EPUD's Dorena Dam Project Must Restore Fish Migration

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), January 18, 2010 | Go to article overview

EPUD's Dorena Dam Project Must Restore Fish Migration


Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By John Steele

In 2010, state and federal agencies may allow a private company from Utah, Symbiotics, and a public utility, the Emerald People's Utility District, to install hydroelectric turbines at Dorena Dam, a structure that has stopped the migration of Chinook salmon for the past 60 years.

Now is our opportunity to correct that shortcoming by constructing a fish ladder that allows access to approximately 80 miles of the sub-basin's better spawning and rearing habitat upstream from Dorena Dam.

The alternative is to wait for the permit to expire, 50 years from now, then build the fish ladder. But the salmon cannot wait.

The unresolved issue of fish passage at Dorena Dam lurks in a dark corner shadowed by walls of corporate illusions of "greenness" and legislative laws protecting the environment.

We all want to support businesses that develop and sell clean energy. But we also understand the importance of fish protection laws and the duty of government agencies to abide by them. Species cannot exist without sufficient habitat, a truth best expressed in an overused ad slogan: "Got Habitat?"

For the purpose of saving endangered salmon and other migratory fish, the Oregon Legislature has written a law, found at Oregon Revised Statutes 509.585(4).

Simply paraphrased, the law states that a person owning or operating an artificial obstruction may not maintain the obstruction across waters that are inhabited, or historically have been inhabited, by native migratory fish - not without providing passage.

At the same time, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has created fish management plans to protect, maintain, improve and provide access to fish habitat. The plans require full mitigation for populations reduced or eliminated due to dam construction and operations.

In the case of Dorena Dam, all these rules apply to all migratory fish species - and especially to spring Chinook salmon, a species on the verge of extinction. According to the state, it is unlikely that meaningful reproduction of spring Chinook salmon will occur in this part of the Willamette River basin if these salmon are not reintroduced to Dorena Lake and given access to the habitat.

But here's the rub: Although the ODFW creates fish management plans and adopts rules to implement Oregon's requirement for fish passage, it cannot legally force other state or federal agencies to follow its plans and rules.

That fact was clearly demonstrated in The Register- Guard's Oct. …

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