Mid-Columbia River Fishery Resource Office
Pacific Region
 

About Us

Office History

Work Focus of MCRFRO

Where MCRFRO Works

Fish Populations

 

Office History

What is now the Mid-Columbia River Fishery Resource Office was established in 1974 under the authority of the Mitchell Act and the Anadromous Fish Conservation Act as the Fishery Assistance Office - Coulee Dam. The office provided technical fisheries assistance to the 1.3 million acre Colville Indian Reservation and to the Spokane Tribe. In 1976 the Colville Tribe hired their own fisheries biologists. In 1978 the Service office was moved to the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery in Leavenworth, Washington and was renamed the Fishery Assistance Office – Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. The office assumed responsibility for evaluating hatchery fish production at the three hatcheries in the Leavenworth NFH Complex (Leavenworth, Entiat, and Winthrop National Fish Hatcheries). In addition the office conducted field studies and prepared several reports summarizing production and status of several salmon species in the mid-Columbia River area and factors affecting their abundance. In 1990 the station was renamed the Mid-Columbia River Fishery Resource Office (MCRFRO) to better reflect the expansion of the fisheries program in eastern Washington. In 1998 a suboffice was established in Yakima, Washington to coordinate activities related to flow issues and tribal trust responsibilities in the Yakima River Basin. In 2001 the office moved to larger facilities on the southeast grounds of the hatchery. In 2010 the Mid-Columbia River Fishery Resource Office was realigned to be part of the Leavenworth Fisheries Complex. The Complex also includes the Leavenworth, Entiat, and Winthrop National Fish Hatcheries. The scope of work of MCRFRO continues to evolve in response to declines in populations of native fish species, changes in roles and responsibilities, and changes in funding.

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Work Focus of MCRFRO

The MCRFRO provides a regional focus for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service's mission to work with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish and wildlife, and their habitats to the continuing benefit of the American people. The USFWS Pacific Region Fisheries Program includes a variety of facilities that fulfill a variety of roles.

The MCRFRO provides technical fisheries assistance and cooperates with other Service programs, agencies, tribes, and entities using and managing aquatic species and their habitats in the mid- and upper-Columbia River Basin.

Work of MCRFRO focuses on:

  • Assist in the collection, evaluation, coordination, and dissemination of fisheries information to help restore declining fish species, recover species listed under the Endangered Species Act, preclude the need for future listings of new species, and provide science-based management of aquatic resources.
  • Provide long-term monitoring, evaluation and technical support to assess the status of fish populations.
  • Determine the survival, contribution, and impacts of hatchery fish on wild populations. MCRFRO evaluates three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mitigation hatcheries located at Winthrop, Entiat, and Leavenworth, Washington that release spring Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), steelhead (O. mykiss), and coho salmon (O. kisutch).
  • Provide technical assistance to agencies that have authority to set fish management regulations and to many land owners (e.g., federal, state, tribal, and private) to prevent the loss of, damage to, and best management practices for the long-term benefit of fish and their habitats.
  • Promote interagency coordination by serving on technical and policy level workgroups (committees, councils, commissions, etc.) in the areas of hydro systems, harvest, hatchery, and habitat management.

The following acts of congress have helped form MCRFROs programs and roles:

  • Mitchell Act
  • Anadromous Fish Conservation Act
  • Federal Power Act
  • Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956
  • Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act
  • Belloni Decision
  • U.S. vs Oregon
  • Salmon and Steelhead Conservation and Enhancement Act
  • Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project
  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
  • Endangered Species Act (ESA)
  • ESA listing of spring Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout.  

