Re-establishing runs of steelhead and Chinook salmon to the Upper Deschutes, Metolius and Crooked Rivers is a historic undertaking. PGE and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs are dedicated to the success of this project in the long term.
Reducing handling of fish
As the runs of steelhead and salmon become more firmly established, PGE and the Tribes plan to add facilities that will allow the fish to migrate past the dams with less human interaction:
- A fish ladder, built when Pelton Dam was constructed, runs from the base of the re-regulating dam (most downstream dam) to the top of Pelton (middle dam). This ladder could be reactivated for upstream passage with some modernization.
- To allow fish to pass upstream from Lake Simtustus to the top of Round Butte (dam farthest upstream), a new facility will need to be constructed. The Round Butte tramway, which carries fish in a 500-gallon bucket above the dam, was removed to make way for construction of the underwater tower. Rebuilding this tramway is one option that will be evaluated.
- An existing trap at the top of Pelton Dam will be reactivated to capture downstream-migrating smolts from Lake Simtustus and transport the juvenile fish below the re-regulating dam during spring.
PGE and the Tribes are working on ongoing supporting projects that will enhance the river both upstream and downstream:
- Large trees that fall naturally into Lake Billy Chinook will be transported below the dams so they can continue their way down the river and provide streamside habitat as they did before the dams were built.
- Nearly two miles of stream bed on Trout Creek, a steelhead spawning stream, have been restored. Trout Creek is located 11 miles downstream of the re-regulating dam.
- Gravel beds below the dams will be studied and, where necessary, more gravel deposited for fish habitat
In addition to these projects, PGE and the Tribes have established the Pelton Round Butte Fund to assist the efforts of local watershed and conservation groups and public agencies. This fund of more than $20 million supports various fish passage and habitat improvement measures in the Deschutes Basin.
PGE and the Tribes will continue to monitor the whole fish passage project to determine how well the salmon and steelhead are doing and what is needed to support their return to the upper reaches of the rivers.