SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 1 TOP OF DOCU.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS' PROPOSAL TO RESTORE A FISH PASSAGE CORRIDOR THROUGH ELK CREEK DAM
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 1997
House of Representatives,
Committee on Agriculture,
The committee met, pursuant to call, at 9:00 a.m. in Council Chambers, City Hall, Medford, OR, Hon. Robert F. (Bob) Smith (chairman of the committee) presiding.
Staff present: Paul Unger, majority staff director.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT F. (BOB) SMITH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF OREGON
The CHAIRMAN. This hearing will come to order. Good morning, everyone. I just have a few opening comments, and then we want to get right to the witnesses here. First of all, for many of you, this is not an unfamiliar subject. Since Congress authorized Elk Creek Dam in 1962, it has been an ongoing battle between Washington, DC and the courts and Members of Congress. But so far as I can determine, there has never been a hearing held in Jackson or Josephine Counties, the two affected counties by Elk Creek, throughout all these years. So it seemed to me that we ought to come to the place that is most affected and talk to the people that are most affected, before a final decision is made on whether or not to breach this dam. And that is why we are here.
But in addition to that, the Corps of Engineers, as you may know, has determined that they must, quote, ''notch the dam''I call it a breach''in order to fulfill their obligations.'' And simply we want to discuss this morning questions like what are the future needs of this area, and are the fish being injured by this trap-and-haul program, and what is best for the taxpayers of America. We have already spent $108 million for something that is about half completed; and what are the best interests of the people in this area of the State where this dam was originally designed to help.
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So there are going to be questions and witnesses. And I apologize to some who wanted to testify; simply we don't have time; we must be out of these chambers by noon. But I want to always ask that if you have comments, please submit them to either the Corps or to my office here in Medford. We would like to hear from you. The record will be open for 10 days. This is an official hearing of the Agriculture Committee of the Congress, so every word will be taken down. There will certainly be a record of this hearing, and it will be available to you.
The other purpose, of course, is to translate what occurs here to my colleagues in Congress, to make sure that the direction taken here has been authorized by Congress; and if not, they should, of course, be consulted before a final decision is made.
Now, the Corps has offered an extension, I understand, of the environmental assessment which they are conducting; the comment period was due to end November 17; I requested the Colonel that it be extended 90 days. Today I received a letter which the comment, the period has been extended 30 days, which I assume is December 17. So that all of you who have concerns about what is being proposed, which is breaching the dam, then I suggest you please comment to the Corps of Engineers prior to December 17, at which time I assume they will evaluate those comments and make a decision.
To better understand what we are proposing here, or the Corps is proposing, I prepared a brief slide presentation to demonstrate what this means to Elk Creek Dam. So if you would dim the lights, it is very short. John Snider, my administrative assistant will present the slides.
Mr. SNIDER. Thank you, Congressman Smith.
[The slides were presented by Mr. Snider.]
Mr. SNIDER. One of the questions that came up when this was first proposed, the term ''notched'' was a little hard for everyone to comprehend, so we wanted to get an idea of just how big that notch is. So this is our rendering of what, using the Corps' information, what we believe the notch will look like.
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. What is the distance there?
Mr. SNIDER. The notch at the bottom is, I believe 155 feet at the bottom and 225 feet at the top, which is approximately three-fourths of a football field. So the question is how big is the notch. And we ask that you just kind of consider how big this building is when you came in today, kind of look at the surroundings here. This is one small portion of that building, and when you came in this morning you had to have looked at the building and maybe had some idea of how large it is. Now, imagine a breach in Elk Creek Dam larger than two of these buildings.
The term notch is a euphemism. We are still looking for a better word, but it is definitely a breaching and it is a large, large impact on that structure.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. Thank you very much. We will go immediately to our witnesses today who have been invited, and I appreciate their attendance here today. Colonel Robert Slusar is here; he is the district engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Colonel Slusar's office is in Portland. His district is ever expanding, we understand; he now encompasses most of the United States west of the Mississippi River. Obviously well traveled. Colonel.
Mr. SLUSAR. That is the division commander's responsibility.
The CHAIRMAN. That is right.
Mr. SLUSAR. Thank you, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Please introduce your cohorts.
STATEMENT OF COLONEL ROBERT T. SLUSAR, DISTRICT ENGINEER FOR THE U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
Mr. SLUSAR. I will, sir. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I am Colonel Robert Slusar, the district commander for the Portland District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. I am testifying today for John Zirschky, the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. Accompanying me today are Davis Moriuchi, my deputy for programs and project management, and he is on my far right; and Doug Clarke, our Elk Creek project manager, to my immediate right; Ken Olson, our operational project manager for the Rogue River Basin project, and he is sitting behind me, sir; and also Heidi Helwig from our public affairs office.
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you for inviting me to testify this morning, in this important hearing on the Corps' proposal to restore a fish passage corridor through the partially completed Elk Creek Dam in Jackson County, Oregon. I have a written statement which I would like to submit for the record, and I will summarize it now.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, without objection.
Mr. SLUSAR. My testimony first describes a history of the project; second, outlines the Corps' current actions to provide interim fish passage through the injunction period; third, discusses general objectives and plans for long-term management of the project in its uncompleted state; and fourth, discusses the Corps' plan for providing a passive fish passage corridor through Elk Creek Dam.
The history: The Elk Creek Lake project was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1962 as one of three multipurpose dams in the Rogue River Basin. The other two projects, Applegate Lake and Lost Creek Lake projects are both complete and fully operational. Construction of Elk Creek Dam began in January 1986. Because of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals injunction in 1988, dam construction was completed at the Court-allowed height of 83 feet, constituting one-third of its design height. Removal of this injunction required the Corps to perform additional National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA, studies.
From 1988 through 1995, the Corps was performing these additional NEPA studies required to remove the injunction against the completion of the project. After the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in April 1995 that our efforts were inadequate, the Corps notified the Congressional Appropriations Committee in November 1995 that we would evaluate a more cost-effective and biologically sound method for long-term management of the project in an uncompleted state. The administration's fiscal year 1997 and 1998 budget submissions to Congress also described these decisions.
Second, current actions: In 1992, the Corps funded the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to operate the existing trap-and-haul fish collection facility below the dam. This facility is now being used to sustain the fish run above the project as required by the injunction. The facility, however, was not designed for long-term use. The Corps, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service prefer a more passive system through the dam rather than the current high-cost and ineffective trap-and-haul system.
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General long-term management plans: The Corps plans to evaluate and implement its long-term management plan in two phases. The first phase will focus on the requirements for long-term fish passage. The second phase will focus on a number of land use and public access issues associated with the project. It is the Corps' intention to keep the land in Federal ownership.
The fiscal year 1997 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act made available the funds previously provided under the fiscal year 1993 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act to plan and implement long-term management measures at Elk Creek Dam. Specifically these funds were prescribed for use in maintaining the project in an uncompleted state and for taking necessary steps to provide passive fish passage through the project.
Plans for the fish passage corridor: The Corps' goal is to provide passive fish passage in a balanced river system that requires minimal action and funding to maintain the stream channel and passive corridor on an annual basis. The Corps evaluated a number of alternative cuts through the dam to provide passive fish passage. The alternative and analysis were coordinated with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.
In the selected alternative, a section of the spillway and left abutment would be removed. In addition, the channel would be realigned above and below the dam to the pre-project alignment. Our preliminary cost estimate is approximately $7 million including design and construction and administration costs. This alternative essentially recreates the pre-project geometry and provides the lowest cost option over both a 10- and 50-year periods of analysis. This alternative also has the highest probability of achieving fish passage.
The Corps issued a draft environmental assessment for public review on October 17, 1997 and asked for public comments by November 17, 1997. Based upon your request, we have extended the date 30 days to December 17, 1997. Should we find no significant impact, we plan to award a single contract for detailed design and construction of the fish passage corridor in March 1998. This would allow us to complete construction prior to the fish passage season in October 1998, depending upon the availability of funds.
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In conclusion, I would like to state that the Corps' alternative, first, meets the intent of the fiscal year 1997 Energy and Water Appropriations Act; second, preserves the majority of the Federal investment made to date on the project; third, provides a high probability of achieving successful passive fish passage to sustain the run in Elk Creek; and fourth, is supported by the fishery resource agencies. This is especially important given the recent listing of the Rogue River coho salmon as threatened and the potential listing of steelhead under the Endangered Species Act.
That concludes my statement, Mr. Chairman. My team and I are available to answer questions; and I have asked Doug Clarke, our Elk Creek Project manager, to take the lead in responding.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank you very much, Colonel, and I assume that, should there be questions after this hearing submitted to you, would be available to answer those questions as well in writing?
Mr. SLUSAR. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. All right. Thank you very much. Mr. Clarke, had Elk Creek Dam been in place, how much lower would the flood waters have been in Grants Pass?
Mr. CLARKE. Sir, during the recent flooding?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes.
Mr. CLARKE. Sir, our best estimate is approximately 2 feet reduction at Grants Pass had it been completed during last year's flooding.
The CHAIRMAN. Now, there was about $3.7 million, as I understand, damage. Is there any way that you can estimate the damage should the dam have been in place?
Mr. CLARKE. Sir, our best estimate is that
The CHAIRMAN. Is $3.7 million?
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CLARKE. That $3.7 million would have been reduced had the dam been finished.
The CHAIRMAN. There has never been, I suppose, an estimate of should the dam have been in place in 1964, the giant floods that occurred in this valley, there has never been an estimate as to the reduction of cost in that flood?
Mr. CLARKE. Sir, in our justification documents that we submitted to Congress, the economic analysis was based on that type of a flood. It also had a reduction of approximately 2 feet at Grants Pass. And I don't have the actual cost from that flood, sir, but we could
The CHAIRMAN. Right. So that was used in your cost-benefit ratios when you came for authorization to build in the eighties; is that correct?
Mr. CLARKE. The cost-benefit analysis that was done in early eighties used that type of flooding, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Reflected that, OK.
Mr. CLARKE. That showed as a last added increment to the system, and it was not economically justified to add Elk Creek to the other two projects; yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, I argued that on the floor of the House of Representatives, so that is the conclusion you made. I had another cost benefit ratio that I supported, which supported the dam, by the way, defeated the delisting process by Congress in those days in the eighties.
Are you analyzing dams now for 100 or 200 years service? I understand that dams are being reviewed to make sure that they are prepared for a 200-year flood.
Mr. CLARKE. Sir, I am not aware of any change in thetypically our design life is a 50-year design life, but I don't know if you
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. I think the Bureau of Reclamation is reviewing dams in this area, and I think they are reaching out for 200 years. You are not doing that?
Mr. MORIUCHI. Our typical analysis for flood control looks at optimizing the net amount of economic benefits over cost, and it doesn't necessarily stop at any particular flood event. But one of our milestone events is 100-year. I am not aware, as Doug said, of any 200-year events of milestone.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, there is no doubt in either one of your minds that there will be further floods in this valley?
Mr. CLARKE. No, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. We don't know when they will be, but they will come, and further damage, which would be averted if Elk Creek were built. Now, have those future floods, have they been accounted for in your analysis, which way to go?
Mr. CLARKE. Regarding the notch, sir?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes.
Mr. CLARKE. I'd like to characterize it, sir, in terms of the issues that really are available to the Corps right now. As you're well aware, sir, there's an injunction that limits construction of the project. The Congressional notification in November 1995 stated that the Corps was not going to do the NEPA studies at this time required to remove the injunction, and therefore we were going to move into evaluation of more cost-effective and biologically sound ways to manage the project in its uncompleted state over the long term. So given that completion of the project is really not an option at this time because of the injunction against completion of the project. We are looking at the most cost-effective and biologically sound ways to manage the project in the long term. We did those analyses, as the Colonel referenced in his testimony, sir, at both 10- and 50-year periods of analysis because of the uncertainty in the time frame of when the project
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. So the answer is you really haven't, you really haven't adjusted any numbers to take into consideration future floods?
Mr. CLARKE. Not in terms of our evaluation to remove a section of the dam.
The CHAIRMAN. I want to discuss this passive issue for just a moment. I have scanned the dictionary to try to determine what passive means. I know what it means to you, but I am not sure what it meant to the Members of Congress who saw it. And so I think from my interpretation, passive could well include trap-and-haul, that means fish passage. But I won't get into that with you because I know your interpretation; but I am going to raise it with Members of Congress who adopted this language, because I don'tI think if they had seen breach or elimination of a dam, I don't think they would have reached the conclusion they reached. But that is an insight issue on my part.
Mr. CLARKE. Sir, could I provide one comment on that?
The CHAIRMAN. Sure.
Mr. CLARKE. Thank you. For the administration's fiscal year 1997 budget submission to Congress in January to March time frame of 1996, our justification sheets discussed this long-term management plan. There was a statement in there that the fish passage would most likely be accomplished through removal or modification of the spillway.
