Oregon - Sandy River Basin Dam Removal Signed!

Posted: 10/25/2002
by Scott Collins

Yesterday, October 24th, 2002, American Whitewater signed an agreement to remove Marmot Dam, Little Sandy Dam and Portland General Electric's Bull Run power facility. The agreement was signed by PGE, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber who has supported the dam removal from the beginning, 8 federal and state agencies and 13 NGOs. It was truly a happy day for everyone, and it is a great acheivement when so many organizations can reach an agreement for the common good. The agreement will restore passage for threatened Chinook Salmon, Steelhead and Bull Trout and preserve 5,000 acres of land along 15 miles of river for wildlife and public recreation.

Boating Opportunities

The removal of Marmot Dam will extend the boating season of the class III-IV Sandy Gorge by restoring the 400-600 cfs that is currently diverted for power generation. It will also make a 12.5 mile trip possible all the way from Marmot Bridge to Revenue Bridge without having to portage around the dam.

Keith Jensen, AW volunteer celebrating the fruits of his labor on the Sandy River dam removal
"The signing ceremony yesterday for dam removal on the Sandy River would not have been occurred without Keith Jensen's persistence", commented John Gangemi, AW conservation director. "Keith has been the key representative at the table for the paddling community since the relicensing process was initiated back in 1998. Keith recognized the opportunity for restoring the Sandy through dam removal and protecting the lands in the watershed through the license surrender. Keith was instrumental in convincing other stakeholders in the proceeding of the significance of this restoration opportunity."

PGE Press Release

Governor, PGE and 21 Other Organizations Sign Dam Removal Deal
Plans for 5,000 Acre Protected Area in Sandy River Basin

Portland, Ore.-Gov. John Kitzhaber, Portland General Electric CEO and President Peggy Fowler and representatives of 21 other organizations today signed an agreement that will remove two dams, protect threatened fish species and lead to a 5,000-acre wildlife and public recreation area in the Sandy River Basin.

By signing at a ceremony in PGE headquarters, the utility committed to removing its Bull Run Hydroelectric Project, donating its water rights to the public and contributing more than 1,500 acres of its related lands. The contribution will represent about 30 percent of the planned conservation area. Dam removal will create unhindered access for threatened salmon and steelhead from the Pacific Ocean to the southwest slopes of Mt. Hood, while improving both sport fishing and wild fish restoration in the Sandy River.

"Removal of these dams represents a quantum leap in the quality of the Sandy River Watershed, for improved wildlife habitat and for enhanced recreational opportunities for Oregonians. I salute the perseverance of PGE and the diverse group of organizations in bringing this decommissioning agreement to fruition," Gov. Kitzhaber said.

The wildlife and recreation area will follow 15 miles of river, including remnants of old growth forest, fish habitat, and scenic deep river gorges. Possible amenities include streamside fishing areas, day use areas, a boat launch above Class Four rapids, and miles of trails. PGE will donate the lands to the Western Rivers Conservancy, following the removal of the Marmot Dam on the Sandy River in 2007, the Little Sandy Dam on the Little Sandy River in 2008, and other components of the 22-megawatt hydro project by late 2009. The conservancy will transfer the PGE lands to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and other organizations for continuous conservation.

"PGE will leave an environmental legacy in the Sandy Basin," Fowler said. "For more than 90 years, our Bull Run project has served our customers well-but with a significant environmental impact. When we leave the basin, the rivers will look much as they did in the early 1900s. Wild salmon and steelhead will jump rapids where they haven't passed for the better part of a century, and one of Oregon's most scenic river gorges will be opened for public enjoyment. PGE strongly believes this is the right thing to do."

"Utilities have agreed to remove dams before. What sets PGE apart is its willingness to go beyond minimum obligations to ensure the health and public enjoyment of the Sandy River watershed," said American Rivers President Rebecca Wodder. "This agreement serves as a model for dam removal for the rest of the nation and demonstrates that people can come together and do what's right for salmon and for our rivers. Future generations are going to thank PGE for having the vision and will to restore the Sandy River."

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists characterize the Sandy and Little Sandy rivers as some of the best salmon and steelhead habitat in northwest Oregon. "The agreement solves one of the dam removal's most difficult issues, restoring wild fish runs while continuing to provide robust fishing streams for anglers," said Lindsay Ball, director of ODFW. "PGE, in a very proactive manner, helped facilitate the scheduled removal of these two dams. The greatly improved passage for juveniles and adults on the Sandy will make for a healthier fishery. This result is the culmination of a strong partnership between a power generator and fishery interests."

Phillip Wallin, president of the Western Rivers Conservancy, said the organization has already assembled 1,200 acres of the protected area from other landowners. "By the end of the decade, we will have created one of Oregon's great scenic natural resources. No other metropolitan area in the world can boast a wild river preserve so accessible to its people." PGE entered multi-agency discussions on the future of the Sandy Basin in 1998. In May of 1999, Gov. Kitzhaber and President Fowler announced the Bull Run project decommissioning plans, including the shut down of the generators located on the Bull Run River, the project's namesake.

PGE assembled the 22-member Bull Run Decommissioning Work Group (DWG), author of today's agreement, earlier this year to address the issues presented by this highly complex project. The effort culminated four years of efforts by PGE and a variety of agencies and organizations.

Associated Projects

Sandy River Restoration (OR)
AW is working to protect the Sandy River Gorge and restore the river through removal of Marmot Dam in Oregon.