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Oregon praises BPA program for fish and people
6/25/2010 12:00 AM
Before: A gravel and wood "push-up" dam that blocks fish passage on the Upper Mainstem John Day River, south of John Day.
....And after! The lay - flat stanchion dam includes a channel for fish to migrate past the dam. When the dam is lowered, the stream flows naturally.
They mean less work and lower costs for ranchers; they're a whole lot better for fish; and they just reaped BPA and its partners the Oregon State Land Board's 2009 Project Stream Award.
They're lay-flat stanchion dams, low-profile structures that divert stream water for farms and ranches without degrading stream quality. Since 1999, BPA has funded installation of more than 100 of the fish-and-people friendly devices in Oregon's John Day River Basin through the Upper John Day Watershed Restoration Program, administered by the Grant County Soil and Water Conservation District.
"This is a truly effective partnership that works on a small scale to create large-scale results," explains Jason Karnezis, program manager, who accepted the award for BPA. "Working together, we've been able to assist individual landowners to improve wildlife habitat and passage, retain their agricultural interests, and save them money at the same time."
The conservation district works with landowners in the John Day basin to open more habitat for spring chinook, summer steelhead and other fish by replacing "push-up" irrigation dams with the more fish-friendly structures. Push-up dams have been used since the 1880s to divert stream water for agricultural purposes, but they require annual reconstruction with heavy equipment and block fish passage. The repeated construction in and along streams can damage their banks and degrade water quality.
Landowners who participate in the watershed restoration program receive assistance to instead install permanent lay-flat stanchion dams. The dams lay flat on the stream bottom when not in use. They are then raised when needed to divert water, but fish passage systems allow fish to continue moving up and down streams. The dams require little or no maintenance.
More than 70 push-up dams have been replaced in the program on the upper mainstem of the John Day River, opening up more than 50 miles of the river for salmon and steelhead. Dozens of additional replacements on tributaries have further increased spring chinook and steelhead access to spawning and rearing habitat.
This project is particularly important because the John Day is the second longest free-flowing river in the contiguous United States and the longest with entirely unsupplemented runs of anadromous fish. It sustains wild runs of spring chinook salmon and summer steelhead, red band, westslope cutthroat, and redband trout. Most of the John Day basin was ceded to the federal government in 1855 by the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation.
Program partners include the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Grant Soil and Water Conservation District, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and private landowners.
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