The Sandy River regained its multi-channel delta with the removal of a small 1930s dam, returning the Sandy’s east channel to free flowing condition for the first time in 80 years.
The Corps and Portland Water Bureau collaborated to remove the dam, which was installed with the intention to enhance smelt (Pacific eulachon) habitat. Smelt were listed threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2012. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers declared that the project would have no significant impact, which cleared the way for removal of the dam, excavation of a pilot channel, and restoration of the braided complexity at the Sandy’s confluence with the Columbia River. The Corps Delta Web page has the Environmental Assessment and historic photos.
The removal of the Sandy Delta Dam and restoration of multi-channel complexity are components of a long-term restoration of the Sandy Delta. The Council, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, Mt. Hood Community College Project YESS, and other partners, are working to restore the native forest to the Delta, which was managed as agricultural land until it was acquired by the Forest Service in the 1991.
Besides providing off-channel habitat for migrating salmonids, the Delta is home to dozens of migratory birds, waterfowl, and wildlife. Trails on the Delta provide popular recreation, especially for walkers with dogs, and the Confluence Project’s Bird Blind recognizes the Columbia basin’s biodiversity and the cultural heritage that the rivers represent.
Contractors breached the Delta Dam September 18, reporting fish sitings in the restored 1.2 mile East channel on the first day. The area will soon be open to the public once again. Next steps toward the Sandy River Delta’s restoration include replanting with native vegetation. You can help us in this project on November 9th, when we’ll partner with Friends of Trees to plant trees and shrubs in this area.
Check out KGW’s video about the success of this dam removal:
And their video during initial phases of the dam removal that features Steve Wise, the Council’s executive director: