The 1930s-era Hemlock Dam on Trout Creek in Skamania County is being removed in a project that will last through the summer.
The project is being implemented by the Mt. Adams Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service, and is supported by multiple partners, including Bonneville Power Administration, Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group, EcoTrust, Salmon Recovery Funding Board, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Wind River Watershed Council, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, American Rivers, and the Yakama Nation.
The goal of the $2 million project, near the former Wind River Nursery north of Carson, is to eliminate a safety hazard and restore native fish runs.
Removal of the 26-foot high Hemlock Dam, on a tributary to the Wind River, began July 1 with the rescue and removal of fish from the dam removal site.
"This project improves habitat and water quality in Trout Creek and removes a significant barrier to fish migration," said Nancy Ryke, Mt. Adams District Ranger, Gifford Pinchot National Forest. "Over the past 15 years, the Forest Service has worked closely with partners to restore habitat throughout Trout Creek and the Wind River watershed. This is the largest single project we've done in this watershed-scale restoration effort."
The construction project was awarded to James Dean Construction Co. Work to date has included the stockpiling of trees and boulders that will be used during the stream channel reconstruction, demolition of a pump house, and installation of diversion pipes and pumps.
"This is an exciting time for river restoration in the Pacific Northwest," said Kavita Heyn of American Rivers. "Removing outdated dams not only means healthier salmon and steelhead runs, it can also mean cleaner water and improved flood protection for local communities."
American Rivers contributed $75,000 in funding to assist with the removal of Hemlock Dam.
Dam removal will help fish populations, including the currently threatened lower Columbia River steelhead, by allowing unobstructed fish passage to 15 miles of upstream habitat on Trout Creek and many more miles of seasonal habitat on tributaries. The project will also restore natural stream flows and cooler water temperatures.
Demolition of the dam will also make the Wind River safer for local citizens. The dam was classified as "High Hazard," meaning that if the dam were to fail, there is the potential for loss of life.
"It's wonderful to see the progress we continue to make throughout Washington in restoring habitat and increasing the viability of all salmon species," said Barry Thom, acting regional administrator for National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration Fisheries (NOAA).
American Rivers is also involved with efforts to remove dams on the White Salmon River and Elwha River.
In another project in the region, American Rivers and NOAA are partnering with the Yakama Nation to remove Satus Creek Dam near Toppenish to reduce the risk of flooding and restore the river's natural functions. The removal will open up 93 miles of critical steelhead spawning habitat in the Yakima River Basin.
The Hemlock Dam deconstruction project will occur throughout the summer. After fish rescue and removal, sediment will be excavated and removed, and the dam will be dismantled.