuated at lower levels since then, averaging 3.9 redds/mile over the last 19 years.
Adult summer steelhead returns over Lower Granite Dam (which includes all wild and hatchery
stocks entering Oregon and Idaho) have fluctuated a great deal but showed substantial
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McGowan, Vance R. & Morton, Winston H. Grand Ronde Basin Fish Habitat Enhancement Project, 2008 Annual Report., report, July 1, 2009; Portland, Oregon. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc927756/m1/5/: accessed May 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.