U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week released for public comments a draft
environmental assessment of a proposed plan to upgrade the existing fish collection
facility at west central Oregon’s Fall Creek Dam to enhance upriver passage of
adult Upper Willamette River chinook, steelhead and other native species.
preferred alternative provides volitional swim-up capacity, the ability to hold
fish, and water-to-water transfer, all of which reduce stress and injury and
improve fish survival, according to the Corps. The facility is intended to
capture, particularly, salmon and steelhead that can then be transported aboard
tanker trucks for release upstream of the impassable dam.
Upper Willamette chinook are protected under the federal Endangered Species
Act. The Middle Fork population of UWR chinook salmon is considered to be at a
very high risk of extinction based on an analysis of its recent abundance,
productivity, spatial structure, and diversity
“Fall Creek Dam and Reservoir Adult Fish Facility Upgrade” project is part of
the Corps’ broader effort to implement the provisions of the 2008 Willamette
biological opinions issued by NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service. The Willamette River flows north to its confluence with the Columbia
River at Portland.
ESA BiOps outline actions aimed at improving the survival of listed chinook,
steelhead, bull trout and chub that inhabit the Willamette River and its
tributaries. The Willamette Valley Project, built and operated by the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers, consists of 13 multipurpose dams and reservoirs, several
fish hatcheries and approximately 92 miles of riverbank protection projects in
the southern and central areas of the Willamette River watershed from Cottage
Grove, Ore., to just north of Salem, Ore.
Corps holds and releases water in its reservoirs during Oregon’s rainy season
to reduce the risks of potentially disastrous flooding in the Willamette
Valley. Flows are also controlled to generate power, provide water for
irrigation and other human uses such as recreation and during drier summer and
fall months (when rivers run low) to improve water quality and conditions for
migrating and spawning fish in the Willamette River and several of its
Fall Creek improvements would be kthe fourth adult passage facility improvement
in the Willamette system since the BiOps were issued. The ESA document outlines
a schedule for completion of such projects.
Corps completed the Cougar Adult Fish Collection Facility in 2010 at Cougar Dam
on the South Fork McKenzie River, and has witnessed increasing returns of wild
adult spring chinook salmon each year since.
of a new Minto Fish Collection Facility on the North Fork Santiam was completed
in 2013 and a new Foster Fish Collection Facility on the South Fork Santiam was
completed early this year.
Corps is amidst advanced design and planning for upgrades to fish facilities at
Dexter and Fall Creek dams, both in the Middle Fork of the Willamette River
Corps dams were constructed in the Middle Fork Willamette subbasin. Three were
built on the Middle Fork itself -- Lookout Point (river mile 19.9) and Dexter
(RM 16.8) were completed together in 1955 with the construction of Hills Creek
(RM 47.8) being completed in 1961. Fall Creek Dam on Fall Creek (at RM 7.9) was
later completed in 1965.
four projects form a complete barrier to upstream fish passage for steelhead
and chinook salmon, the draft EA says.
upgraded fish facility is needed to reduce stress and injury sustained by adult
fish during the process of collection, sorting and preparation for transport to
the release sites 2 miles upstream of the dam.
the facility would be used in lieu of volitional fish passage, this measure is
deemed by NMFS as an essential first step toward addressing low population
numbers caused by decreased spatial distribution, primarily from loss of
habitat, which is a limiting factor for Upper Willamette River chinook salmon
and steelhead, the draft EIS says.
collection and release of adult fish would minimize fish stress and injury,
resulting in improved upstream fish passage for spawners. Lack of access to
critical habitat above the dam, injury and mortality associated with inadequate
passage facilities, and restriction to degraded habitat below the dams has
likely contributed to steep declines observed in these populations and has
reduced the functioning of critical habitat.
2008 NMFS BiOp states a new fish collection facility must be built at Fall
Creek that complies with NMFS criteria for upstream passage/collection
facilities. The existing facility does not comply with NMFS criteria and has
been found to be deficient in its ability to hold adult fish following sorting,
and to transfer fish in water from facility to transport vehicle
the existing facility to safely handle, sort, and load adult fish may decrease
pre-spawning mortality of all fish handled at the facility, resulting in
improvements in fish survival upstream of the Fall Creek Dam.
more information, please visit: http://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environment/Fish/BiOpWillamette.aspx
draft EA is available on Portland District’s website at:
Fall Creek Dam and Reservoir Adult Fish Facility Upgrade is part of the Corps’
broader effort to implement the provisions of the 2008 Willamette Biological
Opinions. For more information, please visit