Fish ladder set to go in at Crooked River hydro project

Dec 20, 2017


Fish ladder set to go in at Crooked River hydro project

Salmon, steelhead fishing could return to river

MADRAS, Ore. - A new fish ladder is set to go in on the Crooked River at the Opal Springs Hydroelectric Project.

Ed Pugh, general manager of the Deschutes Valley Water District, said this week the project has been in the works for many years, and now the water district has the funding to move forward.

The idea for the fish ladder came about after steelhead and salmon were reintroduced into the Crooked River.

Right now, the water district is trapping the fish and carrying them around the dam.

The $9.2 million fish ladder would eliminate that process and help fish in the area, Pugh said.

Brett Hodgson, a biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the project should be a good thing for all involved.

“Ideally, if everything comes, falls into place, this will be a win-win situation where the owner-operator of the site will receive some benefits, and we will get fish passage as well,” Hodgson said.

Pugh said when the water district puts in the ladder, it will get a tax break, which will help to keep operating costs and water prices low. Pugh hopes that will continue.

“I can’t promise that prices won’t go up and taxes won’t come back some day, but we are doing the best we can to make sure they stay reasonable prices," Pugh said. "And keep taxing away for as long as possible.”

The hydropower plant currently makes enough money for the water district that it's able to keep water prices low for its customers in Jefferson County.

Pugh said the fish ladder is an investment to make sure that the plant operates at peak efficiency.

Scott Carlon, a fish biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said NOAA hopes the fish population soon will be big enough that fishing of salmon and steelhead will be allowed on the Crooked River.

“There are a lot of positive responses to the idea of reintroduction, and a lot of people look forward to the opportunity to enjoy these fish, just for what they are, and also to fish for them,” Carlon said.

The project is set to begin next summer, and the water district hopes to have it wrapped up sometime in 2019.

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