Dutch Flat Dam was a 10-foot barrier built nearly a century ago to provide drinking water to Troy, Idaho. The dam spanned the West Fork of Little Bear Creek, which ran so dry in summer that nobody thought steelhead survived there.
About a decade ago biologists realized that steelhead do, in fact, survive in such streams. It turns out that steelhead are able to survive dry periods by moving into pools cooled by underground flows.
Over the summer of 2013, local leaders and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game worked with federal agencies to take out the dam so steelhead can again move freely up the West Fork of Little Bear Creek. Crews finished removing the dam’s concrete in early September and are now widening a new course for the creek.
An inventory by Idaho Fish and Game about 10 years ago surprised many locals by finding steelhead throughout the Potlatch River drainage in small streams such as Little Bear Creek that mostly dried up in summer. It turned out that the fish survive the summer in remnant pools cooled by subterranean water.
As word of the steelhead spread, so did enthusiasm for removing the dam and reopening the West Fork of Little Bear Creek, said biologist Bob Ries of NOAA Fisheries. Enthusiasm grew even more when a local resident found steelhead spawning in the creek.
Biologists salvaged almost 180 fish from pools below the dam before the removal began and about three quarters were steelhead, Johnson said. It was the most steelhead they had ever captured in that reach, he said, suggesting that many fish stand to benefit from removal of the dam.
Snake River steelhead were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1997. Removing migration barriers and restoring access to high quality spawning and rearing habitat is considered critical for their recovery.
NOAA Fisheries and the Bonneville Power Administration provided $500,000 for the project. NOAA’s funding came from the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, a competitive grant program dedicated to restoring Pacific salmon and their habitat.
For more information, visit: http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/stories/2013/dutch_flat_dam_removal.html
source: NOAA Fisheries