We analyzed and compared productivity and survival rates of populations of stream-type Chinook Salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha from the upper and middle ranges of their distribution in the Columbia River basin. These two groups of populations undergo vastly different exposures during migration through the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS). Declines of the Snake River populations, listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species
Act, have been associated with the development and operation of the FCRPS. In contrast, John Day River streamtype Chinook Salmon populations, which were less affected by the FCRPS, have declined to a lesser extent and are not listed. Smolt-to-adult survival rates (SARs) accounted for a majority of the variation in life cycle survival rates of Snake River Chinook Salmon. Productivity declined to 13% and 44% of historical productivity levels for Snake River
and John Day River populations, respectively. A synthesis of previous studies contrasting anthropogenic impacts between the two regions supports the conclusion that FCRPS impacts explain the large difference in population productivity. Our results suggest that SARs of 4% would result in an expected productivity of up to 70% of historical levels (a SAR level consistent with regional restoration objectives). The SARs have been shown to be highly influenced by conditions within the FCRPS (e.g., water velocity and passage through dam powerhouses). Marine conditions also influence SARs; however, meaningful management actions are only available to affect conditions within the FCRPS. Given the importance of SARs to overall life cycle productivity, recovery and restoration strategies need to prioritize actions that have potential to substantially increase SARs by addressing the significant impacts of main-stem dams. This study highlights the importance of considering river management options in the face of increasingly variable and warming ocean conditions.