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The Last Dam on Whychus Creek Slated for Removal

The last remaining concrete dam on Whychus Creek.
Mathias Perle
The last remaining concrete dam on Whychus Creek.

The removal of the last remaining concrete dam on Whychus Creek near Sisters, Oregon is slated to get underway following a ceremony on Monday.

The removal is a part of a larger campaign to restore the creek to a condition it hasn’t seen since the first dams were built there at the end of the 19th century.

The dam’s removal will reopen 13 miles of upstream spawning and rearing habitat for chinook salmon, steelhead, and redband trout.

Removing the dam is crucial to reintroducing salmon and other fish species to the upper watershed, according to Mike Riehle, the Forest Service fish biologist for the Deschutes National Forest and project leader for the Whychus Creek Dam Removal and Restoration Project.

“There’s a gradient of habitats and water temperatures throughout the length of Whychus Creek,” Riehle said. “By eliminating these fish barriers we’re allowing the fish to utilize the whole watershed at different times of the year for their best survival.”

“It’s not only the fish that benefit here with the dam removal,” Perle said. “It’s the farmers, the ranchers, the fish, and it’s the ecosystem as a whole that wins with restored stream function.”

The deconstruction of the dam is slated to begin this week after a short ceremony Monday. Perle expects the project to be completed by early 2016.

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Alexi Horowitz