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News Releases from Region 10

Newly released EPA plan will aid salmon survival in the Columbia River

EPA: study delivers important data supporting federal, state and tribal salmon saving efforts

Contact Information: 
Mark MacIntyre (

Seattle - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s northwest regional office released  the Columbia River Cold Water Refuges Plan, outlining the critical role that zones of cooler water play in salmon survival as the iconic fish make their way back to their spawning grounds.  These zones, called cold water refuges, occur where cool tributaries enter the Columbia River.  According to agency officials, the report provides  information for federal, state, tribal and local watershed managers to consider as they implement actions to support  healthier salmon populations in the face of challenging  river temperatures.  

By issuing this plan, EPA is meeting its responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act, associated with the Reasonable Prudent Alternative identified in the 2015 Biological Opinion issued by the National Marine fisheries Service.  Recognizing that successful plan implementation will only occur through strong partnership, EPA worked closely with the States of Oregon and Washington, NMFS, tribes, and others to develop the plan. 

Among the key findings of the “Cold Water Refuges Plan”:

  • EPA identified 23 cold water refuges in the Lower Columbia River. Twelve of these are primary refuges and make up 98% of the total volume of available refuge.
  • Adult steelhead and fall Chinook salmon use refuges the most because they migrate when Columbia River temperatures are warmest.
  • In an average year, up to 65,000 steelhead and 5,000 fall Chinook occupy  eight refuges between the Bonne­ville Dam and The Dalles Dam during the end of August.
  • EPA recommends restoration of other tributaries to create more cold-water refuges in light of predicted continued Lower Columbia River warming.
  • EPA concludes that by maintaining the 12 primary cold-water refuges and increasing the amount of refuge provided by the Umatilla River, Oregon’s cold-water refuge criteria in its state Water Quality Standards can be met.

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For more details from the report, visit: