News Stories

Fall Creek Dam fish fancy future facility

Published Sept. 14, 2017
Construction crews prepare for the next concrete pour on the fish ladder for a new fish facility at Fall Creek Dam and Reservoir. 

Construction QAs Duncan Newberry and Nick Myron (Engineering and Construction) speak with OPM Erik Petersen.

Construction quality assurance team members Duncan Newberry (left) and Nick Myron (right) speak with Erik Petersen, Willamette Valley Project operations project manager, during a construction tour of the Fall Creek Adult Fish Collection Facility, Aug. 4. The new facility, which is southeast of Eugene, Oregon, will support the safe collection and transport of wild spring Chinook and winter steelhead upstream of the dam.

New fish facility

Portland District is rebuilding the adult fish collection facility at Fall Creek Dam and Reservoir, located southeast of Eugene, Oregon. The rebuilt facility will make it safer to collect and transport wild spring chinook and winter steelhead upstream of the dam, a requirement of the 2008 Willamette Project Biological Opinions.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Construction crews are rebuilding Fall Creek Dam’s Adult Fish Collection Facility southeast of Eugene, Oregon. When complete, the facility will support Portland District’s efforts to meet requirements of the 2008 Willamette Project biological opinions, issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. 

The opinions dictate that the Corps, Bonneville Power Administration and the Bureau of Reclamation will not reduce the likelihood of survival and recovery of four Endangered Species Act listed fish. A new collection facility at Fall Creek will help the Corps support the safe collection and transport of wild spring Chinook and winter steelhead upstream of the dam.

“One of the primary goals of upgrading the facility is really to reduce handling, reduce stress on the fish,” said Greg Taylor, Willamette Valley Project fisheries biologist. “The experience that the fish has is going to be a much better experience. There’s less crowding in some cases, we’re letting the fish do a lot of the work on their own.”

Some new characteristics include water-to-water transfers, sorting capabilities, larger storage bays and attraction features.

This rebuild is similar to ones conducted at Foster Dam and Minto, on the South Santiam and North Santiam rivers, respectively. The Fall Creek site is an active construction area and Corps employees are still collecting fish at that facility. 

“We’ve made these facilities a lot friendlier for our folks who operate the facility as well,” said Taylor about other rebuilt facilities in the Willamette Valley. “We’ve improved it for fish, we’ve improved it for people and in the long-term that’s going to be better.”

Construction began October 2016. It is scheduled to be completed May 2018 and will cost an estimated $25 million.

“The Fall Creek adult collection facility is an extremely important aspect to restoring wild populations of spring Chinook in the Upper Willamette River,” said Ian Chane, Portland District program manager. “The on-going annual  juvenile downstream passage operation combined with an improved adult collection facility will further bolster the wild population of spring Chinook salmon that has been established upstream of Fall Creek dam.”

The Corps’ actions at Fall Creek play into a larger regional effort supporting endangered species recovery in the Upper Willamette River Basin.

“The construction of the federal Willamette system of dams beginning in the 1950's blocked highly productive habitat that both spring Chinook and winter steelhead historically used for spawning,” Chane explained.  “These new adult collection and transport facilities serve to provide a means for the safe collection and transport of these anadromous fish back to this historic habitat for spawning.”

Completed in 1966, Fall Creek Dam is a rockfill structure with a gated concrete spillway and outlet works for regulating reservoir levels. It is located at river mile 7.2 on Fall Creek, a tributary of the Middle Fork Willamette River, about 20 miles southeast of Eugene.