A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Canal water looked like milky coffee

Written November 5th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

On Nov. 4, the Calapooia River had a two-tone quality below the power plant outfall.

Going up the Third Avenue bridge from Bryant Way on Saturday, I looked to my right to see if the shaft of the Albany hydropower turbine was rotating. What caught my attention instead was the two-tone coloring of the Calapooia River below.

As of Sunday afternoon I’m not sure why the water in the Santiam Canal was so muddy. Maybe it’s just the result of a few days of rain causing an unusual amount of runoff along the canal’s 18-mile course, especially along the 12 miles of open country from Lebanon to Albany.

But if it was just runoff, you’d think the river itself would be affected the same way.

I’m hoping for a more definitive explanation as soon as I can reach someone on Monday.

Coming up the bridge on the bike, I couldn’t actually see the turbine shaft turning; it’s dark under that powerhouse. I walked  back down the bridge to take a longer look.

The good news is that yes, the city’s hydro plant was churning away, once again feeding watts to the Pacific Power grid. (hh)

Postscript: I had not seen the South Santiam River lately, but people who responded to this post on Facebook  have. They report the entire river is a muddy mess because of the drastic emptying of Green Peter Reservoir, an action the Army Corps of Engineers apparently took in response to a federal court ruling related to fish in the Willamette system.

As it flowed under Fifth Avenue, water in the Santiam Canal resembled cafe au lait on Saturday.




11 responses to “Canal water looked like milky coffee”

  1. John Marble says:

    The South Santiam river (the parent of the canal) is chocolate milk from Green Peter reservoir on downstream. The entirety of that huge reservoir has been sent downstream over the past weeks and months, apparently to promote the passage of young salmon down stream. Many thousands of Kokanee (land-locked salmon) have paid the price.

  2. Bill Kapaun says:

    Is that a storm drain outlet under the bridge? Street dirt could explain things, with the recent heavier rainfalls.

  3. dave pulver says:

    i noticed the muddy colored canal water about 3 weeks ago here in lebanon.

  4. Michael Mangione says:

    Hasso, I seriously enjoy your stories and take on what’s happening Albany. Any chance I can buy you a cup of coffee at Margin?

  5. Cap B. says:

    Nice of a reader to offer to buy you a cup of coffee, Hasso! Take him up on it.

  6. Hartman says:

    When did this Comments section turn into Tinder?

  7. Don says:

    Agree with John Marble, what else can be expected?

  8. Bob Boise says:

    U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez who ordered the drawdown of the dams should be imprisoned for life. He has killed fish, destroyed the purpose of dams and he is not accounaible for all the damage he has caused, including the destruction of area vital groundwater supplies. Why do we put up with such tyranny in our society. Just one of many recebt criminal actions by the judicial system that is destroying society.

  9. david pulver says:

    the pacific nw is about due for another mega quake. we can only hope the dams are empty when it happens. it amazes me how many people continue to whine about the fish, and have no concern about these dams being full when the next mega quake happens. absolutely amazing.

    • Jordon Eaton says:

      We are no more “due” for a megaquake than we will be tomorrow. Atwater et. al. have identified turbidite records that may indicate some periodicity that occurs within windows of 200 to 700 years.

      Predicting and calculating the odds and statistical probabilities of such dynamic geological processes, the mechanics of which we admittedly don’t truly understand, is folly.

      Yeah, it will happen. My bet is sooner than later.

  10. Larry Nelson says:

    I live next to Lookout Point,another reservoir that the judge and Army Corps is experimenting with a huge drawdown. For me it’s a dry well,and neighbors of mine. Going to cost close too 30,000 for my family to enjoy a glass of clean water like before this took place. Thank God I don’t have to drink the mud residents of Lowell have to drink because of the first time drawdown in 70 yrs.


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