Effectiveness of the nature-like fishway at Huntley Diversion Dam, Yellowstone River, Montana
Anderson, Ian Richard
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We evaluated passage of a diverse fish assemblage through the nature-like fishway built around Huntley Diversion Dam, the uppermost of six low-head diversion dams on the Yellowstone River in Montana. Although nature-like fishways purportedly facilitate the passage of many species, relatively few have been evaluated, particularly on large rivers with unregulated discharge regimes. We examined seasonal and diel use of the Huntley fishway, quantified efficiencies and temporal metrics, and determined which factors influenced attraction and passage. We implanted > 3,500 fish of 14 species with passive integrated transponder tags, released most fish 250 m downstream of the fishway, and used stationary antennas to monitor movements of fish through the fishway in 2019 and 2020. Seasonal use of the fishway was generally associated with pre-spawning movements and occurred from April to August annually, and diel use reflected the known biology of each species. Attraction efficiencies were apparently low (usually < 50%), probably because of low motivation or the inability of fish to locate the entrance. Suckers released on opposite riverbanks downstream of the fishway were similarly successful at locating the entrance. Entrance efficiencies were usually > 90%. Both transit and passage efficiencies were usually > 60%, but fewer individuals (particularly among certain species) successfully passed than were able to transit to near the fishway exit. High river discharges were associated with decreased passage success and increased exit delays, probably because of problematic hydraulic conditions near the exit. Conditions throughout the rest of the fishway were appropriate, as most fish transited to near the exit in < 1 h regardless of discharge. Fourteen species passed upstream, demonstrating the functionality of nature-like fishways on large, unregulated rivers. However, the placement of such fishways must be thoughtfully considered to ensure that they remain effective over a wide range of environmental conditions.