Fall on the Crooked River - Photo by Jennifer Fairbrother

Wild Fish Wins in Oregon!

Earlier this month, the Oregon Board of Forestry and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Commission, undertook significant votes that will have direct impacts on the state’s wild fish. Thank you to everyone who provided comments and testimony before these decision-making bodies advocating for the needs of Oregon’s wild fish, rivers, and landscapes.

Oregon Board of Forestry Votes Unanimously to Pursue Habitat Conservation Plan

On Tuesday, October 6, the Oregon Board of Forestry directed the agency to move forward with a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for nearly 640,000 acres of state forest lands in western Oregon. The lack of an HCP was one of the reasons Native Fish Society—along with our partners at the Center for Biological Diversity, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, and Cascadia Wildlands—filed suit against the Oregon Department of Forestry in 2018 for the ongoing harm to threatened Oregon Coast Coho Salmon from steep slope logging on the state’s public forests.

The HCP will include conservation-oriented management actions for endangered and threatened species, like Oregon Coast Coho Salmon and Lower Columbia Coho Salmon, as well as species that may be listed under the Endangered Species Act in the future. The current draft HCP includes expanded stream buffers and Habitat Conservation Areas where the management objectives focus on developing older forests. The plan still has quite a path ahead before final adoption and implementation, but this month’s vote by the board represents a major step that will initiate the formal consultation and approval process with the federal wildlife and fisheries management agencies. This next phase of the process will include the development of an environmental impact statement and will include several opportunities for public engagement and advocacy for wild fish and strong conservation requirements.

ODFW Commission Denies Fish Passage Waiver for Bowman Dam

On Friday, October 9, the ODFW Commission denied a request to waive fish passage requirements at Bowman Dam on Oregon’s Crooked River. Ochoco Irrigation District proposed installing a new, hydroelectric generation facility at the dam. Such a project represents a significant upgrade that triggers the requirement to install fish passage at the dam. In order to receive an exemption from the fish passage requirements, the irrigation district must provide mitigation to compensate for the benefits to native fish that would be lost by forgoing the installation of fish passage infrastructure.

ODFW's required Benefit Analysis found "that the proposed mitigation actions will not provide greater benefits than if passage were provided at the Dam." This analysis determined that establishing fish passage at Bowman Dam would provide connectivity for Redband Trout below the dam with 498 miles of habitat above the dam. It would also provide key connectivity to 63 miles of Steelhead Trout habitat and 53 miles of historic spawning and rearing habitat for Spring Chinook Salmon, both of which are actively being reintroduced to the upper Deschutes basin.

The Fish Passage Task Force and ODFW Commission received extensive public comments and testimony opposing the waiver and supporting fish passage or more substantive mitigation measures at Bowman Dam. While there are many problems facing wild and native fish in the Crooked River that require attention including problematic flows and poor water quality, the mitigation measures proposed by the irrigation district are not sufficient at present to outweigh the value of fish passage at Bowman Dam.

Thanks for Creating the Groundswell

Thank you to everyone who wrote comments and testified on these important decisions. We heard that hundreds of people weighed in on these issues. You are part of the groundswell of public support advocating for the revival of abundant wild fish, free-flowing rivers, and thriving local communities. Your voice matters; your voice makes a difference.

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