to satisfy the requirements of the Willamette River biological opinion to
protect fish is progressing on at least two fronts, according to information
given this week at the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s meeting in
Corvallis, June 14.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is studying, designing and installing facilities
that will provide efficient passage of both adults and juvenile chinook salmon
at the agency’s dams, making progress toward salmon reintroduction to areas
upstream of Corps dams, all required by the BiOp.
three conservation organizations – the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, the
Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and Green Belt Land Trust -- are improving
the river’s habitat through land purchases and habitat projects.
US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service issued
in 2008 their biological opinions for populations of Oregon chub, bull trout,
spring chinook salmon and winter steelhead that inhabit the Willamette River
and its tributaries. The Oregon chub has since been delisted, the first listed
fish to do so. (See CBB, Jan. 19, 2017, “Study Shows Successful Reintroduction
Of Oregon Chub Also A Genetic Success” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438205.aspx)
addition to 13 dams, the Willamette Valley Project, built and operated by the
Corps, consists of reservoirs, several fish hatcheries and 92 miles of
riverbank protection projects in the southern and central areas of the Willamette
River watershed from Cottage Grove to just north of Salem.
over these high head dams are an essential feature of the BiOp,” said Karl
Weist, Oregon Council staff, as he introduced Ian Chane, Columbia River Fish
Mitigation Program manager for the Corps.
dams are used for flood control, irrigation and water supply, but not all
produce hydropower, according to Chane. The Corps’ responsibilities also
include fish and wildlife mitigation and recreation.
sub-basins are the focus of the Corps’ salmon reintroduction programs: North
Santiam River (Detroit and Big Cliff dams) and South Santiam (Green Peter and
Foster dams), both for spring chinook and winter steelhead; South Fork of the
McKenzie River (Cougar Dam) for spring chinook & bull trout; and Middle
Fork of the Willamette River (Hills Creek, Dexter and Lookout Point dams) for
Willamette River system is much different than the Columbia River system, Chane
said, in that most of the dams were not built with fish passage in mind. That
poses problems for the Corps in reintroducing salmon and steelhead upstream of
the dams, an expensive proposition.
2008, the year the Willamette BiOp was issued, the total initial budget
estimate to complete the requirements in the BiOp for such things as fish
passage at the dams and habitat projects downstream was about $300 million,
revised budget estimate now has risen to $757 million.
includes passage at Cougar and Detroit dams and continued research and monitoring
to determine the biology of fish passage at the dams.
the Corps will fund the three legs of reintroduction: trap adults and transport
them over the dams, fix temperature at the dams and get the juveniles back
issue the Corps is trying to resolve is that water control patterns at the dams
driven by flood control rule curves, power and storage often conflict with fish
an example, Chane said, the reservoir behind Cougar Dam on the South Fork of
the McKenzie River can rise as much as 80 feet with a one-day heavy rainfall.
The dam is operated primarily for flood control and spring fish have trouble
finding a route down river. That’s why, he said, the Corps is exploring
will be the first to have downstream passage, he said, perhaps by 2020.
example is Detroit Dam, which releases water from the bottom of the lake in
summer that is too cold for migrating fish, but “if we drop the reservoir in
the fall for flood control, we will release water that is too warm and that
interferes with chinook incubation downstream,” Chane said. The Corps can use
the Big Cliff reregulating dam downstream to help mix water to find the right
goal at Detroit is to eventually pass juveniles volitionally,” he said. “That’s
definitely a challenge at a project that has over 500 feet of head.”
Creek Dam on the Middle Fork of the Willamette already has downstream passage
for juveniles. Passage at other dams will follow: Foster Dam on the South
Santiam in Fiscal Year 2018, Cougar Dam in 2020, Detroit Dam temperature
control in 2021 and Lookout Point Dam on the Middle Fork is unscheduled,
Corps is also considering reservoir mixing facilities such as Portland General
Electric’s and the Warm Springs Tribes’ selective water withdrawal tower in
Lake Billy Chinook on central Oregon’s Deschutes River that is part of another
above-dam salmon reintroduction program.
the next two years, the Corps intends to spend $18.68 million in Fiscal Year 2017,
$20.32 million in Fiscal Year 2018 for design and studies, as well as
modifications for downstream passage at Foster Dam and completion of a Fall
Creek adult fish collection facility. Budgets for future years are yet to be
Council May 31 memorandum on Chane’s presentation is at https://www.nwcouncil.org/media/7491138/c10.pdf
strong habitats is another requirement of the Willamette BiOp, which calls for
two habitat projects each year.
for these projects comes from the Bonneville Power Administration, the Oregon
Watershed Enhancement Board and Meyer Memorial Trust.
Willamette BiOp restoration project is an umbrella project that was just
re-approved by the Council this week for $800,000 in FY2017 (see the Council’s
June 6 memorandum at https://www.nwcouncil.org/media/7491126/c01.pdf).
objectives of the restoration projects are to establish anchor habitat sites
(there are 12), re-establish channel complexity and length, and reconnect and
reforest flood plains, according to Andrew Dutterer, Partnerships Coordinator
Fiscal Year 2016, total project costs were $2,867,271. Of that OWEB contributed
$1,442,271, Meyer Memorial $725,000 and BPA $700,000.
there are about 25 active restoration projects on the mainstem Willamette: in
2008 there was just one. Over the years, 3,906.5 acres of flood plain and
riparian forests have been restored, 15.54 miles of side channels have been
reconnected to the flood plain, 23 fish passage barriers have been improved or
removed, 18 miles of instream habitat has been restored and 46 acres of
wetlands have been enhanced.
types of accomplishments help build resiliency into the river system,” Dutterer
said. He pointed to the Oregon chub as a success of the habitat restoration
projects. Before habitat improvements there were just 1,000 chub, he said, now
there are 140,000 and it has been delisted.
Bell, Director of the Willamette Strategic Partnerships for the Bonneville
Environmental Foundation, said that the goal is for 16,180 acres of habitat to
be protected by 2025. One way to do that is to acquire property and manage it
example is Harkens Lake, Bell said, managed by the Greenbelt Land Trust. Some
371 acres were acquired in 2011 and restoration took place on 350 acres through
2016 at a cost of $3,203,498. BPA’s investment was $961,238. About 2.5 miles of
side channels were improved in the project.
example is the Willamette Confluence, managed by the Nature Conservancy, at the
confluence of the Middle and Lower Middle Willamette River. Bell said 635 acres
were purchased in two steps in 2010 and in 2015, and restoration will continue
through 2018 at a total cost of $9 million. Funding is from Meyer Memorial
Trust, OWEB and NOAA-NMFS Restoration Center. When done, the project will
connect more than 400 acres of floodplains.
Council’s May 31 memorandum is at https://www.nwcouncil.org/media/7491139/c11.pdf
Willamette River BiOp is at http://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environment/Fish/WVP-BiOP/
CBB, Sept. 23, 2016, “Trucking Spawning Salmon Above Willamette Dam Showing
Success In Offspring Survival, Adult Returns” http://www.cbbulletin.com/437603.aspx
CBB, Dec. 11. 2015, “Report: Willamette Basin Tributaries Likely Will Become
Sufficiently Warm To Threaten Salmonids” http://www.cbbulletin.com/435672.aspx
CBB, Sept. 12, 2014, “Study Shows Hatchery Spring Chinook In Upper Willamette
River Closely Related To Listed Wild Fish” http://www.cbbulletin.com/432072.aspx
CBB, November 14, 2014, “Draft Proposal Adds To ESA-Driven Efforts To Improve
Passage For Wild Upper Willamette Chinook,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/432627.aspx