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Salmon Makeover Reaches Final Stages posted on 09/02/2010
After the 1964 flood, the Salmon River was rocked by the follow-up work of the Army Corps of Engineers. At the time it was believed the best way to minimize water flow was to bring in the bulldozers and dig the channel deeper.

Hydrologists, contractors, biologists and environmentalists now know that was the wrong approach.

“The Corps of Engineers excavated, dug the channel deeper, thinking the best way to minimize flood damage was to get the water off the mountain,” said Brad Zoellick, biologist for Cascades Resource Area. “Now, we know that side channels provide the best results.”

But the correct method is highly complex, and requires the work of multiple experts and the formation of new partnerships.

The Sandy River Basin Watershed Council, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Freshwater Trust and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have joined forces for the large-scale Salmon River Aquatic Habitat Restoration Project. The goal is to increase the in-river habitat complexity and structure in order to benefit adult and juvenile salmon, restore some of the habitat and river processes and functions that were lost after the post-flood reconstruction – all the while minimizing the risk of future flooding.

“The Salmon River is very important to the recovery of federally listed spring chinook and coho salmon and winter steelhead in the lower Columbia region,” said Russ Plaeger, land stewardship coordinator for the watershed council. “This project will increase the amount of deep pool habitat and channel complexity on a 3,000-foot section of the river. The pools will provide a cold water refuge for adult salmon as they return upriver to spawn.”

“Providing year-round flow in the side channels is the target,” said Mark McCollister, wild fish restoration manager of Freshwater Trust. “And juvenile coho are already moving in.”
The project was drawing to a close in August as heavy equipment moved logs and boulders into place on the final sections of the river – the stretch from the Miller Road quarry to the confluence of Boulder Creek.

And upstream from this site – in an area of the river where work was completed just days before – juvenile Coho salmon were already taking advantage of the newly provided deep pools and log complexes.

“It’s a fish factory,” Plaeger said. “There are more than 1,000 juveniles in there.”
The river project will conclude in September. Funding sources for the project include grants from the National Forest Foundation, state lottery funds and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

by Larry Berteau/MT

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