How real-time data helps the Nisqually Tribe protect salmon

By closely monitoring river temperatures during a hot summer, the Nisqually Tribe has been able to make quick decisions to protect fish health.

The tribe has deployed six temperature monitors throughout the watershed. “Tribal staff regularly download data from the monitors to give tribal and state co-managers a clear picture of temperature conditions,” said David Troutt, natural resources manager for the tribe.

If a stream’s water gets too warm, juvenile salmon have to expend more energy to survive, which can often lead to starvation. Diseases that kill salmon are also more virulent and spread easily in warm water.

Low snowpack in the upper watershed coupled with a warm, dry summer has meant low flows and high temperatures in the Nisqually.

“Even as Tacoma Power lets more water through their reservoir in the upper watershed to help, we’re facing lower water and warming stream banks,” Troutt said. “These worsening conditions mean that near real-time data is important, to give us the ability to make quick decisions to protect fish.”

For example, the tribe recently closed down a weir to allow free migration of salmon through the warmer sections of the river. The tribe has been operating the weir since 2011 to separate hatchery-produced chinook salmon from naturally spawning fish migrating upriver.

“The long-term goal of creating a self-sustaining population of chinook has to take a back seat to the deteriorating conditions we’re seeing on the river,” Troutt said. “We can only hope that these changes we’re making can prevent a salmon disaster on the Nisqually this summer.”

The tribe has also worked with the city of Centralia, which has shut down hydroelectric operations on the river. The city operates a diversion dam, so shutting down power production this summer allows more water to reach a vital stretch of river for chinook.

2 thoughts on “How real-time data helps the Nisqually Tribe protect salmon

  1. Humbly, I ask ?

    Isn’t it about time the photographer capture our tribal member staff engaged in the scientific tasks that are presently and prominently non Native ?
    How do we promote and encourage our youth and young adults to be more present in the science and management of our Treaty Rights / Natural Resources if our members are not provided recognizable figures as they read this and other publications?

    Just sayin…

    1. I live in Olympia and lately have notcied several anomalies about the low temps reported by the Oly airport (KOLM). I’m a crazy plant collector and have about 4000 ornamentals in the yard, so I’m keenly aware of the weather, wet and dry, cold and hot. I deployed a couple of remote temp sensors outdoors. One is located about 18″ from the ground on the north side of an old apple tree. Up until a few days ago, my apple tree low tracked KOLM’s low very consistently, reading about 5F higher. (I’m not on the prairie but on a low ridge above Budd Inlet, less than a mile from downtown.)However, on the morning of Friday the 25th, my overnight low showed 19F, while the airport’s was reported as 5F. The 5F looks like an anomaly, because their timestamped lowest temps show 9F at 6:03, 8F at 6:54, and 9F at 7:41.Also, at 11:54PM the previous (24th) night, KOLM reports a fall of 15F in about 2.5 hours (from 27F to 12F)–that’s pretty unusual for that station. As if a mirror image of that slide, KOLM reported a rise of 15F from 6:54AM to 9:43AM.As for the most recent readings, this morning they reported a low of 8F around 4AM; my apple tree low was 17F. — G

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