The CHAIRMAN. I read that. And in fact, the law is only a line item appropriation; there's no explanation, and I am sure you testified to that extent. But in the law, there's only a line item for this amount of money, which doesn't distinguish flood issues, frankly.
You mentioned the breach will cost, or the Colonel mentioned the breach will cost $7 million?
Mr. SLUSAR. Yes, sir.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. That is an estimate?
Mr. SLUSAR. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Obviously. And you will not know until contract. And if you don't have enough money, you will have to come back to Congress?
Mr. SLUSAR. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. How much money do you have available at the moment?
Mr. CLARKE. Given the remaining carryover funding from?
The CHAIRMAN. From 1992.
Mr. CLARKE. And 1993, yes, sir, and then the funding that has been appropriated this year, we have approximately $4 million of that, sir, $4 to $5 million. I can provide a written clarification on the exact number after the hearing.
[Mr. Clarke responded as follows:]
In fiscal year 1998, $1.1 million was carried forward from funds appropriated in fiscal year 1993. In addition, the fiscal year 1998 Energy and Water Development Act provided $3.9 million based on the Corps budget request for funds to initiate construction. Of this $3.9 million, $0.5 million is for ''caretaker activities'' and 0.237 million is assessed for Savings and Slippage. Therefore, the total funds currently available for construction of the fish passage corridor is approximately $4.3 million.
The CHAIRMAN. I just wanted that for the record. And you're correct, there's about I think $3.9 million in the last appropriation, and I think there's something like a million of that left over from the 199293, roughly something like that, around $4 million. So you don't have enough money, really, to complete the contract, even at your estimate. You will have to go back to Congress for more money; is that right? Or maybe you're going to shift some funds on me?
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MORIUCHI. Not necessarily. We've got reprograming authority, so thatoftentimes we go forward with contracts without actual appropriated dollars available in a particular fiscal year, and either we delay and complete the following fiscal year with additional appropriated funds, or we look to reprogram from other Corps of Engineers' dollars in the construction general account.
The CHAIRMAN. So you don't have to go back to Congress?
Mr. MORIUCHI. If we have to, we will.
The CHAIRMAN. All right. I won't ask you to answer that question. What would it cost to rebuild the breach?
Mr. CLARKE. Sir, we prepared a preliminary cost estimate of approximately $8 to $10 million. That estimate was prepared under the assumption that it would be accomplished as we were completing the remainder of the project. So it was not prepared under the assumption that we had a single contract just to do that.
The CHAIRMAN. So 7 and 10, we are looking at maybe $17 to $20 million back and rebuild the dam, it appears, something like that, roughly?
Mr. CLARKE. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. I have been interested in the background of this, and I can't quite understand it, if the dam is not breached, does the Corps propose to go ahead with a 3- to 5-year study of trap-and-haul at a cost of some $400,000 a year? I think that was a NMFS request of you or something?
Mr. CLARKE. Sir, we had a proposal to do approximately a 5-year program to evaluate the effectiveness of the existing trap-and-haul. That was put on hold pending our plans to provide the fish passage corridor through the project; so that is not being done at this time. Should we continue to use the existing facility or construct the replacement facility, we would need to do that evaluation, sir.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. I am wondering about that since the current, the current evaluation of spawning upstream indicates that the fish are in most every tributary, at least the coho; and they are widely scattered. And one of the, one of the demands was that, the determination be made if they were scattered throughout the reaches of the upper Elk Creek, and the conclusion was that they were. So I wonder, in the face of that, what further studies would be necessary?.
Mr. CLARKE. Sir, what was the conclusion of the study that that was based on?
The CHAIRMAN. Let me find it through this maze of documents that I have before me here. It was, I believe it was the 1997 study of what is happening with trap and I think it may be in Mr. Satterthwaite's testimony, so I won't bring that up until he comes. But I wanted to ask you about that, and I hope you listen to Mr. Satterthwaite, because I think they did study that question. Fine.
So I, you know, on the other side of the question, if it is costing $150,000 to trap fish and move them, and we are going to spend $8 million, $7 million to breach the dam, if we are not hurting the fish, that would, that $7 million would pay for the trapping program for 50 years.
Mr. CLARKE. Sir, I think a key point that we need to explain is that that existing facility was not designed for long-term use; it was designed and constructed during original construction of Elk Creek project. The intent of it was to be operational for a short time after completion of the project to establish brood stock at the hatchery. It is not designed for long-term use. It is not designed to handle the relatively uncontrolled flows and the debris loading that occur at the project.
So for us to have a trap-and-haul program for long-term, we would need to replace that facility with a facility that was designed to handle existing conditions and was designed for long-term use. We did an evaluation of upgrading the trap-and-haul facility at the 10-, 50- year life cycle or period of analysis that we talked about. And when you include the cost to upgrade the trap-and-haul facility, continue to operate it, evaluate it for the 3- to 5-year period, that was more expensive than removing a section of the dam. And even when you include potential completion of the project, that $8 to $10 million that we mentioned earlier, sir, when you looked at it over a 10- to 50-year period of analysis, removing a section of the dam was more cost-effective and also had more biological benefit.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. I would like to review those numbers. I think I have looked at them and, you know, it just seems that the question that is always presented, why wasn't a study made of trap-and-haul and the spawning programs prior to the time that we reached a decision to cut the notch or breach the dam? In other words, the study, it seems to me, should have been done before we reached a final decision on the dam. But you chose not to do that.
Mr. CLARKE. Sir, I think the study is a verification of whether or not the facility is working. I think the key, sir, is that it is not a facility that was designed for long-term use, and it would need to be replaced. So whether or not it is effective doesn't really enter into the equation, sir, when you have to rebuild the facility.
The CHAIRMAN. I suppose that is a judgment decision. For the record, I was reaching to try to find this quotation earlier. This is the findings in 1997 by Fish and Wildlife, ''Coho salmon spawned in a widely distributed area of Elk Creek basin. Spawners and reds were observed at five tributaries of Elk Creek, and fry were captured in all the tributaries that were sampled. These findings suggested that transportation did not have a major impact on the spawning distribution of coho salmon.'' That is what I was reaching for when you asked me where that came from.
I know you have had problems with debris in that catch basin. You know, without debating whether a new facility ought to be built or not, when an amateur looks at it, it appears that maybe just that portion that crosses the stream could be replaced since the remainder of the facility seems to be working quite well. I understand, and tell me, I understand that the fish population has increased from 200 fish in 1992 to over 1,000 going upstream, is that right, we are trapping?
Mr. CLARKE. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. That shows to me great success; does it to you?
Mr. CLARKE. Sir, it tells me that we've had a rebound from a low that resulted when we constructed the project. I think NMFS and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife would be better to ask that question.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. OK. I will ask them.
Mr. CLARKE. But from my perspective, sir, one thing I would add is that the percentage of habitat above Gold Ray Dam that Elk Creek Basin provides relative to the number of fish that are going above Gold Ray, the numbers that we've seen indicate that the basin is underseeded; we are not having the amount of fish in the basin that could be achieved in the basin.
Our mitigation numbers, should the project have been completed and we mitigated for the loss of the run at Cole Rivers Hatchery, were 1,560 coho and 2,600 steelhead, I believe.
The CHAIRMAN. It is underused, but it is rapidly being filled if you extrapolate from the 1992 to 1997, 200 to 1,000, 5 years, of 2,000.
Mr. CLARKE. Sir, I think that is what the evaluation program would do. But getting back to the key point is the existing facility is not adequate for long-term use, it would require replacement.
The CHAIRMAN. How long has it been there now?
Mr. CLARKE. It has been in use since I believe October 1992.
The CHAIRMAN. Five years.
Mr. CLARKE. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. It was only designed for 5 years?
Mr. CLARKE. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. It is working real well for an old-timer.
Mr. CLARKE. I think the key is, is that it will eventually need to be replaced.
And it is an issue of how long do you want to take the risk of the additional problems because we do not passthere's a number of deficiencies in addition to the debris and the high flows. It was not designed for long-term use, I think that is the key, sir.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, all of you gentlemen, I appreciate you being here. And if possible, could you stand by, there may be a question that comes up a little later?
Mr. SLUSAR. Yes, sir.
Mr. CLARKE. Yes, sir.
Mr. SLUSAR. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Thanks for coming.
I would like to call Ms. Elizabeth Gaar and Mr. Satterthwaite, please. Good morning.
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. Good morning.
Ms. GAAR. Good morning.
The CHAIRMAN. And welcome. Thank you for coming. I would like to introduce Ms. Elizabeth Gaar. Ms. Elizabeth Gaar first, who is an Acting Assistant Regional Administrator for Habitat Conservation with the National Marine Fisheries Service. The National Marine Fisheries Service is a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is a branch of the Department of Commerce. So Ms. Gaar's office is in Seattle, and thank for you joining us here today. Please, we'd like to hear from you.
STATEMENT OF ELIZABETH GAAR, ACTING ASSISTANT REGIONAL ADMINISTRATOR FOR HABITAT CONSERVATION, NORTHWEST REGION OF THE NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE, NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION
Ms. GAAR. Good morning. Actually I work in Portland; my boss, the regional administrator, Will Stell, works in Seattle.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, we are proud you're Oregonian, then, let's say.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. GAAR. I am an Oregonian, and we are trying to spread ourselves around the region. But good morning. As you indicated, my name is Elizabeth Homes Gaar and I am the Acting Assistant Regional Administrator for Habitat Conservation for the Northwest Region of the National Marine Fisheries Service. And I would like to thank you, Chairman Smith, and committee, for the opportunity to participate in your review of the proposed notch or partial removal of Elk Creek Dam to restore fish passage.
NMFS is widely recognized as one of the leading authorities in the United States on salmon and steelhead passage, and we have been working with the Corps of Engineers for many years to resolve the fish passage problem at Elk Creek Dam. Since 1992, NMFS has maintained the position that dam removal is the best and long-term solution to this problem.
And just to be clear, when I say NMFS, that is the acronym for National Marine Fisheries Service. I have a tendency to slip into that, excuse me.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. That is a mouthful, we will use the acronym.
Ms. GAAR. It is, that series of acronyms is quite long. Elk Creek above the damsite provides at least 25 miles of spawning and rearing habitat to upper Rogue coho salmon and steelhead. And in May 1997, southern Oregon/northern California coho salmon population, which include all of the Rogue River wild coho, were listed under the Endangered Species Act. And the wild Rogue River coho make up the largest run in the southern Oregon/northern California coho population.
In addition to coho, the Klamath Mountain Province steelhead, including all Rogue River wild steelhead, have been proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act, and NMFS is scheduled to make a final decision whether to list that population in February of 1998.
Elk Creek Dam was one-third complete when construction was halted in 1987, as you just reviewed with the gentlemen from the Corps. A diversion tunnel built into the base of the partially complete dam was retrofitted in an attempt to provide fish passage, but monitoring by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife show that fish passage through that tunnel was very poor. And so consequently, a trap-and-haul operation was initiated at Elk Creek Dam in 1992, and has been operated every year from the fall through spring since.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC While this particular trap-and-haul was originally intended to be temporary, in general, even well-designed trap-and-haul facilities are problematic for many reasons, and they are considered by the National Marine Fisheries Service as the last resort for fish passage.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has several concerns of which I will enumerate five briefly with trap-and-haul facilities, with this one particular as well.
The first problem is trap rejection. Now, trap rejection is a problem with all trap-and-haul facilities, including Elk Creek Dam. As far as NMFS knows, all traps such as the one at Elk Creek result in trap rejection; and this phenomenon is when some fish refuse to enter the trap and go back downstream instead. The portion of the wild upper Rogue coho and steelhead entering the Elk Creek Dam trap is lower than the portion of habitat available to the species above the damsite. This suggests that significant trap rejection may be occurring at Elk Creek Dam trap.
Recent research on the effects of weirs and traps on adult salmon and steelhead suggest that trap rejection is common even at the newest and best designed facility, often resulting in redistribution of spawning downstream to habitat that may be of comparatively poor quality.
The second problem with the trap-and-haul is ineffective diversion, particularly at Elk Creek Dam. This trap-and-haul facility is designed tothe weir is designed to guide adult fish into the trap and prevent them from continuing upstream into the stilling basin, which is a basin of still water at the base of the dam. And however, adult fish have been passing over or through the weir when it is damaged or clogged with debris, or overtopped by high flows, and also during cleaning which has to happen on a regular, nearly weekly basis.
Since the weir was installed in 1992, it has been damaged badly enough by debris or high flows to allow adult fish to pass over or through it up to 10 days per year. And what happens to these fish is once they find their way past the barrier and end up being stranded in the stilling basin between the weir and the base of the dam, then downstream passage back over the weir is very difficult for them at best.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The stranded fish then sometimes spawn in the stilling basin, but flow and water quality conditions in the stilling basin are not optimal for incubation and hatching of the eggs; and even if juveniles are born, they're going to have a very difficult time making it back downstream past the weir.
