A major barrier to threatened fish is scheduled to be removed in rural Washington County. The Balm Grove Dam was built approximately a century ago, primarily to secure water recreation for local residents along Gales Creek.
Salmon, steelhead, and Pacific lamprey populations are struggling to adapt to the Earth's warming climate. Low flow and warming waters drive the fish farther upstream during warm Oregon summers.
“It’s considered the number one fish passage barrier in the Tualatin Basin,” said Scott McEwen, the executive director of the Tualatin River Watershed Council.
Removing the dam has been a top priority for the Watershed Council and Clean Water Services of Washington County.
"Our goal is to work with partners and leverage the work we can all do. When we come together as a community, we can do so much more," said Laura Porter, the integrative planning program manager at Clean Water Services.
"So our goal as a water utility is water quality and watershed health," said Porter.
The dam removal will happen this summer, along with some habitat restoration along the creek. By removing the dam, it's projected that an additional 30 miles of cooler, upstream habitat will open up for Pacific lamprey, steelhead, and Coho, and up to 87 miles for cutthroat trout.
"As our climate changes, water temperatures warm, opening up cold water, headwater streams for spawning, and rearing for juvenile fish. It's very important to make sure that they can recover and that we can continue to have them persist as a species," said McEwen.
Chris McGinness is a meteorologist and transportation reporter for KGW. Got a story idea or a great photo you want to share? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram