Our Work

Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project – Fish Distribution

Fish Distribution and Abundance Study

The Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) required fisheries consulting services to support its application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the proposed Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project on the Susitna River in Southcentral, Alaska. A fish distribution and abundance (FDA) baseline study covering this extensive complex river system and a wide range of fish species was required to support the application.

Kleinschmidt scientists developed and implemented the baseline FDA study, which included mapping and quantifying the relative importance of habitat types for all aquatic species throughout the complex Susitna waterscape. Our fisheries ecologists documented fish distributions, fish-habitat associations, and current and future barriers to fish movement. Our statisticians designed sampling and analysis of catch per unit effort data from multiple gear types in vastly different habitats.

The full suite of studies led by Kleinschmidt included estimating downstream migration with rotary screw traps, biotelemetry of resident and anadromous fish with PIT tag arrays, winter studies of fish populations and the winter incubation environment, macroinvertebrate community structure and function, and isotopic tracing of food sources for fish.

The Kleinschmidt team designed a statistically robust sampling plan and organized and trained a large field crew to conduct multiple annual surveys in diverse, remote terrain. Our comprehensive distribution and relative abundance analysis supported the license application by prioritizing diverse habitats based on combined species groups with similar ecological niches.