The third problem is high operation and maintenance effort and cost. Any trap-and-haul requires intensive operation and maintenance, and the Elk Creek Dam facility is no exception.
The fourth problem is extensive fish handling. Trapping, lifting, and hauling the fish after they have traveled hundred and in some cases thousands of miles to reach their destination is very stressful to these creatures, and it has resulted in injury and mortality at this facility, as it does at other trap-and-haul facilities as well.
The fifth problem is poor downstream passage. The weir is often a barrier for downstream passage of juveniles which have emerged from the eggs and reds, and also spawned out steelhead and cutthroat since they migrate back downstream in the spring and attempt to go back out to the ocean and return another year to spawn once again. And so these spawned out adults also have a hard time getting back downstream.
In conclusion, the Elk Creek Dam trap-and-haul facility has a number of problems, including likely trap rejection, ineffective diversion of fish by the weir, high operation and maintenance effort and cost, extensive fish handling, and poor downstream migration.Consequently NMFS believes a significant numbers of wild upper Rogue coho and steelhead which would otherwise spawn in Elk Creek either do not enter the trap or are not able to successfully spawn due to delay, stress and/or mortality from the trapping and the hauling.
Furthermore, because of NMFS extensive experience with a wide range of trap-and-haul facilities, including the latest and best available designs, we do not believe that the Elk Creek Dam trap-and-haul can be modified and improved to the point where these problems are reduced to an acceptable level. These are characteristics of even the best designed and operated trap-and-haul facilities. And National Marine Fisheries Service strongly encourages other fish passage solutions.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The proposed notch or partial removal of Elk Creek Dam will eliminate all of these fish passage problems, as well as restore the historically productive coho and steelhead habitat in the dam and pool area. Historically this was very productive habitat.
The recent Endangered Species Act listing of coho and steelhead in the Rogue River underscores our concern about the Elk Creek Dam trap-and-haul facility; thus our support for the Corp's proposal for partial removal or the notch of this fish passage impediment is stronger than ever. Thank you. And that is a summary of written comments.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes. And your testimony will be taken as written. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Some of these alleged problems with the trapping and hauling, I want to investigate with you for a moment, especially the question of mortality. From what I can determine and the information I have been given, there was some mortality in the initial stages after learning how to handle the trap; there has not been, there's not been one fish that has died as a result of trap-and-haul in the last 2 years; is that your information?
Ms. GAAR. I am looking for my Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife data.
The CHAIRMAN. I may have to ask Mr. Satterthwaite that question, and I shall. But I think that is the information I have.
Ms. GAAR. The totals are approximately, somewhere between 12 to 16 have died in the last past few years of operation.
The CHAIRMAN. The last 2 years, there has not been one fish that we determined that has been injured or died as a result of trapping and hauling?
Ms. GAAR. Well, that may be the case. Can I look at the data?
The CHAIRMAN. That is quite all right. I have the
Ms. GAAR. I have the total, thank you. Looks like there was one in the last year.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Well, then
Ms. GAAR. Now, if I may, if I may continue, that is mortality that is experienced during the trapping and hauling operation. That does not include delayed mortality that is caused by injury or stress to the fish during handling.
The CHAIRMAN. Let's talk about that for a second. It is my understanding that for purposes of identification, for purposes of determining specie and gender, these fish are handled and squeezed. And if they are stressed, then it may be caused by the very stressful efforts that are required to identify them and to determine their gender. Do you demand that they be identified in that manner? Does NMFS demand that?
Ms. GAAR. No. You mean when it comes to trap-and-haul?
The CHAIRMAN. When it comesafter they are netted, the fish are laid out and their identity is determined, both gender and type, and then they are squeezed to determine whether male or female.
Ms. GAAR. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. If they are handled in that manner, my question is that that creates the stress. The mere netting and putting in a pickup truck with a carry behind it and traveling up and putting them back in the river or the creek certainly isn't that stressful.
Ms. GAAR. So you are talking about the effects during trap-and-haul when they are picked up and measured?
The CHAIRMAN. Right. I just wondered if that was a requirement by NMFS?
Ms. GAAR. Well, all of the resource agencies, it is important tohelpful to know what species and sex are going up. Our preference by NMFS is that they are not handled at any rate through a trap-and-haul. If they are going up there, that the best data that we have, we will get through the trap-and-haul facility. But I don't think that there are studies showing that that is
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Well, if we have lost one in the last 2 years, they are not too badly stressed, I guess?
Ms. GAAR. Well, sir, I just wanted to be sure you are talking about death at that time that is identifiable. We do not know the extent of later stress related mortality or injury and the impacts of that on their successful spawning.
The CHAIRMAN. Except the very fact they are coming back in larger numbers every year indicates that something is, somebody is doing something right, because they are coming back in additional numbers.
Ms. GAAR. In the Rogue River, yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. In Elk Creek, I am sorry, from 200 to 1,000. And that this rejection, it is, I imagine it is very difficult to determine the numbers of rejection.
Ms. GAAR. Yes, it is.
The CHAIRMAN. So that is an estimate that somebody makes. That is a visual attempt to see ifhow do you count rejection?
Ms. GAAR. Well
The CHAIRMAN. I understand it in male-female, but I
Ms. GAAR. You are right, it is difficult to determine. So what we are able to do, for example, is that there is information on the proportion of spawning habitat that the area above the dam provides. And it provides somewhere between 15 to 40 percent of the upper Rogue River spawning habitat, yet only about 4 percent or so of the salmon have been going up there to spawn; which indicates that while this is a proportionally very high proportion of spawning habitat, it is being significantly under utilized.
The CHAIRMAN. In the case of Elk Creek, the rejected fish go back downstream. And I assume your point is, and we will maybe hear testimony later, your point is that those are, those are inferior spawning grounds than upstream? The rejected fish are going to go back and spawn.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. GAAR. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. Is your argument that they ought to be going upstream because it is a better habitat for to spawning than thethe rejected fish don't die, they go back downstream, right?
Ms. GAAR. That is likely.
The CHAIRMAN. And assuming they go back downstream and spawn, and we don't follow them that carefully, but I guess is it your argument that because they are rejected, somehow they don't produce?
Ms. GAAR. They may still produce. My point is that where approximately 20 miles of high quality habitat is present up above in Elk Creek, it is best for the species as a whole and for this particular population to be able to fully utilize that habitat. If they need to go back downstream, there could be problems with competition, with other individuals who were actually born downstream. And there is a likelihood that they will be pushed into lower quality habitat than if they were allowed to return to their native area.
The CHAIRMAN. Was it NMFS's recommendation that hatchery fish be killed?
Ms. GAAR. What specifically, I
The CHAIRMAN. Well, above Elk Creek Dam, the hatchery fish, there is a program that hatchery fish are supposed to be eliminated from the upper reaches; is that a NMFS effort? Is that a NMFS demand?
Ms. GAAR. Well, what NMFS, what NMFS's policy is is to try to bring back the wild and native gene pools to the area.
The CHAIRMAN. I understand. And you are killing fish, though, you are killing hatchery fish.
Ms. GAAR. We are encouraging the restoration of the wild and native
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Well, they are thrown out on the bank.
Ms. GAAR. And I am not prepared to talk about, excuse me, sir, I am not prepared to talk about hatchery influences today. I was talking about the specifics of the dam removal.
The CHAIRMAN. That is interesting. Sure, I just want to make the point here, of course, we are not killing hatchery fish in the Rogue. And you can argue the same thing, thatI mean, that is an ancient argument about the wild fish and hatchery fish. But I just wandered if NMFS laid the law down that all hatchery fish would be killed above Elk Creek Dam. You don't know whether that is a NMFS' idea or not?
Ms. GAAR. Not as far as I know.
The CHAIRMAN. OK.
Ms. GAAR. And if we do make determinations about hatchery fish, particularly in the situation of the southern Oregon/northern California coho, we are doing that in calibration with the State as part of the coastal salmon recovery initiative that the State has undertaken. And we are deferring to the State in most circumstances for the hatchery and, the hatchery management and the harvest regime.
The CHAIRMAN. All right. Thank you very much, Ms. Gaar, and we will come back if we have another question or two after we listen to Mr. Satterthwaite.
Ms. GAAR. Certainly.
The CHAIRMAN. Please keep your seat, if you don't mind.
Mr. Tom Satterthwaite is the Southwest Oregon Research Coordinator with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Mr. Satterthwaite's office is in Roseburg. Welcome, Mr. Satterthwaite.
STATEMENT OF TOM SATTERTHWAITE, SOUTHWEST OREGON RESEARCH COORDINATOR, OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman; and my office is in Grants Pass.
The CHAIRMAN. I am sorry. You are closer.
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. Yes. I am Thomas D. Satterthwaite, I am employed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Director Greer sends his apologies the he was not able to make today's hearing because of his previous commitment to a commission meeting.
With that I would like to go ahead and read our statement.
The CHAIRMAN. Please.
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife supports the proposal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to remove a portion of Elk Creek Dam and to restore the stream channel at the damsite because the primary benefit associated with the project is the unobstructed passage of migratory fish.
Wild salmonids that migrate to spawning areas upstream of Elk Creek Dam include chinook salmon, coho salmon, summer steelhead, winter steelhead, and cutthroat trout. Important commercial, recreational, and aesthetic benefits accrue from the production of these wild fish. Concern about the health of migratory salmonids has led to harvest reductions in commercial and recreational fisheries. Reduced harvest has helped to increase the numbers of spawners in recent years.
The Elk Creek Basin historically produced large numbers of salmon and steelhead. For example, a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the lower 4 miles of Elk Creek on December 13 and 14, 1949, counted 661 live and dead coho salmon, and 722 spawning nests. Subsequent surveys in the 1950's and in the 1970's showed that steelhead and coho salmon spawned in widely distributed areas as far as 11 miles upstream of Elk Creek Dam.
Presently, adult salmonids are trapped and transported upstream of Elk Creek Dam. Trap-and-haul began in autumn of 1992 because of evidence that few adult fish used the tunnel in Elk Creek to pass upstream to spanning areas.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The facilities presently used to trap-and-haul fish were designed to collect the salmon and steelhead needed to start the mitigation program with hatchery fish that was authorized by Congress. These facilities were not designed to transport salmonids upstream with minimal impact to fish.
As a result, some components of the present facilities are less than optimal to appropriately transport fish. In addition to other salmonids, some coho salmon have been killed or injured, which is an acute problem because these fish compose part of a group of coho salmon listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Also, some adult fish bypass the trap when the diversion weir must be cleaned, when high flows exceed the capacity of the weir, and when the weir is damaged by debris resulting from high flows.
Despite the problems with the facilities, there are indications that the production of wild salmonids has increased as a result of trap-and-haul. The Elk Creek component of the wild steelhead to pass the fish counting station at Gold Ray Dam on the Rogue River increased from 1 percent for the 199394 year to 4 percent for the 199697 year. However, since Elk Creek Basin accounts for about 10 percent of the area available to steelhead to pass Gold Ray Dam, these data indicated that trap-and-haul has yet to completely restore the production of wild steelhead in the Elk Creek Basin. In addition, fish surveys in 1995 showed the production of juvenile steelhead was very low in the Elk Creek Basin as compared to other nearby streams.
Because the production of wild migratory salmonids appears depressed in the Elk Creek Basin, and because coho salmon produced in the Elk Creek Basin are part of a group listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and because the Elk Creek Basin is a key watershed in the Oregon Salmon Restoration Plan, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife concludes that removal of a portion of Elk Creek Dam, and restoration of the stream channel in the affected area is the most assured method of resolving fish passage issues associated with Elk Creek Dam.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That concludes my testimony for today. The director asked me to convey his thanks for allowing us to present our testimony.
The CHAIRMAN. I appreciate that testimony. Thank you, Mr. Satterthwaite. I have some questions, kind of a followup discussion that I had with Ms. Gaar. Again, back to fish loss, your numbers indicated you lost one fish in the last 2 years; is that correct?
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. You are correct, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. One fish. OK. So you are doing a great job at moving fish.
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Congratulations.
I know you are familiar with this question of killing hatchery fish. Where did that decision come from? Is it yours, or was it NMFS?
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. The reason we are currently killing coho salmon of hatchery origin is to comply with our section 10 that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife received from the National Marine Fisheries Service in order to be able to transport coho, handle and transport coho salmon upstream of Elk Creek Dam. That decision was made in consultation with NMFS and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff.
The CHAIRMAN. Then it seems an incoherent policy not to trap and kill fish in the Rogue, hatchery fish. I mean, why kill hatchery fish in Elk Creekand I understand the wild fish issue, and not kill hatchery fish in the Rogue? Is there any reason?
