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NOAA Partners to Remove Kellogg Dam, Providing Passage for Threatened Chinook, Coho, and Steelhead

April 23, 2024

This project will benefit migratory fish, increase the safety and resiliency of transportation infrastructure, and create educational and recreational opportunities for the community in Milwaukie, Oregon.

Kellogg Creek Dam (Photo: Jodie Robinson/NOAA) Kellogg Creek Dam (Photo: Jodie Robinson/NOAA)

Long-time NOAA partner American Rivers is leading a project team to remove the Kellogg Dam at the mouth of the Kellogg Creek, a tributary of the Lower Willamette River. The work will help threatened Upper Willamette River Chinook and steelhead, Lower Columbia River coho, and Pacific lamprey to access upstream spawning and rearing habitat for juveniles.

NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation awarded American Rivers $15 million through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. It will fund feasibility studies, design work, permitting, and initial construction work for the dam removal.

The removal of the obsolete dam and associated restoration work in the City of Milwaukie, Oregon will:

  • Open up 17 miles of stream and restore 15 acres of floodplain habitat for migratory fish
  • Replace the current bridge on Oregon 99E with a modern structure that will increase pedestrian safety and connectivity between the Lower Willamette River waterfront and the Kellogg Creek wildlife migration corridor
  • Transform the impoundment pond behind the dam into diverse riverine habitat that will improve water quality and reduce flooding risks
  • Engage community members in the planning process and provide local high school and middle school students with opportunities to learn about science and habitat restoration

“This project has so many benefits: cultural, community quality of life, and environmental,” says April McEwen, Kellogg Project Manager and American Rivers’ Northwest Dam Removal Program Director. “It will restore connectivity between diverse habitats for people and wildlife, increase community resiliency by transforming a pond full of sediment and trash to a highly functional river ecosystem with keystone species, and build sustainable infrastructure that can withstand the threats forecasted with climate change.”

Undoing 125 Years of Habitat Degradation

“The dam was built in 1858—the same year Abraham Lincoln was running for the Senate—and ceased to operate 40 years later,” says Megan Hilgart, Marine Habitat Resource Specialist for the NOAA Restoration Center. “It’s basically been limiting fish passage and backing up stagnant water for 125 years. There are traces of Chinook and coho salmon upstream, but nothing compared to how many should be there.”

Reservoir behind the Kellogg Creek Dam (Photo: Jodie Robinson/NOAA)
Reservoir behind the Kellogg Creek Dam (Photo: Jodie Robinson/NOAA)

Now, salmon and steelhead struggle to climb the poorly functioning fish ladder on the dam. The fish that make it over the fish ladder immediately land in a 15-acre shallow impoundment pond created by the dam that has almost completely filled with sediment. The shallow impoundment, locally referred to as Kellogg Lake, lacks shade and heats rapidly in the sun. The results of a temperature study (PDF, 46 pages) in 2023 showed the impoundment increases Kellogg Creek water temperatures by almost 3 degrees. High temperatures stress salmon, altering their metabolism and behavior.

Dismantling the dam will allow adult salmon to reach upstream spawning habitat, decrease water temperature, and restore natural hydrologic processes and sediment transport. The planned floodplain restoration in the 15-acre pond will provide additional rearing habitat and cooler water for species using the Lower Willamette. Removing the sediment piled up in Kellogg Lake will reduce flooding risks and address health concerns associated with contaminants.

The project will also replace the 90-year-old Kellogg Creek Bridge with a channel-spanning structure that does not depend on the dam for structural stability. The bridge replacement will include a pedestrian underpass that connects to the Lower Willamette River waterfront.

Steelhead (Photo: NOAA)
Steelhead (Photo: NOAA)

The project team is actively engaging local partners, community members, and other stakeholders in the planning process. Project partner UNITE Oregon will receive a sub-grant to directly integrate perspectives from traditionally underserved community members into the project development process. Students from the nearby Milwaukie High School will participate in monitoring research projects related to the restoration work and learn workforce development skills they could use in environmental jobs.

“Giving back to the community and providing young people with opportunities through the projects I manage is personally important to me,” says McEwen, who grew up in a poor rural area and secured her first “real job” as a teenager working as a river guide. “It only takes a little bit of extra care to create a big impact for the youth workforce. Local partners like the North Clackamas Watersheds Council have been critical for engaging in-depth with community organizations, facilitating citizen science, and creating real-world learning and laboratory opportunities with the Milwaukie high and middle schools.”

The newly restored area created by the project will also incorporate a trail and viewing points that meet Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility standards. “Right now the water is a murky mess, but when the restoration is completed it will be a nice spot for community members to access the creek and learn about the ecosystem and the benefits of restoration,” says Hilgart.

This project is co-led by:

  • Oregon Department of Transportation
  • North Clackamas Watersheds Council
  • City of Milwaukie

Additional partners are supporting the project. The team is seeking additional funds to complete the project.

NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation is reinvigorating efforts to restore threatened salmon and trout species in Oregon’s Willamette River watershed. This is one of four related restoration projects being funded under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act in this area.