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Kellogg Dam's watershed moment

by: PHOTO COURTESY: MARK GAMBA - City Councilor Mark Gamba (left) and Greg Baartz-Bowman hope their film, 'Un-Dam It! The Story of Kellogg Dam,' will generate more momentum for removing the dam after the Jan. 12 Watershed Event in Milwaukie.Greg Baartz-Bowman and Mark Gamba hope their film, “Un-Dam It! The Story of Kellogg Dam,” catches a few eyes during Milwaukie’s Jan. 12 Watershed Event 2013.

But they also want people to realize that “this will be a community event to learn about and increase awareness of our watershed. It will be a great all-ages experience,” Baartz-Bowman said.

“People should come and learn, and then express their opinions to the City Council,” said Gamba, who was elected in November to the Milwaukie City Council.

“Our film is Jan. 12, and the next council goal-setting session is Jan. 22,” added Baartz-Bowman. “We’d really like to have the Milwaukie city councilors attend, and see what that can generate.”

The two men conceived the idea for their film at the same time they were making their first film, “Lonely Tree — Old Growth in Peril at Three-Creeks,” which Baartz-Bowman called an “advocacy documentary” about the county’s plan to cut 200-year-old oak trees and build a road through the Three-Creeks Natural Area, near the North Clackamas Aquatic Park. “Lonely Tree” was shown at the first Milwaukie Watershed Event in April of 2012.

“I’ve been actively pushing the city to stay on the project to remove Kellogg Dam, and when Greg suggested we do a film about that, I said this is a film that I’m all about,” Gamba said.

They started filming in March 2012, and finished filming in December.

Why make this film?

“We as a society have been doing irreversible damage to our own environment, and I hope people will start to understand that environmentalists are not just trying to protect a tree or an owl, they are trying to protect where we live,” Gamba said.

As Baartz-Bowman researched the history of the environment in Oregon, he realized that it all started with former Gov. Tom McCall.

“He said, ‘When we have steelhead and Coho in our streams, the environment is healthy. When we don’t have these fish in our watersheds, something is wrong.’ That was eye-opening,” he said.

And the fish have not been able to use Kellogg Creek for 160 years, Gamba said, since the dam, first built in 1858, “has kept yet another salmon-bearing stream from functioning the way it is supposed to function.”

Last year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife counted 336 salmon in the Kellogg Creek and Mount Scott watershed, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated that 98 percent of the time, the fish can’t use the ladder at Kellogg Dam, Gamba noted.

If the dam comes out, “we hope to see 30,000 fish coming through,” Baartz-Bowman said, noting that that figure is the historical number of fish that came through before the dam was put in.

“I wanted to learn more about Kellogg Dam, and I thought this was a great way to use film to advocate and create awareness about why the dam should come down,” Baartz-Bowman said. “We haven’t heard anyone say this is a bad idea or that they love the lake.”

Among the people the two men interviewed for the film were Kenny Asher, former Milwaukie community development and public works director; Steve Berliner, a North Clackamas Urban Watersheds Council Board member; Milwaukie Mayor Jeremy Ferguson; Jim Labbe and Bob Salinger, with the Portland Audubon Society; Carol Murdock, from Water Environment Services; Chris Runyard, a land steward and head of the Tsunami Crew, a volunteer group dedicated to the restoration of Three Creeks Natural Area; Shirley Stageberg, a member of the Milwaukie Presbyterian Church, who has worked on a restoration project on Kellogg Lake; Portland Audubon’s Nicole West, a former city of Milwaukie employee who compiled the document “An Oral History of Kellogg Lake,” available on the city’s website; and Willamette Riverkeeper’s Travis Williams.

Kellogg Lake

Joseph Kellogg built a mill on the site in 1858, damming the creek to power his mill, and creating the lake, when there were only about 20 people in Milwaukie. As more people moved here, the lake became part of the landscape, Baartz-Bowman said.

“If that is what you see, you accept it,” he added, so it took knowledge and reflection to recognize that now it is time to take the dam out.

The mill functioned for 30 years and then closed. According to “An Oral History of Kellogg Lake,” children could swim in the lake or skate on its frozen surface.

“But no one can use the lake now, because it is polluted,” Gamba said.

So what is holding up the removal of the dam? Money. The project is likely to cost $15 million, and Gamba believes there could be opposition from a few homeowners who live on the lake, and fear that their privacy will be compromised.

There is hope, however, in that a company called Wildlands Inc., which establishes and manages wetlands and wildlife habitat through mitigation banking and public and private restoration projects, will pay $15 million of its own money to restore the area, once Oregon's Department of Transportation removes the dam and rebuilds the bridge, Gamba said.

The city of Milwaukie will only have to spend money on lawyers’ fees to negotiate the contract, and there will be some staff time involved, he added.

“We could be inking this deal in two to three months; this is like a gift from heaven, with ODOT removing the dam and building the bridge and Wildlands doing the restoration,” Gamba noted.

He also added that there was fear that the lake was so heavily polluted that this would add to the cost of restoration, but a recent Corps of Engineers sample showed that “there is pollution in only the top four feet; the bottom showed no pollution, so we won’t have to deal with the larger tonnage of contaminated soil; we will just need to find someone to take it away and treat it.”

Parks and pathways

There could be several benefits of removing the dam.

“It is important that the young fish will be once again able to rest there, and that will give them a better chance of surviving, while adult salmon and other fish will be able to spawn there,” Gamba said.

“The icing on the cake is that we will go from having a fetid mud puddle choked by blackberries, to a free-flowing stream, surrounded by a beautiful park in our downtown. And there will be access to Riverside Park, without having to cross McLoughlin,” he added, noting that access to the park will be through an underground tunnel.

“Walking paths will lead to Riverside Park and people will be on the bridge watching salmon — no one knows how cool that will be,” Baartz-Bowman said.

“Water quality and river health are our obligations to the planet. If we all cleaned up our watersheds, what an amazing planet we would have. This film is just our part.”

“The salmon throughout the West have had their natural systems so degraded, that the population of natural salmon is probably one-one-thousandth or less than what it used to be. We should be doing this as a species, to restore as much as we can of the natural infrastructure,” Gamba said.

Milwaukie’s Watershed Event 2013

An evening of short documentary films and the premiere of local filmmakers Greg Baartz-Bowman and Mark Gamba’s “Un-Dam It! The Story of Kellogg Dam,” from Straw Bale Films takes place on Jan. 12 at the Milwaukie Masonic Lodge, 10636 S.E. Main St. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the films begin at 7 p.m.

A pre-event will be held at Milwaukie Kitchen and Wine, 10610 S.E. Main St. at 5:30 p.m., and an unofficial after party will take place following the showing at Wine:30, 10835 S.E. Main St.

Films will include: “Unexpected Things Come Together on the River,” “Huck,” “Year of the River” and “Freeing the Calapooia,” in addition to “Un-Dam It!”

A question and answer session with the filmmakers will follow the showing.

RSVP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to reserve a seat at the event.

To see a clip from “Un-Dam It!” visit strawbalefilms.com.

To read “An Oral History of Kellogg Lake,” by Nicole West, written for the city of Milwaukie in 2009, visit ci.milwaukie.or.us/communitydevelopment/oral-history-kellogg-lake.

To learn more about Wildlands Inc., visit wildlandsinc.com.




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