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Weyerhaeuser, Coos Watershed Association team on $2M fish passage plan

The project is scheduled to be completed by mid-September, just in time for salmon to come upstream and spawn. (SBG/Jessica Waite)

COOS BAY, Ore. -- Weyerhaeuser and the Coos Watershed Association have teamed up on a nearly $2 million project.

Nearly sixty years ago, a part of the Millicoma River was blocked off by two bridges that lead to Weyerhaeuser's 210,000-acre Millicoma Tree Farm.

This cut off the east fork of the Millicoma, making it difficult for salmon to come up and spawn.

More than a decade ago, the Coos Watershed Association and Weyerhaeuser began a project plan.

"The project was to reconnect the river to the oxbow and get fish passage for the Oregon Salmon Plan -- the governor's plan to get Coho populations back up in Oregon," Weyerhaeuser forest engineer Jason Richardson explains.

The river cascades down a 200 ft. bypass chute, limiting upstream migration for adults and creating an upstream barrier for juveniles.

Reconnecting to the oxbow will decrease the slope and provide a protective habitat for the salmon.

"Coho were able to get up here; they just got beat up in the process,” Coos Watershed Uplands Project manager Allison Tarbox says. “We're expecting to just have an easier passage so they can go farther upstream, make deeper reads have more eggs."

The project will also help chinook salmon.

Officials say for every 10 chinook, only one was able to pass through the area.

"It has a lot of spawning potential,” Tarbox says, “but this area is a huge barrier to about 16 miles of habitat upstream that salmon don't really access that well."

The project is scheduled to be completed by mid-September, just in time for salmon to come upstream and spawn.

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