News Releases

Corps extends public comment period for proposed Willamette Valley System 30-year plan

PORTLAND DISTRICT, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
Published Jan. 9, 2023
A large concrete dam hundreds of feet high with a lake behind it and evergreen-covered hills around it on a clear, sunny summer day.

Located on the North Santiam River about an hour southeast of Salem, Detroit Dam is one 13 dams and reservoirs across the Willamette Valley whose operation and maintenance are being evaluated by the Corps as part of its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. The goal of the EIS is to determine a long-term plan for managing the system of dams and reservoirs while improving conditions for endangered fish.

PORTLAND, Ore. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Portland District (Corps) has extended the deadline from Jan. 19 to Feb. 23 for public feedback on its proposed 30-year plan for the operation and maintenance of 13 dams and reservoirs across the Willamette River Basin.

“The system of dams and reservoirs protecting the Willamette Basin has served us well for decades. Changes to the system for the benefit of endangered species will help rebalance those benefits,” said Erik Petersen, the Corps’ Willamette Valley operations project manager. “It’s incredibly complex, and I'm glad that we now have more time to build public understanding and gain substantive feedback from as many stakeholders as possible. That feedback is critical to shaping our decision-making process.”

The plan, referred to as a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, details seven potential courses of action—including one recommended by the Corps—and essentially lays out a long-term path for achieving the congressionally authorized purposes of the Corps’ Willamette Valley System while improving conditions for endangered fish.
Learn more and download the EIS

The document outlines changes the Corps can make to accommodate newer environmental conditions—most notably, the Endangered Species Act listing of Upper Willamette River Chinook salmon and steelhead—that have risen since the Corps’ last Willamette Valley EIS in 1980.

Each of the Corps’ seven alternatives proposes a separate approach to managing the system at various dam sites by employing operational measures, like lowering water levels in a reservoir, or structural changes, such as building a temperature control tower to help make water conditions downstream ideal for fish (or a combination of the two). Ultimately, the alternatives explore slightly different ways the Corps can satisfy the purposes of the system while also improving fish passage and water quality, the primary determinants of fish survival across the basin.

The deadline extension for feedback takes the public comment period for the draft EIS from 55 to 90 days.

The Corps is currently welcoming feedback from the public via comments submitted by email to willamette.eis@usace.army.mil or in writing to the following address:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Attn: CENWP-PME-E / Willamette EIS
P.O. Box 2946
Portland, OR 97208-2946

The Corps is also holding a series of face-to-face public information meetings in communities across the valley Jan. 9-12. Members of the public are encouraged to attend these to learn more about the EIS:

In-Person Public Meetings

• Monday, Jan. 9, 6-8 p.m. – 250 S. 32nd St., Springfield, OR

• Tuesday, Jan. 10, 12:30-2:30 p.m. – 4000 E. 30th Ave., Eugene, OR

• Wednesday, Jan. 11, 6-8 p.m. – 880 18th Ave., Sweet Home, OR

• Thursday, Jan. 12, noon to 2 p.m. – 400 W. Virginia St., Stayton, OR

Following the 90-day public comment period ending at 11:59 p.m. Feb. 23, the Corps will enter a review period and then respond to comments in its final EIS in late summer 2024. The final EIS will also provide the analysis upon which the Corps will make its decision.

For more information, and to view and download the draft EIS, visit https://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/Locations/Willamette-Valley/System-Evaluation-EIS/.

Background: The Corps operates and maintains 13 multipurpose dams, reservoirs, and hatchery programs across Oregon's Willamette River Basin, started in 1940 and completed in 1969. Each dam contributes to a water resource management system that provides flood risk management, hydropower, water quality improvement, irrigation supply, fish and wildlife habitat, and recreation for the Willamette River and many of its tributaries. This includes an estimated savings to the region of more than $900 million annually in averted flood damages. The Willamette Valley System also comprises eight Corps-owned hydropower dams, which can provide enough power to service nearly 300,000 homes (500 megawatts). In addition, the Corps manages more than 50 developed recreation sites across the valley.

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Contact
Chris Gaylord
503-808-4510
christopher.m.gaylord@usace.army.mil

Release no. 23-001

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