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Fish Passage above Soda Springs Dam

Posted by Mark Tuesday, January 11, 2011

So the fish passage construction at the Soda Springs dam has been underway for a while now. Actual construction began in 2009 and should be complete by 2011. It would have been a great thing to see this dam go away, but after the re license agreement of 2001 this will not be a reality for some time....maybe not ever. The thing that gets me is this dam does not directly provide power or benefit to anyone in Douglas county, The power produced here goes into the Pacific Power Grid and could be sent wherever. Most likely somewhere  they can get an maximum profit.Another example of the rich getting richer on our public resources,and the people,fish and resources most affected left hanging.

While the fish passage is a good thing,and at this point the only thing that can be done to get fish into the spawning areas above,it is still  far cry from a free and clear natural passage. It is an olive branch from the power company to say that they are doing great things for the fish. This is about a sixty million dollar olive branch . And as I said before, when it is all said and done the odds of them tearing it down anytime soon is almost an impossibility in my lifetime. No, this puppy will probably be around when my kids are grown up. Much like the fish passage on the Deschutes at Pelton will be a long time before anyone can say if it worked or not. At least a long time before anyone admits that it worked or not.

The good thing is the fish passage will allow fish to get above the dam into pristine spawning habitat.Fish are resilient and the will they WILL get there eventually. The bad  thing is that despite this passage, the dam still holds back major spawning gravels for fish BELOW the dam. This gravel has been blocked since the 1950's when the dam was built. With winter fish being main stem(North Fork) spawners this lack of gravel has surely impacted the amount and quality of the spawning areas that fish use.There has been some attempt to introduce gravel below the dam but surely it has not been what the natural dispersal would have been on an annual basis.Additionally the water flow is obviously controlled to produce power and not rise and fall in a rhythm with the seasons. This fact alone will not allow the gravel that has been introduced in the last few years to be washed down steam. A nice gesture but it cannot replace what nature does on it's own.

In the end, tons of politics, big business getting bigger and the fish get not much more than a nod on this one. Sure some jobs were created but those workers are not making the majority of the money here. Someone in a big chair smoking a cigar as well as stockholders stand to make money on this whole re-license agreement as time goes by.

Like I said however small,it is a nod to the fish and in the right direction but maybe to little too late.But to see salmon and steelhead up in the Fish Creek area would be very cool. Maybe there is a little silver lining in every cloud.

Links to a few articles on the whole dam issue:

Fish Passage at Soda Springs

 Pacific Corp dragging their feet.

KATU article


  1. Thanks for the link and the local perspective on the issue. Hopefully some wild fish find the ladder and make their way into the upper watershed. Provided that there is a way that smolts can pass down stream it should benefit the wild population even if not as much as a full dam removal might.

  2. Mark Says:
  3. Apocalypse,
    Thanks for reading. I agree and think the fish will find the ladder. I heard from someone recently that fish have already been nosing around this year and been turned away from the unfinished ladder area. You are right though that the downstream passage for smolts is equally important.....I hope that they have a good plan to get them down safe.


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