Kellogg Dam removal project finally gets big boost in Milwaukie
Finally, some good news about Kellogg Dam removal.
"The process just got a big push forward, thanks to longtime river advocate, Sen. Jeff Merkley. He was able to secure $585,000 in Congressional funding for the next step of designing a free-flowing Kellogg Creek through the dam site in the appropriations bill that just passed," said Neil Schulman, executive director of North Clackamas Watersheds Council.
This all came about over the course of a year with Oregon's Congressional delegation, Schulman said, noting Merkley was the lead, but Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Kurt Schrader were also involved.
He added that NCWC, American Rivers, the city of Milwaukie, and other state agencies were all part of the effort.
"We're very excited that Merkley was able to catalyze the project in this way; it's absolutely critical to get the project ready for the next steps, and it's a testament to his longstanding passion for Oregon rivers that goes back to long before he was a senator," Schulman said.
Kellogg Dam, constructed in 1858, sits at the confluence of Kellogg Creek and the Willamette River, in downtown Milwaukie. It was built to power a flour mill that closed in the 1890s and is has served no purpose since; it is now owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation. A bridge over Highway 99E, built in 1934, sits on top of the dam.
Kellogg Dam is a near-total barrier to salmonid rearing, resting and spawning habitat in the entire Kellogg Creek and Mt. Scott Creek watersheds. Removing the dam will benefit threatened and endangered salmonids and other species, and will restore the creek to a free-flowing, meandering channel, Schulman said.
He added that Kellogg Creek is a vital tributary to the Willamette River and is vital to the "usual and accustomed places" that are part of the treaty rights of both the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde.
"It is important habitat for salmon, steelhead and lamprey, which are all important to the tribes. The removal of the dam will help both local spawning of these species and vital stopover habitat for all fish migrating through the Willamette River," Schulman said.
Congressional funding that was just approved will go to design, Schulman said. The process will have to figure out what the new stream channel should look like and what its slope, speed of water and channel shape will be, once the dam is removed. Also in consideration will be how to handle the sediment behind the dam; how to make sure that the new channel is the best way to ensure clear passage to juvenile, adult salmon, steelhead and lamprey; and how wide the new Highway 99E bridge will need to be.
"These are all complex design questions that require a lot of technical steps to determine. The funding for the removal of the dam and the replacement of the Highway 99E bridge that rests on the dam will come later once the design is done. We're actively pursuing those sources now," Schulman said.
"People have advocated for the project for decades, and some initial studies were completed in the past. However, project planning is formally kicking off now," said April McEwan, river restoration project manager for American Rivers, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting wild rivers, restoring damaged rivers and conserving clean water for people and nature.
McEwan noted that her organization, along with NCWC, the city of Milwaukie and the Oregon Department of Transportation will be working closely together to sponsor and manage the project.
Many key partners are also represented on a Technical Advisory Committee that will play an important role in selecting a preferred design alternative, contributing to design development and a streamlined permitting process. These partners include the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District.
Other partners may provide support for the project by helping with funding or expressing their support, McEwan noted.
She added, "Complex projects like Kellogg can be successfully completed in a timely manner when a collaborative planning approach is taken, and partnerships are developed. So many resources and a variety of expertise is needed, but partnerships create a support system that allows big projects to weather unforeseen circumstances that might arise."
Interfluve, an employee-owned, Hood River-based consulting firm that specializes in providing professional design services for river restoration projects, was "selected as the engineering firm to conduct the alternatives analysis and feasibility assessment through a competitive bid process," McEwen said.
"Most dam removals in the past three decades have removed obsolete dams that no longer serve their intended purpose. However, we are increasingly and consistently removing functional dams to improve and modernize other infrastructure that is much less vulnerable when it no longer relies on a dam," McEwen said.
She added that in the case of Kellogg Dam, it is important that the Highway 99E bridge through the city of Milwaukie not rely on the structural integrity and existence of a century-old dam as its foundation, while
Schulman noted that the bridge does not meet ODOT's current seismic criteria.
In addition to restoration of a free-flowing Kellogg Creek and clear fish passage, other project benefits include improved water quality, public access to a 14-acre natural area and 563 living-wage jobs and economic recovery once work on the project gets underway.
Schulman said it has not yet been determined if the lake behind the dam will be removed.
"There are a lot of advantages to removing the current lake, since it's too warm for salmon and steelhead, and will only get even warmer as climate change kicks in. But there may be some advantages to leaving some ponding/pools, for salmon to hide from predators," he said.
"Projects like Kellogg provide a host of benefits to people and the environment," McEwan said, adding that these multi-benefit projects improve quality of life and support the public in its pursuit of a happy, healthy and free lifestyle.
As for when the actual dam removal might take place, Schulman said it could happen sometime between 2025-28.
"That may seem like a long way off, but keep in mind this is a major infrastructure project: removing a dam that has been in place since before Abraham Lincoln was president or Oregon was a state; replacing an aging, earthquake-vulnerable bridge that was built in 1934; and restoring a river channel," he said.
Schulman added, "It's an exciting project that the community supports and that will revitalize the city of Milwaukie. There aren't many opportunities to remove a dam and restore a salmon stream in a city center."
Kellogg Dam removal project
For more information, visit the North Clackamas Watersheds Council website at ncurbanwatershed.wordpress.com. Donations are always welcome.
To learn more about American Rivers, visit americanrivers.org.
Visit interfluve.com to learn more about this firm that specializes in investigations, design and restoration of rivers, lakes, estuaries and wetlands.
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