Low-head dam removal enhances fish passage in Eagle Creek
by OR Department of Fish & Wildlife Staff
SALEM, Ore.— More than 13 miles of fish rearing and spawning habitat has been restored on Eagle Creek, a tributary of the Clackamas River, after ODFW and partners removed the Eagle Fern Dam earlier this year.
With the dam removed and natural flow restored, ESA-listed species including winter steelhead, Chinook salmon, coho salmon as well as cutthroat trout, Pacific lamprey, and other native resident fish and wildlife species will be able to better navigate this reach of Eagle Creek which was previously inaccessible during low water years.
The dam was located within Eagle Fern Park in Clackamas County and was originally constructed to create an impoundment for swimming and other water-based recreational activities. The structure had deteriorated, creating a safety hazard.
The low-head dam also created low flow passage barriers for late-summer and early-fall spawners such as coho and Chinook salmon, and for juvenile salmonids seeking out high quality habitat or thermal refugia as flows decrease and temperature increases during the summer months.
ODFW partnered with the Oregon Wildlife Foundation, Clackamas County, American Rivers, Confluence Consulting, Trout Unlimited, and Waterways Consulting to complete the project. Funding and support were provided by American Rivers through the Paul G. Allen Foundation and Oregon Wildlife Foundation through private and federal funding support.
"The partnership on this project was a key strength to its success," said Dave Stewart, ODFW stream restoration biologist. "A team approach allowed each partner to contribute to their area of expertise and led to smooth project construction that was on-time and within budget."
ODFW will continue to monitor the project site through standardized photo points, fish surveys, and topographical surveys to assess channel stability.
Other projects to remove barriers like low-head dams and culverts in the region involve partners at the federal, state and local level. Looking back, the 2007 demolition of Marmot Dam was the largest dam removal to date and restored free flow to the Sandy River. Fourteen years on and the benefits for fish and their habitat are impressive.
Dave Bugni, Friends of the Eagle Creek Watershed, created a video of the project to document the Eagle Fern Dam removal: https://youtu.be/NK0FQTtp418
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