Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current, January 17, 2018, Page 3A, Image 3

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said. “That’s why we’re asking for input
from the community.”
Why is this happening now?
Corps officials say they are legally re-
quired to undertake this type of project.
Some background:
There are 13 dams and reservoirs in
the Willamette River drainage that were
built in the 1950s and '60s, primarily for
flood control, hydroelectric power, and
water storage.
The dams cut off prime spawning
habitat for wild steelhead and chinook
salmon above the dams, while degrad-
ing the remaining habitat downstream.
A steep decline in the number of wild
fish led to their protection under the
federal Endangered Species Act.
A legal agreement was reached in
2008 called the Biological Opinion. It re-
quires the Corps to take steps to im-
prove habitat for wild salmon and steel-
head even as their numbers continue to
Winter steelhead, for example, re-
turned about 16,000 fish each year to the
Upper Willamette Basin in the 1970s, ac-
cording to numbers at Willamette Falls
Fish Count. That number dropped to
5,200 fish per year since 2010, and only
800 returned last winter.
This year is expected to be even
“We've reached the point where, un-
less we take some action, we may con-
demn this run to extinction,” said Dr.
Shaun Clements, senior scientist and
fish policy advisor for the Oregon De-
partment of Fish and Wildlife in a story
published last August.
Native winter steelhead are separate
from hatchery-raised summer steel-
head stocked in the North Santiam.
What are the problems with the
Two steps Detroit Dam is required to
take, under the Biological Opinion, are
improving water temperature and fish
passage into the North Santiam River.
Here’s why:
Current releases from Detroit and Big
Cliff dams are often too cold for spawn-
ing fish during the summer, and too hot
in autumn, according to project docu-
ments. As a result, fish sometimes don’t
spawn, or their eggs die or hatch too
Fish passage through Detroit Dam is
also inadequate, according to the Bio-
logical Opinion. Right now, biologists
trap salmon and steelhead at the Minto
Fish Facility, on the North Santiam be-
low the dams. They drive the fish above
the reservoir in trucks and release them
into high-quality habitat in the upper
The problem is that during the juve-
nile fish’s journey back to the ocean,
they often cannot pass through the De-
troit Dam. They can die in turbines or
simply get stuck in the reservoir.
How does this project address the
The first phase of the project focuses
on improving water temperature by
building a tower, near Detroit Dam, that
will be 250 to 300 feet tall.
Known as a “temperature control
tower,” the structure would take in wa-
ter from different levels of the reservoir
pool, mix it together, and send it down-
stream at the desired temperature.
The Corps says the water temper-
ature would stay uniform through Big
Cliff Reservoir before being released
into the North Santiam.
The second phase of the project
would include attaching a floating
structure, similar to a barge the size of a
football field, with a floating screen to
capture juvenile salmon and steelhead
moving downstream.
"The floating structure out here
would eventually collect fish by making
it look like a waterfall," said Jeff Ament,
the Detroit project manager.
"When juvenile fish come down-
stream they're looking for a waterfall
and not a pipe in the dam 200 feet below
the surface that goes through turbines."
After the fish were collected, they'd
either be transported downstream in a
bypass pipe or a truck.
Drying out Detroit Lake
The biggest concern over the project
centers on building it, because it will
likely require draining the reservoir
close to empty for an extended period.
The Corps is considering five alterna-
tives for construction, many of which
require dropping the reservoir to 1,310
feet above sea level.
An elevation of 1,310 feet at Detroit
Lake is extremely low — far lower than
any boat ramp or even the low-water
winter level of 1,450.
In the drought-stricken 2015 year, for
example, Detroit Lake hit its lowest
summertime level in history at 1,425
This would be more than 100 feet
“There would still be some water
coming down through existing chan-
nels, so fish would still come down,”
Conning said. “But it would be dry at all
boat ramps and through most of the res-
ervoir. Any water left will be pretty hard
to get to.”
Such little water being held in Detroit
Lake creates a number of potential
Not only would there be almost no
recreation — boating, swimming, fish-
ing. But there are also big questions
about the impact to water supply in Sa-
lem and Stayton, farmland irrigation,
hydroelectricity and the economic
struggle in Detroit from a loss of tour-
So, how long will it stay empty?
The biggest question is how long the
Corps will keep Detroit Lake low during
In planning documents, the cheapest
and safest plan would keep the lake at
1,310 feet for two full years. A similar
project at Cougar Reservoir took three
Ament, the project manager, said
three years wouldn't work at Detroit
“It’s easiest to draw the reservoir
down and build all of this on dry ground,
but recognizing the economic impacts
that would happen to this area, we un-
derstand that it’s probably not the way
to do this one,” Ament said.
The plans with shorter construction
timelines center on having the reservoir
at 1,310 feet for one summer or two years
at reduced elevations.
In what’s called “alternative 2,” for
example, there would be one dry sum-
mer to install the tower’s foundation,
while constructing the remainder under
water. Another plan could include using
a coffer dam to protect construction, or
building in the off-season.
Only one plan calls for normal reser-
voir levels throughout, which would in-
volve building the tower using under-
water blasting. That alternative appears
most unlikely due to “high safety and
implementation risks.”
All scenarios with just one season of
a dry Detroit Lake carry greater risk,
Ament said, and could easily last longer
than expected.
“If we’re working in the winter and a
giant storm comes through, we’d need
to evacuate all the crew and construc-
tion to stop a flood downstream,” Ament
said. “To a large extent, we’re still at the
mercy of Mother Nature.”
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water from the North Santiam and De-
troit Lake.
The proposal from the Corps raises
major concerns, Santiam Water Control
district manager Brent Stevenson said.
