Ames Creek Restoration

Fish Passage at Ames Creek

At the mouth, Ames Creek fell through a steep bedrock channel, with a drop of 17% over the lower 80 ft.  The elevation was lost at two main features:  the upper drop was 20 ft. long and rose nearly 6 ft.  The lower drop was a nearly vertical 6 ft. drop. These conditions posed a fish passage issue for migrating steelhead and trout in the South Santiam River.

The site is located about 4 miles downstream of Foster Dam on the South Santiam River, which in combination with Green Peter Dam, control flooding on the river. Like many dams, there are benefits and costs associated with them. One benefit here is greatly reduced flooding in the communities downstream of the dams, but one cost is that the dams have greatly reduced the amount of backflooding into tributaries like Ames Creek that historically occurred and allowed fish to easily enter the creek.  The SSWC made it a priority to seek a solution to this unusual issue.

Mouth of Ames Creek pre-project. The upper drop is visible in background, with lower drop featured in foreground.

In the spring of 2006 the SSWC contracted with Inter-fluve Inc. to conduct a feasibility analysis and develop alternative design concepts to address fish passage problems at the mouth and at three culverts located within the City of Sweet Home.  During the process, assistance was granted from agency partners and important feedback was delivered to the SSWC and Inter-fluve.  At the completion of the technical assistance project, a stakeholder meeting was held in Sweet Home with agency personnel and concerned citizens present.  The meeting offered the SSWC an opportunity to release the results of the technical assistance project through a presentation by Mike Burke, PE, Inter-fluve.

The SSWC secured funding for constructing a project that will allow for more consistent fish passage into Ames Creek.  The project funders are the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s R&E Program, and federal Title II Payments to Counties.

After permits were secured, the project was implemented in September-October, 2012. A series of bedrock and boulder weirs were constructed with step pools to facilitate fish passage with a natural aesthetic.  Students from the Sweet Home Youth Watershed Council are involved in re-vegetation efforts at the site.

Aquatic Contracting used excavators to remove bedrock and carve out crests.

Aquatic Contracting used excavators to remove bedrock and carve out crests.

Building the crests and digging the pools.

Building the crests and digging the pools.

 

Post-project Mouth of Ames Creek. Step pools constructed to pass winter steelhead and resident trout from the South Santiam River.

Restoration at Sankey Park

This project occurs on a segment of Ames Creek within Sankey Park, where the stream historically flowed through an old mill dam and sediment-filled log pond.  In 2003, project partners diverted the stream around the mill dam to restore fish passage to upstream habitat, now accessible by winter steelhead, cutthroat trout, and pacific lamprey.  The stream reach through the old mill pond was transformed into 1000 ft. of complex, meandering channel, and enhanced with boulder weirs, log revetments, and cobble rock to restore instream habitat diversity.  The old channel below the dam now connects to the stream during winter flows, providing high flow refugia.  Two seasonal wetlands were created for the project, and wetland grasses seeded in these areas are diverse and vigorous.  Over 10,000 riparian and wetland plants were established throughout the channel and in the mill pond area to enhance habitat quality and to stabilize stream banks.  A total of 2.3 acres were re-vegetated with native riparian and wetland vegetation and continue to be maintained.

The Ames Creek Restoration has been tied closely with the Sweet Home School District’s science education programs, and students continually access the site for biological study.  Sweet Home students were also heavily engaged in planting vegetation at the project throughout 2003 and 2004 to maintain those plantings.

Native vegetation thriving on Ames Creek at Sankey Park.