Main content area

Establishing and using study criteria to ensure the rigor and robustness of survival compliance testing at hydroelectric dams

Skalski, John R., Weiland, Mark A., Ploskey, Gene R., Woodley, Christa M., Eppard, M. Brad, Johnson, Gary E., Carlson, Thomas J., Townsend, Richard L.
Environment systems & decisions 2016 v.36 no.4 pp. 404-420
Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, compliance, fish, juveniles, managers, mixing, model validation, spring, stream flow, summer, yearlings, Columbia River, Northwestern United States
An elaborate set of criteria have been developed by fish managers and regulators to assure the accuracy, precision, representativeness, and robustness of survival compliance studies coordinated within the Federal Columbia River Power System in the northwestern USA. Dam passage survival, defined as survival from the dam face to the tailrace mixing zone, must be ≥96 % for spring out migrating juvenile salmonids [i.e., yearling Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and steelhead (O. mykiss)] and ≥93 % for summer outmigrants (i.e., subyearling Chinook salmon). Survival must be estimated with a standard error ≤1.5 %. However, these quantitative benchmarks are only part of a multifaceted set of criteria, including representative dam operations, river discharge levels, and fish selection, along with tests of model validity that must be satisfied. These criteria are illustrated using acoustic-tag survival compliance studies conducted at The Dalles Dam on the Columbia River, 2010–2012. The results suggest evaluation criteria for survival compliance tests must balance the needs for rigor and robustness with the ability to reasonably perform the tests in naturally varying riverine systems.