Senator visits Milwaukie to celebrate planned Kellogg Dam removal

Sen. Jeff Merkley braved a hailstorm and heavy rain when he paid a visit to Kellogg Dam on Tuesday, April 12. There were multiple reasons for his visit, said Neil Schulman, executive director of the North Clackamas Watersheds Council.

One was to celebrate that the senator having secured $585,000 in community-initiated funding for the design of the restored river channel through the Appropriations Process.

“That was a year-long or so effort, and definitely worth celebrating, especially during a pandemic,” Schulman said.

The second reason was to talk to all the stakeholders and learn more about the project details, what the design entails and what the benefits and challenges to the project are, he added.

During his visit to the site, Merkley thanked all the project stakeholders, especially the North Clackamas Watersheds Council and the city of Milwaukie.

“The visit also draws public attention to the project, and Senator Merkley’s involvement raises the profile of the project. It’s rare we get a chance to remove a dam in a city center,” Schulman said.

‘Ecological undertaking’

The senator described the project as an “important ecological undertaking to remove a dam built before Oregon was a state, and that hasn’t had a function since before the turn of the century.”

The dam, he pointed out, blocks salmon passage and a backlog of sediments has created a shallow lake that gets too warm in the summer, decreasing water quality.

Milwaukie residents have long wanted to take out the dam, but this will be “an expensive and complex undertaking,” Merkley said.

The new funding will be the first stage in the removal of the dam, and will require a lot of investment and planning, he said.

Key step

Merkley noted that the community-initiated grant is a key step in getting the project underway so that planners will be able to figure out how to create a channel through the water to restore the bed of the creek, without the contaminated sediment flowing into the Willamette River.

He added, “I will support this project through every phase until we see salmon swimming back upstream to the significant amount of good habitat between the Willamette and Scouters Mountain.”

Infrastructure, fish passage

Schulman noted that the recent passage of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act means that for the next five years, there will be an unprecedented level of investment in upgrading our infrastructure for transportation, fish passage and stream restoration.

He added, “Since this project involves both transportation infrastructure and fish passage, the funds Senator Merkley was able to obtain are the perfect catalyst that will get us ready for that level of multimillion-dollar investment in healthy streams and upgraded transportation infrastructure.”

Project benefits

• Restoring salmon and steelhead habitat to two entire watersheds

• Helping sustain all salmon and steelhead that migrate through the Willamette River

• Replacing an earthquake-vulnerable bridge that’s 89-years old

• Creating a new public natural area and trail

• Creating a safer pedestrian crossing from Milwaukie Bay Park to downtown Milwaukie and light rail

• Creating a new natural-area access for Milwaukie High School

• Leveraging private investment in restoring the lake for mitigation credits

• Creating jobs to restore the environment

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