News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Detroit fish passage project shifts gears

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

The U.S. Army Corps Engineers still hopes to find a solution for the water temperature and fish passage issues at Detroit Lake that are a threat to aquatic species.

But the long-delayed and long-analyzed project is going through a bit of a reboot. Instead of Corps officials working specifically on the Detroit piece, a broader initiative is being developed that will accompany the entire 13-dam Willamette River Basin.

“Yes, Detroit has been wrapped up into the larger-scoped project for the whole basin,” said Tom Conning, a public affairs specialist with the Corps’ Portland office. 

“However, the team has incorporated much of what went into the initial Detroit (proposal) into the larger project,” Conning said.

Earlier work on the Detroit piece included considering building a massive tower near the dam to address the water temperature issue and a giant weir to move fish around the dam. 

The Corps is under a court order to take action to improve threatened bull trout, winter steelhead and spring Chinook salmon stocks in the Willamette basin. The required environmental impact statement (EIS) for the full Willamette Valley System is being prepared, with Conning noting that a draft of the EIS will be released this fall or winter. The Corps is planning public meetings to discuss the draft, but no dates or sites have been selected yet.

The process is of keen interest in the Santiam Canyon because of the tourism value of Detroit Lake. If solutions to the fish passage/temperature challenges require lowering the lake level, the region’s economy will suffer.

As part of the planning process, the Corps is offering the public the chance to examine the materials virtually. Residents can view a virtual room, which contains videos, digital boards, slides and maps that are intended to help the community understand the purpose of the EIS and possible alternatives for the project. Go to https://gather.cdmsmith.com/v/NkjxE7ErqlQto access the interactive materials. Slides of a virtual presentation in January, which includes the current status of the project are available at https://usace.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16021coll7/id/19835.

The final EIS is not scheduled for release and final review until perhaps 2024. Any timelines and budgets for implementation of solutions are years away.

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