Trout Creek Restoration and Hemlock Dam Removal

Background Information

Before it's removal Hemlock dam no longer produced power or irrigation storage, but continued to affect steelhead by impeding upstream and downstream movement of the fish, increasing water temperatures in lower Trout Creek, and obstructing downstream movement of valuable stream sediments.

Trout Creek is located in the Wind River watershed in southwest Washington. The Wind River is a Tier I Key Watershed on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and as such is a top priority for aquatic habitat restoration. Trout Creek provides critical habitat for Lower Columbia River steelhead, a fish listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This project will improve conditions for the fish and restore natural riverine processes to lower Trout Creek. Trout Creek was once known for producing a disproportionately large share of the wild steelhead in the Wind River, and this project aims to help restore that mantle. 

Restoring Trout Creek

Since the early 1990s, the Forest Service and their partners have focused restoration efforts on Trout Creek, in efforts to restore the historically exceptional steelhead habitat. Riparian, upland, and instream habitats in upper Trout Creek have been enhanced by:

  • Improved passage for fish and other aquatic organisms
  • Reduced peak stream temperatures in lower Trout Creek.
  • Improved quality of channel bottom substrates throughout lower Trout Creek
  • Increased habitat complexity in lower Trout Creek

Project Elements

  • Removal of Hemlock Dam along with associated buildings and structures
  • Excavation of excess sediments from the reservoir area
  • Construction of a channel in the area now occupied by the reservoir
  • Incorporation large woody debris in the channel and floodplain
  • Removal and/or treatment of invasive vegetation in the project area
  • Revegetation the area surrounding the new channel

 

Lower Columbia River Steelhead

The Lower Columbia River Steelhead was listed as a threatened species on March 19, 1998 by NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service. The Lower Columbia River Steelhead is considered a distinct population segment (DPS).

The DPS geographic area the Lower Columbia River Steelhead includes all naturally spawned steelhead populations below natural and manmade impassable barriers in streams and tributaries to the Columbia River between the Cowlitz and Wind rivers in Washington, and the Willamette and Hood rivers in Oregon. The Lower Columbia River Steelhead DPS also includes ten hatchery programs on rivers and streams within the same geographic area. History of the Site

Hemlock Dam was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1937 to provide irrigation and power to the adjacent Wind River Nursery. With the closure of the nursery in the 1990s, the irrigation and power generation function was no longer needed. In the seventy years since the dam has been in place, sediment behind the dam has increased and water temperatures have risen to lethal levels for fish.

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Partners

The restoration of Trout Creek and the benefits to the federally listed Lower Columbia River Steelhead would not be possible without the financial support of the following partners:

  • Bonneville Power Administration
  • Salmon Recovery Funding Board
  • Yakama Nation
  • American Rivers
  • Ecotrust
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • NOAA Fisheries
  • Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group