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Columbia River

Draft Columbia River Cold Water Refuges Plan

Note: In October 2019, EPA issued its draft Columbia River Cold Water Refuges Plan (see "Documents" below) and solicited feedback from a broad group of organizations and individuals. We received 18 comment letters in 2019, and we're now in the process of finalizing the plan.

The Columbia River Temperature TMDL issued by EPA on May 18, 2020, includes temperature targets for 12 cold water refuges and references the draft Columbia River Cold Water Refuges Plan as the scientific basis for the targets. As part of the public review of the TMDL, the public has the opportunity to comment on Section 5.0 and Section 6.5.6 of the TMDL that addresses cold water refuges. We recognize that comments on these sections of the TMDL may relate to the draft Cold Water Refuge Plan, particularly chapters 1-6. Therefore, we will review public comments on the TMDL prior to finalizing the Cold Water Refuges Plan.

For questions, contact John Palmer (, 206-553-6521.

Plan Summary

The Columbia River Cold Water Refuges Plan is a scientific document with recommendations to protect and restore cold water refuges. By issuing this plan, EPA is meeting its responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act associated with its approval of Oregon’s temperature standards for the Columbia River. The plan:

  • Characterizes Columbia River water temperatures.
  • Identifies the location and size of each cold water refuge in the Lower Columbia River.
  • Quantifies the extent to which salmon and steelhead use the refuges.
  • Summarizes the effects of warm river temperatures on migrating salmon and steelhead.
  • Evaluates Columbia River temperature trends.
  • Assesses whether the amount of existing refuge is sufficient to support migrating adult salmon and steelhead.
  • Provides snapshots of each of the watersheds supporting the refuges.
  • Outlines strategies to restore, enhance, and protect refuges for the future.

For more information about this project, visit Columbia River Cold Water Refuges.


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