The following are funding sources for various MCRFRO programs and projects:

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Partners for Fish and Wildlife
  • Fisheries Restoration and Irrigation Mitigation Program
  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
  • Bonneville Power Administration

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Where MCRFRO Works

MCRFRO primarily works in the Columbia River Basin from the Yakima River Basin in the south to the Canadian border. Major watersheds that the office works in include:  Yakima, Wenatchee, Entiat, Methow, and Okanogan basins. This region extends to Grand Coulee Dam, the upper limit of anadromy. Since it is the upper limit of anadromy some refer to the area as the upper Columbia River region, but to reflect the entire basin it is typically referred to as the mid-Columbia River region. map of Washington state highlighting mid-Columbia

Mainstem Columbia River
The area of office activities includes more than 210 miles of the mainstem Columbia River from the mouth of the Yakima River to the current extent of anadromous fish distribution at the base of Chief Joseph Dam. This part of the Columbia River contains five major Columbia River dams operated by public utility districts in Grant, Chelan and Douglas counties, all of which have fish passage facilities and anadromous fish mitigation programs. These five dams (Priest Rapids, Wanapum, Rock Island, Rocky Reach and Wells) together generate about 10% of all the hydropower in the United States. The proportion of hydropower production is significantly increased if the generation at federally owned Chief Joseph and the nearby Grand Coulee Dam is added to the total.

Tributaries
The major tributaries in the area include the Yakima, Wenatchee, Entiat, Chelan, Methow, and Okanogan river basins. These tributaries drain the east slope of the Cascade Mountain Range, totaling more than 12,000 square miles in the US and another 5,700 square miles in Canada. In addition to these basins other smaller drainages exist, some of which contain salmonids. One such tributary, Crab Creek, is the longest “creek” in the United States draining a watershed of more than 4,800 square miles of shrub steppe and crop lands. Two major glacial formed lakes lie within the mid-Columbia River basin: Lake Chelan (33,104 acres, 1,605 ft deep) and Lake Wenatchee (2,445 acre, 300 ft deep).

Basin Description
In this area the Columbia River forms the boundary between the North Cascade Mountains to the west and the Columbia Plateau to the east. Vegetation and physiography contrast greatly along the elevational and climatic gradients from west to east. Peaks along the North Cascades vary from 5,000 ft to over 10,000 ft. The Columbia Plateau rises to 2,500 ft and is dry with only a few minor streams. Precipitation varies from over 120 inches along the Cascade crest to less than 8 inches in the desert conditions on the breaks of the Columbia River. Snowmelt is the principal source of water, and several glaciers are still present. The high mountains are forested whereas desert conditions prevail in the eastern areas among the grass and shrub covered foothills. Irrigation has transformed much of the eastern area into agricultural areas producing fruit, hops, and wheat. 

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Fish Populations

The mid-Columbia River tributary streams contain a diversity of fish species. The MCRFRO work has focused on three Endangered Species Act listed species as well as some of the native fish species of concern. If you would like to learn more about some of the fish, click on the names that are linked to other web sites.

The Columbia River tributaries in this area contain three Endangered Species Act listed fish:

  • bull trout
  • summer steelhead
  • spring Chinook salmon

Other Pacific salmon in the area include

  • summer Chinook salmon
  • fall Chinook salmon
  • sockeye salmon
  • coho salmon (re-introduced)

Some of the native fish species of concern in this area are

Several native cyprinids, catastomids, and cottid species are also present.

Table A2. Introduced and native fish species found in the mid-Columbia River tributaries.


Common name

Scientific name

Native or introduced

bull trout

Salvelinus confluentus

native

spring Chinook salmon

Oncorhynchus tshawytscha

native

summer Chinook salmon

O. tshawytscha

native

sockeye salmon

O. nerka

native

kokanee salmon

O. nerka

native

coho salmon

O. kisutch

recently reintroduced

steelhead

O. mykiss

native

redband rainbow trout

O. mykiss

native

coastal rainbow trout

O. mykiss

introduced

westslope cutthroat trout

O. clarki lewisi

native

eastern brook trout

S. fontinalis

introduced

mountain whitefish

Prosopioum williamsoni

native

northern pikeminnow

Ptychocheilus oregonensis

native

largescale sucker

Catastomus macrocheilus

native

bridgelip sucker

C. columbianus

native

longnose dace

Rhinichthys cataractae

native

speckled dace

R. osculus

native

redside shiner

Richardsonius balteatus

native

sculpin spp.

Cottus spp.

native

carp

Cyprinus carpio

introduced

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Last updated: June 12, 2012
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