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Environmental Variables: Water transit time, spill proportion, and water temperature

Environmental Variables: Water transit time, spill proportion, and water temperature

Predictor variables of in-river survival were considered that are related to how flow or velocity may affect the survival of smolts migrating in-river through the hydro system in specific reaches of the Snake and Columbia rivers. The final set of predictor variables included a water velocity related variable, a spill related variable, and river temperature.

Water Transit Time

Previous analyses suggested that changes in flow produced changes in water velocity, which determined how quickly smolts migrated through the hydrosystem. The actual flow regime experienced by a group of migrating juvenile fish is difficult to quantify. Past analyses have used an index of flow through a specific reach for a period of time around the median passage dates of the migration or an average flow over the entire passage period. Because of the discrete relation between flow and water transit time (WTT) (also known as water particle travel time) and the implication of velocity as the important determining factor, the flow variable was quantified as the summation of water transit times for each reservoir incorporated in a reach (Figures 1 and 2 showing relation between WTT and average flow in the Snake River and McNary Dam reservoir).

The water transit time is the estimated amount of time required for a water particle to travel the fixed distance from the start of the reach to the end of the reach (WTT = distance / average water velocity). This fixed distance was 140 miles for the Snake River reach from Lower Granite Dam tailrace to McNary Dam tailrace and 161 miles for the Mid-Columbia River reach from Rock Island Dam tailrace to McNary Dam tailrace. The median travel time was estimated to each down stream project for each weekly block. The mid-date of release from LGR was used and to it was added median travel time for the release group to the downstream project. For each day, WTT is computed by dividing each reservoir volume by its corresponding daily average flow to determine the water particle transit time for that day. Reservoir volumes are obtained using COE tables and current reservoir elevations. For each reservoir, an average WTT is computed over a 7-day window of WTT’s around the date of median passage of the fish of interest at the

reservoir’s downstream dam. These average WTT are then summed over the number of reservoirs in the reach of interest. The dates of median fish passage at each dam are obtained from PIT tagged smolts released from or passing during weekly blocks of time at Lower Granite Dam. This process is repeated for each weekly release group of PIT tagged smolts at Lower Granite Dam. Each weekly (7-day) release, starting April 1 for yearling chinook and April 17 for steelhead, was numbered sequentially from first through last week for each year to create a variable for week of entry into the reach.

Spill Proportion

For each reservoir and dam segment of the reach, survival may be viewed as the product of two components, a reservoir survival component and a dam passage component. In the dam passage component, survival may be viewed as the weighted average survival across each passage route, such as spillway route, turbine route, and bypass channel route (if present), where the weight is equal to the population of smolts using each route. Because the spill passage route has been shown to be the safest route of passage (except during periods of excessively high flows when gas may be a problem), increases in the amount of spill and numbers of fish passing through that route will have a direct effect on the reach survival estimate. Therefore, it is essential to include a spill related variable in all multiple regression models, otherwise the effect of spill will be confounded within the parameter estimates of the other variables in the model (i.e., a case of model misspecification). The variable representing spill at Little Goose, Lower Monumental, Ice Harbor, and McNary between April and June of 1998 and 2002 was the percentage of daily spill to total discharge. It was calculated using daily average spill and daily average total discharge at each project. Each daily percent Spill/Total Discharge was averaged over a seven-day passage window (centered around the median passage date) for each species and project. The average spill proportion is denoted as SPILLPROP in the subsequent text and tables.