Salmon and steelhead are finding it easier to reach habitat above the Soda Springs Dam in the North Umpqua River following federal approval of the dam’s operating license.
Completed in 1952, the dam east of Roseburg is part of the North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project started in 1947 by PacifiCorps--known in Oregon as Pacific Power. The utility built a network of eight hydroelectric dams and miles of pipes and channels to direct water to the turbines. When PacifiCorps applied in 2003 for a 35-year renewal of the Soda Springs Dam operating license, federal regulators required that migrating fish be allowed to swim around the dam. By the fall of 2012, a ladder and a set of screens were ready for fish swimming the 180 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The 600-foot, 59-stair-stepped pools reopened six miles of fish habitat above the dam. Aquatic scientist Rich Grost estimates it will take 12 years for migrating fish to establish healthy populations above the dam. He counted more than 100 adult spring chinook salmon and 10 adult steelhead above Soda Springs Dam this year. He’s still researching whether the turbine’s new fish screens will allow juvenile fish to go downstream.
Sources: Prokop, Jessica. "Early returns favor fish." The News Review 2 Aug. 2013. Print; "Salmon Return and Spawning Increases as PacifiCorp Work Nears Completion on North Umpqua River." PacifiCorp. 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2013.