Such a limited amount of water
stored at Detroit Lake could mean con-
ditions far worse than during the 2015
drought, he said.
“In reality, what they’re proposing is
almost an impossibility,” Stevenson
said. “It could create severe water short-
“We don’t have all the information
and I’m sure there would be mitigation
strategies put in place. But it sets up a
scenario where there’s either no water
in the river for fish, or no water at all for
the City of Salem, schools and a district
that includes 17,000 acres of farmland.”
The City of Salem is taking the plan
“very seriously” and is “carefully study-
ing it,” city spokesman Kenny Larson
said. Larson said Salem would release
its comments on the project next week.
Ament said the Corps will study the
requirements of cities and agriculture in
the next phase of the process, an Envi-
ronmental Impact Study.
“This is one of the big challenges
we’re faced with,” he said. “If we have
this low of a pool, can we hit these
downstream targets? That analysis is
one of the things that comes next.”
Economic disaster in Detroit
Businesses in Detroit have survived
bad years, says Paul O’Donnell, owner of
Mountain High Grocery.
Dependent on summer tourism from
recreation at Detroit Lake, the city has
endured economic hits from drought in
2015, low water in 2016 and wildfires in
The prospect of additional summers
without the lake is a terrifying prospect.
“This scares the hell out of every-
body,” O’Donnell said. “We could lose
businesses in Detroit, and this will hit
the rest of the Santiam Canyon hard as
Business owners said they could
probably survive one lost summer.
That’s why they’ve focused on trying to
get the Corps to consider a plan that
doesn’t keep the lake dry for multiple
“If you lose the lake for two or three
years, that’s going to change people’s
habit of coming out here,” O’Donnell
said. “They’ll go somewhere else, like
Green Peter or Foster reservoirs, fall in
love with it, and never come back. It
would take a long time to rebound.”
The economic hit would be wide-
ranging, said Eric Page, who owns a
house and vacation rental in Detroit.
“Think of the overwhelming impact:
restaurants, marinas, hotels, the state
park,” he said. “It’s a big hit, and I don’t
feel like the Corps has shown any real
Will the project save fish?
One of the most contentious issues is
whether the $100- to $250-million pro-
ject will actually improve conditions for
The Corps says it will, and pointed to
Cougar Reservoir on the Mckenzie River
as an example of success.
“When Cougar dam was built, with-
out temperature control, no adult fish
returned to the base of the dam,” Ament
“Once the temperatures were cor-
rected, adult fish were spotted at the
base of the dam, and a new adult collec-
tor was built that successfully collects
Other examples are less promising.
Round Butte Dam, at Lake Billy Chi-
nook, is the subject of a lawsuit that
says the withdrawal tower — the same
device planned for Detroit — creates
worse water quality in the Deschutes
River. A judge recently allowed the law-
suit to move forward.
“It mixed together water with all
these different nutrients and ended up
creating problems such as algae,” said
Conrad Gowell, with the Native Fish So-
ciety. “It had unintended consequences
we still don’t really understand.”
Gowell said fish passage through
Lake Billy Chinook has not been suc-
cessful, with passage rates as low as 30
percent for chinook and 7 percent for
There’s no reason to believe the pro-
ject will be more successful at Detroit,
he said.
“It’s a lot of money spent on infra-
structure that comes without sufficient
evidence of success,” he said.
Environmental groups have said the
only way to return healthy runs is to al-
low fish to migrate upstream and down-
stream on their own volition.
“When fish are driven around a dam
in the back of a repurposed septic truck,
they are no longer self-sustaining,”
wrote Mark Sherwood, executive direc-
tor of the Native Fish Society.
How to make your voice heard
The best way to have an impact on
the project, Corps officials said, is to
submit substantive public comments
before the January 23 deadline.
“The number of negative comments
an agency receives does not prevent an
action from moving forward,” said Kelly
Janes, Corps Environmental Resource
Specialist. “Comments that are solution
oriented and provide specific examples
will be more effective.”
Conning, Corps spokesman, suggest-
ed impacted businesses point out de-
tails such as how much revenue they
could lose per year, how many people
they’d lay off and how much they pay in
taxes yearly.
“The more substantive the com-
ments are, the more weight it will carry,”
Conning said.
The Corps is currently in the earliest
phase of this project. In the coming year,
they’ll develop a range of alternatives
using public comments, and in 2019 de-
velop a preferred plan that will be sub-
ject again to public comment.
A decision and plans are expected
around 2020 while construction would
begin around 2021.
Zach Urness has been an outdoors
writer, photographer and videographer
in Oregon for 10 years. He is the author of
the book “Hiking Southern Oregon” and
can be reached at zurness@Statesman- or (503) 399-6801. Find
him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.
Continued from Page 2A
expires in June.
According to court records, the Ore-
gon Department of Justice began in-
vestigating Hall in 2017 and that the
thefts took place over several years.
Hall's attorney Paul Ferder filed a
motion for dismissal in December af-
ter Hall agreed to a civil compromise
with Mt. Angel Community Founda-
tion President Lori Pavlicek. Accord-
ing to the agreement, Hall reimbursed
the foundation $62,000 in damages.
Ferder said Hall "immediately ac-
knowledged his wrongdoing" and re-
turned the property taken from the
However, Partridge denied the mo-
tion for dismissal on Dec. 18 and sen-
tenced Hall Tuesday.
As part of the terms of his bench
probation, Hall is barred from working
or acting in any fiduciary capacity for
nonprofits and charities.
For questions, comments and news
tips, email reporter Whitney Wood-
worth at wmwoodwort@statesman-, call 503-399-6884 or fol-
low on Twitter @wmwoodworth