Detroit Lake Shutdown, Santiam Fish Recovery

From the Statesman Journal: A project intended to improve conditions for endangered fish could mean essentially emptying Detroit Lake for one or two years.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning to build a 300-foot tower and floating screen at Detroit Dam to improve water temperature and fish passage for salmon and steelhead in the North Santiam River.

But the $100 to $250 million project has sparked alarm over the potential impact to water supply in Salem and Stayton, for farmland irrigation, and to the economies of Detroit and the Santiam Canyon from the loss of recreation at the popular reservoir.

“In the long-term, this project has a lot of positives, from a healthier environment for fish to better operation of the dam,” Marion County commissioner Kevin Cameron said. “But there is a huge risk in the short-term.”

At its core, the project represents the latest chapter in the struggle to preserve native fish while maintaining the benefits of dams and reservoirs.

The Corps is taking public comment on the project until January 23.

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From Native Fish Society:

Throughout the Pacific Northwest, dams have altered streamflow and water temperatures, impounded water over historic habitat, and prevented fish from migrating freely to the ocean and back to their homewaters. As their presence has increasingly put threatened and endangered fish in jeopardy, engineers have tried to design work-arounds including fish ladders, truck and haul programs, selective water withdrawal towers, juvenile downstream barging, and even a salmon cannon! All of these experimental projects bend the basic survival needs of the fish to the will of humans– and it isn’t working.

It has happened on the Deschutes River and the Snake River. The North Santiam is the next watershed in which agencies want to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to modify infrastructure without meaningful evidence to support that strategy. The Army Corps of Engineers is currently accepting scoping comments to develop alternatives under an Environmental Impact Statement. We need your help telling the Army Corps of Engineers that restoring volitional access for wild salmon and steelhead to the headwaters of the North Santiam River is critical to the survival of the Upper Willamette salmon and steelhead populations. Without access to their historic spawning grounds, and ability to freely swim back to the ocean, Detroit Dam will jeopardize their survival.

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