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. Sir, we do kill hatchery coho salmon in the Rogue River. All of the hatchery fish at Cole Rivers, that return to Cole Rivers Hatchery are killed. None of them are released, what we call off station, or released into areas other than Cole Rivers Hatchery to spawn. That practice was commonly done up until the late 1980's. So we do kill, wherever we can get our hands on coho salmon hatchery origin adult fish, we do kill them.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Do you think that has eliminated the problems with the wild fish ideology?
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. Sir, are you asking for my personal opinion or the opinion of my agency?
The CHAIRMAN. Well, I certainly don't want to get you in trouble with your agency. But I would like to have your personal opinion, I think.
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. I am willing to convey my personal opinion. My personal opinion is that we have a very effective hatchery program at Cole Rivers Hatchery. There were major changes in spawning and rearing practices when that facility was designed. We had hatchery biologists on site for years. The coho salmon program originally started with wild fish, and every attempt has been made to incorporate as many wild fish as possible into the brood stock to return to that particular facility.
My personal opinion is thatand I am not a geneticist, I am a population biologistbut my personal opinion is I can see good, sound reasoning why those fish would not have genetically diverged from the original native wild stock. That is my personal opinion, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Therefore, no reason to kill them?
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. There is uncertainty associated with my particular conclusion. I can also see the conclusions that other biologists, including geneticists that are much more experienced on this issue than myself, I can also see the reasoning behind their conclusions and their recommendations that coho salmon hatchery origin should be killed and notto make sure that their genetic material is not released out into the wild. So I can see both sides, sir, of the issue.
The CHAIRMAN. I don't think you went too far away from the issue, really. You are familiar with the weir, of course, portion of the trap. In your opinion, replacing the weir, if one were to replace the weir, would that, would that take care of the trap program?
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. Just by itself, sir?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes.
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. I cannot give you a definitive answer to that question because we did not complete an evaluation of the current trap-and-haul facilities; and because, as Ms. Gaar alluded to, we do not know what type of rejection there is of the current weir or any weir that may be, or velocity barrier that may be redesigned.
From my personal perspective, I would say the key issue is how many, how well the habitat upstream of Elk Creek Dam is producing wild migratory salmonids. For example, if the basin becomes fully seeded downstream for whatever reason, and is producing as many juveniles as possible, then the question of how many adults may be killed or adult fish that are directly killed or fail to return to Elk Creek, in my opinion then, that is an academic question, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. I think it is, too. And how long do you estimate that it would take for you to complete that study?
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. Our original project proposal that we submitted to the Corps of Engineers after review by other fishery agencies called for a 4- or 5-year study. We completed the first year of that evaluation. At the end of that first year's evaluation, the Corps of Engineers announced plans to temporarily suspend attempting to complete the dam, and also announced tentative plans to remove a portion of the spillway.
So at that time, in consultation with the Corps and other fisheries agencies, we opted not to submit a project proposal to the Corps to finish the evaluation.
The CHAIRMAN. So we don't know, frankly, because you haven't completed the study, you don't really know the impact of rejection, the impact of spawning. The only thing we do know is your numbers that have increased from 200 to 1,000 fish; and one would assume that those would continue.
What is your, what is your estimate of returning fish in the next 5 years, dependingand I recognize it is speculationwhat is your personal belief?
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. My personal belief, and I think most of our, the biologists within our agency would agree with this, is that we expect the numbers of adult steelhead and coho salmon to increase dramatically just as we are seeing right now. There's two reasons for that, sir. First is that we mark hatchery fish at Cole Rivers Hatchery and we can calculate or get some idea of what ocean survival rates are doing. They were low in the late 1980's and early 1990's; they have since turned around and ocean survival rates are increasing.
In conjunction with that, there's been major reduction in the harvest opportunity, both for recreational and commercial fisherman. That results in fewer fish being caught in the ocean and in the river, resulting in larger returns of adults.
The most, the best way I can encapsulate that, sir, is that age 2 fish, or age 2 coho salmon among wild fish historically counted for 1 out of every 4 adult coho salmon that returned; now they account for 1 out of every 10. The reason being is that recreational and commercial fisherman have been extremely limited in the harvest opportunity because the listing of the coho salmon as threatened.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, that is certainly good news, and it is good news for Elk Creek, as well. And I assume that means that you expect, even if youwell, let me ask you this, is the capacity of the current trap-and-haul sufficient to handle double the numbers of fish?
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. Our staff concluded that we could handle approximately 150 fish per day given our current staff levels. And so projected over the course of the whole season, I would say yes, we could probably handle that number of fish.
The CHAIRMAN. And that would probably get you to almost 10 percent of the habitat; is that true, since you are 4 now, you would go to 8, I assume?
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. It would, sir, if the handling stress was not, not so damaging to the fish, if they used appropriate spawning areas in upstream areas, then yes, I would expect the habitat to be fully seeded.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. There were comments on this question that I raised about handling. Is it essential to stress these fish in a manner in which you identify them, you squeeze them, you tag them, and then you turn them lose; is that essential for ongoing studies, or is that just a temporary kind of thing?
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. We have been handling the fish ever since the trap-and-haul program started. If we do not handle them and do not identify them as a species, do not identify their length, do not mark them so we can determine the resultant disposition of those fish if possible, then there's no possible way for us to evaluate the current facility and how well it is working.
I might also add that I think that you did a very good job of explaining to everyone how the fish are handled, with the exception of wewe don't really squeeze the fish in order to handle them with minimal effect; but because of the inadequacy of the current facility, we are not able to gather biological, in the opinion of my agency, we are not able to gather the appropriate biological data needed to make an evaluation of the current facilities.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, you must have done a great job, because you have only lost one in 2 years, so
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. That is correct, sir, we've only killed one fish simply as a part of the trap-and-haul process.
The CHAIRMAN. I wanted to ask you a second about the tunnel. There is an existing tunnel in Elk Creek Dam, and there is some discussion that fish never go up through the tunnel. Some have suggested lighting it so that they could see it, which is not a bad idea, maybe. I don't know. Others have said that they'll never go through the tunnel. What's your estimate of the tunnel, and could it ever be used for fish to go through to reach the upper reaches of Elk Creek?
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. I think that is a very good question, sir. Back in 1992 when there was no trap-and-haul facilities, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife did install a juvenile fish trap upstream of Elk Creek Dam; the number of juvenile salmon and steelhead that were caught in that particular trap were extremely low, in my opinion, given the size of the Elk Creek Basin. Based on that finding, that is when the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Corps of Engineers in consultation with the fisheries agencies decided to implement the trap-and-haul project.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That was the best data that we had as far as evaluating the use of the tunnel by migratory salmonids until last year when a high flow event in November reached the weir, seriously damaged it, and many salmon and steelhead, many coho salmon and steelhead migrated through the weir and over the weir into the spilling basin that Ms. Gaar described previously. Those fish were in the spilling basin, we could not mark them in any way, shape, or form.
So what we decided to do was we conducted spawning surveys in upstream areas for coho salmon, because all the salmon die after they spawn; and we attempted to recover as many coho carcasses as we could to see if any of the carcasses that we found upstream of the dam didn't have any marks on them; that would indicate that the fish swam through the tunnel. And so we launched into a last minute survey of those spawning areas. We found 19 coho salmon in upstream areas. We just surveyed primarily tributary streams. All of them had marks which indicated that they had been transported. Based on that finding, that tells, that indicates to me that the tunnel was not used by coho salmon associated with that particular event.
The CHAIRMAN. Are salmon and steelhead navigating the 1,300 foot road culvert above the dam?
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. That is in West Branch Creek, sir?
The CHAIRMAN. Right.
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. I cannot give you a definitive answer to that question.
The CHAIRMAN. You know, the whole area of Elk Creek below the dam, there is a very narrow restricted area; are you familiar with that?
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. I believe so, sir, approximately one quarter of a mile of the creek.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes. And, you know, the argument has always been that the reason that the tunnel is never used is because the high water, it is so swift that nothing uses it. I assume that if it were that, then that very narrow stretch, which certainly gets very swift in high water, I know, wouldn't be used either; but it is. So what is your analysis of that?
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. Of that particular site?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes.
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. The definitive statement I can make is that juvenile salmon steelhead migrate upstream in Elk Creek during autumn and early winter. We suspect this is a life history strategy to evade the effects of high water peak flows. We did some, an experiment last year and we found that the young of the year, the little fry of steelhead did not migrate upstream above that barrier, but steelhead that were larger than 6 inches did so.
If steelhead larger than 6 inchesthese fish were in 6 to 10 inch lengthsif those fish negotiated that particular site, and given that we catch large numbers of adult salmon and steelhead at the trapping facility, I would guess, I would conclude that that particular site is probably not a barrier.
The CHAIRMAN. Your studies indicated, and I am quoting, and I would like to ask you a question. ''Elk Creek stream flow is very greatly dependent upon the amount of precipitation in any given season. High flows can range above flood stage 6,000 cfs, while low flows average 5 cfs; water temperatures likewise vary with lows of 33 degrees in winter months and as high as 86 degrees in the summer months.''
My question is simply at 5 cfs and 86 degrees, that is not fish habitat, is it?
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. That is very poor habitat for coho salmon, that is correct. But amazingly enough, we found that steelhead can survive under those conditions.
The CHAIRMAN. And of course throughout history, Elk Creek has dried up, as has the Applegate; so we can anticipate at some time that stream will be dry if there is no dam, I assume that would be an assumption anybody would make. Therefore, you would destroy all the fish with the, if it dries up, right? Fish can't live in a dry stream.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. Yes, sir, that is true. But I don't believe, I have looked at a lot of flow data and I don't believe Elk Creek has ever dried up.
The CHAIRMAN. All right.
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. Portions of it, that is correct. But portions of it have water in it all year round.
The CHAIRMAN. I think the point made here is to really sustain the stream for fish, for all kinds of weather and concerns, the dam is a better idea; that is my statement, not yours.
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. Sir, can I add one comment to that?
The CHAIRMAN. Of course, please.
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. It is based on my experience with being a research project leader in the Rogue River Basin that you are absolutely right, there's many streams in this basin that dry up, and our department is very concerned about that issue.
What we've discovered, starting in the seventies, and evidence is becoming more and more clear, that those intermittent streams can be very important producers of juvenile steelhead, and in some cases coho salmon as well. For example, there's one stream that was trapped near Gold Hill back in 1970, the stream dried up completely; but despite that, it, we trapped more than 100,000 young of the year steelhead that then migrated into the Rogue River where they reared and were able to survive.
The CHAIRMAN. Is there any question in your mind that, that Lost Creek and Applegate Dams have enhanced the fishery in the Rogue and not destroyed it?
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. The research project on the Applegate River is complete, and inferences have been made as a result of research projects conducted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife; those findings indicate that fall chinook production in the Applegate River has increased significantly as a result of Applegate Dam.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. Thank you both very much, appreciate it.
Mr. SATTERTHWAITE. You are welcome.
The CHAIRMAN. Please stick around, if you don't mind, there may be a question a little later. Thank you.
And now we'd like to have the chairs of the commission from Josephine County and Jackson County please come forward, gentlemen. Yes, and Ed Olson, please, Mr. Olson, please come forward. Ed Olson can, we are saving you for the best.
Gentlemen, good morning. Welcome, happy to have you here. First I would like to introduce the Chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, Jack Walker. Jack has been a long time business leader in Jackson County and is serving his first term as County Commissioner. Mr. Chairman, we are pleased to have you here. We would like to hear from you.
STATEMENT OF JACK WALKER, CHAIR, JACKSON COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
Mr. WALKER. Good morning. As chair of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, I wish to thank you, Congressman Smith, for convening the hearing today. And I agree with you, I think it is long overdue. This hearing today is on the effects of the Corps of Engineers' proposal to notch, and what we believe then therefore totally destroy the possibility of ever completing the Elk Creek Dam project.
It me, when I first sat down here, Congressman, I was hoping that my testimony may not have too much negative tone to it. After listening to some of the testimony this morning, I think it may be a little more obvious.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners have been involved with and supported the completion of the three dam project since its conception in 1962, when Congress authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to construct the three dam project in the Rogue River Basin. They have always supported the three dam project for water storage, flood control, and recreational needs.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This project in its entirety has not only been supported by this board and by all the Boards of Commissioners in the Rogue Basin, but also the State legislature and certainly by some of the previous governors. Maybe it would receive support from our present governor should it be being proposed from Roseburg north, but that doesn't seem to be the case, as we were, we heard the testimony that it doesn't seem like he believes this project will ever get off the ground.
Although political and environmental propaganda has totally clouded the issue of need for this third dam project, those people from the Upper Rogue and Grants Pass areas will continue to experience the flooding that jeopardizes their homes, their families and their communities. These families have led a steadfast support of this long overdue project, and I think rightly so.
The Willamette Valley has completed 12 projects to protect them from flooding and to provide the infrastructure to protect their quality of life. While some of those same Willamette Valley residences also, although the funding doesn't even effect or impact them, they still join with many through, of those out-of-staters throughout the country that subsequently refuse to allow our southern Oregon area to complete this three dam project to allow us to protect and enhance our quality of life.
