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Editorial: Fish passage project brings jobs, hopes for habitat
Construction of the fish passage at Soda Springs Dam on the North Umpqua River is a beneficial project that has been a long time in coming. Seeing it get under way this summer is positive for our community and the habitat of native fish runs.
It's taken since 2001, when PacifiCorp was granted a 35-year-renewal of its license to operate the North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project, for the fish passage construction to begin. And the licensing agreement spanned 10 years of negotiation between PacifiCorp and seven state and federal agencies
Preliminary work, other projects and further study of the necessity of the fish passage occupied recent years, but now the $60 million project is moving forward and the timing couldn't be better.
A recent story by News-Review reporter Anne Creighton indicated the project is providing 100 jobs for employees of local companies. The work can only help our economy, which has been hurting with the high rate of unemployment and a lingering recession.
One downside of the project is the closure of some nearby trails and roads to ensure outdoor enthusiasts are not put in harm's way when heavy equipment is being employed to build the ladder. That means hiking or biking the entire 79-mile North Umpqua Trail will require a detour to the road to get around the project, which is located between the communities of Dry Creek and Toketee.
Detours around the closed roads are offered as well. The closures are expected to be in place until early 2012, the expected completion date.
The inconvenience of the temporary closures is a small price to pay for a fish ladder that will open habitat that native fish runs haven't seen in nearly 60 years. Construction of the 77-foot-high Soda Springs Dam back in 1952 cut off 3 miles of the North Umpqua River and 3 miles of Fish Creek, where Chinook and coho salmon, steelhead and Pacific lamprey traditionally returned to spawn.
When the issue of re-licensing the hydroelectric project came up, removal of the dam — the most downstream electricity generator in the series of eight dams — was considered. Some still believe the company should have eliminated the barrier, but the parties reached the compromise of keeping the dam, which PacifiCorp says is crucial to its operation, and installing the fish passage,
When complete, the fish ladder will include a video monitoring system that will count every fish moving upstream. While it won't be open to the public like the Winchester Dam fish ladder is — lack of space prevents that — it will provide accurate numbers so agencies can monitor the health of the fish runs.
We're eager to see how the native fish fare in the future and until then, we're pleased this worthwhile project is keeping so many people working in our community.
Page Updated: Sunday September 19, 2010 02:41 PM Pacific
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