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22 April 2020 Salmonid Habitat and Population Capacity Estimates for Steelhead Trout and Chinook Salmon Upstream of Scott Dam in the Eel River, California
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Abstract

Estimating salmonid habitat capacity upstream of a barrier can inform priorities for fisheries conservation. Scott Dam in California's Eel River is an impassable barrier for anadromous salmonids. With Federal dam relicensing underway, we demonstrated recolonization potential for upper Eel River salmonid populations by estimating the potential distribution (stream-km) and habitat capacity (numbers of parr and adults) for winter steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and fall Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) upstream of Scott Dam. Removal of Scott Dam would support salmonid recovery by increasing salmonid habitat stream-kms from 2 to 465 stream-km for steelhead trout and 920 to 1,071 stream-km for Chinook salmon in the upper mainstem Eel River population boundaries, whose downstream extents begin near Scott Dam and the confluence of South Fork Eel River, respectively. Upstream of Scott Dam, estimated steelhead trout habitat included up to 463 stream-kms for spawning and 291 stream-kms for summer rearing; estimated Chinook salmon habitat included up to 151 stream-kms for both spawning and rearing. The number of returning adult estimates based on historical count data (1938 to 1975) from the South Fork Eel River produced wide ranges for steelhead trout (3,241 to 26,391) and Chinook salmon (1,057 to 10,117). An approach that first estimated juvenile habitat capacity and then used subsequent life stage survival rates yielded 1,281 (CV 56%) steelhead trout and 4,593 (CV 34%) Chinook salmon returning adults. Variability in estimated fish numbers reflects application of densities and survival rates from other populations, assumptions about salmonid productivity in response to potential spawning habitat capacity, residency and outmigration of early life-stages, summertime water quality conditions, and inter-annual hydrograph, marine, and population variability.

© 2020 by the Northwest Scientific Association. All rights reserved.
Emily J. Cooper, Alison P. O'Dowd, James J. Graham, Darren W. Mierau, William J. Trush, and Ross Taylor "Salmonid Habitat and Population Capacity Estimates for Steelhead Trout and Chinook Salmon Upstream of Scott Dam in the Eel River, California," Northwest Science 94(1), 70-96, (22 April 2020). https://doi.org/10.3955/046.094.0106
Received: 9 April 2019; Accepted: 23 November 2019; Published: 22 April 2020
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