A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Muddy streams and the future of dams

Written November 18th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

As seen from the Sixth Avenue bridge, the Santiam Canal was still running very muddy Saturday afternoon.

The source of Albany’s drinking water continues to carry a lot of sediment or mud, but so far the stuff coming out of our taps is just as clear as always.

On Saturday’s bike ride, I took another look at the Santiam Canal, which feeds the Vine Street treatment plant. Here’s my video report:

As for the drinking water, Albany City Manager Peter Troedsson gave the council a reassuring report on Friday. Here’s the text.

“The recent court-ordered drawdown by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Green Peter Reservoir has had significant impacts on drinking water in neighboring communities. We recently received questions from some Albany residents curious about impacts on our drinking water system. Our water continues to be safe. While we are also seeing higher than normal levels of turbidity at our river intakes, we are in a better situation because of the distance of our system from the reservoirs and because we have two treatment plants with separate intake points and different methods of water treatment. Despite the increased turbidity, our small team of dedicated treatment operators continue to supply safe, clean drinking water to our customers in Albany and Millersburg. We’re also assisting our neighboring communities with technical support and will make additional resources available if they need them. Albany regularly monitors our water quality to ensure we produce and deliver quality drinking water, and we routinely meet or exceed all state and federal standards for safe drinking water.”

The other treatment plant Troedsson referred to is on the Santiam River near Scravel Hill, just downstream from the confluence of the North and South Santiam.

The immediate question is how long the high turbidity in the South Santiam is going to last. The next question is whether the Corps is going to have to go through this mess again in the years to come.

The ultimate question is whether the Willamette Project dams, including Green Peter, Detroit, and all the others, should continue to operate at all or whether they should be sacrificed in the interest of trying to preserve a couple of fish runs.

The Corps of Engineers has been commanded by Congress to study whether the dams’ hydropower function should be continued, or if it should be stopped in the interest of fish.

Because of the dams, the Willamette Valley no longer has devastating floods. In a sane society, that alone should guarantee the dams’ continued operation.

And no sane system of governance would command that the lakes behind the dams be periodically drained if it ruins the streams below and makes people worry about the water they drink. (hh)

5 responses to “Muddy streams and the future of dams”

  1. Cap B. says:

    I’m not a Libertarian like you, Hasso, but nothing is sane anymore. This country has done itself in.

  2. hj.anony1 says:

    Are you stirring up FEAR & WORRY, Hasso?

  3. Jody Harmon says:

    Thank you for stating what seems like would be common sense about the dams and river.

  4. Don says:

    Are they doing this for the fish or to help destroy our economy. They want less fossil fuel, solar panels generate large amounts of heat on good days. Wind turbines are lucky to generate enough to manufacture their replacement.

  5. Bill Higby says:

    No study is needed. Just review history. Hasso is right, prior to the dams the Willamette Valley flooded annually.


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