Waterway cleared for fish passage

Northwest Biological Consulting (NBC), an Ashland-based stream/habitat restoration company, was part of a team that received recognition April 8 from Gov. Kulongoski for the 2007 Stream Project Award.

The award honored exemplary projects that promote responsible stewardship of Oregon's natural resources. The Calapooia Watershed Council had overall responsibilities for the project. NBC, with assistance from Steve Koskella and his firm KC Environmental Services, was responsible for the "on the ground" removal of the Brownsville Dam on the Calapooia River, near Albany.

The dam was originally built in 1859 to divert water from the Calapooia River for operating several mills in the area. The dam no longer supplies water for mills and the Calapooia Watershed Council negotiated with the Brownsville Canal Company and others to approve the dam removal. The council received more than $1 million in funding from numerous grant sources for the dam removal project.

The dam blocked fish passage for spring Chinook salmon and winter steelhead, both listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, as well as cutthroat trout and pacific and brook lamprey. Such fish blockages in the basin, combined with other limitations to spawning, have reduced natural salmon production to minimal or non-existent levels. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has a goal of establishing a run of 650 spring Chinook salmon in the Calapooia basin. Currently, fewer than 100 salmon return each year. The removal of the dam will help to increase the native Chinook runs.

NBC worked with the council and Cascade Earth Sciences engineers to provide a design for the dam removal. The reinforced concrete dam was carefully removed during August of 2007. The removal of the dam eliminated the fish passage barrier and opened up more than 40 miles of habitat for spring Chinook salmon and other anadromous fish.

As a side note, the governor was given a photograph by Scott English of NBC, of a life-size sculpture of a Chinook salmon that was created from the steel rebar and concrete salvaged from the dam removal. Jim Governor, heavy equipment operator and artist, created the welded sculpture. The sculpture is symbolic in that it depicts the Chinook leaping out of the river with a piece of the concrete dam in its mouth. The sculpted salmon is known as the "damolish fish" of the Calapooia River.

NBC has been in business in Ashland since 1979, specializing in stream restoration and other habitat restoration projects. The company often teams with KC Environmental Services to combine expertise in biology with applied skills with heavy equipment and common sense. In addition to the Brownsville Dam removal, they have removed dams in the Mono Lake area and on Dominici Creek, tributary to the Tuolumne River in the Central Valley of California. This summer, they will remove an irrigation dam on the Shasta River near Yreka, Calif.

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