The development of a temperature and dissolved oxygen water quality model to inform water management options to benefit Yakima River salmon migration.

Project ID: 22045
Principal Investigator: Kristin Mikkelson
Research Topic: Water Operation Models and Decision Support Systems
Funded Fiscal Years: 2022, 2023 and 2024
Keywords: None

Research Question

The Yakima River Basin is located entirely in the state of Washington and drains an area of approximately 6,155 square miles. Within this heavily irrigated basin lies the Yakima River, which flows 214 miles from the outlet of Keechelus Lake in the Cascades, to its mouth downstream from Horn Rapids Diversion Dam near Richland. The river then joins the Columbia River which flows west into the ocean. The Yakima River Basin is divided up into three subbasins: (1) upper Yakima Basin, (2) lower Yakima Basin, and (3) Naches River Basin. The upper Yakima Basin contains three Reclamation reservoirs that reside in the steeper headwaters of the basin before releases flow down into the lower, flatter elevations. The Naches River Basin contains two storage reservoirs and is a large contributor of streamflow to the Yakima with steeper, more mountainous reaches than the other two basins. The lower Yakima River Basin is separated from the upper Basin by a natural break in Ahtanum Ridge called Union Gap and is dominated by irrigated agriculture while containing more urban areas than the other two basins.

Historically, salmon migrated from the ocean up the Columbia River and into the Yakima River to spawn; however, with the construction of multiple dams along the Yakima, altered instream flows, and reduced instream and floodplain habitat, salmon populations have been substantially diminished or extirpated in the Yakima Basin over the past 100 years.

Not only have agriculture and urban areas impacted salmonid habitats but projected climate change in the Yakima River Basin is anticipated to affect river temperatures and thus fish habitat.

To this end, the main objective and research question of this proposal is:
* How can different water management techniques be used to enhance salmonid migration and survival in the lower Yakima River when weather and flow conditions create migration barriers?

Need and Benefit

This proposal directly addresses the SSIP need described above. The main objective of this proposal it to develop a water management tool that can inform reservoir releases and diversions within the Yakima River Basin to help eliminate migration barriers for anadromous salmon. This tool will be developed through the integration of multiple river water quality models and a basin-wide operations model, which is also a SSIP need.

Contributing Partners

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Research Products

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Last Updated: 6/22/20