Neither rocks, nor beaver stop progress on fish ladder
Despite challenges over the past month that have included a beaver gnawing on flashboards at the Opal Springs hydro dam, and a giant rock that fell into the Crooked River next to the dam, a fish ladder project is still well on its way to completion later this year.
The $11 million project to aid in the reintroduction of anadromous salmon and steelhead in the Deschutes Basin, got underway at the Opal Springs Hydroelectric Project in April 2018.
"The project is the result of many years of discussions with fish agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and other interested parties who have sought fish passage since the fish were reintroduced to the basin in 2012," said Ed Pugh, general manager of the Deschutes Valley Water District, which operates the project near the source of its water.
"Financially, we are 63 percent completed on the project," Pugh estimated earlier this month. "The contract was awarded for $9.245 million. So far we have paid $5.892 million."
About two-thirds of the total is funded by grants, he said, adding, "Physically, we are closer to 75 percent done. RSCI (Record Steel and Construction Inc.) estimates they may be done in August 2019."
Beaver gnaws on flashboards
The problem with the beaver started in January. "The busy beaver showed up and chewed on the flashboards about six weeks ago," said Pugh, explaining that the flashboards are 2-by-8-inch pine beams that the contractor is using to build up the side of the dam.
"The flashboards on top of the dam give us additional elevation to the reservoir," he said. "The pool raise is for two reasons: The fish ladder can go over the top, and it gives us a little more hydropower."
Although the beaver never chewed through a board, it was consistently causing damage every night. "The motion camera was set up specifically to verify it was a beaver (and how many), since it was only active at night," said Pugh. "After two weeks, we put out the trap supplied by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife."
The beaver checked out the trap, but didn't go in. "It was out for a week when he finally went in, and then escaped after 12 minutes," said Pugh, pointing out that the whole thing was caught on video, and is posted on the Deschutes Valley Water District Facebook page.
"He hasn't been back since he was he trapped, but we are leaving the trap in place, just in case," he said.
Giant rock falls into river
At the same time that DVWD was dealing with the beaver, the issue with the gigantic rock arose as the contractor cleared away part of the hillside above the fish ladder project, on the east side of the dam.
"We had to move a lot of dirt and huge rocks to make it safe for people working on the fish ladder," said Pugh.
As the backhoe excavator removed a rock that they estimate weighs over 50 tons, it rolled from the top of the hill, to their road. Rather that being stopped by the other rocks on the roadway, it rolled over the top of them, and into the river.
The video of the rolling rock is also posted on their Facebook page, Pugh said, adding, "RSCI will need to break it apart and remove it because it is in the way of the lower end of the ladder."