Thursday, September 27, 2007

Dam removal not just a dream

Who says enviros and fishermen can't work together? And who says we can't engage big business in a search for sustainability? This summer, Portland General Electric is removing a fish-killing dam on Oregon's Sandy River. This success is a result of diverse interests working together, including PGE, fishermen, and environmentalists.

PGE has created a fascinating website with demolition videos, time lapse demonstration of river restoration, and lots of explanatory material.

This is the biggest dam removal project in the northwest in over 40 years. Thanks to PGE for recognizing the value of a free-flowing river. It's gratifying to see this happening, since I worked with PGE and fishermen on efforts to define where, when, and how it makes sense to restore natural river habitats.


AC said...

I've been half-following this story and there's one thing I don't get that maybe you could explain.

Since salmon/steelhead spawn where they were born, often in the exact stretch of river, I'm kinda curious what would cause a fish that wasn't from this far upstream to go there to spawn. Won't they stop where they were born?

Mark Powell said...

Salmon blocked by dams often continue to try to get upstream past the dam. It's one of the saddest sights in nature, watching salmon sometimes beat themselves to death in such a noble but futile attempt.

I don't have proof to cite, but I expect that the fish will quickly start re-colonizing the upstream areas above the old dam.'s a bit of an experiment. If necessary human assistance can help begin the process, by moving adult fish or acclimating juveniles to areas above the dam.

Mark Powell said...

I forgot to mention two things:

Great question Alex!

Although salmon return to their home stream with great fidelity, there is a bit of "straying" that is biologically valuable. It helps with such things as recolonizing newly available habitat. Sometimes streams are blocked naturally (usually smaller streams) and so this ability has an important natural function.

AC said...

Thanks Mark,

That makes sense