"What's All the Dam Fuss About?"

The Army Corps of Engineers is teaming up with The Nature Conservancy to change the way the Willamette River flows as part of their "Sustainable Rivers Project." The alliance will experiment with the way the Corps manages flows of water from the dams to see if it might alter the future for the fish and the river's ecosystem. With TNC's reputation for bowing to big business and the Corps' bedraggled renown for bad projects, it's hard not to look at that particular pairing without some skepticism. But can the unlikely pairing improve the river, or is the Sustainable Rivers Project a greenwash scheme to make dammed rivers look better?

Recent dam removals on the Rogue River may have spawned hopes that someday the Oregon's Willamette could once again run free and unfettered, but according to Mindy Simmons, the Army Corps' Willamette Project program manager, "We aren't discussing dam removal at this time at all."

So if the Willamette River isn't going to be turned loose, and if the Middle Fork of the Willamette, which is thought to have once hosted one of the largest salmon runs in the upper Willamette basin, is essentially a wild salmon wasteland, then why is the Army Corps of Engineers teaming up with The Nature Conservancy to change the way the river flows as part of their "Sustainable Rivers Project."

Camilla Mortensen reports for the Eugene Weekly December 3, 2009.

Monday, December 7, 2009