Sadly, one of the most diverse, unique and beautiful rivers we've ever been privy to is in danger of being fucked by greed and shortsightedness. Tailout personell are pissed, and we're determined to stop the destruction. The following words come from a good friend and we reprint them here with the hope that it will publicize the battle, a battle to retain and continue to improve one of the most special fisheries on the planet. Please do what you can to help.
The Siletz River drains the rainiest part of the Oregon Coast Range, traveling a tortuous path through steep forestlands to the Pacific Ocean. The Siletz isn’t a large or famous destination river, but it is a unique gem, and supports more species of anadromous fish than any other river in the entire state of Oregon. Spring and fall chinook, fall coho, summer and winter steelhead, chum salmon, and sea run cutthroat are all native to the Siletz basin. Lamprey too! Siletz summer steelhead are particularly unique, being the only native summer race of steelhead in the entire Oregon Coast Range, with a few hundred wild fish returning annually to spawning grounds in the upper basin. All of these fish species manage to survive despite intense past and present logging in the basin, continued introductions of hatchery fish, and documented cases of poaching each year. What could make matters worse?
Political forces in Polk County are currently evaluating the feasibility of damming the Siletz River. The proposed dam on the South Fork Siletz River would be 100’ tall and create a reservoir 5 miles long and 3 miles wide. A total of 20 usable river miles of mainstem and tributary habitats would be blocked. The best and preferred chinook spawning habitat in the South Fork Siletz would be directly inundated by the dam. The remaining stream reaches in headwater tributaries above the reservoir would become isolated from one another, confounding the seasonal migration of juvenile fish among various tributaries essential for their survival. The lake itself would become a gauntlet of invasive stillwater bass, bullfrogs, and other species that always seem to benefit at the expense of native salmonids. In an unprecedented era of dam removal, why on Earth would Polk County propose now to dam the most diverse anadromous river in Oregon?
Follow the money. The headwaters of the Siletz River lie within Polk County, which in recent years has seen increased development as a bedroom community for the Oregon State Capital. Growth requires water, and continued growth will strain existing Polk County water supplies, jeopardizing further development and cash influx. Polk County borders the mighty Willamette River, which provides an abundant and perfectly usable source of drinking water, with communities both immediately upstream (Corvallis) and downstream (Wilsonville) treating Willamette River water to excellent drinking quality. Polk County has an open option to purchase additional Willamette River water rights from the nearby city of Adair, but hasn’t done much to explore this option. With Willamette water so close and readily available, what makes damming a remote coastal river so appealing?
Follow the money, again. Historically, the creation of large reservoirs in remote areas in Oregon and elsewhere has promoted development and recreational tourism. Landowners along the Siletz River could stand to gain handsomely from a new dam and reservoir. Riverside lands formerly owned by Boise Cascade and now deemed unproductive timberlands were purchased in recent years by Forest Capital, Inc., an investment company with a long history of making lucrative land deals in forestlands. Their clients are wealthy investors, not family loggers in Oregon. Perhaps coincidentally, the Polk County commissioner who has been spearheading the dam evaluation effort has a background in real estate, heavy construction, and construction engineering. That’s one dam coincidence after another.
Contact Commissioner Mike Propes and the other Polk County Commissioners, and let them know what you think of damming the most diverse anadromous salmonid river in Oregon.
Tom Ritchey: Ritchey.Tom@co.polk.or.us
Ron Dodge: Dodge.Ron@co.polk.or.us
Want to voice your opinion in person? Attend a panel discussion of the Valsetz Reservoir and Dam Proposal.
May 7, 2009 7:00-8:30 pm
Monmouth Library, 168 S. Ecols, Monmouth
Mike Propes/Austin McGuigan, Polk County
Mark Milligan, Buell-Red Prairie Water Association
Barry McPherson, Retired Fisheries Professional
Stan van de Wetering, Siletz Tribe Fisheries Biologist
TBN, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wildlife Professional
Panelists will each give a brief presentation followed by general discussion and questions from the audience. This meeting is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. (Hosted by Friends of Polk County)