Portland District

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Willamette Basin fish program

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Our Willamette Valley Project dams provide tremendous flood risk management, power generation, water quality improvement, irrigation, fish and wildlife habitat and recreation benefits to the region.


However, they also block access to significant amounts of high-quality fish spawning and rearing habitat, and prevent movement of sediment and large wood.  They have also degraded downstream habitat by altering seasonal flows and water temperature patterns that are important for fish.  Hatchery fish produced to mitigate the loss of their wild cousins have also had a negative effect on the genetic diversity and productivity of wild fish in the basin.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed Oregon chub as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1993, and bull trout as threatened in 1999. The National Marine Fisheries Service listed Upper Willamette River spring Chinook and Upper Willamette River winter steelhead as threatened species in 1999.

The Endangered Species Act required us to seek the opinions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service about the effects of our Willamette Valley Project operations on these ESA-listed species. These agencies’ 2008 biological opinions include “reasonable and prudent alternatives” – actions to minimize adverse effects on listed species and their critical habitat.

Our efforts in progress or completed to increase survival of ESA-listed fish include:

  • We completed the Cougar Adult Fish Collection Facility in 2010, and have witnessed increasing returns of wild adult spring Chinook salmon each year.
  • Our construction of a new Minto Fish Collection Facility is underway, with an expected completion date in spring 2013.
  • Our construction of a new Foster Fish Collection Facilityis underway, with an expected completion date in spring 2014.
  • We are conducting advanced design and planning for upgrades to fish facilities at Dexter and Fall Creek dams.
  •  We have been conducting a deep drawdown operation at Fall Creek Dam for the past six years to assist passage of juvenile spring Chinook salmon.
  • We awarded a contract in winter 2012-2013 to build a Portable Floating Fish Collector to evaluate options for collecting and transporting juvenile salmon at several of our dams.
  • We are evaluating downstream passage options for juvenile salmon at Cougar, Detroit and Lookout Point dams.
  •  We completed a temperature control tower at Cougar Dam in 2005 to improve water quality for spring Chinook salmon.
  • We are conducting advanced design and planning for a temperature control solution at Detroit Dam.