Research Article

Conservation Genetics

, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 1255-1267

First online:

The impact of small irrigation diversion dams on the recent migration rates of steelhead and redband trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

  • Dana E. WeigelAffiliated withSnake River Area Office, Bureau of Reclamation Email author 
  • , Patrick J. ConnollyAffiliated withColumbia River Research Laboratory, Western Fisheries Research Center, U. S. Geological Survey
  • , Madison S. PowellAffiliated withAquaculture Research Institute, University of Idaho

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Barriers to migration are numerous in stream environments and can occur from anthropogenic activities (such as dams and culverts) or natural processes (such as log jams or dams constructed by beaver (Castor canadensis)). Identification of barriers can be difficult when obstructions are temporary or incomplete providing passage periodically. We examine the effect of several small irrigation diversion dams on the recent migration rates of steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in three tributaries to the Methow River, Washington. The three basins had different recent migration patterns: Beaver Creek did not have any recent migration between sites, Libby Creek had two-way migration between sites and Gold Creek had downstream migration between sites. Sites with migration were significantly different from sites without migration in distance, number of obstructions, obstruction height to depth ratio and maximum stream gradient. When comparing the sites without migration in Beaver Creek to the sites with migration in Libby and Gold creeks, the number of obstructions was the only significant variable. Multinomial logistic regression identified obstruction height to depth ratio and maximum stream gradient as the best fitting model to predict the level of migration among sites. Small irrigation diversion dams were limiting population interactions in Beaver Creek and collectively blocking steelhead migration into the stream. Variables related to stream resistance (gradient, obstruction number and obstruction height to depth ratio) were better predictors of recent migration rates than distance, and can provide important insight into migration and population demographic processes in lotic species.


Migration Isolation by resistance Isolation by distance Landscape genetics Steelhead