Though this is not the same issue, it tends to remind me of the disparity and lack of funding that we received in our southern portion of Jackson County in gas taxes back, so that we have had for State highway projects. Those gas taxes never seem to quite make it back to the southern Oregon area.
Where does this all leave us today in the Elk Creek Dam project? There is still a court injunction in force forbidding the completion of Elk Creek Dam, as we all know.
And in the structure of my testimony today, I would ask you, Congressman Smith, to request the U.S. Corps of Engineers to do an update environmental impact statement on completing the dam as requested by the injunction presently in force. And an up-to-date study of the economic consequences of their proposal to destroy the Elk Creek Dam Project.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I have asked our legal counsel last week to review the court proceedings to this point on the Elk Creek Dam project. And an interesting point is that in 1989, the Corps of Engineers appealed a decision of the Ninth Circuit Court to the Supreme Court. This case was ONRC, Oregon Natural Resources Council v. Marsh II. Marsh was the Secretary of the Army in that period. This case being the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in 1987, which did not agree with the Federal Court Judge Burns in his original decision to allow the dam to be built. In that Federal Court Appeals case, they only reversed part of Judge Burns' decision. But when the Corps wrote up its appeal to the Supreme Court opposing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, they left out that part forcing them to file a new environmental impact statement and worst case analysis with regard to the water flow contribution from Elk Creek, which was included in the Ninth Circuit Court decision.
And yes, the Supreme Court did reverse the Court of Appeals' decision on those parts appealed; however, the additional demands for studies by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals were not even included in the Corps' appeal to the Supreme Court. I thought that was a rather interesting point.
The flooding we experienced last January was certainly not a fluke or even that unusual. And in fact, there has been many millions of dollars in damage caused by the flooding that could have been avoided on the lower Rogue had we had all three dams completed. There was very good evidence of the amount of water flow by Elk Creek in the Rogue based on a television station video produced near the end of the worst of the rainfall. And this was a real obvious video because it shows the huge volume of water estimated at 11,000 cubic feet a second. It was also very easy to recognize the volume because of the red mud color of Elk Creek flow into the Rogue. The flood damage in Jackson and Josephine County was approximately $55 million last year; of course not all of that being on the Rogue.
As we deal with fishery issues involved with the dam completion, we learn that prior to the dam being started there were almost no fish migration past the point where the dam is located. In fact, that was part of the reasoning for placing the dam where they did. Elk Creek was virtually impassable for migration past that point. And this has been well documented by statements from old-timers that fished Elk Creek in the last decades.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The ONRC's field representative Wendell Wood gives good testimony that there has been $100 million already spent on Elk Creek Dam, and it would cost another $70 million to complete. And therefore, we would be wasting taxpayers' money. It is my understanding that the original cost was estimated to be $78 million. It takes no mathematical genius to figure out who has already wasted that taxpayers' money.
I believe we need to protect this most valuable resource in Jackson County. And it is time we got on with this project taking an offensive posture and not laying on our backs and being kicked by those environmentalist using those knee-jerk reactions to fishery issues or endangered species listings in our courts to get their own way. It can be done. I think we just need to take a strong offensive position and not always be just on the defense. The courts can also work for us.
I appreciate very much the opportunity, Congressman Smith, to testify before you this morning. And I thank you, and I will certainly answer any questions you have.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank you. And I know that there are[Applause].
I understand the popularity of the chairman, I join you. But I would please ask you not to have outbursts on either side of these issues. Thank you very much.
Mr. Borngasser, thank you for coming. Mr. Borngasser is the chairman of the Josephine County Board of Commissioners where he served as commissioner since 1991, was a Grants Pass City councilor from 1989 to 1990. He has degrees in economics and management, and a reputation for keeping a keen eye on the public's dollar. Mr. Borngasser.
STATEMENT OF FRED BORNGASSER, CHAIRMAN, JOSEPHINE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
Mr. BORNGASSER. Thank you very much, Chairman. Thank you for allowing us to address this important issue to our county. The Elk Creek Dam project is in jeopardy, and with the very concerns that initially enabled the project to begin under the Flood Control Act of 1962. This project was well engineered to balance the impact on the natural environment with the developmental needs of the County's. To destroy the project by breaching the existing dam is to doom its completion; it is a wasteful use of tax revenues.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With respect to flood control, the winter storms earlier this year point out that we are still very vulnerable to Mother Nature. Several millions of dollars were provided through the assistance programs of the USDA to recover as well as we have. Several million dollars more would be required to return our counties to the condition prior to the storm. Many people are unable to afford the cost of recovery and we have lost resources in both people and farm lands forever.
Looking forward with the perspective of previous flooding, such as the 1964 flood that was referred to earlier, we can anticipate many of the same problems to occur in the future. The Elk Creek Dam project was designed to help mitigate some of those concerns. And there was testimony earlier again that the flooding in January would have been 2 feet less had Elk Creek Dam been in place.
Damages caused by river flooding were in spite of the fact that we've adopted the State Land Use Rules controlling development. Additionally, flooding destroys historical river sites.
I realize that other natural calamities will impact us, but it seems senseless to take a project that is engineered, begun, and partially paid for and spend more money to ruin it.
With respect to economics, the beauty of southern Oregon has been one of our strongest draws for tourists, retirees, and young families, and provides the greatest motivation to preserve it. When the Elk Creek Dam project was first conceived, we were dependent on timber forest products and related industries to support our communities. Now we rely heavily on our tourist industry and well maintained recreational areas for tourists to enjoy Those same tourists will also relocate very frequently a business to our community.
The Elk Creek Dam would provide 1,340 acres of recreational flat water surface. The usable storage of 60,000 acre-feet will enhance the management of water resources later in the summer season that could not only protect fish habitat, but also provide additional recreational opportunities. Breaching the dam would be a reversal in the progress we have made toward a more recreational-based economy. As with the flood control concern, nothing has been done to find a suitable solution to the economic loss issue.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With respect to water resources, in planning for future growth, water is a primary concern. At the current time, water that is not drawn out for municipal, industrial, or agricultural use is simply allowed to run freely downstream. If each of these uses were to draw their complete allotment, demands for additional water for river maintenance, fish habitat, and other uses could not be met.
The fish migration issue has been enhanced by other means, and the one solution presented to us threatens to destroy the project by first spending a sizable amount of money to remove part of it; and second, making it far too expensive to resurrect the project at a later date when its environmental and economic impact would be looked upon individually and not part of the three dam project.
The Cole M. Rivers Fish Hatchery was built to mitigate fish losses which again was covered earlier. The dollars spent for breaching the dam would be better spent on improving this facility or towards other solutions that would not have as serious a consequence on the structure of the Elk Creek Dam.
I can't help but wonder that if we spent $8 million on fish boxes as a habitat, what difference that would make with respect to fish.
If not the Elk Creek Dam, where can we gain control over the 60,000 acre-feet of water for flood control in the Rogue River Basin? If not for the Elk Creek Dam, where can we obtain an additional 1,340 acres of water surface and 15 miles of shoreline for additional recreational use? If not the Elk Creek Dam, where else are we going to obtain 60,000 acre-feet of water for future social and economic growth that is forecast for the Rogue Valley communities? These questions require complete analysis of the breach proposal the Corps of Engineers has made; economic, environmental, and sociological.
It is therefore the position of the Josephine County Board of Commissioners that a thorough EIS must be conducted by the Corps of Engineers with a current economic impact study of their proposal before any additional damage is done to the completion of the Elk Creek Dam project; or as an alternative, the requirement for passive fish passage should be lifted for the interpretation that is been applied here. Thank you very much for the opportunity to testify.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Thank you for your statement.
Mr. Ed Olson, who is the manager of the Medford Water Commission, an engineer with a long career in water utilities management, now heads up one of the most successful water commissions in the Nation. How do you like that? Ed is very familiar with the long-term water needs of the valley and was a leader in forming the Bear Creek Watershed. And he has a reputation for being an outstanding golfer.
Mr. OLSON. How is your golf game, Mr. Chairman?
The CHAIRMAN. Not bad.
Mr. OLSON. Not bad; neither is mine.
STATEMENT OF EDWARD N. OLSON, MANAGER OF THE MEDFORD WATER COMMISSION
Mr. OLSON. I would like to start off my comments today by stating that the Medford Water Commission does not have any official position on whether to complete or not complete the Elk Creek Project. We do feel, however, that a tremendous amount of public funds have been spent to date on the project, and the public investment should not be wasted. Any alternative selected should leave the option open to future generations on whether to complete the project.
As our knowledge and understanding of man's effect on fish and water quality increases, and this understanding is weighed against other public benefits, we will better be able to make a decision on the Elk Creek project.
In 1995, the Corps of Engineers provided notice to the Congressional Appropriations Committee of its intention to evaluate options for long-term management of the project in its uncompleted state. It seemed like a very reasonable request. Phase I of the evaluation was stated to be ''Determine fish passage requirements and implement a passive fish passage system to reduce annual expenditures and improve biological conditions of the fish.'' Somewhere between the 1995 notice and the completion of the EA, it appears the objective of the project has changed. The purpose as stated in the EA is ''to restore unencumbered passage for anadromous fish through the project area.''
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There is a magnitude of difference between ''reducing annual expenditures and improving biological conditions,'' and ''restoring unencumbered passage for anadromous fish.'' This is quite evident by the recommendations made in the EA. To restore unencumbered fish passage through the project will require the virtual elimination of the structure, as is evident by the alternative selected.
A 150-foot notch in the structure and the total realignment and restoration of the creek effectively abandons the Elk Creek project without public need or cost benefits determination. By selecting this option now, the Corps can effectively abandon this project and not have to deal with later phases, or subsequent public assessment on whether to complete the project.
It does not seem reasonable to believe that there will not be need for stored water in the future. As municipalities and others perfect their existing water rights and eventually utilize the stored water in Lost Creek, water flows will drop in the Rogue River. Elk Creek could be available to supplement flows in the river. When the area returns to wet rainfall cycles and more flooding occurs, this project could play a vital part in minimizing potential impacts of flooding.
As a greater understanding is obtained on anadromous fish and other species, the Elk Creek project could play a vital role in the solution and not just be a source of the problem.
The public investment made to date on this project should not be wasted; nor should an additional $8 million planned for this project. Any time any Government agency wastes public funds, if reflects badly on all of us.
There must be a better solution which will allow passive fish passage and not totally destroy the public investment made in the project to date. This alternative will probably not allow for total unencumbered fish passage, but anadromous fish do overcome many obstacles, both manmade and natural, without detrimental effect.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The EA has not made a reasonable attempt to develop a solution that would ''reduce annual expenditures and improve biological conditions for anadromous fish'' and still retain the basic integrity of the Elk Creek project. It is easy to understand the Corps' frustration with the whole Elk Creek project; but the option selected is so extensive that it will likely prevents future completion of the project.
And independent review of the complete EA and evaluation of different alternatives focused on the original objective will probably render a totally different recommendation, one which truly meets the long-term public needs interest of our community.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you all. And a question to all of you, have there been any studies developed that you know about that would indicate the need for water in the future?
Mr. WALKER. Congressman Smith, I think that it is very obvious, with the amount of growth that we have had here in Jackson County, and with the limited area of Jackson County, and because Federal Government controls fortunately approximately half of Jackson County, this is a limited area of growth. And that concentrated area is going to depend an awful lot on that three dam system to provide that growth in the future; because I think that is just a very common-sense obvious direction we have to look at Water is going to be a very precious item here in this county in future years.
Mr. OLSON. I might just comment that we have just completed a 2050 study where we looked at the long-term needs for Bear Creek and
The CHAIRMAN. Tell me what 2050 is?
Mr. OLSON. The dams through the year 2050.
The CHAIRMAN. OK.
Mr. OLSON. And our identification was that it appears that at least the municipal side of the study is that we did have, with the current water rightsthe thing you have to remember is that our rights now are not perfected; municipals can encamp on those. We use about half of the rights that are currently available to the commission. I think Grants Pass is a similar situation. And the fathom of stored water that is currently allocated in the Lost Creek project was just 10,000 feet. It appears that to the 2050 period, we could meet the municipal demands based on those two. But you have to understand the river will also be dropping because we will be taking, probably in our case, about 100 cfs more water during the summer periods than currently is there.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Also the other thing that is the unknown in that variable is the effect of industry. And a good example is the Hundai plant that was just placed in Eugene. Their demands are approximately, they are starting off with about 3 million gallons a day, but they will end up to 10 million gallons of water a day. So there's always the wildcard out there in terms of having a major industry wanting to move to the valley and then be limited on the amount of water that is available under our current rights without the ability to reallocate others. Even though, I guess our study appears right now that there's a caveat to that in terms of how you would meet a large industrial customer if one were to want to relocate to the valley.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Borngasser.
Mr. BORNGASSER. Mr. Chairman, it is my understanding that Grants Pass is in a similar position, as Ed just mentioned. And the projections that I have heard would indicate that they would be using all of their water right by the year 2050 as well. And one of the concerns that I think you alluded to is that as more people use their allocation, there's less water than today is being used to support fish temperature, for example, temperature control and water in the river. And so the river is, I would say it is going to have less and less water in it as time goes by, as more and more is drawn out for industrial and municipal and agricultural uses.
I do have some pictures, too, that I will submit for the record, of the flooding in January.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. Without objection, we will take those.
[The pictures appear on page 81.]
The CHAIRMAN. There is some unallocated water available, I understand, in Lost Creek, or behind Lost Creek Dam. That is going downstream now. Does anybody believe that either the municipalities or the counties can call upon that unallocated water?
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. OLSON. In the original Congressional authorization, there was a set aside for agriculture and for municipal, industrial. And we currently only have one community that is purchasing part of that water, and that is the city of Phoenix; although city of Talent will shortly also be purchasing that water. So we expect to see the current at least 10,000 acre-feet that was allocated in the original authorization document being used over the next 15 years or 20 years.
The CHAIRMAN. I am really intimating that since that unallocated water is going downstream now, and it is being used for fish propagation and support, does anybody believe that there won't be a wild objection to municipalities or counties or anybody else claiming that water?
Mr. OLSON. I can answer that. I hope not.
Mr. WALKER. Mr. Chairman, if I might, I also, because of time restraints, we know there are many people wanting to testify; I do have written testimony from Commissioner Sue Kupillas that she wished to have in evidence.
The CHAIRMAN. And I appreciate that, and it will be held for the record. And I express my apology to Ms. Kupillas for not having room for her to testify. She has been a great advocate on this issue for many, many years, and so I visited with her and I will be glad to take her testimony. Gentlemen, thank you very much.
Mr. Wendell Wood, and Mr. Marty Bauer, please.
Mr. WOOD. Good morning.
The CHAIRMAN. Good morning, Mr. Wood. Thank you for coming. And Mr. Bauer. Mr. Wood is the southern Oregon field representative for the Oregon Natural Resources Council. The ONRC, headquartered in Portland, was the chief plaintiff in the legal actions that resulted in halting construction of the Elk Creek Dam. And the ONRC has proposed the complete removal of the dam. Mr. Wood's office is in Klamath Falls. Thanks for coming across the mountain. We will be happy to hear from you.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF WENDELL WOOD, SOUTHERN OREGON FIELD REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE OREGON NATURAL RESOURCES COUNCIL
Mr. WOOD. Sure. Well, we propose the complete removal of the dam. We've also proposed, or are definitely in agreement with comments we've heard this morning for the Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in discussing the lack of feasibility of this project.
ONRC did not produce that information; our Government officials produced that information and those results. While Mr. Walker was provided with my testimony by your staff, I unfortunately did not have the courtesy similarly of seeing his testimony.
But in terms of the idea, first of all, that environmental organizations are somehow responsible for the cost here, this is a graft that we prepared a few years ago simply showing over time how the cost has increased. This is the rise incurred. And it is at this point in the middle of 1980's, late 1980's, that the Oregon Natural Resources Council and some of the fishery organizations challenged this project when the cost had already very much accelerated.
In fact, I think that overall, that when you are talking about flood control and flood problems, there's no question in our mind that rivers flood. And that we also have fishery resources that we wish to protect. And that is why I think that we've also looked at this issue, and everybody else has that is examined this issue over the years, as the matter of what are the costs verses the benefits.
Clearly when we build our highways, all that keeps you from life and death is a little white strip in the middle of the, painted in the road; it keeps you from passing a car the other way. Why don't we instead build our roads so that they are separated apart so we cannot have head-on collisions. Because it is a decision, right or wrong, that is made based on cost. It is simply the problems we are facing in our Nation with budget deficits and the national debt and so on and so on. We would maintain that the Elk Creek project epitomizes that problem.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I have a letter, sir, that you wrote to one of your constituents back in 1985 stating that your support for the construction of the Elk Creek Dam was dependent upon the benefits of the dam exceeding its costs. And you stated that in 1982, that a study by the U.S. General Accounting Office questioned the previous benefit to cost analysis of Elk Creek Dam by the Corps of Engineers, and that you would ask the Corps to re-evaluate the dam to determine whether the current benefits of the dam exceed its costs. And you also stated your support of a Federal balanced budget amendment, the Defense Cost Reduction Act of 1985, and that you are on record of favoring an end to runaway Federal spending.
Our point, and the point of, I think, numerous opinion leaders that have studied this project over the years, is that this project should not have been built even if the fish were not a factor, which indeed we very much believe they are.
In the editorial that your staff submitted to the Medford paper recently, you stated that the last time you checked, the fish weren't cutting fat checks to the IRS. I guess we are here today to argue that fish do have tremendous economic value. In fact, the General Accounting Office previously wrote that the Rogue River is the most productive and valuable salmon steelhead stream in Oregon.
According to National Marine Fisheries Service officials, they cite the Rogue River sport and commercial fishery is valued at about $25 million annually; this was a few years ago.
Specifically looking at Elk Creek Dam, the fishery, just purely based on the economics, was viewed as being, attributed as benefits of $465,000 annually, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
I think we are concerned about the cost of say notching the project, and we would like to see that done as most cost effectively as possible. The last information we saw where completing the dam that has already cost taxpayers $100 million, which we feel is unfortunate that money was ever spent, that the cost of completing the project was a little over $70 million. It is hard to believe that today that that wouldn't also exceed, you know, certainly as much as already has been spent on the project.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Interestingly, at that time, the Corps stated that the cost of removing the dam was $10 million; and if we are hearing today that the cost of notching the dam is $7 million, again, you know, we would like to see what those costs are and if there is a way the fish passage could be provided as economically as possible. But we do believe that there is a responsibility to, that the Government has now, to facilitate that passage.
It is important to us also that we look at restoring fishery resource. As some people already noted, despite the fact that the Corps gave up on this project and that the dam is presently enjoined until certain studies are completed, that the Corps no longer wishes to complete.
And adding to all the record and everything that was said prior to the announcement of their decision to proceed with notching the dam, we have the whole matter now of the Endangered Species Act, which was a law that never even came into play before, with the listing of the coho, and also now the National Marine Fisheries Service, a few months ago, deferred a decision that is now announced to occur in February of next year on the listing of the steelhead. We feel that any project that needlessly blocks fish passage only exacerbates the problem, and also significantly undercuts even the stay of the governor's contention that the State can protect these species without further listing.
So I think that, in general, different opinion leaders have editorializedand I have included this in my testimony as well, as a fact sheet on the chronology of eventshave concluded, as the Corps of Engineers has concluded, that Lost Creek and Applegate Dam more than provides the need for flood protection. And again, that is based on the benefit, or the cost benefit analysis.
And so if we do look, if we do approach the issue from the standpoint that we are going to makethat it is maybe reasonable for other people in other parts of the country to pay for flood protection for people who live along the banks of the Rogue River, if we even make that assumption, and if we also make the assumption that we wish to have a healthy fishing economy in this State and that we want to take and utilize all of the available habitat that the agencies have said is available to us, that simply finding a way at this time to, as economically as possible, to remove impediment to fish passage and rely on those benefits, and importantly as we look at increased growth in the Rogue Valley, that we look at ways much more cost effectively that we are not locating our developments in areas that would be subject to flood damage.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think just a couple more comments and then I will stop. One of the concerns always has been that when we put dams in for the sake of flood control and then observe their benefits in short term, that it creates a false security, that then people are more inclined to develop within that flood zone; and then when the really big one comes and they are spilling water over the spillway as fast as they can, the dam is even worse.
So I guess I would like to conclude, as the Oregonian previously wrote a few years ago, that completing the dam makes no sense on virtually all counts; therefore is why we should proceed with fish passage. The Oregonian stated, and we correctly believe, as other papers and opinion leaders have, is that it is environmentally flawed. The Corps itself agrees that the dam isn't needed for irrigation or flood control now or in the future, is what the agency has previously testified in court; and the project is economically unsound.
We believe, again, that the people have spoken here. My testimony and all of the claims we make is only based on things that, well, the Corps of Engineers has previously stated, and the opinions of the other agencies and scientists that have evaluated this project.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Wood.
To correct the record, in 1985, I was twice on the floor of the House of Representatives defending the Elk Creek against Mr. Weaver, who was then the Congressman as well from Oregon who wanted to delist the dam. So there was never a concern of mine about the dam. I was trying to clarify the cost benefit ratios because they changed. As you well know, if you eliminateif you set Elk Creek Dam by itself, you get one cost benefit ratio; but if you put it in the three dam program which was authorized in 1962, you get quite another. So that is, that is what I was doing, and that is what I was writing.
I wanted to ask you, were you involved with all seven of the appeals in Marsh through the years?
Mr. WOOD. Yeah, the Oregon Natural Resources Council, with the help of a public interest attorney Neil Kagan, has been involved in this litigation from its onset, along with initially Oregon Guides and Packers, Rogue Fishers, other fishing associations, correct.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. So I suppose that you have to take great responsibility for the delay and the cost of this process.
Mr. WOOD. Well, again, we feel that, we never askedno, we do not, because we never asked the Government to build this project. We believe this project, the Corps never wanted it; the only reason this project was ever built and ever continued was because former Senator Mark Hatfield wanted it. And I think that it is Senator Hatfield that we have most to thank or blame for the tremendous cost overruns that accrued for a project that was a budget buster and a fish killer from the beginning.
The CHAIRMAN. You think the Corps of Engineers bows and scrapes to one Member of Congress?
Mr. WOOD. I think that the Senate Appropriations, the Senator who is the head of the Senate Appropriations Committee for so many years, yes, had a considerable amount of power in influencing the Corps of Engineers in getting this project funded despite of its environmental problems, yes, I certainly do.
The CHAIRMAN. They'll love you for that.
Mr. WOOD. OK.
The CHAIRMAN. You mentioned that you thought Lost Creek and Applegate were sufficient for
Mr. WOOD. I am only basing that on other statements that the Corps of Engineers and the General Accounting Office and others have written, yes.
The CHAIRMAN. I haven't finished my sentence yet.
Mr. WOOD. I am sorry.
The CHAIRMAN. You stated that Lost Creek and Applegate were sufficient, you thought, for flood control; and yet you heard the testimony here, we have had several floods that have created great loss downstream.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WOOD. My point
The CHAIRMAN. Well, let me finish my statement and then I will ask you a question. You have heard the testimony here that the construction of the dam would alleviate much of those costs. Would you care to square that for me?
Mr. WOOD. We believe that if we look at this again and set the environment aside, which we are here in support of both the anadromous fish as well as the I guess the androgenous fish, the cost, we have to look at it in, yes, as you said, in different ways; it is all how you do the analysis. We believe that the cost of flood control and asking the public to support a project where there was never an even cost sharing provided in this, that the cost of building this structure exceeds, yes, the benefits and exceeds the cost.
I guess what I am saying is that for no amount of money could you totally flood proof the Rogue Valley, and particularly as the Rogue Valley continues to expand should it expand along the banks of the Rogue River. So I think we are confronted with the situation overall that all we can do is at some amount of cost that the public is willing to assume, reduce some percent of that threat, or that potential for that flood loss. But I began in my testimony by saying floods happen, floods will occur; and if we, if we wish to complete Elk Creek Dam, at certainly in excess of other $100 million, then should we not ask, you know, should Congress not then fund, following that logic, dams on every conceivable river and tributary that might flood anywhere in the country? At some point it becomes, again, a fact that we cannot control nature beyond a certain point or a certain probability.
So to answer your question specifically, we do not think that the cost of completing Elk Creek Dam is beneficial when you look at the impacts to the environment, to the fisheries resource and its economic values; and if we were instead to look at, instead, of investing that money in a way to encourage development outside of flood zones, or discourage development in the areas that would be most impacted.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. All right. Mr. Wood, you quoted Judge Burns in an attempt to enhance your argument.
Mr. WOOD. I did? OK.
The CHAIRMAN. You quoted him with this sentence, ''Plaintiffs''that is you''present a compelling argument.''
Mr. WOOD. Oh, yes.
The CHAIRMAN. ''Desperate measures are urgently needed to save Elk Creek fisheries.'' Period. You failed to quote the second paragraph, or second sentence by Judge Burns, which is, and I quote, ''However, I am ill equipped to make the technical judgment that demolition of the dam is the most appropriate measure.
Mr. WOOD. Exactly.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes. Thank you. I wanted to clear the record.
Mr. WOOD. Well, again, and that is why we feel that the other agencies that made that determinationindeed, we had asked Judge Burns to rule on the project; he did, yes, say that it was a compelling argument; but that he felt that in his opinion, that that went beyond what he could do from the bench. And that is why he asked the agencies to evaluate it, that have evaluated it. And we concur with their conclusions.
