Santiam River Tour

Destinations: Upstream, Downstream and Lateral Passage Projects in the Santiam River Drainage System, Willamette River Basin, Oregon

Date & Duration: June 22, 2017, 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

Meals: Bagged lunch provided.

Trip fee: $85

The Santiam River is a primary cold water tributary to the Willamette River, joining the Willamette southeast of the City of Salem, Oregon. The Santiam River’s two principal tributaries, the North and South Santiam rivers, drain the central portion of Oregon’s Cascade Mountain Range and serve as the primary drinking water source for the city of Salem and surrounding communities. The river system supports anadromous and resident populations of salmon, steelhead, Pacific lamprey, and other native fish species.

The 148 km long North Santiam River drains nearly 2,000 km2 of the Cascade Range. The lower river has the Bennett Dam complex (which includes the Upper and Lower Bennett dams) near Stayton, Oregon. These dams are low head surface water diversions that divert water for the City of Salem.  Further upstream the river is impounded by Detroit Dam and Big Cliff Dam (re-regulating dam), which are high head flood control dams managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).  The dams are located between the towns of Niagara and Detroit, Oregon.

The 111 km long South Santiam River drains 2,692 km2 of the Cascade Range. Green Peter Dam and Foster Dam (re-regulating dam), also managed by USACE, impound the Middle Santiam and South Santiam rivers, respectively. The South Santiam River dams are located near Sweet Home, Oregon.

The Santiam Tour will include the following site visits on the North Santiam and South Santiam.

1. North Santiam River Sites

Oregon Chub, recently delisted from the Endangered Species Act, in part due to conservation efforts like what occurs on Bird Haven Farms (photo courtesy of ODFW)Bird Haven Farm Fish Passage and Floodplain Restoration:  This tour stop provides an opportunity to consider the big picture of fish passage.  In addition to upstream and downstream passage, it is important to consider lateral migration, the ability of fish to access floodplains for flood refugia and off channel habitat.  A private landowner has been working in partnership with the North Santiam Watershed Council, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), and others to restore river access to floodplains, benefiting Oregon chub, salmon and steelhead juveniles, and other fish species.  As a part of the project, an undersized culvert was replaced, returning natural hydrology to the off channel habitat and facilitating lateral migration of native fish.

Upper Bennett Dam on the North Santiam River (photo courtesy of Statesman Journal).Upper Bennett Dam Fish Passage:  This tour stop will allow us to visit a vertical slot fishway and video monitoring station. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) monitors with video cameras the respective ladders to enumerate wild and hatchery Upper Willamette River (UWR) Chinook Salmon and UWR steelhead, Coho Salmon, and Pacific Lamprey as they migrate through the North Santiam River. The Upper Bennett Dam’s older pool and weir ladder caused migration delays and required annual manual removal and transport of fish from the ladder. The City of Salem replaced the problematic ladder with a vertical slot fishway in 2004. The vertical slot fishway allows for volitional passage and minimal operational management relative to its predecessor structure.

Minto Fish Collection Facility:  This tour stop will give us access to a newly renovated fish collection facility. In 2013, USACE rebuilt the Minto Fish Collection Facility, which is located 11 km downstream of Detroit Dam. The facility originally served as a collection location for the ODFW hatchery program to mitigate for habitat blocked by Detroit and Big Cliff dams.  In addition to hatchery support and acclimation, the newly reconstructed facility is used to trap and haul adult Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed UWR Chinook Salmon upstream of Detroit Dam to access historical spawning and rearing habitat. 


2. South Santiam River Sites

Fish passage restored in lower Ames Creek (photo courtesy of South Santiam Watershed Council).Ames Creek Fish Passage:  This tour stop will review fish passage improvements that mitigate for flood control effects on river-tributary connectivity and fish passage. The stop also features the benefits of local partnerships developed among the South Santiam Watershed Council (SSWC), government agencies, and school children.

Upstream of its confluence with the South Santiam River, Ames Creek flows through a steep bedrock channel that included a nearly vertical 6 ft cascade into the South Santiam River. Hydraulic conditions posed a fish passage issue for migrating steelhead and trout entering Ames Creek from the South Santiam River. Flood control operations at Foster Dam reduced backwatering at the mouth of Ames Creek, blocking migratory fish access into the tributary. In 2012, SSWC in partnership with Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, ODFW, and others, addressed the channel conditions by excavating a series of pools at the mouth of Ames Creek. The project site was re-vegetated by the Sweet Home Youth Watershed Council and Sweet Home School District’s science education programs.  

Foster Dam and reservoir (photo courtesy USACE).Foster Fish Collection Facility and Thermal Control:  This tour stop will allow us to visit a newly renovated fish collection facility and discuss reservoir management. In 2014, USACE rebuilt the Foster Fish Collection Facility, located at the base of Foster Dam near Sweet Home, Oregon. The facility originally served as a collection location for the ODFW hatchery program to mitigate for habitat blocked by Green Peter and Foster dams.  In addition to hatchery support and acclimation, the reconstructed facility is used to trap and haul wild adult ESA-listed UWR Chinook Salmon and UWR winter steelhead upstream of Foster Dam and Green Peter Dam to access historical spawning and rearing habitat.  In addition to improved fish passage facilities, structural modifications and reservoir management improvements now allow USACE to better simulate historical thermal regimes downstream from the dam complex.

Trout Creek Fish Passage Project:  This tour stop is intended to showcase a road-stream crossing improvement project. Trout Creek flows out of the Menagerie Wilderness on the Willamette National Forest and passes under State Highway 20 just before connecting with the South Santiam River.  The Oregon Department of Transportation replaced an undersized culvert at the Highway 20 road crossing with a bridge. This tour stop will review the application of streambed simulation and aquatic organism passage (AOP) principles for restoring fish passage at road-stream crossings.

Soda Fork Ck Project (photo courtesy USFS).

Soda Fork Creek Project:  This tour stop will review longitudinal and lateral fish passage as part of a larger holistic watershed restoration plan. Soda Fork Creek is another major tributary to the South Santiam River upstream of Foster Reservoir.  The USDA Forest Service and its partners conducted an interdisciplinary analysis within the Soda Fork Creek watershed and developed a holistic restoration plan for both public and private lands.  The plan included the addition of wood and correction of undersized road-stream crossings to restore stream structure and function and to facilitate stream and fish access to floodplains and off-channel habitat for the benefit of wild winter Steelhead.