Lottery Dollars Help Restore Fish Habitat In Hood River
Coho and Steelhead thrive
With the help of Lottery funds, good old fashioned hard work and business cooperation, the vital tributary of Neal Creek has been restored. Spawning grounds again have clean cool, clear, sediment-free waters fish need to survive and the East Fork Irrigation District has a more efficient delivery system to serve their patrons. But how did this all come about?
For the past 100 years, the East Fork Irrigation District (EFID) managed an irrigation system that took 300 gallons per second of water out of the East Fork Hood River into a canal system and allowed it to spill into Neal Creek. Neal Creek then carried the water for four miles before it was diverted back into an irrigation canal to serve orchards and farms. One hundred years ago this seemed like a good idea – use an existing creek to carry water to avoid digging a new four-mile ditch. Unfortunately, the glacial water from the East Fork Hood River carries a lot of silt and when it spilled in to the clear, pristine water of Neal Creek, the salmon spawning habitat was degraded. In addition, the in-stream dam used to divert the water back into an irrigation canal also diverted young salmon. Something needed to be done. So people got busy and the Neal Creek Restoration began in the late 1990’s and continues to this day. Partners and agencies involved with the restoration included the EFID, Hood River Watershed Group, OWEB, Bonneville Power Administration, Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservations of Oregon and many landowners.
Project milestones achieved:
- Fish habitat was restored where water had been diverted out of Neal Creek.
- Glacial water was kept out of Neal Creek. Constructed in phases, 4.5 miles of large diameter pipe was installed to convey the irrigation water from the East Fork of Hood River to orchards and farms.
- Neal Creek is now replanted with native trees and has the freedom to flow and overflow after an unused road was removed.
For more information on Oregon's watersheds, visit Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board at: http://www.healthywatersheds.org.
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