News Release Archive

Tenaway River Salmon Restoration Project Shows Remarkable Results as Fish Counts Increase

Media Contact: John Redding, (208) 378-5212
Jim Esget, (509) 575-5848 x267

For Release: January 06, 2003

Fish that once thrived in a stretch of the Teanaway River appear to be making a comeback thanks to a seven-year conservation effort led by the Bureau of Reclamation and several regional partners.

The Teanaway River Restoration Project was initiated in 1996 to find solutions that would enhance flows in a section of river that was routinely dewatered during summer low flow conditions as a result of irrigation diversions.

Natural runoff declines during summer and fall, coupled with the peak demand for irrigation in mid to late summer, often dewatered sections of the Teanaway River, which caused a barrier to migration, spawning, and rearing of anadromous fish.

An additional consideration was the fish hatchery program at the Jack Creek Acclimation Facility operated by the Yakama Nation on the North Fork Teanaway River. In order for the hatchery smolt supplementation program to be successful, flows must be adequate to provide passage and to support adult fish returning to spawn.

"The acclimation site allows juvenile salmon to rear and imprint to an area with quality spawning habitat," said Alan Scherzinger, Assistant Manager of Reclamations Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project. "The dramatic increase in the number of redds in 2002 is a result of providing adequate flows and supplementing wild spring chinook salmon production with hatchery smolts."

The adults that returned and spawned in the North Fork Teanaway in 2002 were acclimated and released at the Jack Creek facility in the spring of 2000 - a normal water year that provided good smolt migration flows to the ocean.

"Reclamation worked with the water rights holders and received temporary transfers of the water rights from irrigation use to instream flow water rights," said Jim Esget, Reclamation YRBWEP Manager.


1981 - counting of salmon redds started in the Teanaway River Basin. In the 19 years after biologists started counting redds (1981 through 1999), very few spring chinook salmon were able to successfully access their spawning grounds in the Teanaway River Basin.

1989 - the highest redd count in this 19-year period was 6 redds; no redds were observed, in 13 of those years.

Increased instream flows and the removal of fish passage barriers as a result of the Teanaway River Restoration Project have resulted in increasing numbers of redds.

In 2000 and 2001, there were 21 redds observed each year.

In 2002 there were 110 redds observed in the river.

From 1996 - 2001:

Reclamation increased instream flows by leasing irrigation water rights on the Teanaway River. Farm lands associated with these water leases were temporarily allowed to go dry.

Reclamation leased irrigation water rights to provide a temporary, but immediate increase of instream flows.

Work continued with the partners, local landowners, and those holding irrigation water rights in order to find more permanent solutions.

As the lead agency for the Teanaway River Restoration Project, Reclamation partnered with the Yakama Nation, Bonneville Power Administration, Northwest Power Planning Council, State of Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, Washington State Department of Ecology, State of Washington Governor's Salmon Recovery Funding Program, local land owners and irrigation water right users, Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy, and others.

"This partnership found creative solutions to restoring fish to their native habitat," Scherzinger said. "Over the last seven years we were able to work toward building trust among the partners, while improving the quantity and quality of water and gaining a better understanding of the ecological and biological needs of anadromous fish."

The Yakama Nation received BPA funding, under a Northwest Power Planning Council grant, to construct pumping plants and pressurized irrigation water delivery systems for three irrigation entities in the Teanaway River basin, which were constructed by Reclamation in the summer of 2000. This water conservation project replaced inefficient, 19th century gravity-flow ditch irrigation systems with highly efficient, pressurized piped irrigation systems, allowing more water to be left instream for the fish.

The three participating irrigation entities have a total of almost 650 acres of land and over 4,130 acre-feet of associated water rights, representing approximately half of the irrigated lands in the Teanaway Basin.

All of the original diversion points were moved down river approximately 2.5 to 3 miles, thus increasing instream flows in the part of the river that has historically been dewatered by these irrigation diversions by the full amount formerly diverted into the gravity-flow ditches.

"The local land and water right owners now have state-of-the-art irrigation systems that replace antiquated earthen ditch water distribution systems," said Esget. "Their new water conservation systems will allow them to have a more reliable supply of irrigation water."

Another BPA and Northwest Power Planning Council grant is funding an extensive monitoring program in the Teanaway River Basin, which includes a multi-year study of stream temperature and sediment levels. The grant also funds additional irrigation upgrades to leave more water instream for fish.

The Washington Department of Ecology will fund further studies, more riparian revegetation and bank stabilization work. An EPA grant will fund informational road signs in the Teanaway basin to promote protection of riparian areas.

Reclamation secured congressional authorization in 1994 to work on this effort under the auspices of the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project, Phase II Restoration of anadromous fish in the Yakima River and its tributaries is a primary objective of YRBWEP.

# # #

Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, and the nation's second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR.