Whychus Creek fish habitat to get big boost

Dam removal part of $2 million plan to aid migrating fish

Whychus Creek project set

SISTERS, Ore. - The effort to bring salmon and steelhead back to Whychus Creek means some big changes starting next month for the creek that flows through downtown Sisters.

This $2 million floodplain restoration and fish migration project in five years in the making.

Whychus Creek has a long history of flooding, and efforts to fix the problem have led to more.

"It's been in a state of poor fish habitat for over 60 or 70 years," project Team Leader Mike Riehle said Thursday.

Man-made channels are too narrow and too fast-paced for fish to spawn, and a narrow walking bridge pinches the creek, causing erosion downstream. -- problems that will be tackled starting next month.

"We're going to restore the floodplain and open up new channels, historic channels that haven't been used in 80 years," Riehle said.

The project will also remove a dam on Whychus Creek that blocks migrating fish.

"We have a pretty dam big problem up there," Pine Meadow Ranch co-owner Cris Converse said.

For decades, Converse and her family have used the dam as an irrigation diversion for their Sisters ranch. But they are making changes to help the creek they love.

"Moving our old diversion is going to be a really good thing for the whole community," Converse said.

The new diversion is on Converse's property, and fish-friendly. A screen will keep fish out of the irrigation water and send them back into the creek.

The new system, partially funded by grant money, also puts one cubic foot a second of water back into the creek.

"By removing that dam, we're going to open up fish passage for 13 miles of creek upstream," Riehle said.

Converse added, "It's coming out with a real win for everybody -- and that doesn't always happen."

If no objections are raised through the remaining Forest Service process, the work on floodplain restoration, dam removal and bridge expansion should start by the end of April and be finished by 2016.

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