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Brief Assessment of Salmonids and Stream Habitat Conditions in Snake River Tributaries of Whitman County, Washington: July 2003-June 2004

Category: Fish/Shellfish Research and Management - Fish/Shellfish Research

Date Published: July 2004

Number of Pages: 34

Author(s): Glen Mendel, Jeremy Trump, and Mike Gembala


Concerns about the decline of native salmon and trout populations have increased among natural resource managers and the public in recent years. As a result, a multitude of initiatives have been implemented at the local, state, and federal government levels. These initiatives include management plans and actions intended to protect and restore salmonid fishes and their habitats.

In 1997, Snake River summer steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) were listed as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This and other ESA listings have emphasized the need for information about threatened salmonid populations and their habitats.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is entrusted with “the preservation, protection, and perpetuation of fish and wildlife....[and to] maximize public recreational or commercial opportunities without impairing the supply of fish and wildlife (WAC 77.12.010).” In consideration of this mandate, the WDFW submitted a proposal to the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board to assess salmonid distribution and habitat conditions in some small Snake River tributaries in Southeast Washington.

From July of 2003 to June of 2004, the WDFW Fish Management office in Dayton, WA, continued a monitoring project to investigate fish populations and habitat in two Snake River tributaries (Penawawa and Alkali Flat Creeks) in Whitman county (Figure 1), in cooperation with the Whitman Conservation District. This project was to continue the monitoring efforts that began in 2001 and extended through June of 2003 (Mendel et al, 2004), and followed the same methods reported in that study. The objectives of this project were to perform baseline monitoring of salmonid populations and their habitats by

1) monitoring water temperature and stream discharge throughout the spring, summer and fall (Figure 2 and 3),

2) conducting spawning surveys to determine spawn timing, distribution and relative abundance, and

3) conducting electrofishing surveys to determine relative abundance and distribution of juvenile steelhead or resident redband trout (Figures 4 and 5). We also collected some genetic samples from steelhead in these streams.

Information collected during this project will be useful to government agencies and land managers as future decisions are made regarding fish management, land use, and habitat restoration within Whitman county. Landowners and managers may also benefit from increased access to grants because of the documented presence of steelhead and an assessment of habitat conditions.