News Stories

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Author: Tom Conning, Public Affairs Office
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  • October

    That sounds fishy: demonized trash fish finally gets some respect

    Leaves are changing, the weather is cooling and getting wetter, and Fred Meyer is stocking its shelves with Christmas decorations, which means it’s October. Instead of skipping ahead to winter holidays, let’s fall back and celebrate autumn and Halloween by highlighting a fish that has been demonized in the past, partly for its looks, and partly for our past perceptions of it as a blood-sucking, bottom-feeding trash fish*: the Pacific lamprey.
  • September

    Mother Nature can be comforting but has scolded (scalded) us this year

    Mother Nature can be comforting and calm but this year it seems like she used our first, middle and last name as she scolded (or scalded) us … “Pacific North [emphasis added] West, what in the world were you thinking?!” … for punching our hypothetical little sister (California). Our punishment has been drought, record-breaking temperatures, wildfires and extremely dry conditions throughout the region. Even though the early part of this summer was a scorching hot nightmare, north western Oregon is fortunate to have a consistent flow of water – thanks to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ system of dams and reservoirs in the Willamette Valley.
  • July

    That sounds fishy: fish ladders at high-head dams impractical, largely unneeded

    Humans. What other sentient being designs a tool requiring hands and feet and expects animals without limbs to use it? Alas, the answer is humans. Humans created a ladder for fish, which is quite effective in certain situations – but isn’t a blanket solution to every fish passage problem. And while most humans would agree that ladders can be useful for climbing short distances, perhaps 20-50 feet– another tool – like an elevator or truck – may be a better option to climb hundreds of feet. Otherwise, there would need to be more infrastructure to support that ladder, or perhaps it would need to be a staircase at that point. This is similar for fish when moving them up and downstream.
  • June

    That sounds fishy: twisting traps troll tributaries in the Willamette

    The bulky contraptions float listlessly downstream of three dams in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The buoyant, metal devices hold large screws that the water flow turns. This twist of the screw – creating a creaking, rasping, scraping sound – generates enough hydraulics to keep small fish from escaping the slowly spinning, cone-shaped collectors – or, screw traps.
  • December

    Crowded crest in Portland confronts crafty crew of engineers, planners

    The Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus sits on a 450-foot-tall basalt-rock hill south of downtown. Marquam Hill, also known as “Pill Hill” due to the amount of medical facilities clustered on its crest, is also crowded with homes, steep slopes and daily commuters (during non-pandemic times). These steep and rocky slopes garnered ridicule for Dr. Kenneth Mackenzie when he initially proposed to build a medical school on Marquam in 1914. According to Oregon Health and Science University’s historical collections, “The land, unusable to the railroad company, came to be known as ‘Mackenzie’s Folly’ in reference to its location on an inaccessible hilltop.”
  • March

    Corps begins Willamette Valley System evaluation

    Almost three million people, or about 70 percent of Oregon’s population live in a fertile valley on the state’s western side, according to Portland State University figures. This number has doubled since 1970 – and people are still squeezing themselves into the roughly 150 mile-long valley, which is bracketed by mountain ranges and dominated by a powerful and deceptive force – the Willamette River. This influential river has had a long history of devastating flooding, which spurred the people of Oregon and the U.S. Congress into action in the 1930’s. Congress granted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the authority to build a system of dams on the Willamette River’s tributaries for flood control purposes.