Changes to salmon habitat have a profound impact on the likelihood of successful spawning, foraging, and avoidance of predators. Fish-bearing streams wind through both publicly- and privately-owned lands. The type of land uses upstream from and adjacent to a stream can significantly affect the quality of its fish habitat. In some cases the current use of the land may help protect existing habitat conditions, but the habitat may still be degraded due to a legacy of historic practices. Active intervention as well as time are needed to give the habitat time to recover.
Historically, salmon fisheries have been a linchpin of the Northwest economy and culture. The past few decades have seen a decline in the numbers of fish and a corresponding decrease in fish catches. The salmon co-managers determine how many fish can be harvested each year, as well as where and when that harvest will occur. As established by the court case U.S. v. Washington, half of the harvestable amount of fish goes to the treaty Indian tribes, and the other half to the state of Washington. Fishery managers are trying a variety of methods to conserve fish stocks.
The purpose of some salmon hatcheries is to produce fish for harvest. Other hatcheries operate with the goal of helping to recovery wild fish populations, using local brood stock and deliberately releasing the hatchery fish into local streams and rivers to speed up the recovery of a wild spawning population. Still others try to achieve both of these purposes. Salmon raised in hatcheries often differ from wild salmon in their genetics and behavior. Various hatchery reforms are underway including the development of hatchery and genetic management plans to guide hatchery operations and prevent negative impacts to ESA listed salmon species.
A hydroelectric facility can disrupt properly functioning fish habitat by altering the stream's natural flow regime, impair water quality, and/or damage or destroy riparian vegetation. There are different types of hydroelectric facilities including "run-of-the-river" designs that take advantage of natural elevation drop by diverting water into a pipeline that runs downhill to increase the vertical distance that the water falls, which in turn increases the amount of power generated, and "high-head" facilities that use a dam and reservoir to create an artifical change in a river's elevation.