PGE made renovations to the lake to improve fish habitat as part of its relicensing agreement

by: ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Steven Corson of PGEs corporate communications department and biologist Tim Shibahara stand before the newly reonovated Faraday Lake.Portland General Electric Biologist Tim Shibahara speaks of the renovations to the Faraday Hydroelectric Project with pride.

“We’re in the business of doing the right thing for fish,” he said.

In 2006, P.G.E. signed a relicensing agreement for the Clackamas hydroelectric system “which PGE signed with numerous state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations and tribal authorities” according to Steven Corson of P.G.E.’s Corporate Communications.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved P.G.E.’s relicensing application for the Faraday Hydroelectric Project in 2010. The new license is contingent upon P.G.E. carrying out several environmental improvements to benefit migratory fish species such as Chinook, Coho and steelhead.

Corson mentioned that as the project was originally commissioned in 1907, the last licensing process for the Faraday Hydroelectric Project occurred in the 1950s. He pointed out that environmental concerns and studies have changed greatly since those times.

Corson stated that since the beginning, P.G.E. has made efforts to protect migratory fish, citing that P.G.E. installed fish ladders in 1910 as an example.

He explained that the extensive renovations were necessary due to the fact that technology, science and the ability to implement environmental improvements has evolved so much over time.

Last year, Faraday Lake was temporarily closed and drained. Among other efforts, P.G.E. took the opportunity to create a deep channel through the middle of the lake leading to the Faraday powerhouse.

The channel will speed the water through to the Powerhouse, preventing water from remaining still long enough to heat to damaging temperatures for fish species on hot days.

Dikes were added to aid flow within the channel.

Shibahara discussed the company’s goal of a 97 percent rate of passage for juvenile fish entering the three dam system of North Fork, Faraday and River Mill along seven miles of the Clackamas River.

Shibahara explained that company uses surface collectors “like huge colanders” to sort smolts, or juvenile fish, into holding boxes. Scientists collect and evaluate them, then release them below River Mill dam in water to water transfers.

The idea is for the young fish to bypass the Faraday lake area all together.

Smolts entering the North Fork reservoir are collected and released below River Mill dam.

“The goal is to have 97 percent of fish that enter the reservoir make it below River Mill,” Shibahara explained. P.G.E. is responsible for demonstrating these results.

Renovation efforts extend beyond the dams to the Clackamas River itself.

To achieve water quality certification as a part of the relicensing agreement, P.G.E. must make efforts to decrease water temperature, add “massive amounts of gravel” in the lower Clackamas River and plant trees along its banks.

Corson explained that for the last 100 years, dams have been preventing gravel washed down from Mount Hood from reaching the river.

“Gravel has important water quality benefits,” Shibahara said after explaining that gravel provides habitat and areas for salmon to spawn.

P.G.E. is reintroducing grave into the lower Clackamas River.

Corson mentioned that people’s understanding of environmental protection of rivers has changed greatly over the years.

For example, in years past, people made efforts to keep rivers clean by removing downed trees from its banks. Now, scientists believe that the natural decomposition of trees is important to the river’s ecosystem.

Corson noted that P.G.E. has established the Clackamas Fund, which will award $565,000 in four grants in 2013 to outside organizations to assist in efforts to improve habitat for fish and wildlife along the Clackamas River.

“This is the first round of a funding program that will total more than $8 million by 2030, as part of P.G.E.'s effort to improve habitat for fish and wildlife throughout the Clackamas basin,” Corson wrote.

Corson and Shibahara were careful to point out that their approach to habitat improvement is forward looking.

“With all of these (projects) we realized there’s be improvements (needed) in 50 years,” Corson said.

P.G.E. consulted with organizations such as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Environmental Quality and nonprofit organizations throughout the relicensing process.

“Together, hand-in-hand, we’ve come up with a way of dealing with these things together,” Shibahara said.

Faraday Lake has been reopened to the public for fishing. It was stocked with hatchery rainbow trout on May 16.

The lake is a popular destination for walkers and joggers as well.

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