PORTLAND, Ore. --
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report a record return of spring chinook salmon this year at Fall Creek Dam.
According to officials, more than 800 spring chinook salmon returned this year.
Greg Taylor, a fisheries biologist with the Corps’ Portland District, said that number is more than double the 10-year average return rate, which is about 350 fish, and higher than the pre-dam estimate of 600 fish for this subbasin.
“The overall return to the Willamette Basin is not strong, so seeing such a high return came as a welcome surprise,” Taylor said.
Reservoir drawdowns are a contributing factor in this success story.
“The full draw-down of the reservoir behind Fall Creek Dam to the streambed passes more juvenile fish downstream at a higher survival rate than previous operations.” said Taylor. “The key to getting adult salmon back is getting more juvenile fish safely downstream.”
The operation has additional benefits for young salmon that will live in the reservoir next year by reducing the numbers of nonnative fish that predate on or compete with these fish for food in the reservoir.
“This type of success is a great model for what we might be able to do at other projects,” said Taylor.
Corps biologists operate the Fall Creek Adult Fish Facility, located at the base of the dam, and work with partners from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service to improve fish numbers within the basin.
At the facility, biologists collect returning salmon and record data about them such as size, weight, gender, whether they are hatchery or wild, and overall health. Then the fish are safely transported by truck upstream to spawn.
Fall Creek is a tributary of the Middle Fork Willamette River in Lane County, Oregon. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns and operates Fall Creek Dam, circa 1966. The dam works in coordination with Lookout Point and Hills Creek dams to provide flood risk management, water quality improvement, irrigation, recreation, and habitat for fish and wildlife.
To learn more about Fall Creek and Corps’ draw-down efforts visit: