For the first time in more than 50 years, wild coho are moving into the upper reaches of Cedar Creek near Sandy.
After years of planning and preparation, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is in the process of releasing more than 100 wild coho into the stream in the Sandy River basin.
“This is a major milestone in the recovery of wild coho in the lower Columbia River basin,” said Todd Alsbury, district fish biologist for ODFW’s North Willamette Watershed.
Until this year’s release, salmon and steelhead had not inhabited the upper reaches of Cedar Creek since the early 1950s when construction of the Sandy Fish Hatchery created a barrier to fish passage.
The hatchery is located on Cedar Creek approximately a mile upstream from its confluence with the Sandy River. From now on, wild coho and winter steelhead will be selectively passed through the Sandy hatchery into more than 12 miles of high quality fish habitat waiting for them upstream.
The Sandy fish hatchery is the end of the road for thousands of hatchery-reared coho that return to the facility every year. In years past, the hundred or so wild coho that also made their way to the hatchery were captured by hatchery technicians and released into the nearby Sandy River at the former site of Marmot Dam.
Thanks to $3.7 million in funding support from the City of Portland, ODFW is moving ahead with plans to construct a state-of-the-art system of fish weirs, traps, and intake screens that will enable wild salmon and steelhead to move beyond the hatchery with limited handling while hatchery-reared fish are collected for the department’s brood stock programs, provided to the Oregon Food Bank, or distributed throughout the Upper Sandy Basin for nutrient enrichment. The contribution is part of the city’s Habitat Conservation Plan for the nearby Bull Run Water Supply project .The city is committed to spending up to $90 million over the next 50 years to mitigate for the impact to fish habitat caused by drawing its domestic water supply from the Bull Run River.
Alsbury said that if the project works out as hoped Cedar Creek could provide permanent habitat for up to 600 wild coho.
“Restoration of passage is in Cedar Creek in combination with numerous other restoration efforts throughout the Sandy Basin will be a significant contribution to recovery of fish in the region,” he said.