The CHAIRMAN. And for the record, and you are very familiar with ONRC v. Harold. In that case in the Ninth Circuit, Judge Rymer, and this is in 1995, and I will quote and ask you for your thought, I want to quote him. ''However, since the remedy sought is removal of the dam or spillway, until the decision making process is completed, evidence that the dam would destroy habitat and possibly extirpate the fish eventually does not compel demolition of the structure now.'' You are familiar with that statement?
Mr. WOOD. You have refreshed my memory, yes.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. That is fine.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WOOD. That is all. No comment from me, or what?
The CHAIRMAN. No, that is fine.
Mr. WOOD. You just want to make a statement, all right.
The CHAIRMAN. No, I wanted it for the record.
Mr. WOOD. And that is why we wanted those studies to be completed, yeah.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Wood. Please relax for a moment.
We have with us Mr. Marty Bauer, president of the Rogue River Basin Association with degrees from both Princeton and Stanford. Marty is a self-employed businessman in Josephine County. Marty has long been involved in community activities. And his interest in water and resource management issues dates back several years. My notes say several decades, but I have repaired that to several years.
Mr. BAUER. Thank you very much.
The CHAIRMAN. Pleased to have you here.
STATEMENT OF MARTIN BAUER, PRESIDENT, ROGUE RIVER BASIN ASSOCIATION
Mr. BAUER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I would like to start, I think, by perhaps protecting my own popularity within the Rogue Basin; I am a little worried sitting here today with the primary opponent of the project at the table at the same time that I am here. And I represent what is certainly the longest lived proponent of the project, the Rogue Basin Flood Control and Water Resource Association, having organized in 1955, and really brought the Corps of Engineers to the valley to begin to plan for and design the entire three dam, one fish hatchery Rogue Basin project. So I appear before you today representing that organization. And you have my written testimony, I will summarize some of what I think are the most salient facts, particularly in the context of the comments that have been made here this morning.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Certainly the traditional benefits that were established in the original authorizing document remain very important today, and very critical. As the county commissioners from both Jackson and Josephine counties have commented, we have a continuing need for flood control; that is been evidenced by the recent flood activity during 1997. In contrast to Mr. Wood's comments about the fact that perhaps the Federal Government and the taxpayer of the U.S. shouldn't be obligated with providing flood control protection to the people who are foolish enough to build within the floodway, I would like to point out that probably the greatest dollar value of improvements within the floodways are, in fact, public improvements. We continue to build dams, we continue to build water filtration and sewage treatment plants; and it is very difficult to move those from them.
Also, if you look at our historical development within virtually all of the United States, a lot of the communities started right on the rivers and grew backwards, and that is exactly where we are here in the Rogue Valley. So we have a continuing need for flood control.
Our county commissioners have also spoken to the need for continuing growth in the area of recreation. We have seen our timber base erode; we have been encouraged by a whole number of different parties to consider counterbalancing this loss of timber revenue with things such as tourism, and certainly recreational opportunities, as would be provided by a completed full pool. Elk Creek Dam would certainly enhance that.
One of the issues that I would really like to dwell a little bit on is the issue of stored water, and the need for stored water. And particularly a little bit of a twist that hasn't been quite brought into focus yet this morning. Mr. Ed Olson representing the Medford Water Commission mentioned that the valley will certainly consume additional water as time goes on. Mr. Borngasser from Josephine County reiterated that point.
Mr. Tom Satterthwaite representing the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife commented that releases, I think he was speaking of releases from Applegate Dam, have restored the fall Chinook run on the Applegate River. I think if you ask anybody else who has observed the last 20 years of history of fish runs on the Rogue, they will tell you that those runs have increased. If you look at the ODFW counts, you will see that those numbers have increased dramatically over that period of time. And it was in 1977 that we began releasing water from Lost Creek Dam in support of the fish on the Rogue River.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I would submit to you that the primary reason that these counts have increased is simply because of the fact that we have had water available to release for the benefit of the fishery. I would also point outthis material has not surfaced yet this morningthat virtually all of the water stored at Applegate and Lost Creek has been released for the benefit of fish; and it goes out each year. And there have been years during the drought period that we've experienced recently when the ODFW would liked to have had more water for the benefit of fish than either of those projects had to give.
Mr. Wood made reference to the fact that the Rogue is one of the most valuable streams for fish in Oregon. And I would agree with him. And once again, I think the reason that it is because we currently have an adequate supply of water in the main stem to support the fishery; and it is in increased supply over what we had before Lost Creek and Applegate went on line.
Now, the point that I am trying to make is that as the valley grows and as the consumption of water goes up, and it doesn't matter where that consumption takes place, because everything runs downstream into the Rogue, that any withdrawals from any of the tributary creeks from the main stem Rogue itself, will, in fact, impact fish. Because as pointed out earlier, the water will come out of the main stem.
I also would like to reiterate the fact that the municipalities do have historical right to water out of Lost Creek, M & I water of 10,000 to 20,000 acre-feet, depending on how you interpret the authorizing document. And we fully anticipate that over the planning period from now until the year 2050, that that water will be consumed.
Whatever water is taken out of any of these tributaries will mean that there's less water available for the fish. And it has absolutely astonished me over the years that we have been fighting with the ONRC and folks of that kind, that they refuse to acknowledge this fact; because probably the user that is going to be most directly impacted by the lack of Elk Creek Dam's completion and the one that will be most immediately effected will, in fact, be the fishery.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would like to put the notch, as it is called, into perspective. According to information I have received by telephone from Mr. Doug Clarke of the Corps, the notch will actually represent about 12 percent of a mass of the structure that is there now. It will represent 24 percent of the top surface of the dam. If you look at the environmental assessment itself, you find that the Corps proposes to move 565,000 cubic yards of material. Now, an average dumb truck is 10 yards. So by my math, that means that 56,500 dump trucks full of material are going to be removed, or moved.
To put that in perspective, bumper to bumper, that is 268 miles of dump trucks, or dump trucks lined from the Washington border to the California border. Another way to look at it is to say that if you were going to excavate a football field, how deep would you have to do it to move 565,000 cubic yards? Your football field would be over 400 feet deep if you move that much material.
The Corps also proposes to realign 500 linear feet of stream bed, or 10,000 feet of bank. This is not a small undertaking. And to think that the Corps can issue a 30-day notice to the public, not broadly distributed, and then proceed with this is unconscionable. It strikes me that a residential home builder in Jackson County would go through a much more stringent review if he were going to build a 1,000 square foot home. And if a logger wanted to try to drag a log across Elk Creek, I doubt that he would be able to get permission to do it. But the Corps can issue 30-day notice and begin to move 565,000 cubic yards, just doesn't seem right. It seems like we need to have a much more detailed analysis than anything that is been provided to date.
Comments have been made about the cost of the proposal. The Corps is using $7 million today; I think earlier in the process they were talking about $8 million for the notching itself. We were shocked, as members of the Rogue Basin Association, to find out that in their initial analysis, they had not considered what the cost would be to replace the notch. We asked them if they would estimate that; initially they told us $10 to $12 million; today they are saying $8 to $10 million. Whatever the cost, the total cost is somewhere in the range of $20 million, as you commented, Mr. Chairman. And it seems to us one of the critical issues here is what do we get for that $20 million cost?
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As has also been pointed out, we have had as many as 1,078 fish return to Elk Creek this last year, that is a 523 percent increase over just 3 years ago. It seems that some analysis ought to be done based on the incremental change in the number of fish returning. As an example, if we get another 100 fish back each year over the 10 year planning horizon that the Corps used in one of their analysis, that is a cost of $20,000 per fish. If we get double that amount, 200 fish, then that is a cost of $10,000, or only $10,000 per fish. It seems that somewhere in all of this review, we ought to be asking ourselves how much is one more, or 100 more, or 200 more wild fish getting up Elk Creek really worth?
The real cost of this proposal, as our organization sees it, is truly the total elimination of Elk Creek Dam. It will be an additional $8 million expenditure on top of the $108 million that is been spent to date because by the time we get around to looking at the new economics of the project, adding an $8 to $12 million cost to repair the notch that they are proposing to cut, it will be very difficult for the economics to pencil so that we can proceed with the final completion of the project. And the ONRC knows that, and I am sure that is why they support the proposal to notch.
Trap-and-haul is working. In 199293, the first year, second year as well, about 200 fish returned; last year we were up to 1,078. There was a steady progression through the last 3 years. It is a much less expensive method of moving those fish around. As has been indicated, very little injury. I know the Medford Mail Tribune is concerned that it is undignified for those fish to be hauled around the project; but given the cost, we think they can probably survive that indignity.
As commented today that a good deal of any of the problems that those fish may suffer is probably due to the fact that they are being handled for scientific research purposes. I would suggest that if we eliminated that possibility and were only concerned with increasing the number of fish that get into Elk Creek's watershed for spawning purposes, that we might even have better survival rates.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And, you know, another thing that we might consider here is that we have a great deal of volunteer interest in improving the fishery in this valley, and it is possible that we might be able to eliminate some of the cost of even trapping and hauling by enlisting the aid of some of the volunteer organizations that are interested in fishery enhancement.
As I listen today to people from NMFS and from the ODFW, even from the Corps, and as I have read their various reports in the past, it strikes me that the science revolving around this issue of notching the dam is very weak. No one has tried to predict how many more fish will be reared on Elk Creek as a result of spending $8 million to notch it. No one has been able to explain to us whether or not fish will be able to go through the 1,300 foot tunnel on the west fork of Elk Creek; and that is important because the west fork appears, as you look at the maps, to have about 50 percent of the available habitat. If they can't go through that 1,300 foot tunnel, then does that mean that we really cut the potential for rearing up there in half?
Discussions have been made today to the issue of water supply and whether or not it is adequate. One of the things that hasn't come up is why is the Corps feeling an obligation to provide fish passage up to 5,000 cubic feet per second flows. As I understand, that is one of the reasons the notch is built as big as it is. That is an horrendous flow in Elk Creek. The average flow, according to USGS survey data taken some time back, was an average flow of 235 cubic feet per day on an annualized basis.
And both NMFS, I think, the Corps, and maybe even ODFW have made reference to the fact that it would appear that Elk Creek's drainage is not producing fish in the proportions that it should. And they make reference to the fact that the Elk Creek drainage has 10 percent of the available habitat above Gold Ray Dam.
It strikes us that science is not the only issue. Stream bed and length of it is not the only issue in providing appropriate fish rearing habitat. If you look at the historical data on Elk Creek, you find thatand I realize that there's some controversy over the numbersbut you find that it has never handled its proportion based on an area basis in comparison to other streams such as Little Butte Creek and Big Butte Creek. So it strikes me that there are other issues that have kept it from doing that.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And to simply say that Elk Creek, because it represents 10 percent of the upstream potential habitat, therefore it will support 10 percent of the fish returning, is inappropriate. It seems to me we need to have better information on that, and better analysis of why, in fact, historically Elk Creek hasn't carried its own load.
And then, you know, I think it is real easy for us to get involved in what may, to a lot of us, be rather esoteric arguments; but I still have to tell you that I don't know the difference between a hatchery and a wild fish except that the hatchery fish have that adipose fin clipped off of them. I can tell you that they, in equal proportion, ignore my bait. And I make that point simply to say that all of this fuss is really over that issue, over whether or not there is something truly gained by providing more natural habitat in Elk Creek verses spawning those same wild returning fish in Lostin Cole Rivers Fish Hatchery. That is precisely why Cole Rivers was built. There is adequate capacity within Cole Rivers to provide for mitigation of the fish runs up Elk Creek. That was the initial intent of the planners; it was the concept that was strongly supported in the late fifties and early sixties when this project was designed, by a whole host of fishing related organizations.
I would like to read specifically, read a concluding comment as to the position of the Rogue Basin Association. In summary, the Rogue Basin Association recommends that the proposal made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers be rejected, and that the existing trap-and-haul facility be utilized until credible research indicates that passive fish passage will produce enough additional fish in Elk Creek to justify spending an additional $8 million to destroy an existing Federal investment of $108 million.
The bottom line is that if we want to improve wild fish production, and we have $8 million to spend, why don't we spend it somewhere where we don't have to start by destroying a $108 million investment that the American taxpayer has already made. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank you, Mr. Bauer.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Wood, you have heard several people testify that they would request an environmental impact statement beyond the environmental assessment. Would you support an environmental impact statement?
Mr. WOOD. I think it depends on to the extent that the Corps of Engineers feels that the existing studies they were required to do, that this is the conclusion that is consistent with those studies. Their argument might well be, and we might likely support, that if they are saying, well, if we did evaluate it and this was the conclusion we reached, and given what the environmental impacts are, that notching the dam would be the least environmentally impact to restore the benefits that they are trying to achieve.
