Schrader, Wyden & Merkley Call For Reevaluation of Detroit Dam Project
As the city of Salem issued a water advisory this week, Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-05), along with Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) sent a letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) calling for a reevaluation of the Detroit Dam Downstream Passage Project, raising serious concerns about the potential impact the project could have on Salem’s water supply. The Members also have concerns about the impact the project could have on communities throughout the Santiam canyon and the region, including the cities of Detroit, Mill City, Gates, Idanha, Stayton and beyond. In addition, over 850 irrigation customers rely on the North Santiam River and serious questions remain about how the timing and proposed construction will affect their operations. Stakeholders throughout the region including tribal interests, cities, businesses, agricultural interests, conservationists, recreations users, anglers, and municipalities need to have a full and thorough understanding of the project to be able to appropriately respond and prepare.
“All three current construction alternatives proposed for a temperature tower requiring drawdown of the Detroit Reservoir have significant impacts throughout the Santiam Canyon and beyond,” the Members wrote. “We have serious concerns that the scoping document scheduled for release shortly will be incomplete because the time allowed was too short to fully analyze impacts and prepare appropriately based on the limited information provided and outreach done. Indeed, new questions come up almost weekly from various parties. The USACE has stated publicly that they underestimated the impacts not only in severity to communities but also in who would be impacted. This is troubling, and we ask the USACE to address new information as it becomes available.”
The Members sent a letter to USACE in March raising questions about the project, and in early May, Congressman Schrader held a meeting in Stayton on the project with stakeholders including the USACE, Oregon Water Resources Department, Oregon Fish and Wildlife, and the mayors of Salem, Gates, Detroit, and Stayton, among others.
You can read the full letter here or below.
June 1, 2018
Mr. Kevin Brice
Dear Mr. Brice,
Thank you for the participation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) at the May 1, 2018 stakeholder meeting in Stayton, OR focusing on the Detroit Dam Downstream Passage Project. We would like to recognize Commander Dorf for taking his time to listen to the many stakeholders as well as Jeff Ament, Detroit Dam Project Director, who answered the many questions raised as to project impacts. Also, we thank you for your response to our letter dated March 5, 2018 which laid out some initial concerns brought to our attention.
We continue to support the environmental goals and benchmarks the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) 2008 Biological Opinion (BiOp) laid forth as part of the continued operations and maintenance of the Willamette Valley Project. We also believe that this project can and must be done in a way that takes into consideration the very complex socio-economic system built up in and around this region and insist that everything be done to mitigate harm to the people and communities.
All three current construction alternatives proposed for a temperature tower requiring drawdown of the Detroit Reservoir have significant impacts throughout the Santiam Canyon and beyond. We have serious concerns that the scoping document scheduled for release shortly will be incomplete because the time allowed was too short to fully analyze impacts and prepare appropriately based on the limited information provided and outreach done. Indeed, new questions come up almost weekly from various parties. The USACE has stated publicly that they underestimated the impacts not only in severity to communities but also in who would be impacted. This is troubling, and we ask the USACE to address new information as it becomes available.
We cannot accept the potential for disruption to the City of Salem’s water treatment facility. You have heard repeatedly now that the City of Salem provides drinking water to 190,000 people and that the City of Salem does not, at this time, have an adequate redundant supply of water should USACE’s construction activity curtail water production or compromise water quality. While the city is currently in the process of devising their Water Master Plan, it is not clear that the work to ensure redundancy can be done before the USACE proceeds with anticipated construction in fall of 2021. It is prudent that the USACE work with the City of Salem to give them the time needed to identify and put a solution in place, prior to any construction work. In addition, the communities of Stayton, Turner and Gates also rely on the North Santiam river for drinking water. The USACE must, at every decision point, recognize that it is completely unacceptable to risk safe drinking water for any Oregonian and ask, to the extent the law allows, that the USACE adjust their construction timeline to reflect this reality.
We also ask for recognition that all stakeholders including tribal interests, cities and businesses along the North Santiam River, anglers, irrigation users, conservationists and recreation users need accurate and timely information from the USACE about this project in order to analyze and prepare appropriately. This project is complex on every level and having a thorough understanding of all impacts is necessary, particularly for the USACE.
Additionally, we have the following questions for the USACE:
· Please describe actions the USACE is able to take to address issues raised in the economic analysis.
· What is the status of litigation on this project?
· Please describe the effects of construction at Cougar Dam relating to toxic algae growth?
· Please provide further explanation on what assumptions were made in modeling fish returns as presented at May 1 meeting.
· We have been told that the USACE plans to release an interim report on the construction analysis sometime in the Fall of 2018. Please describe the USACE’s plans for outreach to update stakeholders and any ability they may have to submit comments at that time.
· Please provide a summary of why each of the alternatives to a temperature tower were ruled out.
· Please describe how the USACE has analyzed economic impact to the over 850 farms on over 17,000 acres if stored water is unavailable during key growing months to the Santiam Water Control District.
· When will results from the sediment transport modeling and sediment sampling be available to stakeholders?
· Has the USACE determined what parameters will be used to determine when the site will be demobilized to meet flood control? On an average year, how many times would this occur? How many times in a wet year?
· Please describe how recreation would be impacted by the USACE’s decision to fill up the reservoir as construction occurs? Specifically, we understand the USACE is looking at ways to minimize impacts to downstream users by allowing water to fill as the tower is built. What does that mean in practical terms for users of Detroit Lake?
· What percentage of juvenile fish do you think you can capture and safely transport below the dam, and how confident are you in that number? What are the best practices for this objective?
· Please describe the USACE’s work to date on analyzing the historic weather pattern to best determine construction timing and what contingency plans are available in the event of bad weather.
· Will the USACE provide, in writing, that they will maintain their obligation to hatchery mitigation at historic levels before and after construction is complete?
· What specific outreach has the USACE done to assess economic impacts throughout the canyon, including to irrigation customers and school districts in canyon who may lose families due to displacement?
· What analysis of economic impacts has been done with respect to the immediate surrounding communities of Detroit, Mill City, Gates, and Idanha?
· Please describe what authority the USACE has to assist in mitigation to impacted stakeholders, including economic assistance to address issues such as loss of business, disruption to municipal water supplies and damage to infrastructure?
· Has the USACE analyzed the potential impacts of drawing down the reservoir on the stability of Highway 22 and specifically how that relates to two known landslides in area at mile point 46, known as “Sunken Grade” and at mile point 46.5, known as “Mongold Slide”? It is our understanding from the Oregon Department of Transportation that the continued lack of stability of the landslides at both locations appears to be a function of varying reservoir level, with slide movement sometimes happening as the reservoir is filling or lowering.
· Please describe outreach efforts to tribes and how the USACE will respect treaty rights?
Thank you for attention to our concerns, and to the concerns of all the community members and stakeholders who have submitted comments. We look forward to your response.
KURT SCHRADER RON WYDEN JEFFREY MERKLEY
Member of Congress U.S. Senator U.S. Senator