than 20 years after irrigators threw out the idea in jest, Dillon Dam – the
biggest obstacle for migrating fish and lamprey on the Umatilla River – is
wasn’t really a joke, I was half serious,” said Mike Taylor, chairman of the
Dillon Irrigation Company (DIC) and the landowner who was one of driving forces
behind the eventual removal of the dam.
the 1990s, it has taken many players and plenty of moving parts working
together to reach the point where an excavator armed with a rock hammer started
cracking concrete at the 209-foot-wide dam, which is located upstream of the
Interstate 84 bridge crossing between Echo and Stanfield.
wasn’t easy, said Rick Christian, Umatilla River Habitat Project Leader in the
Fisheries Program for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian
tried at every stumbling block and obstacle to make it work,” Christian said.
“With all the parts and pieces, one signature on a piece of paper at the right
time can kill a project.”
said it took a diligent, determined cooperative effort to see the $1.2 million
not for the Tribes stepping up, ODFW (Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife)
stepping up, and OWEB (Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board), it wouldn’t have
happened,” Taylor said.
all saw the need and everybody saw the good parts of it. Any one entity
probably could have stopped it.”
more than 100 years ago – in 1915 – Dillon Dam created a point of diversion for
about 1,600 acres. Until earlier this spring, the dam provided water for Taylor
and four other landowners who are part of the DIC.
of the 5-foot dam has caused consternation for irrigators – primarily Taylor -
who routinely has had to use equipment in the river to remove gravel and woody
debris from behind the barrier. With the removal of the dam, that gravel and
wood will be free to travel downstream to create better channel habitat.
March, water for downstream Dillon Irrigation Co. landowners has been delivered
through a 2-mile pipeline taken from the Umatilla River at Westland Diversion
Dam upstream from Dillon.
CTUIR has been instrumental in the $1.2 million project, providing the lion’s
share of funding using Bonneville Power Administration dollars. BPA funding of
nearly $775,000 included $400,000 that came through the 10-year fish accord
agreement with the CTUIR.
Dillon Dam has fish ladders, steelhead, fall chinook and coho salmon have
historically banged their noses at the base of the dam. That needed to be fixed
to allow returning fish, including lampreys, to continue upstream to spawn.
the fix was more difficult and more costly than expected.
had their little piece that they wanted or needed,” Taylor said.
of the biggest hurdles – before grant applications began – was the okay from
the state to move DIC’s point of diversion upstream, a rare occurrence.
unheard of to move a point of diversion upstream,” Taylor said, “but that’s
basically what we did.”
factor was the Tribes’ introduction of lamprey into the river. When the first
lamprey returned after three years in the ocean, they cleared Maxwell Dam near
Interstate 84, but they were thwarted when they reached Dillon Dam. That
invariably forced the hand of the parties to find solutions.
ladders were installed, but the fish also known as eels had trouble finding the
ladders which, like the fish ladders, often times were plugged by debris.
with the Tribes’ BPA dollars, several other agencies saw the need and workable
solutions. They answered requests for funding.
the Tribes, the other largest funders are the Oregon Water Enhancement Board
(OWEB), which pitched in $374,529 (about $38,203 came through the Umatilla
Basin Watershed Council, which wrote most of the OWEB grants), while Taylor,
who grows mostly grass hay and runs some 1,300 head of cows on his
fourth-generation ranch near Echo, contributed $140,000 of his own money toward
the project fruition. More than $300,000 of the OWEB funding went toward
construction of the pipeline.