The irony strikes me, as well, if the Rogue River Basin Association were to, you know, file an equal lawsuit for the Corps' failure to do an EIS specific to this notching project, I suspect their offense and our response would similarly be that this is consistent with the study that they were already required to by the Court.
The CHAIRMAN. And equally bizarre is your refusal to support an EIS, maybe the first time in your whole life.
Mr. WOOD. No, I didn't say that, sir. To correct the record, I didn't say that. I said that the EIS is being done, and I would want an EIS if, indeed, fisheries experts were to say that this project itself can have an adverse, that there is evidence, information that notching it could have an additional adverse impact to the fish, then we would want additional environmental analysis. I just suspect that, again, that the Corps is operating based on the studies they've done under the project, under the EIS that they were required to complete and consider.
The CHAIRMAN. A quote, and you know very well since you were involved, again, Mr. Wood, a quote from Judge Rymer in 1995 in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, ''Even without a fully developed record, it is obvious that destruction and possible reconstruction of any portion of the dam is likely to have environmental consequences.''
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WOOD. Certainly. And we are sorry that it is there. If the Congress and the Corps of Engineers had followed our original recommendations, none of that money would be spent. So I mean, we are confronted with the situation of what is there now. One of the things that we would liked to see maybe addressed is when you look at the map of the project, you only see a small part of the mountains of gravel that is stacked up there that is been quarried. And it strikes us that without having heard any economic analysis, that Jackson County could well provide all the gravel it needs to maintain its existing infrastructure and roads, et cetera, for years to come. There may be some values there that can also offset some of these other costs. Just throw that out, I will let others make that determination.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, Mr. Bauer, I thought it was interesting you pointed, asked the question how much does a fish cost. We are not sure yet in this valley, but we are sure on the Columbia River that we have spent $3 billion and not saved one fish yet. And that we've spent $465 million a year of Federal money and still haven't figured out a way to save the salmon. So we don't know how much a fish costs, but we don't know how to save them either, on the Columbia River, at least.
I agree totally with your statement, Mr. Bauer, that the science is weak. And I think, I think ODFW testified to the fact that their study was about a year old when it was suspended, into this whole question of trapping and so forth. So it is always occurred to me that we just, if we are going to make this huge decision, we ought to do it based on science. And so I totally agree with you. Thank you, gentleman, very much; appreciate you coming.
Mr. WOOD. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. The two remaining gentleman are here with us and I would like to call them forward. Mr. Ken Olson and Mr. Jack Hanel. And while they are not making a statement, they are here and will answer questions. And I have a couple of questions for them, each of them. Gentleman, thank for you being here.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Probably between them, they have more information and more answers to all of these questions than anyone in this room. First Mr. Ken Olson is the project engineer for the Elk Creek Dam, a biologist by trade, Ken's been involved in the Elk Creek project almost since its inception; he doesn't look that old. Although an employee of the Army Corps of Engineers, Ken is testifying today as a private citizen, or answering questions as a private citizen. And we are calling upon him because of his uninterrupted service in this area and his long-term familiarity with the project.
As well, Mr. Jack Hanel is here, a retired fisheries biologist who conducted the early studies of fish in the Rogue Basin system with Cole Rivers, the pioneer fisheries biologist, and the Rogue system, and the person for whom the hatchery at Lost Creek Dam is named. So we are proud to see Jack here. Jack also headed up the Irongate project for Pacific Power, and is well-known for his expertise in the Rogue River Basin fishery complex. Happy to have you both here.
Mr. Olson, I am going to ask you some kind of technical questions because there is nobody around that can answer them better than you.
Mr. OLSON. Before you start, I am not an engineer, I am a forester by trade, that is what my training was. And I have only been here since 1980, so I haven't been here since the inception of this. I am the operations project manager for the Rogue River Basin project, which is Applegate, William L. Jess Dam, and we do the maintenance on Elk Creek.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you for correcting the record. Regarding the tunnel, do you recall the Corps installing baffles to the side of the tunnel?
Mr. OLSON. That is correct.
The CHAIRMAN. And how do they work, in your opinion?
Mr. OLSON. I couldn'tnot being a biologist, I don't know how they work. They were put in, I believe 1991. They started trap-and-haul in 1992, so I don't know if any study was really made on how they work.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. In your experience, do fish make it through the tunnel?
Mr. OLSON. I can tell you that part of the maintenance that we do is to remove the trash that comes with high flows that is against the rack at the upper end of the diversion tunnel; and we have had times where, and I myself have been in the water helping the crew, we have pulled some of that trash away, we have had fish go past us. Whether they came through the tunnel or not, I can't tell you; but I can tell you that they appeared to be, they were on the other side of the trash when we pulled it out of the way.
The CHAIRMAN. Now, there is a restricted area below the dam, and some have suggested that that is difficult for fish to manage, as might be the tunnel. What is your thought about that?
Mr. OLSON. Again, not being an engineer or biologist, I can't, you know, really comment on that other than I know it is concrete, it is about 30 feet wide, it is maybe 15 feet from the bridge down; so it is a little bit larger than what the diversion tunnel itself is, and it is not as long. But apparently the fish can get by it.
The CHAIRMAN. We've heard a lot about native fish and hatchery fish. Are you familiar with any stocking in Elk Creek?
Mr. OLSON. Yes, sir. In February, March of 1991, I believe it was, Governor Roberts sent Martha Pagle down to view Elk Creek. The afternoon before, we were up making sure the area was clean, I had a crew up making sure the area was all cleaned up so it would look nice. And I saw two trucks from the hatchery drop adult salmon and steelhead into the creek above the dam. I was told it was so that she could see some fish.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you support killing hatchery fish above the dam? It is not your decision?
Mr. OLSON. That is not my decision. I know I am not getting any of them.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Handel, you have heard of Mr. Satterthwaite's fish counts attributed to Elk Creek. Do you agree with the historic fish counts that he represented here?
Mr. HANEL. The counts that he estimated there, I feel are a little bit elevated, the numbers coming over Gold Ray. In other words, from the past and during the studies, and I am relating back to 1949 and 1953, what we found at that time, myself and my crew of 15 men here at Medford, and then we had five down at Gold Beach where we tagged fish in there, and where we found out where they migrated to and where they spawn and so forth; but anyway, we felt that the south fork and the north fork of Little Butte Creek by far, over 50 percent, was the main spawning stream at that time. Elk Creek at that time was practicallylet me give you an example.
Back in October 3, 1951, there had been 3 cubic feet per second flow going down Elk Creek. Here come one of the early fall storms, kicked that up to 500 second feet of water. Now this is USDS records, in the records, and we collaborated with that. And there were some Chinook salmon moved out of the main area where they spawn in there, moved up about 1.7 miles up the stream where there was a concrete dam at that time, it was a diversion dam; and that is as far as they could go.
Later on, we checked with coho salmon, the silver salmon we called it at that time, we went in, I had a man with me from Los Angeles, and he and I got up there and found, they had a brail in there and using hog wire, and they were brailing fish out of, some poachers is what they were, brailing fish out of the stream itself. So there were some fish that got up that far. But mainly they didn't go over there until they got a higher flow up the stream itself. And much of Elk Creek at that time was bedrock, a lot of diversion and so forth, the temperature and so forth thatwe'd be in there during the summer months, fish would have to move out or go up West Branch Creek or some of the those small tributaries there to even survive. So that, I hope that answers a little bit from what Tom Satterthwaite said.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. I appreciate that. It has been alleged that there is 10 percent of the coho spawning grounds above Elk Creek Dam for the coho. What is your estimate of the spawning grounds, or do you agree with that?
Mr. HANEL. I looked at the records that I got yesterday, I guess it was. There was 1,800 fish that had just started, coho started coming up. And I think that is a little bit elevated, 10 percent. I would figure that these other streams have moved in, although south fork Little Butte and north fork Little Butte has, because water taken out by the irrigation districts and so forth, that has effected the spawning in through there and the rearing of those fish in there.
As a boy, I was born and raised in the valley and we used to go from Ashland over to Lake Creek there on a tributary near the tributary to south fork of Little Butte Creek in there and we would catch sea run cutthroat, beautiful fish. And they don't have those in there anymore because in then last 7 or 8 years, the irrigation district has been diverting all of the water out of south fork Little Butte Creek, they bring it down across Beaver Dam Creek, bring it clear over and they pick up Daily Creek, Denman Creek, divert it over to Howard Prairie, and goes down over to Ashland. They use it, Ashland uses it for, some for domestic water, some is irrigation water, during the draught they even used it to replenish the wells and so forth. So I hope this answers a little bit of what I feel is the problem.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Hanel, it is been bandied about a little bit, but if you really wanted to enhance the suitability for fish, what could you do with $8 million?
Mr. HANEL. You know, the original plan of the Rogue Basin study was to build Lost Creek and to build Elk Creek, and they would compliment one another; and later build Applegate. This was not done. And yet the water that we planned on thethe lakes will stratify, I think most of you people in here know that, from probably about May 3 to the end of October, these lakes will stratify, warm water at the top, then thermocline, water warm at the bottom. You can pull that water out; that is what Olson is doing up here at the hatchery right now; the Department of Fish and Wildlife asked him, said we want 2,000 cubic feet per second of 55 degree water, and he punches a button, he can do that. I did that in my hatchery down at the Klamath River at Irongate. We do the same thing; build up a run of fish in there. And this is what we need in there.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The other thing is that we found Cole Riversnow here's my counterpartwe found that there was a snag in the runs whenever they got above 8,000 cubic feet per second in below Elk Creek project. Now, of course there's no project, I am talking about 1949. So when these eggsand again, this is the natural spawned fishwhen these eggs are in gravel, they flow over that much, it scours the gravel, it kills these eggs in the tender stage, they lose them.
Now, with Lost Creek Dam, we got a control down that far. But with Elk Creek not in the last few we had 16,000 cubic feet per second one time going down through there. So you can imagine that all the spawn below Elk Creek would be lost down there.
Now this is important, this is a very important part of these projects, what we worked out way back when. And they have completely ignored this in their program, thatand we want to see a full pool in Elk Creek.They can bring that water out from various levels, put that cold water down, supplement the water coming out of Lost Creek, and we will never be confronted with that. They need this extra cold water to flush the downstream migrants downstream when we get these hot temperatures through the canyon, and also to bring up the spring Chinook and the fall Chinook and the other fish in the fall; we need that water. And one of these days, like they say in 2050, we aren't going to have that. So that is why we need that right now. Why I think that what is smart to do is to continue on with their, carrying fish above until such time that they can work all these things out.
The CHAIRMAN. Good. Thank you both. I appreciate it very much. Thank you.
We are about to conclude this hearing, and I just have a concluding remark or two.
I think the question before us all is where does this all leave us? There is an injunction in force forbidding completion of the dam. And the Army Corps proposes to start us on a path that I maintain will breach the dam and likely take it out of the opportunity forever to, should the time come and people's minds change, to restore it or rebuild it.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Witnesses have continually asked this question: Do we need additional flood control, and can salmon and steelhead negotiate the tunnel? And for that matter, are the salmon and steelhead being protected at this point to trap-and-haul, does it work, should we spend $8 million to improve fish passage when it appears as though the fish are not in danger? If we breach the dam at a cost of $8 million it has been pointed out that a repair will cost $10 million, so it is a almost $20 million impact, which I think takes the question of rebuilding the dam out of the question.
In the meantime, I think it is been accurately stated that science is inadequate. And we need, I believe, if we are going to make a decision on $108 million investment, that at least we have the science that we can rely upon to make a proper judgment decision.
I appreciate the 30 days extension, Colonel, on the comment period. I hope that is enough time. The environmental impact statement has been discussed here, and I have quoted Judge Rymer; but I also want to quote in 1995, Judge Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals when he rejected the suggestion of the ONRC that Elk Creek Dam be demolished, Judge Fletcher said, ''Such extraordinary relief is not warranted at this time in light of the less than fully developed record regarding the necessity, cost, and potential consequences of destruction.'' And I think that is true today as it was in 1995.
I have discussed this with Congressman Joe McDade who is the chairman of the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. He is from Pennsylvania. And the Congressman has agreed to work with me to clarify what really was the intent of Congress for the future of Elk Creek Dam if it, indeed, is questioned.
So for my part, I am going to continue to make sure that the investment here is not damaged for faulty reasons. And if the fish can be protected, then it seems to me a horrible consequence to destroy an asset. Even without construction, times will change, water needs will change, attitudes will change. We could put Elk Creek in the bank and use it for a future time if indeed we can prove that we can protect the fish at the same time. It seems to me at least we ought to investigate that as an alternative.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I thank you all for coming. I appreciate those who testified. Again, I remind you that we'd like to have your comments, if you have them, either to the Corps in this period of time, before December 17, or to my office and I will send them to the Corps. Thank you all for coming. And this hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 11:47 a.m., the hearing was adjourned.]
[Material submitted for inclusion on the record follows:]
"The Official Committee record contains additional material here."