Balm Grove Dam:
Frequently Asked Questions

Click on the + signs to view answers to the questions members of the Gales Creek community recently asked the project team. Do you have a question that’s not addressed here? Contact Shannon Huggins: hugginss@cleanwaterservices.org or 503.681.3694.

Fish Passage

There’s a longstanding community consensus that Balm Grove Dam is the highest priority fish passage barrier in the Tualatin River Watershed. Dam removal will open up 35+ miles of high-value habitat for migratory winter steelhead and Coho salmon, as well as cutthroat trout and Pacific lamprey. It’s the single most important step that our community can take to directly benefit aquatic life in the Tualatin River.

+ Why can’t we just leave the dam alone and let nature take its course?

It’s possible that over time the stream could shift its course around the dam, but when that would happen is not predictable. If that happens, it would be a less controlled — and potentially more destructive — process.

+ I see fish on both sides of the dam. What’s the problem?

The dam is a complete barrier to juvenile and adult fish of several migratory species, including mountain whitefish, mountain sucker, largescale sucker, and Pacific lamprey, and a major barrier to juvenile and adult fish of other migratory species, including coho salmon and winter steelhead trout. Most of the fish spotted in the upper reaches of the creek are non-migratory, such as and . These fish don’t need to migrate long distances to carry out their life cycle. You may also see a small number of adult coho or winter steelhead that were able to pass the dam because creek flows were heavy at the right time in their migration. Any juveniles of these species you spot are the offspring of the adults who made it past the dam. They’re preparing for their own out-migration to the Pacific Ocean, and are unlikely to make it back to their birthplace as long as the dam is in place.

+ What about a fish ladder?

Designing a fish ladder to meet regulatory agency criteria is possible, but the costs wouldn’t result in the same ecological return on investment as would full dam removal. Some migratory species, such as mountain sucker and largescale sucker, likely wouldn’t use the ladder at all. For other migratory species, a fish ladder would provide some access to upper Gales Creek, but not as much as removing the fish passage barrier entirely. In addition to the benefits for fish, dam removal will allow for a return to normal stream processes at the site such as natural wood and sediment transport and the development of other aquatic and riparian habitat components to support aquatic organisms and improved water quality. None of these ecological benefits would result from a fish ladder.

+ Egg boxes have been used in Gales Creek before. Will the project team use strategies like fish stocking or egg boxes to get more fish into the system?

No, at least not for the first few years after the dam is removed, because partners need to monitor the creek and see how the fish populations change. In the long term, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife would lead any fish stocking/egg box activity that does occur.

Download a complete, searchable, printer-friendly set of these FAQs. [LINK TK]