Last week I had the opportunity to tour the Willamette Falls fish ladder as a member of the ODFW Restoration & Enhancement Board. There has been extensive coverage, including posts on this blog, about sea lion predation on anadromous fish at this ladder, to the extent that steelhead runs were at short term risk of extinction. ODFW is now euthanizing the most problematic pinnipeds. Less publicity has been given to the fact that the fish ladder itself is in danger of structural failure.
It is mind boggling to me but our governor and legislature have denied requests for over 10 years to allocate funds for critically needed repairs to the ladder which could literally fail in the near future due to serious structural problems. Controlling sea lion predation will be useless if anadromous fish have no ladder. Natural passage is no longer possible as the falls have been massively altered over the past 100+ years to meet various industrial and power generation needs.
While the board had misgivings about using R&E funds for this project, the real threat of a catastrophic failure compelled us to allocate a large percentage of our funds for the next biennium to the needed repairs. Those funds will be taken out of the hatchery repair component of our budget and will not impact other important habitat and freshwater projects.
Of interest to Central Oregonians, we also allocated funds to continue invasive species control in local lakes, especially East and Paulina, as well as Diamond Lake. We approved a new boat motor and flow meter for ODFW’s Prineville office and funded some research projects on the fishery in the Klamath Basin. There isn’t a lot of money to go around but we are doing our best to focus on high value projects that directly benefit anglers.